The Real Fight
Welcome to 2022! This is the year that we beat Covid-19 into submission. At least, I hope so. I can give you the statistics, but I guess you already know them. We are in the midst of yet another spike. Over 75% of the new cases are the new Omicron. This new variant is supposed to be highly contagious but, less deadly.
All I know is I do not want the coronavirus. I do not want the original virus. I do not want the Delta variant of the virus. I do not want the Omicron variant. I will continue to do what I can to avoid this virus. I will continue to wear a mask. I will continue to social distance. I do not go to restaurants, movie theaters, or sporting events. I avoid crowds. I am vaccinated and boosted, I encourage you to do the same.
When we think about American democracy, we think about one-man (one-woman), one-vote. Yet, the original United States Constitution was not really about every adult voting. The original Constitution was about the rich voting or more correctly men who owned land voting. The Framers believed that people who held land were more important than “regular” folk. They believed that white-skinned people from Europe deserved the vote, but not the original inhabitants of the continent. Or women. Or people from Africa brought over to be property. Senators were not even elected by “we the people,” but appointed by state legislatures.
Over the centuries the Constitution has been changed. Now, we can vote for our representatives to both the House and Senate. But the real question remains—is America about us or about the rich?
Not my job
Recently Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called out Warren Buffett, billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. It appears there is a steelworker strike of the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia (where I live). Berkshire Hathaway owns the parent company of Special Metals, Precision Castparts. Sen. Sanders asked Warren Buffett to pay his workers more. He correctly pointed out that these steelworkers work for a company that makes plenty of money. Yet Warren Buffett said, “That’s not my job” [to raise their pay.]
Really? Isn’t this the classic rich-vs.-poor struggle that we’ve seen in the United States for over close to 200 years.
In A People’s History of the United States, author Howard Zinn describes a, 1839 fight between tenants and the Rensselaer estate in New York’s Hudson Valley. The tenants were farmers that lived on the estate. They had to pay taxes and rents to the Rensselaers. The famers believed that the taxes and rents were too high: they barely had enough money to live on after they paid their dues.
The disagreement between the Rensselaers and their tenants became a huge fight. The sheriff was brought into collect rent or to evict tenants, but he retreated after being confronted with hundreds of angry farmers. Then the sheriff returned with a posse—and thousands of angry farmers threw stones and beat the posse with sticks. Again, they retreated. A petition for an anti-rent bill was submitted to the New York legislature in 1845. The bill was signed by 25,000 tenants. It was defeated. Finally, a guerrilla war broke out. People were killed on both sides. Although the farmers won some minor victories, the landlord-tenant structure basically stayed in place. This fight lasted for more than 20 years. Yet in the end, not much changed.
The fight between rich and poor is an ongoing battle in the United States. Think about the fights that we’ve been discussing in this space for over a decade. When you think about them in the context of rich versus poor, they make more sense.
Universal healthcare shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not that we can’t afford it. We clearly can. Universal healthcare would raise millions of Americans out of poverty. Universal healthcare would not be tied to your place of work but instead would be tied to your citizenship here in the United States.
Think about it: if you’re poor and working two jobs and develop a toothache, you would have nothing to worry about. You would simply go to a dentist and have you tooth taking care of. Done.
Think about a living wage. This would basically mean you would only work two jobs if that’s what you truly wanted to do. Most people who work two jobs, do it because they need the money. Now, if we had a living wage in the United States, people would have enough money to cover their living expenses. They could buy a car (not lease). They could rent an apartment in a decent neighborhood—or buy a house. They could pay more in taxes, which would upgrade the school system.
Yet, we don’t have a living wage or universal healthcare in the United States. Why? I think the answer is obvious. What did Warren Buffett say? It is not my job. (What if the management of that steel company decided to pay every worker $250,000 per year? Would Warren Buffett sit back and say that’s not my job? Or would he fire all management personnel and hire some folks who would get the situation of worker pay under control?)
We don’t have universal healthcare or a living wage because the rich want the poor to stay needy.
A recent poll by one of the major news outlets found 1/3 of the electorate thought that under certain circumstances it was okay, or even necessary, to overthrow our government. After the events of January 6, I’m not surprised by these polling numbers.
Let’s just think about the aftermath of the 2020 election. Over the last 50 or 60 years, the presidential election has been out in the open. The person who got the most votes was elected president.
(Except in 2000 and 2016. Come to think of it, a majority of American voters have cast ballots for a Republican only once in the past 30 years—yet three times the Republican candidate “won” the presidency, thanks to the Electoral College—another of the Founders gifts to the rich at the expense of the poor).
Yet our 2020 election really depended upon just a handful of Republicans who believed in American democracy.
There was the Secretary of State in Georgia, Brad Raffensberger, who withstood presidential pressure, recorded on an angry, whiny one-hour phone call, and pressure from fellow Republicans, to “find” votes. Almost the same pressure was seen in Arizona. Michigan Republican lawmakers were actually flown to the White House to meet with President Trump. He tried to persuade them to do “something” to help his cause. And there was Vice President Pence, who surprised not only the president and his White House cabal, but the American people, by standing up for principle and certifying Biden and Harris as the winners—and Trump and himself as the loser—of the election.
Think about how close we came to a coup. The riot, the insurrectionists, on January 6, 2021, were simply the icing on the coup cake.
At the crossroads
American democracy is at the crossroads. Donald Trump, Fox News, Kevin McCarthy, Marjorie Taylor Green, Madison Cawthorn, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Newsmax, and other members of the right-wing propaganda machine have left reality and democracy behind.
They have to keep their public riled up. This means they have to push more and more outrageous conspiracies. Yesterday’s conspiracies like Hillary Clinton leading a satanic cult of pedophiles based in a Washington, DC, pizzeria, are tame compared to the new conspiracies these anti-American propagandists are dreaming up.
Are the rich bothered by these developments? Nope. They are going to be okay no matter what goes down.
So this is our fight. The fight is not with each other. The fight is against the rich. I’m not talking about athletes who make a couple million a year. I’m talking about people who are truly rich. People who have so much money they can’t give it away. I’m talking about Rockefellers, Carnegies, DuPonts, Vanderbilts, and others. Their newer counterparts include the Kochs, the DeVos clan, and the Waltons (of Walmart)—older tycoons like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and more recent entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla, and Marc Zuckerberg of “Meta,” i.e. Facebook.
Can we fix it?
There are probably somewhere around a thousand American families that have this kind of money—half a billion or more, per person! What can we do about them?
We must take corporate and billionaires’ money out of politics. No political TV ads. No super PACs.
We must stop gerrymandering. This is killing our democracy. We need national standards for voting and districting.
We need voting to take place on Saturday, not on a Tuesday. If you want people to vote in state and local elections, that day should be a holiday. This is how we make America work for the everyday people instead of the rich alone.