American Jews are taking back their power from Israel

The last month has seen the greatest change in the US relationship with Israel in more than 40 years, maybe since the 1973 war, or possibly even Suez, or the creation of the state. We see President Obama repeatedly faulting the Israeli prime minister’s conduct, politicians boycotting the Israeli p.m.’s speech in Washington, and suggestions in the official press that Democrats are going to run against Israel in the next election season. The 1991 fight between George Bush and Yitzhak Shamir that helped elect Bill Clinton and Rabin doesn’t approach what we are seeing today. Yesterday the White House chief of staff got rousing cheers in Washington from J Street, the liberal Zionist group,as he slammed Israel as an occupier: “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end.”

Why is this rupture happening now? Why didn’t it happen during any number of earlier provocations, from the building of Har Homa settlement outside Jerusalem to the fomenting of the Iraq war to the slaughter of Cast Lead?

This moment must be seen primarily as a generational Jewish moment. Our politicians and newspapers are speaking out because they are licensed by a segment of the official Jewish community that is deeply troubled by Israel’s behavior. In 1967, American Jews fell in love with Israel and made a solemn promise to protect the country through thick and thin. Nearly fifty years later the same community is reconsidering that vow. What we are seeing is a transfer of power from the Israeli Jewish community to the Diaspora Jewish community that Benjamin Netanyahu failed to anticipate even as he precipitated it. This transfer will not be reversed, and it marks the end of the traditional Israel lobby, though not the end of the “special relationship” between the countries.

The old lobby that so influenced US policy on the conflict for 40 years was based on a simple principle: There must never be daylight between the US administration and the Israeli government, no matter who was in power in Israel, a former terrorist, a war criminal, a rightwing lunatic. No daylight was the motto of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC holds a profound trust: it justly believes its support to be crucial to Israel’s survival, and it was able to maintain order in the official Jewish community behind the No-daylight principle through massacres and colonization because the American Jewish community deferred to the Israeli one. The deference is encapsulated by Bill Kristol’s response in an Upper West Side synagogue to Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street some years ago: It would be “cavalier” of me to sit here in comfort and criticize Israel even if I wondered about its actions, Kristol said. That attitude was reinforced by the Holocaust message, Never again, and by the Jewish religious instruction that Jews in Israel are aliyah, higher, while we in the west are yoredim, or lower.

Liberal secular Jews accepted that back seat. We were in no position to criticize Israel because we didn’t live there and our children didn’t serve in armies. My mother is typical: a liberal Democrat who votes against war and has never been to Israel, she puts photos of her best friend’s children in Israeli uniform on the refrigerator and bites her tongue about the occupation.

No doubt there have been many moments of strain between the liberal Jewish community and Israel. Sabra and Shatilla, Cast Lead, Lebanon, Operation Defensive Shield during the Second Intifada. At each of these horrors, segments of the Jewish population fell out of love for Israel, from Breira to Jews Against the Occupation to Jews Say No, but that splintering didn’t really matter in the official world. The lobby was able to marginalize dissidents so that there were no fractures in the monolith that dealt with establishment politicians. Even the group that has been the leading critic of the settlements – Americans for Peace Now — refused to leave the Conference of Presidents, a very conservative no-daylight organization, lest Peace Now lose access to power as a member of the Jewish inner circle. Peace Now valued Jewish solidarity higher than its human rights principles.

The lobby would not lose power—said MJ Rosenberg, an AIPAC apostate—until congresspeople such as Jerrold Nadler got buttonholed by reporters about their blind support for Israel. That moment finally seems to be upon us, and the question is, Why did things change now? What was special about this provocation?

The Jewish community split on Israel not because of Netanyahu’s racism or his massacres or his rubbishing of the two-state solution; but because he acted in such a way as to place American Jews’ loyalty to the United States in doubt by making the historic speech to Congress on March 3 that even the New York Times has called “subversive.” It was one thing for American Jews to support Israel when the argument could be made that American and Israeli interests aligned. Louis Brandeis helped form Zionist pressure groups in the first place by stating that it was the American way for ethnic groups to show loyalty to their own kind. But the Netanyahu speech to Congress was a shocking and unprecedented interference by a foreign leader in our politics. A generation from now people won’t believe that this even happened. It did happen. A warmongering prime minister sought to undermine a president’s peacemaking policy by coming to Congress at the invitation of Republicans to fight the president’s deal with Iran. The power-play surely reflected the importance of conservative Jewish money in our political process– Bill Kristol’s group the Emergency Committee for Israel had given $1 million to make the career of the Republican freshman senator at the head of insurgency– and it was agonizing to Jews and Democrats who are also beholden to the lobby. The New York Times stated their dilemma plainly: they would “need to make an awkward, painful choice between the president of their country and their loyalty to the Jewish state.” Their loyalty to the Jewish state! Those words are shocking and nearly seditious; and many Democrats made a clear choice, they were on Obama’s side. The Netanyahu speech was surely popular in Israel – when I was there last week, even young people at the polls praised him for his strength – and it delighted the neoconservatives, but it angered liberal Jews.

It took a while for that outrage to coalesce over the six weeks between the announcement of the speech in January and the speech in March. For some time, the main response in the Jewish community was to wish the speech did not happen. J Street pleaded with the Prime Minister not to make Americans have to choose sides over Israel. And even AIPAC worked behind the scenes to try and make the nightmare go away. But the speech went forward, and it did what J Street and AIPAC both feared: it caused Americans and American Jews to have to take a stand. This was a no-brainer for liberal Jews. They would be with their president. As MJ Rosenberg has often said, if American Jews are faced with a choice between open dual loyalty and walking away from Israel, they will walk away from Israel. (We know which side our bread is buttered.)

Of course many other Americans were angered by Netanyahu’s act of daring. But I believe that Jews drove the political shift. You can see that in Chris Matthews’s handling of the matter. Today he is one of the biggest critics in our media of Netanyahu and his speech. He talks about it every night. But in the first couple of days of the outrage he had nothing to say, even though the outrage was as obvious then as it is now, and his first comments were strained. He was awaiting the cue, waiting to see where the Jewish establishment (the sort of people he works for, the heads of Comcast in Philadephia, pro-Israel Jews) was going to line up. When Matthews saw that elements of the Jewish establishment were going to criticize the speech forcefully, he began to criticize it more and more strongly. Today he is a leader on the issue, and he is echoing J Street’s line: Netanyahu has savaged the two-state solution, which the world believes in. Last night Matthews praised J Street as a strong group and the big winner of the Netanyahu scandal; and at J Street’s conference, Morton Halperin (father of Mark Halperin, who appears on Matthews) said that the Prime Minister was a racist who had blocked the two state solution.

Today for the first time in decades, we can see an open divide inside the Jewish establishment over Israel. AIPAC is for tightening Iran sanctions; it devoted its policy conference to that push. J Street is all for the president’s deal; its policy conference was about getting a deal with Iran. AIPAC isurging the president to patch up his relationship with Netanyahu in a hurry; but J Street revels in the new daylight. Netanyahu was repeatedly attacked from the stage at J Street. The young people cheered whenever there was criticism of the occupation.

The moment is generational because six years ago J Street tried to pull off this same political move and it failed. In the belief that American Jews opposed settlements, it resolved to drive a wedge in US politics between those who supported settlements and those who opposed them. That was also President Obama’s policy. He said that the settlements must end. But there was massive pushback inside the Democratic Party Jewish community toward any criticism of the settlement project. Obama folded at the U.N., and J Street folded too. It began talking instead about settling on borders (i.e., accepting the settlement blocs). The president made sure that the Democratic Party supported Israel’s control over Jerusalem in 2012, surely to capture Haim Saban’s millions.

But today U.S. policy is getting shaken up. At J Street this year they cheered for a Palestinian state and the president’s chief of staff indicated that the U.S. would take Netanyahu on over settlements. Chris Matthews campaigns for the two-state solution every night. Will this shift make any difference in the conflict? I don’t think so. It is too late for the two state solution; any real effort to establish a viable Palestinian state would start a civil war in Israel. We are at the beginning of a tumultuous period inside Israeli society, as Noam Sheizaf warned J Street; while Nabila Espanioly stated that Israeli “fascism” is at our door. Americans are finally waking up to what Israel is.

The significance of the rupture is the political and psychological shift inside the American Jewish community. The civil war will begin here. For two generations the Jewish community was unwilling to criticize Israel. In the face of events that would cause a Jewish uprising in the U.S. — from racist atrocities to policies merging church and state–  the Jewish community was silent because it had made a vow in the 1970s to provide political life support to Israel.

Today that deal has been broken; and the American discourse will only get better. J Street tried to circumscribe the official statements on its stage to Zionists, and Halperin pledged to fight the boycott movement; but free speech is free speech, and many panelists expressed heretical views. Marcia Freedman spoke up for cultural Zionism, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum called for Jewish spaces to open their doors to anti-Zionists, and Huda Abu Arqoub called for the boycott and downfall of the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli politicians who appeared at J Street looked dazed and lost. When the rockstar of Israeli Labor, 29-year-old Stav Shaffir, called for “separation” from Palestinians, the hall was silent. Once this American conversation begins, it will never end. More and more Jews will understand that Zionism is incompatible with liberalism. And Jewish Voice for Peace and the BDS movement will be the beneficiaries.

For forty years we saw the demise of the Jewish intellect in blind support of Israel. A leading liberal community had abandoned its post. The overreach by a thuggish racist foreign leader in American politics has stirred that community to life. America won’t be the same.

Thanks to Adam Horowitz, Annie Robbins and Scott Roth.

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America’s .01 percent like the Kochs and the Hiltons are collecting massive subsidies from the federal government.

Exposing America’s Billionaire Welfare Ranchers

Americans love ranchers: Gritty ranchers, mom-and-pop ranchers, renegade ranchers — especially those who raise livestock on the vast open prairies of the West through a mixture of hard work and rugged independence. But there’s another side to the ever-popular rancher mythology— a side the media doesn’t cover and the public never sees. The Koch brothers, Ted Turner, the Hilton family and nine other powerful ranchers share an uncommon privilege: giant public subsidies, unknown to U.S. taxpayers.

It’s the other side of the Cliven Bundy story, the other side of the Wright brothers saga—the bronc-riding, ranching family at the center of the New York Times photographic essay published this March.

That “other side” of those stories is the federal grazing program that enables the Wrights to run their livestock on public lands for cheap; allows ranchers to have thousands of protected wild horses removed from public lands at public expense. It’s also the program that earned Cliven Bundy the title of “welfare rancher.”

Bundy didn’t earn it by failing to pay his grazing fees. The welfare rancher label applies to all ranchers who hold permits to graze the vast public spaces of the West, both delinquent and not. It includes the Wright brothers; the ranchers in Iron and Beaver counties in Utah complaining that wild horses eat too much; and 21,000 others.

They are all welfare ranchers subsidized by US taxpayers, and you know who are the biggest welfare ranchers of all, grazing livestock on the hundreds of millions of acres of public grass and forest land, all assisted by public subsidies paid for by US taxpayers?

Billionaires that populate Forbes rich lists. 

The .01 percenters. They are the nation’s biggest welfare ranchers, according to numerous environmental and policy groups; and it’s time they brought some attention to themselves, and the federal grazing program they’re exploiting to waste as much as $1 billion a year of taxpayer money while causing long-term damage to one of the public’s most treasured assets.

Fifteen years ago, two percent of public lands ranchers controlled fifty percent of permitted grazing acreage, according to John Horning of WildEarth Guardians.

Today, Horning says, that elite group of mega-rich owners has consolidated its hold on federal grazing property even further through grazing leases attached to the larger-than life ranches they inherit or buy outright.

Along with that comes all kinds of perks paid for by taxpayers: the USDA’s wildlife services, which killed four million endangered and predator species in 2013 to help livestock operators. The costly and wildly ineffective Wild Horses and Burros Program which operates to the benefit of welfare ranchers. Numerous programs that work to undo the grazing damage that welfare livestock causes. And let’s not forget the bank loans that an estimated 45% of public lands ranchers obtain, using their grazing leases as collateral, and which heighten the value of their primary ranching property.

Only 2.7 percent of the nation’s ranchers hold such leases. That’s a lot of costly benefits flowing to a small segment of the livestock industry. That two percent of them hold more than fifty percent of the acreage under that program? Never mind that two of the recipients love to attack all welfare programs that benefit the bottom tier of the economic pyramid. It’s the antithesis of rugged independence. It’s undemocratic, too.

Their faces are absent from rancher stories. Some of that is media laziness. The other part is inconvenience. It takes a lot of digging to identify any public lands ranchers with precision. Why? Because the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service (which administer most federal grazing leases) have record-keeping systems that are the antithesis of transparent. There is no central database. Finding out who’s doing what on federal lands requires identifying all the various LLCs that ranchers establish to hide who they are, then tracking down leases in 10 Western states.

The BLM, for its part, isn’t eager to help. Call any BLM specialist and identify yourself as media, and they send you to a media representative. Most I reached out to didn’t return phone calls—not promptly, anyway. You want sensitive information? You’ll be stuck sending out Freedom of Information Act requests. I sent one in last April. It’s still outstanding.

Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News, in 1999, spent nine months collecting information on 26,000 grazing leases in order to write a comprehensive article (“Cash Cows”) on the money pit that was the federal grazing program at that time. Many of the same players then are still in the game, but the process of keeping tabs using real records is so arduous that no environmental groups do it.

The way I came up with the names in list of 12 ranchers below was by interviewing multiple groups that work to reform public lands grazing and cross-checking names against news reports online. The estimates provided of leased acreage were provided by Jon Marvel, founder of Western Watersheds Project. Net worth figures and list rankings come from Forbes; the rankings of richest land owners from the Land Report 100. 

It’s not an exact science, but one thing is clear: the public is being lulled by stories about bronc riders like the Wright brothers and outliers like Cliven Bundy while ignoring the big picture: a handful of cattle rustlers—rich ones—whose hands are deep in the public’s pockets, along with all the other smaller permittees.

And that’s what the new West is like. It’s still rough and tumble. But if you don’t have a big-ass ranch, a huge fortune and public assistance, you’d best just head for the hills.

Some of America’s biggest welfare ranchers:

David and Charles Koch (Koch Industries)

The brothers hold a half-dozen grazing permits on public land in Montana to go with its 300,000-acre Matador Ranch there. The brothers are tied for fourth place on Forbes 2014 400 Richest People in America list (net worth: $ 42 billion each). The Koch family ($ 89 billion) is #2 on Forbes Richest Families list; Koch Industries is #2 on Forbes America’s Largest Private Companies list, ($ 115 billion in sales).

J.R. Simplot Corp.

The largest U.S. public lands ranching entity (with an estimated 2 to 3 million acres of allotments in CA, ID, NV, OR and UT) is #63 on Forbes 2014 list of America’s Largest Private Companies ($ 5.8 billion in sales). In 2014, the family was #29 on Forbes list of America’s Richest Families (net worth: $ 8 billion).

Bruce McCaw (McCaw Cellular)

McCaw was #382 on Forbes 400 list of America’s Richest People in 2005 (net worth: $ 925 million). Through his 9 sprawling ranches, he controls a significant number of public grazing leases in ID and possibly NV. One of them (Camas Creek ranch) includes 272,000 acres of Federal grazing allotments in Idaho’s Camas Prairie. Grazing permitted to his other ranches could easily double or triple that to a million acres or more.

Barrick Gold

The Canadian mining company is one of the two largest public lands ranchers in NV, ranking 771st on Forbes Global 2000 list of the World’s Biggest Public Companies in 2014, (sales: $ 12.56 billion). Like many other large public lands ranchers, Barrick buys ranches to secure water rights.

Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)

The supplier of drinking water to Las Vegas is a large NV public lands rancher with an estimated 1 million acres of public grazing allotments. Like Barrick Gold, it, buys up private ranches to gain their water rights.

W. Barron Hilton (Hilton Hotels)

The hotel heir dropped off Forbes Billionaires list (ranked #459 in 2011) as well as its list of the 400 Richest Americans (#144 in 2010), with a net worth of $ 2.5 billion. He died in 2013.

Though records are hard to pin down, Hilton’s heirs inherited a ranching operation in the CA-NV border area, which has been known to have vast public lands grazing allotments permitted to it.

Mary Hewlett-Jaffe (Hewlett-Packard)

Jaffe holds the largest BLM public lands grazing permit in central ID and is among the top 15 public lands ranchers in the state (estimated at under 200,000 acres that are said to be in extremely degraded condition, according to sources).

James Barta (Sav-Rx.com)

Barta is not on any Forbes rich lists, but owns one of the largest cattle ranching operations in the U.S., according to his attorneys. Barta holds grazing permits to nearly 900,000 acres of public grazing allotments in connection with two properties: White Horse Ranch (in OR) and Soldier Meadows (in NV). Barta may have additional NV grazing leases through two other ranches in NV, according to Jon Marvel, founder of Western Watersheds Project.

T. Wright Dickinson

Though not on any Forbes list, the Dickinson family is a large public lands rancher, with  grazing permits estimated at more than a half million acres of CO, UT and WY public lands under its LLC, Vermillion Ranches. Dickinson is a former County commissioner and proponent of county efforts to gain control of federal lands, according to the Denver Post.

Stan Kroenke (Kroenke Group) & Ann Walton Kroenke (Walmart)

With just two of his ranches (in MT and WY) totaling 664,000 acres (not including public grazing allotments), Kroenke is one of the ten top land owners in the U.S. In 2014, he ranked #89 on Forbes list of the 400 Richest Americans, #247 on its Billionaires list, and #5 on its list of Richest American Sports Team Owners (net worth: $ 5.8 billion). His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke (net worth: $ 5.6 billion), was #261 on Forbes Billionaires list and #11 on its list of America’s Richest Women.

Family of Robert Earl Holding (Sinclair Oil and hotels)

Forbes ranks the family #87 on its 2014 list of America’s Richest Families (net worth: $ 2.7 billion). With 400,000 acres of land, the family is the 19th largest private land owner in the US, according to the 2014 Land Report 100. This includes land that Forbes reported “may be the largest ranching operation in the Rocky Mountains.” Public grazing leases are associated with some of the family’s WY and possibly MT holdings, according to Jon Marvel, founder of Western Watersheds.

Ted Turner

He’s the second largest U.S. land owner (2 million acres in 6 states), is estimated to hold grazing leases in MT and NM (estimated at as much as 300,000 acres), and owns the world’s largest bison herd. Forbes ranked him #296 on its 2014 list of the 400 Richest Americans and #818 on its global Billionaires list (net worth: $ 2.2 billion).

Noam Chomsky: Slavery and White Fear of Revenge ‘Deeply Rooted in American Culture’

Chomsky looks at the roots of American racism and genocide.

American culture is imbued with fears that African Americans will someday repay the violence and oppression that has marred their history in this country, according to linguist and cultural critic Noam Chomsky. Speaking with philosopher George Yancy about the roots of American racism, from Native American genocide to anti-black discrimination, Chomsky emphasized the ongoing impact of black enslavement and subjugation in the U.S., saying “fears that the victims might rise up and take revenge are deeply rooted in American culture, with reverberations to the present.”

Chomsky was speaking with Yancy as part of an ongoing New York Timesseries of discussions around race. Early in the conversation, Yancy noted that contemporary American conversations about terrorism often omit “the fact that many black people in the United States have had a long history of being terrorized by white racism.” Chomsky cited the fact that slaves had arrived in the colonies 400 years ago, and were largely responsible for America’s early economic strength.

“We…cannot allow ourselves to forget that the hideous slave labor camps of the new “empire of liberty” were a primary source for the wealth and privilege of American society, as well as England and the continent. The industrial revolution was based on cotton, produced primarily in the slave labor camps of the United States.”

Slaves were highly efficient producers, Chomsky states, and “[p]roductivity increased even faster than in industry, thanks to the technology of the bullwhip and pistol, and the efficient practice of brutal torture.”

With the end of slavery came an immediate need to criminalize African Americans to ensure a bustling—and free—labor force. Chomsky notes “that blacks were arrested without real cause and prisoners were put to work for these business interests. The system provided a major contribution to the rapid industrial development from the late 19th century.”

More recently, Reagan helped drive this process of profiteering off the criminalizing of black bodies through the war on drugs. Chomsky says the policy “initiated a new Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s apt term for the revived criminalization of black life, evident in the shocking incarceration rates and the devastating impact on black society.”

Chomsky also discussed America’s long history of atrocities toward its native population, and the historical revisionism of figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, who pretended that white colonizers had been benevolent invaders. He noted that in reality, America’s native peoples had been “extirpated” or “expelled to destitution and misery.”

“That’s only a bare beginning of the shocking record of the Anglosphere and its settler-colonial version of imperialism, a form of imperialism that leads quite naturally to the ‘utter extirpation’ of the indigenous population, and to ‘intentional ignorance’ on the part of beneficiaries of the crimes.”

The refusal to acknowledge this history of oppression, violence and genocide may be the most disturbing and terrible tendency of America’s dominant culture. “Perhaps the most appalling contemporary myth is that none of this happened,” said Chomsky. He added:

“There is also a common variant of what has sometimes been called ‘intentional ignorance’ of what it is inconvenient to know: ‘Yes, bad things happened in the past, but let us put all of that behind us and march on to a glorious future, all sharing equally in the rights and opportunities of citizenry.’ The appalling statistics of today’s circumstances of African-American life can be confronted by other bitter residues of a shameful past, laments about black cultural inferiority, or worse, forgetting how our wealth and privilege was created in no small part by the centuries of torture and degradation of which we are the beneficiaries and they remain the victims.”

Chomsky and Yancy touched upon Ferguson, Gaza, and the similarities between the two, and Islamophobia in the post-9/11 age. As they closed, Yancy asked Chomsky about possible ways of putting an end to racism.

“Racism is far from eradicated, but it is not what it was not very long ago, thanks to such efforts,” Chomsky said. Cautiously hopeful, he added: “It’s a long, hard road. No magic wand, as far as I know.”

Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing

‘The remedies that would restore economic opportunity and security to ordinary Americans are far outside mainstream political conversation, and will not become mainstream until forced onto the agenda by a genuine mass movement.’ (Image: file/public domain)

Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society’s ground rules, while the rich get even richer — yet this situation doesn’t translate into a winning politics.

If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be?

Let me suggest seven reasons:

Reason One. The Discrediting of Politics Itself. The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible.
Instead of the voters punishing Republicans, the result is cynicism and passivity, so the Republican strategy is vindicated and rewarded.

The media plays into this pattern by adopting a misleading narrative that makes the gridlock in Washington roughly the equal fault of both parties — with lazy phrases such as “Washington is broken,” or “politics is broken,” or “partisan bickering.” (Do a Google search of those clichés. It will make you sick.)

Eminent political scientists such as Jacob Hacker (Off-Center) and Thomas E. Mann and co-author Norman Ornstein, a self-described Republican (It’s Even Worse Than It Looks) have thoroughly debunked the premise of symmetrical blame. It’s Republicans who are the blockers. But these scholars and their evidence fail to alter the media storyline, and the damage has been done.

The very people who have given up on politics, and on Democrats as stewards of a social compact that helps regular working people, are precisely those regular working people — who see the Dream getting away from them and government not helping.

Reason Two. Compromised Democrats. But the Democrats are hardly blameless. Instead of seizing on the collapse of 2008 as a disgrace for laissez-faire economics, deregulation, Wall Street and the Republican Party, Barack Obama tried to make nice with the GOP, refrained from cleaning out the big banks that caused the mess, and drank the Kool-Aid of budget balance.

The result: working people frustrated with economic backsliding had no party that really championed their interests. The fateful year 2008 may have been the worst missed moment for revolutionary reform in the history of the Republic — and depending on who gets the Democratic nomination next time and what she does with it, 2016 could rival 2008 as a lost opportunity.

Republicans made big gains in the off-year elections of 2010 and 2014. Skeptical or cynical voters on the Democratic side (young people, poor people, African Americans, single women) are less likely to vote in off-years, while the rightwing base stays ferociously engaged. The more that potentially Democratic voters are disaffected, the more the Right can block any progress on inequality.

Reason Three. The Reign of Politicized Courts and Big Money. The Supreme Court’s usual majority has become an opportunistic subsidiary of the Republican Party. Two key decisions, reflecting outrageous misreading of both the Constitution and the abuses of recent history, undermined citizenship and entrenched the rule of big money.

In the Citizens United case of 2010,the Court majority gave unlimited license to big personal and corporate money. And in the Shelby County v. Holder decision of 2013, the Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, declaring open season for a new era of voter suppression.

As a consequence, the potential role of invigorated democracy as the antidote to concentrated wealth has been weakened. Economic inequality translates into inequality of political influence.

Reason Four. The Collapse of Equalizing Institutions. During the postwar boom, America actually became more equal. The bottom quarter gained more income share than the top quarter. This was no historical or technological accident. Shared prosperity was built on government activism promoting opportunity, strong unions providing decent wages even for the less educated, enforcement of other labor laws, debt-free public higher education, well-regulated financial institutions, a genuinely progressive income tax, and a trading system that did not promote outsourcing.

Politics — not technology — caused the evisceration of these instruments. Politics could take back a fairer America.

Reason Five. Bewildering Changes in How Jobs Are Structured. In the past couple of decades, regular payroll jobs with career prospects have increasingly been displaced by an economy of short-term gigs, contract work, and crappy payroll jobs without decent pay and benefits, or even regular hours. This shift often gets blamed on technology or education, but that’s malarkey.

With a different political balance of forces, regular employees could not be disguised as contract workers; corporate executives could face felony convictions for wage theft; the right to unionize would be enforced; the windfall profits of the “share economy” would actually be shared with workers; large corporations like McDonalds could not pretend that the wages and working conditions in its franchises were somebody else’s problem — and full employment would give workers more bargaining power generally.

Reason Six. The Internalization of a Generation’s Plight. Compared to my age cohort, Millennials are the screwed generation. The dream of homeownership has been undercut; good jobs with career prospects are in short supply; young adults begin economic life saddled with student debt; the pension system has been blown up; and if you want to have kids, society doesn’t do anything to help the work-family straddle.

You’d expect young adults to be in the streets, but here the cynicism about politics blends with a natural inclination to make a virtue of necessity. Maybe I’ll never own a home but I have to move around a lot anyway. I have all I need on my iPad, which means I’m less materialistic than my parents. And hey, I don’t get to be a millionaire like the people who created Uber, but maybe I’ll be an Uber driver, which is cool. Not to mention airbnb.

On the other hand, the political leader who called for a one-time write off of all past student debt might still rally a lot of Millennials. In the distribution of income and opportunity, a lot of questions that are actually political have been personalized and internalized. The assumption that we are all on our own is deeply political. But that can be changed.

Reason Seven. The Absence of a Movement. In the face of all these assaults on the working and middle class, there are many movements but no Movement. The Occupy movement, which gave us the phrase, “The One Percent,” was too hung up on its own procedural purity to create a broad movement for economic justice.

Looking out at the plethora of local and national groups pursuing greater economic equality, one sees mainly idealism and fragmentation.

Some of it is caused by that dread phrase, 501 c 3. Well-meaning foundations fall in love with the charismatic activist leader de jour, seem intent on creating yet another grass roots group or coalition, and then that group needs to differentiate itself from rivals and dance to the foundation’s tune. (This is a column for another day.)

The remedies that would restore economic opportunity and security to ordinary Americans are far outside mainstream political conversation, and will not become mainstream until forced onto the agenda by a genuine mass movement. Sometimes that movement gets lucky and finds a rendezvous with a sympathetic national leader.

This has occurred before — in the Roosevelt Revolution of the 1930s and the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s. But without a potent movement on the ground, mainstream electoral politics is likely to remain stuck with remedies too weak either to rouse public imagination and participation, or to provide more than token relief for today’s extreme inequality.

This vicious circle — really a downward spiral about depressed expectations and diminished participation — can be reversed, as it has been reversed at moments in the American past. As that noted political consultant Joe Hill put it, as they were taking him to the gallows, “Don’t mourn, organize.”