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Fire Ants March in Divided America

Without conscience there will be no resistance, and without resistance, conscience will again shrivel on some pious vine of good intentions.

If you are in the wilderness being stalked by a large predator, you probably won’t notice the fire ants headed for your crotch until it is too late. However, by the time the predator moves on to other prey, your crotch could really be a mess. Continuing with this, if you pay attention, the predator isn’t likely to get you, but those fire ants will do real damage every time.

So, while the world watches Donald Trump’s Twitter feed for its latest mind fart and lawyers scurry to reinstate a Muslim ban, the fire ants are on the march, and only active vigilance and focused resistance will keep them at bay. As an example, let’s take a good look at one of the “fire ants.”

Most folks probably think that if they are lucky enough to have funds to invest for retirement that require financial advice, their financial advisor is required by some law, regulation or common decency to act in the best interests of their customers. If you believed this in the United States before last year, you would have been dead wrong.

Then, in 2016, despite financial industry and insurance industry lobbying pressure, the US Department of Labor promulgated a new federal regulation requiring what common decency didn’t seem to the industry to require—that financial advisors actually must act in the best interests of their customers. The new “fiduciary rule” was due to take effect this coming April, seemingly protecting customers’ retirement investments from the seamy side of the financial advisor world.

But wait, enter the fire ant. On February 3, 2017, in a little noticed White House Memorandum to the secretary of labor, implementation of the “fiduciary rule” was put on hold for further study in order to protect investors from a regulation that would have offered them protection for the first time. This action will likely end the protection in the name of protecting the now unprotected.

While this little early Trump gift to the scum that peddle garbage to investors seeking a safe place for retirement savings may seem a bit obscure and arcane, it bears noting that as of June 2014, Americans held over $24 trillion in retirement assets. So, while Trump keeps your eye on the balls of his choosing, the fire ants are after yours.

WHAT NEXT?

This little reality exercise is intended to demonstrate that there can be no retreat from vigilance in the weeks and months ahead. More importantly, there must be an increased willingness to resist everything that Trump and his acolytes are doing to us. The diversions will be many, but remember that for every predator you can see, there are multiple fire ants on the move. And they are headed to where it hurts.

It is important to note that those left unprotected by Trump’s “fiduciary rule” memo are almost exclusively in the middle class. This is in spite of daily assurances from Trump and his acolytes that they alone can and will protect the middle class. This follows, of course, in the wake of a failed Democratic Party message to the same constituency. Now it seems that no one is protecting what everyone says they are committed to protecting.

Think about where this leaves the constituency that has no voice and that hardly anyone says they are committed to protecting—the vulnerable and already under-served in our communities. If financial advisors are freed to fleece those with retirement funds, just imagine the vermin that will be freed to fleece the poor, the uneducated, the disabled and the sick. It will be open season.

So the message returns to a question of conscience. Without conscience there will be no resistance, and without resistance, conscience will again shrivel on some pious vine of good intentions.

For those who care about the most vulnerable in America and know that their present condition reflects, more than anything else, the collective and seemingly forever failure of those of means and conscience to develop and implement policies and programs that will work to alleviate poverty and ensure a fair share of America’s wealth for all. You can be certain that the right-wing will again peddle its snake oil of American greatness and its opiate of trickle-down economics. And, painfully, many of those with the most to lose will buy the snake oil and the opiate once again.

EYES WIDE OPEN

Which brings me back to the fire ants. While our heads are swiveling from one absurd executive reach to another, we must remember that the diversions are planned and intended to keep our focus on the predator-in-chief. All the while, the fire ants are on the move.

We cannot lose sight of the many programs that provide what little safety net there is for the poor in these troubled times. Keep an eye on funding for programs that provide food stamps and school meals. Keep an eye on housing programs that provide assistance to the poor and are now entrusted to a wacko neurosurgeon for implementation. Keep an eye on public safety issues that disproportionately impact inner cities, from the introduction of even more military hardware into those communities to the full implementation of the gun nut agenda, including easy public access to silencers and machine guns.

And keep an eye on so much more. We can be certain that if people of conscience fail in this task, real human beings will suffer while America’s rich and powerful will divide up the spoils of their latest victory. The test of any community’s commitment to its most vulnerable citizens is whether or not suffering can be alleviated. Meeting that test can never be left in the hands of those whose only commitment is to themselves.

*[A version of this article was also featured on Larry Beck’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: BasSlabbers