George Pyle: Time to take a tapeworm to American capitalism

(Richard Drew | AP) A television screen headlines on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange headlines market activity, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Stocks are opening broadly higher on Wall Street as traders welcome news that China's top trade official will head to Washington next week to sign a preliminary trade deal with the U.S.

Dr. Chandra had a problem.

The problem wasn’t so much that they had removed the exotic nature of his character as he appeared in the 1982 Arthur C. Clarke novel, “2010: Odyssey Two,” changing him from the Indian Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai to the comparatively dull Illinois computer geek known only as “R. Chandra” for the 1984 film version, “2010: The Year We Make Contact.”

(Certainly, if the film were to be made today, Hollywood would be happy to keep the character Indian and, instead of Bob Balaban, cast Ben Kingsley. Or Dev Patel. Or that guy on “The Big Bang Theory.”)

The problem was that Chandra and a handful of other astronaut/engineer/bureaucrats had come all the way from Earth to Jupiter to recover the spaceship Discovery 1 and to reactivate its homicidal computer/central nervous system, HAL 9000, in an attempt to explain the first film.

Understandably reluctant to just switch HAL back on again, Chandra first removed from the computer’s memory all the unpleasantness that had brought everything to disaster nine years before.

“I’ve erased all of HAL’s memory from the moment the trouble started,” Chandra said.

“The 9000 series uses holographic memories,” countered Soviet astronaut Vasili Orlov, “so chronological erasures would not work.”

(Yes, in 1984 they expected the Soviet Union to still exist in 2010. Just go with it.)

“I made a tapeworm," Chandra explained, "It’s a program that’s fed into a system that will hunt down and destroy any desired memories.”

That’s what we need. A tapeworm.

Bill Clinton used to say, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

The problem is that what’s wrong and what’s right are so intermingled that it is nigh unto impossible to remove one without killing the other. Like an inoperable blood clot in your brain.

(That’s a whole other science fiction movie. One with Raquel Welch in it.)

Just about every serious problem we have is created or amplified by corporate greed. Inaccessible health care, the degradation of our land, air and water, homelessness, overcrowded and under-resourced schools. Even racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry are exploited by right-wing media as away of making sure the working classes never unite in defense of their own interests.

And, oh, yeah, the existential threat of climate change.

Of course the natural human, and humane, inclination is to burn it all down.

But we don’t, because we are told that bringing down the capitalist regime will cost us everything we still like about our messed up world: Jobs, cars, communication and entertainment, public safety and sanitation, schools that do what they can, housing that most of us can still afford, miracle medicines that keep us alive at the tiny cost of multi-generational bankruptcy.

And the absolute hell of it is that the capitalist running dogs are right. We can’t destroy the system without catastrophic collateral damage that will ruin everything.

Enter the tapeworm.

A program that’s fed into a system that will hunt down and destroy any desired aspects. There used to be strong labor unions. Now we must rely on wage and hour laws, anti-trust regulations, public education, environmental protections and progressive taxation.

We could boost all that by bringing back the the Eisenhower-era top income tax rate of 91%, applied not to anyone’s entire income, but just the part of their income that is more than (adjusted for inflation) $3.85 million.

If we had such a system for individual income taxes, without too many loopholes, we might be able to afford to cut — or even eliminate — corporate income taxes, as a way of keeping money from fleeing to other countries and encouraging corporations to plow profits back into operations — that is, really be job creators and innovators — rather than hand it out in executive suite pay and bonuses where it would be subject to high tax rates.

Then we need a carbon tax, something even an increasing number of Republicans like, as a way of pushing the marketplace to develop clean energy sources. Alternatives for what to do with the money abound, such as a rebate to households to offset higher energy costs or as a way of saving Social Security and Medicare for the next century or so.

Money, left to its own devices, accumulates at the top. Forcing it to the bottom, with progressive taxation and investments in public services and infrastructure, as Will Rogers said, at least lets it pass through the hands of the poor man in the morning before the rich man recaptures it that night.

(George Pyle | The Salt Lake Tribune)

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, soaks up lots of pop culture and calls it work, so he has to use it in his writing. Just go with it.


Twitter, @debatestate