There have been a few notable versions of the Two Americas speech in recent political history. Barack Obama’s 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston arguably enabled his presidency. It is a different “two Americas” that I want to write about today. Let’s explore.
While racism was the number one motivation for the Tea Party in 2009 the feeling of abandon by their leaders that many Americans felt was another. The reality was that the Tea Party rank and file were exploited by a Republican Party in fear of extinction and financed by greedy people with a hidden agenda who saw them as inexpensive ground troops.
Fast forward to 2016 and the feeling of abandon was still with many. They saw Trump as their salvation or at least a way to send a message to elected officials. “What have you got to lose?” was never aimed at African-American voters. They got changes, but nothing that improved their lot or resembled fairness.
Many working class Americans still feel we have two Americas. One America and set of rules is for the wealthy and the well connected. The rest of us (the majority) have to live by a separate, much more punitive and constraining set of rules.
Cory Lewandowski goes before a congressional committee, claims a non-existent privilege, acts like an arrogant brat and announces a Senate bid during a recess. At the end of the session he goes home. Bill Barr and Brett Kavanaugh recently lied before congressional committees during their confirmation hearings. Barr became Attorney General and Kavanaugh was rewarded with a lifetime seat of the Supreme Court. Had most Americans taken their actions we would have ended up in jail on route to prison. If we refused to answer questions the option offered us may well have been a cellmate who was HIV positive and much physically stronger than us. If that wasn’t enough to loosen our tongues we would have been reminded that the jail we were going to has a serious guard shortage.
The world of business is no better. If you are big enough you play by a different set of rules than the local merchant down the street. The Tea Party was financed in large part by the then Koch brothers. The surviving brother Charles Koch was the brains of the operation. Of late he seems to be coloring within the lines of most laws. Of course, he influences legislators to make sure that many of them are “business friendly” and regulators to make certain they are “selectively enforced”. That wasn’t always the case. Koch Industries has paid many fines that it viewed as a cost of doing business. A strong case can be made that if they hadn’t cheated (and I’m being polite by using that mild word) they would have never grown to their current size. Do you think things might have turned out differently if Charles Koch had cooled his heels in prison instead of having his staff write a check?
The latest big business scandal in the headlines is over Perdue Pharma which is a closely held corporation by the Sackler family. The Sacklers are multibillionaires, much of their money was made off of the drugs that started the opioid problem in America. As of this writing they are proposing a large settlement that would allow them to keep billions (much of which they have already offshored) in exchange for all current and future lawsuits being dropped. To add insult to injury, a significant portion of the settlement revolves around having the plaintiffs effectively take control of Perdue Pharma which would keep marketing those drugs but primarily in foreign countries. The settlement, albeit huge, would be insufficient to treat the existing problem in America. This is a typical case of the super wealthy privatizing the profits and socializing the losses. Who said the right doesn’t believe in socialism? What about jail time for the Sacklers who knew exactly what they were doing? If I killed a bunch of Americans I know where I’d be and it wouldn’t be in my recliner writing this.
The highest profile crook in America today is Donald Trump. He will probably never end up in prison; such is the privilege of position. We all know how he loves television. I have a concept for a program on Trump TV: Celebrity Inmate. Trump could profile a celebrity in prison on each weekly episode. Mentioned above are several guest ideas.
Please Note: For more on Koch Industries and Charles Koch I recommend reading Kochland by Christopher Leonard. For more on the Sackler family there are several works worth reading foremost among them is Dopesick by Beth Macy.
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