By Matthew Rothschild on October 26, 2011

One reason for hope is the statistic that 66 percent of the American public feels that “the money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed.”

So let’s redistribute wealth. These are vastly popular demands—and they may get more popular after people see a new study that shows the top 1 percent ballooning its income by 275 percent from 1979 to 2007.

No wonder Occupy Wall Street and the “We Are the 99 Percent” movement is spreading so fast.

And speaking of Occupy Wall Street, 43 percent of Americans said they agreed with it versus only 27 percent who said they disagreed.

Another heartening statistic reveals that 69 percent of the public think the policies of the Republicans in Congress favor the rich. Imagine that! A plurality also thinks that Obama’s policies favor the rich, though that figure was 28 percent.

The reason for concern, though, is that 89 percent distrust government to do the right thing, at a time when we desperately need government action to solve the economic problems facing us.

Obama has contributed to this problem by not proposing a big enough stimulus bill early in 2009 and by not forcing the banks to reduce the principal on people’s mortgages or to impose a moratorium on foreclosures. And Republicans have so sabotaged the already inadequate plans by Obama to aid the economy that many people are concluding that government can’t do anything good.

This pessimism, while understandable, perfectly serves the purposes of the top 1 percent.

This may be the ultimate tragedy of the Obama Presidency: He has discredited progressivism without enacting it.

“Many middle-class Americans are wondering whether progressives can really deliver a better economic life,” Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson warned in their excellent book, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. “And, perhaps most challenging, progressives are losing because the well of public trust in government has been so badly poisoned by the failures of government to deliver that life in the recent past.”

The super-rich, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Koch Brothers, and their ilk have been systematically poisoning this well. Bill Clinton did his part, too, with NAFTA and the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

And once poisoned, a well is hard to un-poison.

That’s what the corporations and the top 1 percent are banking on.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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