Chapter 159 – Who Broke Capitalism?

       Beginning after this post, I will try to refrain from publishing political charged material. I will do this partly because I’m getting to the point in life where I understand that people cannot be persuaded by deliberately antagonizing them, but mainly because in the world we live in, the people who disagree with you, the very people you’re trying to reach, have already tuned you out. Opinions and ideas outside of our selected silos of information don’t get heard. It was always my intention to provide the perspective of an older black man on the challenging issues of our time to enlighten those on the conservative side who never considered that point of view. I have always believed that even if those on the right didn’t agree with that point of view, if they understood it, it would bring us closer together. I was wrong.

       I’ve actually lost friendship from people I’ve known for decades in reaction to some of the material I’ve published, in spite of my good intentions. The interesting thing about getting older is that with each passing day, with each tiny little loss of physical prowess, or mental agility, or capacity to heal and recover from injury or illness, you come to realize that the only thing of any real value in life is your relationships. You realize that loss of friendship robs you of the opportunity for the experiences that make all of life’s shortcomings worth the aggravation. As more and more of the people you once loved and admired pass away, the more present you are to the richness and fullness of life you’ve missed from the friends who’ve survived that you lost over some silly issue you can’t even remember.

       In retrospect, it’s clear to me that in a world where media and technology can so easily manipulate an individual to voluntarily give up his/her freedom and right to listen to a dissenting opinion and judge the merits of the argument for his or herself, one wrong word or idea can cross an emotional line that is unforgivable by the recipient of the information and shut down communication forever. The closer you get to that which may be considered as “truth” to both you and the person you are debating, the more resistant and resentful that person is likely to become, which doesn’t leave much hope for reconciliation. So going forward, I will try to talk about what I see and feel about various issues without any attempt to judge how others may see or feel about those issues. Hopefully, it will help the reader formulate his/her own strategy for survival in this foreboding new world we appear to be creating. However, before abandoning political commentary completely, I thought you all might want to know the real mechanics of how we got to where we are economically. The following commentary is political only in the sense that most of the people involved happen to be Republican. For the most part, this post is only my recommendation of a book I think you all would benefit from reading.

       I’ve come to believe that blaming the Republican Party for all our economic woes does not accurately identify the real culprit. While it’s true that the GOP has sponsored most of the orchestrators of the policies that have led us to where we are, the more accurate way to describe the entity that has led us to our current state of affairs is the conservative dogma that dominates American consciousness.  

       I recently read a book written by a man named David Gelles titled, “The Man Who Broke Capitalism”. It is an account of how a man named Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, changed the culture of American capitalism from being that of a partnership between corporate America, workers and consumers, fairly brokered and refereed by government, into a system that views workers as an expense and an expendable commodity in the process of maximizing profits for corporations at the expense of workers and consumers with no government oversight. Jack Welch was lampooned as Alec Baldwin’s character on the TV sitcom “30 Rock”. In his book, Geller neatly chronicled the role of the superstar, mostly Republican leaders of a process that has almost completely destroyed middle class America. He describes the role Ronald Reagan, Roger Ailes, Donald Regan, Milton Friedman, Donald Trump and many others played in the destruction of the American middle class. He also describes the role people like Bill Clinton and a few other Democrats played. So it was the conservative philosophy and dogma more than the Republican Party that was responsible. That conservative philosophy is what has corrupted our values, morals and ethics and destroyed our integrity and self respect as Americans. The Republicans (more so than Democrats) have just capitalized politically on it.

       The interesting thing about Geller’s book is its simplicity. Until I read his book, I thought you had to be some kind of economist egghead to understand the intricacies of the business maneuvers that the modern day robber barons used to almost completely destroy the US economy and steal the wealth of almost 1/3 of the US population. However, Geller presented the information in such a straight forward “just the facts” manner that anyone with a decent 8th grade education could read and understand it in about three or four hours. Every detail of what is said in the book regarding the words and deeds of Welch and his disciples can easily be verified with as little as a Google search. Geller succeeds in turning the rock over that hid the manner in which many of the most respected corporate giants in the country literally stole the enormous wealth they acquired from investors and tax payers, and received no punishment even after they were caught red handed. If you ever wondered where the root cause of the apathy and cynicism of the American people toward government, elected officials and business owners came from, you must read Geller’s book.

       I’ve read several books that attempt to chronicle the misdeeds of the corporate elite and the deleterious impact they’ve had on the economy and the American middle class, but none of them say much about the conservative mindset that made it all possible. I’m not sure if it’s because they just don’t see the profundity of the connection or they don’t want to cloud an already provocative subject with opinions about the national psyche, which is closely bound to the difficult, uncomfortable and even more complicated subject of race. But I don’t believe we can ever fully rescue ourselves without a deep understanding of it. Simple truth is that most Americans, regardless of race, see America as the property of white people of European ancestry. Those of us who are not white know intuitively the idea is wrong and fight against it, but if we’re being honest, we have to admit that on some level, we all have been conditioned to believe that to be true, and we all struggle against the belief that we are being deprived of the privileges that come with being American. In other words, white and nonwhite people are fighting for the same thing. The problem is our hostility is directed towards each other instead of towards the people who are actually depriving us of those privileges. The people depriving us are mostly white, but also many are people of color. The motivation for depriving us has nothing at all to do race and everything to do with greed, power and control.

       The last chapter of Geller’s book is not as compelling as all the previous ones because it focuses of what must be done to undo the damage that has been done by what he calls “Welchism”. The reason is because it advocates what we’ve all been hearing from mostly Democrats for the past 50 years – increase taxes on corporations and the top 2% of income earners, more government regulation and antitrust legislation on corporations, encourage more unionization and increase minimum wage. Geller describes all this as stakeholder driven corporate ethic. The problem is that we’ve attached all kinds of emotional baggage to these issues that divide us into two camps at war with each other. We put labels like socialism and fascism on policies that have nothing to do with either. I have been most guilty of doing this in the past. It’s not helpful. In fact it’s counter productive to effectively addressing the issues.

       We must be more politically pragmatic as Americans. When I advocated voting against all Republican candidates in the past election, it’s not because I think they are evil or just because they advocate outlawing abortion. It’s primarily because they happen to be the ones most in the pockets of the corporate elite – the people, who want you to continue to work for less money and longer hours, in order to produce more wealth for corporate executives and stockholders, own the Republican Party. It’s as simple as that. The Democrats and their support of NAFTA committed a mortal sin especially against their base but in the end, to all Americans. However they are ready to make amends. By purging Washington of the current group of Republicans we will send a message to the Party that will cause them to adopt a more middle class friendly group of candidates.

       We’ll soon find out if we are past the point of reconciling the enmity between Republicans and Democrats. I do know that our only chance of not completely destroying our country rests in our ability to take a step back and fully evaluate both sides of the argument. More than anything else, the self-censoring we are engaged in as directed by the tribe we identify with will be the source of our downfall. Our unwillingness to even consider the point of view of the other side empowers the corporate elite, who are grinding all our faces into the dirt and pushing us closer to the edge of the cliff to oblivion.

       Welch and his Republican cronies adopted the philosophy that nothing is more important than filling their pockets with as much money as they could stuff in them. Everything was secondary to that end and the public and workers be damned. According to Welchian thinking, workers and the public should be satisfied with the crumbs that “trickle down” from corporate over stuffed pockets. And where has that gotten us? We are at the point of so much money being concentrated in the hands of so few that money itself has almost completely lost its value. The hundreds of billions of dollars taken in by Bezos and Musk afford them the same purchasing power Ford and Carnegie enjoyed for a few million dollars per year at the turn of the twentieth century.

       I’ve heard it said that biggest trick the devil played on man is convincing him that he doesn’t exist. I say the biggest trick was convincing man that paper money is real. We have sold our souls to the devil for paper money. It has cost us our pride in the dignity of labor and worst of all, the quality of our relationships with our fellow Americans.

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