A bill to establish single-payer healthcare in the state of California, SB 562, has been killed. The man who officially stuck the knife in it, Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, has assured Californians in a statement that the bill is not dead but merely sleeping while further “discussion and debate” is had over the bill and its merits. He is lying. Possibly to himself, and certainly to the people of California, but on one level or another Anthony Rendon is aware that SB 562 has been deliberately killed, and is choosing to lie about it.
How can I be so certain that Rendon is lying? Easy: he’s taken a tremendous amount of money from powerful corporate entities that officially and unofficially oppose the bill. He killed the bill on purpose, and he will do everything within his power to make sure it stays dead. He will do so while tooting the horn of progressivism, he will do so while pretending to support universal health care, but when it comes down to actually making it happen he’ll act like a keyboard warrior on a martial arts forum who suddenly finds himself challenged to a fight in real life. In a nation where money fully dictates government policy and congressional candidates who outspend their opponents almost always win, you only need to follow the money.
This isn’t about pathetic establishment toadies like Rendon, though. He is surely culpable, and he has chosen to earn his living in a way that makes me hope the Christians have it right just so that hell can be a real thing, but he is not the driving force behind the death of SB 562. The architects of that depraved act of sabotage are the oligarchs who funded it.
The word “oligarchy” gets thrown around a lot in progressive discourse, usually to highlight the problem of money in politics, but not many people seem to really settle in and grapple with the hefty implications of what that word actually means. If you say that America is an oligarchy (and it certainly is, which we’ll get to in a second), you’re not merely saying that there is too much money in US politics or that the wealthy have an unfair amount of power in America. Per definition, you are saying that a small class of elites rule over you and your nation, like a king rules over his kingdom.
You’ve studied history, in school if nowhere else. How often have you read about kings voluntarily relinquishing their thrones and handing power to their subjects out of the goodness of their hearts? Once someone makes it to the very top of a society, how often have you known them to eagerly step down from that power position in order to give the people self-rule?
This isn’t about money, this is about power. The wealthiest of the wealthy in America haven’t been doing everything they can to stave off universal healthcare and economic justice in order to save a few million dollars. They haven’t been fighting to keep you poor because they are money hoarders and they can’t bare to part with a single penny from their trove. It’s so much more sinister than that: the goal isn’t to keep you from making the plutocrats a little less wealthy, the goal is to keep you from having any wealth of your own.
Power is intrinsically relative: it only exists in relation to the amount of power that other people have or don’t have. If we all have the same amount of government power, then none of us has any power over the other. If, however, I can figure out a way to manipulate the system into giving me 25 percent more governmental power than anyone else, power has now entered into the equation, and I have an edge over everyone else that I can use to my advantage. But that edge only exists due to the fact that you’re all 25 percent less powerful than I am. If you all become five percent more powerful, my power is instantly diminished by that much, in the same way a schoolyard bully would no longer enjoy the same amount of dominance if everyone at school suddenly grew five percent bigger and stronger.
Here’s where I’m going with all this: the ruling elites have set up a system where wealth equals power. In order for them to rule, in order for them to enjoy the power of kings, they necessarily need to keep the general public from wealth. Not so that they can have a little more money for themselves in case they want to buy a few extra private jets or whatever, but because their power is built upon your lack of power. By keeping you from having a few thousand extra dollars of spending money throughout the year, they guarantee that you and your fellow citizens won’t pool that extra money toward challenging their power in the wealth-equals-power paradigm that they’ve set up for themselves.
If you can spare five minutes, please check out this well-made video about the extensive Princeton University study which found that the wishes of the public have no impact whatsoever on US policy making, while there is a near-direct relationship between the wishes of moneyed interests and US policy making:
People tend to focus on the notorious Citizens United as the source of America’s money-in-politics woes, but the problem actually traces back to the Supreme Court’s decisions in 1976’s Buckley v. Valeo and 1978’s First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti and other rulings in which SCOTUS justices in effect handed more and more political power to Americans with wealth. Because of the relative way political power works, this necessarily meant taking power away from ordinary Americans in the same movement.
You can see, then, why the oligarchs must resist socialism and populism tooth and claw. You can see why their media propaganda outlets are so ferociously dedicated to tearing down any sincere attempt to fight the Walmart economy or allow an inch of ground to be gained in bringing any economic power to ordinary Americans. By asking for economic justice, you may think that you are simply asking for a small slice of the enormous pie the billionaire class could never hope to eat in a single lifetime, but what you are actually doing is asking for their crown, their throne and their scepter. You are making yourself a direct existential threat to their dynasty.
This is why they fought so hard to stomp out the Sanders movement. It wasn’t that Sanders himself was a threat to them, it’s that a large group of the unwashed masses was pooling their wealth together and leaping over seemingly insurmountable obstacles using nothing but tiny $27 donations as fuel. Imagine if Americans had more disposable income to invest in a better future for their kids by pointing it at changing America’s political landscape? Imagine a populist movement where Americans pushing for economic justice can suddenly all afford to pool a bunch of $270 donations to support a beloved candidate or agenda? Or $2,700? Under the current money-equals-power paradigm, the will of the people would become unstoppable, and the US power establishment would be forced to reshape itself in a way that benefits the people instead of benefitting a few billionaires.
In that context, Rendon’s actions make perfect sense. He appears to have committed political suicide, and he has if you think that America is a democracy and he answers to his constituents. But he doesn’t answer to his constituents, he answers to the oligarchs. He enacted the wishes of the oligarchy as surely as one of the King’s trusted knights would in a monarchy. The oligarchy are the ruling class and they don’t care how bad the optics are for Rendon; they don’t want the serfs getting even a few more dollars to spare if they can help it. They want you too focused on keeping your head above water to challenge their claim to the throne, and if extensive copays and the threat of a devastating medical bill can help do that, so much the better.
If Bernie taught them anything, just $27 is all it takes. They won’t make that mistake again.
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