Hunger Games, American StyleBy Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News
The few rich men who control the Capitol have successfully managed to consolidate the majority of the nation’s wealth into their hands. The Capitol has taken away food stamps from hungry families and given it to their rich benefactors in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, and other forms of corporate welfare. Career politicians are even smashing up the possessions of homeless people with a sledgehammer with impunity, while wearing designer clothes.Residents of District 12 line up for the televised ‘reaping’ that will select one boy and girl to represent the district in the Hunger Games. (photo: Lionsgate)
These rich men also control the news broadcasted on the Capitol’s airwaves that brainwashes the impoverished masses into believing their suffering is their own fault, that they’re only starving because they don’t know how to work hard, and that those who control all the resources must somehow deserve it because their status makes them more worthy. However, the rich men still aren’t satisfied. They’re already trying to force through a trade deal kept secret from the public that would subvert what remains of democracy and install global corporate rule.
When the poor and oppressed dare to speak out against the injustice of the ruling class, the Capitol’s peacekeeping forces suppress their protests with extraordinary brutality. When the people try to vote out their corrupt leaders in the electoral process, the ruling class simply drowns out the democratic process by dumping truckloads of money into incumbents’ pockets. Meanwhile, the impoverished masses are constantly told to be thankful for their freedom, and are given mindless distractions to keep their minds off of what their real problems are.
I’m not talking about The Hunger Games. I’m talking about our present situation.
Laporshia Massey, a student at Bryant Elementary School in Philadelphia, died from an asthma attack, caused as a result by Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett’s class war. Since 2010, Corbett has given out $2 billion in corporate tax breaks while cutting public schools by over $1 billion. As a result, schools like Bryant Elementary have had to cut budgets, meaning school nurses are only present on certain days. Unfortunately for her, Massey suffered an asthma attack on a day the nurse wasn’t in, couldn’t get medical attention until the end of the school day, and died as a result. Meanwhile, corporations like those given massive tax breaks by the Corbett administration are enjoying record profits on Wall Street, and not doing a damn thing about jobs.
Instead of creating jobs, these companies are using these tax breaks to buy back their own stock, like Walmart does to the tune of $7.6 billion per year. As the progressive think tank Demos discovered, Walmart could instead use the money dedicated to stock buybacks, which only enrich a small handful of corporate executives, to instead pay their hourly employees $14.89 an hour, without raising their prices by even a cent. This billion-dollar corporation even has the balls to tell the customers already buying their stuff that they should also donate food to Walmart employees who make poverty wages so they can have a Thanksgiving dinner.
McDonald’s has gone even lower in their greedy quest for ever-increasing profits. Even though the fast food company makes $24 billion in annual revenue, which is enough money to be ranked as the world’s 90th largest economy, they refuse to pay their employees a living wage, instead asking them to make outlandish sacrifices. McDonald’s recently put up a website encouraging their employees to cut their food into smaller portions to make it last longer, sell their Christmas gifts online to have enough money to pay bills, and to quit complaining.
Tom Corbett and other right-wing governors across the United States, put in office through this flooding of corporate cash into elections, are obediently following their orders from their corporate benefactors. Their role is to streamline laws written by corporate lobbyists behind closed doors (ALEC), passed down an assembly line from posh resorts to statehouses. These laws are designed to systematically bilk the poor out of the remaining scraps they cling to and redistribute them upward to the ruling class. These laws are also designed to strip public resources of tax dollars while enriching corporations with hefty corporate welfare packages.
As Senator Bernie Sanders has said, 1 percent of the population in the US owns 38 percent of all wealth. At the same time, the bottom 60% of Americans owns just 2.3% of the wealth. And this small number of wealthy Americans have been allowed to purchase influence in government both through the lobbying process and through unlimited political contributions. The ruling class have bought the government of the United States, which is currently the greatest empire in the history of the world, occupying over 130 countries. Thus, the plutocracy not only controls the distribution of resources in our country, but all over the world.
Just 9 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, which is relatively proportional to the percentage of Americans who aren’t living in poverty or one paycheck away from it. The United States ranks 4th out of all nations in income inequality. But the US isn’t a poor country. Rather, its rich owners have amassed such a glacier of wealth and kept it to themselves that this wealth gap will only increase without interference from Congress. And because Congress is comprised mainly of millionaires, and merely running for Congress requires amassing millions of dollars, anyone who wants to get elected has to swear allegiance to the ruling class to even have a chance of winning.
Just as was described in The Hunger Games, the resistance here has been met with the cold boot heels of police, who only exist to protect and serve the 1 percent and their property. The chilling footage of the UC Davis Police pepper-spraying “Occupy UC Davis” student protesters sitting peacefully, UC Berkeley police clubbing Occupy protesters with batons, the NYPD violently assaulting and mass arresting protesters and credentialed journalists, and the Oakland police turning the streets into a war zone are clear evidence that the state does not tolerate dissent. Scott Olsen is living proof that even those who go overseas to fight the nation’s wars are not immune from the state’s violence against dissenters when they come home and participate in nonviolent protest.
Even though the banks who bilked our economy out of trillions of dollars and got bailed out escaped jail, our government has wasted no time throwing the book at politicial activists like Aaron Swartz, Barrett Brown and Jeremy Hammond. When the Reverend Billy Talen, an NYC-based environmental activist, staged a nonviolent action at a Chase Bank, he was threatened with a year in jail. But when Chase Bank rooked millions of Americans out of billions of dollars, they got away with paying a fine that cut mildly into their massive profits. To add lemon juice and salt to the wound, $7 billion of J.P. Morgan’s $13 billion settlement will be paid by us, the taxpayers.
(SPOILER ALERT) In the Hunger Games books, the people take up arms and stage a bloody revolution against the ruling class, seizing power through bloodshed. The third book details how the leadership of the violent resistance effort becomes drunk on power and ends up being no better than its predecessors. When confronted with President Snow, leader of the Capitol, and Alma Coin, leader of District 13 at the end of the third book, foreseeing a new era of corrupt rule if Coin lives, protagonist Katniss Everdeen instead slays Coin while President Snow looks on in shock.
We can make change without taking up arms. When Boeing held the threat of relocating to another state over the head of Washington State’s politicians, should their demands of taking away workers pensions not be met, one Seattle City Council member refused to blink. Kshama Sawant, of the Socialist Alternative Party, is urging Boeing workers to seize Boeing’s factories, should the company succeed in its goal. Sawant won her local race practically by a hair, proving that each and every vote really does matter and that local elected officials can wield tremendous power over the ruling class.
There’s no doubt we also need a revolution against our own Capitol to redistribute these resources fairly from the ruling class to the masses. But this revolt must be done nonviolently. The empire we’re facing has proved they have a monopoly on violence, and will violently crush dissenters in the streets. We must build political power as a movement, and do it independently of the big corporations, banks, and property owners who fund the two mainstream corporate parties. Only by winning elections at the local level, the state level, and the Congressional level can we redistribute the wealth that the ruling class have unjustly stolen from those who worked to create it.
Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at [email protected], and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.
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