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The media: In service of government’s robber barons


By now most of us have heard about the profound changes that recently took place in France with respect to the passage (by completely undemocratic means, but why quibble over a little thing like democracy) of a new law which will lift the retirement age in France from the hard-earned 62 to 64.

Any review of U.S. media coverage of the events in France shows that it is overwhelmingly (like Politburo 99% overwhelmingly) in favor of this very serious “reform” (it’s not reform but again, why quibble over the word when you can deny millions their hard-earned retirement).  Everything in mainstream media that I have been able to read indicates that there is NO alternative to this decision, if only because the French system (and by implication the U.S. system) is facing demographic realities which make the present system unsustainable.  

We all know the argument. Because people are living longer and because birth rates are on the decline in the U.S., Western Europe and Japan, the present Social Security/retirement/pension system can’t continue to provide such generous benefits as fewer and fewer workers are carrying more and more retirees.

At first blush this seems pretty logical. That all, of course, misses a few points.

One, the people who want to retire at age 62 in France (and 65 or so in the U.S.) are generally people who don’t write articles, make speeches, put on YouTube presentations and the like).   They are waiters, waitresses, bus drivers, construction workers, utility workers, loggers, sanitation workers and every other variation of physically taxing labor! It doesn’t matter much to a man or woman working with their physical muscle that they may live longer. Modern medicine hasn’t done a hell of a lot to change the realities of life when it comes to the toll that physical work takes on a person.

Two, this discussion from the point of view of the corporate media doesn’t even mention the enormous gains that productivity (physical, hours, technological) has had on the economic systems of the West. People in the U.S. today work longer and harder physically and mentally and the numbers in productivity bear this out.   

As we progress as societies, these improvements in productivity are supposed to lead to more free time, and not less. They are supposed to lead to higher standards of living, not lower. Let’s bear in mind that a mere 150 years ago, 7-year-olds were toiling in American factories.

“Progress” led to the abolition of child labor. “Progress” led to a five-day workweek. “Progress” led to guaranteed vacation time to spend with families. “Progress” led to the creation of pensions and Social Security so people could reap the benefits of their years of labor in old age.

Listening to the corporate and U.S. media, the world will come crashing down if the retirement age isn’t pushed back to 70 years old in the U.S. and 64 in France. 

Let’s be honest about this, friends. Has there been any coverage of solutions that involve lifting the cap on income subject to the Social Security tax? Virtually none, let’s say. Certainly not in the mainstream media.  

Presently, income up to $160,000 is subject to the Social Security tax. If you earn $160,000 or you earn $10,160,000 you pay the exact identical amount of Social Security tax. Is there any debate about reinstating the Social Security tax at $500,000 a year, for example? About a higher Social Security tax on super-high incomes? The honest answer has to be no if all we’re reading and watching is CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, PBS, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times or The Washington Post. You have to go to all sorts of alternative media that has far less bandwidth and reach to even hear discussions of these sorts of solutions.  

Maybe to the mainstream media, generally highly educated people who don’t break their backs digging pipes in the streets or juggling three children with no childcare while working two jobs as a waiter part time and an Uber driver part time, the idea of working til 65, 70 or 75 years old is a wonderful way of spending time. I’m a 64-year-old lawyer. Sure, I can easily go to court as I do a few days a week by railroad, walk into court and negotiate a plea agreement for my clients.

The heaviest equipment I’m carrying around is my laptop and a pen (OK, I also have to carry a 2-ounce calendar). For the man or woman who is either engaged in physical labor or practically 24/7 white collar labor of addressing 500 emails a day (not to mention during the night), this is one hell of a tall order.

To their great credit, the mass of French people are not taking this latest snatching (robbery is more like it) sitting down. They are marching, screaming, yelling, burning, striking and doing all sorts of other things to demand that this decision be reversed. 

The American people must get on board and do whatever we can to encourage the success of this effort by the French. Let’s not kid ourselves: before we know it, our government will be going after our Social Security next. The next increase in the retirement age will be OURS! This is virtually all in service of the plutocracy — the roughly 1 percent (I’m trying to be generous) —   owning as much as the bottom 50 percent of the American people.   

Let’s keep the tears to a minimum as we mourn the “class warfare” of scratching back some of the outrageous Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, RR tycoon, Roaring ‘20s transfer of enormous wealth from the average man and woman and to the sliver on top of the pyramid.  

We should all be invested in the success of efforts by the working class of this nation demanding at whatever price a shrinking of the horrific inequality that exists in our societies.  

The mainstream media is totally in service to the economic and political powers that be. They have every selfish interest in making discussions about alternatives all but unacceptable. When not unacceptable they have every interest in making its reach small both in numbers and depth and coverage. It is our job to try as we can to counter that.


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