Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability

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Under the regime of neoliberalism, especially in the United States, war has become an extension of politics as almost all aspects of society have been transformed into a combat zone. Americans now live in a society in which almost everyone is spied on, considered a potential terrorist, and subject to a mode of state and corporate lawlessness in which the arrogance of power knows no limits. The state of exception has become normalized.  Moreover, as society becomes increasingly militarized and political concessions become relics of a long-abandoned welfare state hollowed out to serve the interest of global markets, the collective sense of ethical imagination and social responsibility toward those who are vulnerable or in need of care is now viewed as a scourge or pathology.
What has emerged in this new historical conjuncture is an intensification of the practice of disposability in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess, consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance and incarceration. Moreover, this politics of disappearance has been strengthened by a fundamental intensification of increasing depoliticization, conducted largely through new modes of spying and the smothering, if not all-embracing, market-driven power of commodification and consumption.
Citizens are now reduced to data, consumers, and commodities and as such inhabit identities in which they increasingly "become unknowables, with no human rights and with no one accountable for their condition."[1] Within this machinery of social death, not only does moral blindness prevail on the part of the financial elite, but the inner worlds of the oppressed are constantly being remade under the force of economic pressures and a culture of fear. According to João Biehl, as the realpolitik of disposability "comes into sharp visibility . . .  tradition, collective memory, and public spheres are organized as phantasmagoric scenes, [that] thrive on the "energies of the dead," who remain unaccounted for in numbers and law."[2]   
Economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich have argued that we are in a new Gilded Age, one that mimics a time when robber barons and strikebreakers ruled, and the government and economy were controlled by a cabal that was rich, powerful and ruthless.[3] And, of course, blacks, women and the working class were told to mind their place in a society controlled by the rich. What is often missing in these analyses is that what is new in the second Gilded Age is not just about the moral sanctioning of greed, the corruption of politics by big money, and the ruthlessness of class power.
What is unique is the rise of a brutal punishing-incarceration state that imposes its power on the dispossessed, the emergence of a surveillance state that spies on and suppresses dissenters, the emergence of vast cultural apparatuses that colonize subjectivity in the interests of the market, and a political class that is uninterested in political concessions and appears immune from control by nation states. The second Gilded Age is really a more brutal form of authoritarianism driven by what psychologist Robert Jay Lifton rightly calls a "death-saturated age," in which matters of violence, survival and trauma now infuse everyday life. [4

... life has become completely unbearable for over half of the American public living in or near poverty.

Discarded by the corporate state, dispossessed of social provisions and deprived of the economic, political and social conditions that enable viable and critical modes of agency, expanding populations of Americans now find themselves inhabiting zones of abandonment marked by deep inequalities in power, wealth and income. Such zones are sites of rapid disinvestment, places marked by endless spectacles of violence, and supportive of the neoliberal logics of containment, commodification, surveillance, militarization, cruelty and punishment.
These zones of hardship and terminal exclusion constitute a hallmark signature and intensification of a neoliberal politics of disposability that is relentless in the material and symbolic violence it wages against the 99% for the benefit of the new financial elite. Borrowing from Hannah Arendt, one could say that capitalist expropriation, dispossession and disinvestment has reached a point where life has become completely unbearable for over half of the American public living in or near poverty.[5]
Evidence of such zones can be seen in the war against immigrants, poor minorities, the homeless, young people living in debt, the long-term unemployed, workers, the declining middle class, all of whom have been pushed into invisible communities of control, harassment, security and the governing-through-punishment complex.
The promises of modernity regarding progress, freedom and hope have not been eliminated; they have been reconfigured, stripped of their emancipatory potential and subordinated to the logic of a savage market instrumentality and individualization of the social. Dispossession and disinvestment have invalidated the promises of modernity and have turned progress into a curse for the marginalized and a blessing for the super-financial elite. Modernity has reneged on its undertaking to fulfill the social contract, however disingenuous or limited, especially with regards to young people. Long-term planning and the institutional structures that support them are now weakened, if not eliminated, by the urgencies of privatization, deregulation, flexibility and short-term investments. Social bonds have given way under the collapse of social protections and the welfare state and are further weakened by the neoliberal insistence that there are only "individual solutions to socially produced problems." [6]

"There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing."

Neoliberalism’s disposability machine is relentlessly engaged in the production of an unchecked notion of individualism that both dissolves social bonds and removes any viable notion of agency from the landscape of social responsibility and ethical considerations. Absorbed in privatized orbits of consumption, commodification and display, Americans vicariously participate in the toxic pleasures of a mode of authoritarianism characterized by the reactionary presence of the corporate state, the concentration of power and money in the upper 1% of the population, the ongoing militarization of all aspects of society, and the ongoing, aggressive depoliticization of the citizenry.
In its current historical conjuncture, the authoritarian state is controlled by a handful of billionaires (eg., the Koch Brothers), their families (eg., the Waltons) and a select class of zombie-like financial and corporate elite who now control the commanding economic, political and cultural institutions of American society. 
Mechanisms of governance have been transformed into instruments of war. Violence has become the organizing force of a society driven by a toxic notion of privatization in which it becomes difficult for ideas to be lifted into the public realm. Under such circumstances, politics is eviscerated because it now supports a market-driven view of society that has turned its back on the idea that "Humanity is never acquired in solitude." [7] That is, society has come undone in terms of the social contract and in doing so has turned its back on most Americans whose lives and futures are no longer determined by social spaces that give them a voice and provide the conditions for autonomy, freedom and equality. This violence against the social mimics is not just the death of the radical imagination, but also a notion of banality made famous by Hannah Arendt, who argued that at the root of totalitarianism was a kind of thoughtlessness, an inability to think, and a type of outrageous stupidity in which, "There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing."[8]  
The plight of disposable populations can be seen in the fact that millions of Americans are unemployed and are receiving no long-term benefits. Shockingly, the only source of assistance for one in 50 Americans "is nothing but a food stamp card." [9] Close to half of all Americans live on or beneath the poverty line while "more than a million public school students are homeless in the United States; 57 percent of all children are in homes considered to be either low-income or impoverished; and half of all American children will be on food stamps at least once before they turn 18 years old." [10] At the same time, the 400 richest Americans "have as much wealth as 154 million Americans combined, that’s 50 percent of the entire country [while] the top economic 1% of the US population now has a record 40 percent of all wealth and more wealth than 90 percent of the population combined." [11]
Within this system of power and disposability, the ethical grammars that draw our attention to the violence of such suffering disappear while dispossessed populations lose their dignity, bodies, and material goods and homes. The fear of losing everything, the horror of the engulfing precarity, the quest to merely survive, and the impending reality of social and civil death have become a way of life for the 99% in the United States.  Under the politics of disposability, the grammars of suffering, cruelty, and punishment have replaced the value of compassion, social responsibility and civic courage.

Young people are not seen as troubled but viewed as a source of trouble; rather than viewed as being "at risk," they are the risk and subject to a range of punitive policies.

The severity of the consequences of this shift in modernity under neoliberalism among youth is evident in the fact that this is the first generation, as Zygmunt Bauman argues, in which the "plight of the outcast may stretch to embrace a whole generation." [12] He rightly argues that today’s youth have been "cast in a condition of liminal drift, with no way of knowing whether it is transitory or permanent." [13] Youth no longer occupy the hope of a privileged place that was offered to previous generations.  They now inhabit a neoliberal notion of temporality marked by a loss of faith in progress along with the emergence of apocalyptic narratives in which the future appears indeterminate, bleak and insecure. Heightened prospects and progressive visions pale and are smashed next to the normalization of market-driven government policies that wipe out pensions, eliminate quality health care, raise college tuition, and produce a harsh world of joblessness, while giving millions to banks and the military. Students, in particular, now find themselves in a world in which heightened expectations have been replaced by dashed hopes and a world of onerous debt. [14]   
What has changed about an entire generation of  young people includes not only neoliberal society’s disinvestment in youth and the permanent fate of downward mobility but also the fact that youth live in a commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment that is unlike anything experienced by those of previous generations.  Nothing has prepared this generation for the inhospitable and savage new world of commodification, privatization, joblessness, frustrated hopes, surveillance and stillborn projects. [15] The present generation has been born into a throwaway society of consumers in which both goods and young people are viewed increasingly as redundant and disposable or they are merely valued as consumers and commodities. In this discourse, young people are not seen as troubled but viewed as a source of trouble; rather than viewed as being "at risk," they are the risk and subject to a range of punitive policies. 
The structures of neoliberal modernity do more than disinvest in young people and commodify them, they also transform the protected space of childhood into a zone of disciplinary exclusion and cruelty, especially for those young people further marginalized by race and class who now inhabit a social landscape in which they are increasingly disparaged as flawed consumers. With no adequate role to play as consumers, many youth are forced to inhabit "zones of social abandonment," extending from bad schools to bulging detention centers to prisons. [16] Youth have become a marker for a mode of disposability in which their fate is defined largely through the registers of a society that throws away resources, people and goods.  These are zones where the needs of young people are not only ignored, but where many young people, especially poor minority youth, are subjected to conditions of impoverishment and punishment that underserve them and often criminalize their behavior.  For example, with the hollowing out of the social state and the rise of the punishing state, the circuits of state repression, surveillance and disposability increasingly "link the fate of blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, poor whites, and Asian Americans" to a crime youth complex, which now serves as the default solution to major social problems. [17] Within these "zones of abandonment" and social death, poor minority and low-income youth are viewed as out of step, place, and time and defined largely as "pathologies feeding on the body politic," exiled to spheres of "terminal exclusion." [18]
As the welfare state is hollowed out, a culture of compassion is replaced by a culture of violence, cruelty and atomization. Within the existing neoliberal historical conjuncture, there is a merging of violence and governance and the systemic disinvestment in, and breakdown of, institutions and public spheres that have provided the minimal conditions for democracy. A generalized fear now shapes American society - one that thrives on insecurity, precarity, dread of punishment, and a perception of constant lurking threats. Americans occupy a historical conjuncture in which everything that matters politically, ethically and culturally is being erased - either ignored, turned into a commodity or simply falsified.
In the United States and many other countries, the state monopoly on the use of violence has not only intensified since the 1980s, but is unashamedly sanctioned by the new extremists in power. Under the regime of neoliberalism, this new-found embrace of social Darwinism and the culture of violence has been directed against young people, poor minorities, immigrants and, increasingly, women. Abandoned by the existing political system, young people are placing their bodies on the line, protesting peacefully across the globe while trying to produce a new language, politics, long-term institutions, and "community that manifests the values of equality and mutual respect that they see missing in a world that is structured by neoliberal principles." [19] Such movements are not simply about reclaiming space but also about producing new ideas, generating new conversations, and introducing a new political language. While there has been considerable coverage in the progressive media since 2001 given to the violence being waged against the movement protesters in Brazil, the United States, Greece and elsewhere, it is important to situate such violence within a broader set of categories that enables a critical understanding of not only the underlying social, economic and political forces at work in such assaults, but also makes it possible to reflect critically on the distinctiveness of the current historical period in which they are taking place. For example, it is difficult to address such state-sponsored violence against young people without analyzing the devolution of the social state, emergence of a politics of disposability, and the corresponding rise of the warfare and punishing state.
The merging of the military-industrial-academic-cultural complex and unbridled corporate power points to the need for strategies that address what is specific about the current warfare state and the neoliberal project and how different interests, modes of power, social relations, public pedagogies, and economic configurations come together to shape its politics of domestic terrorism, cruelty, and zones of disposability. Such a conjuncture is invaluable politically in that it provides a theoretical opening for making the practices of the neoliberal revolution visible to organize resistance to its ideologies, policies and modes of governance. It also points to the conceptual power of making clear that history remains an open horizon that cannot be dismissed through appeals to the end of history or end of ideology.[20] It is precisely through the indeterminate nature of history that resistance becomes possible and politics refuses any guarantees and remains open.  

As a mode of public pedagogy, a state of permanent war needs willing subjects to abide by its values, ideology and narratives of fear and violence.

A number of neoliberal societies, including the United States, have become addicted to violence. War provides jobs, profits, political payoffs, research funds, and forms of political and economic power that reach into every aspect of society. As war becomes a mode of sovereignty and rule, it erodes the distinction between war and peace. Increasingly fed by a moral and political frenzy, warlike values produce and endorse shared fears as the primary register of social relations. Shared fears and the media-induced panics that feed them produce more than a culture of fear. Such hysteria also feeds the growing militarization of the police, who increasingly use their high-tech scanners, surveillance cameras and toxic chemicals on anyone who engages in peaceful protests against the warfare and corporate state.  Images abound in the mainstream media of such abuses.
As a mode of public pedagogy, a state of permanent war needs willing subjects to abide by its values, ideology and narratives of fear and violence.  Such legitimation is largely provided through a market-driven culture addicted to production of consumerism, militarism, and organized violence, largely circulated through various registers of popular culture that extend from high fashion and Hollywood movies to the creation of violent video games and music concerts sponsored by the Pentagon. The market-driven spectacle of war demands a culture of conformity, quiet intellectuals and a largely passive republic of consumers. But it also needs subjects who find intense pleasure in the spectacle of violence.
As the pleasure principle is unconstrained by a moral compass based on a respect for others, it is increasingly shaped by the need for intense excitement and a never-ending flood of heightened sensations. In this instance, unfamiliar violence such as extreme images of torture and death become banally familiar, while familiar violence that occurs daily is barely recognized and relegated to the realm of the unnoticed and unnoticeable. As an increasing volume of violence is pumped into the culture, yesterday’s spine-chilling and nerve-wrenching violence loses its shock value. As the need for more intense images of violence accumulates, the moral indifference and desensitization to violence grows, while matters of cruelty and suffering are offered up as fodder for sports, entertainment, news media, and other outlets for seeking pleasure.
Marked by a virulent notion of hardness and aggressive masculinity, a culture of violence has become commonplace in a society in which pain, humiliation and abuse are condensed into digestible spectacles endlessly circulated through extreme sports, reality TV, video games, YouTube postings, and proliferating forms of the new and old media. But the ideology of hardness and the economy of pleasure it justifies are also present in the material relations of power that have intensified across the globe since the 1970s. Conservative and liberal politicians alike now spend millions waging wars around the globe, funding the largest military state in the world, providing huge tax benefits to the ultra-rich and major corporations, and all the while draining public coffers, increasing the scale of human poverty and misery, and eliminating all viable public spheres—whether they be the social state, public schools, public transportation, or any other aspect of a formative culture that addresses the needs of the common good. State violence, particularly the use of torture, abductions, and targeted assassinations are now justified as part of a state of exception that has become normalized. A "political culture of hyper punitiveness" has become normalized and accelerates throughout the social order like a highly charged electric current. [21]
A symptomatic example of the way in which violence has saturated everyday life can be seen in the growing acceptance of criminalizing the behavior of young people in public schools. Behaviors that were normally handled by teachers, guidance counselors, and school administrators are now dealt with by the police and the criminal justice system. The consequences have been disastrous for young people. Not only do schools resemble the culture of prisons, but young children are being arrested and subjected to court appearances for behaviours that can only be termed as trivial. This is not merely barbarism parading as reform - it is also a blatant indicator of the degree to which sadism and the infatuation with violence have become normalized in a society that seems to take delight in dehumanizing itself.           
As the social is devalued along with rationality, ethics, and any vestige of democracy, spectacles of  war, violence, and brutality now merge into forms of collective pleasure that constitute an important and new symbiosis between visual pleasure, violence, and suffering. The control/punishing society is now the ultimate form of entertainment as the pain of others, especially those considered disposable and powerless, has become the subject not of compassion but of ridicule and amusement. My emphasis here is on the sadistic impulse and how it merges spectacles of violence and brutality with forms of collective pleasure that often lend support and sway public opinion in favor of social policies and "lawful" practices that create zones of abandonment for youth. No society can make a claim to being a democracy as long as it defines itself through shared fears rather than shared responsibilities, especially in regards to young people. Widespread violence now functions as part of an anti-immune system that turns the economy of genuine pleasure into a mode of sadism that creates the foundation for sapping democracy of any political substance and moral vitality that might counter a politics of disposability more generally.
The prevalence of violence throughout American society suggests the need for a politics that not only negates the established order and the proliferating zones of disappearance and dispossession of subjects rendered useless or burdensome, but also imagines new radical visions in which the future diverges from the dark conditions of the present. [22] In this discourse, critique merges with a sense of realistic hope, and individual struggles merge into larger social movements. 
At the heart of the oppression experienced by young people and others are ideologies, modes of governance, and policies that embrace a pathological individualism, a distorted notion of freedom, and a willingness both to employ state violence to suppress dissent and abandon those suffering from a collection of social problems ranging from dire poverty and joblessness to homelessness. In the end, these are stories about disposability in which growing numbers of young people are considered dispensable and a drain on the body politic, the economy, and the sensibilities of the rich and powerful. Rather than work for a more dignified life, most young people now work simply to survive - that is, if they can find work - in a survival-of-the-fittest society in which getting ahead and accumulating capital, especially for the ruling elite, is the only game in town. In the past, public values have been challenged and certain groups have been targeted as superfluous or redundant. But what is new about the politics of disposability that has become a central feature of contemporary American politics is the way in which such antidemocratic practices have become normalized in the existing neoliberal order. A politics of inequality and ruthless power disparities is now matched by a culture of cruelty soaked in blood, humiliation and misery. Private injuries are not only separated from public considerations by such narratives, but accounts of poverty and exclusion have become objects of scorn. Similarly, all noncommercial public spheres where such stories might get heard are viewed with contempt, a perfect supplement to the chilling indifference to the plight of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.  
As politics is disconnected from its ethical and material moorings, it becomes easier to punish and imprison young people than to educate them. From the inflated rhetoric of the political right to market-driven media peddling spectacles of violence, the influence of these criminogenic and death-saturated forces in everyday life is undermining our collective security by justifying cutbacks to social supports and restricting opportunities for democratic resistance. Saturating mainstream discourses with anti-public narratives, the neoliberal machinery of social death effectively weakens public supports and prevents the emergence of much-needed new ways of thinking and speaking about politics in the 21st century. 

As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the biggest threat to the Gilded Age autocrats is solidarity . . .

Before this dangerously authoritarian mindset has a chance to take hold of our collective imagination and animate our social institutions, it is crucial that all Americans think critically and ethically about the coercive forces shaping US culture - and focus our energy on what can be done to change them. It will not be enough only to expose the falseness of the propaganda pumped out by the commanding neoliberal cultural apparatuses. We also need to create alternative narratives about what the promise of democracy might be for our children and ourselves. This demands a break from established political parties, the creation of alternative public spheres in which to produce democratic narratives and visions, and a notion of politics that is educative, one that takes seriously how people interpret and mediate the world, how they see themselves in relation to others, and what it might mean to imagine otherwise in order to act otherwise. 
At stake here is more than a call for reform. The American public needs to organize around a revolutionary ideal that enables people to hold power, participate in the process of governing, and create public institutions and discourses capable of explaining and reversing chronic injustices and power relations evident everywhere in society. This is a revolution that not only calls for structural change, but for a transformation in the ways in which subjectivities are created, desires are produced, and agency itself is safeguarded as crucial to any viable notions of community and freedom. Democracy requires, at the very least, a type of education that fosters a working knowledge of citizenship and the development of individuals with the capacity to be self-reflective, passionate about the collective good, and able to defend the means by which ideas are translated into the worldly space of the public realm. It is not enough to wait for the Occupy Movement to revitalize itself. [23] That is important, but is too limited a call for change. Such a struggle is impossible without an alliance among unions, working people, students, youth, educators, feminists, environmentalists and intellectuals.  In particular, organized labor, students, educators, and youth have to provide the base of a broader organization and social movement designed to dismantle casino capitalism.
Such an alliance has to be built around defending the common good, public values, economic and racial justice and environmental sustainability. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the biggest threat to the Gilded Age autocrats is solidarity and rightly so. The time has come for a surge of opposition in the name of democracy, one designed to save the planet from destruction and for a social order in which economic justice is matched with a reverence for care for the other. Politics becomes meaningless without a vision, a willingness to develop a radical collective imagination rooted in a formative culture that nourishes a vibrant sense of critique, civic courage, and sustained collective struggle. Any struggle that matters will have to reimagine and fight for a society in which it becomes possible once again to dream the project of a substantive democracy. This means, as Ulrich Beck has pointed out, looking for politics in new spaces and arenas outside of traditional elections, political parties, and "duly authorized agents." [24] It suggests developing public spaces outside of the regime of predatory corporatism and engaging in a type of counter politics that shapes society from the bottom up.
1. João Biehl, Vita: Life in A Zone of Social Abandonment, (Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2005), p. 4
2. Ibid., Biehl, Vita: Life in A Zone of Social Abandonment, p. 10.
3. See: Robert B. Reich, “McCutcheon took us back in time, but it might just birth the next Occupy,” The Guardian (April 6, 2014). Doug Henwood, “Our Gilded Age” The Nation, (June 30, 2008), pp. 14, 17. 
4. Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), p. 479. 
5. As indicated by a report from "the Corporation for Enterprise Development, nearly half of Americans are living in a state of "persistent economic insecurity," that makes it "difficult to look beyond immediate needs and plan for a more secure future." The CFED . . . report finds that 44 percent of Americans are living with less than $5,887 in savings for a family of four. Christopher Matthews, "Nearly Half of America Lives Paycheck-to-Paycheck," Time Magazine (June 30, 2014).
6. Zygmung Bauman, Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007), p. 14.
7. The quote by Karl Jaspers is cited in Hannah Arendt, The Last Interview and Other  Conversations,  (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Melville House Publishing, 2013), p. 37. 
8. Ibid., p. 48. 
9. Jason Deparle and Robert M. Gebeloff, "Living on Nothing but Food Stamps," The New York Times (January 3, 2010), p. A1.
10. Editor, "75 Economic Numbers From 2012 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe," The Economic Collapse Blog (December 20, 2012). Online: 
11. David DeGraw, "Meet the Global Financial Elites Controlling $46 Trillion in Wealth," Alternet (August 11, 2011).
12. Zygmunt Bauman, "Downward mobility is now a reality," The Guardian (May 31, 2012). Bauman develops this theme in detail in both Zygmunt Bauman, On Education, (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012) and Zygmunt Bauman, This Is Not A Diary, (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012).
13. Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives (London: Polity, 2004), p. 76.
14. See Steve Fraser, "The Politics of Debt in America: From Debtor’s Prison to Debtor Nation," TomDispatch.com (January 29, 2013). On the history of debt, see David Graeber,  Debt: The First 5,000 Years (New York: Melville House, 2012).
15. Ibid., Bauman, On Education,  p. 47. 
16. I have borrowed the term "zones of social abandonment" from Joäo Biehl, Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); see also Henry A. Giroux, Disposable Youth (New York: Routledge, 2012) and Michelle Alexander,The New Jim Crow (New York: The Free Press, 2012).
17. Angela Y. Davis, "State of Emergency," in Manning Marable, Keesha Middlemass and Ian Steinberg, Eds.  Racializing Justice, Disenfranchising Lives (New York: Palgrave, 2007), p. 324.
18. Joao Biehl, Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), p.14
19. Kyle Bella, "Bodies in Alliance: Gender Theorist Judith Butler on the Occupy and SlutWalk Movements," TruthOut (December 15, 2011).
20. Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (New York: Free Press, 1966) and the more recent Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 2006) .
21. Steve Herbert and Elizabeth Brown, "Conceptions of Space and Crime in the Punitive Neoliberal City," Antipode (2006), p. 757.
22. John Van Houdt, "The Crisis of Negation: An Interview with Alain Badiou," Continent, 1.4 (2011): 234-238.
23. This position has been taken up recently by former labor secretary, Robert Reich, see: Robert B. Reich, "McCutcheon took us back in time, but it might just birth the next Occupy," The Guardian (April 6, 2014).
 24. Ulrich Beck, Democracy without Enemies (London: Polity Press, 1998), p. 38.

Why Are Americans Paying to Be Searched, Spied On, Shot At and Robbed Blind by the Government?

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“To force a man to pay for the violation of his own liberty is indeed an addition of insult to injury.” - Benjamin Tucker, 19th century advocate of American individualist anarchism

The State Department wants $400,000 to purchase a fiberglass sculpture of a camel looking at a needle for its new embassy in Pakistan. They’ve already spent their allotted $630,000 to increase the number of “likes” and fans on their Facebook and Twitter pages. The NATO ambassador for the U.S. needs $700,000 for landscaping and gardening, the National Science Foundation would like $700,000 to put on a theatrical production about climate change, and the Senate staffers need $1.9 million for lifestyle coaching. Also, Yale University researchers could really use $384,000 so they can study the odd cork-screw shape of a duck’s penis.

I promise this is no belated April Fools’ joke. These are actual line items paid for by American taxpayers, whose tax dollars continue to be wasted on extravagant, unnecessary items that serve no greater purpose than to fatten the wallets of corporations and feed political graft (such as the $1 million bus stop, complete with heated benches and sidewalks which can only shelter 15 people and provides little protection from rain, snow, or the sun).

Case in point: despite the fact that we have 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, 16 million children living in households without adequate access to food, and at least 900,000 veterans relying on food stamps, enormous sums continue to be doled out for presidential vacations ($16 million for trips to Africa and Hawaii), overtime fraud at the Department of Homeland Security (nearly $9 million in improper overtime claims, and that’s just in six of the DHS’ many offices), and Hollywood movie productions ($10 million was spent by the Army National Guard on Superman movie tie-ins aimed at increasing awareness about the National Guard).

This doesn’t even touch on the astronomical amounts of money spent on dubious wars abroad.

Consider that since 2001, Americans have spent $10.5 million every hour for numerous foreign military occupations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s also the $2.2 million spent every hour on maintaining the United States’ nuclear stockpile, and the $35,000 spent every hour to produce and maintain our collection of Tomahawk missiles. And then there’s the money the government exports to other countries to support their arsenals, at the cost of $1.61 million every hour for the American taxpayers.

Then there’s the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which reinforces a government mindset in which the rights of the wealthy are affirmed by the courts, while the rights of average, working class Americans are routinely dismissed as secondary to corporate and governmental concerns. Under the guise of protecting free speech, a divided 5-4 Court did away with established limits on the number of candidates an individual can support with campaign contributions.

In doing so, the justices expanded on the Court’s landmark 2010 ruling inCitizens United v. FEC, which not only gave unfettered free speech rights to corporations but paved the way for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money promoting candidates, especially presidential candidates. What this does, of course, is turn the ballot box into an auction block, wherein those who are “elected” to public office are bought and paid for by those who can afford to support their campaigns—namely, lobbyists, corporations and high-dollar donors. (Then again, perhaps it will remain status quo. According to a 2013 study by Trinity University, U.S. Senators do not take into account the opinions and wishes of their lower class constituents. Rather, their voting was aligned with their upper class constituents. This dismissal of lower class opinion held true for both Republican and Democratic Senators, themselves made up of millionaires.)

When all is said and done, what we are witnessing is the emergence of a disconcerting government mindset that interprets the Constitution one way for corporations, government entities and the wealthy, and uses a second measure altogether for average Americans. For example, contrast the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the “free speech” rights of corporations and wealthy donors in McCutcheon and Citizens United with its tendency to deny those same rights to average Americans when government interests abound, such as in its 2012 decision in Reichle v. Howards, where a unanimous Supreme Court allowed immunity protections for Secret Service agents to trump the free speech rights of Americans, and you’ll find a noticeable disparity.

Unfortunately, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this constitutional double standard is coming to bear in all aspects of our lives, not just in the realm of campaign finance law. It allows lobbyists intimate access to our elected officials, while prohibiting Americans from even standing silently in protest near a government building; it grants immunity to police officers who shoot unarmed citizens, while harshly punishing Americans who attempt to defend themselves, mistaking a SWAT team raid for a home invasion; and it gives government agents carte blanche access to Americans’ communications and activities, while allowing the government to operate in secret, with secret hearings, secret budgets and secret agendas.

This is a far cry from how a representative government is supposed to operate. Indeed, it has been a long time since we could claim to be the masters of our own lives. Rather, we are now the subjects of a militarized, corporate empire in which the vast majority of the citizenry work their hands to the bone for the benefit of a privileged few.

Adding injury to the ongoing insult of having our tax dollars misused and our so-called representatives bought and paid for by the moneyed elite, the government then turns around and uses the money we earn with our blood, sweat and tears to target, imprison and entrap us, in the form of militarized police, surveillance cameras, private prisons, license plate readers, drones, and cell phone tracking technology.

All of those nefarious deeds that you read about in the paper every day: those are your tax dollars at work. It’s your money that allows for government agents to spy on your emails, your phone calls, your text messages, and your movements. It’s your money that allows out-of-control police officers to burst into innocent people’s homes, or probe and strip search motorists on the side of the road. And it’s your money that leads to innocent Americans across the country being prosecuted for innocuous activities such as raising chickens at home, growing vegetable gardens, and trying to live off the grid.

Just remember the next time you see a news story that makes your blood boil, whether it’s a police officer arresting someone for filming them in public, or a child being kicked out of school for shooting an imaginary arrow, or a homeowner being threatened with fines for building a pond in his backyard, remember that it is your tax dollars that are paying for these injustices.

So what are you going to do about it?

There was a time in our history when our forebears said “enough is enough” and stopped paying their taxes to what they considered an illegitimate government. They stood their ground and refused to support a system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Their resistance sowed the seeds for the revolution that would follow.

Unfortunately, in the 200-plus years since we established our own government, we’ve let bankers, turncoats and number-crunching bureaucrats muddy the waters and pilfer the accounts to such an extent that we’re back where we started. Once again, we’ve got a despotic regime with an imperial ruler doing as they please. Once again, we’ve got a judicial system insisting we have no rights under a government which demands that the people march in lockstep with its dictates. And once again, we’ve got to decide whether we’ll keep marching or break stride and make a turn toward freedom.

But what if we didn’t just pull out our pocketbooks and pony up to the federal government’s outrageous demands for more money? What if we didn’t just dutifully line up to drop our hard-earned dollars into the collection bucket, no questions asked about how it will be spent? What if, instead of quietly sending in our checks, hoping vainly for some meager return, we did a little calculating of our own and started deducting from our taxes those programs that we refuse to support?

If we don’t have the right to decide what happens to our hard-earned cash, then we don’t have very many rights at all. If they can just take from you what they want, when they want, and then use it however they want, you can’t claim to be anything more than a serf in a land they think of as theirs. This was the case in the colonial era, and it’s the case once again.

Is the US or the World Coming to an End?

It will be one or the other

Go To Original

2014 is shaping up as a year of reckoning for the United States.
Two pressures are building on the US dollar. One pressure comes from the Federal Reserve’s declining ability to rig the price of gold as Western gold supplies shrivel and market knowledge of the Fed’s illegal price rigging spreads. The evidence of massive amounts of naked shorts being dumped into the paper gold futures market at times of day when trading is thin is unequivocal. It has become obvious that the price of gold is being rigged in the futures market in order to protect the dollar’s value from QE.
The other pressure arises from the Obama regime’s foolish threats of sanctions on Russia. Other countries are no longer willing to tolerate Washington’s abuse of the world dollar standard. Washington uses the dollar-based international payments system to inflict damage on the economies of countries that resist Washington’s political hegemony.
Russia and China have had enough. As I have reported and as Peter Koenig reports here http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38165.htm Russia and China are disconnecting their international trade from the dollar. Henceforth, Russia will conduct its trade, including the sale of oil and natural gas to Europe, in rubles and in the currencies of its BRICS partners.
This means a big drop in the demand for US dollars and a corresponding drop in the dollar’s exchange value.
As John Williams (shadowstats.com) has made clear, the US economy has not recovered from the downturn in 2008 and has weakened further. The vast majority of the US population is hard pressed from the lack of income growth for years. As the US is now an import-dependent economy, a drop in the dollar’s value will raise US prices and push living standards lower.
All evidence points to US economic failure in 2014, and that is the conclusion of John Williams’ April 9 report.
This year could also see the breakup of NATO and even the EU. Washington’s reckless coup in Ukraine and threat of sanctions against Russia have pushed its NATO puppet states onto dangerous ground. Washington misjudged the reaction in Ukraine to its overthrow of the elected democratic government and imposition of a stooge government. Crimea quickly departed Ukraine and rejoined Russia. Other former Russian territories in Ukraine might soon follow. Protesters in Lugansk, Donetsk, and Kharkov are demanding their own referendums. Protesters have declared the Donetsk People’s Republic and Kharkov People’s Republic. Washington’s stooge government in Kiev has threatened to put the protests down with violence. http://rt.com/news/eastern-ukraine-violence-threats-405/ Washington claims that the protests are organized by Russia, but no one believes Washington, not even its Ukrainian stooges.
Russian news reports have identified US mercenaries among the Kiev force that has been sent to put down the separatists in eastern Ukraine. A member of the right-wing, neo-Nazi Fatherland Party in the Kiev parliament has called for shooting the protesters dead.
Violence against the protesters is likely to bring in the Russian Army and result in the return to Russia of its former territories in Eastern Ukraine that were attached to Ukraine by the Soviet Communist Party.
With Washington out on a limb issuing threats hand over fist, Washington is pushing Europe into two highly undesirable confrontations. Europeans do not want a war with Russia over Washington’s coup in Kiev, and Europeans understand that any real sanctions on Russia, if observed, would do far more damage to Europeans. Within the EU, growing economic inequality among the countries, high unemployment, and stringent economic austerity imposed on poorer members have produced enormous strains. Europeans are in no mood to bear the brunt of a Washington-orchestrated conflict with Russia. While Washington presents Europe with war and sacrifice, Russia and China offer trade and friendship. Washington will do its best to keep European politicians bought-and-paid-for and in line with Washington’s policies, but the downside for Europe of going along with Washington is now much larger.
Across many fronts, Washington is emerging in the world’s eye as duplicitous, untrustworthy, and totally corrupt. A Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuting attorney, James Kidney used the occasion of his retirement to reveal that higher ups had squelched his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other “banks too big to fail,” because his SEC bosses were not focused on justice but “on getting high-paying jobs after their government service” by protecting the banks from prosecution for their illegal actions. http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/09/65578/
The US Agency for International Development has been caught trying to use social media to overthrow the government of Cuba. http://rt.com/news/cuba-usaid-senate-zunzuneo-241/
This audacious recklessness comes on top of Washington’s overthrow of the Ukrainian government, the NSA spying scandal, Seymour Hersh’s investigative report that the Sarin gas attack in Syria was a false flag event arranged by NATO member Turkey in order to justify a US military attack on Syria, Washington’s forcing down Bolivian President Evo Morales’ presidential plane to be searched, Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” the misuse of the Libyan no-fly resolution for military attack, and on and on. Essentially, Washington has so badly damaged other countries’ confidence in the judgment and integrity of the US government that the world has lost its belief in US leadership. Washington is reduced to threats and bribes and increasingly presents as a bully.
The self-inflicted hammer blows to Washington’s credibility have taken a toll. The most serious blow of all is the dawning realization everywhere that Washington’s crackpot conspiracy theory of 9/11 is false. Large numbers of independent experts as well as more than one hundred first responders have contradicted every aspect of Washington’s absurd conspiracy theory. No aware person believes that a few Saudi Arabians, who could not fly airplanes, operating without help from any intelligence agency, outwitted the entire National Security State, not only all 16 US intelligence agencies but also all intelligence agencies of NATO and Israel as well.
Nothing worked on 9/11. Airport security failed four times in one hour, more failures in one hour than have occurred during the other 116,232 hours of the 21st century combined. For the first time in history the US Air Force could not get interceptor fighters off the ground and into the sky. For the first time in history Air Traffic Control lost airliners for up to one hour and did not report it. For the first time in history low temperature, short-lived, fires on a few floors caused massive steel structures to weaken and collapse. For the first time in history 3 skyscrapers fell at essentially free fall acceleration without the benefit of controlled demolition removing resistance from below.
Two-thirds of Americans fell for this crackpot story. The left-wing fell for it, because they saw the story as the oppressed striking back at America’s evil empire. The right-wing fell for the story, because they saw it as the demonized Muslims striking out at American goodness. President George W. Bush expressed the right-wing view very well: “They hate us for our freedom and democracy.”
But no one else believed it, least of all the Italians. Italians had been informed some years previously about government false flag events when their President revealed the truth about secret Operation Gladio. Operation Gladio was an operation run by the CIA and Italian intelligence during the second half of the 20th century to set off bombs that would kill European women and children in order to blame communists and, thereby, erode support for European communist parties.
Italians were among the first to make video presentations challenging Washington’s crackpot story of 9/11. The ultimate of this challenge is the 1 hour and 45 minute film, “Zero.” You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU961SGps8g&feature=youtu.be
Zero was produced as a film investigating 9/ll by the Italian company Telemaco. Many prominent people appear in the film along with independent experts. Together, they disprove every assertion made by the US government regarding its explanation of 9/11.
The film was shown to the European parliament.
It is impossible for anyone who watches this film to believe one word of the official explanation of 9/11.
The conclusion is increasingly difficult to avoid that elements of the US government blew up three New York skyscrapers in order to destroy Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah and to launch the US on the neoconservatives agenda of US world hegemony.
China and Russia protested but accepted Libya’s destruction even though it was to their own detriment. But Iran became a red line. Washington was blocked, so Washington decided to cause major problems for Russia in Ukraine in order to distract Russia from Washington’s agenda elsewhere.
China has been uncertain about the trade-offs between its trade surpluses with the US and Washington’s growing encirclement of China with naval and air bases. China has come to the conclusion that China has the same enemy as Russia has–Washington.
One of two things is likely: Either the US dollar will be abandoned and collapse in value, thus ending Washington’s superpower status and Washington’s threat to world peace, or Washington will lead its puppets into military conflict with Russia and China. The outcome of such a war would be far more devastating than the collapse of the US dollar.