The Great Unmentionable

jacdon at jacdon at
Fri Oct 20 12:38:49 MDT 2000

Our small local group, the Mid-Hudson National People’s Campaign, just
sent the following to our Email list of over 300 activists in New York’s
Mid-Hudson Valley, hardly any of whom are Marxists, though there are a
number of Greens, direct-action students, pacifists, anti-imperialists
and fed-up progressives of many types.  Our intention was to bring the
question of class, and especially the existence of a ruling class, into
their thinking about the upcoming elections.  Too often Marxists end up
talking to themselves, so we tried to reach out to a non-Marxist
community of activists in hopes of having some influence.  The attempt
and/or the piece itself may be of interest to members of this list.
Jack A. Smith, Highland, NY


THERE’S ONE KEY FACT OF LIFE in the United States that neither George W.
Bush nor Al Gore is going to mention in the presidential campaign--not
in the debates, not in stump speeches and probably not even in
conversation with the closest of their fellow millionaires.

That fact is the identity of who really rules America.  The national
mythology insists there is no ruling class in the United States, and
that a democratic majority of all the people is in charge of our society
and state.  Myths aside, it’s not hard to determine who actually rules
the proverbial roost.  Just identify what group holds and deals the
serious money, the kind of money that doesn’t merely talk but roars
commands--all the way from the assembly line to the highest levels of

According to the latest figures published by the federal government’s
Survey of Consumer Finances, the richest 1% of the population possess
over 40% of the total national wealth.  Other figures show that the
combined net worth of these households, which amounts to $10 trillion,
is greater than the wealth held by the bottom 95% of the people in our
country.  The top 4% just behind the top 1% possess another 21% of the
national wealth.  This top 5% is a class that rules because its money
lubricates the wheels of the economic system and the attendant social,
political and cultural apparatus, and also identifies, nurtures and
sustains those leaders who control the major corporations and, of
course, the government.

The last 25 years have been good to the richest 1%, which doubled its
share of the national wealth since the mid-1970s.  Contributing to this
process have been a series of tax breaks, deceptive loopholes and
corporate welfare benefits that would astonish the bottom 90% if they
ever found out.

There’s a lot of talk about “people’s capitalism”  today because so many
workers have pension plans invested in mutual fund stocks and
securities, not to mention the new internet investors, and because there
are millions of businesses.  The fact is that the top 1% own over half
the stocks, over 60% of the securities and about two-thirds of business
assets.  The next 4% own much of the rest.

The top 10% of the people are doing well, but from there on down the
picture changes.   The working class, which includes the bulk of the
population, has been losing steadily for over 20 years, with the
average  standard of living dropping around 10% or more as the rich got
outrageously richer. Weekly wages for workers adjusted for inflation
average 12% lower than in 1973, even as labor hours have increased
markedly and productivity keeps jumping to new highs. Unemployment is
falling to record lows, but that’s because low-low-wage jobs are being
created at a far greater rate than mid-wage jobs. The bottom 40% of the
people lost about 80% of its tiny net worth between the mid-’80s and
mid-’90s. The bottom 25% get poverty level wages, resulting in an
estimated 36 million Americans who do not have access to adequate
food.   More than 30 million American kids are very poor. More than 40
million citizens don’t have medical insurance.  Of course the plight of
African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and other minorities is
the worst of all, and women workers still get cheated out of 30% of the
wages they should take home.

The Clinton-Gore solution to the growing gap in income between the very
rich and poor in America is to cut welfare, to make it harder to obtain
food stamps and to build more prisons and hire more cops.  Bush’s
solution appears to be a big tax cut for the wealthy, to privatize
Social Security, and to build more prisons and hire more cops.  In
recent weeks Gore has projected a pseudo-populist facade, but his record
shows he is as much in liege to the ruling class as his newly
“compassionate” opponent.

It’s turning out to be a zero-sum game, this economic system of ours.
The more riches that fall into the hands of the few, the less that
accumulate in the hands of the many.  Money--and the grossly
disproportionate acquisition thereof through competition and profit--may
not be the root of all evil, but it’s certainly the root of our system.
They teach us this in school, as though it’s a virtue.  What they don’t
teach is that the possession of enormous wealth by a small
minority--while a great majority, the working class, is just scraping by
and many are in a free-fall to destitution--constitutes a class system
wherein the minority  rules  due to the extraordinary power of its
bloated assets.

Gore tinkers with the concept of social class by occasionally referring
to the euphemism, “working families” (thereby reducing the majority of
our people to powerless nuclear units),  but he generally joins Bush in
speaking of the  “middle class.”  This term implies the existence of an
“upper” and “lower” way out there in the inconsequential fringe, but
such inconvenient categories are rarely mentioned since just about
everyone--undoubtedly including the millionaire candidates
themselves--has been homogenized into the Great American Middle Class in
order to obfuscate just who is responsible for taking the bread off the
table of the working class.  Anyway, we’re told,  the “upper” class is
composed of people who work hard and are lucky, and the “lower” class
consists of those who are lazy and deserve their fate--so envy the one,
despise the other, keep on buying lottery tickets and vote for the
Democrat or Republican of your choice.

A trillion dollars is a million million dollars.  Then multiply by 10.
That’s what the top 1% has in its assets account.  That kind of money
doesn’t  languish in vaults, doing nothing.  It is invested in a process
that ultimately determines economic, social and political outcomes on a
mega-scale.  It is long past time to mention the unmentionable and to
interject into the political system the reality that those who control
these trillions, and their hangers-on, rule America.   And they will
continue ruling until the working class of our country puts a stop to


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