Submitted by Leo Kolivakis, publisher of Pension Pulse.
Bill Totten sent me a very interesting article from David DeGraw published on Alternet, The Economic Elite Have Engineered an Extraordinary Coup, Threatening the Very Existence of the Middle Class:
"The American oligarchy spares no pains in promoting the belief that it does not exist, but the success of its disappearing act depends on equally strenuous efforts on the part of an American public anxious to believe in egalitarian fictions and unwilling to see what is hidden in plain sight." -- Michael Lind, To Have and to Have Not
We all have very strong differences of opinion on many issues. However, like our founding fathers before us, we must put aside our differences and unite to fight a common enemy.
It has now become evident to a critical mass that the Republican and Democratic parties, along with all three branches of our government, have been bought off by a well-organized Economic Elite who are tactically destroying our way of life. The harsh truth is that 99 percent of the U.S. population no longer has political representation. The U.S. economy, government and tax system is now blatantly rigged against us.
Current statistical societal indicators clearly demonstrate that a strategic attack has been launched and an analysis of current governmental policies prove that conditions for 99 percent of Americans will continue to deteriorate. The Economic Elite have engineered a financial coup and have brought war to our doorstep...and make no mistake, they have launched a war to eliminate the U.S. middle class.
To those who feel I am using extreme rhetoric, I ask you to please take a few minutes of your time to hear me out and research the evidence put forth. The facts are there for the unprejudiced, rational and reasoned mind to absorb. It is the unfortunate reality of our current crisis.
Unless we all unite and organize on common ground, our very way of life and the ideals that our country was founded upon will continue to unravel.
Before exposing exactly who the Economic Elite are, and discussing common sense ways in which we can defeat them, let's take a look at how much damage they have already caused.
Casualties of Economic Terrorism, Surveying the Damage
The devastating numbers across-the-board on the economic front are staggering. I'll go through some of them here, many we have already become all too familiar with. We hear some of these numbers all the time, so much so that it appears as if we have already begun "to normalize the unthinkable." You may be sick of hearing them, but behind each number is an enormous amount of individual suffering, American lives and families who are struggling worse than they ever have.
America is the richest nation in history, yet we now have the highest poverty rate in the industrialized world with an unprecedented amount of Americans living in dire straights and over 50 million citizens already living in poverty.
The government has come up with clever ways to downplay all of these numbers, but we have over 50 million people who need to use food stamps to eat, and a stunning 50 percent of U.S. children will use food stamps to eat at some point in their childhoods. Approximately 20,000 people are added to this total every day. In 2009, one out of five U.S. households didn't have enough money to buy food. In households with children, this number rose to 24 percent, as the hunger rate among U.S. citizens has now reached an all-time high.
We also currently have over 50 million U.S. citizens without health care. 1.4 million Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2009, a 32 percent increase from 2008. As bankruptcies continue to skyrocket, medical bankruptcies are responsible for over 60 percent of them, and over 75 percent of the medical bankruptcies filed are from people who have health care insurance. We have the most expensive health care system in the world, we are forced to pay twice as much as other countries and the overall care we get in return ranks 37th in the world.
In total, Americans have lost $5 trillion from their pensions and savings since the economic crisis began and $13 trillion in the value of their homes. During the first full year of the crisis, workers between the age of 55 - 60, who have worked for 20 - 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. "Personal debt has risen from 65 percent of income in 1980 to 125 percent today." Over five million U.S. families have already lost their homes, in total 13 million U.S. families are expected to lose their home by 2014, with 25 percent of current mortgages underwater. Deutsche Bank has an even grimmer prediction: "The percentage of 'underwater' loans may rise to 48 percent, or 25 million homes." Every day 10,000 U.S. homes enter foreclosure. Statistics show that an increasing number of these people are not finding shelter elsewhere, there are now over 3 million homeless Americans, the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population is single parents with children.
One place more and more Americans are finding a home is in prison. With a prison population of 2.3 million people, we now have more people incarcerated than any other nation in the world -- the per capita statistics are 700 per 100,000 citizens. In comparison, China has 110 per 100,000, France has 80 per 100,000, Saudi Arabia has 45 per 100,000. The prison industry is thriving and expecting major growth over the next few years. A recent report from the Hartford Advocate titled "Incarceration Nation" revealed that "a new prison opens every week somewhere in America."
The government unemployment rate is deceptive on several levels. It doesn't count people who are "involuntary part-time workers," meaning workers who are working part-time but want to find full-time work. It also doesn't count "discouraged workers," meaning long-term unemployed people who have lost hope and don't consistently look for work. As time goes by, more and more people stop consistently looking for work and are discounted from the unemployment figure. For instance, in January, 1.1 million workers were eliminated from the unemployment total because they were "officially" labeled discouraged workers. So instead of the number rising, we will hear deceptive reports about unemployment leveling off.
On top of this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently discovered that 824,000 job losses were never accounted for due to a "modeling error" in their data. Even in their initial January data there appears to be a huge understating, with the newest report saying the economy lost 20,000 jobs. TrimTabs employment analysis, which has consistently provided more accurate data, "estimated that the U.S. economy shed 104,000 jobs in January."
When you factor in all these uncounted workers -- "involuntary part-time" and "discouraged workers" -- the unemployment rate rises from 9.7 percent to over 20 percent. In total, we now have over 30 million U.S. citizens who are unemployed or underemployed. The rarely cited "employment-participation" rate, which reveals the percentage of the population that is currently in the workforce, has now fallen to 64 percent.
Even based on the "official" unemployment rate, just to get back to the unemployment level of 4.6 percent that we had in 2007, we need to create over 10 million new jobs, and most every serious economist will tell you that these jobs are not coming back. In fact, we are still consistently shedding jobs, on just one day, January 27, several companies announced new cuts of more than 60,000 jobs.
Due to the length of this crisis already, millions of Americans are reaching a point where the unemployment benefits they have been living on are coming to an end. More workers have already been out of work longer than at any point since statistics have been recorded, with over six million now unemployed for over six months. A record 20 million Americans qualified for unemployment insurance benefits last year, causing 27 states to run out of funds, with seven more also expected to go into the red within the next few months. In total, 40 state programs are expected to go broke.
Most economists believe the unemployment rate will remain high for the foreseeable future. What will happen when we have millions of laid-off workers without any unemployment benefits to save them?
Working More for Less
The millions struggling to find work are just part of the story. Due to the fact that we now have a record high six people for every one job opening, companies have been able to further increase the workload on their remaining employees. They have been able to increase the amount of hours Americans are working, reduce wages and drastically cut back on benefits. Even though Americans were already the most productive workers in the world before the economic crisis, in the third quarter of 2009, average worker productivity increased by an annualized rate of 9.5 percent, at the same time unit labor cost decreased by 5.2 percent. This has led to record profits for many companies. Of the 220 companies in the S&P 500 who have reported fourth-quarter results thus far, 78 percent of them had "better-than-expected profits" with earnings 17 percent above expectations, "the highest for any quarter since Thomson Reuters began tracking data."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median wage was only $32,390 per year in 2008, and median household income fell by 3.6 percent while the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent. With the unemployment rate now at 10 percent, median income has been falling at a 5 percent rate and is expected to continue its decline. Not surprisingly, Americans' job satisfaction level is now at an all-time low.
There are also a growing number of employed people who, despite having a job, are still living in poverty. There are at least 15 million workers who now fall into this rapidly growing category. $32,390 a year is not going to get you far in today's economy, and half of the country is making less than that. This is why many Americans are now forced to work two jobs to provide for their family to hopefully make ends meet.
A Crime Against Humanity
The mainstream news media will numb us to this horrifying reality by endlessly talking about the latest numbers, but they never piece them together to show you the whole devastating picture, and they rarely show you all the immense individual suffering behind them. This is how they "normalize the unthinkable" and make us become passive in the face of such a high causality count.
Behind each of these numbers, is a tremendous amount of misery; the physical toll is only outdone by the severe psychological toll. Anyone who has had to put off medical care, or who couldn't get medical care for one of their family members due to financial circumstances, can tell you about the psychological toll that is on top of the physical suffering. Anyone who has felt the stress of wondering how they were going to get their child's next meal or their own, or the stress of not knowing how they are going to pay the mortgage, rent, electricity or heat bill, let alone the car payment, gas, phone, cable or Internet bill.
These are all basic things every person should be able to easily afford in a technologically advanced society such as ours. The reason we struggle with these things is because the Economic Elite have robbed us all. This amount of suffering in the United States of America is literally a crime against humanity.
David DeGraw followed up with another article, The Richest 1% Have Captured America's Wealth -- What's It Going to Take to Get It Back?:
"The war against working people should be understood to be a real war.... Specifically in the U.S., which happens to have a highly class-conscious business class.... And they have long seen themselves as fighting a bitter class war, except they don't want anybody else to know about it." -- Noam Chomsky
As a record amount of U.S. citizens are struggling to get by, many of the largest corporations are experiencing record-breaking profits, and CEOs are receiving record-breaking bonuses. How could this be happening, how did we get to this point?
The Economic Elite have escalated their attack on U.S. workers over the past few years; however, this attack began to build intensity in the 1970s. In 1970, CEOs made $25 for every $1 the average worker made. Due to technological advancements, production and profit levels exploded from 1970 - 2000. With the lion's share of increased profits going to the CEO's, this pay ratio dramatically rose to $90 for CEOs to $1 for the average worker.
Paul Buchheit, from DePaul University, revealed, "From 1980 to 2006 the richest 1% of America tripled their after-tax percentage of our nation's total income, while the bottom 90% have seen their share drop over 20%." Robert Freeman added, "Between 2002 and 2006, it was even worse: an astounding three-quarters of all the economy's growth was captured by the top 1%."
Due to this, the United States already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the average worker much harder than CEOs, the gap between the top one percent and the remaining 99% of the US population has grown to a record high. The economic top one percent of the population now owns over 70% of all financial assets, an all time record.
As mentioned before, just look at the first full year of the crisis when workers lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans increased by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion, which is more than the combined net worth of 50% of the US population. Just to make this point clear, 400 people have more wealth than 155 million people combined.
Meanwhile, 2009 was a record-breaking year for Wall Street bonuses, as firms issued $150 billion to their executives. 100% of these bonuses are a direct result of our tax dollars, so if we used this money to create jobs, instead of giving them to a handful of top executives, we could have paid an annual salary of $30,000 to 5 million people.
So while US workers are now working more hours and have become dramatically more productive and profitable, our pay is actually declining and all the dramatic increases in wealth are going straight into the pockets of the Economic Elite.
If our income had kept pace with compensation distribution rates established in the early 1970s, we would all be making at least three times as much as we are currently making. How different would your life be if you were making $120,000 a year, instead of $40,000?
So it should come as no surprise to see that we now have the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world and the highest inequality of wealth in our nation's history. The backbone of America, a hard working middle class that has made our country a world leader, has been devastated.
Now that we have a better understanding of how our income has been suppressed over the past forty years, let's take a look at how the economy has been designed to take the limited money we receive and put it into the hands of the Economic Elite as well.
Costs of Living
Other than in the workplace, in almost all our costs of living the system is now blatantly rigged against us. Let's take a look at it, starting out with our tax system.
In total, the average US citizen is forced to give up approximately 30% of our income in taxes. This tax system is now strategically designed to flow straight into the hands of the Economic Elite. A huge percentage of our tax dollars ultimately end up in their pockets. The past decade proves that -- whether it's the Republicans or the Democrats running the government -- our tax money is not going into our community, it is going into the pockets of the billionaires who have bought off both parties - it is obscene.
For an example of how this system flows to the Economic Elite, just look at the Wall Street "bailout." The real size of the bailout is estimated to be $14 trillion - and could end up costing trillions more than that. By now you are probably also sick of hearing about the bailout, but stop and think about this for a momentÖ Do you comprehend how much $14 trillion is?
What could be accomplished with this money is almost beyond common comprehension.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg that has hit us. On top of the trillions given to the Wall Street elite, we already have a record $12.3 trillion in national debt - and we now have to pay $500 billion in interest to the Economic Elite on this debt every year, yet another way they are milking us dry. When you add in unfunded liabilities owed, like social security payments, we actually owe a stunning $74 trillion. That adds up to a debt of $242,000 for every man, woman and child in America.
Trillions more, 25% of taxpayer dollars allocated to military spending goes unaccounted for every year, not to mention the billions spent on overcharging and outright fraud. During the War on Terror, the Economic Elite have used our tax money to build a private army that has more soldiers deployed than the US military - a congressional study revealed that 69% of the "US" fighting forces deployed throughout the world in our name are in fact private mercenaries, 80% of them are foreign nationals. Private contractors regularly get paid three to five times more than our soldiers, and have been repeatedly caught overcharging and committing fraud on a massive scale. A congressional investigation revealed this and strongly recommended that we seize wasting tax dollars on these private military contractors. However, under Obama, there has actually been a drastic increase in total tax dollars spent on them.
In 2009, just over $1 trillion tax dollars were spent on the military, it's safe to say that at least $350 billion of that was needlessly wasted.
When you research our tax system you see an unprecedented level of waste and fraud rampant throughout most expenditures. Our tax system is a national disaster of epic proportions. It is literally an organized criminal operation that continues to rob us in broad daylight, with zero accountability.
Politicians and mainstream "news" outlets will not tell you this, but most every serious economist knows that due to so much theft and debt created in the tax system, the only way to fix things, other than stopping the theft and seizing the trillions that have been stolen, will be for the government to cut important social funding and drastically raise our taxes. Other than the record national debt, many states are running record deficits and ìbarreling toward economic disaster, raising the likelihood of higher taxes, more government layoffs and deep cuts in services.î Our nation's biggest state economies, like California and New York, are the ones in most trouble.
To merely say that things will not be improving economically is to be a delusional optimist. The truth that you will not hear: we have been hit by an economic deathblow and the United States lay in ruins.
It's not just this criminal tax system; the theft is now built into all our costs of living.
Trillions more in our spending on food and fuel has been stolen due to fraudulent stock transactions and overcharging. Just ten years ago, in 2000, American families paid 7% of our income on food and fuel. We now pay 20%. This drastic increase is primarily driven by fraudulent market manipulation that drives up stock prices. Congress uncovered this in 2006, as part of the Enron investigation they found that companies manipulated the oil market to create major spikes in stock values, and then they didn't do anything about it - nothing to see here, just move on.
As mentioned before, we have the most expensive health care system in the world and we are forced to pay twice as much as other countries, and the overall care we get in return ranks 37th in the world. On average, US citizens are now paying a record high 8% of their income on medical care.
Part of the reason why foreclosure rates are so high is because the percentage of income Americans pay on their housing has risen to 34%.
So for these basic necessities - taxes, food, fuel, shelter and medical bills - we have already lost 92% of our limited income. Then factor in ever-increasing interest rates on credit cards, student loans, rising prices for cable, internet, phone, bank fees, etc., etc., etcÖ. We are being robbed and gouged in all costs of living, in every aspect of our life. No wonder bankruptcies are skyrocketing and the amount of people suffering from psychological depression has reached an epidemic level.
The American worker is screwed over every step of the way, and it all starts with the explosion in the cost of a college education. This is one of the Economic Elite's most devastating weapons. To have any chance of succeeding in this economy, it is commonly believed that you must attend the best college possible. With the rising costs involved, today's students are graduating with record levels of debt from student loans. At the same time, the unemployment rate among recent college graduates has risen higher than the national average, and those that do find work are making significantly less than they expected to make. This combination of extreme debt and reduced pay has crippled an entire generation right from the start and has put them in a vicious cycle of spiraling debt that they will struggle with for the rest of their lives. The most recent college graduates are now known as a "lost generation."
The American dream has turned into a nightmare. The economic system is a sophisticated prison cell; the indentured servant is now an indebted wage slave; whips and chains have evolved into debts.
"There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by sword. The other is by debt." -- John Adams
Concealing National Wealth
"Liberty in the concrete signifies release from the impact of particular oppressive forces; emancipation from something once taken as a normal part of human life but now experienced as bondage... Today, it signifies liberation from material insecurity and from the coercions and repressions that prevent multitudes from participation in the vast cultural resources that are at hand."-- John Dewey
When you take the time to research and analyze the wealth that has gone to the economic top one percent, you begin to realize just how much we have been robbed. Trillions upon trillions of dollars that could make the lives of all hard working Americans much easier have been strategically funneled into the coffers of the Economic Elite. The denial of wealth is the key to the Economic Elite's power. An entire generation of massive wealth creation has been strategically withheld from 99% of the US population.
The US public doesn't have any understanding of how much wealth has been generated and concentrated into the hands of the Economic Elite over the past 40 years; there is no historical frame of reference. This withholding of wealth is truly the greatest crime against humanity in the history of civilization.
What could be done with all the money that has been hoarded by the Economic Elite is extraordinary!
Let's consider what we could do with the money that has been stolen from us? On top of what should be our average six-figure yearly income, we could have:
* Free health care for every American,
* A free 4 bedroom home for every American family,
* 5% tax rate for 99% of Americans,
* Drastically improved public education and free college for all,
* Significantly improved public transportation and infrastructure,
The list goes on...
This is not some far-fetched fantasy. These are all things that Franklin D. Roosevelt talked about doing in the 1940's, long before the explosion of wealth creation in our technologically advanced global economy. The money for all this is already there, stashed into the claws of the Economic Elite. The denial of wealth to the masses is the key to the Economic Elite's power. Outside of outdated and obsolete economic models and theories -- and incredibly short-sighted greed -- there is no reason why all this money should be kept in the hands of a few, at the immense suffering and expense of the many.
If Americans could just understand how much wealth is being withheld from us, we would have a massive uprising and the Economic Elite would be swept away, into the history books alongside the evil despots of the past.
I realize many of you will dismiss Mr. DeGraw's writings as socialist banter, but I will add that as far as I am concerned, the real master coup revolves around pensions and mutual funds. Many people have no clue where their pensions are being invested, who is profiting off the misfortune of others and what a racket mutual funds are charging exorbitant fees for mediocre results.
There is a financial coup going on right now across the world and while it may have started in the United States, the debt disease is spreading across the globe at the speed of light. Where and how will this all end? Can capitalism survive if wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of an economic elite that shows no sense of civic and moral duty to the societies they inhabit?
Karl Marx may be dead and his theories debunked, but I have a sick feeling in my gut that down the road, his dire prediction that capitalism is destined to self-destruct will ultimately be proven right.