A Conspiracy?

I recently received a request from a friend on Face Book, I’ll call him Jesse, to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEV5AFFcZ-s. While I have doubts about much of what is claimed in this video, it raises some important points that should be addressed. I wrote the following letter to Jesse, which I would like to share on this blog post.
Hi Jesse,
I have watched your video. It seems an artful mixture of fact and fancy, of truth and myth. I am certainly not convinced of toruses and aliens-I would dismiss these things as unproven, unprovable and unlikely. It’s not relevant anyway, we already have the technology to provide mankind with unlimited clean energy from the sun, and yes, the extremely powerful energy companies are standing in the way of that. Some countries of Europe are already providing most of their energy needs this way.
Is there something profoundly amiss and existentially threatening about our political and economic system? Absolutely! It is the inevitable result of unfettered capitalism abetted by government. Is it a conspiracy? Only in the loosest sense of the word. Naturally the bankers and other moguls love their freedom to do anything they damn well please and seek to maintain it by buying off the government. They collude in what they consider to be their own interests.
I don’t know how old you are, Henry, but I am 65 and I remember a time when our economy worked well and most people shared in it. There was a huge middle class. The government maintained strict control over the banking and saving and loan industries and prevented the abuses we see today-something left over from the Roosevelt reforms that were enacted in response to the excesses that brought about the great depression. My parents bought a house in 1957 and paid $90 a month until it was paid off in 1977. My mother never worked. They put my brother and myself through college easily, it was almost free in those days. No student debt. That was the norm for people growing up in the 50s and 60s. How did we lose this relative utopia?
First, we went to war, a war that lasted 12 years, cost 50,000 American lives, cost vast amounts of money, and which we ultimately lost. Wars bring inflation in their wake because governments inflate the currency to pay for them. Wages do not keep up. Real wages of middle class Americans began to fall and have been falling ever since.
The second thing that happened was that our economy was transformed from a cash to a credit economy. Before about the mid-sixties there were no credit cards. Once credit cards were introduced people were encouraged to go into debt to buy things they wanted or needed, and with wages falling, they did this more and more. For some time the decrease in real wages was masked by the entrance of women into the workforce-working mothers became the norm where they had been the exception. As the government relinquished more and more control to the banking industry, the interest rate on this credit card debt grew and grew and now it has gotten up to 30% per annum. Add to this the much increased cost of college and you get a nation of debtors. Vast numbers of working Americans have now become debt slaves, eking out survival and working to pay off an ever increasing debt burden.
During the Reagan administration, the government relinquished its role in reining in the banks. Banks and savings and loans became unregulated. This allowed them to actively push sub-prime loans, derivatives, and all of the other shenanigans which led to the crash of 2008. The government, having been totally bought off by the banking industry, and also fearing economic chaos if they did not, acceded to the banker’s demands and threats and bailed out the banks. Americans lost their jobs and their homes and were not assisted. I had a co-worker who was seriously underwater on her condo and the loan payment was scheduled to increase to the point where she couldn’t make the payments despite an income of about $100,000 a year. Desperate to refinance, she hired a law firm. She had to resort to not paying her mortgage for months to qualify for a government program. The bank harassed her daily. She finally succeeded in refinancing, but very few Americans were that lucky. How many in those circumstances could afford to pay $5,000 to a law firm?
Is there a conspiracy to reduce the world’s population? I find that unlikely, but our present economic and political policies, if allowed to continue will inevitably cause a sharp reduction in the world’s population. The decrease in sperm count is more than likely the result of vast amounts of various toxins being released into the environment by industry and agriculture. We are rapidly despoiling the planet and making it uninhabitable. The carbon dioxide level had reached 400 ppm, greater than it has ever been, and global warming is a reality-this September was the hottest on record. The melting of the icecaps will release great quantities of methane gas, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and this will accelerate global warming. We could end up with a planet too hot to sustain life.
What can be done? Since 1980 government and industry have been in complete collusion, complete accord, working hand in hand to promote policies that favor the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. The gap between the wealthy and the rest of us has been growing ever greater. If you want a better understanding of this, watch Robert Reich’s movie Inequality for All. Is the solution to abolish or shrink government? No. The solution is to take back government and make it work for us. Government used to regulate the banking industry, they could do so again. In fact the only thing that has the power to restrain and regulate capitalism is the government. They have failed in this function since 1980, and we see what has happened. We can only take back government if people wake up to the fact that we are being screwed over by the collusion of government and industry and vote in great enough numbers for a government that will face up to the moneyed interests. This seems unlikely to happen for three reasons-the capitalists have enough money to buy and disseminate a tremendous amount of propaganda to influence elections in their favor, gerrymander districts, and rig elections as happened in 2000.They control virtually all of the mass media. Secondly, they have managed to persuade large numbers of poor, uneducated and ignorant whites, especially in the south, that they should vote for the party that most strongly supports the capitalists, even though it is against their own interests. They have deliberately fostered division along racial and religious lines. Thirdly, they have even managed to suborn the once highly respected Supreme Court, which now makes decisions saying that corporations are people and as such may pour unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns in order to elect politicians who will agree to their agenda. Defeating the agenda of the oligarchs appears to be a daunting challenge, but it is a challenge we must face up to if we wish our planet to survive.

Your video advocates an end to taxes. I would advocate the opposite. In the 1950s the marginal tax rate was 90%. Corporations paid 32% of the national budget. Now the marginal tax rate is 39% and corporations provide 9% of the national budget. I would institute a wealth tax and use this money to repair our crumbling infrastructure. This would put millions of people to work at good wages and would revive our flagging economy. Regulating banking and industry and building infrastructure are things only a government can do. The answer is not to eliminate government but to have a government that meets the need of the people.

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