Truthout is one of my favourite sources of political commentary in America. Visit, read, donate, discuss! Here’s a beautiful rant from one of the editors. The Truthout page is missing at time of writing, but the piece is reproduced in full here. As America leads, so shall we dutifully follow…
The New American Dream
by William Rivers Pitt
If you are wealthy, you are living in the Golden Age of your American Dream, and it’s a damned fine time to be alive. The two major political parties are working hammer and tong to bless you and keep you. The laws are being re-written – often by fiat, and in defiance of court orders – to strengthen the walls separating you and your wealth from the motley masses. Your stock portfolio, mostly made by and for oil and war, continues to swell. Your banks and Wall Street shops destroyed the economy for everyone except you, and not only did they get away with it, but were handed a vast dollop of taxpayer cash as a bonus prize.
The little people probably crack you up when you bother to think about them. Their version of the American Dream is a ragged blanket too short to cover them, but they still buy into it, and that’s the secret of your strength in the end. So many of them walk into the voting booths and solemnly vote against their own best interests, and for yours, because the American Dream makes them think they, too, will be rich someday. They won’t – you’ve made sure of that – but so long as they keep believing it, your money will continue to roll in.
The Citizens United Supreme Court decision swept away the last tattered shreds of the façade of fairness in politics and electioneering, and now you own the whole store. You can use your vast financial resources to lie on a national level now, lie with your bare face hanging out, because it works. You’re not the bad guy in America. Teachers, cops, firefighters, union members and public-sector employees are the bad guys, the reason for all our economic woes. NPR and Planned Parenthood are the bad guys. You did that, and when governors like Scott Walker rampage through worker’s rights on your dime, you chuckle into your sleeve and enjoy your interest rate.
We’re firing teachers and missiles simultaneously, to poach a line from Jon Stewart, and the inherent disconnect fails to sink in among those serving as dray horses for your greed and ambition. They’re in the traces, bellowing about what you want them to focus on thanks to your total control of the “mainstream” news media, and they plow your fields with the power of their incoherent, misdirected rage.
They pay their taxes. Isn’t that a hoot? They pay their taxes dutifully and annually, and that money gets shunted right to you and your friends, thanks to the politicians who love you and the laws that favor you, not to mention the wars that sustain you. They pay their taxes when they should just pay you, right? Talk about getting rid of government waste. They should just pay you directly and cut out the middle man, because it all goes to the same place in the end. You.
You are General Electric, and you paid no taxes in 2010. You made $14.2 billion in worldwide profits, $5.1 billion of which was made in America, and you’re tax burden amounted to a big fat zero. In fact, you claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion, thanks to your anti-tax lobbying efforts in Washington and your use of offshore tax havens that protect and defend your profit margin.
You are ExxonMobil, and you paid no taxes in 2009. In fact, you got a $156 million return.
You are Bank of America, and despite receiving a massive chunk of the taxpayer-funded bailout, despite recording a profit of $4.4 billion, you paid no taxes and received a $1.9 billion rebate.
You are Chevron, and you made $10 billion in 2009. You paid no taxes, and got a $19 million refund.
You are Citigroup, and you paid no taxes despite earning more than $4 billion, and despite getting a sizeable chunk of the taxpayer-funded bailout.
Your favorite part of it all?
The part that makes you laugh out loud?
It’s when you hear the politicians you own talk about “shared sacrifices” and “fiscal responsibility.” Man, that’s a hoot. You watch them rave and froth on Capitol Hill about shutting down the government because the country doesn’t have enough money to fund “entitlement programs” the little people have been paying into for decades. The very term – “entitlement” – cracks you up; how is it an entitlement if people paid for it? Nobody asks that question, of course. Nobody asks about cutting the bloated defense budget. Nobody asks where the billions diverted to Iraq and Afghanistan actually went, or where the money for Libya is going. For damned sure, nobody demands that you pony up and pay your fair share. You made sure of that, and the show goes on.
The United States of America has undergone a powerful transformation over the course of a single generation, and you are right up there in the catbird seat, watching it all unfold. For you, the New American Dream is “I got mine, kiss my ass, work and die (if you can find work, sucker), and pay me.” For everyone else, the New American Dream is about simple survival, about running as fast as they can while going inexorably backwards.
Maybe you can even see the cancer eating away at the country that has treated you so royally, but you don’t really care. You are safe and comfortable behind your gilded walls.
For now, anyway.
This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
WILLIAM RIVERS PITT
William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” and “The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.” His newest book, “House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation,” is now available from PoliPointPress.