I do not anticipate nor expect people to read this thoroughly, to agree completely or deliberately. It is an essayistic outlook or sorts; a type of discursive opinion. In this message, I begin a little of a history lesson of America, highlighting what I believe to be pivotal points to what leads to this day in age; to this crucial moment in our country's history. I am a Soldier, with only a small helping of academic skills and talents, and only a handful of college credit. I am an American who carries enough knowledge to attempt to prove a point. I am an American who acknowledges that there will be harsh and severe criticism.
Anyone and everyone wants the American Dream, but also, only if they can call themselves American, want the same for their countrymen and countrywomen. Our forefathers laid the foundation for this nation 235 years ago with only the most absolutely benevolent ideals in their minds, for the sake of humanity as a whole. (Of course, one must point out that things have changed dramatically since then, such as the abolition of slavery and civil rights, but for our forefathers' time, their thoughts were only of the greatest intentions for their free fellow countrymen).
The American Dream is dead many say, but are our ideals? As Americans we are so proud of our accomplishments. We began as a small, independent nation, allowing the masses of peoples from Europe at first, then later Asia and Africa, and the rest of the world to come into our country and share that dream with them. Eventually our nation abolished slavery, even engaging in a civil war to end it once and for all. Our nation dropped the policy of isolationism to stop fascist European empires from doing their worst twice in one century. We led the world into the technological era of space exploration, the eradication of diseases from entire hemispheres, and above all, shared our abundance, our ideas, and our energies to so many friends and former enemies in need.
Of course America has been seen as a symbol to the free world, as we continue to spread our goodwill across the globe. Whether it be assassinations or assistance, bombs or blankets, cavalry or clean water; America's intent is to punish the evil and defend the innocent. All human beings, American or not, should never, ever have to endure unnecessary suffering and torture. There are times when America gets too forceful, and the entire judgment of the nation is clouded by the overzealous urge to do our duty to oust dictators and undermine evil doers. As a Soldier, I can personally attest to this, as I am a veteran of the Iraq Campaign. But, even after the action calmed in the war, the mission soon became one of assisting our Iraqi counterparts to defend themselves from insurgency, helping them form their infrastructure, and to foster a new democracy.
Democracy. It works. It worked for the Ancient Greeks, and Ancient Romans, and for several other old nation states over the centuries. It is the system tried and true that best represents the people. It is the system that worked for America. It is defined as “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections” (The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2005). A democracy entails that there is the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.
Economics is, however, an absolutely, completely different story from government. Considered as the “wealth and resources of a country” (The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2005). It has been a fact through history that government and economics have to work in a way that complement each other, in order for a developed, industrialized nation to function.
Throughout the centuries, the economy of America has been a bastion of hope for the free world. That American Dream. In the beginning, capitalists did abuse their powers. Child labor, unequal wages, and the lack of safety were sooner or later tamed by the reigns of the earliest labor unions. Socialist ideals were blossoming in the fields of the diverse American economy to protect the rights of the people. Capitalists, of course, did not adapt well, but within due time workers rights and safety standards became the norm, even enforced by the United States government in the form of an ever growing list of agencies boards, committees and departments, etc. All these institutions rose in support of the laborer and his or her rights and safety.
With the aftermath of the Stock Market Crash in 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression, the nation slowly realized its economic downfalls. Perhaps the greatest leader we have ever had in our country’s history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, realized these mistakes the most. Roosevelt believed that excessive business competition was what had lowered wages and prices, which then lowered demand and employment. He argued extensively that government economic intervention was critical to amend this. Roosevelt and his administration implemented the New Deal, which was a multitude of important programs to resuscitate the life of America and her economy.
The New Deal proffered programs that were rewarding and that were sound. And they worked. The most basic of the ideas behind these were: anti-racism, economic intervention, environmental justice, feminism, labor rights, and social welfare. The Roosevelt administration brought about and created programs including, but not limited to: The Public Works Administration (PWA), (established in 1933), which was a program to give money to businesses and companies to build projects for their surrounding areas and communities; The Works Progress Administration (WPA), (established in 1935), which was a program to provide the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. It provided food, water, and housing. Almost every community in United States had an establishment built by this administration, which especially benefited rural areas; and The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), (established in 1933), which was a program that protected the environment by providing jobs to young men involving unskilled manual labor. This program brought about the conservation and development of natural resources in rural areas owned by federal and state governments. During the time of the CCC, it is estimated that over the 9 years of its run, its 2.5 million workers planted nearly 3 billion trees in an effort to reforest the United States, built more than 800 parks across the country and rebuilt preexisting parks, established forest fire fighting systems and techniques, and built an extensive network of public roadways in remote areas. When one looks in amazement and in bewilderment at the Grand Coulee Dam in the State of Washington, or the Hoover Dam in the State of Nevada, or the multitude of important irrigation projects in the Tennessee Valley Authority, they are looking at only at a few examples of the successful projects of the New Deals’ programs.
In 1935, the Roosevelt Administration also called for a tax program called the Wealth Tax Act. It was an act to redistribute wealth by providing for increased inheritance tax, a gift tax, a sharply graduated income tax, and a corporate income tax scaled according to a business or companies income. He tried, somewhat successfully, but Congress completely dropped altogether the inheritance tax and only slightly increased the corporate tax.
Roosevelt even ventured farther and further in his efforts, by asking corporations to cooperate in America’s revival. He called for a tax called the Undistributed Profits Tax, which was enacted in 1936. The idea behind this was to eventually force businesses and companies to distribute profits in dividend and wages, rather than saving or reinvesting them, (which would make themselves more powerful). Corporate profits were taxed on a sliding scale. The rule was relatively straightforward: if a company decided to keep 1% of their net income, then 10% of that amount would be taxed under the Undistributed Profits Tax. If a business or company decided to keep 70% of their net income, then they would be taxed at a rate of 73.91% of that amount. However, Roosevelt was heavily barraged by criticism, and therefore the tax was reduced to 2-1/2% in 1938 and then altogether completely eliminated in 1939. Could this astonishingly short lived tax been the collaboration of corporate lobbyists and bribed representatives and senators?
In the duration of the New Deal, all of these these socialist ideals, by creating jobs for Americans and boosting the economy, are what brought America out of the Great Depression and eventually led us to victory in World War II. It is an interesting fact that during this time, the media was populated with images of young men and women working to rebuild America to greatness once again, often in the socialist realistic style. Nowadays, these types of painting evoke an image of communist propaganda, but in the days they were created as works of art they were powerful portraits of American self-reliance and resiliency. Was Rosie the Riveter any different than the Kolkhoznitsa, (the hard working Soviet collective farm woman) on war effort propaganda posters? After all, she was only doing her part for the Motherland; much as Rosie was doing hers.
During WWII, the United States abolished most of the New Deal Programs. Only seven of the 24 total remain today. (Fair Labor Standards Act, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Housing Administration (FHA), National Labor Relations Act, Securities and Exchange Commission, Social Security System, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).) The New Deal worked and America’s entry into Word War II was what sealed that deal. Since employment was high, wages were high, and the economy was alive and back again, Roosevelt’s New Deal and its tremendously successful socialist ideals would therefore forever be something to read about in the history books for future generations of Americans to come.
(What is socialism?) According to Marxist theory, socialism is a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism. But it is commonly considered to be a political and economical system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. (The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2005) Communism is an ideological system of socialism (once again, an economic system), put into practice. Forever it seems, communism has been a threat to democracy, and democracy has been a threat to communism, because of the intense tensions between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. America’s fear of communism did not reach its height until the arms races and the power struggles between the US and the USSR. In general, in my opinion, it was not a fear of the economic system itself, but rather it was a fear because it was an economic system used by an enemy. If anyone knew any better and they could see what was happening during the Cold War, it might look like this: For a Soviet, capitalism and communism were alienated from each other because of dictatorship (which disguised itself as a democracy). For an American, communism and democracy were alienated from each other because of capitalism (which may have well been a dictatorship in a sense). Such knowledge of this at the time was not the case because if you were a Soviet, the US was the capitalist, and therefore the US was bad. If you were an American, the USSR was communist, and therefore the USSR was bad. For the longest time, for Americans, communism was not a democracy, therefore communism is bad.
I ask myself sometimes, if both the US and the USSR were either capitalistic societies, or both communistic societies, at the same time, respectively, then would there ever have been such tensions between the two? The only reason I can think of is if we had political tensions. History, it turns out, gave both superpowers different economic and political systems. American revolutionaries fought the British for independence because they desired freedom from oppression and tyranny. American forces fought the Germans and the Japanese because they were wreaking destruction across the continents of Europe and Asia, respectively. But the US and the USSR had enough nuclear arsenals aimed at each other that they could both annihilate humanity's existence off the face of the earth hundreds of times over. For what? Indeed it was the doings of the amazing, but unchangeable events in history, that eventually gave way to the tensions between the US and the USSR. Communism naturally earned its negative reputation due to communist leaders taking advantage of power and eventually abusing these powers to fit their own agenda; an agenda not represented by the people. Thus, one can argue that in a sense, communism did became democracies biggest threat, and rightfully so. In the West, followers knew and took to heart that their leaders would certainly not allow atrocities such as the engineered famines, forced labor camps, and masses of honest, hardworking people to be left in the dark, with no voice to be heard. That would never, ever happen in a democracy like America; partly because of our heritage, our history, and because of what we witnessed in the world around us, (the atrocities committed by Lenin and Stalin, the experimentation with radical socialism, the human rights transgressions in the aftermaths of World War II), believed that we were a complete democracy.
Naturally, as I mentioned before, both government and economics must unite and work in unison, in some form or fashion, for a developed, industrialized nation to function. No government and economic relationship or system can be absolutely, completely laissez-faire. But is socialism the sole economic system that indefinitely leads nations which adopt it to become belligerent and combatant and are they therefore a definite threat to the free-World? From what we have seen throughout history, is that any combination can arise with government economic systems. For instance, there have been dictatorships with capitalist economies. Iraq's economy was a mainly free market economy, and Saddam Hussein was its dictator. Egypt and Libya are also examples of this. Premiers and presidents who somehow win elections over and over again, staying in office, abusing their powers in nations that are actually democracies according to their constitutions, are not democracies, but are dictatorships. During the Cold War the US actually empowered and supported a plenitude of dictators in the defense of democracy, often to create neutral buffer zones to separate the “Red” from the “Blue”.
The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 was an event that had inspired several nations around the world to adopt communism and denounce capitalism as the USSR did, especially western capitalism. Especially American capitalism. With Soviet and American strains and tensions running high through the last half of the 20TH century, the United States did anything and everything to stop the spread of communism. The Korean War and the Vietnam War began as means to halt the spread of communism. With all of these things occupying all of America's time, all the New Deal programs back in the 1930s and 1940s, of true socialist background, the same programs that ushered America into a new era of being the world’s superpower, were taken for granted and forgotten. America was never, ever to be nor embrace anything socialist, because that was an act of communism.
And then we eventually “won” the Cold War when the USSR fell in 1991. Somewhere along the route during the last half of the last century, we lost ourselves to the omnipresent American thought that we are the best, that we are the brightest, that we are, well, American. The democratic government and the capitalist economy of America grew together in unison. Large corporations used the weaknesses in the government to grow even stronger. That whole time, while we were worried about Soviet spies in the White House, there were filibusters and lobbyists in the House of Representatives and the Senate, working their way to make the American economy their economy.
Economists fancied themselves as social scientists, and stock exchanges became even more prized places. Credit scoring was invented in the 1950s at Fair Isaac, a research firm from California that continues to own the mathematical algorithm (US Patent number 7,280,980 entitled “Algorithm for explaining credit scores”) for what we now all call, since 1987, the FICO score. The credit card became commonplace with the ability to use it for revolving credit in 1958. Sooner or later the paycheck advances or more commonly known as payday loans came about. All these things and so many more mesmerized the consumer, the average American. The economy represented an allamanda, or a clematis, a vine boasting its beautiful flowers. But hidden behind this beauty, it was actually suffocating and weighing down its host tree, our tree. A tree that represents our government. The weight of this vine, was greedily growing far faster than this host tree could bear.
How did we let this happen? How could we have stopped this from happening? I honestly believe every American over the age of suffrage at this moment in time is at fault. We have lost touch with the American Dream, with responsibility. We have let power and money hungry individuals and oligarchs accelerate this crisis. Americans used to believe in things that mattered, things that advanced and benefited our special and unique civilization as a whole, and, moreover, humanity as a whole. Artists, inventors, poets, writers, and scientists used to be our celebrities. Nowadays, we worship false gods. Including these are many, (but not all), practised actors and professional athletes who cannot set great examples for our children. It also include many, (but, again, not all), country, pop, rap, rock and hip hop music artists who do not even write their own songs, but instead the corporate agents hire songwriters to manufacture lyrics that embrace racial stereotypes and the degradation of women. When these people cannot be accountable for bad actions that they may commit, they get off easy, but, we average citizens, we cannot. With the exception of some individuals and organizations, what have they returned back to society?
Seriously, what happened to us? And why did we idle by and let it happen? Capitalists have engineered a generation of Americans of “I want this and I want that”, “I don’t care”, and “it doesn’t affect me, so it doesn’t matter.” The capitalists sit in their luxurious skyscrapers, towering above the masses of the working class. They sit in executive chairs, in executive rooms, on executive floors. They advertise what they want you to believe. They collaborate their next scheme. They scope out and target your weaknesses, your parents’ weaknesses, your childrens' weaknesses. They use this age of information and technology to determine how to draw you, as in fish or game, based on your past purchases, your preferences, and your political views. They design a product, adhering to only the minimal regulations and standards for the environment and your safety. They have assembled, built, or constructed overseas cheaper than it could be made here in America, providing jobs to Americans. They sell it to you at what you are coerced to believe is at an affordable price. Then, when this corporation one day begins to slip through the faults of the earthquakes of this uncertain and unstable economy, (because, after all, that is capitalism), they want our honest, hardworking tax dollars to keep them alive.
I understand the First Amendment. It simply stipulates that any American has the right to exercise his rights to express himself freely and to practice any form of activity he sees fit to. (Congress. Constitution.“1st Amendment”). There is thus a right for businesses and companies to form, function, and manufacture all the things that we do need and desire. They have a right to advertise over airwaves, on billboards, in magazines and newspapers, and on television. They have a right to use any means of advancing their enterprises in any way they want. But where do we draw the line? Where do we realize that when they relocate our jobs overseas, that it is detrimental to the masses of numerous laborers. Where do we realize that they have contaminated our air and tainted our water? Where do we realize that what our children see and hear across this country undermines the morals that we instill in them, but instead are becoming the next generation of the American consumer. The American consumer who is undeniably and undoubtedly destined to become a slave to the system.
Karl Marx’s bourgeoisie has devised an ingenious apparatus for the corporation, by the corporation, to abuse the people. They have deliberately transformed our society into thinking that we all can live in excess, that we can waste, and that if you do not have what your neighbor has, then they are better than you. The capitalists have brainwashed generations upon generations of Americans, that it is fine to live outside our means. The average, everyday American’s bank account cannot hold up to this corporate created trap, and therefore the entire economy of America is trapped. We, as Americans, are basically drowning in a sea of one anthers’ debt. The captains of industry have steered this American ship and its people into an insurmountable storm, and now they beg us, the honest and hardworking Proletariat, for our assistance in keeping it afloat. Yet, there is not enough life boats on this ill-fated voyage. Only the privileged and only the rich may step aboard.
Letting horrible things happen, while average and benign citizens sit idle, is a reoccurring theme in history it seems. The Germans let Nazi leadership rise to power, but they could have stopped it. I am not comparing this to Americans letting capitalists taking advantage of the American people and taking charge of the American government, but it borders along the same principle. Ask yourself this. Who let corporations outsource overseas because of currency exchange rates, cheap labor, and tax havens, leaving numerous unemployed Americans. Who let corporations evict neighborhoods to make room for their manufacturing? Who let corporations have the right to assign credit scores entire nations? And above all, how did they acquire and exert that much control without someone asking if that was ethical or fair from the get go? All of these for their own personal growth and their own personal greed, as well as their protection. While we, the working class, are facing the growing and the heaviest of all these burdens and challenges, in attempt to wake from this American nightmare.
The capitalists, with their corporate greed, fertilized their vine, and it cannot support its own heavy weight any longer. The aforementioned tree, who now bears all the weight of their vine, the one that represents our government, stands tilted, ready to fall. Their vine is bringing our tree down with it. The repulsive, selfish capitalists whose ideas on how to keep this vine alive change more frequently than the winds. The next idea, the next winds, may be the one that finally blows our tree over. The honest, hardworking American people shall have no choice but to clear the way for a new tree. Why should the American people have to clean up that rotting, slimy log? The vine needs to be trimmed, so that this tree, which inside its truck hold our fundamental knowledge, our power, our certain unalienable rights, can forever stand strong, as it was meant to.
If America is to lead the world, continue to be a cultural capital, produce the greatest citizens to aid and embrace others, then we cannot let this moment fade. Occupy Wall Street is the time to demand all. The ethical use of all labor to benefit all, and not a select few. A welfare system that helps all and leaves none behind, one that is immune to abuse from the unaccountable and irresponsible people who ruin it for those who do indeed need it. The abolition of corrupt corporations and a severe push and shove to make them pay back into the American society; to the American people. The ending of wars abroad, that often have hidden undertones of capitalistic interests, and to focus on the efforts on the home front. The amelioration of our environment and conservation for our natural resources. The upgrading of our infrastructure and transportation. The resuscitation of our health care. The rejuvenation of our schools.
It may seem like a bleak forecast, and it will take considerable effort. However, the time is now for the American people to take power, a power not wielded for the longest time, solely because it has been stolen from us. It has been, all this time, in the hands of Marx’s bourgeoisie, in the hands of the capitalists, and their corrupt ambassadors to corporate greed in our government. if the American government cannot take a stand against these corporations, and ultimately rid itself of this disease, then perhaps it is time to finally exercise our God given eternal right to abolish it and create one that will put the best interests of the American people in its heart.
"[...] That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness… it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security” (Congress. Declaration of Independence, 1776)
As a soldier in the best army in the world, I, wonder and worry how my family and friends get by back home in America. Sure, they are all well off middle class American citizens, but I have not known what it means to pay a large or small sum on money for a visit to the hospital. I do not know what it means to spend over half my wages on an apartment or house. My army comrades have children and leave the hospital with their wives at no expense. I myself have actually had a surgical procedure conducted on my heart, and I walked out of the hospital with the same amount of money in my bank account. I am given allowances for education, housing, sustenance, and, if any dire emergencies happen in my life, the army is there to help.
I am only a soldier, serving my country. A country that I love. I love what it stands for. But all we have left is our ideals and nothing to show for it anymore. Nation upon nation has surpassed us in a multitude of areas such as the arts, education, health, infrastructure, literature, science and technology, and welfare. As a true patriot, I yearn for the day when we can boast the best of anything and have everything to show for it. But for now, like many of my comrades, I am not looking forward to greeting the American economy when I am no longer a soldier.
I hear rumors, stories, and talk of family and friends back home in America who have to defer their dreams of being attorneys, biologists, chemists, doctors, engineers, you name it. Tuition for school is rising too sharply, that the only choice students have is to forget their goals, or get a loan, later to pay it off only decades down the road. All of this for an education they desired. An education that would have created an accomplish American citizen. An American citizen who only wanted to give back to society. Many have moved back in with their parents and pay rent, not for a spare room, but so that they all can comfortably live in that home, because their parents, as well, are having a hard time getting through this economic dilemma. Last time I checked, this was not the illustration nor the story of the American Dream. That dream, was long ago destroyed by corporate greed.
If you have actually completed the reading of this, then surely it strikes you in some form or fashion. Whether you agree or disagree, beware then, that you are probably a person who cares about your country, so take heart and hold fast to your patriotism. Fierce debate is a signature staple of the American way of life, so embrace it, please. However, if you are unmoved by this message and would rather go about your current lifestyle, then worry. If you are wondering about the next sale, the next trend, the next upgrade, then denounce your desire to envision a better and brighter America. Relish in the thought that, surely, you are in the tight grip of corporate greed. It is a sad, tragic fact that the fabric of the American Dream has been ripped and rewoven into a sinister and tasteless tapestry of the capitalist design.
For now, I write this from abroad in Afghanistan, watching and waiting for the next move. It is my belief that this move belongs to the American people, and they absolutely, completely need to make it. While at this time I cannot, I invite you to join the thousands who have occupied Wall Street and, at this current time, the 900 other cities around the world to demand the power and the privileges, the reform and the rights, and above all the respect that any and every American man, woman, and child deserve!