Beacon of Stupidity

An entire nation has forgotten the words once spoken by its former president, John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country!”

There is no other way to explain why, ever since Reagan took office, Americans have been playing a game that results in less money for the poor and the middle class. Social benefits are being cut, and the very wealthy are getting a lot more money because they are pretty much the only ones enjoying regular tax reductions.

The phenomenon can be explained. Ever since Reagan’s presidency, Americans have been cutting social programs, having been led to believe the motto, “Smaller government leaves more money in the citizens’ wallets.”* In reality, American society has become more divided than ever. In May, Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz calculated that in the last ten years alone, the income of the richest one percent of Americans has increased 18 percent. In contrast, the entire middle class saw its income shrink. The hardest hit people have been male, blue-collars workers who “only” have a high school diploma. Their incomes sank by 12 percent during the same span of time.

If such conditions prevailed in Western Europe, there would be riots on the streets, and justifiably so. That is not true in the USA because there public anger is directed at the people themselves.

Tyranny of the Minority

There is no other way to understand the rise of the tea party movement. Over the course of the financial crisis, the white middle class, in particular, has made their anger clear by railing against the bank bailouts. Now that the movement has come full circle, even followers of Reagan have been overcome by right-wing extremists, and tea party representatives are pursuing policies that go against the interests of enraged conservative citizens, albeit with those citizens’ blessing. The tea party representatives’ ideological stubbornness gave way to political hypocrisy when they signed the now-universally-praised compromise austerity bill. Nevertheless, the tea party’s actions will hit their supporters hard. You would think that this is paradoxical or completely irrational.

And you would be way off. There is a system to the whole thing, and it is highly rational, albeit only from the perspective of the fat cats who have, thanks to Fox News and the guardians of anti-communism on radio and television, persuaded the infuriated middle class to praise every stupid attack on the state and public welfare as a victory for freedom.

However, it is slowly dawning on these same Americans that something is wrong with their democracy. Even the hysteria of the tea party appears to be dying down now that debt debate has ended for the time being. Three out of four Americans do not approve of their politicians.

The only thing that is missing is for the Americans to collectively notice that the country that fancies itself a “beacon of democracy” degenerated into a tyranny run by an economic minority quite a while ago.

There are regions of the world where social networks have fostered a more open culture of discussion and made the masses more enlightened. The few tyrants who are holding on in the face of the Arab Spring should have been kicked out already. Can the Americans get this job done as well? At least they have the logistical capability to do so.

*This quote, while accurately translated, could not be verified.

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