Tag Archives: Capitalism

Conversations With Conservatives, Or How I Learned To Have Fun With And Annoy The Right Wing

I have many conservative friends, and, prudently, when in their presence I avoid the usual dangerous topics when I can: religion, politics, history, taxes, etc. But every now and then a polemic discussion rears its inevitable head, and I can’t fight back the urge to inject my subversive, sarcastic, and eristic words. Such an occasion happened recently. I have here reconstructed an old conversation and combined it with new material derived from a chance meeting with the conservative just last week:

CONSERVATIVE: I know you don’t believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and personal savior.

ME: Well…now that you mention it. The rationalist in me wants to parse that sentence. The phrase “My Lord and personal savior” sounds threatening. Like I’d better believe or else. As if someone is trying to control my thoughts and actions…and if I do not conform (meaning blindly believe that there is an all-powerful white man in the sky waiting to condemn me or save me based on someone’s interpretation of a centuries-old book), there will be literally hell to pay.

CONSERVATIVE: Since when is faith a bad thing?

ME: When blind faith shuts down reason, overrides temperance, denies the power of the intellect, and incites intolerance and violence, then it is a bad thing.

CONSERVATIVE: My Christian beliefs forbid me from practicing hate.

ME: Yet you listen to Rush Limbaugh every day–the right wing’s high minister of hate.

CONSERVATIVE: That’s politics, not religion. Rush is merely pointing out how your side is harming democracy by enforcing a socialist agenda on unwilling citizens.

ME: From my reading of the Bible, Jesus was the most prominent socialist in history. Didn’t he say that we will be judged by how we treat the least among us? Didn’t he drive the moneychangers from the temple? Didn’t he say that it will be harder for a rich man to enter His Kingdom than…

CONSERVATIVE: (Clearly flustered) Jesus wants us to be free. He loves America, and he blesses every day with His riches.

ME: But America is quickly becoming a third-world Republic in the sense that the wealth inequity gap is widening dramatically. The poor are getting poorer and the rich richer.

CONSERVATIVE: Every man–regardless of race, status or creed–has the opportunity to succeed and become rich in America.

ME: Not true. If that were so, capitalism would cease to exist, because the capitalist system requires that there be a few at the top and many at the bottom. The factory owner must have hundreds, maybe thousands, of factory laborers to make his enterprise profitable. And when it does become profitable, he keeps the lion’s share of profit for himself. If we had all kings and no peons, capitalism would cease to exist.

CONSERVATIVE: You’re perverting the intent of democracy and capitalism.

ME: They are not the same thing. You know what Louis Brandeis said? “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have all wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.”

CONSERVATIVE: Who’s Louis Brandeis? One of your atheist, pinko icons?

ME: Supreme Court Justice in the 1920s.

CONSERVATIVE: Well, he’s full of crap.

ME: How about James Madison, then? You right-wingers are fond of him, right? He said, “History records that moneychangers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments.” That makes America a government of the rich, by the wealthy, and for the few.

CONSERVATIVE: Only Jesus can save heathens like you; I am going to pray for your salvation.

ME: Don’t bother. If Heaven is anything like America, I’ll pass. I want to go to Paradise. A place where everyone has his own room in the mansion. A place where the First shall be Last and the Last shall be first. A place where there is no suffering. A place where love and peace reign. A place where no man can oppress another. A place where material wealth and power do not matter. Hey wait…that is the Heaven promised us in the Bible. On second thought, go ahead and pray for my soul.

CONSERVATIVE: Now you’re being sarcastic.

ME: I’m not. And while you’re at it, pray for President Obama also. I know you hate him, but aren’t you bound by your faith to love your enemies.

CONSERVATIVE: He’s a socialist. I can’t save socialists.

ME: But so was Jesus.

CONSERVATIVE: You no doubt have Scripture which proves that?

I pulled out my handy-dandy list of Bible passages which contain The Lord’s love of socialism.

ME: Here’s one of my favorites. Jesus said, “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”

CONSERVATIVE: You cherry-picked one passage to suit your politics.

ME: Oh, but there’s much more. Jesus says to the blessed, “…take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in (today, right-wing Christians would shoot Jesus as a home invader), I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The Lord will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.'”

The conservative nervously looked at his watch.

CONSERVATIVE: Hey, look at that. I’m late for Bible study. Today we’re discussing Huckabee’s new book, “Guns, Grits, and God.” I gotta go.

ME: Wait. I have more. From the book of Matthew, “You cannot serve both God and money.” And here’s one from Luke, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”

The conservative put his earmuffs on so he couldn’t hear me any more. He roared off in his pick-up with the gun rack in the back window. I giggled at his bumper sticker which read, “Jesus hates Obama and Socialists.”


[This post is submitted in loving memory of my brother John Fitzgerald Fleming. Named for JFK, John was an author, scholar, linguist, and dog lover. He adored his nieces and nephews. I speak for all those who loved him and never got the chance to say good-bye. We will see you again; may you rest in peace.]


Why Capitalism is a Form of Fascism

“The liberty of democracy is not safe
if the people tolerate the growth of
private power to a point where it
becomes stronger than their democratic
state itself. That, in its essence, is
fascism–ownership of government by an
individual, by a group.”
–Franklin Roosevelt

FDR spoke those words during the 1940s when the world’s safety and peace were threatened by fascism. World War II was the crucible by which the world’s fate would be decided. Thank God, democracy won out. But FDR knew the cataclysmic danger Nazism presented. All Americans acutely felt the threat that fascism posed, and we knew that, for true democracy to survive, we had to fight the threat, not only abroad but here at home. So far removed from those dangerous yet unifying times, Americans today have a hard time comprehending that the threat is still with us. Only now it comes from within. There is a small group of wealthy men, mostly white, middle-aged and Republican, who are trying to own the government. To bend democracy to their benefit and theirs alone. They despise the poor, minorities, women, homosexuals…in fact, anyone who is not white, middle-aged, male and unimaginably wealthy is abhorrent to them. They are sometimes invisible or unrecognizable, because they don’t come at us with the SS, a blitzkrieg, or the Luftwaffe, like Hitler did, but their intent is just the same–control of the government. Maybe it is capitalism itself which is the enemy, for the capitalist system closely mimics the fascist model FDR decried. A powerful few at the top own the government.

“Nonsense,” say my conservative acquaintances. “We all have a say in democracy.”

“Some have more say than others,” I reply. “Just ask the Supreme Court. The ultra-rich can buy as much of the government as they like now. They can spend the kind of money on candidates and elections that the little guy cannot. They have inordinate influence over the processes of government.”

“Then get rich yourself and buy your own congressmen,” the conservative says. “It’s America; anyone can get wealthy.”

“That is not possible under our system,” I say. “That’s like saying we can all win the lottery. That can’t happen. Only one person wins the lottery. The capitalist system works only if there are a privileged few at the top and many at the bottom. For every billionaire, there are hundreds of millions of poor people. For every one person at the top, there are hundreds of millions at the bottom. Capitalism does not allow for every man to be a king. Only a few. And the rest of us are at the mercy of the few. That’s how capitalism works.”

“Then get rich yourself and rule the country,” says the right-winger.

“Democracy should not be about the richest ruling. It should be about every person having a say,” I respond.

“That’s democracy; that’s not capitalism,” says the conservative. And therein is the conundrum. Capitalism and democracy are mortal enemies. One thrives at the suppression of the other.

What would FDR think of America today? He would be outraged by the ultra-rich using their immeasurable wealth to buy Congress, mostly by pouring money into Tea Party coffers, but also by buying the truth. Fox News is their propaganda arm, spewing lies and misinformation daily. On the radio, like Goebbels once did, Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck, and other propagandists sway the uninformed and stir the worst fears of the common man. It’s an old formula.

We can still vote, but even that privilege is being manipulated by Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression. Like the Nazis, these people are ruthless and will not stop until they own everything. If their America comes to pass, we will see widespread poverty, the proliferation of sickness and disease, the end of public assistance, Social Security, public education, health care for the old and needy, and an intolerant, gun-riddled age of violence.

It is not an international war; it is a domestic war. A war where one side has all the wealth and most of the politicians, judges and weapons. Still, we must be fight on as FDR and brave Americans did when we defeated another form of fascism decades ago. If for no other reason than to honor the memory of one of our wisest presidents.


Two Recommended Books Explore The Damage Capitalism Causes


 As the rich get richer, the middle class fades, and the poor are ruthlessly demonized by the rich, America is becoming that most evil of capitalist states—a place where a few uber-rich feast at the table while the rest of us struggle for scraps. In such a state, the elite few who possess nearly everything can purchase most anything, including the government and the media. Consequently the state is run for the benefit of the wealthy few at the expense of the many. Sociopaths in positions of power in the corporate and political worlds partner to form a sinister alliance. Privatization of all functions of government and deregulation of business practices become the rallying cries. As Mussolini declared, “Fascism should rightly be called coporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.”

Republicans and their billionaire donors are trying mightily to make America this kind of state today. In this model, capitalism becomes more than free enterprise; it is the iron wall separating the ultra wealthy from the rest of us. It is the means by which stark income inequality can become permanent.

Two books I recommend reinforce this notion. Thomas Piketty’s “Capitalism In The Twenty-First Century” uses economic numbers to make an scientific case for the destructiveness of the current version of American capitalism. The means and opportunities by which the common person can access middle class status are being cut off, intentionally and rigorously, by the 1% who control 55-60% of all the wealth of the country. And this “socioeconomic gulf” is widening.

Likewise, Naomi Klein’s book Disaster Capitalism warns of the evils of capitalism in the 21st century. She argues that deregulation has been extremely profitable for those at the top but something of a disaster for those at the bottom.

No surprise there, but Klein does imply that there is more than simple economics at work. Governments in league with corporations around the globe have employed something called the “shock system.” This system uses crises or calamities to pass laws that implement destructive capitalist policies. She cites examples from Asia, Latin America, and Russia, but the same could be said for our own 9/11 catastrophe that led to the unwarranted invasion of Iraq. The greed and corruption that followed was unprecedented. War profiteers and contractors got rich, and the commoner was left to ponder how his pockets got picked. Same with the Wall Street meltdown and bailout in 2008. It nearly destroyed our economy, but in the end the taxpayer funded billionaires who put another one over on us.

Klein is quoted in the latest edition of OpEd News as saying, “If we want to understand how this system has swept the globe from Latin America to Russia to this country, we need to understand the incredible ‘utility of crisis’ to this project, because the great leaps forward for this project have taken place in the midst of and during the immediate aftermath of some kind of a shock. The extreme cases that I discuss in the book are wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters…the most common shocks that have created the context for pushing through these very unpopular policies in a way that economists often call economic shock therapy. The first shock is the economic crisis; the second shock is the economic shock therapy.”