Nepal, 2009: An angry crowd takes to the streets, torches in hand.
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Right-wing economists and their mouthpieces are fond of telling us that the economy isn’t a “zero-sum game,” that we are constantly creating new wealth, so we shouldn’t begrudge General Electric and other corporations being able to keep more of the money that their innovations have begotten because “the pie keeps getting bigger,” and it therefore shouldn’t matter if the corporations’ slices are growing at an unprecedented rate.
This is, of course, no more than a clumsy lie on behalf of thieves who despoil our country for their greater gain and use a minuscule fraction of the proceeds to pay the liars.
Ultimately, wealth is based on real assets; anything beyond that is a bubble that will implode under pressure when the assets run short — as they are now starting to do. If the corporations’ wealth consisted entirely in numbers in a ledger, and those numbers didn’t ultimately represent actual property, right-wing economic reasoning would make sense. But those numbers mean something. They mean tangible and useful property where people could build and live, were it not in the hands of corporate executives who already own far more than they can ever use. They also mean, as this article reminds us, that the funds that would otherwise keep our schools open, our roads in good repair, our poor and disabled fed and housed, our air and water clean, our food safe to eat are no longer available: The profit that GE and its congeners have taken from the economy will not be returned to it in the form of taxes to pay for these and other services.
To them who need but do not have we say, “We can’t afford to help.” To those who have and do not need, but who want ever more, we say, “Take it with our blessings.”
But the central concern goes deeper, for in it lie the roots of America’s growing discontent. It is not a matter of things, but of our freedom to enjoy what once made our nation a great place to live, by comparison to an aristocratic Europe, even for the poorest of us. What I wrote several years ago now applies more than ever:
I do not envy the rich their possessions. For their baubles I have no desire.
Let there not be equal wealth: Let there be equal access.
Let us all have equal access to representation in government, equal access to educational, social and economic opportunity, equally habitable homes.
Most of all, let none of us be stuck: Let none of us be stuck on a treadmill of futility. Let none of us be stuck in employment hell. Let none of us be stuck downwind from a freeway or chemical plant.
Let us have access to untainted air and water; to peace and privacy; to the reviving breath of nature; to room enough to stretch our limbs, freedom enough to speak our minds, justice enough not to break our hearts.
This is all we want: equal access.