I had a funny experience after going on the Thom Hartmann’s show ‘The Big Picture’ last night, and one that made me cautiously optimistic for the future of America.
I went on the show to discuss Illinois Gov Bruce Rauner’s declaration of war on state unions and Bernie Sander’s recent statement that America was now technically an oligarchy. These were topics I was convinced my conservative co guests would certainly be against – after all, what type of conservative supports unions or agrees with anything Bernie Sanders says?
Much to my surprise, libertarian Marc Harrold and conservative Hughey Newsome seemed to agree with myself and Thom Hartmann and hard a hard time slamming unions or disagreeing with Sanders’ characterization of America. After delivering my own bleak assessment of where the country was headed given the tendency of the population to head ever further right in times of uncertainty, it dawned on me that I could actually be wrong when Marc and Hughey seemed to – at least partially – agree with me. If two avowed conservatives could see that right wing economics had turned their country into a neo-feudal dystopia, then maybe there is hope for the future.
Here’s the video of the debate (starts at 3.30):
One of the guests (I won’t name which one) told me afterwards: “You know, I’m struggling financially myself. I’m sick of defending these guys and I’m not doing it any more”.
As I mentioned yesterday, the economic divide in America is now so serious that rich people are getting worried about it. This is somewhat promising, but re-ordering the taxation system so that a few more crumbs are sent downwards won’t cut it. Given 45% of all children live in what is defined as “low income families” in America, and an astonishing 16 million (22%) live below the federal poverty line, the seeds for serious revolution are there.
Historically, dramatic economic shifts are not the result of rich people willingly giving up their wealth. They are always the result of mass popular movements forcing change upon ruling elites from below. The danger in America however, comes from its history of rugged individualism that instinctively pulls away from wealth redistribution or collaborative action. A mass popular movement could well resemble the latest incarnation of the Tea Party – a far right organization funded by the wealthy with the explicit aim of dismantling what is left of public institutions and large scale privatization. Given the dismantling of public institutions and large scale privatization have been the major factor behind the erosion of wealth for the majority of Americans, more of it would be utterly catastrophic.
The collapse of the Occupy Wall St movement and the rise of the Tea Party doesn’t inspire much confidence that Americans will respond productively to the ever deepening wealth divide, but there is still hope, and last night I felt a little bit of it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.