Resist or Become Serfs

America is devolving into a third-world
nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite's rapacious looting
of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which
can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be
helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a
robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily
guarded gated communities where they will have access to security,
goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of
millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual
poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate
capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us.
They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests,
disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs.

We have been in a steady economic decline for decades. The Canadian political philosopher John Ralston Saul detailed this decline in his 1992 book "Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West." David Cay Johnston
exposed the mirage and rot of American capitalism in "Free Lunch: How
the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and
Stick You With the Bill)," and David C. Korten,
in "When Corporations Rule the World" and "Agenda for a New Economy,"
laid out corporate malfeasance and abuse. But our universities and mass
media, entranced by power and naively believing that global capitalism
was an unstoppable force of nature, rarely asked the right questions or
gave a prominent voice to those who did. Our elites hid their
incompetence and loss of control behind an arrogant facade of
specialized jargon and obscure economic theories.

The lies employed to camouflage the
economic decline are legion. President Ronald Reagan included 1.5
million U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine service personnel with
the civilian work force to magically reduce the nation's unemployment
rate by 2 percent. President Bill Clinton decided that those who had
given up looking for work, or those who wanted full-time jobs but could
only find part-time employment, were no longer to be counted as
unemployed. This trick disappeared some 5 million unemployed from the
official unemployment rolls. If you work more than 21 hours a week-most
low-wage workers at places like Wal-Mart average 28 hours a week-you
are counted as employed, although your real wages put you below the
poverty line. Our actual unemployment rate, when you include those who
have stopped looking for work and those who can only find part-time
jobs, is not 8.5 percent but 15 percent. A sixth of the country is now
effectively unemployed. And we are shedding jobs at a faster rate than
in the months after the 1929 crash.

The consumer price index, used by the
government to measure inflation, is meaningless. To keep the official
inflation figures low the government has been substituting basic
products it once measured to check for inflation with ones that do not
rise very much in price. This sleight of hand has kept the
cost-of-living increases tied to the CPI artificially low. The New York
Times' consumer reporter, W.P. Dunleavy, wrote that her groceries now
cost $587 a month, up from $400 a year earlier. This is a 40 percent
increase. California economist John Williams, who runs an organization
called Shadow Statistics, contends that if Washington still used the CPI measurements applied back in the 1970s, inflation would be 10 percent.

The corporate state, and the political and
intellectual class that served the corporate state, constructed a
financial and political system based on illusions. Corporations engaged
in pyramid lending that created fictitious assets. These fictitious
assets became collateral for more bank lending. The elite skimmed off
hundreds of millions in bonuses, commissions and salaries from this
fictitious wealth. Politicians, who dutifully served corporate
interests rather than those of citizens, were showered with campaign
contributions and given lucrative jobs when they left office.
Universities, knowing it was not good business to challenge
corporatism, muted any voices of conscience while they went begging for
corporate donations and grants. Deceptive loans and credit card debt
fueled the binges of a consumer society and hid falling wages and the
loss of manufacturing jobs.

The Obama administration, rather than
chart a new course, is intent on re-inflating the bubble. The trillions
of dollars of government funds being spent to sustain these corrupt
corporations could have renovated our economy. We could have saved tens
of millions of Americans from poverty. The government could have, as
consumer activist Ralph Nader has pointed out, started 10 new banks
with $35 billion each and a 10-to-1 leverage to open credit markets.
Vast, unimaginable sums are being placed into these dirty corporate
hands without oversight. And they will use this money as they always
have-to enrich themselves at our expense.

"You are going to see the biggest waste,
fraud and abuse in American history," Nader warned when I asked about
the bailouts. "Not only is it wrongly directed, not only does it deal
with the perpetrators instead of the people who were victimized, but
they don't have a delivery system of any honesty and efficiency. The
Justice Department is overwhelmed. It doesn't have a tenth of the
prosecutors, the investigators, the auditors, the attorneys needed to
deal with the previous corporate crime wave before the bailout started
last September. It is especially unable to deal with the rapacious
ravaging of this new money by these corporate recipients. You can see
it already. The corporations haven't lent it. They have used some of it
for acquisitions or to preserve their bonuses or their dividends. As
long as they know they are not going to jail, and they don't see many
newspaper reports about their colleagues going to jail, they don't
care. It is total impunity. If they quit, they quit with a golden
parachute. Even [General Motors CEO Rick] Wagoner is taking away $21

There are a handful of former executives
who have conceded that the bailouts are a waste. American International
Group Inc.'s (AIG) former chairman, Maurice R. Greenberg,
told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday
that the effort to prop up the firm with $170 billion has "failed." He
said the company should be restructured. AIG, he said, would have been
better off filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection instead of
seeking government help.

"These are signs of hyper decay," Nader
said from his office in Washington. "You spend this kind of money and
do not know if it will work."

"Bankrupt corporate capitalism is on its
way to bankrupting the socialism that is trying to save it," Nader
added. "That is the end stage. If they no longer have socialism to save
them then we are into feudalism. We are into private police, gated
communities and serfs with a 21st century nomenclature."

We will not be able to raise another 3 or
4 trillion dollars, especially with our commitments now totaling some
$12 trillion, to fix the mess. It was only a couple of months ago that
our expenditures totaled $9 trillion. And it was not long ago that such
profligate government spending was unthinkable. There was an $800
billion limit placed on the Federal Reserve a year ago. The economic
stimulus and the bailouts will not bring back our casino capitalism.
And as the meltdown shows no signs of abating, and the bailouts show no
sign of working, the recklessness and desperation of our capitalist
overlords have increased. The cost, to the working and middle class, is
becoming unsustainable. The Fed reported in March that households lost
$5.1 trillion, or 9 percent, of their wealth in the last three months
of 2008, the most ever in a single quarter in the 57-year history of
record keeping by the central bank. For the full year, household wealth
dropped $11.1 trillion, or about 18 percent. These figures did not
record the decline of investments in the stock market, which has
probably erased trillions more in the country's collective net worth.

The bullet to our head, inevitable if we
do not radically alter course, will be sudden. We have been borrowing
at the rate of more than $2 billion a day over the last 10 years, and
at some point it has to stop. The moment China, the oil-rich states and
other international investors stop buying treasury bonds the dollar
will become junk. Inflation will rocket upward. We will become Weimar Germany.
A furious and sustained backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one
unprepared intellectually and psychologically for collapse, will sweep
aside the Democrats and most of the Republicans. A cabal of
proto-fascist misfits, from Christian demagogues to simpletons like
Sarah Palin to loudmouth talk show hosts, who we naively dismiss as
buffoons, will find a following with promises of revenge and moral
renewal. The elites, the ones with their Harvard Business School
degrees and expensive vocabularies, will retreat into their sheltered
enclaves of privilege and comfort. We will be left bereft and abandoned
outside the gates.

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