By Jesse Crall
We can’t solve problems in this country without first identifying them. And the problems are certainly legion, during a pandemic or not. So what’s key is for us to find larger, systemic problems that lead to all the smaller ones affecting every aspect of our lives. My own view, hardly unique, is that the great failings in our country, the income inequality, the healthcare crisis, the environmental destruction…stem from the way power concentrates in so few hands. It’s absolutely imperative that we break this power down and democratize it in politics and in business. Labor unions weren’t decimated by accident. The Coronavirus bailout packages didn’t benefit corporate executives by mistake. Power at the top wields itself across the political landscape and reaps all the benefits while everyone else waits for crumbs.
Compare this concentrated power to a tiger that’s gotten into our house. Corporatist politicians compliment the tiger’s stripes. More progressive politicians attempt to housebreak the tiger and then yell ineffectually when it doesn’t work.
I’m trying to get the tiger out of the house.
We can look at the gross concentration of power and slap on regulations or anti-trust laws, raise the minimum wage, repeal anti-union laws – all nice steps forward that would make life a little easier, a little better for many Americans. But we still have a tiger in the house. We’re still engaged in a never-ending war against forces happy to let people suffer and the planet die in order to squeeze out more profits, expand their market share or buy a second beach house.
The average farm worker, so vital to our economy at any time, let alone a pandemic, earns about $15,000 a year, wages flirting with the poverty line. The CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink, accumulated a net worth of $1 billion despite profiting off the deforestation and eventual mass burning of the Amazon. Is that right? Does an economy that produces these results warrant regulations and changes to the tax code? Or does it warrant a fundamental re-imagining? Does it warrant getting the tiger out of the house?
I’m afraid that we’re going to emerge from this pandemic and things are just going to be a little bit worse. There will be a few more people unemployed, corporations will own a little bit more, private equity will have a little more control, our political system will be a little more bought, and we’re going to have a little less money for schools and healthcare, a little more in corporate subsidies. It’s going to look the same, it’s going to feel worse and we’re not going to be able to put our finger on it.
Because people aren’t going to be talking about concentrated power. They aren’t going to be talking about corporate influence in our lives and what we can do to break it down. They’re still going to be talking about capitalism and socialism in theoretical terms and the capitalists are going to win every argument because they have all the power and money. And the socialists are going to think that they’re winning because a poll says that people like Medicare For All.
And all we will be doing is arguing over how to best tame the tiger instead of working together to get the tiger out of the house.
A Los Angeles native, Jesse Crall graduated from UCLA’s English Department before working as a copywriter, script reader and project manager for an engineering firm.