The theme of this year’s Blog Action Day is inequality. Income distribution in the U.S. is at record levels of inequality, as described by David DeGraw in his valuable, must-read piece entitled Peak Inequality: The 0.01% And The Impoverishment Of Society. The current level of inequality in the U.S. is incompatible with democratic order, which is no longer how the nation can be described; and it is unsustainable. The question then is what should be done about it, revolution or reform?
British comedian Russell Brand has a new book entitled Revolution, and he was on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss it last night. Via MSNBC:
In this interview, neither Brand nor O’Donnell describe how a revolution would come about. That is the nub of the problem in the United States. Brand does say that he’s referring to non-violent revolution, but that suggests the need for a revolutionary party. The closest we have to that in the United States is the Green Party, and their candidate, Jill Stein, received just under 0.5% of the popular vote in 2012. There just are not enough people at this point feeling the pain of inequality, and those who do either don’t vote or do not understand what Brand understands, i.e., that both major parties have become tools of the corporate elite.
This leaves reform. After the Roaring Twenties led to a stock market crash in 1929 with an administration unwilling to take the kinds of measures needed to pull the economy out of a deep depression, the American people elected a progressive reformer in FDR. Brand may be right, that there won’t be someone who will lead us away from “peak inequality;” but no one knew just how far-reaching FDR’s New Deal would be.
It needs to be stressed that no one is discussing financial or material equality. As DeGraw points out in Peak Inequality, only 0.5% of the wealth of the 1% richest Americans would eliminate poverty in the U.S. That is not likely going to happen when super PACs of the billionaires and transnational corporations are allowed to spend however much they need to ensure only candidates they approve of, generally, can get elected.
At some point a mass movement will have to arise to address #inequality. In order to create real democracy in the United States — a government of, by and for all people, and only people — the U.S. Constitution will have to be amended to abolish the two illegitimate, Court-created legal doctrines that 1) money is speech and 2) corporations have constitutional rights. Otherwise, over time, we’ll just end up in yet another gilded age, not as a republic, but as a corporate-state.