People on fixed incomes cannot afford oil and cannot afford to retrofit their homes for alternatives to oil. Our austerity measures, designed to help the economy recover from the recession, are cutting programs that used to help. But as the funding is cut, the price of oil continues to rise. So an elderly couple turned on all four burners on their electric stove, rerouted the dryer hose back into the basement, and, in desperation, offered the local oil company the title to their old car in return for oil.
The more I read, the more I pay attention, the more I conclude that capitalism has ruined this country. A system with profit as its end motive, not surprisingly, leaves humanity by the side of the road in pursuit of more, more, more. We are not a democracy - that illusion was discarded long ago but we still like to use the word to describe ourselves. We are not free - the only freedom we still have is the ability to leave. But we stay, hoping to recover the illusion of what we thought America was. We work harder and harder to pay bills that rise faster than our two and three job incomes, education for our young children is de-funded and college is equivalent to buying a Mercedes Benz every year for four years.
Meanwhile, Washington makes the rules - and multi-national corporations (people, according to the Supreme Court) call the shots. They fund the campaigns, they fund the PACs, they pay trillions for lobbyists and they have one agenda: profit. Please find me an administration that hasn't been in bed with Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs and other predators influence policy to create new money making opportunities. And somehow, an entire segment of the population has been convinced that a policy based on profit is GOOD for people.
It's bizarre logic and requires a particular brand of tunnel vision.
Government, they argue, shouldn't be providing basic services for its citizens' welfare. That's socialism. In capitalism, it's every man for himself. Meanwhile, their elderly parents scrape by on Social Security and Medicare while living in subsidized housing.
Capitalism's apologists argue for the tax breaks and loopholes that maximize corporate profits, for to deny those benefits would discourage business. But big business squats in this country like Jabba the Hut while many of the jobs it creates are sent off shore (it's cheaper and there are fewer annoying safety regulations to worry about - right Apple?) and it demands even more tax incentives to create jobs within the US. Local officials pant after them only to discover that they're paying dearly, and constantly, for the privilege of having industry in their communities.
New York's Comptroller this week warned that the state's economic situation is still tricky - it's health is tied to the health of its biggest industry - Wall Street. The message: "Don't mess with the goose that lays the golden eggs." Regulations have been twisted to allow Wall Street and its big business cronies to maximize their profits.
Wall Street is the world's biggest casino and they're gambling with your money. The media breathlessly reports every gasp and burp the Dow utters as though it's a meaningful indication of a trend. It's just the outcome of the latest game of craps. We don't see the profits when they win, but we pay when they lose.
I am sick of it. All of it.
I pay taxes. Like every American (except for those who can afford to hide in the loopholes), I pay far more taxes than I can comfortably afford. But I have no say in how my money is spent.
I don't want to give Wall Street a break. I do not consider them too big to fail. I consider them too big. Period.
I don't want my tax dollars to go to wars that are nothing more than efforts to open up new commodities for corporations. I don't want my tax dollars to help give breaks to the exploitation of finite, unsustainable energy sources. I don't want my tax dollars to give incentives to businesses that don't pay taxes and send most of their jobs overseas. I do not consider a big box store an economic driver - it kills entrepreneurship and competition and creates minimum wage jobs.
I want my tax dollars to provide a good education for every American. I want my tax dollars to provide every American with health care. I want my tax dollars to make sure every American can meet their basic needs - and has access to programs that lead to self-sufficiency. I don't want my government dictating my behavior or limiting my rights so long as I abide by a basic rule of law.
I pay for the privilege of living in this country, and I'm okay with that. But it's not giving me value for my dollar. And that's not the capitalist way.
I am not in need of a Big Daddy Government. Nor am I willing to play serf to a corporate overload anymore.
I want my tax dollars to fund government programs that assure a basic, decent quality of life for its citizens. And I want corporations to pay taxes. And I want all tax breaks withdrawn for every single corporation that ships its work overseas. I do not care if they threaten to leave. Call their bluff. Let's see if they can be competitive from the Third World.
I'm heading for my Howard Beal moment - "Network" has proven to be far more than a movie.