For many years, the GOP has used so-called “social” issues, such as proposed anti-abortion legislation and “sanctity of marriage” laws to divide the voting populace and fire up their base. The Democratic Party has focused on issues like social safety nets, minimum wages and availability of health care. And the debate has left our government largely paralyzed.
In some ways, arguing about the issues that divide the rank and file of the two political parties is akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s not that the issues aren’t important. But compared to other issues, they are mere distractions…the political equivalent of a con artist bumping your shoulder while picking your pocket.
The con artists are working for large, multinational corporations and the very wealthy. In order to grow and thrive, these companies need two things: A plentiful supply of natural resources and cheap labor. Over the course of history, those needs have led the wealthy to finance exploration, nations to build wide-ranging empires, and corporations to destroy collective bargaining movements.
Following World War II, the desire for access to oil, rubber, timber, tin and other resources led the British, the US and the Soviet Union to attempt to divide much of the world culminating in the Cold War. The desire to acquire resources led us into conflicts in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It was the cause of the Spanish-American War, the war with Japan, the war in Vietnam, and the war in Iraq. It led our CIA to orchestrate the overthrow of elected leaders in Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua and elsewhere.
Similarly, the need for cheap labor led mining companies to create company stores and to build entire towns designed to trap workers into becoming hopelessly obligated to the owners. It caused companies to hire thugs to brutally beat striking workers. It led to shooting wars between corporate interests and labor unions. More recently, it led corporations to move factories to Southern “right-to-work” states then on to Mexico to China to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The executives behind these actions aren’t evil. They’re just doing business. They claim that it’s not their responsibility to worry about social or environmental problems. They believe that their only responsibility is to increase the return on investment for shareholders by decreasing costs and increasing productivity. To them, picturesque mountains merely cover the precious minerals they covet. Pristine forests are merely the lumber needed for construction. Impoverished people in distant lands are simply motivated laborers.
And so it goes.
While we argue over the debt ceiling, corporations and billionaires quietly park their profits in off-shore tax havens then lobby for a tax “holiday” that will allow them to bring the money home at greatly reduced tax rates. While we argue over extending unemployment benefits, corporations lobby for more subsidies and government giveaways. While we argue over food stamps, corporate agribusinesses pocket billions in taxpayer funds. While we argue over Social Security retirement benefits, too-big-to-fail financial institutions steal trillions from 401ks, IRAs, pension funds and foreclosed homes. At the same time, all of these corporations continue to lobby for reduced government regulation and oversight.
It is because of our inattention that a mere 85 individuals now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population…the equivalent of the populations of China, India, the United States, Indonesia and Brazil combined. It’s why unemployment has grown and why most salaries have not. It’s why a few corporations now control most of our food supply. It’s why those same corporations are able to poison the food supply in search of ever larger profits. It’s why the incidence of chronic disease has skyrocketed despite government-funded technology and research that give us the ability to end it. It’s why our climate is rapidly changing while we continue to subsidize the companies responsible for changing it.
As long as we focus on the distractions instead of the actions, things will only get worse.