Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Watch "Fault Lines": A New Film on Income Disparity and Social Unrest

In the vein of "Inside Job" and "Capitalism: A Love Story" comes a brand new documentary on the class war of the rich versus the rest of us.... from Al Jazeera. Here's the link

The film, about half an hour long, features footage from the recent Wall Street demonstrations which have not been covered by the mainstream media. There are lots of New York City street scenes juxtaposing the angry mob with the wealthy elites.  There is warning of the social unrest to come, from economists and political scientists.  There are some  "gotcha" interviews with rich people inadvertently gushing about how they are only in it for.... themselves and other rich people!  It's Ayn Randism gone wild.

In Washington DC, a female Al Jazeera reporter is shown chasing after Mediscare kingpin Paul Ryan, who desperately hurls himself into a car and slams the door in her face.  His operatives chide her for being "rude."  These politicians are definitely not used to being treated with anything less than the fawning deference of our homegrown stenographers of the corporate media. Can you imagine Mrs. Alan Greenspan (Andrea Mitchell) stalking Paul Ryan to demand answers on the class war?  Me either.  Plus, the reporter is Arab. Holy Xenophobia, Batman!

The most infuriating part of the film, for me, comes toward the end.  The last scenes showcase graduation ceremonies at the Harvard Business School, the gateway to the world of riches for the spawn of the already fabulously wealthy.  One smarmy grad brags that his emails to top CEOs are always returned within 15 minutes.  Asked about paying higher taxes for the greater good, he replies in words to the effect "Why should I waste 10 percent of my income on entitlement programs, when that same 10 percent can be turned into a 100 percent return of even more wealth?"  The poor and the sick do not generate wealth, so they are not worth it.  Somebody finally said it.

The wealthy elites, though, have their own entitlement program, aided and abetted by the lobbyists who write the laws perpetuating callous disregard for others, with the blatant assistance of their Congressional power brokers, the Supreme Court, and the President of the United States.

But regular people are becoming royally pissed off in droves, and in the chirpy words of rich homemaking diva Martha Stewart: "That's a good thing!"

25 comments:

Jay - Ottawa said...

Americans can no longer presume “God takes care of children, drunks and the United States of America.” In light of the past week ordinary Americans should not hope to wrest justice from this Court, this Congress, this White House. The Democratic leadership, for their part as defenders of the New Deal, deserve this paraphrase from Scripture: “You are neither hot nor cold: your lukewarmness makes me vomit.”

For principles and passion in good proportion, see Keith Olberman’s commentary linked by Karen, also “Faultlines,” which I saw earlier elsewhere because it may be going viral. This is clear: once-respected institutions have been corrupted utterly by money in the hands of the few. The only redress left to ordinary Americans is in the streets.

The danger, as Denis reminds us, can be the replacement of an unresponsive government with an exhilarating thug like Mussolini or Hitler. Once before this country was on the razor’s edge at the same time Europe was in turmoil; but we were lucky then to have had a patrician like FDR in reserve to seize the deck so long stacked by the corporatists. FDR and his brain trust listened to all sides. They acted. They risked making a few enemies to defend the underprivileged who were legion. In the end FDR did not bury capitalism; he saved it. He saved big business from itself through regulation while simultaneously giving significant material support to millions of the restless idle through work. The New Deal nipped revolution in the bud.

The only people to whom Obama has inclined his ear are the moneymen. There is no relief in his grand bargains for the poor, the sick, the young, the old, the homeless and the unemployed. Like Abraham with Jacob, Obama has offered up Single Payer, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a few important passages in the Bill of Rights to the elites on his overused altar of appeasement. There seem never to be enough angels in Congress to stop him. And so the New Deal has been replaced by the Raw Deal. Expect trouble.

We look now to the streets in anticipation mixed with hope and alarm. The rich, the poor, the still-comfortably-in-the-middle had better find a new FDR before the cumulative force of so many grand bargains hits home.

mac gordon said...

An excellent documentary by Al Jazeera. It's a shock to see America through the eyes of the outside world. As a 'culture' we have descended so far, and so fast, it's hard to come to terms with the reality of our decline.

I find myself getting 'news' of the US from the BBC. I don't trust homegrown 'networks' to be other than sycophantic.

Last week the BBC did a brief segment on their evening news, about the plight of people living on, or just off, Route 66. A variety of people were interviewed, unemployed, many of them middle class, and without any real hope of changing their lives. They'd lost their homes, couldn't afford to rent, and were staying in cheap motels, shelters, or their cars.

It was a brutal potrayal of life in modern America, a country with no safety net, and little compassion.

As I'm typing this, I can hear the President's voice rising, almost hysterically, as he shills for his reelection drive. At his birthday 'bash' in Chicago.

Perhaps, just once, he could listen.

Denis Neville said...

"Why should I waste 10 percent of my income on entitlement programs, when that same 10 percent can be turned into a 100 percent return of even more wealth?"

Such a devaluation of human life!

It is a dark murmur from the abyss that lies beneath us. It is a whisper of danger.

“It is said of these patients: They are like an old machine which no longer runs, like an old horse which is hopelessly paralyzed, like cow which no longer gives milk. What do we do with a machine of this kind? We put it in the junkyard. What do we do with a paralyzed horse? No, I do not wish to push the comparison to the end…We are not talking about a machine, a horse, nor a cow…No, we are talking about men and women, our compatriots, our brothers and sisters. Poor unproductive people if you wish, but does this mean that they have lost their right to live?” – excerpt from sermon protesting against Nazi “euthanasia,” Clemens Count von Galen, Bishop of Munster, 1941

The poor and the sick do not generate wealth, so they are not worth it. Being less valuable, they are too much of an economic burden for society to bear. They need to be abandoned and pushed out and …

Whom, if not the helpless, should we protect?

Valerie said...

Great link, Karen, and great comments by both Jay and Mac. I hope you are right, Jay, and the video is in the process of going viral.

As you said, Mac, America is falling so hard and so quickly it hardly seems possible. At first it was losing the manufacturing jobs and the union jobs to outsourcing. But I am seeing many of my friends losing their jobs in their fifties, even their late forties, never to find meaningful work again. These are people with college educations and good work ethics who did everything "right" but because their company, or school or whatever, is downsizing or cutting costs, their jobs are lost. I have to wonder what group will be next? Even ten years ago, how many people did you know who were good at their jobs, highly qualified and cast aside (to the unemployment wolves) by their employer?

What I find even more disturbing is how many people who have jobs and feel secure continue to live life with their heads in the sand with their brains numbed by reality TV, fake news and make consumption their favourite form of entertainment. They not only don't care what is happening to other people (Like the Harvard graduates in the video, they assume they are somehow more deserving of economic security.), but they don't think bad times will ever happen to them.

It reminds me of the statement made by Pastor Martin Niemoeller about the silence of intellectuals in Germany during the rise of the Nazis.

First they came for the communists
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionists.

Then they came for the Jews
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

And then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak for me.

4Runner said...

Thanx for the mention of Al Jazeera, an excellent news source that's superior to BBC World News. We receive their daily newscasts via DirecTV over cable channels 348 ( Free Speech TV) and 375 (LinkTV).

Anne Lavoie said...

@mac gordon - Your wish that Obama would listen will soon come true. They have announced that he is going on a 'Listening Tour'. It is purportedly about jobs, but we all know it is a campaign/fundraising/damage control tour.

Listening is exactly what he wants to do, because it lets him seem as if he cares without actually doing anything. His strategy will be to portray himself as the hero of the little folks as he listens and feels our pain (oh right, that's the other phony). He will pour some soothing, cool Obama water on our burning anger and promise to make things right if we just give him another term.

My first thought was that we should turn out in droves wherever he goes on tour to give him an earful, but I don't think that is going to make any difference because the system itself is rotten to the core, and so is Mr. Obama's presidency. It could, however, motivate and mobilize others to action.

After this week, I am totally resigned to the fact that it will, indeed, require a revolution to end this oligarchy. It's time we all learn that life is not a Hollywood movie with a happy ending, just because we happen to live in America. The rest of the world has already learned that lesson, over and over again.

The only thing to do now is to dedicate ourselves to saving this great nation, 'of, by, and for the PEOPLE... so that it does not perish from this earth'. If it remains of, by, and for the corporate cabal, then it SHOULD perish and we should start over.

As they say, 'Freedom is not free'. It will cost us either way, to struggle against this current corrupt system, or to accept it and lose our freedoms and way of life. I don't know what steps we need to take or when. I only know that each of us recognizing and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise may be the only strategy we have.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

In the Aug 4 New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/04/business/sales-of-luxury-goods-are-recovering-strongly

Denis Neville said...

Obama’s Faux Listening Tour

[Kudos to Anne Lavoie and her post]

We now flip from the “Grand Bargain” to keeping the cheerful conversations going about hope - job creation and economic growth - across kitchen tables, on front porches and in our own neighborhoods.

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.” - Abraham Lincoln

However, this will not be 2008, when many of us ignored the warning signs that Barack Obama was not what he claimed to be. Then we were blinded by his audacity of hope. Today “Our Incredible Folding President” no longer has any credibility.

"I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president - which means, in our time, a dangerous president - unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction." - Howard Zinn

As we now know, Obama was not pushed in a better direction, but just the opposite. It was, and continues to be, a march of folly down the path of austerity towards economic and social disaster.

As Paul Krugman said, “hope is not a plan, nor is it good politics.”

"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places - and there are so many - where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory." - Howard Zinn

Anonymous said...

This is the President that you as a group elected, and most of you will vote for again in 2012. Most of you agree that he lied to or misled you. Now he and his reelection Committee are soliciting ideas and large donations from the same Bankers, Wall St. Brokers, and Multinational Industrialists that his administration has protected from prosecution for the last almost 3 years. Is that the best you can do?

Richard

John in Lafayette said...

I am reminded of The Gulag Archipelago, in which Solzhenitsyn recounts stories of life inside Stalin's labor camps. In one particularly haunting episode an old woman was placed outside the fence of the camp on the Siberian tundra and left to die. She was, you see, simply no longer worth her bread ration.

Now the Heritage Foundation is here to tell us we need not worry about poverty, because the poor aren't really poor! They have color TVs and microwaves!

http://www.heritage.org/Research/Commentary/2011/07/Plugged-in-Poverty-Half-of-Americas-Poor-Have-Computers

You'd think the way the poor are portrayed people would be falling all over themselves to become poverty stricken.

The key thing the Heritage Foundation and others of their ilk are trying to get everyone to buy into is that, no matter how much the wealthy are benefitting from the rape of the middle and lower classes, we shouldn't worry about it, because even those on the lowest end can still live in an air-conditioned apartment with a TV, food stamps, an X-Box, and free medical care (with that nine hour wait at the ER).

We're all OK. Noblesse has obliged, you see.

Thomas Jefferson must be rolling over in his grave.

Anonymous said...

@Richard

Is that the best YOU can do to get a rise out of us today? For someone so starving of attention, I expected something a little less insulting to our intelligence. Nobody likes a lazy troll.

-- William

Denis Neville said...

Catfood Commission Redux

The White House wants the Catfood Commission II to negotiate Obama’s “Grand Bargain” so OIFP can tout his favorite mantra of “getting things done” with a “bipartisan compromise.”

Their logic is that the automatic cuts triggered, if the Catfood Commission II recommendations fail, would be so awful it will force Democrats to accept such an agreement.

However, Democrats may prefer the automatic spending cuts to whatever cuts the Catfood Commission II proposes. Why? The most vital programs for vulnerable populations are currently protected. The Catfood Commission II and OIFP will likely target these programs for substantial cuts.

However, the cost-sharing subsidies of the Affordable Care Act could be lost under the automatic spending cuts.

Memories of OIFP, at his press conference last December, announcing his capitulation to the GOP on tax cuts…

“When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean? ... I’ll take John Boehner at his word…”

Monty Python’s crazy, flagellant monks chant - “Pie Jesu Domine - Dona Eis Requiem.” Bonk. “Pie Jesu Domine - Dona Eis Requiem.” Bonk. “Pie Jesu Domine - Dona Eis Requiem.” Bonk. "O sweet Lord Jesus, grant (us) rest!" - is becoming a more frequent refrain.

Neil Gillespie said...

@Richard

Hi Richard, good point, I voted for Obama last time, and I will not vote for him in 2012. Quite frankly there wasn’t much of a choice in 2008, with McCrazy and the Alaskan Snow Princess to choose from. Obama talked a good game but was short on experience. Now it shows and he is in over his head. Problem is, there are no real Democratic leaders left at the national level. The Clintons are corporatists, and Obama is a Republican sycophant worshipping the ghost of Ronald Reagan.

Here in Florida there is attorney Matt Weidner who holds real Democratic values. Matt is a foreclosure defense lawyer who just launched a redesigned website advocating a peaceful revolution. Matt goes after Wall Street, the banks, the failure to prosecute white collar crime, civil rights abuses, etc., and he is paying a price, the Florida Bar is going after him. Click my name for a link to the New American Revolution on my website for more about Matt Weidner.

For 2012 I’d vote for a Bernie Sanders/Ron Paul VP ticket. No more Obama.

The Black Swan said...

Now that the United States government has broken its social contract with the American People, it is time we the People took back our government. Though it may be impossible to change things at the top, it is not and should not be our only option or our only hope. What we need is a silent, grassroots revolution. We the People need to demonstrate against the government, not with protests or elections, but by showing we can not be cowed. If the government won't provide for us, than we need to show that we can provide for ourselves. We must unite as communities, in our neighborhoods and cities, our counties and states, and provide for ourselves the type of life we all deserve. We need to show that we can all share in our prosperity and help each other in our time of need. We can no longer rely on someone else to do so for us. The plan of the oligarchs is to leave the citizenry demoralized and at their mercy. We must not let them win. We must show a renewed vigor to defending our rights to life, liberty and happiness. We cannot hope for our future to trickle-down to us from the Federal Government, we must nourish it ourselves from the groud up.

Neil Gillespie said...

Thanks for this post Karen, and the link to Al Jazeeria, which is an excellent news source. I linked and profiled your post to my site.

Napoleon said...

Just for your information, this evening I received the email below (fund raising) on the debt ceiling matter from U.S.senator Sheldon Whitehouse giving his take on it:

Dear Napoleon --

Our battle to protect Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts succeeded, but the fight is far from over...for all the ground the President ceded to the GOP in this final compromise, neither the initial cuts nor the potential "trigger" cuts would reduce benefits for our seniors, who can now rest assured their checks will continue to be sent out.

While this isn't the deal we wanted, there's no doubt in my mind our efforts made a difference in this fight. Thanks to you -- and all 17,478 Citizen Co-sponsors who took action at NoSocialSecurityCuts.com -- we were able to keep Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts off the table. That is no small feat in this political climate.

Having met this most fundamental demand, and facing imminent default with unthinkable consequences for our economy, I ultimately voted in favor of the compromise bill. To say the least, it was an extremely unpleasant vote, presenting us with a difficult choice we never should have been forced to consider in the first place.

Unfortunately, Tea Party Republicans remain as adamant as ever about dismantling Social Security and Medicare, so we need to keep fighting back. As the new congressional "super commission" identifies further areas for deficit reduction this fall, we can't give up an inch. We must and will continue standing firm against Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts, and demand shared sacrifice from corporations and millionaires in any subsequent deal.

With your continued help we can keep Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts off the table in the upcoming deficit discussions, and give voice to the vast majority of Americans who demand a more balanced, less draconian approach to deficit reduction. Together, we'll look for new ways to keep the pressure on the White House and congressional negotiators.

Sincerely,

Sheldon Whitehouse
U.S. Senator
info@whitehouseforsenate.com

Napoleon said...

I think senator Whitehouse's statement above, is implicit recognition that, even for fundraising purposes, it is important to create distance from Obama and to criticize Obama on his debt ceiling stances.

I think there are two additional steps Democratic members of Congress need to take.

The first is to extend this willingness to criticize to other actions taken by Obama that are unpopular with progressives.

The second is to state, when pressed by progressives, what actions they are willing to take to deter, or prevent, Obama from doing something like this again.

Napoleon said...

On the issue of income disparitiy, I want to relate a story that is somewhat informative about the attitude of too many young professionals among the business classes.

About seven years ago, I attended a relative's graduation exercise at Columbia Univ. The president of Columbia always gives the commencement address. That year, president George Rupp gave the address in which he said there were two main challenges Columbia students faced after graduation.

The first was to do something to reduce income disparity between the rich and poor in this country.

The second was to reduce the income disparity between the rich and poor nations of the world.

Three times during this address, he told the students in the Columbia Business School section of the graduation class to lower their voice, to be quiet, or to shut up.

After the graduation exercise, I went to the Business School section, where my relative was, and asked what is the world were they saying that required their president to admonish them publicly before the entire audience at the graduation exercise to be quiet.

One of the students immediately voluntereed and said they were yelling "More disparity, more disparity!"

This is a true story. This is where we were then, or are now.

Valerie said...

Napoleon!

I thought of you when I read about the knit-in described in Karen's post on RC - I assume intended for the NYTimes. Did you go?

I don't know what to say about the above letter you just included. I think the Obama administration is very effective in manoeuvring good public officials into going along with their "compromises" by basically saying the poor and disenfranchised won't even get crumbs if they don't go along. Once again, the choices are evil and the lesser of two evils. However, I think politicians also use these kinds of compromises as an “out” and to cover their own behinds. There was a strong move by Progressives to block this cave-in and Whitehouse didn’t support that position. And it wasn’t like he would have been out there on a limb all by himself. My rep – Norm Dicks – supported and Obama and I plan on supporting any Progressive Democratic challenger in the next election. I need my reps to stand with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I think this super Congress is very scary and I think the poor, once again, will come out the losers.

Anne,

Your comments of late have been outstanding. I too find my hope and optimism fading and am starting to feel resigned that we are headed for either dictatorship by the oligarchy (are actually in the early stages) or eventually, when people have FINALLY had enough, a revolution. I agree, we can only do what is in front of us and take advantage of opportunities to act in the best interest of our country. At least that way, our conscience is clear and we can rest assure that we are not part of the misinformed, over-consuming, apathetic public that has contributed, through its laziness, to the problems in our country today.

Speaking of getting involved. I know many of you do not bother with the on-line petitions, assuming they totally ineffective but the small family farmers are taking a beating by Corporate Agriculture, particularly the big meat packing industries, and are being run out of business or bankrupted by the thousands. The 2008 Farm Bill which is supposed to enforce Fair Farm Rules is being considered by Obama and Vilsak and both are getting a lot of pressure from the corporations trying to enforce monopolistic practices which are decimating the small farmers. I can’t stress enough what losing family farms will do to our food supply. We will be eating Frankenfood before long, animals will be treated with indifferent cruelty and subjected to unnatural and inhumane lives – which will effect the meat, and the farm workers will be exploited as they are in Third World Countries. Karen recommended a book, I think it was called Methland, if you want to get a picture of what is happening to our farmers and farm workers today in rural America. There are so many reasons to get involved and publicize this battle. If you want to read more or sign a petition, Credo, has one going.

Good call, William!

Valerie said...

Napoleon,

Your experience at the Columbia University graduation left me disgusted and angry. I give credit to President Rupp for trying to elevate the experience to something meaningful and good. But the behaviour of the Business School grads was shocking - and disturbing. It is clear that these people have no decency or compassion and wallow in their own selfishness and good fortune, assuming all that comes to them is well-deserved. The sad thing is these people will thrive in our economy - It is clear there is no point in the vulnerable and desperate throwing themselves on the mercy of these narcissistic financial types, they have no mercy. It is all quite outrageous AND depressing at the same time.

Janet Camp said...

I bet there won't even be a token Progressive on the Super Committee. It will be Blue Dogs, not even moderates.
--------------
@VLT

I think I used to live where you live. I'll check Credo right now and get that petition signed.
------------
I've had three calls today to phone bank for the recall election, plus money requests form two unions, Progressives United and Bold Progressives. I gave them each a few bucks. Then the DNC called and I told them I was only supporting individual Progressive candidates and openly Progressive groups. She said she "understood". I hope there is a box to check on her screen for this type of response.

If you're in the mood, feel free to donate to any of the above groups--except the DNC, of course! These recalls could be very meaningful if they succeed. Snot Walker was at the State Fair today sneering at protesters--I would so like to wipe that sneer off his ratty little face. If we can throw him out, it will get national attention for sure.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Thanks, Napoleon, for an arresting report on the mind of the business class. If I may be allowed a Bushism, I misunderestimated the children of Mammon.

"MORE disparity, MORE disparity" was what the best and the brightest of the young moneymakers were murmuring seven years ago. What is their line today?

They are not mumbling any more now that they are on Wall Street, and our President has no interest in shushing them up. They and their gurus are in the saddle, and no one can stop them.

I recall from one of my history professor's asides that in the heyday before the Great Crash, popular books were coming out showing how Jesus Christ was, at bottom, a damned good businessman with a winning sales pitch. Cool.

Napoleon said...

@Valerie,

I shouldn't say that I attended the bank knit-in protest, having arrived near the end as the women sitting and knitting inside CitiBank were escorted out. The protest, while positive, wasn't of the same order as demonstrations by CodePink. But, it was a start. A video is posted on the website www.UnitedNY.org. Perhaps, something was lost in participation because the group staged a student rally for jobs and fairness the previous day.

On your statements about senator Whitehouse, I draw a sharp distinction between those like president Obama who were urging spending cuts with Social Security and Medicare on the table for negotiations, and those like Pelosi and Whitehouse who didn't but who voted, and yes I am willing to believe they voted reluctantly, for the debt ceiling compromise. I think Democrats in Congress could reasonably have voted either way just as Tea Party members voted either way, although far less reasonably.

On a more general level, I don't think now is the time to be charitable in picking enemies amongst Democrats who, even if not totally innocent bystanders, were nonetheless not aggressors. In particular, I haven't given up on Pelosi though I believe she needs a louder, clearer, harder, and more insistent message. I also think Pelosi can be decisive in determining which Democrats in the House will be on the debt ceiling special committee.

On the bright side, the debt ceiling law takes Social Security and Medicare, the latter more or less, off the table and puts the military budget on the table for real cuts. The trouble however is that Obama, out of fear, allows defense secretary Panetta to call openly for not slashing the defense budget beyond a certain amount while cabinet members whose portfolios include programs like health, welfare, Social Security, employment, education, etc., are not doing the same.

These cabinet members need to be encouraged by citizens and Democratic members of Congress to publicly call for protecting their programs if national security cabinet members call publicly for protecting national security programs. After all, equality here too is a good thing.

I think it is far too early to give up hope. I know you haven't since you consistently advocate the use of petitions and the need for local campaigning.

Anne Lavoie said...

Obama is focusing on jobs for vets. He knows he need to do something to win them over before they decide to take to the streets and put their training to use. See, Obama is a very smart man after all!

"Cat" will do said...

KG -- you're welcome.