Trickle-down Lies

People often ask me why I never find anything good our leaders do for us.

We always talk about trickle-down economics, where in a pyramidal system, money and other powers trickle down from the top to the bottom, and the people in power tell us that would make us all happy and we’ll be rich and famous and happy in this life.

But in reality, it never happens. It’s a lie. It’s a lie the powerful people manufactured, refined and propagandized with help of their media. Whether in the U.S. or in India — the two countries I know — with a very few exceptions that are statistically insignificant, this system never creates any upward social mobility. In short, the poor remains poor and gets poorer, middle class declines, and the rich gets richer.

That has been the history of USA and India for most of their modern history.

But what about trickle-down lies? What does it really mean?

Well, I don’t want to give away the explanation immediately. Otherwise, you would not take the time to read through what I have to say here. And I wouldn’t even give it away explicitly. I ask you to think about it based on what you read. I challenge to your mind to guess, to imagine, to surmise, and to come up with your conclusion.

I hope it’s not an unfair game. At least, it’s not a dishonest game. Everything I say here is 100 percent truth.

Now, let’s cut to the chase, without further ado.

Some of my friends, students and readers complain that I never explain why I don’t see anything positive in the world affairs. They label me as a true leader of the glass half-empty club. They say I should float a Half Empty Party and run for elections; they say I might at last find fame and prosperity if I did.

People who have known me for many years and love me deeply question my state of mind. They suggest that I found a way to calm down my nerves. Otherwise, they say, I might lose my ability to live a normal life.

I do not doubt about their doubts about me. I do not ever not appreciate their observation, judgment and word of wisdom and caution. I know deep in my heart how deeply they care about me, and how deeply they are concerned about my well being. I deeply thank their heart-most feelings about the condition of my heart, from the bottom of my heart.

I love you all. Your love and care show me that love and care still exist. And that is enough reason for me to love and care and exist.

In fact, I am so non-violent and such a strong believer in life that I always know that I shall live nonviolently. I’ve seen enough deaths in my life. I’ve experienced enough violence in my life. Death and violence do not impress me. They do not attract me at all. I do not find them sexy. Seeing them so much so up close made me absolutely anti-death and anti-violence.

Or, to spin the statement positively, I want to say I am a pro-life and pro-peace person.

And that is my choice.

Now, before I digress too much especially in this state of mind that troubles so many so often, let’s examine the first statement I wrote. I copy and paste it here.

“People often ask me why I never find anything good our leaders do for us.”

Let’s take one concern at a time.

Leaders:

Who are these leaders I never find anything good they do for us? Are these are elected political leaders — such as Barack Obama who failed to keep his 2008 promises, Bill Clinton who destroyed U.S. welfare for the poor, Hillary Clinton whose Middle East work did not pay off as obvious by the newest massive violence and Israeli government did not budge an inch? Are these leaders like Manmohan Singh the prime minister of India who yesterday floodgate-opened the Indian market to Wal-Mart, or Pranab Mukherjee the newly elected president of India who has been the India director of IMF when he was the country’s longtime finance minister? Is it Mitt Romney the Republican candidate for the American presidential election this year who doesn’t know what he’s talking about other than the fact that he wants to wage new wars and wants to be even richer using U.S. presidency?

Most importantly, how they became our leaders? If it’s through voting, is the election process fair? Did we hear answers to all our questions and concerns from these leaders? For that matter, did we ever get to ask them our questions? What made their election possible: is it the amount of money they were able to spend, ads they were able to buy on mass media, influence they could exercise in their parties that made their inside decisions possible, or were they in bed with big powers that made their election possible?

If the leaders were not elected leaders (see below), what social, political and economic scenarios made them leaders in their “non-political” fields possible? Family connection, pedigree, wealth, media ownership, or some other ways never fully disclosed to us? What and who kept those untold secrets away from us?

G8 heads. Don’t worry: these are only costumes.

Are they leaders of the economic world — such as Alan Greenspan the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Robert Rubin or Henry Paulson the two big Wall Street CEOs who became treasury secretaries in Clinton and Bush’s Democratic and Republican administrations, General Electric’s chief who is now a chief financial advisor for the Obama administration, or Bill Gates of Microsoft or say, GE’s chief who also by default heads the manufacturing wing of war machineries including its nuclear submarines? Or, maybe, the drone manufacturers that manufacture drones Obama is now using at the ratio of 13 to 1 compared to Bush — to drop remote-control bombs on various countries, without any U.N. approval or following any international laws?

Are these leaders owners of the various media corporations: Rupert Murdoch of Fox Network, or the Salzburger family of the New York Times, Ted Turner of CNN, Walt Disney Corporation that is the owner of ABC TV network and its powerful offsprings such as ESPN, or again, General Electric that owns NBC TV and its powerful offsprings such as CNBC? Are these leaders I’m referring to owners, business managers or directors of Hollywood or Bollywood movie industries? Like, the Universal Studios, Pixar, Disney that also owns ABC TV and ESPN, Paramount, Columbia, or India’s god-like movie icon Amitabh Bachchan, or the other up and coming icon Amir Khan who is the official spokesperson for Coca Cola in that country of one billion people? Are they owners of big media houses in India such as the Telegraph, Times of India, Ananda Bazar and all?

Or, are they leaders of the executive board that runs India’s mega-billion-dollar cricket industry — people who are also political leaders of the country’s ruling Congress Party? What about the cricket players such as Dhoni or Tendulkar who made so much nauseating amount of money from playing and advertising that nobody knows how much nauseating amount of money they really made, and media never challenged them on the nauseating amount of money they made playing cricket in a country where millions of people still die of hunger, poverty and malnutrition, and where the literacy rate is still less than half of the population, and where village women walk barefooted miles every day to get water?

I could go on and on. But I just remembered what I wrote when I started writing this piece. So, to refresh my memory (I’m sure you’d like to remember it too), I copy and paste it here.

“People who have known me for many years and love me deeply question my state of mind. They suggest that I found a way to calm down my nerves. Otherwise, they say, I might lose my ability to live a normal life.”

For the sake of these people, and for the sake of keeping some of my sanity and ability to live a normal life, I’d stop making the list of leaders any longer. I think you can easily understand what I’m trying to say here: what kind of leaders I’m referring to.

So, for the sake of time, and not to test your patience anymore, I’d quickly move on to the second part of my first statement.

Horse racing. Deal making.

Good our leaders do for us:

Now, this appears to be a simple sentence, or in this case, simple fragment of a sentence. But read it one more time. Good our leaders do for us. We’ve already analyzed who these leaders are. But the question remains: good they do for us. That part is not as simple as it seems. Let’s look at it this way:

What is good? (i.e., the definition of good — is it to be rich, to be famous, to be rich and famous, or is it some other measure that makes it good?)

Who decides what is good? (i.e., is there any democratic and open process that helps us all to decide what is good for us the vast majority 99% vis-a-vis what is good for the 1%?)

Why are they doing it FOR us? (i.e., why are they not doing it WITH us, together in a collective — or at least open and transparent and democratic process?)

So, as you can see, the heart of my heartfelt question is really about openness, collective, justice and watchdog — I guess, four important pillars of democracy. I do not believe for a moment that in this trickle-down system, the people in power are giving a damn about these four pillars of democracy. Therefore, without the absence of these pillars, the democracy edifice might soon collapse; when it does, we who believe we’re under its shelter, will be crushed to death.

There will be no democracy edifice for the children we leave behind.

I shall stop now. Because people who deeply care about me and love me express serious concern that my heart’s state of affairs is not truly normal, I leave the question on democracy, trickle-down and lies as they relate to our real and raw, day-to-day lives — open-ended, for you to answer your way. You might say it is an open-heart question.

I ask you to do it if you do not want to die of a massive shock. You might say, I’m trying my best to help save your life, and my life too.

To put it bluntly, my bottom of the heart question needs an open-heart surgery.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

It’s a million-dollar question. Do I have enough insurance to ask it?

5 thoughts on “Trickle-down Lies

  1. Your disappointment and frustration with the system that is unjust, unfait and oppressive to 99% of the people is the eternal nature of the thinking Man. And, what you are doing is exactly the same thing as the leaders and 1% people have been doing: only difference is that the leaders have the effective power to decide about the 99% – a power legitimised by concepts like democracy, constitution, dictatorship of the proletarit managed by one or a group of a party, democratic centralism, socialism and communism, while you have only the freedom to think about what is good for 99% with hardly any sanction from the 99%. Once you develop a system that is sustainable and shorn of all injustice and oppression of 995. the 99% will be with you. I wish you success in your endeavour. Leaders need to be cricised because they are seldom right, but that is not enough: devising the ideal system for the 99% is the challange.

  2. I understand everything that you are saying, but I find for me that the only way I can live and stay sane is to focus on the present. I wake up and try to enjoy what I am experiencing TODAY! I try not to think about tomorrow or next year. Because life is SO precarious, and my life seems to me to be especially so, it is the only way for me to live.

    1. Neva, I appreciate your comments; I empathize with your choice and constraints. But for those of us who have options, we must think about the future and especially our children. And we must do it collectively.

  3. Partha: If a “half-full” person is an optimist, and a “half-empty” person is a pessimist, what is a person who sees no difference between half-full and half-empty: a realist? I have never understood the half-full/half-empty distinction, so I guess that makes me a realist. Yet I agree with virtually everything you say (and the few points of disagreement are not relevant to the overall discussion here).

    We have seen this pyramid example in national governments before in 19th century U.S. and in many other countries in the 20th and 21st century. When I was younger, much of Latin America was made up of what we called “banana republics” in reference to the fact that tropical food products like bananas and coffee were the main source of income to these countries. They were owned and run by a group of families, the poor were kept poor, the institutions like the media and the churches were used to keep the poor in line, and, when they did not, they were brutually silenced (newspapers were closed and burned, poor-loving clerics were murdered: the powers behind the murder of Salvadorean Archbishop Oscar Romero are many of the same folks who are charter investors for Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital).

    Governments in those banana republics came and went, and, with few exceptions, exploited the poor, kept the middle class small and powerless, and changed hands with military juntas. Then the U.S. acted suprised whenever a popular movement for redistribution of wealth would arise. That was the days when George Bush the elder was active with the CIA, and brought that experience (mixed with the family oil interest in both Latin America and the middle east) to his operations in the region). While these countries do not have the population density of the Indian subcontinent, the poverty is similar to what you described.

    The United States had similar experiences in the 19th century, except that the small population, large country, and steady influx of large numbers of immigrants slowed the progress toward banana republic. However, the major factor in the rise of the U.S. middle class was the labor movement. The rise of organized labor, and the recent slide in the middle class coincides with the diminishing labor movement. The increase in contrictive labor laws since Taft-Hartley in the late 1940’s has been intentional, and the weakening of pro-labor laws by the use of appointed conservative judges, conservative bureaucrats, and the practice of corporations to use expensive, heavily-staffed law firms to attack the unions and labor laws from every quarter, resulting in incremental weakening of the existing labor laws over decades. Now they are using the anti-protest laws against union picketing, and openly committing anti-labor violations to the exent that the weak enforcers of the law are ovewhelmed. No unions = no middle class.

    The media you mentioned are complicit in this attack on the middle class: I only know of one movie to come out of Hollywood in the past 50 years that put labor in a good light: ‘Norma Rae’. In all other movies the unions are thugs, crooks, mobsters, opposing progress, etc.. Television portrayal, in drama, comedy, and even ‘news’ programs are the same. Union contribution to the American middle class (fair pay, health insurance, pension, workplace safety, vacation, reasonable working hours, etc.), is rarely mentioned, leaving the sense that corporations generously offered these things freely. The same media spread the idea that voting is useless, leading the U.S. to one of the lowest voter-participation rates in the world.

    There is no magic-bullet solution to this situation, either in the U.S. or, I assume, in India. But a popular movement, similar to the tea party model, aimed at increased awareness, increased participation, would go a long way toward moving the overall status toward fairness. The longer we wait to do this, the harder it will get.

    1. Absolutely. Thanks so much Bill for your thoughtful comments. Realism comes from grassroots experience, living and working with real people, and compassion and yearning for dignity and justice. That’s what we’re trying to make people aware of. The more we can connect, the better.

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