I recently claimed on this blog that we need to start thinking about the empowerment of individual people…especially because “bringing factories back” is both absurd in principle* and focused on the short-term, given that pretty much all factory-type work (not to mention a whole lot of other work!) will soon be automated. Gandhi insisted that technology should be available to all, insofar as it was necessary, and that all people should have at their disposal the power to live decent lives. Pretty much the only way that will happen is if we stop the frightening rush of all wealth, power, and comfort to the elite few. We need to recognize the problem of automation and work to ensure the self-sufficiency of people in a machine age. So much for our first lesson from Gandhi.
This second lesson comes specifically from the question of a government that refuses to share wealth. The Trump administration is already representative of a massive and unprecedented concentration of wealth (according to a calculation by Quartz). So, what we’re seeing is a government that is not “by and for” the people but, rather, composed of and in league with a tiny moneyed elite. And that government has no interest in benefiting anyone outside the top 1% of the U.S. economic population. If allowed, the Trump-led Republican government will strip health care from people who cannot afford it, remove welfare support from those who are hungry, decimate the public school system in favor of vouchers, continue “borrowing” money from the Social Security Administration, allege the Social Security Administration is insolvent (precisely because they “borrowed” the money to launch a war in the Middle East) so it must be transformed into a privatized system that leaves the elderly at the whims of the market (an institution that also benefits the few without regard for the many), and lower taxes (such as the estate tax) on those most able to afford them. With government revenues down, the Republican government will have “no choice” but to reduce money available for supporting the public.
What can we do about such a government? Well, Gandhi witnessed one upon his return to India in the early 20th century. In Hind Swaraj (translated “Indian Home Rule“), he points toward the need for true home rule, or self-rule. The British control had disenfranchised millions of Indians, leaving them in poverty. He asked of his countrymen how it was that such a thing had come about, and how it was that the British continued to rule.
Gandhi answers that “the causes that gave them India enable them to retain it. Some Englishmen state that they took, and they hold, India by the sword. Both these statements are wrong. The sword is entirely useless for holding India. We alone keep them….Many problems can be solved by remembering that money is their God. Then it follows that we keep the English in India for our base self-interest. We like their commerce, they please us by their subtle methods, and get what they want from us.”
His words echo down to us a century later and several continents away. Trump’s wealthy elite will rule because we allow them to. Drowning in our desire for the latest gadget, television show, self-reinforcing conspiracy theory, or opportunity to share imagined versions of ourselves online, we ignore the fact that these practices all too often benefit others far more than ourselves, and they serve to keep power firmly in the hands of the people who presently run the government.
But similarly we can recognize that it is we who keep these people in power. This problem is particularly notable in “blue states” (aren’t all the states a mixture of ideas?). In states like California, New York, Connecticut, etc., voters express frustration that they’re the ones financially supporting the government while voters in states that draw far more resources than they give have elected a government that will continue to disenfranchise the voters in all of the states. If a Republican government means less government spending, then the “red states” are about to reap a terrible harvest. Of the top ten states least federally dependent, nine of them voted for a Clinton presidency. Of the top ten states most federally dependent, only New Mexico knows what’s in its best interest. You can see the stats here. This tells you that, overall and in startling fashion, the states where a majority prefer a Republican president are the very states most likely to suffer when the government withdraws federal support from the people.
Well, they can do that only if allowed. If the CalExit crowd and others in the “blue states” want to stop the government from exercising cruelty against the poor and the vulnerable, they should stop allowing it to do so. We can stop sending money to the federal government until such time as it becomes a government dedicated to the general welfare. Leaving the union isn’t the answer; rather we need to force the government to become the government of the many instead of the few.
*Consider, for example, how Trump’s “deal” with Carrier led to massive tax cuts that will disenfranchise an entire state while the majority of jobs will still disappear…all despite the fact that Carrier was profitable while operating in the U.S.