Guest Post by Mark D. Schwartz
[NOTE: Submitted as a comment, I thought this piece merited wider discussion. The views expressed here are his own, but I welcome their articulation.]
We’re Used to Politicians Stealing from Us. Now They are Killing Us: So, Where is the Outrage of the 1960s?
Starting college in the early seventies, I missed out on the campus activism of the 1960’s all in reaction to the indignities foisted on American citizens by their government, whether it be the Vietnam war or racial and economic inequality. I’ve only read about the leaders of the SDS or Weather Underground who populated my alma mater, Swarthmore College, and other colleges. By the time I entered as a freshman, the funders of the school had locked things down
Five decades later I wonder why, despite all of the inequality, corruption and the outright obliteration of the middle class, and now Covid-19 deaths, such activism has not reignited.
Motivated by my education and having studied President Franklin Roosevelt’s use of government to combat the Great Depression, I then felt that government, if not the solution to society’s problems, could at least provide a level of opportunity for the disadvantaged.
In 1975 and 1976, I handled legislative policy for the Democrats in the Pennsylvania State House. I felt that I accomplished something. After law school I remained active and a believer in government and politics into the mid-1980s.
But that is when I got disgusted. The 1980s slapped me in the face.
For example, I had drafted legislation creating the Pennsylvania Economic Development Finance Authority to provide subsidized loans to emerging and small businesses. That’s how it all started.
Only a few years later I found that the recipients were conglomerates like international oil companies, using the authority to get cheap financing that they didn’t need.
And so it has been ever since in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The least needy, like AMAZON, have states competing, wasting billions in subsidies and tax abatements. All the while the truly needy get crumbs.
Government has become a transfer mechanism where the poor and middle class subsidize the rich. The end result has been the obliteration of that middle class and the hyper enrichment of the 1% who have an insatiable appetite for more.
Since my involvement, the Pennsylvania Legislature has transmogrified, from a body that met every other year, to the most bloated and expensive legislative body in the United States. Its members are comprised of people really terrific at getting elected, but clueless when it comes to governing. Their pay and benefits put them in a class of their own, bearing no resemblance to their constituents.
It is the same with our Congress. Our elected officials live in a bubble.
Then came the Trump era. Nobody with any stature seems to pay taxes. Taxes are for saps like you or me, not multi-billion-dollar corporations or their owners. Insider stock trading reigns unchallenged. The most predatory behavior is met with a yawn.
I always wondered how third-world dictators left office with hundreds of millions or billions stashed away. After watching Trump and his cronies directing government business and benefits to themselves, friends and family, I now see how it’s done. Government is all about the money. Not us. And Its all orchestrated down to the smallest detail.
We can thank COVID-19 for highlighting the lack of preparedness, inefficiency and outright corruption. As each state competed to attract AMAZON, they now bid against each other to get needed medical supplies and gear. The Federal government could have obviated all of this. Instead, it further bid up prices, competing with the states. It’s crazy, but deliberate.
Then there is that joke of a small business Paycheck Protection Program. It should have been called the “1% Paycheck Protection Program” repeatedly wasting billions on and granting tax forgiveness to the uber rich and other gluttons. Small business never had a chance, with the LA Lakers, AutoNation, Shake Shack, Ruth Chris, prep schools and Ivy League colleges like Harvard ahead of them at the public trough. If you happen upon the local pizza shop, deli, or beauty salon owner, ask them what they got. The overwhelming answer is “zero”.
Make no mistake, this too was deliberate. The authors of the bailout bills knew very well who was being benefited and who was being screwed. For this Trump has the good company of Senators McConnell, Schumer and House Speaker Pelosi. Trump can fire all the inspectors general that he wants when it comes to what will prove to be history’s biggest theft. We already know that the money is not coming to us.
Closer to home, when it comes to the Pennsylvania legislature, if they aren’t already in the 1%, they are a bunch of Trump wanna-bees. The hypocrisy and homophobia could not have been clearer than when it came to voting to override the Governor’s “stay at home” order. Did these liberators vote in the ornate House and Senate chambers? Of course not. They voted remotely, practicing social distancing in keeping us from doing so. There is no greater hypocrisy.
Trump has long ago failed in his empty promises of resurrecting long dead industry jobs in steel or coal, or in aiding the farmer. Like small business now, those who drank the cool-aid didn’t get job security. Moreover, it is embarrassingly clear that our “stable genius” President doesn’t read or care about data other than his own poll numbers. Other than polls, the only other numbers he cares about is the stock market, something that has long been a rigged game, not a “free market”.
Now, day after day, it is being propped up, with many billions of federal spending. Moreover, it has long proven to be simply a casino for high rollers. Now society’s “welfare queens” are the hedge fund managers who garner for themselves in just one year a huge multiple of what the rest of us will make in a lifetime.
Trump doesn’t care about Corona virus deaths, which now exceed our body count in the Vietnam war. But for the fact that a New York real estate developer pal of his died from it, Trump would still deny its existence. Besides, those deaths are disproportionately in the minority and poor communities, not his kind of folk. They don’t belong to Mar-a-Lago and don’t vote for him. Its long been clear that Trump doesn’t care about them.
As is evident from his daily Corona Virus Task Force briefings, he has no regard for science. They are pathetic campaign opportunities where his lackey scientists look down at their feet. Aid is doled out to the regions that voted for him. Governors desperate for aid must prostrate themselves before Trump and kiss the ring (or a certain other part of Trump’s anatomy).
As in all other matters, it’s all about Trump and his cronies, not us, as we are obliterated financially or physically. It strikes me that things are far worse than the conditions which motivated the student activists of the 1960s. Bob Dylan’s song included the verse “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows!” Perhaps we do.
Mark D. Schwartz is a 1975 graduate of Swarthmore College and a civil rights lawyer who lives in Bryn Mawr, PA