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400 Votes Is All 'They' Need

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With all due respect for Michael Moore and all of his hard work, including his April 5 OpEdNews article, "They Only Have 400 Votes", the following essay seeks to expand our thinking beyond those narrow boundaries. It's time for so-called 'Americans' to grow up and start taking responsibility for their own destiny instead of blaming a mere 400 people for the demise of the 'American middle-class'. Truth be known, we're all guilty by consent, and until we as a society withdraw that consent by building something new, we're all stuck with exactly what we've got.

After all, Michael, where do you think that $2 trillion came from in the first place? It's the money 'they' dragged out of 'our' asses through a siphoning process called 'wage labor'. This is the root of the problem, and it keeps getting worse because so-called 'democracy' in the United States is (and always has been) based on one vote per dollar, not one vote per person. So, with all due respect, you are incorrect to suggest "They Only Have 400 Votes". In theory, this might seem plausible. But in practice, 'they' actually have ALL of the votes while 'you' and 'I' are merely passive spectators in a decision-making process that some still naively call 'democracy' in the United States.

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In our more appropriately termed 'plutocracy', 'we' can have 'our' little protest demonstrations and wave 'our' picket signs all we want, and 'they' will continue to abscond with the loot. 'They' will always have the last word in the decision-making process, and 'they' will have all the economic and political power, because 'they' are ultimately 'us'.

That's right. 'They' -- those 400 people you consistently demonize, Michael -- happen to personify 'The American Dream' that 'we' all aspire to. So how can 'we' condemn 'them' and worship 'them' at the same time? Isn't 'upward mobility' what the so-called 'middle-class' is all about, Michael? Even if it were possible to somehow identify and eradicate all 400 of 'them', 400 of 'us' would eventually rise 'upward' to positions of power to replace all of 'them'.

In fact, since capitalism tends to concentrate great wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands over time, it would probably take less than 400 of 'us' to replace 'them'. This assumption isn't based in some kind of wacko Marxist theory. For a more conservative view, see any finance discussion regarding the compound rate and the so-called 'Time Value of Money', aka. 'exponential growth'. For a more liberal view, see any ecological discussion of exponential growth within a finite world. The latter is not merely a quantitative discussion regarding the availability of natural resources. It is a qualitative argument with regard to the crucial interrelations of all the species on this planet that are mutually supportive of human life. What happens when the wrong species is extincted by human activity and arbitrarily cuts off most of our food supply? At that point, climate change will be the least of our worries. The debate will be over. For more information, see any discussion regarding 'The Birds and the Bees'.

So, instead of attempting to shame those 400 people for abusing their positions of power, doesn't it make more sense to begin now in building a new system that prevents anyone from rising to extreme levels of power? As you advised in your last film, worker cooperatives and publicly owned banks are essential keys to establishing such a system. But as the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation demonstrates, those institutions must be coordinated into a mutually supportive complex that Father Greg MacLeod calls a "Community Development Corporation". MacLeod wrote a book called 'From Mondragon To America', for anyone who is interested in learning more about it. (Call Cape Bretton University Press at 902-563-1955 and talk to Mike Hunter to order a copy of this invaluable book. It's not available through Internet vendors.)

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The point is that overthrowing capitalism is as unnecessary as it is impractical. What makes a lot more sense is to eradicate unemployment, and let capitalism collapse on its own as a new system develops from within it. Capitalism relies upon some level of unemployment to keep its workforce obedient and to drive wages down so profits can rise. This is the glaring antagonism between workers and employers.

But when properly organized, Community Development Corporations respond most effectively to community needs by creating new enterprises and new jobs, and are by far the most viable means for combating unemployment. They remain cohesive and cooperative through mutually supportive associations, and are therefore the most sustainable form of business in the world today. The 'growth' problem remains to some extent, since communities and their citizens will always have 'needs'. But the 'growth imperative' is dramatically minimized in an economy that responds to 'needs' versus an economy that is driven to generate 'profit' regardless of 'needs'. Productive surplus fuels the expansion of publicly owned banks, which reciprocate by providing sustenance for existing cooperative firms and actively develops new ones. Moreover, spending credit into circulation from productive surplus replaces lending at interest, for the most part, to eradicate our criminal, debt-based monetary system.

Meanwhile, capitalism can continue on its merry way, trashing the environment, throwing people out of work, forcing them into debt, homelessness and starvation, and having its periodic 'crises'. But as Community Development Corporations begin to emerge in key communities throughout the world, those 400 people who currently have all the votes will eventually find themselves suffering from a poverty of leverage. As people are thrown out of work by capitalist firms, they will find new employment with cooperative enterprises where one vote per person prevails, not one vote per dollar. Moreover, employment within a Community Development Corporation is typically guaranteed for life, with a healthy retirement pension at the end. For every acre of the environment that is destroyed by capitalist exploits, new technologies and new ways of living emerge to correct those problems and to prohibit further abuse. In its infancy, the so-called 'new economy' is largely an effort to clean up the horrific mess that capitalism has left in its wake and to develop healthier and more sustainable social relations.

To conclude, perhaps you will consider these ideas, Michael, as you pursue your latest project. Thank you so much for all your hard work. It is moving and desperately needed in our world today. But more than a dramatic critique of capitalism, our world is in desperate need of viable solutions. Until people like you, who are center-stage and in the spotlight, begin to address the root of the problem directly, we will never change in any meaningful way as a society.

Granted, the American middle-class is suffering these days, but only because many of them have been forced into unemployment and into the ranks of the 'working poor'. While that is indeed unfortunate, it's really not much of a shift in comparison to overall income inequality in the United States. It's an assault that has been ongoing since long before Martin Luther King's 'Poor Peoples' Campaign'. Take a look at David Chandler's 'L-Curve' on the Internet when you get a chance, and read a book called "The Spirit Level" by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Conditions of income inequality and poverty have dramatically escalated over the past 40 years, yet nobody seems to have noticed until the middle-class was affected by the recent financial crises. Now suddenly, income inequality has become a household word, and we're all supposed to stand up and take notice.

At some point, Americans need to stop their childish sniveling about the attacks on the 'middle-class' and begin to realize that we're all in this boat together -- with the notable exception of about 400 people. We can't demand change from those 400 individuals, Michael. There is no incentive for 'them' to respond. 'Hope' and 'change' are the rhetorical blatherings of a politician on the campaign trail. The hard work of community development must be shouldered by 'we', the people, at the local and regional level.

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David Kendall lives in WA and is concerned about the future of our world.

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