US media demands Greek-style austerity for American workers

WSNM

In recent days, the US media—led by the standard bearer of American liberalism, the New York Times—has insisted that workers inseek truth the US, like their brethren in Greece, have been living the good life for far too long and must accept a drastic and permanent reduction in their living standards.

In a May 9 piece, Times columnist Thomas Friedman denounces workers in the US and Western Europe for believing in the “tooth fairy” and expecting government services without paying for them. In America, Friedman says, the baby-boom generation, which supposedly had inherited the prosperity of the post-war years, had “eaten through all that abundance like hungry locusts.”

“After 65 years in which politics in the West was, mostly, about giving things away to voters, it’s now going to be, mostly, about taking things away. Goodbye Tooth Fairy politics, hello Root Canal politics.”

Describing what he has in mind, two days later Friedman wrote about his meeting with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in a rooftop restaurant in Athens. Praising Papandreou for defying mass protests, theTimes columnist hails the government for carrying out a “revolution,” including raising the retirement age and slashing wages and pensions for public sector workers, imposing regressive consumption taxes and wiping out two-thirds of the country’s publicly owned companies.

Another May 11 article, appearing on the front page of the Times, is entitled, “In Greek Debt Crisis, Some See Parallels to U.S.” Its author, David Leonhardt, led the newspaper’s campaign to promote Obama’s health care overhaul, explicitly supporting limits on medical treatments ordinary people could receive. (“In truth, rationing is an inescapable part of economic life”).

“It’s easy to look at the protesters and the politicians in Greece—and at the other European countries with huge debts—and wonder why they don’t get it,” Leonhardt writes. “They have been enjoying more generous government benefits than they can afford…

“Yet in the back of your mind comes a nagging question: how different, really, is the United States?… Both countries have a bigger government than they’re paying for. And politicians, spendthrift as some may be, are not the main source of the problem.

We, the people, are.”

It is rich to hear demands for sacrifices and lectures about “the people” living beyond their means, particularly from the likes of Leonhardt and Friedman. The latter, who is paid $50,000 per speaking engagement, is married to the heir of a multi-billion dollar real estate fortune. According to theWashingtonian magazine, the couple owns “a palatial 11,400-square-foot house” in suburban Washington, DC, valued in 2006 at $9.3 million.

In these circles it is taken for granted that massive cuts must be imposed on the living standards of the working class, but not a word is said about the hundreds of billions that are funneled into the personal fortunes of the financial aristocracy and the subordination of the entire economy to increasing their piles of wealth.

The events of the last several years have revealed to the world that the greatest burden on society is not ordinary working people but the anti-social activities of an unproductive and parasitic financial elite. The grotesque consumption and appropriation of social wealth by this oligarchy is not a minor factor in the crisis of the global capitalist system itself.

The bankrupting of whole countries—chiefly through the transferring of the bad debts of the financial speculators onto the books of various governments—is being used to demand austerity from workers and ever-greater riches for the elite.

The four biggest US financial firms—Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase—made money from trading every single day during the first quarter of the year, according to their financial filings. The banks, which all benefited from the Wall Street bailout, reaped hundreds of millions in profits from betting on the movement of currency, commodity and sovereign debt markets, including in relation to Greece.

At the same time, the value of corporate shares has risen, chiefly through a campaign of job cutting, wage and benefit concessions and a staggering 3.8 percent increase in worker productivity in 2009. As a result, corporate CEOs, who took stock options in lieu of pay increases when profits were down, are now cashing in, according to an Associated Press report, entitled, “America’s top CEOs are set for a once-in-a-lifetime pay bonanza.” Yahoo’s Carol Bartz, for example, received a $47.2 million package during her first year on the job, 90 percent of which came from stock awards and options.

While these vast personal fortunes have been made, there has been no recovery in the wages and benefits workers have lost during the recession. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that real wages fell last year by 2.7 percent in Japan and Ireland, 1.1 per cent in Germany and 0.8 percent in the US.

The unbridled greed of America’s ruling elite—and the complete subservience of the political establishment, from Obama on down, to its needs—can only be compared to the ancien régime in France. The parasitism and extravagance of the aristocracy became a major factor in the country’s breakdown, and ultimately the eruption of the French Revolution in 1789.

Workers must reject the demand for austerity. The working class did not create this crisis and must not pay for it. Instead, the ill-gotten gains of the ruling elite must be confiscated and used to meet the interests of society as a whole, instead of gutting social programs and destroying jobs.

This must include a multi-trillion dollar program of public works to put the unemployed to work—at decent wages and full medical care—to rebuild the cities and suburbs, repair the nation’s infrastructure and provide high quality housing, medical care and education for all.

In the midst of the Great Depression, the founder of the Fourth International, Leon Trotsky, argued in the Transitional Program that it is “impossible to take a single serious step in the struggle against monopolistic despotism and capitalistic anarchy—which supplement one another in their work of destruction—if the commanding posts of the banks are left in the hands of predatory capitalists. In order to create a unified system of investment and credits, along a rational plan corresponding to the interests of the entire people, it is necessary to merge all the banks into a single national institution. Only the expropriation of the private banks and the concentration of the entire credit system in the hands of the state will provide the latter with the necessary actual, i.e., material, resources—and not merely paper and bureaucratic resources—for economic planning.”

The nationalization of the banks, however, will produce positive results, Trotsky explained, “only if the state power itself passes completely from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the toilers.”

For this to be realized the working class must build its own mass political party, independent of and irreconcilably opposed to the two parties of big business, and dedicated to the fight for a workers’ government to replace capitalism with socialism.

Collectivism: The Doctrine of the Rulers

By Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
April 18, 2010

Individualism as the concept that defines the rights of the individual as the most important instead of those of the masses is not the Collectivismissue of this writing. Collectivism as the idea that the common good is more important than that of a single individual is not the matter of this essay either. The issue of concern is how Collectivism is used to manipulate individuals and masses in order to achieve the nefarious goal of control.

Collectivism is the underline ideology that is common to the many past and modern totalitarian systems of government. Communism, Fascism and Nazism have a series of common features that are the ones to be looked at as supposed to the labels used to mask those features; namely Communism, Fascism and Nazism, to cite a few. These names simply add another layer of fog to what lies beneath them, and that is Collectivism.

In general terms, Collectivism is known as the concept that states the group is more important than the individual and that any particular individual may be ‘sacrificed’ for the greater good of the greater number. This idea is embedded in the educational systems which then feed the minds of those who walk across it for a good third of their lives. We live in Democracies -we are told- and as such, it is completely normal that 51% of the total governs over the rest. The idea of a majority rule, although seemingly normal, was not in the plans of many who came before us. A Democracy as a form of government was in fact rejected by those who founded most of what is today the free western world.

Collectivism was and is used by demagogues and corporations that support them to take advantage of societal mob-like behaviour and way of thinking, in order to pursue and achieve very specific goals. That is why a document called The Constitution was written in most countries around the world. The Constitutions and all the rights and duties they entail, were created to limit abuses the founders of the free world correctly envisioned as probable to occur in a society like the one we live in today.

One of the most famous talking points demagogues use to manipulate the masses is: “We are doing this for the greater good”. What is more amazing than this sentence, is to hear people using it, when describing or justifying collectivist actions -many times without even knowing what it means. This mass brainwashing is part of the manipulated collectivist view; to make people think the way the demagogues want without them even knowing it. Another popular dictate is: “We do what is in the best interest of the so and so people.” Every time the demagogue uses phrases like this one, people cannot help it but to nod their heads in acceptance.

The irony of this way of thinking is that the demagogue, the leader or the head of the Democracy is the one who in the end gets to decide what is done. For example, it is decided that there will be no medical care to people who are 70 or older because it is for the greater good. The leader or demagogue allied with his fervent followers promotes the idea and sells it to the masses, who rapidly accept it as obvious. They of course forget that there will come a time when they themselves will be 70 years of age.

But if a group is composed of individuals, where did the word group and collective good idea come from? Where does the word Forest come from? Can the group exist without individuals? Can the forest exist without trees? The word group, is an imaginary one, just as forest is. I cannot see the forest but I can see the trees. Can anyone see the group? The abstraction of a group is what Collectivism as an ideology takes advantage of to sacrifice the most important unit of that supposed group, the Individual. In the end, however, the abstract group itself is also sacrificed. The difference is that this process of sacrifice is done one individual at the time, instead of a one time mass sacrifice to the whole group.

Although both collectivists and individualists seek to get the best for themselves and the rest -good health, peace, security, justice- they differ in the way all those goals are achieved. The collectivist says ‘we use force if necessary’ -not always physical force- but coercion, for example. Their thought is almost always: ‘We are smart. Those dumb people out there are not; and for their own well-being, we are obligated to rule over them.’ This is what the Neocons think like: ‘Democracy has served us well, therefore we must spread it around the world at all cost’. Then a law is passed, a presidential decree is signed and all of a sudden people wake up naked not knowing why.

Take for example the payments to a social security system. In many countries people are obligated to contribute to a social security fund in order to finance a program that allegedly provides financing to bring health care to those who do not have the means to pay for it. Needless to say what happens next, when it is clear that today social security systems are completely bankrupt and unable to provide the necessary care people so urgently need, not even when they are well funded. What is promoted and provided is sick care, based on the idea that synthetic pharmaceuticals are the means to treat and cure disease. But if one asks people on the street about it, most of them would agree that it is a great idea to obligate the public to give a portion of their income to finance social security, health care, pension funds, and so on.

The difference then between the collectivist and the individualist approaches is that individualists use other methods to bring people on board when trying to achieve a goal. Instead of coercion, persuasion is used. The first sign of a collectivist mind, or one that was brought into collectivism, is the thought that there has to be a law for everything. There has to be a law for those dumb people who do not wear seat belts, there has to be a law for those who smoke in their cars, there has to be a law for those who criticize the government, and so on. The individualist instead, believes in freedom of choice. Is it wrong to smoke? Who am I to decide for others? I, of course, am free to have my opinion and to express it, but an individualist does not thrive on forcing people to do what he thinks is better.

Now, what happens when there are no limits to this world view where ‘I know best’, and therefore we do what I want for the greater good? Let us think about other examples. Who could be against preserving the forests -group of trees-, keeping lakes and rivers clean from pollutants, preserving all forms of life, maintaining a sane economic and financial system? No one, right? Let’s say theoretically we pass a law that says land cannot be used for agriculture or growing livestock because it is in the best interest of the greater mass to conserve the land and the trees? It is for the greater good, is it not? Well, what does it do to keep a group of trees up if there is a lack of food to feed the masses we are supposed to be saving? How about theoretically we pass a law that bans CO2 because it is a pollutant, even though we are all made of Carbon and plants and trees -including those we use to feed ourselves- need CO2 to live? It is reasonable, is it not? Let us say that as a way to keep a healthy economic and financial systems we write a presidential decree that allows the government to tax the people in order to finance its never ending policy of spending. In the process we allow a private entity to create money out of thin air and charge the people 30% interest on the loan of the currency?

Someone has to pay for the roads and parks and security, right? However, we see a rapidly degrading infrastructure, governments on the edge of the precipice due to their outstanding debt and the fastest wave of criminality and impunity in government and on the street. But it is OK, because it is for the greater good, right? Let us simple be taxed to death. Is it not in the best interest of all to charge a tax in order to fund public schools? Of course, most people immediately say, not knowing that their very own children are being indoctrinated through this public school system. And if someone does not want to ‘educate’ their children in the collectivist public system, there are laws created to punish parents who decided it is better for their children to be home schooled. There are laws to be enforced and as a consequence monies to be collected. There is very little to no room in today’s form of government for voluntary compliance, as every law and rule is enforced with legalized violence by the government. What could it be more violent than to snatch someone’s children because of the ‘revolutionary’ idea of educating them at home? Surely schools know them better than the parents and therefore it is necessary to send them there!

Collectivism used by demagogues and corporations to support the falsehood that government; especially big government is the solution to all problems, that it is so constructive and the thing we look at for guidance and salvation, is the smoke screen, the bait people bite as dumb fish and which eventually makes us perish through our own mouths. The collectivist way of thinking is what allowed Socialist, Communist and Fascist governments to appear and prosper, and in the process people’s rights and humanity are stolen.

The ideology of Collectivism finds thrives on creating reasons for its existence and what it does. That is where Social Engineering comes along to model the very existence of every human being to become dependent. Along with it, comes the engineering of public opinion, which is the method used to justify the actions of the collectivists; and there is when we hear, ‘this is for the greater good’ or ‘it is in the best interests of the people’. Although sometimes is thought that a country with no thinking individuals is a fertile ground for Collectivism and collectivists, the truth is a scenario with no thinking men and women is a direct consequence of Collectivism, and not a previous state of affairs. The origin of Collectivism lies way back, when people simply stop caring start focusing on ‘the greater picture’ and forget that such an abstract concept could not exist if it was not for them as individuals. It gets to a point when people effectively think they are indeed dispensable and that their sacrifice will help the greater mass.

Collectivism works today on the premise that there is a guy up there who is in charge of all -a president or prime minister- and therefore everything is all right. It also works so smoothly, because people are used to having others make decisions for them. In fact, many people would not be able to survive if it depended on themselves to make their own decisions on matters like health, economics, politics and others. This dependency was created by the collectivist minds that guide the system through the different stages of life. So the problem does not necessarily lies on the man up there -we all know he is a puppet- but on the individual consciousness. It is not a matter of a good and a bad man, but of a system that must set limitations to those who try to become rulers and not servants.

As stated before, people are indoctrinated from a very young age to welcome and accept Collectivism, and with it big government. In turn, a government that creates and maintains control through the educational system assures itself of a continuous acceptance of the ideology through several generations. It takes a lot of critical thinking, reading and study of history -real history- to break loose from the idea we are embedded with from the moment we are born. Waking up to this reality, but not waking others up
-allowing collectivists to maintain control- is an example of how one becomes accomplice of the system. If on the other hand we spread the knowledge of this reality, and help family and friends see through the smoke screen -Democracy, Socialism, Communism, Fascism- there will come a time when collectivists will be so out in the open, and so many people will have taken possession of their own lives, that the system itself will collapse.