'Get out and vote,' we are told; 'Be informed and get active,' and so we who value our freedom and love our country run like a pack of lemmings to a stage show draped in red, white, and blue. 'Hooray for our side,' they yell, 'All of our problems can be neatly packaged in a ten second soundbite and blamed on the other side,' we are repeatedly led to believe.
The inherent problem with our partisan political process is that the very essence of its structure imbibes a false assumption. We are invited to participate, but in order to do so we have to 'choose a side.' Then, having chosen, we are fed the long list of proper beliefs to substantiate why our side is so right and the other is so wrong.
But what if both sides are complicit in the problem, or perhaps less, what if they are both benign in their abilities to do anything about the real problems? What if neither side is totally right or wrong? What if the real problem lies above the stage show?
Freedom is the parent of some strange children, two of which are
1. blaming others, and
2. feeling guilty.
Whenever a problem gets bantered about in our national public discourse, it is usually one or both of these reactions that ensues. This is fueled by the structure of an 'our side against yours' national mindset.
For example, when gasoline prices skyrocketed a few years ago we heard from one side of the red-white-and-blue stage show that it was because Americans were wasteful and driving gas-guzzling SUVs. From the other side of the stage show we heard that those big, bad Chinese people were consuming more and more of OUR oil. There you have it, blame and guilt all wrapped up in the debate. So those feeling guilty run out and buy hybrid vehicles to assuage their pangs while others fight the urge to 'hate' an ethnic group that gets labelled as hyper-productive and stealing our jobs by being willing to work for peanuts (or, um, rice).
Closer scrutiny, however, reveals a different story. While China's growing economy (as well as those of other emergent nations) has increased the demand for oil, it is at best only one of the three main factors in the increase in oil prices, and it might be the least significant. What really occurred was a financial commodities bubble caused by a complicated set of games-playing in the commodities markets by banks operating with secret and unfair federal exemptions to bring investment money into a place it was never supposed to be.
Picture the commodities trading floor as a closed system in which producers of commodities (oil, wheat, corn, etc. the 'stuff' that everyday people need and can't do without) meet purchasers of commodities (like cereal companies, etc) to buy and sell with each other. A small amount of 'speculators' is allowed in so a 'ready market' is available at all times for both buyers and sellers (who therefore don't have to wait for each other to make a sale or purchase). This small amount of speculators is closely regulated by a federal law established in 1936. But over time six or seven very powerful investment banks obtain secret letters of exemption which allow them government-granted monopoly status to allow 'their investment customers' special access to those markets through their trading desks. This is exactly what happened, and as a result the money invested in commodity indices rose from just $13 billion in 2003 to over $317 billion in 2008 (twenty five times growth in less than five years). This amount of money pumped into a market that can only be 'played long' (meaning, money is made by the investors ONLY when prices go up, unlike securities where money can be made on 'both sides' of the market - going up OR down) had the effect of massively increasing the prices of commodities. Of course, these prices quickly find their way to the end customer, the little guy, who is paying more for everything and can't figure out why. What's really happening is the government has allowed a small number of granted monopoly banks to fleece him without his knowledge or consent.
That's just one of the scams being run.
Another (and thankfully it's getting much more coverage these days) is the willful, intentional, deliberate devaluation of the American dollar. While the government (through the workings of its private partner the FED) pumps trillions of worthless dollars into circulation (through the hands of many of the same banking interests given such special treatment in the commodities scam above) the dollars held by average Americans become worth less and less. So while the 'little guy' is getting creamed in the commodities market and the price of everything he buys is going higher and higher, the dollars he holds to buy those things is capable of purchasing less and less.
We could also dive into the housing bubble that has left millions of Americans 'upside down' in their home mortgages while bankrupting millions of others. That would represent scam #3, and again, it was perpetrated by many of the same characters from scam #1 and scam #2 above, but I won't go into the whole vicious circle of greed and government bailouts to fat-cat bankers with taxpayer money that makes this one so sickening, because this isn't a direct factor in the oil price scandal.
Only now, after these three revolving cons, can we even begin to discuss the growing Chinese market and its impact on oil prices. And only now can we even begin to consider the car we drive as having an effect on all this.
What has happened is the American public has been hi-jacked by a glitzy distraction called partisan politics in which blame and guilt are manipulated by the media to keep us split in a neat fifty-fifty feud. It doesn't hurt that moral issues are thrown in so that our convictions force us to lump everything together in what appear to be neat packages of "Donkey" or "Elephant." Meanwhile, the whole time we bicker and fight amongst ourselves, a bunch of cronies are robbing us blind.
I wonder what would happen if we rose above the partisan stage-show and united? What if we found common ground on all the things we could agree upon, such as freedom and justice for all, and turned our well-meaining but mis-guided furor upon the real thieves of the American dream?