Thursday, July 7, 2011

A War on Three Fronts

I wrote this column a few weeks ago. I wasn't going to post it, content to leave it as a stress-relieving rant. But after hearing of developments in the President's latest round of "negotiations" (negotiations meaning "I'll lay here and you steam-roller me flat")I'm going to put it out there.

People were worried that this president is "secretly" a Muslim. That wouldn't bother me if he was. I'm worried he's "secretly" a Republican.

The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. – Pres. Barack Obama, inaugural address

We are a nation at war on three fronts. Not in Iraq. Not in Afghanistan. Not in Libya. But right here, within our own boundaries, fighting amongst ourselves. Over class. Over race. Over age. The only thing united about these war fronts is that they are all tethered to the pitiful state of our economy.

The Class War. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ has grown at an almost unprecedented rate during the past 30 years. (At the rate things are going, that decline will accelerate as the gap continues to widen.) You’re lucky to be employed. And even if you can find a job after being unemployed, a salary remotely comparable to the one you last had is probably out of the question.

What’s seriously wrong with this picture? In 2008, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in more than 10 percent of personal income in the United States, including capital gains, and the top 1 percent took in more than 20 percent. So, less than 1/10th of 1 percent of working people made 1/10th of all income. In 1975, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in about 2.5 percent of U.S. personal income. (These stats are part of a great Washington Post article examining the widening income gap in America.)

Who owns most of this wealth? Corporate executives.

America wouldn’t be America if it was right to begrudge success. And defenders argue that executives warrant their brain-numbing salaries because business is “bigger and more complex” today and that the compensation is tied to the performance of the companies they lead. Really?

That’s not what the research shows. Consider: Researchers Raghavendra Rau and Huseyin Gulen of Purdue University and Michael J. Cooper of the University of Utah surveyed the performance of 1,500 companies between 1994 and 2006 and found that “lavish CEO compensation may in fact undermine shareholder wealth.” The researchers concluded that “the 10 percent of companies with the most highly paid CEOs earned unusually low returns in both the near- and long-term.”

The Race War. You’d think that more than 145 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, this would be over. But no. And, unfortunately, it’s not just limited to a single race. Aren’t white? You apparently qualify. I’m appalled by the number of people who use the phrase, “Send ‘em back.” Really? Show me your ancestry, pal. Unless it’s 100 percent Native American Indian (the people we stole this country from) then you are a guest, too. Where would you like to be sent back to?

I can’t wait to see how the radical right will respond to the recent report about the birth rate of “non-white” babies now outpacing white babies. Trust me, this is going to be a headline for the anti-abortion movement— if it isn’t already.

There is always some whippin’ boy in American society. While racial profiling is supposed to be illegal, its goes on all the time. And there’s a disproportionate number of people of color in prison. If you don’t have the “right” color of skin, then maybe you don’t worship the “right” way either. It’s a great way to keep all of “sorta haves” and “have nots” pitted against one another, isn’t it?

The Age War. I saw a comment to a story talking about the number of retirees who rely on Social Security as their primary income source. It was from a young kid, bragging about the fact that they had already saved $10,000 toward their retirement and just didn’t understand how these retirees couldn’t have managed to have saved for their retirement. Well, of course, this youngster doesn’t.

He/she didn’t live and work through the 1980s. He/she didn’t LOSE their retirement, after decades of saving, in a single day on Wall Street. He/she has not yet fallen victim to the fact that, during the past three decades, wages have stagnated while the cost of living has continued to spiral skyward.

Again, the economy, pitting us against one another for resources. Retirement. Jobs (if you aren’t old enough to retire). Basic survival.

Right now, kids can’t get summer jobs because they’re being filled by older people who can’t find anything else. There are proposals around the country to abolish child labor laws and to pay students BELOW minimum wage. For those of us under 55 but within 20-30 years of retirement, just who is it that is going to employ us into our 70s? Let’s just do it the way they did it a century ago: work ‘til you drop or slink off into the night to starve to death once you’re shown the door.

So where does it end? And how?

I say it ends here, today, right now. And it ends by getting together as a people. Let’s stop fighting amongst ourselves – and start fighting FOR ourselves …with them! That’s going to mean facing some realities.

· Cutting taxes will neither stimulate growth nor create jobs. It didn’t when Ronald Reagan started it; it won’t today.
· Our Congressmen, who make six-figure incomes, need to stop disrespecting the people who pay those salaries – and begrudging decent wages to people who earn significantly less than they do. How full of yourself you must be to think what you do is so much more valuable than the work of teachers, policemen, firefighters and nurses.
· Politicians don’t care about anything but their careers. If they did, they would be concerned about doing things that are best for all of us as a people – not for their respective parties.

Mr. President … remember that inauguration quote? Mr. Boehner … how about you ask yourself "where are the jobs?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All I can say is BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO BRAVISSIMO!!! And Brilliant. And thank you. The smug and arrogant kids have no idea how great the possibility is that they, too, may some day see their virtuous and noble savings wiped out by the perverse casino that is our investment system - odds massively favoring the house. They have no sense of even recent history to remind them of all the pensions that were just eliminated - pensions that many of those who are now dependent on social security worked for over many years. Unlike the contracts guaranteeing rich bounuses to Wall Street predators, contracts with ordinary working people carry no weight and can be unilaterally broken on the whim of the employer. The kids don't read Dickens any more. They should.