At the end of World War II, corporations paid half the cost of the federal government. They now pay 7 percent, and many of them pay 0 percent. Unless you are very wealthy, you pick up the tab, and the tab has grown. The federal government now spends more than what it spends on everything else on the military alone, and that cost keeps rising.
So does the price of oil and gas, which is great for oil corporations, and maybe even for the chance our species has of surviving on earth, but not for your wallet. Americans are going more heavily into debt than ever, which is great for the credit card companies, banks, and blowhard politicians, but the most reckless debtor of all is the federal government, which makes things even worse for us.
Pensions are vanishing along with unions and jobs. Student loans are shrinking and college costs rising. Health care costs, too, are rising, while health insurance slips out of reach. Washington is still working hard to trash (or "privatize") Social Security and Medicare.
New Orleans still lies in ruins. Home insurance companies have still not paid up. Washington has still not stepped up. And Bush has neither apologized nor ceased making jokes about people's suffering.
Bush, on one of his Katrina-damage tours, remarked:
"An old lady walked up to me... and I said, 'How are you doing?' And she looked at me and she said, 'Not worth a darn.' And I said, 'Well, I don't blame you.' She said, 'I've been paying all my life for my insurance. Every time that bill came, I paid it... And, all of a sudden the storm hit, Mr. President, and it came time to collect, and they told me, no.' And she was plenty unhappy and she was looking for anybody she could be unhappy with, and I just happened to be the target."
"No, Mr. President, you actually WERE someone she thought might be able to help her, a subtle difference that may have gone above your head."
The trouble is that it may have gone above some of his listeners' heads too. There are people who take it for granted that Bush can choose to destroy entire nations, but who accept at face value his claim that he has no power whatsoever to see that the victims of a hurricane are cared for. And it goes over even more heads that the two things are intimately related. We are killing and dying for the fossil fuels that lead to the destruction of global warming, and the financial cost of the killing and dying produces massive destruction in our economy. Meanwhile, we've allowed our government to empower loan sharks and insurance agents of all varieties to defraud us and defenestrate us from our homes.
Prins' advice is to write hand-written letters to your congress member's district office. Mine is to get this book read by any non-millionaires you know who believe "conservatism" to be something other than a cover for robbing the poor to enrich the wealthy. If enough people understood what we were doing, perhaps we could go to Washington with the message: "We've come to collect, and you don't just happen to be our target, and we won't take No for an answer."