You don’t – at least, I certainly don’t – see as much talk about the national debt as there was, say, back in the 1990’s. Perhaps even debt hawks among the sorriest dregs and rinsings of the contemporary human intellect – the conservative punditry – realize that the issue has lost its edge since it’s become clear that a huge federal debt doesn’t mean economic apocalypse.
But that’s not to suggest that a gi-normous national debt is a good thing. Especially if you consider what has really caused it. If you’re reading this you’re presumably enough into the issue to have seen graphs like the following plenty of times before.
Yeah, it started with Almighty Reagan’s tax cuts for the rich and military spending. And the fundamentals haven’t changed. The U.S. national debt is nothing more or less than the cost of 35+ years of aggrandizing the plutocrats and warmongers.
But the real cost of prioritizing that aggrandizement is even greater – indeed, far greater. It’s the cost of the lost potential inherent in a shrinking middle class, and a long-term underclass being screwed in almost every conceivable way. And so on; again, if you’ve read this far, having come to this blog, you know what I’m typing about. Fundamentally, we’re talking about constrained to virtually nonexistent access to substantial resources and opportunity for those not born to wealth, or otherwise granted ready access to it.
In a good deal of writing on this topic, at least online, one could get the impression that in the past there have been one or more golden ages for economic equality in this country, and it’s just a matter of doing again what was being done then. The unfortunate truth is that the U.S. has always been a plutocracy, supporting a parasitic gaggle of greedheads and war pigs. There’s just been some variance in degree, based on many factors. And the majority of the populace, while not thrilled about it when it’s brought up, isn’t about to support “revolution,“ thanks (for better or worse) to cognitive biases like loss aversion and risk aversion.
I’ll be looking more, in subsequent parts, at issues like how the rich man manages to ethically justify to himself what he does, and if there really are ways to reach enough people in the population at large – not just in the small minority of progressive activists – to have much chance of fixing this mess any time soon. (I think the answer to the latter is “yes,” but it won’t happen overnight.)
(I copped the title of this series from one of the low points of Martin Luther’s career, his infamous screed “Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants.” I don’t mean to draw some heavy historical irony or anything from that. Just wanted an effective title.)
Dr. Ralph Stanley died last year. He was the real deal. Authorship of this particular song is credited to Coielle Church, about whom I was able to find nothing, and which certainly sounds like it could be a pseudonym given that we’re talking country gospel, a genre I absolutely love despite not being religious myself. Anyway, cf. Luke 16:19-31.