Friday, August 15, 2014

What is the motivation for the police state?

We live in a police state. There is no doubt about it. The police have bulked up on surplus military hardware like tanks and cannons and have been doing so since the 1990s. They look more like an army that a bunch of scared police with pea shooters in all of the pictures I've seen lately. This is particularly true of Ferguson, Missouri.

What happened in Ferguson is that an unarmed black teen was shot to death by the police. Since we weren't there, we can't say exactly what happened. Witnesses on both sides have different accounts of what happened. But one thing is for sure, the police are not very happy with the protests and seem intent on putting it down, as if we should all go home and relax, have a beer and watch anther episode of How I Met Your Mother.

I surmise that the police state has grown out of fear, mostly, paranoia. Who, exactly is paranoid? Well, let's see. As I mentioned yesterday, the top 1% now own more wealth than the bottom 70%. The bottom 40% are scraping by on just 0.2% of the wealth of the nation. I'd say that the 1% must be really, really paranoid right about now. They're pretty busy buying laws that make it easier to make more money and to put other people in jail, too. Yeah, that's pretty paranoid.

There is no way to say for sure that they earned the money, either. Yes, there may be some who did earn very large sums of money for their efforts. But among those one percent, how many bear a direct relationship between their effort and their wealth? How much of it is plunder and how much of it is blunder? Who knows?

In the fallout of the financial crisis of 2008, banks were bailed out while many people lost their homes due to rising costs everywhere, with no rise in wages. Wages for most of us actually fell during and after the crisis and had actually remained very flat compared with the 1% for the previous 30 years. But every banker who got a bailout from the federal government kept their jobs and they got bonuses. No one went to jail. Not yet, anyway. Bankers are probably pretty paranoid right now. Perhaps they feel some guilt, perhaps not. Is their compensation connected to their performance? Probably not.

I surmise that a similar situation exists for the carbon based businesses like oil, gas and coal. The war in Iraq cost us more than one $1 trillion. Since corporate taxation now makes up about 9% of federal taxes collected (compared to 35% in 1955), I think we can safely say that the rest of us paid for that war.

There have been plenty of spills, too. The damage from the Deeepwater Oil Spill is still being documented. The cleanup isn't even remotely complete and some ecosystems are just not coming back. A $20 billion trust fund has been established to compensate victims for losses incurred. But that is just for what people owned and lost. 

What about the damage to property that nobody owns? You know, like the ocean? As I've said before, capitalism cannot assign value to that which cannot be owned. In terms of BP's finances, this is just lunch money, and that gives us a sense of the power BP, a foreign corporation, holds in our government. Given the unfairness of the outcome, I'd say more than a few very wealthy people are paranoid.

I could go on with other examples, but there is only so much time in the world and I don't want to bore you. The point I want to make is this: the middle class didn't wake up one day and wish for a police state. But we're paying for it, directly and indirectly, and I must say, quite dearly.

Fortunately, people in New York and in Ferguson are very busy reminding the 1% that all power resides in the people. All of it. With all of us. There are no exceptions. No society has ever survived ignorance of that one simple fact. If you find one that did, let us know. We could learn a lot from that one so that it doesn't happen again.
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