Monday, May 16, 2011

"The fight is not over" - even when it seems we're losing

I mean, there's just no getting around the reality that last November a small minority of eligible voters in this state voted for a complete rightist takeover of state government. The Kloppenburg/Prosser election probably cements that ideological stranglehold, despite the unprecedented voter turnout for a special court election that ended in a breathtakingly strong challenge from a relative unknown (who I believe would have made a fine judge - and may yet in years to come).

Mahlon Mitchell (ctr/left), prez of Professional Firefighters Assoc. of WI, and his colleagues lead march around the Capitol
But I needed a boost, so I went with my brother to Madison on Saturday for "The Fight Is Not Over" rally. I mean, if you can get 10,000 raucous, enthusiastic, democracy-loving folks out in the streets in 45 degree temps and winds gusting over 40 mph on just a couple weeks notice, well, for sure, the fight is not over.

There will be plenty of issues to comment on this week, but today I want to just point out the most glaring economic reality of our country right now, being played out here in our state - the rapid, vast, concentration of wealth over the past couple decades. Since economics is not taught in schools (it ought to be from K-12 and on), most folks may not understand how this wealth of the super-rich is being generated. Just to be clear, it is not because any new wealth is being created - it is because wealth is being transferred.

Right - from workers and the poor, from the public sector, from fake capital expansion (like those financial 'instruments' that brought down the economy in 2008 which is largely speculation involving our money, our mortgages, our retirement benefits, our consumer behaviors), and the global market - from the vast 'bottom' of the economy, in other words, to the tippy top.

Very good column in Sunday's JS Crossroads section, Income distortions affecting our democracy by Mike McCabe:

We have reached the point in which the richest 1% of Americans have more wealth than the bottom 95% combined, a sad truth verified in 2009 by The 400 richest Americans have a bigger net worth than half of all Americans collectively, another harrowing statistic confirmed by PolitiFact earlier this year.
Such a grotesque redistribution of wealth from the many to a privileged few is inconsistent with any legitimate notion of economic justice, not to mention incompatible with democracy.

This condition is the product of a long series of deliberate policy decisions flowing from a corrupted political process. It also, in turn, reinforces the establishment of plutocracy - government of, by and for the wealthy.

As I have said many times in many places - societies with wealth this skewed do not do very well. And when 'free market' people (there is no such thing as a free market, only a market operating under whatever rules someone sets for them) say it is not time to raise taxes, as free marketer Brett Healy also wrote for Crossroads, don't believe them - because none of this wealth of the super-rich is going to bring about job creation, and those few jobs that may be created will offer wage scales that continue to bring working folks in this country from a middle class way of life to the ranks of the working poor.

In fact, the time of the broadest prosperity in this country came during the decades in which wealth was taxed at 70-80% - and what I remember is that the rich didn't complain too much about it, as they still could live in mansions and summer in Europe.

So while the fight is not over, we have difficult times ahead of us. Billions of dollars will buy you billions in influence, and this tidal wave of billionaire plutocrats' money continues to wash over the body politic. With Kohl resigning, you just watch as that tidal wave becomes a real tsunami, Koch/Rove/DeVos/Bradley and other money trying to consolidate this anti-democratic takeover of our state's political culture.

I hope folks can keep their spirits up for the long haul. Plenty of spirit in the streets on Saturday. We need to keep feeding each other this positive energy. Movements take time and unity. This one, too.

Madison's 'Forward Marching Band' 

Traditional counter-clockwise march around the Capitol before the rally

Si se puede - yes we can

Who would ever have thought it would come to this :)

All photos: Margaret Swedish

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