The 4 Plagues: Getting a Handle on the Coming Apocalypse

Excerpt from “The 4 Plagues: Getting a Handle on the Coming Apocalypse” By Don Hazen, AlterNet, 6/4/13. [The “four plagues” are “privatization, financialization, militarization, and criminalization, which together are producing a steadily creeping authoritarianism.”]

In an environment of confusion and despair, it helps to understand the forces at play, how they operate, and why they feel so overwhelming.

…To best understand the plagues, there are several cross-cutting fundamentals of U.S. capitalism which fuel the oppressive nature of the plagues and help us understand how they interact.

1. Follow the money: For every unfair, exploitative and destructive force going on in America—and there are so many—some corporations or groups of people are profiting. Not only are they making a lot of money, they have also very likely built a powerful infrastructure to ensure the security of their cash flow using a potent array of tools to protect their interests. These are lobbyists, PR agents, campaign contributions, trade associations to agitate for their interests, and with overarching powerful giant entities like the chamber of commerce to provide the protective umbrella.

2. When following the money, it is often the case that the system picks on the weakest. Long ago, someone figured out that the easiest way to make a lot of money is to paradoxically target those who don’t have much.Or use powerless people as scapegoats to leverage access to large pots of money. One example is state lotteries, about which AlterNet’s Steve Rosenfeld explains: “What many people don’t know about lotteries is that they prey on those who can least afford it.” State lotteries amount to a hidden tax on the poor. They eat up about 9 percent of take-home incomes from households making less than $13,000 a year. They siphon $50 billion a year away from local businesses—besides stores where they’re sold.

Another example is that the privatization of the public school system is on the backs of poor kids, with the discredited fantasy that schools will be improved when people make money off of them. “Rent to own,” “payday loans” and many other tactics of capitalism all exploit poor people.

3. The best way to maximize profits and make radical changes in policies is to take advantage of crises. We all know what happened after the horrible death and destruction of 9/11. Our government, the Bush administration, orchestrated the most gigantic overreaction in history, turning a criminal case to the ongoing “war on terror,” which has transformed most of our lives in many negative ways.

The aftermath of 9/11, which includes the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq, also created the most extraordinary secret government in the history of humankind. The Washington Post, in an unprecedented investigation that took two years, discovered a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in oversight. “After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is a system incredibly massive –1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.”

Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine has helped us understand that when crises erupt, those in power will use the opportunity to increase power in extreme and undemocratic ways, in what is now called “Disaster Capitalism.” For example, as Kristen Rawls reports, after the massive impact of Hurricane Katrina, most of the schools in New Orleans’ Parish were replaced by charter schools….

read the whole article at AlterNet

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax, Education and schools links, Values

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