Terry Lamphier: Trump’s credit-card capitalism
Too many people shamelessly continue to stand by our unclothed Emperor Donald Trump as he trashes our Constitution’s system of checks and balances, our respected intelligence and military leaders and institutions, our justice system and due process, our free press, our international treaties, our standards of morality, ethics, diplomacy … well, everything that attempts to hold him and, by default, our country’s actions accountable.
Trump gets a pass for successfully bamboozling unsophisticated, uneducated and unhappy malcontents into believing he was for “the common man” — truly remarkable given his history of stiffing numerous building contractors, practicing racial housing discrimination, illegally using his fake veteran’s charity for personal use, avoiding millions in taxes with questionable tactics that he refuses to disclose, using international politics and his private resorts to personally profit from hosting taxpayer-paid-for government business and so on.
His supporters say, “he was elected; live with it,” unaware or uncaring that he has unleashed the rawest form of capitalism, with its undemocratic, profit-motive framework dominating all else — over good health care, a clean and sustainable world to live in, an ideologically neutral justice system, an equitable tax system, a regulatory system intended to serve and protect the majority of us from the predacious few, and so on. Ayn Rand would be proud.
This is not the America I grew up in, of “truth, justice and the American way” — of ideals based on our common welfare (not narrow allegiance to self-serving oligarchs and plutocrats); of adult compassion (not childish derision of opponents); of seeking common goals (not fostering divisive hate and conflict); of Abe Lincoln’s “of, by and for the people” (certainly not the fascist visions of foreign tyrants).
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“But look at the economy,” supporters say. “Unemployment is down, interest rates are low, the stock market is up – who cares about anything else?”
Take low unemployment: Trump’s deregulated ‘Make America Great Again’ approach to creating jobs — his “get it while we can” resource exploitation, for example — shows an appalling disregard for a sustainable future. This is a false economy — the “wealth” we have today is here because we are borrowing from our future. It’s not wealth, folks, it’s a loan.
The health industry’s emphasis on privatization and “competition” means high employment is needed to navigate Byzantine corporate billing systems, an expense that takes away from actual health care, just as obscene CEO salaries and well-rewarded stockholders do. My doctor’s small office employs three full-time assistants just to process billing.
The alternative, an expansion of our government-run Medicare system, with government employees making living wages with good benefits, is deemed “socialism” and therefore, unacceptable. “OMG, look at Stalin and Venezuela,” froth opponents conflating bad leadership and/or U.S. capitalist-driven overt and covert meddling with actual ideology. Encarta’s first definition of socialism: “a political theory or system in which the means of production and distribution are controlled by the people and operated according to equity and fairness rather than market principles.” Oh, scary!
Regarding the stock market, any honest stockbroker will tell you that most stocks are overvalued but the market keeps going up as it is the only place to make money. The Federal Reserve’s policy of lower interest rates, intended to encourage borrowing with “cheap” money in order to stimulate hiring, business investment, etc., is used instead to enrich CEO’s with fat bonuses and stockholders with stock buy backs.
Underneath it all, a “healthy” stock market has very little direct effect on most Americans (how much stock do you own?).
Our next presidential election poses real and false choices. Will the nation’s flawed Republican-dominated electoral college system, augmented by big money Republicans and fear-mongering right wing media opinion shills, succeed in overcoming the popular vote once again by diverting and subverting the will of the majority, reinstalling corporate America’s morally and ethically bankrupt Trump?
Or will America go with a mediocre, but a safe Biden-type capitalist Democrat who will make token gestures of moderation, assuring 20th century solutions to 21st century challenges?
Or will Warren, Sanders or another progressive overcome fears of a “socialist apocalypse” and prevail over the desperate campaign of plutocrats (who understandably want to preserve their obscene wealth) and their well-funded sycophants?
Don’t be afraid of real change. Franklin Delano Roosevelt — who successfully implemented the first New Deal, with its numerous strong socialist programs we enjoy today (and who was elected four-times, a claim no Republican can make) — said: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Terry Lamphier lives in Grass Valley.
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