The anecdote goes that Marie Antoinette, the queen of France, inquired as to why the crowds were in the street demonstrating in 1789. She was informed that they had no bread to eat. She is said to have replied, “Why, then, let them eat cake!” However apocryphal the anecdote, it is pregnant with wisdom. In 1793 those same crowds executed her. Nowadays we have kinder ways of punishing failed politicians. We unelect them and give them a perch on basic cable.
There should be no confusion about who shut down the US government and why. It was shut down by billionaire backers of the so-called Tea Party faction in the Republican Party. They ordered their sockpuppets, like Ted Cruz, to defund the government so as to take a hostage for ransom. They don’t want to help pay for affordable health care for most Americans, because having $4.8 billion instead of $5 billion is just too humiliating. We don’t even know the names of Cruz’s biggest campaign contributors anymore because of the corruption in US campaign finance. But Goldman Sachs and Berkshire Hathaway want him there, and we can bet that the Koch Brothers do, too. They should all be boycotted.
We don’t have a functioning government this morning because our super-rich are on the whole too stingy to help guarantee all Americans the basic human right of health care. They won’t share, even though their tax rates are low in world terms and they couldn’t have gotten rich without the infrastructure and legal latticework provided by the US government, and without the skills and labor of American workers.
Did millions of these working Americans not have affordable health care? Let them, Ted Cruz says, go to the emergency room. Except that it is impossible for ERs to handle all those millions, and it is mmuch more expensive to have them treated that way, and pregnant mothers can’t get prenatal care at ERs. The number of babies lost and infants who die goes way up when the mothers don’t see a physician regularly during pregnancy, and poor women couldn’t afford to do that before Obamacare.
In other words, Ted Cruz and his billionaire backers are telling us, “let them eat cake.”
The Scrooge Oligarchs want to go back to the age of Robber Barons in the nineteenth century.
Those same billionaires, whether the Koch Brothers or the wealthiest investors in firms like Exxon-Mobil, have led the charge to prevent the US government from doing anything about the dire threat of global warming. They have funded liars to parade on television and deny the facts of human-caused climate change. In fact, eighth-grade chemistry should be enough of a background to understand that if you dump 35 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, it will cause global warming; C02 is a greenhouse gas that causes the atmosphere to retain the sun’s heat instead of radiating it back out into space.
And we don’t have the urgent (and I mean emergency) legislation we need to move immediately to solar and wind energy over the next two decades and to abandon coal, oil, and gas. In fact, since 30% of US CO2 emissions come from 1% of power plants, especially coal plants, the latter should be closed yesterday!
Just as the alarming UN climate report has appeared, promising us the loss of Miami and New Orleans to rising seas in the lifetime of our current newborns, the Republican Party has furloughed the workers of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ordinary Americans’ health and well-being are threatened as never before by carbon pollution issued by cosmic old farts like the Kochs.
It is dangerous for the super-rich to act so arrogantly. This is an America where unemployment is stubbornly high for the Millennials, where the top 1% are taking home 20% of the national income (twice the proporition of just a few decades ago), and where people are struggling. In this America, rich spoiled Ivy League types like Ted Cruz and his shadowy backers are closing down our government, trying to steal our health insurance, and conniving at inflicting drought and flood on us They are shouting “Let them eat cake!” in our faces. Americans will put up with a lot, but their patience isn’t infinite.
Karl Rove’s permanent Republican majority evaporated in 2008. The next stage of American political development may be a shift of the Democratic Party toward a genuine democratic socialism. If private insurance companies can’t provide us proper health insurance, we may have to go to single-payer. If power plants are endangering us, we may have to nationalize them and close them down in favor of solar coops. The prevailing order is not the only possible one, and by taking thought and by peaceful social action, the 99% can change the rules of the game.