Time to Recycle: A Blast From the Past (Tuesday, October 31, 2006)
Slavery ... was justified on humanitarian grounds, not entirely without reason: owners of property tend to treat it more carefully than those who merely rent and can discard it without loss. "Under slavery, after all, the native is bought as an animal," a senior administrator in Portuguese Angola argued. "His owner prefers him to remain as fit as a horse or ox." But when "the native is not bought," only hired, and is called "a free man," then "his employer cares little if he sickens or dies ..., because when he sickens or dies his employer will simply ask for another" -- at least, if unions, workers' rights, job security ("inflexibility") and other irrational interferences with free markets can be overcome.
The facts were well understood by American workers who derided the hypocrisy of bosses "professing to be abolitionists ... and making slaves at home," imposing "wage slavery" that is in some ways even more onerous than chattel slavery. "The poor negro has a master, both in sickness and in health," early union organizers commented, "while the poor white man is a slave as long as he is able to toil, and a pauper when he can toil no more." - World Orders Old and New, Noam Chomsky, pg 114
In 1987, 70% of all American workers (including the relatively unskilled, such as assembly-line workers, elevator operators and retail clerks) were covered by health insurance, most of them from health plans at work; in 2005, that figure was roughly 59.5%. Today, some 47 million (!) working Americans have no health insurance of any kind, including about 8.3 million kids under 11 (Source). On top of that, over 50% of all personal bankruptcies are a result of debt incurred by medical bills. Not surprisingly, the United States leads the industrial nations of the world in infant mortality.
President George W Bush was right to say - as he did at one of his staged town hall meetings - to the poor white woman who complained that she was holding down two jobs just to make ends meet, that she was "a real American."
This backhanded compliment - coming from a guy who never took on a job that he didn't walk way from unfinished (confident in his own financial security because he is backed by stolen millions squirreled away somewhere safe from public review) - pretty much sums up the attitude of the rich assholes who actually run this country.
We know that part of the arrogance of this statement reflects an aspect of his sociopathic personality that just doesn't give a shit about a fellow human being, but another interpretation of his statement is the acknowledgment of his training as a member of the upper-class super-rich: you were born to work for me for whatever I deign to pay you, and if that isn't enough, well, tough. Curl up and die. Thus was Adam Smith moved to observe that the "vile maxim of the masters of mankind" is, "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people."
These masters of mankind call that "personal choice," and sometimes "individual freedom," and, ever the Orwellians, "free trade," and even - God help us - "the right to work."
What's clear to me about Bush's statement, though, is its implicit recognition of the present social contract, reflecting a class division that is so huge as to stagger the imagination, but never mentioned in polite society; it's off the table to discuss "class" in America, although the truth is nearly blinding in its luminescence: a mere 10% of this country own 72% of everything, including the mortgage on your house (if you have one), your car, and all your credit cards. Indeed, they own all of your debt, having purchased it just like a "godfather" buys your gambling markers from your local bookie. Thus, they own you, and just as surely as if they had bought you off an auction block in the Charleston slave market. To add insult to injury, they have saddled your children with this massive debt, yes, even unto the third generation, if not longer. Further, when you ask for a raise - if you dare - they threaten to off-shore your job to India, and should you ask for an explanation, they plead "market forces," as if there were really such a thing as "free trade" over which they have no control.
They are, of course, lying. The way the ruling class has rigged it, there is no such thing as "free trade" and sure as shit, no "free enterprise."
All American industry is subsidized by the American taxpayer - that's you and not them - and that means biotech (medical) R&D, the public lands given away to the oil, lumber, and mining industries; the public airways given away to right-wing bigots; taxpayer purchases of unneeded nuclear submarines, land mines and weapons give-aways to Israel (we give them billions in foreign aide; they use it to buy bombs, ammo, jet fighters, and helicopters from us - a vicious financial circle jerk); the tobacco industry, corn and sugar farmers, and the computer industry, to name just a selected few.
They constantly chant "jobs, jobs, jobs" at you while in Wall Street they cheerfully cut your pay and benefits and sing "profits, profits, profits" sotto voce, and sock their loot away in hidden bank accounts in the Caymans.
Meanwhile, in order to ensure "markets" for their state-subsidized industries (especially the guns and bombs), they slaughter peasant farmers by the millions all over Africa, and in Columbia, Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and East Timur and Indochina, and even Eastern Europe, with mercenary "security forces" trained at our very own School of the Americas. They flood Third World countries with government-subsidized American wheat, rice and corn, collapsing the local subsidence economies, driving the remaining farmers to turn to the only profitable crops available: cocaine and heroin-producing poppies, turning them into the slave laborers of narco traffickers. Then, when you snort a line or two, they throw you into prison, because there is no money for social services like drug rehab programs.
These are vile people, Bush's People; you think that they would shrink from blowing up a couple of buildings in New York City to maintain their stranglehold on the world's economy?
Free trade (along with real representative liberal democracy) is a myth, Gentle Readers, a fairy tale told to appeal to your inner sense of justice, a sleight of hand to distract you from the truth:
The insanely massive taxpayer-supported military spending of the Cold War - which is what created American profits for a select few for over fifty years - could no longer be justified, so they invented another Big Lie - the Endless War on Terror - to camouflage their murders and their rape of the planet for their profit, and to justify their own merciless venality, penchant for terrorism, and disdain for you.
These people will do anything to maintain their profits: if you don't believe me, go and actually read the so-called USA Patriot Act or the brand-spanking new Domestic Terrorist Surveillance Act, with its arbitrary suspension of habeas corpus. With the endless "War on Terror" (sic), they can justify all their heinousness, including their obscene profits at the expense of your poverty and ill-health, and quite possibly your indefinite incarceration, as Americans are sorted - just like the rest of the world and as sure as death and taxes - into two classes: the haves and the have-nots.
And the Constitution? As King George told us in no uncertain terms: "It's just a goddamned piece of paper."