The much-touted new feudalism can be best defined in my mind by the 46 million poor in America, the largest number ever who, unlike the serfs of old do not possess a plot of land granted to them by the lord of the manner to work and give a tithe of income to, while the lord keeps the rest.
More and more, the middle and working classes are descending through joblessness and disproportionate percentages of taxes and debt to the ranks of the poor. This while we have the industrial-military-complex (the knights and barons of old), sitting in oceans of money, half the nation’s spending plus dark funds flowing in from illegal drug, guns, human trafficking, and god knows where.
But at the very top, the Lord class, we have Forbes 400 wealthiest people in America for 2011, having earned a combined amount of $1.53 trillion, nearly the GDP of Canada. “Their total wealth,” according to Forbes, “is up 12% in the year through August 26, when we took a snapshot of everyone’s net worth, meaning these affluent folks did slightly better than the markets; the S&P 500, for instance, was up 10% in that time.” So despite market plunges, the anointed did 2% better, while millions of others lost money (depleting IRA’s and stock portfolios), including those of seniors and others who depended on them for income and future retirement funds.
Forbes writes, “But it’s not simply a case of the rich getting richer. The Forbes 400 gets more meritocratic over time. An all-time high of 70% of this year’s list is self-made, up from 55% in 1997.” Curiously this meritocracy, an oligarchy by any other name—this Top 400 wealthiest Americans’ income rises on the back of 30 years of tax cuts to the richest and increased taxes to the middle and working classes. The progressive tax was altogether destroyed by Bush Jr. The process began in 1982, 30 years earlier, during the Reagan Administration” when the 400 richest Americans’ cumulative wealth weighed in at a mere $91 billion. Today, the Walton (Wal-Mart) dynasty weighs in alone with a net worth of $93 billion. As Thom Hartmann pointed out on his RT.com report, The Big Picture, there has been a Matterhorn-like spike in the wealth of the 400 wealthiest.
Also, this “meritocracy” and its spike was built on the backs of American working people, on the ongoing destruction of unions to bargain collectively for wages, health care and retirement plans. This is not to leave out the system of American government itself, which created the framework that was violated to allow this “meritocracy” to flourish into an oligarchy if not a fascist state, bought and paid for with campaign contributions, predominantly from the right and from the left as well. This was aided and abetted by the Supreme Court allowing corporations to be granted “personage,” given the rights of a person to invest as much money to whomever they wished for whatever cause. Thus the richest 400 Americans, et al, control the voting process with their checkbooks.
This illegality helped create a massive flow of income and wealth from the middle and working classes upwards to make the rich richer and the poor poorer in greater numbers than ever. What’s more, the social safety net during this time was being shredded to feed the Ritchie Riches and further fuel the plight of working people and the poor. These include thirty years of hikes on Social Security taxes, and in the prices of Medicare and Medicaid. That fact that seniors now pay for Social Security at the rate of 6.4% on their income all of their working lives seems to escape the rich. Yet the rich’s taxation is way out of kilt. The cap on taxable income for Social Security lays dormant at $105,000. All income of all working Americans rich and poor should be taxed 6.4% on a progressive basis to bring an additional income to the interest-earning Social Security Trust. The question is why do we keep penalizing the working and middle classes and let the rich off tax-free in this instance as many others?
Furthermore, why weren’t the trillion dollar Bush tax-cuts suspended by the President for Change? Could it be those Wall Street contributions? And why can’t the remaining tax-cuts be abolished? Again, because the 400 richest and their friends own the Congress and the President. This may be old news but it is true news, as true as the fact that the financial industry destroyed our economy by gambling with investors’ monies irresponsibly. Witness the Collateral Debt Obligations (CDO’s) that poisoned the marketplace with made-to-fail mortgages which were bundled by investment banks, most notably Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wachovia and others, and then sold to investors as bona fide securities. Goldman even bought $6 million worth to show their enthusiasm to investors. The hitch is, they were betting on them to fail, i.e. hedging their product, which has also spiraled out of control as has commodity speculation.
This goes hand in hand with the elimination of all firewalls and regulations that protected the Consumer, starting with FDR’s Glass Steagall act, which prevented a savings bank from also being an investment bank. Also, before deregulation, investment banks were required to use the money of their principle owners to bet with. This encouraged partners to take cautious risks not irresponsible ones, like the development of derivatives, which are merely bets on money moving in any direction on securities or commodities the players may not even own. Once, the investment banks were deregulated, they could play with other people’s money, so the temptation to risk investment irresponsibly shot up, resulting in the meltdowns that led to the Lehman Brothers collapse. But even when Lehman was down and out for the count, the major players walked away with fortunes.
If a small business goes broke, the owner can look forward to bankruptcy proceedings and the sheriff’s office. Add to this, the ongoing War on Terror, ignited by the pre-planned 9/11 attack has drained the economy of trillions, which tells you why the attack was pre-planned by the Bush Administration, to suck the nation’s wealth and its blood into the military-industrial coffers. Trillions have been spent on war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Somalia. In this Empiric U.S. mode, any nation is next to be pounced upon. The military-industrial complex, the knights and barons of the financial round table, continue to profit exponentially in The War On Terror, from the no-bid Pentagon arms purchases to the no-bid mercenaries hired with incredibly expensive contracts. All accountability has vanished. Whistleblowers are banished. And we live in a moral and ethical abyss far from the gilded lives of the 400 richest Americans.
Woe to the citizens of this new feudalism. Part of what’s in order is a return to the power of real regulatory agencies, honest law enforcement, honest judges, and a moral injection of the Truth so that the serfs (which are the great number of us) may be freed from this oppressive poverty of pocket and spirit, this dog-eat-dog-day of endless darkness.
The first grand step is to eliminate the right of personage that for one has destroyed labor’s right to bargain collectively if not our electoral process. The notion was to eliminate municipal unions to privatize infrastructure in the states, which then generally comes at a greater cost than unionized employees provided these services. In Wisconsin, Governor Walker privatized municipal unions to breast-feed his crony service contractors, who in turn fed his campaign coffers with contributions. That is the paradigm, the quid pro quo of privatization, a new low in labor, designed to create a serf or slave class labor as we have in China and all those countries whose names appear on everything you buy, from a washing machine to a baseball glove to the shirt on your back, which is still theirs—given the several trillion dollars we owe China.
This process also contributed to the outsourcing of millions of jobs started by Clinton (NAFTA), Bush (CAFTA and the North American Union). The junkets “Slick Willy” provided for U.S. CEOs to visit India and other Far-Eastern countries to meet and greet and sell out American jobs also helped. That is at the root of our joblessness, the anything-goes bottom-line of business, taking down our culture, our history, all we fought for from the American Revolution on to make us slaves, like the slaves bought and brought here from Africa to buttress the south’s agrarian economy, and leave its legacy of racism for generations to come. We have come full circle to being owned by Forbes 400 Richest Americans and their retinue.
They are and have been aided and abetted by the Federal Reserve System, the FED, which is a collection of 12 private central banks, created by The Federal Reserve Act of 1913, and owned by private investors, whose nominal purpose was to control the money supply and the interest rates on lending money. The FED also charges us a percentage for every dollar they print, and each dollar or other bill is marked clearly FEDERAL RESERVE NOTE to remind you it’s a note of debt to the FED to use our own currency. This has enabled the FED at taxpayers’ expense to make trillions for its banker owners. Its easements slide easily across borders through a network of foreign central banks to control foreign economies like the Eurozone and/or to create “austerity programs” that can break the bank of those economies that were encouraged originally to borrow from the likes of Goldman Sachs and other private banks at outrageous interest rates to participate in the Euro-zone.
These banksters, the backbone of the 400 American richest, have enriched themselves off the backs of the middle, working and the poor classes, literally globally. They warrant a guillotine, from the princes of social media to the goons of Wall Street, from the creators of Internet technology to no-goodniks like CEO Jeffrey Immelt who is steadily transferring G.E to China to avoid U.S. taxes and labor standards. Along with that, Immelt has taken some 10,000 jobs with him to China. Other entrepreneurs keep profits in tax-free Cayman Islands banks to avoid paying their tax dues to the system that helped create them.
It’s no wonder there is a whole section on yachts and private air travel available to the 400 richest Americans. Forbes’ cover boy for the Forbes 400 richest issue is Sean Parker, titled ‘Agent of Disruption.’ He is described as one “Who rocked the music industry and unleashed viral marketing with Plaxo, [‘Your address book for life’]. His vision shaped Facebook; so did his paranoia. Now 31 and worth $2.1 billion, he’s just getting started,” in his trendy skimpy suit, shirt, loosened skinny tie, red leather All-Star high-tops, a bearded, pouting boy-man. He provides us with two pieces of wisdom he lives by: 1) “I focus on things that are of the highest value and do them perfectly.” (No modesty here.); 2) “I don’t mind being depicted as a decadent partyer. . . . I mind being depicted as an unethical, mercenary operator.” Well, you said it Sean, not me. Sean also drives an Audi S6 “that masks” a Lamborghini engine as it rips through the fog on the Golden Gate Bridge north to an 18-acre compound and an even greater financial nirvana. Ommmm!
The inevitable solution to the 400 Richest Americans and their greedy take is to take over Wall Street and their other hangouts, and send the offenders to jail, one by one, in cuffs. As to the dynasties of wealth, The Waltons ($96-billion, Walmart), Bill Gates ($59 billion, Microsoft), the Kochs ($50 billion, oil, mining and other businesses), George Soros ($22 billion, hedge funds) and the newcomers, Jeff Bezos of Amazon ($19.1 billion), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook, ($17.5 billion), Michael Dell (computers, $15 billion), is to open your pockets, bring jobs back to the America that spawned you, or face a universal Occupy Wall Street, like the movement of young people now facing down the police in New York City’s financial district, and joined Thursday by Michael Moore. You are the 400 plus. We are the 200 million strong.
Lastly, remember history’s revolutions, including the social-media-made in Egypt; and the historic French, American, the Russian revolutions, and how quickly societies were and are turned upside-down. To Forbes, I say thank you for presenting this insider look at the up-siders. To readers, try to get your hands on a copy and study it. Somehow, it still seems to revel in the shark-like success of its subjects. After all, for many years Forbes billed itself as the “Capitalist Tool.” But perhaps the rich should focus now on the toxic new feudalism they have created to see how they can reform it and themselves. If not, history has a way of repeating itself, especially if its lessons are not learned.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.