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Issue #1802      November 8, 2017

Culture & Life

Making the rich richer

We know that the majority of capitalist politicians believe that the role of government is to make things better for business, on the excuse that by doing so they are making things better for everyone (the so-called “trickle-down effect”). That in fact it’s a load of malarkey is glaringly obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense, but it suits capitalism to persist with it, secure in the belief that all they have to do is put the right “spin” on it and they can get it past the voters.

Artwork by mejuan.

It is an axiom of capitalism that the rich get richer and the poor get screwed. Rejection of this situation led to the October Revolution in 1917 and the overthrow of capitalism in Russia. The 20th Century also saw two world wars and a global economic crisis designated the Great Depression. For a short time it also saw prosperity and full employment, but inevitably that did not last.

The General Crisis of Capitalism that began in 1917 has continued and deepened, notwithstanding the overthrow of Socialism in the USSR in 1989. The leaders of the capitalist world, desperate in the face of a resurgence of support for Socialism, are busy transferring wealth from the mass of the people to the tiny minority that make up the ruling class. They are rightly fearful that the majority might decide to stop them – in fact, to take the wealth back. The division between rich and poor has widened to such an extent that the ruling class is now recognised to be no more than the top 1% of the population.

It remains a very greedy 1%, however, a 1% that will never have enough. In every capitalist country, its political minions are hard at work trying to find new ways to shift even more wealth from the mass of the people to the favoured few. In Australia, corporate taxes have been drastically cut, government services savagely reduced or privatised, people told to tighten their belts. All over Europe, “austerity measures” have been introduced, to try to convince people that this shift of wealth from the many to the very few is a necessary response to external circumstances, that expropriating the wealth that the workers toiled to create is both normal and unavoidable.

It is an argument that flies in the face of reason and observable fact. That does not deter capitalist politicians from eagerly promoting it, however. After all, they – or more, accurately, the capitalists whose interests they represent – stand to add considerably to their already bloated bank balances if they pull it off.

In the USA, the Republican Party – the party of really big business – is busy promoting a budget “blueprint” that has been condemned by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and several leading Democrats because, they say, it will result in “a massive transfer of wealth from working families, the elderly, children, the sick, and the poor to the top one percent.” Now there’s a surprise!

Their report on the Republicans’ planned budget measures highlights in particular the Republicans’ plan to slash funding for Medicare and Medicaid by $470 billion and $1 trillion respectively over the next decade – a move that will have devastating consequences for tens of millions of Americans. But of course, since they are poor they don’t really count.

Sanders and his colleagues also point to other proposed cuts the Republican budget would impose on crucial welfare and health programs, all of them programs designed to help the poor rather than the rich:

  • A $37 billion cut to affordable housing programs, which would “eliminate” housing assistance for over a million families.
  • A $6.5 billion cut to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
  • A $3 billion cut to Head Start, which they say would strip educational assistance from 25,000 children per year.
  • A $37 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health, “which would cut funding for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and other critical medical research.”

In total, they estimate that the Republicans’ proposed budget would slash $5 trillion from non-defence spending over the next decade. Not from the military, you’ll notice. Spending on “Defence” is a sacred cow that gobbles up a gargantuan proportion of US government income, a fact not lost on Sanders and his Democrat colleagues.

In an extraordinarily frank and honest statement in their report they observe that: “Meanwhile, at a time when the US already spends more on defence than the next 12 countries combined, the Republican budget lays the groundwork for an increase of $91 billion to the Pentagon for Fiscal Year 2018 alone – more than enough to provide free tuition at every public college and university in America.”

Did you catch that statistic, incidentally? That the US spends more on defence than “the next 12 countries combined”? The next 12 includes Russia and China, of course. Which should make Americans wonder just what they are getting in return for all that money being spent on “defence”.

Of course, much of the US “Defence” budget is used to finance the crushing of popular anti-imperialist movements, the subversion and overthrow of left wing governments, the assassination of progressive politicians who refuse to be bribed, and similar things that do not in fact pertain to the actual defence of the USA but to the protection of US corporations’ ability to keep making profits.

’Cause that’s what it’s all about, after all. But there’s another axiom that must bother the big wigs of capitalism in the USA – and if it doesn’t, it should: you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all the time. And the American people are increasingly waking up to how much they’ve been fooled by their recent leaders. They are unlikely to go on letting themselves be fooled indefinitely!

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