Here's how right-wing media outlets kill people who take their advice

It happened three times yesterday, and I only watched or half-watched a few hours of TV news. It happens every day, it seems. Somebody wonders out loud (yesterday's most prominent was Alex Witt with Dr. Anthony Fauci) why over 60 million Americans who are eligible to be vaccinated are still refusing — including hospital workers in some parts of the country.

Everybody treats it like it's a confounding question with no easy answer. The actual answer, though, is pretty straightforward: the psychopaths running the rightwing media ecosystem dominated by Fox "News" and social media, and echoed by 1500 radio stations across the country, have decided people dying and being disabled is both profitable and politically advantageous to them.

When Joe Biden was elected president the Republican Party and their joined-at-the-hip rightwing media did a sudden about-face from praising Trump's "Operation Warp Speed" to encouraging their followers to remain unvaccinated so President Biden would struggle to get the economy back on sound footing.

That, they figured, was their best bet to take back Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024, and they've stayed on-message ever since Biden took office on January 20th. As I noted in considerable detail back in July, death is their political strategy.

And now, as if to put a punctuation point on it, the headline at Raw Story warns: Fox News host uses Colin Powell's death to launch anti-vax rant: "Fully-vaccinated are dying of Covid."

Almost 750,000 Americans have died of Covid and recent research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that as many as half of the 45 million Americans who've been diagnosed with the disease will suffer long term consequences, the main ones being dementia, exhaustion and damage to the heart and kidneys.

It used to be in American business that you knew where the psychopaths were: tobacco. It's an industry producing a product that, when used as directed, kills around a half-million Americans every year.

Being able to comfortably fall asleep every night knowing that the product of your workday had killed another 1300 people is a rare competence that typically requires the mental illness of psychopathy.

About 1% of Americans are psychopaths, although such people tend to be concentrated in some areas: as many as 12% of major corporate CEOs are believed to be psychopaths, and about 15% of people in prison.

A psychopath, for all practical purposes, believes that he's quite literally the only "true human being" on planet Earth.

Everybody else is an actor of some sort, a prop, in the grand play of the psychopath's life. Everybody else is here to make him happy and meet his needs, and he doesn't have to worry about hurting them or not meeting their needs because they are not "real people" like he is.

The clinical terminology is that psychopaths "lack the ability to feel empathy." Weirdly, this lack of empathy can make them more successful in big business and politics, as well as in criminal and prison environments.

Thus, the CEO of Fox "News" — the network that daily spreads vaccine misinformation leading to deaths that are tearing apart American families — tells the Hollywood Reporter that she sleeps "well at night." Just like the tobacco CEOs.

Meanwhile, people who watch Fox and all its imitators across various media are taking the implicit advice of Fox's primetime hosts and avoiding vaccination…and getting sick and in some cases dying.

They're embracing quack cures promoted on the network and across rightwing media, including hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin, giving their viewers the false sense of security that if they get sick with this awful disease there's a ready cure at hand…so there's no need to get vaccinated.

Even worse, consumers of this media are doing their best to disrupt rational public health efforts like mask and vaccine mandates by harassing public health officials, school boards, and elected representatives across the country — all leading to even more disease and deaths.

When Americans realized, mostly as the result of massive lawsuits in the 1990s, that the CEOs of the tobacco industry were knowingly killing people (and even reaching out to addict children) we took action.

We limited access to this death-dealing product, from outlawing television advertising to limiting placement of cigarette vending machines and strict enforcement of age-limited retail sales. We also required that the product be honestly labeled: "Tobacco kills."

This isn't an option for media, and rightly so because of our First Amendment protections of the press (including this article). And nobody wants to take those freedoms and protections away.

But the most important and effective campaign our nation embarked on to cut tobacco use was the nationwide campaign to educate people about the dangers of tobacco use. We taught adults and schoolchildren alike how the industry was trying to addict them and showed them the consequences of using that deadly product.

Now that rightwing media has arguably caused more Americans to die in the past year than has tobacco, it's time to consider a similar strategy to balance the lies and misinformation streaming out of them every day.

If we can't rely on the news and social media industries' content producers or executives to stop spreading death-dealing misinformation, we can at least wake people up to the dangers of their products.


Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The sinister story of Kyrsten Sinema's turn to conservatism and political corruption

When Bobby Kennedy went after organized crime in the early 1960s, one of the things he learned was that the Mafia had a series of rituals new members went through to declare their loyalty and promise they'd never turn away from their new benefactors. Once in, they'd be showered with money and protection, but they could never leave and even faced serious problems if they betrayed the syndicate.

Which brings us to the story of Kyrsten Sinema.

For a republican democracy to actually work, average citizens with a passion for making their country better must be able to run for public office without needing wealthy or powerful patrons; this is a concept that dates back to Aristotle's rants on the topic. And Sinema was, in the beginning, just that sort of person. But I'm getting ahead of myself…

After the Nixon and Agnew bribery scandals were fully revealed with a series of congressional investigations leading to Nixon's resignation in 1974, Congress passed and President Jerry Ford signed into law a series of "good government" laws that provided for public funding of elections and strictly limited the role of big money in campaigns.

Just like the 1/6 attack on the Capitol produced a "select" committee to investigate the anti-democracy crimes of Donald Trump and his cronies, Congress authorized the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities to look into Nixon's abuses and make recommendations.

The committee's 100-page report documented how Nixon had taken bribes (most notably $400,000 from ITT to squash an antitrust lawsuit); used "dark" money from wealthy friends and corporations to set up astroturf "citizens committees" (an early version of the Tea Party) to make it appear he had widespread support among the American public; and used off-the-books money to both support loyal Republican politicians whose help he needed as well as to pay for his "opposition research" surveillance which included the Watergate break-in of the DNC's headquarters.

In response to the report, Congress passed an exhaustive set of new laws and regulations, most significantly creating from scratch the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), outlawing secret donations to politicians while providing for public funding of federal elections to diminish the power of big money. (Jimmy Carter was the only presidential candidate to win using such public funding.)

Over the years since, conservatives on the Supreme Court have repeatedly gutted provisions of the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), most famously in 2010 with their notorious Citizens United decision.

With that stroke, over the loud objections of the four "liberals" on the Court, corporations were absolutely deemed as "persons" with full constitutional rights, and billionaires or corporations pouring massive amounts of money into campaign coffers was changed from "bribery and political corruption" to an exercise of the constitutionally-protected "right of free speech."

Into this milieu stepped Kyrsten Sinema, running from a seat in the Arizona Senate for the US House of Representatives in 2012 as an "out" bisexual and political progressive. The campaign quickly turned ugly.

Following the Citizens United script, the Republican she confronted in that race (Vernon Parker) used corporate and billionaire money to carpet-bomb their district airwaves with ads calling her "a radical left-wing activist promoting hatred toward our country, our allies, and our families" and warning people that she "engaged in pagan rituals."

The district was heavily Democratic (Obama handily won it that year) but the race was close enough that it took six full days for the AP to call it for Sinema. And that, apparently, was when she decided that if you can only barely beat them, you'd damn well better join them.

Sinema quickly joined other Democrats who'd followed the Citizens United path to the flashing neon lights of big money, joining the so-called "Problem Solvers" caucus that owes its existence in part to the Wall Street-funded front group "No Labels."

Quietly and without fanfare, she began voting with Republicans and the corporate- and billionaire-owned Democrats, supporting efforts to deregulate big banks, "reform" Social Security and Medicare, and make it harder to for government to protect regular investors or even buyers of used cars from being ripped off.

She voted with the Chamber 77 percent of the time in her first term; in return, political networks run by right-wing billionaires and the US Chamber of Commerce showered her with support. In her first re-election race, in 2014, she was one of only five democrats endorsed by the notoriously right-wing Chamber.

She'd proved herself as a "made woman," just like the old mafiosi documented by RFK in the 1960s, willing to do whatever it takes, compromise whatever principles she espoused, to get into and stay in the good graces of the large and well-funded right-wing syndicates unleashed by Citizens United.

So it should surprise precisely nobody that Sinema is parroting the Chamber's and the billionaire network's line that President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan is too generous in helping and protecting average Americans and too punitive in taxing the morbidly rich. After all, once you're in, you leave at your own considerable peril, even when 70 percent of your state's voters want the bill to pass.

And this is a genuine crisis for America because if President Biden is frustrated in his attempt to pass his Build Back Better legislation (that is overwhelmingly supported by Americans across the political spectrum) — all because business groups, giant corporations and right-wing billionaires are asserting ownership over their two "made" senators — there's a very good chance that today's cynicism and political violence is just a preview of the rest of the decade.

But this isn't as much a story about Sinema as it is about today's larger political dysfunction for which she's become, along with Joe Manchin, a poster child.

Increasingly, because of the Supreme Court's betrayal of American values, it's become impossible for people like the younger Sinema to rise from social worker to the United States Senate without big money behind them. Our media is absolutely unwilling to call this what even Andrew Jackson would have labeled it: political corruption. But that's what it is and it's eating away at our republic like a metastasized cancer.

A guest on Brian Stelter's CNN program yesterday pointed out that there are today more autocracies in the world than democracies and, generally, democracies are on the decline. This corruption of everyday politics by the rich and powerful is how democracies begin the shift to autocracy or oligarchy, as I document in gruesome detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy from the Ruling Class.

While the naked corruption of Sinema and Joe Manchin is a source of outrage for Democrats across America, what's far more important is that it reveals how deep the rot of money in American politics has gone, thanks entirely to a corrupted Supreme Court.

In Justice Stevens' dissent in Citizens United, he pointed out that corporations in their modern form didn't even exist when the Constitution was written in 1787 and got its first ten amendments in 1791, including the First which protects free speech.

"All general business corporation statues appear to date from well after 1800," Stevens pointed out to his conservative colleagues on the Court. "The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans they had in mind.

"The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides it…. Unlike natural persons, corporations have 'limited liability' for their owners and managers, 'perpetual life,' separation of ownership and control, 'and favorable treatment of the accumulation of assets….' Unlike voters in U.S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled."

Noting that corporations "inescapably structure the life of every citizen," Stevens continued: "It might be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

Even worse than the short-term effect of a corporation's dominating an election or a ballot initiative, Stevens said (as if he had a time machine to look at us now), was the fact that corporations corrupting politics would, inevitably, cause average working Americans — the 95 percent who make less than $100,000 a year — to conclude that their "democracy" is now rigged.

The result, Stevens wrote, is that average people would simply stop participating in politics, stop being informed about politics, and stop voting…or become angry and cynical. Our democracy, he suggested, would be immeasurably damaged and ultimately vulnerable to corporate-supported demagogues and oligarchs. Our constitutional republic, if Citizens United stands, could wither and could die.

"In addition to this immediate drowning out of noncorporate voices," Stevens wrote in 2010, "there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter. Corporate 'domination' of electioneering can generate the impression that corporations dominate our democracy.

"When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing.

"The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders 'call the tune' and a reduced 'willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.' To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled." (Emphasis mine)

As if he were looking at Kyrsten Sinema facing a tough choice about her own political survival leading up to the 2014 election, Stevens added:

"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation."

And, again looking into his time machine to today, the now-deceased Stevens pointed to the frustration of average Americans with Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

"On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to 'hold officials accountable to the people,' and disserve the goal of a public debate that is 'uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.'"

Stevens and his fellow "liberals" on the Court were both prescient and right.

They warned in their dissent that foreign money would corrupt our elections and we saw that in a big way in 2016. There's apparently no way of knowing how much of today's political turmoil — from school board to election commission to hospital and airplane violence — is being orchestrated and amplified by foreign players on social media masquerading as Americans to weaken our country.

They warned that because of the Citizens United decision Americans would become cynical and reactionary; that's happening today. Armed militias are in our streets, people are regularly assaulted for their perceived politics, and right-wing media demagogues make millions (literally) promoting hate and fear.

And, they warned, it could doom our republic, something that's now within our sight.

In other news, former President Donald Trump could soon be off the hook in the Stormy Daniels payoff case — and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is disgusted. WATCH:

Pro-Trump candidate suggests taking 'all the boats out of the water' to lower sea levels

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The QAnon crowd has a familiar face: How right-wing cults have always plagued our politics

The latest white guy going on a rage-bender before being "respectfully" taken into custody for "mental health evaluation" was at the Miami airport, an incident that broke the internet last week.

Since Trump began his campaign of self-centered, self-entitled whining, preening and racist "straight talk" in 2015, hate crimes and violence against women have exploded by around 20 percent.

Meanwhile, "conservatives" have created a "watch list" of college professors suspected of teaching "liberal" climate science or the actual racial history of America; fossil fuel billionaires and their buddies, with the Supreme Court's blessing, have corrupted Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and the entire GOP; and school boards, teachers and election officials receive daily harassment and even death threats.

All across the internet, we're hearing weird theories that Trump and his followers have stolen some obscure idea from Roy Cohn and Roger Stone or are trying to reinvent German Nazism in an American wrapper.

But the misogyny, hate and intimidation that the newly-Trumpy GOP have embraced since 2015 isn't new, and certainly isn't unique to America; indeed, it's played a huge role throughout the centuries of our history.

Today's "proud boys," for example, are just a modern version of the New England "churchmen" of the 1700s, the Klan riders of the 1800s, and Joe McCarthy's fervent followers of the 1950s. Our sold-out "conservative" anti-Critical Race Theory politicians are just this generation's versions of white supremacist John C. Calhoun fronting for morbidly rich "plantation" owners in the mid-1800s.

Historically these bullies lose, but in the process they cause extraordinary pain and disruption to our nation. We must revisit, and learn from, history.

When authoritarian men seize power, they always go after advocates for broader democratic rights and even modernity itself. And they particularly go after objective science, women, and minorities of every sort.

The Catholic Church went after Copernicus and then promoted repeated wars — "crusades" and pogroms — against Jews and Muslims. Authoritarians throughout history, motivated by deep-seated fears and ignorance, similarly hate science, egalitarian values, and those who think or look different from them.

Benjamin Franklin was one of the most influential of the Founders when it came to the shaping of the Constitution and our nation, and he was horrified by the power that right-wingers (rationalizing their largely economic and political power grabs with religion) had seized in his birth state of Massachusetts and nearby New Hampshire.

As a teenager, he fled the state for Philadelphia, where there were no religious tests and people weren't required by law (as they were in most of Massachusetts and New Hampshire) to tithe and attend church every week.

"Scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age," he wrote in his first autobiography, "when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of revelation itself."

Today, churches and radio/TV/YouTube preachers are the second largest vehicle for promoting anti-democracy behaviors and protests, behind social media. Franklin knew that even when their style of threats and violence were used to "enforce morality," it's really about power and political control.

This knowledge led him to campaign against authoritarianism and in favor of "free thinking" for much of his life. As his peer Joseph Priestly wrote of him, "It is much to be lamented that a man of Dr. Franklin's general good character and great influence should have been an unbeliever in Christianity and also have done so much as he did to make others unbelievers."

Louise and I used to live just a short drive from Dover, New Hampshire, the fourth-largest city in the state, near the Maine border and the Atlantic seacoast. Generations ago, rightwing politicians and preachers were enforcing social control, and John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "How the Women Went from Dover" tells the tale of three young women who dared to challenge that day's powerful men, that early generation of what today we would called Trump followers.

Whittier's poem begins:

The tossing spray of Cocheco's fall
Hardened to ice on its rocky wall,
As through Dover town in the chill, gray dawn,
Three women passed, at the cart-tail drawn!

The three women were Anne Coleman, Mary Tomkins, and Alice Ambrose, and their crime was adhering to and promoting peace-promoting Quaker beliefs in a rabidly rightwing town.

This so enraged the minister of Dover's Congregational church, John Reyner, that he and church elder Hatevil Nutter (yes, that was his real name) lobbied the crown magistrate, Captain Richard Walderne, to have them punished for their challenge to Reyner's authority.

It was a bitter winter when Walderne complied, ordering the three women stripped naked and tied to the back of a horse-drawn cart by their wrists, then dragged through town while receiving ten lashes each. As Whittier wrote:

Bared to the waist, for the north wind's grip
And keener sting of the constable's whip,
The blood that followed each hissing blow
Froze as it sprinkled the winter snow.

A local man, George Bishop, wrote at the time, "Deputy Waldron caused these women to be stripped naked from the middle upwards, and tied to a cart, and after a while cruelly whipped them, whilst the priest stood and looked and laughed at it."

It was a start, from Reverend Reyner's point of view, but hardly enough to scare the residents of the entire region from which he drew his congregation. So, he got the young women's punishment extended to 11 nearby towns over 80 miles of snow-covered roads, all following the same routine.

So into the forest they held their way,
By winding river and frost-rimmed bay,
Over wind-swept hills that felt the beat
Of the winter sea at their icy feet.

The next town was Hampton, where the constable decided that just baring them above the waist wasn't enough. As Sewall's History of the Quakers records, "So he stripped them, and then stood trembling whip in hand, and so he did the execution. Then he carried them to Salisbury through the dirt and the snow half the leg deep; and here they were whipped again."

Once more the torturing whip was swung,
Once more keen lashes the bare flesh stung.
"Oh, spare! they are bleeding!" a little maid cried,
And covered her face the sight to hide.

Whipping, beating, stoning, hanging, nailing, being pilloried (publicly clamped to a post through neck and wrist holes, often naked and sometimes for days at a time), dragging, burning, branding, and dozens of other techniques were employed by religious and government authorities in the early American colonies to enforce thought and behavior.

And Trump and his "boys" who strut around with T-Shirts celebrating General Pinochet's practice of throwing "liberals" out of helicopters in Chile in the 1970s would bring it back if they gain power again.

If her cry from the whipping-post and jail
Pierced sharp as the Kenite's driven nail,
O woman, at ease in these happier days,
Forbear to judge of thy sister's ways!

On July 17, 1658, for example, Massachusetts Puritans seized Quakers Christopher Holder and John Copeland and chopped off each man's right ear. They were then imprisoned and brutally whipped "on a set schedule" for "nine weeks straight."

Expelled from the Massachusetts territory, Holder and Copeland were told that if they returned, their left ears would also be cut off and a hole would be bored through each of their tongues with a hot poker.

In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter, set in Puritan Boston, which dramatized how rule-breakers were stigmatized in Massachusetts. In Hawthorne's telling, Hester Prynne was forced to wear a scarlet "A," stigmatizing her as an adulterer.

It's why there was debate about admitting Massachusetts to the new United States if they wouldn't drop their laws supporting hard-right religion; the state finally, after massive debate and over the objections of multiple churches, complied and agreed to ratify the Constitution with its hated free speech and freedom from religion clauses.

So this generation of democracy-hating, bizarre-religious-cult-Qanon-believing right-wingers are really nothing new.

Instead of public whippings to humiliate their enemies, they use social media, truck caravans with semiautomatic weapons and giant flags, and pick fights in airports and public parks.

Instead of denying the Earth goes around the sun, they deny the dangers of Covid and global warming.

Instead of closing schools they force teachers to expose themselves to disease while harassing and threatening them if they dare teach science or actual American history.

Instead of requiring the payment of church taxes to vote, they require elaborate proofs of citizenship and purge "undesirable" people from voting lists with a nod and a wink from the Supreme Court.

From Ben Franklin's time to today, every generation of Americans have confronted rightwing authoritarians bent on maintaining violent white male supremacy using the twin levers of religious fanaticism and concentrated wealth.

It's probably beyond the power of human nature to prevent this from ever happening again, but we must not resign ourselves to another authoritarian movement now rising to power in America. Get active!

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Ron DeSantis and the for-profit medical death trap

It has to be a scurrilous lie. Seriously: nobody is that evil.

Although it is the sort of thing that we've come to expect because our unique-in-the-world, for-profit health insurance system leaves Americans financially vulnerable to sickness but offers huge profits to companies and CEOs in the system.

Some cynical people are suggesting that the reason Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is forcing teachers and children to sit for hours every day in classrooms with unmasked children is because he wants them all to get infected with Covid…to make money for a friend of his.

Seriously. There's that theory out there, and it's almost too evil to believe it could be true.

That DeSantis is intentionally trying to expose children, families and public-school teachers to a deadly disease simply because it'll make a few million extra dollars for his largest donor, billionaire Ken Griffin, whose fund is one of the biggest stockholders in the company that makes the only available monoclonal antibody drug approved to treat Covid.

And, of course, it might also take out a few hundred unionized teachers, a bonus in any Republican's book.

But it can't be true that DeSantis is spreading disease just to goose healthcare profits, can it?

After all, when the federal government offered to give Florida billions of dollars to expand their Medicaid program to provide free healthcare for the state's working poor, Governor Rick Scott and later Governor DeSantis said a firm "no."

Even though all that money coming into the state to pay for healthcare could have goosed up the profits of any number of hospitals and health operations Griffin could invest in, DeSantis still refused to expand Medicaid statewide. (He did eventually sign an expansion of Medicaid for new moms, but it's a pittance and arguably a shout-out to the forced-birth crowd.)

Far more likely is that DeSantis just wants to win the Republican primary for president in 2024 and thinks having the Trump "base" and Fox "News" on his side will get him there.

After all, having hundreds of thousands of Floridians suffer disability or die — bankrupting family after family — just to score points with Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson demonstrates all the manly cred he'll need. Right?

It's another danger of having a for-profit health insurance system that doesn't cover everybody, so when a corrupt governor like DeSantis uses death and disease for political manipulation families end up ill, broke and desperate — as are millions of American families right now because of Covid.

Whatever's going on with DeSantis, we're not Brazil and we really do need to get past behaving like a third-world country where the boss-man plays games with deadly diseases for political gain.

And the best way to do that is to finally join pretty much every other developed country in the world and put into place a single-payer healthcare system like Medicare For All.

When this pandemic started, America had 87 million uninsured or underinsured citizens. As a result, a FamiliesUSA study found:

  • Nationally, roughly 1 out of every 3 COVID-19 deaths are linked to health insurance gaps.
  • More than 40% of all COVID-19 infections are associated with health insurance gaps.
  • By February 1, 2021, 10.9 million infections and 143,000 COVID-19 deaths may have been associated with health insurance gaps.
  • A national healthcare program that extended to all Americans would keep state governors from grandstanding on healthcare issues. Even better, like every other developed country in the world, it would provide a nexus for health data and a single point of advocacy for health consumers, something sorely lacking today.And it would keep America healthy.

    As Public Citizen noted, "For every 10% increase in a county's uninsured rate, the researchers found a 70% increase in COVID-19 infections and nearly a 50% increase in deaths from COVID-19."

    Uninsured people often live paycheck-to-paycheck and have no paid sick days, so they have little choice but to show up sick if they want to pay the rent and provide food for their families. It's well known that's how and why flu and other communicable diseases are transmitted by desperate low-wage workers and it's one of the strongest arguments for a national healthcare system.Individual health is public health, and vice-versa.

    Our failure to put into place a Medicare For All type of health insurance system causes uninsured or poorly insured people to postpone medical care early in the course of a disease, hoping to make it through without incurring medical expenses.

    This is particularly dangerous with Covid: monoclonal antibody treatment works to cut the severity of the coronavirus infection, but only if given when first symptoms appear and before people are so sick they need hospitalization; after that point it's useless.

    In a pandemic, a national health insurance and healthcare system becomes critical to keeping the public safe.

    I open my new book, The Hidden History of American Healthcare: Why Sickness Bankrupts You and Makes Others Insanely Rich, with the story of how Taiwan used the national database from their single-payer system to quickly put together a testing-and-contact-tracing system that kept the coronavirus at bay through the first year of the pandemic until vaccines became available.

    Here, by contrast, our for-profit health insurance system is so corrupt that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently had to go after multiple insurance companies with the threat of huge fines for refusing to pay for all or part of Covid testing, even though paying for it was mandated by federal law.

    When a single health insurance CEO — like "Dollar Bill" McGuire of UnitedHealth — can walk away with over a billion dollars, you know something is seriously screwed up.

    Administering a health insurance system is one of the easiest, most banal and straightforward processes in the world, which is why most developed countries (and even small countries like Costa Rica) have the government perform that function with single-payer instead of letting for-profit leeches skim billions off the top.

    The Covid pandemic has shown how well single-payer and other national systems work in countries like Canada and across Europe, where medical bankruptcies are largely unknown. It's similarly exposed how corrupt and dysfunctional the American patchwork-quilt for-profit system has become.

    Medicare For All, like Canada has, would save most American families thousands of dollars every year and do away with the 500,000+ annual bankruptcies in this country that happen only because somebody in the family got sick.

    But it would kill the billions every week in profits for the half-dozen corporate giants that dominate the health insurance industry and throw millions every year at politicians and PACs. So expect DeSantis and the Republican Party to continue to fight it tooth and nail.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    When will we stop letting our presidents lie America into wars?

    Let's never forget that what we are watching happen right now in Afghanistan is the final act of George W. Bush's 2004 reelection strategy.

    After 9/11 the Taliban offered to arrest Bin Laden, but Bush turned them down because he wanted to be a "wartime president" to have a "successful presidency."

    The Washington Post headline weeks after 9/11 put it succinctly: "Bush Rejects Taliban Offer On Bin Laden." With that decision not to arrest and try Bin Laden for his crime but instead to go to war George W. Bush set the US and Afghanistan on a direct path to today.

    More recently, Trump and Pompeo gave the Taliban everything they wanted — power, legitimacy and the release of 5000 of their worst war criminals — over the strong objections of the Afghan government in 2019 so Trump could falsely claim, heading into the 2020 election, that he'd "negotiated peace" in Afghanistan when in fact he'd set up this week's debacle.

    "The relationship I have with the Mullah is very good," Trump proclaimed after ordering the mullah who yesterday named himself President freed from prison over the furious objection of Afghan's government, who Trump had cut out of the negotiations.

    Now Trump and the GOP are scrubbing the record of that betrayal of both America and Afghanistan and embrace of the Taliban from their websites, as noted here and here.

    And the UK is coming right out and saying that Trump's "rushed" deal with the Taliban — without involvement of the Afghan government or the international community — set up this disaster. "The die was cast," Defense Minister Ben Wallace told the BBC, "when the deal was done by Donald Trump, if you want my observation."

    Trump's sabotage notwithstanding, President Biden, the State Department and the Pentagon should have anticipated this week's debacle in Afghanistan. The fact that they didn't speaks volumes about how four administrations, the Pentagon and our defense contractors covered up how poorly the Ashraf Ghani government was doing there. Just like they did with Vietnam. It's on all of them.

    And this isn't the first time a president has lied us into a war.

    · Vietnam wasn't the first time an American president and his buddies in the media lied us into a war when Defense Secretary Robert McNamara falsely claimed that an American warship had come under attack in the Gulf of Tonkin and LBJ went along with the lie.

    · Neither was President William McKinley lying us into the Spanish-American war in 1898 by falsely claiming that the USS Maine had been blown up in Havana harbor (it caught fire all by itself).

    · The first time we were lied into a major war by a president was probably the Mexican-American war of 1846 when President James Polk lied that we'd been invaded by Mexico. Even Abraham Lincoln, then a congressman from Illinois, called him out on that lie.

    · You could also argue that when President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 leading to the Trail of Tears slaughter and forced relocation of the Cherokee under President Buchanan (among other atrocities) it was all based on a series of lies.

    Bush's lies that took us into Afghanistan and, a bit over a year later into Iraq, are particularly egregious, however, given his and Cheney's apparent reasons for those lies.

    In 1999, when George W. Bush decided he was going to run for president in the 2000 election, his family hired Mickey Herskowitz to write the first draft of Bush's autobiography, A Charge To Keep.

    Although Bush had gone AWOL for about a year during the Vietnam war and was thus apparently no fan of combat, he'd concluded (from watching his father's "little 3- day war" with Iraq) that being a "wartime president" was the most consistently surefire way to get reelected and have a two-term presidency.

    "I'll tell you, he was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," Herskowitz told reporter Russ Baker in 2004.

    "One of the things [Bush] said to me," Herskowitz said, "is: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of (Kuwait) and he wasted it.

    "[Bush] said, 'If I have a chance to invade Iraq, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.'"

    The attack on 9/11 gave Bush his first chance to "be seen as a commander-in-chief" when our guy Osama Bin Laden, who the Reagan/Bush administration had spent $3 billion building up in Afghanistan, engineered an attack on New York and DC.

    The crime was planned in Germany and Florida and on 9/11 Bin Laden was, according to CBS News, not even in Afghanistan: "CBS Evening News has been told that the night before the Sept. 11 terrorists attack, Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan. He was getting medical treatment with the support of the very military that days later pledged its backing for the U.S. war on terror in Afghanistan." When the Obama administration finally caught and killed Bin Laden, he was again in Pakistan, the home base for the Taliban.

    But attacking our ally Pakistan in 2001 would have been impossible for Bush, and, besides, nearby Afghanistan was an easier target, being at that time the second-poorest country in the world with an average annual per-capita income of $700 a year. Bin Laden had run terrorist training camps there, unrelated to 9/11, but they made a fine excuse for Bush's first chance to "be seen as a commander-in-chief" and get some leadership cred.

    Cheney, meanwhile, was in a world of trouble because of a huge bet he'd made as CEO of Halliburton in 1998. Dresser Industries was big into asbestos and about to fall into bankruptcy because of asbestos lawsuits that the company was fighting up through the court system. Cheney bet Dresser would ultimately win the suits and had Halliburton buy the company on the cheap, but a year later, in 1999, Dresser got turned down by the courts and Haliburton's stock went into freefall, crashing 68 percent in a matter of months.

    Bush had asked Cheney — who'd worked in his father's White House as Secretary of Defense — to help him find a suitable candidate for VP.

    Cheney, as his company was collapsing, recommended himself for the job. In July of 2000, Cheney walked away with $30 million from the troubled company and the year after that, as VP, Halliburton subsidiary KBR received one of the first no-bid no-ceiling (no limit on how much they could receive) multi-billion-dollar military contracts.

    Bush and Cheney both had good reason to want to invade Afghanistan in October 2001:

    Bush was largely seen as an illegitimate president at the time because his father's appointee on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, had cast the deciding vote that made him president; a war gave him legitimacy and the aura of leadership.

    Cheney's company was in a crisis, and Afghanistan War no-bid contracts helped turn around Halliburton from the edge of bankruptcy into one of the world's largest defense contractors.

    Even Trump had to get into the "let's lie about Afghanistan" game, in his case to have bragging rights that he'd "ended the war in Afghanistan."

    In 2019, Trump went around the Afghan government (to their outrage: he even invited the Taliban to Camp David in a move that disgusted the world) to cut a so-called "peace deal" that sent thousands of newly-empowered Taliban fighters back into the field and drew down our troops to the point where today's chaos was absolutely predictable.

    Trump's deal was the signal to the 300,000+ Afghan army recruits that America no longer had their back and if the Taliban showed up they should just run away. Which, of course, is what has happened over the past few weeks.

    As The New York Times noted: "The Taliban capitalized on the uncertainty caused by the [Trump] February 2020 agreement reached in Doha, Qatar, between the militant group and the United States calling for a full American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some Afghan forces realized they would soon no longer be able to count on American air power and other crucial battlefield support and grew receptive to the Taliban's approaches."

    Jon Perr's article at Daily Kos does a great summary, with the title: "Trump put 5,000 Taliban fighters back in battle and tied Biden's hands in Afghanistan." Trump schemed and lied to help his reelection efforts, and the people who worked with our military and the US-backed Afghan government are and will pay a terrible price for it.

    As President Biden said Friday:

    "When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our Forces and our allies' Forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country's civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth."

    America has been lied into too many wars. It's cost us too much in money, credibility and blood. We must remember the lies.

    When President Ford withdrew US forces from Vietnam (I remember it well), there was barely a mention of McNamara's and LBJ's lies that got us into that war. Similarly, today's reporting on the chaos in Afghanistan almost never mentions Bush's and Cheney's lies and ulterior motives in getting us into that war in the first place.

    We can't afford to let this one go down the memory hole, too. We must learn from our mistakes.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    America has arrived at one of history's great crossroads

    The Democratic Party is having an internal battle over the "small" and the "large" infrastructure bills, but what's really at stake is the future of neoliberalism within the party. The smaller "bipartisan" bill represents the neoliberal worldview, including public-private partnerships and huge subsidies to for-profit companies, whereas the larger "reconciliation" Democratic Party-only bill hearkens back to the FDR/LBJ classic progressive way of doing things.

    Milton Friedman began selling neoliberalism to America in the 1950s, and we fully bought into it in the 1980s. Most Americans had no idea, really, what this new political/economic ideology meant; they just knew it involved free trade, economic austerity/tax cuts and deregulation/privatization.

    The free trade part, we were told, would bring about the end of great-power wars because countries that were economically interdependent wouldn't dare ruin their own economies by going to war with a significant trading partner.

    The "McDonald's Theory" hatched by Thomas Friedman was argued on TV and in the newspapers: no two nations that had McDonald's fast-food restaurants, we were told (falsely), had ever gone to war with each other.

    Free trade was also going to eliminate poverty in the world by giving every country an "even playing field" to compete for manufacturing jobs.

    High-wage countries like the US and the UK would have to stop protecting their laborers with unions, whose wage and benefit demands were merely "drags on the economy" and prevented the "magic of markets" from working.

    Low-wage countries would pick up much of that work, but over time their people would rise into the middle class, too, and everything would even out.

    And, indeed, trillions of dollars of wealth were sucked out of the American working class as union membership plunged from around a third of workers to about 6% in the private marketplace today, all while China saw the fastest and strongest rise of a middle class in the history of the world. There are now more middle-class Chinese than the entire population of the US, as the American middle class sank below being half our population for the first time since the postwar era got seriously underway.

    Austerity was supposed to end ghettos, crime and poverty in America by withdrawing the supports "lazy" people used to get by without having to work.

    In the neoliberal story, Black people weren't isolated in their neighborhoods by redlining and racist designs for highways, power-plants and other polluting industries; they lived in "public housing" on "welfare" and made more and more money, the neoliberal story went, as they had more and more babies out of wedlock.

    Reagan told the story of the "strapping young buck" in line at the supermarket upsetting all the hard-working white people when he whipped out his food stamps to pay for his steak and beer; it was the male complement to Reagan's Black "welfare queen" myth. Cut off his food stamps, the logic went, and he'll be forced to look for gainful employment…even if there were no jobs within miles and white employers wouldn't then hire Black people.

    The occasional Black rags-to-riches stories, like Herman Cain or Ben Carson, were celebrated and held up as an example of how neoliberal austerity policies would "transform the 'hood" and bring about both racial and economic integration nationwide. Meanwhile, harsh prison sentences, mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws would end the scourge of "super-predators" on our streets.

    And neoliberalism's tax cuts for the morbidly rich would incentivize them to start new businesses and "create jobs." Everybody would win!

    Deregulation, we were told, would enable all of this "free market magic" to happen quickly, because businesses were more nimble and knew better what they needed to do to make their products than did "government bureaucrats."

    Even regulations that most people agreed with, like pollution controls, were unnecessary, the neoliberalism advocates told us, because businesses that polluted would be "shamed in the marketplace."

    If they refused to clean things up and their pollution was harming people, we were told, they'd be "held accountable in the courts" by the families of the people they'd damaged or killed.

    Deregulation would also end economic depressions, because no banker or stockbroker in his right mind would take such big chances that a misstep could wipe out large sectors of the nation's economy.

    Republican Senator Phil Gramm made this very point on the floor of the Senate in 1999 when selling the end of the 1933 Glass-Steagall law that prevented checkbook banks from using their depositors' money to gamble in the stock, bond and real estate markets.

    Everybody applauded and banksters started gambling and became billionaires. And, of course, it led us straight to the Bush Crash of 2008 when the entire system seized up and you and I bailed out Wall Street with trillions of dollars, hundreds of billions of which the banksters simply pocketed.

    Privatization was a subset of deregulation, moving control over essential services like water, power and schools out of the public/governmental arena and into the hands of the rich and their allies. Privatization was supposed to make water cleaner, electricity cheaper and schools better.

    Tragically, as Americans are now realizing as we wake up from our neoliberal dream, all were lies.

    Flint, Michigan was a disastrous water privatization scheme pushed by the Republican administration of that state that has destroyed the lives of thousands of now-brain-damaged children.

    California and Texas suffer from regular blackouts while the stockholders and executives of their power companies stash billions in their money bins.

    Public schools around the country have been kneecapped as their resources are reallocated to corporate, for-profit charter schools.

    Reagan installs Neoliberalism

    From the 1930s to 1981, a period of time spanning more than two full generations, the American political and economic system was run under a "well-regulated capitalism" system conceived by economist John Maynard Keynes and put into place in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    A top income tax bracket of 91% that kicked in at around $3 million a year in today's money guaranteed that nobody became obscenely rich, while strong protections for workers and their right to unionize ensured a good chunk of corporate profits went to the workers who created that revenue.

    Anti-trust laws were so vigorously enforced that in the 1962 antitrust case of Brown Shoe Co. v United States, the Supreme Court blocked the merger of Brown and GR Kinney, two shoe manufacturers, because the combination of the two would have captured about 5 percent of the US shoe market. (For comparison, Nike today has 18 percent of the US shoe market.)

    Throughout that period America became steadily safer and cleaner as worker protections became law (and got their own agency with OSHA), pollution and dangerous products were regulated (and the EPA was created), and government stepped in proactively to reforest America (with the Civilian Conservation Corps) and provide American families with low-cost clean electricity (the Hoover and Bonneville Dams and the Tennessee Valley Authority, among others).

    But starting in a big way in the 1950s a number of front men for big money industries and dynastic fortunes stepped forward to argue that all of this regulation and taxation was not a benefit or economic stabilizer but, instead, a certain road to economic doom and social perdition.

    Milton Friedman argued (in his book Capitalism And Freedom) that high wages, taxes and regulation were stifling the economy in a way that would surely lead to hyperinflation and ruin, predicting a disaster far worse even than the Black Tuesday stock market crash and ensuing Republican Great Depression that Herbert Hoover kicked off in 1929.

    Russell Kirk argued (in The Conservative Mind) that if the American working class became sufficiently wealthy then minorities would rise up, wives would want to have careers and young people would become libertines, flouting the rules of society.

    The result, Kirk predicted in 1951, would be a Civil Rights movement that could overthrow white control of America; a women's movement that would sweep away socially-stabilizing patriarchy; and a student movement that defied authority, law and the draft, all leading to social chaos and our inability to fight wars.

    Inflation gives neoliberals the lever they needed

    Inflation had always been the thing that Friedman and his acolytes most loudly warned against, but when it came to America its cause wasn't what Friedman had predicted.

    In 1973 several Arab states went to war with Israel and the US openly took Israel's side in the conflict. Enraged, the oil-rich states — led by Saudi Arabia — cut off the supply of oil to America in what is now known as the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973-1974.

    There are two main ways inflation happens: a country debases its currency (as happened in Germany in the 1920s and Zimbabwe in this century) or a commodity that's at the core of an economy becomes scarce (in the case of Zimbabwe it was both: food became scarce at the same time the government went on a money-printing binge).

    The US has never had a serious problem with debasing our currency (although that's what Friedman was hysterically warning against), but everything in our economy — from manufactured goods to travel to food production and distribution — runs on oil.

    The oil shock so shook our economy that Richard Nixon, no fan of government intervention in markets, resorted to wage and price controls while people formed mile-long lines to get gas on the odd- or even-days they could do so, based on the last digit of their license plate.

    The result of that oil shortage was a subsequent shortage of pretty much everything else, and when things are scarce their price gets bid up. Inflation hit 12% in 1974 and stayed high while oil slowly worked its way back through the economy until 1981 when it dropped down to "mere" 8.9%.

    Friedman, Reagan and the wealthy funders of the Republican Party saw this inflation, which was devastating the Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter one-term presidencies, as a political gift. To a man, they insisted it was caused by FDR's and LBJ's "welfare state" policies and the "big spending" associated with them, even though that was a complete lie.

    Reagan was sworn into office just as inflation was beginning to abate (it dropped to 3.8% in 1982) and he told America that we needed to embrace an entirely new economic theory if we were to avoid another era of 15% mortgage rates and wage-eroding price increases.

    America, shook by that decade of seemingly intractable inflation, bought his sales pitch and Reaganomics — AKA neoliberalism — became the operational economic and political system of America in 1981. Everything from trickle-down to busting unions to "ending welfare as we know it" and "tough on crime policing" fell under this single rubric.

    Democrats buy into neoliberalism

    As the oil shock wore off and the American economy entered a period of strong rebound in 1982, it seemed that Reaganomics/neoliberalism was working.

    Expanding on the idea, Reagan and Bush the Elder negotiated what Bush called a "New World Order" of "free trade." While people would still be constrained by national borders, there would no longer be borders or barriers for the flow of money and corporate goods.

    They rolled out the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which later birthed the World Trade Organization (WTO) and negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was later signed by President Clinton.

    Bill Clinton had become a believer, in part because it was good politics; Reaganomics was getting credit for the end of the oil-shock-caused inflation and subsequent hard times and was popular.

    Reagan's destruction of American unions had also dried up the Democratic Party's main revenue source, so by 1992 jumping into bed with giant corporations and the super-rich had become a political survival strategy for Democrats.

    Embracing multinational corporations that wanted to move their expensive-labor manufacturing facilities overseas meant overflowing campaign coffers for the newly-neoliberal Democratic Party and Clinton's political arm, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

    It was time, Clinton told us, to consign the policies of Roosevelt and Keynes to the dustbin of history. There was a "New Democrat" Party (there's still a "New Democrat Caucus" in Congress for neoliberal hangers-on) and a new, young, vigorous president was taking the reins of government.

    It worked for a while, but by the early 2000s Americans were starting to see through the entire neoliberal façade, as over 50,000 factories had moved from the US to Mexico, China and other developing countries while wages in the US had collapsed. The middle class was going backwards, or staying flat at best, and discontent roiled the country.

    After a brief feelgood period of punitive war after 9/11, Americans were again ready to shake things up; they did so in an historic move by electing our country's first Black president, Barack Obama.

    While Obama, like Clinton, had campaigned on themes that made it seem he was rejecting neoliberalism, in fact he was as deeply in its camp as were Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush.

    By the time of his presidency neoliberalism was simply conventional wisdom in political circles, having been adopted in the UK in 1978 by Margaret Thatcher and large parts of it adopted by much of the rest of Europe in the 1990s and early 2000s. Onward to Davos to party with the neoliberal billionaires!

    But, still, as noble and soaring as Obama's rhetoric was, and as good and decent a man as he was (in contrast to the war criminal and torturer Bush, horny Clinton, or the evil Nixon), neoliberalism still wasn't working for anybody except America's biggest corporations and richest individuals. And American workers knew it.

    Enter Donald Trump, the political equivalent of The Little Boy Who Said The Emperor Has No Clothes. Trump attacked neoliberal policies of both parties, although never directly using the word "neoliberal."

    Free trade, he said, had been a disaster for American workers. And voters knew he was right.

    Rich people were gaming the tax system — he knew, he told us, because he did it, too — and he was going to put an end to that. Americans wanted tax fairness, and when Trump said his rich friends "will hate me" because he was going to raise their taxes so much, voters believed him.

    And austerity had not only not ended crime but was driving working class people into the poorhouse. Nobody, Trump proclaimed, would be a better friend to Social Security, Medicare, housing supports and other entitlement programs that supported the poor and middle class alike than him.

    Most of his solutions were lies, of course, but the American people wanted to believe that this reality TV star and billionaire was just the savior America needed.

    To top it off, Trump spoke what many white people considered "politically incorrect truths" about race and immigration. "They" were stealing your job and threatening to rape your wives and daughters, Trump told white Americans, and he was just the guy tough enough to deal with "them."

    Outside of tearing a few thousand brown-skinned children away from their parents and symbolic tariffs on Chinese products that backfired badly, Trump couldn't pull any of it off. He was as much a follower of neoliberal ideology as any American president since Reagan, his rhetoric aside.

    So Americans, still wanting to get rid of neoliberalism, decided to try the Democrats again in 2020, giving that party control of the House, Senate and White House. Joe Biden, a canny politician sensing the mood of the country, openly denounced many of the tenets of neoliberalism and, in the first six months of his presidency, accomplished Keynesian stimulus programs that would have left Clinton, Bush or Obama in shock.

    Now the Democrats and the Biden Administration face a choice.

    Do they finish the job and end neoliberalism altogether, bringing our manufacturing back home, rebuilding the power of organized labor, and raising taxes and regulations? Or do they declare "mission accomplished" and revert back to neoliberal policies?

    Turning back neoliberalism would be an accomplishment for the ages, something impossible even five years ago.

    Bringing American manufacturing back home, raising top income tax rates to the above-50% level that stabilizes the explosion of great wealth, and building a 21st century social safety net with free college and Medicare For All would guarantee the Democratic Party — like it did from the 1930s to 1980 — would control most of the US government for generations.

    It would also strengthen democracy itself in America, leading us towards the multiracial, multiethnic all-in society promised in our Founding documents but not yet fully realized.

    However, there are powerful forces arrayed in defense of neoliberalism, including the Supreme Court, massive transnational corporations and an activist billionaire class the Court empowered with rulings like Citizens United.

    If the neoliberals win and Biden and the Democrats back down, it's unlikely America will simply slide back into a "friendly neoliberalism" like we had before the Trump presidency.

    Instead, we will almost certainly follow the path that Russia and Hungary have trod, embracing Friedman's economic policies and the authoritarian strongman politics of oligarchy necessary to enforce them. It will be the end of the largest and most noble parts of the American Experiment.

    America has arrived at one of history's great crossroads.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    Josh Hawley just proposed a deranged law that is little more than a testament to racist hatred

    Sen, Josh Hawley, of the former slave state of Missouri, doesn't want America's white children to be exposed to the simple reality that slavery was not only legal at the founding of our country but was, in several places, written into our Constitution.

    And that the rest of America subsidized the slave-owners' states and continues to subsidize them to this day.

    Hawley, of course, is the guy who gave a fist-salute to the armed white supremacist traitors who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to assassinate Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi. He hopes to ride his white supremacy shtick to the White House.

    Doubling down on the GOP notion that America is a nation exclusively of, by and for white people, Hawley has now proposed a law he calls "The Love America Act of 2021." The bill is only three and a half pages long. There's a bit of legalese to make it into legislation, defining what "school" means, etc., but this is what it says:

    RESTRICTION ON FEDERAL FUNDS FOR TEACHING THAT CERTAIN DOCUMENTS ARE PRODUCTS OF WHITE SUPREMACY OR RACISM — …[N]o Federal funds shall be provided to an educational agency or school that teaches that the Pledge of Allegiance, the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution of the United States is a product of white supremacy or racism,

    That's it. That's the gist of the entire bill.

    In other words, public schools that teach the actual history of our Constitution lose all their federal funds — our tax dollars — and essentially go out of business. It's really just that simple: White supremacist Republicans like Hawley don't want your kids to know the true history of America.

    Black children, they say, are old and tough enough to experience racism, but white children are just waaay too young and fragile to learn about it.

    Hawley's protests notwithstanding, racism and white supremacy were very much a part of our founding documents. Consider "Father of the Constitution" (and slaveholder) James Madison's notes from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.

    It was the third week of August and the issue of America taxing "property" (a code word for slaves) got tied to the debate about how many representatives each state should have in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    The five slave states wanted all their enslaved people counted toward representation — even though they couldn't vote or enjoy any of the rights of citizenship — but didn't want to pay any "property tax" on them. The eight "free" states vehemently objected both to counting enslaved people to increase the slave states' representation in Congress and to subsidizing them via tax law.

    It produced one of the great speeches at the Constitutional Convention, which Madison dutifully transcribed.

    Gouverneur Morris ("Gouverneur" was his first name, not his title) represented Pennsylvania, and single-handedly wrote the preamble to the Constitution. He was 35 years old, a lawyer and a graduate of Kings College (what we now call Columbia University). And he was an ardent abolitionist.

    "He never would concur in upholding domestic slavery," Madison wrote, summarizing Morris' speech. "It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of heaven on the states where it prevailed."

    Warming to his topic, Morris began an extended rant about how destructive slavery was to the new nation they were birthing. It illustrates how wrong Hawley is in saying that racism and white supremacy had nothing to do with writing the Constitution.

    "Compare the [slave]-free regions of the Middle States, where a rich and noble cultivation marks the prosperity and happiness of the people," Morris said, "with the misery and poverty which overspread the barren wastes of Virginia, Maryland, and the other states having slaves. Travel through the whole continent, and you behold the prospect continually varying with the appearance and disappearance of slavery."

    Morris said the enslavement of people was a curse on America that was visible to anybody who simply looked. The free North was prosperous; the South, where people were enslaved, was poor.

    "The moment you leave the Eastern [slave] States," he said, "and enter New York, the effects of the institution become visible. Passing through the Jerseys, and entering Pennsylvania, every criterion of superior improvement witnesses the change. Proceed southwardly, and every step you take, through the great regions of slaves, presents a desert increasing with the increasing proportion of these wretched beings."

    But the white supremacist slaveholders representing the slave states in the Convention wanted more power in Congress and lower taxes in their own states, much like today's Republicans. The key to that, they believed, was having some or all of their states' enslaved Black people counted toward representation in Congress, even though they were in chains and unable to vote.

    In an echo of this very argument last month, the white supremacists of the Georgia legislature passed, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law in front of a painting of a slave plantation, legislation that would give Georgia's Republicans the ability to simply toss out the votes of people in largely Black districts with the excuse that they "suspect," with or without evidence, that "fraud" happened.

    Georgia has already begun to purge local voting officials in Black districts, replacing them with safe white Republicans who will make sure elections produce the "right" outcome.

    It's such a radical law that the CEO of the Stacey Abrams-founded New Georgia Project, Nsé Ufot, bluntly told Politico that unless the law is overturned by ending the filibuster and passing the For the People Act, "we're fucked."

    As if we're torn in half through some weird time machine, Madison continued with his transcription of Gouverneur Morris' speech.

    "Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation?" Morris demanded of his colleagues. "Are they men? Then make them citizens and let them vote. Are they property? Why, then, is no other property included [in determining representation]? The houses in this city (Philadelphia) are worth more than all the wretched slaves who cover the rice swamps of South Carolina."

    And then Morris nailed down precisely how and why racism and white supremacy were written into the Constitution with the so-called "three-fifths compromise" (among other places) that gave Southern states more members in the House of Representatives than their white population would justify.

    "The admission of slaves into the representation, when fairly explained, comes to this, — that the [white] inhabitant of Georgia and South Carolina, who go to the coast of Africa, and, in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity, tears away his fellow-creatures from their dearest connections and damns them to the most cruel bondage, shall have more votes … than the citizen of Pennsylvania or New Jersey, who views, with a laudable horror, so nefarious a practice."

    It was all about using racism and white supremacy to increase the power of white people in the South, and then force the rest of the country to subsidize them.

    Keep in mind that Democrats in the U.S. Senate today represent 41 million more people than do the Senate's Republicans. And, echoing 1787, Georgia and 17 other Republican-controlled mostly-former-slave-states have now put into law the power for them to deny the vote to Black people or simply refuse to count their votes.

    But back to 1787: Morris paused to gather his thoughts, and then, Madison noted, continued, this time calling out the Southern oligarchs who flaunted their riches made possible by slave labor while asking the Northern states to pay for their defense and otherwise subsidize them with Northern tax dollars.

    "He would add," Madison wrote, "that domestic slavery is the most prominent feature in the aristocratic countenance of the proposed Constitution. The vassalage of the poor has ever been the favorite offspring of aristocracy."

    Morris was probably shouting at this point; such language is rarely found in our founding documents and may help explain why Madison kept his "notes" secret until his death nearly 50 years later. Morris pointed out how the South was essentially demanding that the North subsidize them financially, something that continues to this day.

    "And what is the proposed compensation to the Northern States," Morris demanded, "for a sacrifice of every principle of right, of every impulse of humanity? … The … tea used by a northern freeman will pay more tax than the whole consumption of the miserable slave...."

    Morris lost the argument and the Southern slave states got extra representation in Congress along with no federal taxation of their "property." But the GOP sure doesn't want you or your kids to know that.

    If Hawley's bill were to become law, any public school that taught Morris' anti-slavery speech would lose all federal funding. This is how white supremacy works today and, indeed, has worked in this nation since our founding.

    Their strategy is straightforward: Control history (from Texas editing Martin Luther King Jr. out of its textbooks to generations of statues of Confederate generals), suppress the political power of Black people while subsidizing red states, and do it all with a thin patina of legalese.

    Northern states generally make it easy for all people to vote while former slave states do everything they can to suppress the Black vote (along with the votes of young people and older Social Security voters).

    Former slave states like Hawley's Missouri represent the overwhelming majority of states to have passed voter suppression legislation. And they're still hustling tax dollars from the rest of us, just as Morris complained about in 1787.

    Northern states get back a fraction of every dollar they send to Washington, while former slave states get as much as $2 for every tax dollar they send the federal government.

    As the AP noted in 2017:

    Mississippi received $2.13 for every tax dollar the state sent to Washington in 2015, according to the Rockefeller study. West Virginia received $2.07, Kentucky got $1.90 and South Carolina got $1.71.
    Meanwhile, New Jersey received 74 cents in federal spending for every tax dollar the state sent to Washington. New York received 81 cents, Connecticut received 82 cents and Massachusetts received 83 cents.

    White supremacy, racism and the rest of America subsidizing red states weren't just realities in 1787: They're alive and well today.

    Hawley and his white supremacist buddies in the GOP want to keep it that way, and their hateful "Love America Act" is just the latest disgusting part of their strategy. We've been tolerating and subsidizing these losers since 1787 and it's time to stop.

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    Republicans have unleashed a new crime wave on America

    Yesterday morning, a burglar tried to break into my home. Thankfully the doors were all locked, but a few houses down wasn't so lucky; our neighbor was home and is now pretty traumatized to have experienced a home-invasion burglary. By the time the police arrived, the burglar was long gone in a stolen car.

    A friend is trying to sell his condo in downtown Portland but large parts of downtown have been turned into a giant homeless camp so there are few buyers even in this hot real estate market. The nearby streets are pockmarked with tents and the curbs frequently sport human waste.

    Homelessness and its attendant crime are getting so bad that police in many cities don't bother to investigate many property crimes unless they're against wealthy people and involve things of great value. Just among my own friends and acquaintances in the past year I've seen 3 cars stolen (one I watched happen!), one car damaged in a smash-and-grab, and two home-invasion break-ins.

    And I know of dozens of smaller crimes, including assault against a family member by a mentally ill homeless person, that were simply never reported to police and therefore don't show up in official statistics.

    And this isn't a story unique to Portland; petty and property crime are exploding along with gun crimes and homelessness in cities across the nation. New York City just chose a new mayoral candidate in the Democratic primary whose main credential was that he was a cop; people are freaking out.

    But there's more to this than homelessness or "bad people" doing crime for fun and profit; there are deep causes to this problem (beyond the pandemic) that require deep solutions.

    Most people think crime (particularly property crime) is caused by poverty, like the poor people portrayed in Les Misérables stealing food for their children. But Louis XVI's policies had both increased poverty in France while massively increasing his own wealth and that of his friends. There was poverty, and even periodic famines, but (outside of stealing food) that wasn't what was driving crime and ultimate revolution of 18th century France: it was inequality.

    Hold that thought.

    I've worked among very, very poor people and even in the midst of famines. In late November 1980 I went into Uganda at the tail end of the Tanzanian invasion that overthrew Idi Amin. As Amin fled to Saudi Arabia where he was feted with a palace for himself and his wives by the Saudi government, his soldiers went on a killing and looting rampage, particularly in the northern region against the Karamojong people. They killed most all the men and boys older than toddlers and raped the women; by the time we got there the region was filled with thousands of starving women and small children (my contemporaneous diary of that trip is here).

    Thursday of that week the special on NPR's All Things Considered show was an 18-minute conversation between Sanford Ungar and me (on a satellite phone from Uganda) as I was describing the famine we were trying to address, with hundreds of people dying every day, live on the radio as Americans were sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.

    I worked in Bogota, Colombia a year or so later in one of that city's massive barrios built on a hillside out of cardboard and scrap wood with streams of raw sewage running to an open sewer in the valley below. I worked in the Klong Toey slum of Bangkok where the Duang Prateep Foundation was putting in non-flammable sidewalks and organizing regular trash removal because the giant Japanese corporation that owned the swamp the slum was built over kept trying to burn out the slum-dwellers.

    When I was in The Philippines in 1985, Father Ben Carreon, an activist priest and the author of a popular column for the Manila Times, took me to one of that city's massive garbage dumps. The smell was awful, the air thick with insects, as mountains of rotted garbage stretched off into the distance. We stood in the hot afternoon sun, and Father Ben said, "Look carefully at the piles of garbage." I squinted in the bright light, looking at the distant piles, and noticed something. "They're moving!" I said. "No, it's children on them that are moving," he said. "Thousands of them. Their families live all around here, and the children spend their days scavenging for garbage that their families can eat."

    People in Uganda were dying of famine in Mbale and across the Karamoja region, and hunger stalked the "big city" of Kampala, but there was little crime because the rich people had all left the country. Instead, there was a shared sense of solidarity; while poor people did prey on each other, it was more the exception than the rule and entire communities would rise up against thieves.

    I experienced the same thing working in the slums of Thailand, Peru, and Colombia; the biggest crime I personally experienced was having my wallet and pocket computer stolen on a flight to Kenya while I was asleep. Truly poor people don't buy airplane tickets.

    Poverty doesn't cause most crime, it turns out: inequality does. And America is now, far and away, the most unequal developed country in the entire world.

    While billionaires who pay less in federal income taxes than you do blast themselves into space on giant penis-shaped rockets, the majority of Americans are struggling to get by. I say "the majority" because a decade ago the number of Americans who could call themselves "middle class" slipped below 50% for the first time since the Eisenhower era.

    My neighborhood's burglar wasn't hungry; she was young, healthy and well-fed as was the small dog she walked to blend into the community. America is not experiencing a surge of crimes related to survival.

    So how does inequality provoke criminality? The research on the topic is pretty exhaustive, albeit poorly publicized, and the simplest explanation is among the most easily understood: Humans are wired to rebel against unfairness.

    Walk into a preschool class and give one child a pile of cookies while giving everybody else only one each and see what happens. In fact, it's not just humans; this holds true across all mammalian species from rats to dogs to apes.

    As research across 33 nations published in Oxford's European Journal of Public Health found, inequality devastates social trust among people, opening the door to antisocial crime, including violent crime (although you could argue that stealing is also a form of interpersonal violence).

    We're social animals and evolution has fine-tuned that socialization instinct — necessary for survival in a hostile world — so well that in virtually ever pre-literate and/or pre-agricultural society in the world (and there are still many left) that the number one way to gain status in such societies is to give things away. In North America, that's the origin of the Native America Potlatch, a feast where everybody brings food and shares as much as they can. (The first Thanksgiving of lore was probably an east-coast variation on the Potlatch.)

    In fact, as I learned in Uganda working through that famine, the more people have their backs to the wall the more cooperative and concerned with others they become. Shared hardship fosters community.

    This isn't to romanticize poverty; it's tough and crime is a problem in barrios and slums around the world. But crime isn't sweeping the cities of Europe, Japan, South Korea or Taiwan the way it is American cities because in those countries the very wealthy are appropriately taxed and therefore average people are still well within the parameters of the middle class.

    Research published in the Oxford Economic Papers in 2014 found that not only does inequality cause increases in crime (including violent crime), but the main variable is people's perception of inequality: When the morbidly rich are conspicuous in their consumption, crime explodes faster than when they're discreet.

    "Using variation within US states over time, we document a robust association between the distribution of conspicuous consumption and violent crime," authors Daniel and Joan Hicks noted.

    A 2000 study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics (Harvard/MIT) came to the same conclusion: inequality causes crime, not just poverty.

    The World Economic Forum published a paper in 2014 which looked at the relationship between inequality and crime in Mexico. "Our key finding is that, in fact, municipalities with lower inequality saw lower rates of crime," the authors write. "In other words, while the overall national data reveals an apparent paradox; broken down by smaller geographical regions, the paradox does not hold — less economic disparity does lead to less crime."

    A study of 148,000 people across 142 countries found a similar association all over the world. The Economist magazine titled their review of it: "The stark relationship between income inequality and crime."

    Research published by the Equality Trust in the UK, which exclusively studies the impacts of economic and social inequality, found: "Small permanent decreases in inequality — such as reducing inequality from the level found in Spain to that in Canada — would reduce homicides by 20% and lead to a 23% long-term reduction in robberies."

    Inequality causes crime because it destroys social trust, the core fabric of any society. Without social trust, empathy and shared values disintegrate and culture begins to disintegrate.

    We see examples of this across the Third World in countries that have been essentially raped by their morbidly rich ruling class for decades. Beyond a certain point, inequality becomes an actual poison to society itself. We passed that point in the last decade, and it's tearing our nation apart.

    Which brings us to the GOP. The Republican Party is so committed to making morbidly rich people even richer (and keeping them that way) that just this weekend Republican Senator Rob Portman announced on TV that they wouldn't go along with funding a bipartisan infrastructure bill by letting the IRS hire more auditors to catch rich tax cheats. Seriously. That's their position.

    Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming told Axios last week that "spending $40 billion to super-size the IRS is very concerning. … Law-abiding Americans deserve better from their government than an army of bureaucrats snooping through their bank statements."

    Republican Senator Ted Cruz said, "Throwing billions more taxpayer dollars at the IRS will only hurt Americans struggling to recover after waves of devastating lockdowns. ... Instead of increasing funding for the IRS, we should abolish the damn place."

    Republican tax policies, starting with Reaganomics in the 1980s (and continuing to this very day) have both gutted the American working class and exploded inequality in this nation, all while making a hundred thousand or so Americans obscenely rich.

    We've even exceeded the worse inequality gap we'd ever seen, in 1929 at the tail end of the "Roaring 20s" and the beginning of the Republican Great Depression (yes, they called it that until the early 1950s).

    If we want to get crime under control and restore social cohesion to our society, we must also tackle inequality. And that means to tax the morbidly rich who today pay less than 23% of their income in taxes.

    Community policing and a variety of other solutions are important, but if we don't address the core problem of inequality in our society, they're merely band-aids on the cancer of this social crisis.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    The actual reason why Republicans and their media are discouraging people from getting vaccinated

    Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN Medical Analyst, said last week, "A surprising amount of death will occur soon..." But why, when the deadly Delta variant is sweeping the world, are Republicans and their media warning people not to get vaccinated?

    There's always a reason. People don't do things — particularly things involving a lot of effort and a need for consistency — without a reason. It just doesn't happen. No matter how bizarre, twisted or dysfunctional the reason may be, there's always a reason.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci told Jake Tapper on CNN last Sunday, "I don't have a really good reason why this [unwillingness to get vaccinated] is happening."

    But even if he can't think of a reason why Republicans would trash talk vaccination and people would believe them, it's definitely there.

    Which is why it's important to ask a couple of simple questions that all point to the actual reason why Republicans and their media are discouraging people from getting vaccinated:

    1. Why did Trump get vaccinated in secret after Joe Biden won the election and his January 6th coup attempt failed?

    2. Why are Fox "News" personalities discouraging people from getting vaccinated while refusing to say if they and the people they work with have been protected by vaccination?

    3. Why was one of the biggest applause lines at CPAC: "They were hoping — the government was hoping — that they could sort of sucker 90% of the population into getting vaccinated and it isn't happening!"

    4. Why are Republican legislators in states around the country pushing laws that would "ban" private businesses from asking to see proof of vaccination status (they call it "banning vaccine passports")?

    5. Why, when President Biden suggested sending volunteers door-to-door into low-vaccination communities to let people know how and where they could get vaccinated, did rightwing media go nuts about "government thugs" coming to your door to "force" vaccines on you?

    6. Why are about half of all the Republicans in Congress refusing to say if they've gotten a vaccine or not? For that matter, why do the CPAC speakers who are trashing vaccines refuse to say if they're vaccinated or not?

    7. Why would a Newsmax host trash-talk vaccines saying, "I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally kind of going against nature"?

    8. Why did Republican Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota downplay the dangers of Covid last week by bragging that she never shut her state down (and Ron DeSantis did) when SD has 230 Covid deaths per 100,000 people while similar low-population states like Vermont and Oregon are at 41 and 66 deaths per 100,000 respectively?

    I hope I'm proven wrong on this, but the only possible explanation I can see for all this activity that seems so well-coordinated and largely consistent is that they all think there's something in it for them. And what might that be?

    Political power. And, of course, the eventual wealth that often comes with political power, particularly corrupt power. Retired Republicans make a lot of money.

    Put simply, I believe these Republicans are trying to promote outbreaks of Covid in America to soften or damage Joe Biden's red-hot economy on the assumption that if the economy tanks then people will vote out Democrats and vote in Republicans in 2022 and 2024.

    As Pat Buchanan wrote today: "Are the Democrats headed for their Little Bighorn, with President Joe Biden as Col. Custer? The wish, you suggest, is father to the thought."

    They're not just willing to let tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans die just to win the next two elections, they're actively encouraging that outcome.

    Death is their electoral strategy.

    Is there any other possible explanation?

    They're not stupid (although they're banking on their audience being, at least, poorly informed) and most have college degrees (and Lauren Boebert finally got her GED). Even if a few of them fell down the Facebook or YouTube rabbit hole into anti-vaxxer territories, they still have no shortage of actual medical experts and staffers who know how to use Google available to them.

    It's remotely possible they just hate and want to damage the US, and a few who are pushing vaccine "hesitancy" like Ron Johnson and John Kennedy recently celebrated the 4th of July in Moscow, but it's unlikely that they'd take the chance of coordinating with a foreign power to kill Americans (even if much of the foreign troll activity on social media is also trashing vaccines to American social media users).

    A bizarre faux masculinity could be behind it, the way Trump tried to promote the idea that only wimps wear masks, but, seriously, do you really think these folks are taking fashion/appearance tips from an obese geriatric guy with a huge comb-over who wears absurd amounts of makeup, contacts, men's diapers and false teeth? And what's "masculine" about slowly dying by drowning in your own snot? Or becoming unable to get an erection, as happens to a significant number of men who get Covid?

    It's certainly not fear of, or concern about, the vaccine itself; whether they'll admit it or not, virtually all of these Republicans and media stars telling people to be afraid of getting a shot have been secretly vaccinated themselves, just like Trump and his family were in January. As CNN Medical Analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, said, "Over 100 members of Congress, all of them GOP members, refuse to tell their constituents whether they have been vaccinated. They've all been vaccinated, every single one of those characters have been vaccinated."

    This also has nothing to do with "conservative" ideology. Vaccination has been a part of the American landscape since George Washington ordered his troops inoculated against smallpox during the Revolutionary war, and Republican President Dwight Eisenhower (and his VP, Richard Nixon) had schoolchildren across the nation get the polio vaccine in the 1950s (I was one of them who lined up in school to get it and remember it well).

    As California governor, Ronald Reagan oversaw a public school system that required vaccination for admission and conservatives like Bill Kristol and George W. Bush are proudly vaccinated against Covid. Mitch McConnell, who had polio as a child, said, "As a victim of polio myself, I'm a big fan of vaccinations, and if I were a parent who had a child … being subject to getting any particular disease, I would come down on the side of vaccinations." This is not about fearing or not understanding vaccines.

    They're certainly not being paid by "big Pharma" to trash vaccines, and you can bet your last dollar that the billionaires who pay for big Republican events are not only themselves vaccinated but have made sure the entire staff of their multiple mansions, from the cooks to the pool boys to the masseuses and the live-in chefs are all vaccinated.

    So, what's left?

    Politics, and the power and money that derive from it.

    The reason why Donald Trump spent much of 2020 desperately encouraging people to keep shopping and working was because he knew that when an economy collapses in the 18 months before an election, the party in power always loses.

    In his desperation to get the economy back in shape, Trump even issued an executive order forcing mostly Black and Hispanic meat-packing and slaughterhouse employees back to work under threat of imprisonment.

    But, sure enough, the economy tanked anyway and Democrats now control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.

    Thus, it appears that today's entire GOP strategy of encouraging "vaccine hesitancy" is to try to replicate that dynamic, to tank the economy, only this time in a way that works in favor of Republicans.

    Encouraging Americans to die so they can win elections. That's how low today's GOP has sunk.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    Here's why America can't have 'nice things'

    Some time back a woman living in Sweden, "Caroline" @SweResistance on Twitter, posted a thread that said:

    "I live in Sweden. We have social security, affordable health care, strict gun laws, 5 weeks paid annual leave, 1 year maternity leave, etc. And no, we're not a communist country, and not even strictly socialistic but socio-democratic. And our freedom is not inhibited.

    "For example, health care can cost a maximum of around $130 per year for visits to health care centrals etc., hospital nights costs $12 per night with a $175 roof per month. Prescription drugs have a yearly roof of $250."

    Sweden is a democratic republic that practices an economic system often referred to as "democratic socialism" or "social democracy." Although Karl Marx popularized the word "socialism" in 1848 to describe his proposed utopian economic/political system, outside of the realm of Marxists and rightwing cranks, Marx's system is usually today referred to as "communism" and "socialist" is the modern tag used to describe countries like Sweden.

    As such, it's describing an economic system made possible by the political system of democracy. Swedes have what they have because the majority of their population has repeatedly voted for politicians who promised to put democratic socialism into place.

    And it's not just Sweden. Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland have remarkably similar systems in place, and the rest of the European Union isn't far behind.

    Nobody in any of those countries, including the entire EU, will ever, for example, go bankrupt because of medical debt, something that happens to over a million American families every single year.

    Nobody who has the ability and wants to go to college or trade school is turned down and, outside of a few private universities, education is not just free or very cheap in most all of Europe but many countries pay a subsidy or monthly stipend to students to cover the cost of rent, food and books.

    Swedes and the residents of most of the rest of Europe have voted for democratic socialism because their political system is largely open, voting is not restricted, and wealthy interests find it much harder to corrupt politicians than here in the US.

    As the Nordic Council of Ministers notes on their website about, for example, Sweden: "Everyone who is entitled to vote and who is registered in the Population Register in Sweden is automatically included on the electoral roll (röstlängden) and receives a voter card by post."

    This is true of all the Nordic countries and most of the rest of Europe: if you're a citizen you're automatically enrolled to vote when you turn 18 and voting is super-easy whether it's done at a polling place or by mail.

    Here in America, the majority of people would very much like an economic system like Europeans have, particularly the Scandinavians.

    By a 66% to 30% ratio, all Americans told CBS pollsters recently that they'd like a "Government health insurance program for all."

    A recent Harris poll asked, "Do you support a proposal that would make public colleges, universities and trade schools free for all and cancel all student debt?" Americans said "Yes" by a 58% to 42% margin.

    Europeans enjoy higher wages and radically less income and wealth inequality than Americans for two main reasons:

    First, workers in those countries have unionization rates that sometimes approach 90% and most also maintain high minimum wages.

    Second, taxes in Europe in general, and Scandinavia in particular, are often above 50% on the morbidly rich and many countries have an added annual wealth tax on the billions those same people have accumulated.

    We'd like that here, too.

    When the Gallup polling organization asked Americans if they'd like to join a union, six out of ten said, "Yes."

    A Reuters/Ipsos poll last year found that fully 64% of all Americans agreed with the statement: "The very rich should contribute an extra share of their total wealth each year to support public programs."

    So, if the majority of Americans want Scandinavian/European healthcare, schools, unions, wages and taxes-on-the-rich, why don't we have these things?

    Why, instead, do we have the highest childhood and maternal death rates in the developed world, the lowest taxes on the very rich, $1.5 trillion in student debt that's collapsed an entire generation's hopes and dreams, and Jeff Bezos shooting himself into outer space instead of unionizing his workers or paying his damn taxes?

    The answer is actually pretty straightforward: "Conservative" billionaires and the Supreme Court they created.

    Ever since Lewis Powell wrote his 1971 Memo on how the morbidly rich could seize total political and cultural control of America — and Richard Nixon put him on the Supreme Court the following year — rightwing billionaires have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get their people on the Supreme Court, elect "conservatives" to Congress and in state legislatures, and influence public opinion.

    In 1976, Powell's Supreme Court in Buckley v Valero ruled that when billionaires pour so much money down the throats of individual politicians that they essentially own them, that's not bribery or corruption as we'd thought of it since 1776 — instead, it's First Amendment-protected "free speech." Two years later, in First National Bank v Bellotti 1978, the Court ruled the same was true of corporations, and doubled down on both decisions in 2010 with Citizens United.

    By the Reagan Revolution of 1980, the GOP had been entirely subsumed by the money of the morbidly rich and big corporations, and in the 1990s quite a few elected Democrats joined their ranks (and continue to support them by opposing ending the filibuster, for example).

    As President Jimmy Carter told me of this post-1980 world he watched come into being:

    "[These Supreme Court decisions] violate the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it's just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we've just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election's over."

    "Conservative," though, doesn't just describe people who want to use their riches to own politicians who will, in turn, keep their taxes low by depriving the American people of the "nice things" we'd mostly all like to have. It also describes racist white supremacists both among the conservative billionaire class and the Republican base.

    It was "conservatives" who fought against the abolition of slavery prior to the Civil War, and who fought every attempt at Reconstruction or Civil Rights legislation from 1865 to today. They did so in the name of "conservative principles," which white supremacists have fought to preserve since the founding of our republic.

    And one of the main ways they maintain their political power is by using a system unique to America, started after the failure of Reconstruction in 1872, of "selectively registering" voters, "purging voter lists," and putting up barriers to reduce voting by anybody who's not white.

    To maintain white supremacy post-1872, most states developed elaborate systems requiring "undesirable" people to jump through multiple hoops to register to vote, and even to ensure their votes are counted and they can stay on the voter rolls. This Jim Crow vestige of Confederate ideology now pollutes our ability to vote in most of our states.

    No European country has anything that even vaguely resembles this byzantine labyrinth people must navigate to become eligible to vote and have their vote counted.

    While Europeans take voting for granted, we now have police intervening in elections, privatized corporate voting systems, and a massive voter suppression campaign to prevent elderly, young, and non-white Americans from being able to vote.

    Meanwhile, as Lee Fang reported, Republican politicians and the billionaires who own them are now dropping any pretense at all to caring about the fate and future of our country's fiscal health, so long as they get their tax cuts now.

    Conservative billionaires, who know if we can all vote we'll soon raise their taxes and give ourselves healthcare, education and good pay, are funding voter suppression efforts in every state in the union as well as challenging voting rights at the Supreme Court.

    This is also why they fund rightwing TV & radio networks and "news" websites to freak out white people about "Black Lives Matter and Antifa" so the white majority in America will be so terrified of Black and Brown people they'll keep putting corporate- and billionaire-shills into office.

    The rightwing justices who conservative billionaires paid tens of millions in "dark money" to put on the Supreme Court through groups like the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network ruled just last week that it should be easier for billionaires to influence both politicians and elections with secret "dark" money.

    Most Democrats in Congress, impeded both by Republicans and a few of their own members who've sold out to these dark-money interests, are trying to break the stranglehold conservative billionaires have on American politics through their dark money.

    The For The People Act takes a good first step in this direction, although reshaping the Supreme Court itself is probably going to ultimately be necessary to break dark money's stranglehold on our political system.

    If we ever want to have the "nice things" enjoyed by average Scandinavians and Europeans, it's going to take one huge lift to break the filibuster and get legislation like the For The People Act into law.

    Modern democracy began in 1789 in America, but "conservatives" have fought a truly multiracial democracy every step of the way, particularly as low-wage workers and racial minorities have struggled to gain equal representation and equal rights.

    It's a tragic commentary that countries like Sweden that initially emulated us have now become more "free" than we have…just because rightwing billionaires here have so successfully mobilized racism as a political strategy.

    Americans deserve better, and the only thing standing in the way is a group of billionaires who'd rather shoot themselves into outer space than let unions into their workplaces or pay reasonable taxes…and can pay politicians and stack our courts with racist judges to keep it that way.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    New COVID wave could be another Trump-caused massacre

    J. R. R. Tolkien wrote, "The burned hand teaches best. After that, advice about fire goes to the heart." It's a painful truth that people in red states, and red counties in blue and purple states, are about to learn.

    Here comes Donald Trump's Final Massacre.

    While multimillionaire well-vaccinated Fox "News" hosts continue to sow doubt about masks and Covid vaccines to jack up the billions in revenue the channel brings in every year for the Murdoch family, the CEO of a hospital chain in Missouri is begging them to tell the truth.

    "The Delta variant is in the Ozarks," tweeted Steve Edwards, CEO of hospital chain Cox Health in Missouri. "We have been interviewed by NPR, CBS News, MSNBC, AP, Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, NYTimes but not @FoxNews."

    This is a crisis now for Missouri because the Delta variant of the Covid virus is not only far more contagious than previous strains, but also more deadly. As Heather Hollingsworth writing for the AP notes, vaccination rates are very, very low in that state with one county clocking in at 13% and most counties "well short of 40%."

    People in red counties across America are reporting on social media the same thing Louise and I saw when we visited a rural town in Oregon last weekend: nobody's wearing masks or practicing social distancing. They believe rightwing media's lies that Covid's "just like the flu" or "vaccines are experimental" or "it's all a Democrat hoax." They're following Trump's notion that masks make men look "weak."

    As a result of this, Eric Frederick, the chief administrative officer of Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, tells the AP that they have been "inundated with COVID-19 patients as the variant first identified in India rips through the largely non-immunized community."

    And it's not just hitting the elderly. "These patients are also younger," Hollingsworth writes, "than earlier in the pandemic — 60% to 65% of those in the ICU over the weekend at Mercy were under 40, according to Frederick, who noted that younger adults are much less likely to be vaccinated — and some are pregnant."

    When the Covid virus first showed up in the United States in January of last year, then-president Donald Trump quietly told reporter Bob Woodward that it was both deadly and airborne.

    "This is deadly stuff," Trump told Woodward on February 7th, 2020. "You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flu."

    That's not, of course, what Trump and his lackeys told the American people, as they set up the deaths of over 600,000 Americans with more to come this year. "I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward a month later. "I still like playing it down…"

    It's a mantra Trump carried on right through his last weeks in office when he got himself and his wife secretly vaccinated in the White House, and, according to research published by the Brookings Institution, killed at least 400,000 Americans (and sickened millions more) who could have avoided infection if they'd listened to doctors instead of Republicans and rightwing media.

    But there was a method to Trump's homicidal madness. He knew what every politician who's ever run for president or studied the history of presidential elections knows: when the economy goes into the tank before an election, the incumbent always loses.

    Just ask Herbert Hoover; it was over 20 years until Republican Eisenhower retook the White House, and 60 years after the Republican Great Depression before Republicans regained solid control of the House of Representatives for more than a single congressional cycle.

    Trump's strategy to keep the economy on track was straightforward: keep people shopping, working and playing so our production and consumption would keep the economy going throughout the election year. No matter how many people died, especially if they were Black.

    After giving in to his science advisors for a few months in March and early April, he went right back to downplaying the virus and discouraging people from even wearing masks.

    That turnaround came literally the week after the day, April 7th 2020, when the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and Fox all led their news with the news that Black people were disproportionately dying from Covid relative to white people.

    Suddenly rightwing media was all over the idea we must spread the virus far and wide to achieve "herd immunity," a move Trump and his people thought would largely spare Red state white people but decimate the Black community and Blue states as I documented here.

    The virus beat Trump, of course; Joe Biden is now president and Democrats took control of the House and Senate, but the echo of that murderous political strategy is still killing Americans.

    And with the Delta variant, which kills unvaccinated people of all ages but only rarely causes illness in people who are fully vaccinated, Covid is about to plunge Trump's devotees into a world of hurt.

    As Cox Health CEO Edwards pleaded in his tweet: "Fox is the most popular cable news in our area - you can help educate on Delta, vaccines and can save lives @TuckerCarlson."

    While Red states generally ignore the threat, Blue states are doing everything they can to get ready for the onslaught of the Delta variant: New York and California are rolling out digital vaccination certificates people can show on their smartphones to get into restaurants and sports/entertainment events.

    California Governor Gavin Newsom, knowing which way the political winds are blown by my colleagues on rightwing talk radio and Fox, went out of his way to say they're not passports.

    "I want to make this crystal clear before folks run with it," Newsom told the press. "It's become so politicized — almost everything in the state, nation — that there's no mandates, no requirement, no passports in that respect."

    But vaccine passports are what will save us, particularly since the Delta variant has already spawned a new variant of its own, Delta Plus, that's "more transmissible, more easily binds to human cells, and is potentially more resistant to antibody therapy" than even the deadly Delta variant itself.

    This is why more than half of Americans surveyed want vaccine passports now, as do many business owners. When it's impossible to know if the person sitting next to you on a plane or in a restaurant is vaccinated or a Trump-humper who's trusting in Jesus or hydroxychloraquine, many people are still reluctant to dine out, vacation, or go shopping the way we did before the pandemic.

    Which hurts what is now Joe Biden's economy — which is exactly what Republicans want. But they are playing with fire.

    Particularly given how deadly the Delta variant is, and how often it can even create "breakthrough infections" in fully vaccinated people when they're heavily exposed to the virus. As Boston's NBC affiliate Channel 10 TV noted in a recent headline, because of the Delta variant "Nearly 4,000 Breakthrough COVID Infections Have Now Been Reported in Mass." (That's a drop in the bucket, and most don't get very sick, but still…)

    The original and early variants of the Covid virus required repeated or sustained exposure to become infected; the new Delta Plus variant can apparently be caught by simply walking past an infected person. A single case in an airport limo driver in Australia shows how it works, reports today's The Washington Post:

    "Video footage shows the limo driver infecting strangers at a shopping mall and in a cafe through only fleeting contact, which scientists say proves it is possible to catch the virus simply from sharing the same airspace as an infected person."

    The Post article adds, "The cluster began last week with an airport limousine driver and has grown to 36 cases…"

    As the BBC reported this week:

    "India's health ministry says studies showed that the so-called Delta Plus variant — also known as AY.1 — spreads more easily, binds more easily to lung cells and is potentially resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy, a potent intravenous infusion of antibodies to neutralise the virus."

    And Delta and Delta Plus are just the June varieties; there are almost certainly more contagious and deadly varieties to come as evolution continues to work its magic on the virus.

    The next few months will hopefully become a "Great Awakening" in America relative to the politicized lies that Trump, Fox and rightwing media have been spewing for over a year about the dangers of Covid. And that will lead to a new wave of mask-wearing and vaccinations.

    If not, it'll be the "Great Dying" for Trump followers and Fox viewers.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of 'The Hidden History of American Oligarchy 'and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    One of them has to go: The GOP or America as we know it

    Texas is showing us all how the corruption that has overwhelmed the GOP has reached a crisis point, and it's killing people.

    President Dwight Eisenhower said, "If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power."

    Sadly, Eisenhower's Republican Party is now there: they haven't governed to protect or help the people at the federal or state level since the Reagan Revolution. Today, instead, they simply engage in a corrupt form of political performance art while stuffing their pockets with corporate money.

    Today's example: Greg Abbott.

    Corrupt Texas Governor Greg Abbott is the poster child for corrupt Republicans' sellout to the fossil fuel industry. And the consequence of that will almost certainly kill hundreds of Texans this summer. But Abbott really, really doesn't want you to be thinking about that.

    His latest scam to divert Texans' attention away from this malfeasance is to proudly declare that Texas is asserting its rights under the 10th Amendment to reject oversight or even advice from the federal government.

    Texas, like most red states, takes in more federal dollars then they send to Washington DC; instead of merely calling Governor Abbott "corrupt" it's probably also time to call him a "welfare queen," a phrase much beloved of Republicans, at least when they apply it to Black women.

    But the real "welfare" that Abbott and the whole collection of corrupt Texas Republicans have been living off for decades is the cash the fossil fuel industry and the billionaires it has created pour down their throats every year by way of campaign contributions and dark money support.

    For example, back in 2014 the good citizens of Denton County Texas, sick of air and water pollution from fracking, passed a ballot initiative banning it in their county by over 60%.

    Texas' sold-out Republicans immediately responded with House Bill 40, which Governor Abbott enthusiastically signed, that "gives the state exclusive jurisdiction over oil and gas operations and prohibits local municipalities from creating ordinances that ban, limit, or regulate oil and gas operations…"

    That's the Texas Republicans' motto: "Screw the people; we just do what's necessary to help out the fossil fuel billionaires who own us."

    Back in 1999, then-Governor George W. Bush, himself of fossil-fuel multimillionaire, separated almost all of the Texas power grid from those of neighboring states to avoid federal oversight. He put the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in charge of the largely then-privatized grid.

    Bush called it, "The nation's most extensive experiment in electrical deregulation."

    It turned out to be an extraordinary expensive and deadly experiment, one that burdens Texas to this day.

    As The Wall Street Journal noted a few months ago: "Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state's traditional utilities, according to the Journal's analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration."

    That money, of course, went mostly into the pockets of wealthy investors, power company CEOs, and filled the campaign coffers of Texas Republican politicians. It certainly didn't do much to reinforce or make the state's power generation systems or distribution grid more robust.

    The result was that this past winter when climate change sent a massive cold wave down into Texas, an estimated 800 people died and the state suffered billions in property damage.

    Individual Texans and small businesses are now picking up the lion's share of that tab, of course. It's the Republican way, after all: privatize profits, spread them amongst corrupt Republican politicians, and stick the public with the costs.

    Now NOAA is forecasting one of the hottest and driest summers in the history of Texas because of the climate crisis, and already, with temperatures this week only in the 80s and 90s, ERCOT and Abbott have had to ask Texans to keep their air conditioners set above 78 to keep the grid from failing.

    Abbott — with much pomp and ceremony — issued an executive order banning private and public entities from requiring masks to protect against a deadly pandemic, but he sure seems fine telling people they can't enjoy their air-conditioning so he can keep the fossil-fuel money flowing into Texas' awesomely corrupt Republican Party.

    The prospect of enduring brutal heat and facing the probability of massive power blackouts throughout the summer is not endearing Abbott and his Republican cronies to average Texan voters. As a result, Abbott has come up with a flurry of activity to make it look like he's actually doing something.

    As mentioned, he just declared the state "sovereign" under the 10th amendment, as if that were a thing. When he announced it on Twitter, he was buried in ridicule and questions from Texans about what this has to do with making sure their lights don't go out this summer.

    Burrowing deeper and deeper into the warm embrace of fossil fuel billionaires, the Texas legislature just passed SB 13, which "would require the State of Texas and its entities (including state pension funds and the state's huge K-12 school endowment) to cut ties with companies that refuse to invest in fossil fuels."

    That's right. If your company wants to do business with the state of Texas, or have them invest in your company's stocks or bonds, you damn well better make sure that you're throwing money at the fossil fuel industry or at least own a huge pile of their stock.

    As Indivisible Texas notes: "SB 13 creates an intricate system of lists, reports, and oversight of companies that prefer not to transact with fossil fuel companies for whatever reason. This bill actually treats business interactions with certain business sectors in the state as it does enemies of the United States!"

    Corruption like this is not a joke; it's already cost Texas ratepayers $28 billion and 800 lives, and more is on the way. And the Texas Republican politicians' response is just to make it harder for Texans to vote.

    In state after state, Americans are seeing how the GOP has transformed itself from a legitimate political party into an arm of giant corporations and the billionaires they have created, all while rigging the system to keep themselves in office.

    In some states the GOP is mostly dancing with the fossil fuel industry that's destroying our climate and poisoning us; in others it's the health insurance or big drug industries they're helping to bankrupt and addict Americans, or the student or payday loan industries that are destroying the American Dream.

    The gun industry is making billions while America experiences daily mass shootings that Republicans refuse to do anything about.

    In their wake every year are over 30,000 gun deaths, 500,000 bankruptcies because somebody in the family got sick, young people who can't escape debt for decades if ever, and a landscape littered with destroyed lives and suicides.

    None of these things are happening in any other developed nation. But no other developed nation has a major political party that has become a serial killer of its nation's people and governs like the Mafia.

    The GOP has become, as Eisenhower warned, "merely a conspiracy to seize power." And the tragic result is a weakened, potholed, polluted and impoverished America.

    If the party can't reform itself, it needs to go the way of the Whigs and be put out of its misery. The American people — even voters who consider themselves Republicans — deserve better.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    The deplorable reason Fox News is ranting about people 'trying to take down the white culture'

    I'm struggling to explain why a Fox News host would say to the American people, "they're trying to take down the white culture!"

    But first, let me back up.

    Democracies don't turn into fascist oligarchies by being invaded or losing wars. It always happens from within, and is always driven by an alliance between demagogic, populist politicians and some of the very wealthiest people in society.

    Step one for these right wing politicians and the morbidly rich who support them is to pit one group of people within the nation against others: Marginalize and demonize minorities, deny them access to the levers of democratic power while openly attacking them for trying to usurp the privileges and prerequisites of the majority.

    It's played out this way in every democratic country that has fallen to tyranny. It's how it happened in the 1930s in Italy, Germany, Japan and Spain, and today in Hungary, Poland, Egypt, Russia, The Philippines, and Turkey, among others.

    And now Republicans and the oligarchs aligned with them are trying to pull it off here in the United States.

    As German industrialist Fritz Thyssen writes in his apologetic book I Paid Hitler, he pressured German President von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor, and then lobbied the Association of German Industrialists, that country's and era's version of the US Chamber of Commerce, to donate 3 million Reichsmarks to the Nazi Party for the 1933 election. It brought Hitler to power.

    Hitler's sales pitch to the German people was that Jews and socialists had "stabbed Germany in the back" by secretly participating in negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. The Treaty imposed punitive conditions on the country, producing widespread poverty and an economic crisis.

    Hitler blamed that crisis on German minorities and Germany's second largest political party, and the German people believed him. Once the Nazis took power, they changed election laws in such a way that they would never again lose.

    Republicans and rightwing billionaires, of course, are trying to do the same thing right now in America.

    Standing against them is the Democratic Party, although the Fritz Thyssens of today's America, billionaire members of the Koch network, are doing everything they can to prevent Democrats from ensuring fair and honest elections in 2022 and 2024 by buying off Joe Manchin and others.

    Those Republican voter suppression and voter nullification laws being passed by state after state are essential to their final take-down of the Democratic Party.

    Meanwhile, the billionaire Murdoch family's Fox News is working as hard as it can to make Black people and Democrats 2021's version of Hitler's 1933 Jews and Socialists.

    Their top-rated morning show, Fox & Friends, wandered into a discussion Wednesday about white people being "marginalized" by the possibility of our public schools teaching the actual racial history of America.

    "[T]hey are not only trying to raise up minorities and make sure the playing field is even," Brian Kilmeade said, "they're trying to take down the white culture!"

    Kilmeade, in full rant mode, went on, "Why are we being marginalized on a daily basis…? And it's not even subtle! It's actually out there! It is written in black-and-white!"

    This is not America's first brush with oligarchic fascism, as I lay out in my newest book, The Hidden History of American Oligarchy. President Franklin Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace struggled with it in the 1940s with Charles Lindberg's America First movement.

    In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?"

    Vice President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.

    "The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way."

    As if he had a time machine and could see the "conservative" media landscape today, Wallace continued, "The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

    History is screaming warnings at us. Will America listen?

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    Is the rise of QAnon conspiracies the 'end times' for US democracy?

    There are people in this world who don't like —and even hate — democracy. They're on the move against it, particularly here in America, and the Qanon religion/cult is the glue that's bringing them all together.

    One group doesn't like democracy because they don't trust the "ignorant masses" and the "rabble" to choose leaders who can make decisions for an entire country. They're the "Philosopher" opposers of democracy.

    They're well-represented in America by a large handful of rightwing billionaires and their "libertarian" think-tanks and front groups working against, for example, HR1/SB1 For The People Act.

    Some hate democracy because they're members of the "faction" class that James Madison warned us about in Federalist #10; the special interests. They're the "Thieving Scoundrel" opposers of democracy.

    These would be the giant businesses (and the billionaires they produce) that want to keep their profits high by poisoning our air, water and food; running giant monopolies to stomp out small businesses; or otherwise rip off America and Americans…and don't want "we the people" to be able to protect ourselves through government regulation.

    And some hate democracy because they're running undemocratic, authoritarian governments outside the US, and if they can destroy democracy in America it'll take a lot of pressure off of them. They're the "Foreign Enemies" of democracy.

    All three of these groups have found common cause in a collective takeover of the Republican Party and the embrace of Qanon. And, ironically, they all claim to be "defending democracy" in the process.

    Voltaire wrote, "[W]hoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

    That was just the first part of the quote; he was speaking specifically of the many absurdities embraced by our various religions. Which now includes Qanon, a pseudo-religion apparently started by an American pig farmer who lives in The Philippines.

    It's burrowed so deeply into the bloodstream of conventional American religion that the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention worried out loud on CNN that it's replacing churches as parishioner's primary religion. "[P]astors only have access to people maybe an hour or three hours a day, that's nothing compares to 24 hours a day from Facebook," he told Erin Burnett.

    While much of white evangelical Christianity has long tilted Republican, QAnon is not just Republican but anti-democracy, anti-American, pro-oligarch Republican. The Michael Flynn variety of Republican.

    One in six Americans, according to a recent PRRI survey, today "believes" in the Qanon conspiracy, including the part about Democrats drinking the blood of children. Given that about a third of Americans are Republicans, and virtually all of those believers identify as Republicans, that suggests that between a third and half of all Republican voters have bought into this new secular religion/cult.

    And elected Republicans are, almost to a person, either supportive of this new religion or silent on the issue.

    As Voltaire said in the rest of his quote, "If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world."

    While religion generally has achieved an uneasy truce with democracy, the three groups mentioned earlier who openly hate and regularly work to destroy democracy have found QAnon and the general gullibility it creates in its "believers" to be extraordinarily useful.

    The "Philosophers," "Thieving Scoundrels" and "Foreign Enemies" who collectively want to bring down democracy around the world are actively promoting the various parts of the Qanon religion that each finds most useful.

    The "Philosophers" use it to promote doubt about the accuracy and fairness of elections and the democratic process.

    The "Thieving Scoundrels" use it to portray government efforts to reduce inequality and poverty, protect citizens from a deadly pandemic, and regulate the activity of toxic, planet-destroying industries as if they were all parts of an "evil conspiracy."

    And the "Foreign Enemies" are popping up all over social media and the internet, portraying themselves as "average people" while doing everything they can to use this new religion to stir hatred and division among Americans.

    Because if democracy can be taken down in America, the oligarchs and autocrats of the world will find it much easier to bring down elsewhere.

    They're already working as hard as they can to bring authoritarian/oligarchic governance to Europe, having established beachheads in Sweden, France, Germany and England and completely taken over Turkey, Hungary and Poland.

    Democracy is a fragile flame. While it burned brightly in indigenous societies for over 100,000 years, since the agricultural revolution it has only appeared a few times among what we referred to as "civilized" or "advanced" societies.

    It first popped up in Greece about 3000 years ago, then in Rome around 2000 years ago; both times it failed in a few generations. It then made its appearance here in North America about 240 years ago, and now has spread to roughly half of all nations, about a fifth of the population of the world.

    From the Republican Party's efforts to rig future elections to General Michael Flynn calling for the violent overthrow of the American government to billionaire-owned or -subsidized media operations openly supporting oligarchy and ridiculing efforts to make a more pluralistic, egalitarian society, the forces that seek to destroy democracy are on the move.

    The "Philosophers," "Theiving Scoundrels" and "Foreign Enemies" are having their collective moment.

    Qanon believers are now convinced that Donald Trump will return to his throne in the White House this August. Many have sworn to do everything they can to bring that about, making anything from another January 6th to mass murder like Tim McVeigh did possible.

    As that recent PRRI poll found, about 1/6th of Americans agree with the statement that "the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation." The New York Times headline reads: QAnon Now as Popular in U.S. as Some Major Religions.

    They believe absurdities, and are prepared to commit atrocities. Democracy in America — and around the world — hangs by a thread.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

    America's cops are having their Harvey Weinstein moment

    Sometimes cultural change takes generations or even centuries; sometimes it happens in the seeming blink of the eye. America's bad cops — and their enablers — are having their Harvey Weinstein moment.

    Harvey was a big shot in Hollywood for decades when it was not uncommon for powerful men to help make women into stars in exchange for sex. It was so common that in a Cagney and Lacey TV show from the 1980s one of the characters openly asks the other if a particularly ditzy "movie star" character in that episode of the show "slept with the producer" to get the part.

    As Larry Getlin wrote in a review of a new book about Lucille Ball ("I Love Lucy"):

    She eventually found work as a model, and as she sought acting roles, received advice from Lela Rogers — mother of her good friend Ginger Rogers — that she would later follow.

    "If you want to be a star within two years, get auditioned on the casting couch," Lela told her. "That's the advice I gave my own daughter."

    The "casting couch" was legendary, and predatory men were almost never held to account. As Weinstein's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, (unsuccessfully) argued, "The casting couch in Hollywood was not invented by Harvey Weinstein. … If a woman decides that she needs to have sex with a Hollywood producer to advance her career and actually does it and finds the whole thing offensive, that's not rape."

    But culture had changed, and "normal behavior" in the industry was, through the actions of a few brave women, redefined.

    As Weinstein's Hollywood story unraveled, women in other fields and other parts of the country came forward to say "me, too!" and America discovered this kind of abuse wasn't restricted to movie-land. It was also happening on TV shows, across television networks, and even in public broadcasting. It was happening in pretty much every kind of major company across America, and often went from transactional sex to rape in moments.

    It took half a decade and a number of well-researched exposés, but it appears Hollywood largely no longer tolerates such things, and the same is true increasingly across our corporate landscape.

    And that was just phase 1.

    Now, in phase 2, people who knew what was going on but had no direct involvement other than failing to alert anybody are being held to account, as well. Executives and managers who were in a position to know about and stop the "casting couch" and its equivalent in other industries but did nothing are now losing their jobs and even being sued.

    America, having experienced this extraordinarily rapid transformation in business culture is now, it appears, on the verge of a similarly deep, meaningful and rapid transition in police culture.

    Police have been getting away with killing the poor, the powerless and the non-white — and with raping and otherwise abusing women — in this country since it's inception. Just like wealthy, powerful men had been getting away with forcing themselves on women wanting to get or hold employment.

    And it's not just American police: in El Salvador they've pulled eight bodies out of graves in the backyard of a Salvadoran police officer just in the past week and the country is furious. When you give someone deadly weapons and a legal license to use them largely at their own discretion, the temptation is often too great, particularly for the type of person drawn to authoritarian-type positions like police work.

    The murder by police of George Floyd didn't just trigger the largest protest demonstration in the history of the United States; it is resonating all over the world.

    In much the same way women are sick and tired of being mistreated by men, much of humanity appears to have reached the absolute limit of their tolerance for being abused by police.

    When movements like #MeToo! and #BadCops go international, you know culture is changing in a way that won't fall back to its old standards.

    Here in America, we're learning of a 2-year coverup of murderous Louisiana cops by their supervisors (and trying to learn how high up the chain of command it goes); the cops beat, Tased, hogtied with chains and brutally dragged Ronald Greene to death, all while joking about how much blood he was getting on their clothes.

    Yesterday's story was about an off-duty Texas cop who shot a Black woman who'd simply made a U-Turn that got in his way and pissed him off; we're hit with almost daily stories of police shooting Black people just because they can and they believe, based on centuries of experience, that they can always get away with it.

    As the evil reality of a presumed minority of cops who regularly get away with rape, beatings and murder — and the horrible reality that the vast majority of cops ignore or cover up such crimes for their "thin blue line" colleagues — is sinking into the white American psyche (this is no secret for Black people), pro-American legislators are trying to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed out of the Senate.

    It will even provide for "Phase 2" — not just holding individual cops accountable, but also adding significant civilian oversight to hold management to account, too.

    And reform is absolutely needed, particularly civilian oversight. The Founders put a civilian in charge of the military for the very simple reason that military-style organizations tend to become internally culturally insular and powerful factions themselves. Thus, the Secretary of Defense must be a civilian, as well as the President above the SecDef.

    For the same reason, police must be ultimately responsible to civilian oversight.

    Similarly, while even presidents can frustrate legal processes as Bill Clinton tried to do getting out of a deposition about Monica Lewinsky, and Donald Trump has temporarily pulled off so far by simply defying Congress and the courts, they must ultimately never be able to avoid accountability. No person in America is above the law.

    This was the point George Washington made in his farewell address:

    The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

    Republican senators — apparently fans of cops terrorizing women, Black people and other minorities (they don't want them voting, anyway!) — continue to block the legislation and oppose real accountability for America's cops. But, long-term, they may as well be trying to stop water from flowing downhill.

    Culture has changed. It'll take a while for law and justice to catch up with it — and it'll take longer in Red states than Blue — but it's unlikely things will ever go back to how they were.

    The generation coming up now is not going to let this moment pass like previous generations were forced to do by the powers-that-be after horrors like the brutal murder of Emmett Till, the beating of Rodney King or the murder of Eric Garner.

    The casting couch is largely now a relic of the past. If we all join forces and push hard, calling our senators (the Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121) and otherwise working for change, soon the same could be true of murderous, corrupt and unaccountable cops.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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