Ted Cruz and America’s Super-Rich say “Let them eat Cake”

The anecdote goes that Marie Antoinette, the queen of France, inquired as to why the crowds were in the street demonstrating in 1789. She was informed that they had no bread to eat. She is said to have replied, “Why, then, let them eat cake!” However apocryphal the anecdote, it is pregnant with wisdom. In 1793 those same crowds executed her. Nowadays we have kinder ways of punishing failed politicians. We unelect them and give them a perch on basic cable.

There should be no confusion about who shut down the US government and why. It was shut down by billionaire backers of the so-called Tea Party faction in the Republican Party. They ordered their sockpuppets, like Ted Cruz, to defund the government so as to take a hostage for ransom. They don’t want to help pay for affordable health care for most Americans, because having $4.8 billion instead of $5 billion is just too humiliating. We don’t even know the names of Cruz’s biggest campaign contributors any more because of the corruption in US campaign finance. But Goldman Sachs and Berkshire Hathaway want him there, and we can bet that the Koch Brothers do, too. They should all be boycotted.

We don’t have a functioning government this morning because our super-rich are on the whole too stingy to help guarantee all Americans the basic human right of health care. They won’t share, even though their tax rates are low in world terms and they couldn’t have gotten rich without the infrastructure and legal latticework provided by the US government, and without the skills and labor of American workers.

Did millions of these working Americans not have affordable health care? Let them, Ted Cruz says, go to the emergency room. Except that it is impossible for ERs to handle all those millions, and it is mmuch more expensive to have them treated that way, and pregnant mothers can’t get prenatal care at ERs. The number of babies lost and infants who die goes way up when the mothers don’t see a physician regularly during pregnancy, and poor women couldn’t afford to do that before Obamacare.

In other words, Ted Cruz and his billionaire backers are telling us, “let them eat cake.”

The Scrooge Oligarchs want to go back to the age of Robber Barons in the nineteenth century.

Those same billionaires, whether the Koch Brothers or the wealthiest investors in firms like Exxon-Mobil, have led the charge to prevent the US government from doing anything about the dire threat of global warming. They have funded liars to parade on television and deny the facts of human-caused climate change. In fact, eighth-grade chemistry should be enough of a background to understand that if you dump 35 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, it will cause global warming; C02 is a greenhouse gas that causes the atmosphere to retain the sun’s heat instead of radiating it back out into space.

And we don’t have the urgent (and I mean emergency ) legislation we need to move immediately to solar and wind energy over the next two decades and to abandon coal, oil, and gas. In fact, since 30% of US CO2 emissions come from 1% of power plants, especially coal plants, the latter should be closed yesterday!

Just as the alarming UN climate report has appeared, promising us the loss of Miami and New Orleans to rising seas in the lifetime of our current newborns, the Republican Party has furloughed the workers of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ordinary Americans’ health and well-being are threatened as never before by carbon pollution issued by cosmic old farts like the Kochs.

It is dangerous for the super-rich to act so arrogantly. This is an America where unemployment is stubbornly high for the Millennials, where the top 1% are taking home 20% of the national income (twice the proporition of just a few decades ago), and where people are struggling. In this America, rich spoiled Ivy League types like Ted Cruz and his shadowy backers are closing down our government, trying to steal our health insurance, and conniving at inflicting drought and flood on us They are shouting “Let them eat cake!” in our faces. Americans will put up with a lot, but their patience isn’t infinite.

Karl Rove’s permanent Republican majority evaporated in 2008. The next stage of American political development may be a shift of the Democratic Party toward a genuine democratic socialism. If private insurance companies can’t provide us proper health insurance, we may have to go to single-payer. If power plants are endangering us, we may have to nationalize them and close them down in favor of solar coops. The prevailing order is not the only possible one, and by taking thought and by peaceful social action, the 99% can change the rules of the game.

29 Responses

  1. Prof. Cole: When you have a few moments, go on to the Michigan Health Exchange and shop for a Silver or Gold policy and see what it costs.

    Then consider what a Platnium plan costs a resident of nearby Ontario.

    Obamacare and virtually everything Obama does is for the benefit of corporations and the ultra-rich. He has said and done NOTHING appreciable to restore progressive taxation (Clinto era rate are hardly “progressive”). When the democrats had control of both houses, Chuck Schumer personally blocked taxing hedge fund and private equity payouts as ordinary income (this benefited people like Mitt Romney).

    What is happening now is theater; it has nothing to do with Obama defending the human rights of working families.

    • Gregg: Your post got me thinking. Berlesconi couldn’t bring down Italy’s government so now he supports it. He is their most popular politician trying to save his power.

      Obama is USA’s most popular politician. He’s famous for Obamacare and continuing Bush policies on bankers, secrecy, war, unlimited debt, unlimited spending. This is the perfect time and issue for the republicans to try to destroy Obama and wreck the economy for next years election. I think there is big money behind this power play and the object is to get big concessions for raising the debt limit.

  2. If one steps back just far enough; it all becomes very clear.
    There is no relationship between the elected and the electorate.
    We put these monsters in office and actually expect a service to our benefit; how silly is that.
    My question is simply; when will we get, what is really going on here?
    If I had to opine; I should think never…

  3. Let me get this right…

    Republicans shut down the federal government to stop “Obamacare.”

    “The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down,” Pres. Barack Obama

    link to healthcare.gov

    GOT IT!

  4. As usual a good post Juan, and spot on, particularly your addressing of the implications all of this has for socio-political stability. Conservatism is supposed to be for maintaining the status quo, for incremental change. Sometimes that change is counter-intuitive, by which I mean, sometimes to maintain the status quo requires fairly radical government intervention for the sake of such stability.

    Perhaps if some of the more so-called conservative base could be made to see that what they want is radically and dangerously destabilizing they would think twice about the type of policy for which they are voting. Cutting people off of government roles (let us not forget that government is in general the largest spender and supporter of communities in this country), firing, even temporarily, government employees, or cutting government programs send individuals and families into an economic tail-spin, and less money circulates in the economy. Purchasing goes down, fewer goods are bought, individuals are laid off, tax revenues fall off. Individuals, businesses, and finally, whole communities suffer. I leave off the humanitarian implications because this is clearly of no concern to modern conservatives, who see cruelty as strength and compassion as weakness. And of course, under-funding programs helps to prove GOP talking points that government doesn’t work.

    None of this is in any way “conservative”, any more than is their plan to gut the planet and expend and exhaust its resources. As you noted, such policy can only be pushed so far – it is built on a foundation of liquid sand, and can only be built so high before the entire edifice collapses. But they are clever – they know how to distract and delay. There will be no apocalypse because they know how the deeper structures of power work. That is why Occupy is marginalized, dispersed, and dead, and why the Tea Party has the power, conversely, to close government. The governing structures of this country will try to play out, as long as possible, divisive hot button issues such as guns, the legalization of drugs, gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights, and environmentalism to maintain their base and to string along “reasonable centrists” of the “both sides do it” school. That failing, there is always some country to bomb to rally a flagging country to act against its interest and the interests of another country. Anything to distract from deeper structural issues such as the excessive influence of militarism in our government and economy, legislative capture by inordinately powerful corporate interests, concentrations of wealth among a small elite, and a compliant and complicit media.

    The difficulty with all of this is, of course, our consumer based economy and our global environmental crisis are both deeply interconnected. The values of consumerism and growth have wearied the planet’s eco-system. Is it possible or desirable to continue on this path? With what shall we replace it? Will our discourse ever allow of the complexity to even address such issues on a national scale?

  5. Personally, I throw in the tens of millions of Americans who, robotically, follow Fox News. Fox has become god and speaks only the truth. Nearly 100% of the people I talk to know nothing about anything nor do they want to know anything. Conversation beyond bitching about something is impossible and that includes the supposedly well educated. I agree with you totally but figure we’re getting what we deserve.

  6. The cheapest healthcare/obamacare premium for me and my family is $625 with 40 copay. I checked it this morning. It seems the democrats and insurance companies are also saying, “let them eat cake.” I cannot afford Obamacare.

    • Ericrunner,

      Without knowing your family size or income, how can we tell if $625 per month with $40 co-pays is unaffordable to you? What is the “correct” portion of our incomes that ought to go toward health insurance and medical/dental care? Is it 9%? Is it 12%? It must depend on our family size and income. If health care takes up 12% of the economy, does that mean households above the median income ought to expect health insurance and health/dental care costs to be around 10% to 14% of income? How can we even come up with answers to these questions? I don’t have the answers.

      In Illinois, where I live, my three-person household lives with an income close to the median. My contribution to the private health plan we have through my employer combined with the out-of-pocket expenses we have is around half of $625, but I’m not seeing the employer contribution to my health insurance, which, if my employer didn’t help out with my health insurance, could come to me as taxable income. I’m quite sure that if my employer just gave me its contributions toward my insurance coverage as income and let me use the money as an individual to pay for our insurance, my out-of-pocket health care expenses would exceed $800 per month. A $625 per month plan would probably look pretty attractive.

      Now if our household was making $25,800 as an annual income, a $625 per month premium wouldn’t be affordable, but then again, if our income was that low, we would all qualify for Medicaid.

      The Affordable Care Act is supposed to help the poor families that live above official poverty lines (and wouldn’t qualify for the newly expanded Medicaid), in that range between $25,000 per year and $50,000 per year I guess. If you are in a household with three or more persons and your income is on the lower end of that range (say, in the low 30,000s), then the $625 monthly premium is about a fifth to a quarter of your income, and that is unaffordable, and that should undermine any support for the Affordable Care Act as it works in your state.

      • That budgetary tap dance all makes some kind of sense if you just start the discussion way past the point where a “national actual health care rather than paying for tests, procedures and drugs and C-Suite overhead” would be considered. Which it sure seems when the actual analysts lay out the numbers would be a whole lot cheaper not only for businesses (other than “medical insurance,” that is) but the rest of us too. And if people were not so damn dishonest and greedy. To the point where there are these kinds of discussions that assume that everyone ought to have to go through the idiot pain and complexity and dealing with the “Hi, my name is Suzie in the Claims Denial Department! How may I not help you today?”, because hey, “Medical UNsurance” is just another consumer product, right? Subject to the normal gouging and markups and price games and “features and benefits” fol-de-rol? And anyone who resists Bidness as Usual is just a Taker, looking for a Socialist Free Ride…

        Medicare, surprisingly, actually seems to “work,” despite the fraud and idiotic incentives that are built, and lobbied, into the mix. Too bad about that “Part D” long-running ripoff, of course… Even VA care, hobbled by politics as it is, “works” better than the private UNsurance I once had and see in dys-operation every day as a nurse (the one group with the most insight into all this that was so pointedly kicked out of the smoke-filled rooms and lobbies.)

  7. You said the s-word! Off to Guantanamo with you, evil freedom-hater! (we’d be glad to have you in Scandinavia, no coal plants here so you can breathe safely.)

    For all non-americans, the political drama is strangely amusing and bewildering at the same time. A nation who regularly insist on imposing their system on others, can’t even feed their children, care for their sick or pay public employees their salaries. How disfunctional can a system get before those who the system claims to serve cease to forgive it for its shortcomings?

    The only thing the land of the free excels at now is reading other people’s emails and having your executive branch… executing people, including your own citizens, in other countries without involving your legislative or the judicial branch. And oh, you excel at financial innovativeness too. Wall Street surely knows how to bundle different types of loans into a magic box to make a risk-free investment vehicle called derivates. Good going.

    • ” How disfunctional can a system get before those who the system claims to serve cease to forgive it for its shortcomings?”

      Perhaps when the masses can no long afford to buy a Happy Meal at McDonald’s or similar cheap meal at another fast-food establishment.

  8. ” The next stage of American political development may be a shift of the Democratic Party toward a genuine democratic socialism.”

    Not if the oligarchs of the Democratic Party have their way. Their mission is to provide the nation with the lesser evil which means we still get evil.

    ” If private insurance companies can’t provide us proper health insurance, we may have to go to single-payer.”

    Private insurance companies delegated some of their loyal agents to join the Obama administration to write Obamacare. When it was approved insurance company stocks shot up in value. Now those agents are back home working as “consultants” and “advisers” to continue having Congress rig the system. All with the support of a sleep-walking majority of the American people.

  9. At his blog this morning, Paul Krugman makes the same analysis, that this government shutdown is the result of the strategy of our super rich and their political henchman to torpedo Obamacare. But he thinks that their Tea Party beast has escaped from its cage (I think that’s his metaphor) and that Kochs et al. have lost control of it. Killing Obamacare serves their interest. Closing down the government or (especially) defaulting on the national debt does not.

  10. According to Crooks and Liars website Cruz knocked down $1.7 million last year. So yeah, he’s in the one percent elite class who thinks he knows best how the working class should get their health care.

  11. Yes, the capitalists and their right wing political minions deserve much of the blame for shutting down the government. On the other hand, they’re responding to incentives. President Obama gave in so many times before and the right wing Republicans won with this tactic so many times before, they figured they could do it this time as well. As Dan Rather said after the Susan Rice cave in, “[President] Obama can be rolled for his wallet and his watch.”

    • “As Dan Rather said after the Susan Rice cave in, “[President] Obama can be rolled for his wallet and his watch.””

      Obama proves the old adage about education being no substitute for experience. The Republicans appear to have failed to learn that lesson with their proposals for Senators Rubio, Cruz and Paul as possible presidential candidates in 2016.

      On the Democratic side, Hillary has the experience, but that is enough to scare anyone with basic moral and humanitarian instincts.

      • Yeah, viz. Hillary: Timmy Geithner and the rest had both “experience” and “expertise.” Knowing how a bank is laid out and the mechanisms of the vault door and security systems is gained by “experience” and in certain contexts is useful “expertise…” Not necessarily a hiring recommendation.

  12. The irony is, American businessmen as a whole might make more money without being burdened by involvement in employee insurance.

    But that’s not what this is about.

    You are right that they want the 19th century back, because they have to have certain beliefs about themselves to justify their monstrous egos and agendas. They have to believe that America was “better” when the rich had a total monopoly on power, thus this monopoly must be restored. Different right-wing factions have different narratives on why that is true. But certainly a taste of sadism lurks in the background of all justifications for inequality between humans.

    On the other side, forever breaking the will of ordinary citizens to exercise power is certainly a profitable goal, assuming that broken people won’t become dysfunctional after a couple of generations. I just learned the psychological term “learned helplessness”, and it seems to fit what landlords have always wanted from serfs. I think the cornerstone goal of the conservative movement has always been to convince the masses that secular improvement by democratic government is impossible. Note the word “secular”. Medieval peasants certainly could form mobs to punish those who disobeyed the ruling religion, or assure their ticket to heaven by volunteering for Crusades. The poor of our country were allowed to help enforce the established morality with ropes and torches. It’s good to give them an illusion of power as a distraction. But property rights? The rich know that’s all that really matters.

  13. “It is dangerous for the super-rich to act so arrogantly.”

    It is at least as dangerous for the mass of “citizens” to be apathetic and wallow in ignorance.

  14. ‘In other words, Ted Cruz and his billionaire backers are telling us, “let them eat cake.”’

    No, Cruz and his billionaire backers are straight-up telling us, “Let them die.”

    There is no Antoinette-like callousness from cluelessness here, no indifference from ignorance. Just pure maliciousness and spite.

    And unlike Antoinette they are not suggesting any substitute, however unaffordable or unobtainable it may be.

  15. There are other signs and portents about the wealthy too. For example:
    - It’s OK to spend $50 billion each year on the NSA
    - But Congress needs to impose cuts of $4 billion on the food stamps program

    Who thinks this is equitable? Of course it’s Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and all the other wealthy corporate “citizens” who are feeding at the trough.

    And who’s actually paying the bills? That would be you and me.

  16. Beware. The representatives who brought about this stupidity were elected legally. Their electoral districts were created legally by state legislatures. The voter lists are narrowed to eliminate certain classes of voters legally. This has all been approved by the federal Supreme Court. It will not go away just because it has been rejected by a majority of those polled by private organizations.

  17. At least one telling of Marie Antoinette’s one liner has her giving the estate’s supplies to the poor, and when they run out (of bread), she opens up the royal bakery’s well stocked supplies to the masses as well.

    The prospect of torches and pitchforks might have something to do with it, motivation-wise, and it was too little too late, anyway.

    Obama/Romney/Heritage foundation care itself would seem to be the closer analogy, then: Too little to actually affect structural change, too much for some of the .1%. Let them eat mandatory commercial insurance?

  18. M.A. never said “Let them eat cake.” She said “Let them eat “. Brioche is not cake. It is a lighter, sweeter kind of bread eaten for breakfast or mid afternoon snack. Her reply to the fate of peasants was nonetheless a cruel joke. Brioche can also be translated from French slang as “pot belly”.

  19. I think it speaks volumes the Obamacare site has been swamped. That, in an ordinarily boring democratic world would take the starch from the Republicans’ argument, but the new guys who are in that party dont seem to respect rule of law at home and certainly not abroad.

    That being said, I do wish the healthcare choices were more affordable. I might luck out, being a full time student but what about our countrymen and women for whom this would be a hardship? Our leaders can do a better job bringing those costs down. I wish we could emulate the Canadians or how the Scandinavians seem to do it. People say their taxes are higher but they are similar to ours – and there is more to show for it where even college is provided. If my taxes were kept the same level and there was better management of allocation of monies instead of going to some bureacrat’s pocket, I’m all for that

    Please spare me malarkey that is socialism. I lived in a socialist country before — where people werent paid salaries though they worked, they had no recourse in the courts, they could be spied on by the police, and their politicians were corrupt. I would have to ask any neocon who tries the socialism argument –isnt that what your party has actually brought about?? How are you different? Where is the ‘government is for the people, by the people’? We dont need a Dickensonian society

  20. Seems like the shutdown is intended to undermine the government’s ability to function, which seriously damages Intel agencies ability to protect the US from our enemies (70% of intel employees are now furloughed). Isn’t that the same as giving our enemies aid and comfort? I believe that the 3rd Amendment of our Constitution has a name for that.

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