Psssst – You’re being robbed

Income inequality is killing us — literally. The gap in wealth and income between the upper 2% of the population and the middle and lower 80% is larger today than at any time since the 1920’s. The sagging economy of today is a disaster for millions of hard working Americans. It is a distant curiosity to the few who earn as much as $3.7 billion dollars this year. Do you know who is paying that salary? You are. You are being robbed.

It is common that families require both partners to work just to keep their nose above water, and as the economy heads toward what many foresee as a collapse no amount of effort can save the day in an increasing number of households.

The effective minimum wage is lower than at any time since the 1960’s. More people live under the poverty line than at any time since the 1980’s. Worst, there is no voice for that 80% much less the bottom 15%. Historically, middle America has turned to the Democratic party to advocate on their behalf for higher wages and greater benefits.

Since 1980 the Democratic Party has increasingly abdicated this role to become Republican-light. This phenomenon has been widely discussed, but the effect of this prostitution for votes is now being exposed to a public that just doesn’t want to look at the reality. The truth is the reason America is rapidly becoming a second rate nation is that there is no Democratic Party anymore.

I am not confident that Barrack Obama will do much to change that, but I remain hopeful he can. To do so, he will have to focus the dialog of the campaign on the real problems we face – a ballooning debt problem that is unprecedented on all levels; a stranglehold on Congress by a very few people of great wealth and power, that 2% who make the decisions that mean whether we buy gasoline to get to work or give milk to our children.

He will have to slap America across the face so we open our eyes to the many hands in our pockets, taking our labor, energy and enterprise for their private gain without so much as a glance at the desperate condition most families find themselves in despite a 75% increase in productivity in the past 20 years. We work harder, longer hours, produce more and are paid less that any time in 50 years.

That is robbery. It is taking what you and I have – our time, effort , knowledge and experience, and paying us a small fraction of what it is worth to those who enjoy the fruits of our contributions. We are not given an opportunity to object, it is just taken.

One of the most impactful actions by Ronald Reagan was the breaking the union in the Air Traffic Controller strike. Ever since workers are afraid that if they exercise the little power they have by striking they will simply lose their jobs. Business has become so emboldened they no longer think of unions as a counterbalance but as an annoyance at worst and often an ally in the process of robbing America.

If Obama even has an interest in tackling this biggest of all problems – more critical than any of the much hyped threat of terror attacks, climate change or any of the many things many are worried about –he has a huge hurdle to overcome. Most people have been brain washed into thinking that anyone who talks about this is a “classist” or worse. We have been fed the soma of goods and services, prescription drugs and phony conservativism so much that we are half asleep to the world we actually live in.

America must be wakened, preached to, enlightened and activated to take on their own problems as if they have the power to do something. If Senator Obama can pull that off he will be a true American hero. If he isn’t up to the challenge, I despair for all of us. If he is unwilling to even try, he is just another one of the long string of false populists.

I have my fingers crossed. Senator Obama, the ball is in your court.

Comments

  1. pollchecker

    Ronald Reagan and his policies are the reason our country is falling apart.

    When he changed the way taxes were paid, America became doomed.

    Since then not one single refinery has been built. What has happened?

    Big companies like Exxon have gone in and bought all the little refineries, eliminating the competition.

    Before Reagan, the richest Americans had a reason to invest in America.

    After Reagan’s disatrous tax program, the richest Americans stopped investing in America and started playing the stock market.

    Now it is up to the govt to fix EVERYTHING in America.

    But the steal and spend Republicans, who under Clinton, INSISTED ON A BALANCED BUDGET, under George W decided that a balanced budget wasn’t necessary.

    They gave away over A TRILLION DOLLARS of OUR MONEY. Where did it go? Mostly to companies who paid money to put George into office.

    Oh, yeah, there is that issue of the $4566 PER SECOND that we are spending in Iraq even though we won Bush’s personal war 6 weeks after it started.

    As long as the RICHEST AMERICANS are paying virtually VERY LITTLE TAXES, our country will continue to fall apart.

    We were warned last year, that there were over 1000 levees in America that our govt had no idea what condition they were in.

    Now look at Cedar Rapids. Maybe the fact that this happened in the Midwest to mostly white middle class people will wake this country up.

    I’d like to see some neo-con minister come back and say this is god’s way of punishing Iowa like they did New Orleans.

    Under ANY Bush, one thing is for CERTAIN:

    The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class pays all the taxes

  2. staunchdem

    The myth of Reagan continues to astound me.
    If you look at our current budget proposal you will see that we are paying $180 billion in interest on money borrowed in 1984 to prop up the economy so as to bolster his re-election campaign.
    As noted above he borrowed more money than all of the previous Presidents combined and that doesn’t even take into account the borrowing from Social Security.
    History reveals that he was likely in early stages of Alzheimer’s in the first term and nothing more than a drooling basket case in his second term.
    Don’t any of you remember the pathetic old man looking into the camera during the Iran/Contra hearings?
    His only answer was “I don’t recall”
    He would have faced impeachment if Oliver North had not fallen on his sword to protect him.
    The only accomplishment of the chimp’s presidency is that he prevented Ronnie Raygunz from going down in history as the worst president ever.
    When the old fascist died I thought it was disgusting that the American taxpayers had to pay the bill to have his body dragged to and from Washington, D.C.
    I haven’t been to California since 1968 but I intend to visit again so that I can spit on his grave.
    God damn his fascist ass and screw you for praising him.
    You are a sick individual and I hope you go away.
    Sincerely sickened by your fascist ass.

    Chuck Glass
    \

  3. Jim C

    About two years ago I was listening to an interview on the radio . I believe on the Al Frankin show . During the interview ( I forget what the original subject of the interview was ) it came out that the man had been one of the lawyers involved in the Iran contra investigation . The host asked the man , who had been present at reagans interview at the white house about said interview . This is what he said which left me speechless , understand , this event was early in reagans second term . I paraphrase of course , but this is what he said . ” We were shown into the oval office , sat down and prepared to interview the president , the lead attorney was going to begin the sesson . The president ( reagan ) entered the office with his aides and council and sat down . The lead attorney exchanged pleasantries with reagan and after about two to three minutes closed his briefcase rose , thanked the president for the interview and we left . It was immediatly apparent that reagan was in no condition to give a coherent statement ” .

    Conservatives have been furiously working since reagan slithered out of office to rewrite and obfuscate the history of his disasterous presidency and turn him into a conservative icon . The nonsense of reagan did this and reagan did that is complete fiction . Reagan was an intellectual lightweight who never had an idea in his life . He was nothing but a malleable boob that was sold an ideology ( the failed , poisonous trickle down theory ) and could strike a heroic pose while regurgitating whatever lines his handlers spoon fed him . It always astounds me that these reagan worshipers can’t figure out that there was a reason their hero was never allowed to face the press unless they had complete control of the situation . There are what , three , four books written that are brimming with the unbelievably stupid , inaccurate , confused meanderings that dolt would spew forth whenever he got loose from his handlers .

  4. misterbadexample98

    History will treat Carter better than Reagan.

    For all of Carter’s failures, it is clear that he had a more coherent view of the future of energy than any of the republicans who followed him. Carter was not willing to bust unions to get his way with salaries, and median incomes were more stable under his watch than they were under Reagan, when manufacturing started off-shoring.

    When Reagan came in, the first thing he did was take down the solar panels that Carter put on the White House. Had Reagan maintained a coherent, sound energy policy, the US would’ve retained its lead in solar and wind energy and those fields (and the accompanying manufacturing jobs) would belong to us. Instead, the American worker has consistently fallen behind his counterparts in Europe and Japan.

  5. staunchdem

    To this day every time you get paid you still get screwed by Raygunz.
    How’s that?
    He doubled the FICA tax and that is a tax only the middle class pay.
    He did raise the ceiling to $90K so he could sell it as a fix for Social Security but it was the beginning of his attack on the middle class.
    Serfdom anyone?
    We are the first generation to pay for our own retirement as well as that of our parents.
    So when you look at your paystub remember the screwing you continue to get courtesy of “The Myth of Regan”.

  6. Ted Remington

    Staunchdem:

    You said, “We are the first generation to pay for our own retirement as well as that of our parents.”

    Aside from it’s not being really true, in that Social Security does not by itself provide enough for retirement, what the heck is wrong with the idea that we should pay our own way?

    We have suffered the SS party’s policies for most of the last 25+ years, during which time we have sold ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren into servitude to the countries of the world that have thrown money at our willingness to live on credit.

    We’ve known for millennia that Aesop’s fable about the ant and the grasshopper should have meaning to us on a daily basis, and now fall is fast approaching and the grasshoppers are going to drag the ants down with them.

    If the Chinese et al. call in their markers are any of us prepared to pay off our portion of the national debt? What happens when the US defaults on its obligations? Or worse, prints money to pay them?

    Ted

  7. taxnfoot2

    Re staunchdem’s comments:I must disagree with you.The economy was going sour under Carter-the misery index was over 20% and Reagan,imo did a great job to turn our country around.I think he was the greatest POTUS and while some Reaganites do go overboard in eulogizing the man,as a conservative,I retch every time FDR is eulogized.Now THERE was an overrated oaf for you.He implemented big government,abused the Constitution daily,packed the Supreme Court and lengthened the Depression-oh and he had racist,anti-Semetic leanings to boot.

  8. Jim C

    Boy , where to start on the last two posts . Social security was never meant to be a retirement in its self but a supppliment . It also happens to be the most successful anti poverty program in the history of the world . Before that damned FDR got it enacted the elderly were the single largest group in poverty , well over 85% in grinding poverty , on the streets , begging , no means of support after a life of labor enabling corporations to get rich on their backs . After its enactment that number dropped to low single digits .Why is it so unreasonable to expect that after finishing a career white or blue collar to expect to live out ones years with some degree of security and dignity ? The idea that a worker can save enough to retire on his own is laughable . The average worker with a family of four makes what today , less than $50.000 a year and carries a pretty heavy debt load . Try saving enough to retire with those numbers .

    One of the biggest problems today is paying for health care , not even mentioning fuel , insurance , food etc etc etc . Perhaps if corporate america hadn’t fought tooth and nail against a national health care system ( which every other modern and some not so modern countries have ) things wouldn’t be so tough , by hey , hind sights 20 20 right .

    Now , as for the comment about ” Carters sour economy ” , neither history nor critical thinking are your strong suites are they bub . I didn’t put a question mark at the end of that sentence because the answer is obvious . Do you perchance remember something called the Vietnam war which we had just come out of ? How about Carters stupid ” WIN ” buttons , no , wait , those were Fords , that stood for what was it , oh yeah , ” Whip inflation now ” . Now why on earth would Ford have had those , could it have been because we were experiencing run away inflation ? Think about it . You might also remember the incredible mess that was dropped in Carters lap after 8yrs of Nixon then Ford .

    As far as your inane comments about that idiot reagan and your obvious inability to understand the the damage he did to both the economy and the middle class , I addressed that in above posts . If you believe you can debate my points or disprove them , be my guest , but you might want to actually check them first or risk another post as silly as your last one .

    Now FDR , he inherited the disaster wrought by Harding , Coolidge and Hoover . It is widely believed by historians that Coolidge didn’t run in 28 because he saw what was comming . The policies that got us into the mess were , among other things were , lack of regulation of the financial markets leading to rampent speculation and a huge disparity in wealth between the rich and everybody else , in other words ” the trickle down theory ” , there was no real middle class at that point . FDR regulated the banking industry , insured deposits and stablized the economy thus allowing faith to return to the banking system . The notion that the war pulled us out of the depression is conservative drivel . If it hadn’t been for WW11 we would have come out faster and stronger . Instead of manufacturing tanks , guns and military aircraft which have little use except for war , our industry would have been building cars , consumer goods etc . He not only stablized the economy he electrified the south ( check out what life in the south was like pre FDR ) , practicly eliminated elder poverty and gave us the middle class . The period between about 1948 and the early 60’s was the only time in our history when the middle class controled the majority of the countries wealth . It also created prosperity for all , not just the top 2% . I also realize that explaining this to you is a waste of time , you’re not about to actually study the history or economics of the time .

  9. Jim C

    Phil , I assume it is me you are scolding , I admit that sometimes I do take the gloves off if I see a comment that I feel deserves to be aggressively challenged . Some of the other sites I post on are more rough and tumble also . I do try to use reason rather than a blunt instrument , but I don’t always succeed , sorry , I shall try harder . Spot on article by the way .

  10. RichardKanePA

    RichardKanePA

    This is an old post with a lot of comments, I responded above to insight Jim Con gave me, but if anyone checks old blog posts they will probably only read new comments on the bottom.

    This is whatI added above:
    http://www.capitolhillblue.com/cont/node/8579#comment-35439

    Anyway, I hope to learn more about Reagan from Jim C on. [Sorry I originally said “Jim Con” not “Jim C on”]

    RichardKanePA

  11. Jim C

    Richard , it’s no secret who reagan really was , again his own people paint a most disturbing , consistant picture if one sifts carefully through their books . They were also quite clear about the constant problem of the far right wingnuts , or just plain nuts getting his ear . When that would happen is when you would get ” he said what ” and WTF moments , remember when he proclaimed that you could recall ICBM’s after launch as a reason he supported building a new generation ? The people who continually lionize this guy simply stay focused the carefully crafted image and refuse to look past it to the well documented and obvious reality .

    Bush on the other hand is a different animal . He is essentially a calvinist , a believer in heriditary rule and the natural superiority of birth , wealth and the upper ( ruling ) class . Those of his ilk find the very idea of a middle class an abomination . The idea of the inferior unwashed mass’s having say in how they’re governed , sharing the wealth or having the ability to curb the excess’s , whims and will of our would be aristocrats is an abominable situation and must be corrected . Of course they can’t come out and say this is their goal , the surfs might not go for it , so they use subterfuge , diversion , jingoistic nationalism and fear to move in the direction of reasserting their idea of natural order . You may have noticed that pretty much everything these people do has the effect of redistributing the wealth to the top and limiting the power and control of the majority over the wealthy , old money or new .

    By the way , whats with the ” Jim Con ” thing ? I hope you’re not poking me with a stick because I promised to sheathe my sword .

  12. Jim C

    Richard , I figured out what you’re doing , stop at the ” C ” buddy , you’re reading a bit to far .

  13. Kim Scipes

    Interesting set of posts that I found tonight!

    Really appreciate Jim C’s comments on Reagan: the man was an absolutely disaster on many levels. And, rather than getting into any debates about this tonight, let me say this: I participated, as a former Sergeant, USMC, in three veteran’s marches to the Western White House north of Santa Barbara in 1985, 86 and 87. Each time, we hiked up the hill to his ranch. We tried to get him to talk with us. And that asshole, who was SO pro-military, wouldn’t come out and talk to our groups of vets, many who had served in Vietnam. All these brave heros, who are so willing to “support” the military, really despise the troops–but don’t hesitate to use them in a hot New York second, and then throw them away when they can no longer kill for the Empire.

    By the way, we are THE MOST unequal industrialized country in the world–MUCH more so than any Western European country or Canada, and the level of inequality is actually worse that some of the poorest countries in the world, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Pakistan, India–at least, according to the CIA! We also have the highest incarceration rate in the world: 731 out of every 100,000 Americans are incarcerated, while our closest competitor is Russia with 611/100,000. Mexico, by the way, is at 157/100,000 and Canada at 127/100,000. How can we explain THIS?

    It’s interesting that everyone blames this administration or that. I’m surprised, though, that there’s no talk about our capitalist economic system, and inequality. Capitalism is BASED on inequality, and exacerbates it.

    The only period in US history where there was considerable equality was the period between 1947-73, when many of us were growing up. The reason for this was that the US was the only industrialized country that emerged from WW II unscathed, and in 1947, our 6% of the world’s population produced 48% of all the goods and services in the world! (Had we hit 50%, that would have meant that we produced as much goods and services as the rest of the world COMBINED!) We had a highly developed economy, and great demand from all over the world for our products.

    There was a fly in the ointment. That was, American workers had unionized in the 1930s and ’40s to an incredible level: 80% of industry was unionized by the CIO. The union leaders held back their members during the war and kept them working, despite small wage increases and terrible conditions: it was not until D-Day, June 6, 1944 when the US invaded Europe, that casualties from war surpassed casualties from industrial “accidents” on the home front! But after the war ended, American workers launched the largest strike wave in the history of the country: 116,000,000 production days were lost from strikes in 1946. (There were also general strikes in Lancaster, PA, Stamford, CT, and Oakland, CA that year as well: working people weren’t willing to put up with the shit anymore!).

    In other words, the Labor movement told our industrial “leaders” that, there’s a chance for you to sell your goods around the world and make high profits, but if you are not willing to share, you won’t get a damn thing from industry! Ultimately, it was the gains made by the union movement that created the Great American Middle Class: which combined the traditional “professional” middle class of lawyers, doctors and managers with a “working” middle class of unionized autoworkers, steel workers, meatpackers, construction workers, etc. Because of unionization, real (excluding inflation) family income levels doubled between 1947-73, and it was distributed pretty evenly across our society.

    The increased global economic competition that re-emerged in the 1960s in Europe, and then in the 70s and ’80s here–has devastated the US economy. It has resulted in almost continuous against the unions. But the corporadoes don’t care about any of us–all they want is their profits. (Between 1995-2004, US corporations invested over $77 BILLION in China for production facilities, and R & D facilities!) The working middle class has been all but decimated by global economic competition and the idiots in government of both parties who have made it worse.

    This assault on working people in this country has led to greater and greater inequality. The Nation magazine is publishing a special issue on income inequality, dated June 30, 2008 and it’s already on line if you’re interested: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080630 . They have a series of short articles, with a few fascinating charts. My favorite shows the income ratio between the top .01% (one one-hundredth of one percent) of the population and the average of the bottom 90%: in 1928, the top .01% made 892 TIMES that of the average of the bottom 90%! Yet, in 2006, it was 976 TIMES!

    And by the way, based on official US data, the bottom 80% of our society has lost income under the first four years of “W”: it mean LOST, as in absolute loss; not lost ground relatively, as in didn’t grow as fast.

    Our political-economic system is not working for most Americans–and I haven’t even begun to talk about climate change (aka “global warming), which REQUIRES us to change our consumption patterns and our economy. Our “leaders” will not address this: it’s going to be up to us.

    But I’m glad to see people finally discussing this stuff!

    Best–

    Kim Scipes
    Chicago

  14. Jim C

    Kim , excellent post and first hand account . The reason that reagan didn’t come out to visit probably had more to do with the fact he was in no condition to talk to anybody . They had to keep him under wraps . There was no way they could have allowed him to come out and chat . I don’t think these guys ” hate the troops ” , I believe they are totally indifferent , could care less one way or the other . The military is neccessary to maintain their privilege , protecting their interests , that’s it . Soldiers are expendable cannon fodder to fight their wars and citizens are worker units to toil in their fields and factories serving the elites however neccessary .