The U.S. budget vote this past week that allowed Citigroup to shove in a provision, written by Citigroup itself (remember voting for Senator Citigroup?). It hobbled the Dodd-Frank Act and once again, forces all of us American tax payers to fully reimburse Wall Street for all of their losses if they once again bring our economy to its knees by losing billions or trillions in their rigged derivatives game.
This was a definitive statement by the wealthy and corporations, “We own this so-called democracy, fuck the rest of you.” So we should be discouraged and give up on the people’s’ influence to have power over their own democracy anymore, right?
As the scientific phrase goes, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Sometimes that reaction isn’t immediate, it can take years to appear but one thing is clear, no matter how overwhelming the power of any entity in history has appeared, they have always been brought down (seen any want ads for recruiting for the Roman army lately?).
A scientist might look at this victory of Citigroup over our democracy as a logical genesis for a great force to oppose it, that is, “Elizabeth Warren to Help Lead a Growing Movement Against Banks and Corporations, Brought to you by Citigroup!”
Citigroup has de facto elevated and increased the power and influence of Warren and other anti-corporate Progressives like Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown because of this coup. For the first time since President Obama was elected, Progressive Democrats rallied a majority of their party to oppose his damaging compromise on this and nearly block a budget deal that Obama wanted badly. Democrats were emboldened and rallied behind Warren and Nancy Pelosi in both the House as well of the Senate, because they appeared to be the conscience of their party and their moral leaders. This is not to say that Obama has not fought for and achieved principled victories for Progressives and all Americans along the way but in this particular case, the most public and unapologetic adversaries of the power that the wealthy and corporations wield, were women who are Democratic leaders. And the majority of Americans support their position.
Yes, we have had a big loss in this round, a scant several years after Wall Street destroyed the savings, jobs and home ownership of millions of Americans and a law was passed to prevent them from being insured to do so again, they have used their puppets in Congress to give them the right to do it again. But unlike in the past, they have energized a powerful and growing adversary movement with well-respected and liked leaders that has them in their sites. After the 2016 elections, if it favors Democrats as is the trend for Presidential year elections, maybe there will be a comeuppance for Wall Street much sooner than they expect.
This theme of out of control power bringing about it’s own adversarial force to confront and eventually defeat them can be seen in a variety of recent situations.
Vladimir Putin, the modern day czar of Russia saw himself as an invulnerable power on the world stage. He had used his position to protect the ongoing mass slaughters in Syria by his valuable military equipment customer, Bashar al-Assad and blocked strong UN sanctions against his military equipment customer Iran as they worked to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. Within Russia, he attacked and oppressed gays, political opponents and protesters including a music group made of young girls (Pussy Riot) without hesitation or any fear of consequence. He hosted the Winter Olympics just earlier this year in a propaganda climate that could only match the 1936 Olympics Adolf Hitler hosted in Berlin. And on the heels of that “goodwill” he received from the world, Putin calculated he had the political capital to execute his invasion of Ukraine and the annexing of Crimea.
During his criminal, brutal and deceitful assault of the sovereign nation of Ukraine, Republicans could hardly control their hard-ons for Putin. They praised him and openly wished that he could be America’s leader while slapping at Obama and laughing at how weak and ineffective he looked in comparison to this “real” leader (to Republicans, dictators are the only “real” leaders).
Despite international condemnation, sanctions imposed by the US and some allies (which again, Republicans sneered at as examples of how weak Obama was in responding to Putin), the shocking shooting down by Putin’s secret troops in Ukraine of a commercial airliner, the increasing tensions from Putin having war planes straying into the airspace of other nations, Putin remained confident that no one could stoop his march to attack the world in his way and restore Russia to the glory of its USSR heights.
But Putin’s savagery and aggression had created an environment where even the EU countries most dependent upon Russia’s oil and gas, knew they had to come together to stop him before it was too late. They knew that they couldn’t fight an analog war with armies and bombs, it would be too horrible and destructive, so instead the US and other nations focused on increasing oil output and conservation to reduce the need for and value of Putin’s oil. Russia is a pretty one-dimensional economy, at least half of all revenue they get annually comes from oil. Slash the value of that oil and even this powerful dictator can be brought to his knees without a single shot being fired. Since the beginning of the year, when Putin invaded Ukraine, the ruble has plunged in value against the US dollar by nearly 50%, its value cut in half by both the US led sanctions but mostly, the tumbling price of oil (as we can all see at the gas pumps right now…gas under $3!).
So Republicans, who’s looking like a stronger and smarter leader now? You still want Putin to be your President? He’s pushed his economy’s GDP to contract by around 4.7% next year according to Russian officials themselves! Which, knowing how honest they are, is probably a fraction of how much their economy will collapse over the next year. And with a nation suffering through devastating cuts and a severe recession, just how secure will this man who was so powerful and invulnerable just months ago, be in the role of Russia’s leader?
We’re all also sadly well aware of the power that our police forces have accumulated and how the racist tendencies of too many in our police forces (our courts and government as well) have wielded that power in deadly ways against unarmed and innocent black men. Abusing the power of the badge through prejudice is not new but the increased publicity and outrage it generates in today’s era of social media has changed the game. Those who use their power as police to injure and kill people simply because of the color of their skin have unknowingly been building the power of their adversaries. As overwhelming as police forces have become with their increasing militarization and treatment of citizens who protest as an enemy force that needs to be crushed, they too are not a power that can avoid defeat.
As with Putin, the approach to defeating the abuse of power by police would never work in a physical battle. Instead, all these weeks after the 1-2 punch of injustice in Missouri and New York, grand juries agreeing that cops have the right to kill unarmed black men, even those who pose absolutely no threat as proven in video, a protest movement continues to gain power nationally. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have been active in connecting with the movement and offering what they can do with their power to stop this madness. Those policemen who support the racial violence by police may continue undaunted but the adversaries they’ve created are the ones whose power is growing now.
Again, even society is bound by the laws of science. The accumulation of negative power brings about the growth of positive power, not necessarily simultaneously but over the long run. The ebb and flow of that power means that one may dominate the other for a period but momentum eventually shifts back and forth. Unfortunately, in human society, negative power is usually reached for first and starts off with a lead (constructive people don’t have as much of a need to acquire power to accomplish constructive things, those who are selfish need power to force others to accept their selfish goals) but there have always been breaking points where conscience and solidarity gathers more power. They might not always be huge victories for the good guys but those eventually come too (in order for America to elect Barack Obama as President twice, we had to have the terrible, abusive power of the Bush Administration first).
This isn’t Pollyanna naiveté that allows us all to cozy up back on our couches, content in the knowledge that eventually the powerful who harm the majority will be stopped. Those times will come as they always have but they can either come sooner and limit the amount of deaths and harm to innocent people if we step up now or they can come later when we finally do get up off the couch but then we’ll see an unnecessarily long trail of destruction we allowed to continue.
History is on our side and against those who abuse the power they have. In the end, no one can maintain their power because of the inverse property of power, every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. And that is our eternal job as the majority of human beings on this planet, to be that equal and opposite reaction to those who accumulate power and use it to gratify themselves at the expense of the lives and well being of others.