SOMEONE ELSE

A moment of truth

The billionaire class is gaining enormous influence over economic and political life in the US. Never in history have the top one percent been so rich or enjoyed so much power

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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

In 1776, the inhabitants of the British colony in America put their lives on the line to fight for independence from the English king. Creating a new state, they wrote the best democratic constitution. It is a watershed moment in American history.

In 1861, a civil war broke out in the United States in which more than 600.000 Americans died. Slavery was abolished, but in the coming decades, racist forces retook power and established apartheid in the territory of the former Confederacy. It is a watershed moment in American history.

In 1929, Wall Street crashed. The United States and most of the world went through the Great Depression. Unemployment rose to 25 percent and millions of Americans fell into poverty. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 and the role of the federal government in solving the problems of working people was completely changed. It is a watershed moment in American history.

In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The unprepared United States had to mobilize and enter the world war on two fronts: against Hitler in Europe and against Japan in Asia. It was a war for the future of democracy and against barbarism. It is a watershed moment in American history.

Today, in 2024, we are once again facing a turning point in history. The crises we face are enormous. The consequences in case of failure are unimaginable.

As we progress ever more rapidly towards an oligarchy, the billionaire class is gaining enormous influence over the economic and political life of our country. While the rich keep getting richer, 60 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and the real earnings of the average American worker have actually declined over the past 50 years, when inflation is factored in. Never in history have the top one percent been so rich or enjoyed so much power.

Our political system is corrupt. Thanks to the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizens United decision, billionaires and their lobbyists can pour hundreds of millions of dollars into making certain candidates win or lose. Thanks to this, in more than 90 percent of the elections for the House of Representatives and more than 80 percent of the elections for the Senate, the candidate who spent the most money wins.

Our life expectancy and birth rate are in decline. Despite the enormous per capita costs of our inefficient health care system, the average American lives 77,5 years today – 18 months shorter than in 2019 – the shortest life expectancy among the rich nations of the world. Also, the total number of babies born last year fell to 3,59 million, the lowest rate in history.

The climate crisis threatens the survival of the planet. The last 10 years have been the 10 warmest years on record. The year 2023 is by far the hottest year on record, and 2024 is expected to be even hotter. If we do not significantly reduce carbon emissions, more and more droughts, floods, forest fires, more extreme weather events, more mass migrations and more victims due to the consequences of the climate crisis await us.

Artificial intelligence and robotics are radically changing our society, causing great anxiety among workers. Most of the jobs that exist today probably won't exist in 15 years. Will the surge in productivity brought by artificial intelligence bring even more wealth to corporations that will lay off most of their employees, or will workers also benefit? The well-being of tens of millions of people depends on the answer to this question.

The basic human rights that women have fought for are exposed to fierce attacks. Since the Supreme Court's disastrous decision overturning Roe v Wade, 14 states have enacted almost total abortion bans, some with no exceptions for rape or incest victims. Will the war on women continue? Will women become second-class citizens again?

The United States spends nearly $1 trillion a year on the military, more than the next 10 countries combined. That's more than all federal appropriations for food, housing and education combined. Tens of billions of those dollars are now supporting the horrendous war in Gaza waged by the far-right Israeli government.

There. This is where we are, and the picture is not pretty at all. People are losing hope. They are exhausted. Worried about the future that awaits their children and grandchildren.

We are in the midst of another watershed moment in American history. How will we respond?

First of all, we cannot turn our heads away from the painful and complex reality that surrounds us and bury our heads in the sand. We cannot stop reading the news or simply turn off the TV. The world is what it is. In a mess. And the situation will certainly not improve unless we do the hard work ahead of us.

Second, we must actively engage in the 2024 elections – the most important elections of our lifetimes.

Yes. I know. Biden is not popular and many progressives, myself included, do not accept his policies regarding Israel and the disastrous war in Gaza.

But let's be clear. Biden's opponent in this election is not God. The opponent is Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in American history, whose second term will be much more disastrous than the first if he is re-elected. Even at his worst, Biden is a thousand times better than Trump.

Are you concerned about extreme income and wealth inequality, about the decline of the middle class? Trump will give big tax breaks to billionaires, and while he was president, he appointed highly anti-union officials to high positions. Biden, on the other hand, is the first president ever to join a demonstration in support of striking UAW workers. It helped create millions of decent-paying jobs by rebuilding crumbling infrastructure and investing in manufacturing. Biden also forgave the debts of millions of young people who are struggling financially.

Are you concerned about women's right to make decisions about their own bodies? Trump boasts that he appointed three Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v Wade. Biden is a staunch advocate of pro-choice.

Are you worried about the climate crisis? Donald Trump claims that climate change is a "hoax". Trump's victory will tell the whole world that it can continue to use fossil fuels, and the planet we leave to children and future generations will be less and less suitable for life. Biden, on the other hand, is investing more money in sustainable energy and energy efficiency than any president in history.

If you don't like Biden's attitude towards Israel and the war in Gaza, don't forget that Trump is much worse in this regard. Biden at least banned some of the large bombs from being sent to Israel and criticized Netanyahu. Trump and his fellow Republicans support the mass killing of the Palestinian people.

Oh yes. There is one more thing. It is the survival of our democracy. Biden is a traditional American politician who believes in democracy, free elections and the right to dissent. Trump doesn't believe that. He and his supporters have spent the last four years undermining faith in the rule of law and our democratic form of government. Trump is considering amnesty for more than 800 of his supporters who attacked the Capitol in a riot on January 6. And his advisers are plotting how to use the Sedition Act to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.

Clearly, our job is not just to just re-elect Biden. We must do much more than that. We must defend the progressives we elected to the House of Representatives, many of whom are under attack from opponents funded by Aipac and other lobby groups. We need to elect more strong progressive candidates to the House, federal and local government ballots.

We must work in coalition with everyone who understands that whatever is necessary must be done to defeat Donald Trump and his far-right Republican Party, not just because he is the "greater evil," but because nothing less than the future is being defended in this election. our democracy.

Also, we must demand that Biden and the Democrats base their campaign on a truly progressive agenda focused on the needs of our nation's working families.

Yes. Health care is a human right.

Yes. Billionaires must start paying their share of taxes.

Yes. The minimum wage must be raised to a livable level and it must be made easier for workers to organize unions.

Yes. We need to get serious about the housing crisis that is evident in almost every state in the country.

Yes. We must improve public education and make higher education accessible to all regardless of income.

To conclude: we must muster the courage to confront and defeat the powerful and greedy ruling class and build a state administration that works in the interest of all, not just the few. The road ahead is not easy. But this is no time for despair or cynicism.

At this critical moment, we must do what Americans have always done when change is needed: we must unite, organize, and fight for the country we know we can be.

(The Guardian; Peščanik.net; translation: Đ. Tomić)

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(Opinions and views published in the "Columns" section are not necessarily the views of the "Vijesti" editorial office.)