Life: Despite the de facto outlawing of abortion, the richest country in the history of the world sports an infant mortality rate on a par with some third- and fourth-world banana republics. Our health care system is ghoulish in its pursuit of profit. Added together, our guns and autos kill more Americans each year than all the dead of the Vietnam War.
Liberty: The United States is an empire. Like its predecessors, we imprison and execute people we don’t like with impunity. Like children handed lollypops by burglars, we citizens have been allowed to keep our guns in exchange for our basic freedoms.
Twenty years ago, Grateful Dead member Mickey Hart paid for legal research to determine how much of the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution) remained intact. The result was depressing. Only the Third Amendment restricting the quartering of troops in private homes remained inviolate.
Pursuit of happiness: Adjusted for inflation, the average American worker has not had a raise since 1973, which brings me to local welfare offices where physical confrontations are becoming more frequent as frustrated people wait in longer and longer lines at a seriously understaffed operation.
People know they are being forced to play in a rigged game. Competition, which is supposed to be the great equalizer in a free market system, has been largely eradicated – even in elections where the choices are often between Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber (a zinger I first heard used by Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, D-NY, in a speech at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1970).
I used Powell’s howler in announcing the establishment of the None of the Above for Governor Political Action Committee in 1982 and have given serious thought to bringing back NAGPAC several times since, including this year. Stay tuned.
The key to the continued exploitation of the land of the free and home of the brave lies with keeping the lower classes fighting each other. You will find a comprehensive history of corporate-funded propaganda linked to the web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com. Over the years, I have uploaded a series of war rooms on all the consumer areas constituting the rigged game which vacuums our pockets while extinguishing our hopes. Here are a few burrs under the public saddle.
Gasoline: ARCO, long before its acquisition by British Petroleum, developed a deft marketing scheme whereby the major oil companies can now legally conspire to fix the retail price of gasoline.
Cable TV: Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Newt Gingrich gushed with pride in passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which was supposed to unleash the power of free enterprise to usher in an era of expanded competition and low prices. The result: A deregulated monopoly with charges rising by five times the rate of inflation. Satellite is no competition at all, merely a discount from artificially high monopoly pricing.
Electricity and natural gas: Government-granted monopolies with weak regulation. Can you say Enron?
Medical care and pharmaceuticals: The Dubya administration law forbidding Medicare to get competitive bids on prescription drugs is still in place. The 2010 health care bill, which narrowly passed Congress, is pretty much what the overlords wanted, as predicted by Harper’s magazine senior editor Luke Mitchell last December.
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has proven correct in warning that the economic stimulus package was too small. Now, all the talk is of double-dip recession while smug Republicans point to pseudo-proof that the stimulus has not worked due to their engineering of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Democrats had to cut back in order to win a few GOP votes to get the skinny program passed.
It is thus understandable that unemployed Nevada construction workers exhibit righteous rage when they see so many stimulus-funded jobs going to out-of-state companies.
Direct your anger where it belongs. Blame the people who bust unions and keep employees in constant fear, thus willing to do more for less. It’s working. The U.S. worker remains the most productive in the world based on output per hour.
Decry the guys who use your government to help export your jobs to foreign countries. A local labor leader calls this “social osmosis,” our standard of living sacrificed to upgrade that of others.
Do not direct your anger at the other, no matter his or her color, political or religious persuasion.
Your family is in distress because the fight is fixed. I fear that this fall’s elections will provide no safety valve and that the double-dip recession will be upon us next year.
The only long-term benefit of a frustrating fall might be the emergence of at least two new political parties as the old system proves incapable of addressing modern needs.
Above all, remember that we are here to take care of each other.
Happy Interdependence Day, fellow members of the largest union in America: the Red, White and Screwed.
I salute you.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 41-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.