In the last installment for this space I hoped to convey a vision of unity among my fellow citizens in America. While we argue over Red/White issues that only divide us, by design I think, too many larger, more important issues go wanting for attention. It’s those larger issues that will decide the future of our country.
Past research has shown that our government does the bidding of a small minority of us, those typically referred to as ‘’the top one percent.’’ The rest of us want a different set of priorities addressed by Congress and the president; but, given the role of big money in politics, we go wanting for true representation.
If the richest among us didn’t have such power, the country likely wouldn’t be leading the developed world in wealth and income inequality. The vast chasm between rich and poor has been made possible in no small part by conservative efforts to paint unions and workers as enemies of growth and Capitalism itself. Those workers are fellow Americans, deemed threats from within.
Economic growth in America was strongest when unions and worker’s rights were at their highest. As unions and workers became the target of corporate propaganda, economic growth slowed. As tax rates on the rich and corporations fell, so did economic growth. I am not implying direct correlation here, but selling those policies in the name of growth surely must be rebuffed.
Those points can and will be vociferously argued in direct contravention of all facts and available data as those committed to right wing ideology continue to vote and argue against their own selfish best interests.
In red state Indiana, several manufacturing plants have recently closed after either gaining dramatic wage concessions from workers, or having failed to do so, to wit, as quoted from a piece on the World Socialist website:
In June 2011, General Motors shut down its metal stamping plant in the city—wiping out 650 jobs—after workers defied the demands of GM and the United Auto Workers (UAW) for a 50 percent wage cut.
Navistar is shutting the foundry despite a nearly million-dollar seven-year property tax break from the city and deep wage and benefit concessions handed over by the UAW in 2010. The UAW agreed to a 40 percent wage cut, from $25 to $17 an hour, that year as part of a deal to reopen the plant and supposedly secure jobs…
Exploiting the desperate conditions in the area, heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar shut down a locomotive plant in London, Ontario, where workers making $28 an hour opposed a 50 percent wage cut, and opened a factory in Muncie, which pays as little as $12 an hour. Hundreds lined up for work when the company began taking applications. Fiat-Chrysler has also expanded production at its Kokomo facilities where the automaker pays $15 an hour in line with the two-tier wage system accepted by the UAW.
Now, do you see what I just did there? I included a quote from an avowed Socialist source that I could have gleaned from a number of other sources. But upon seeing the source of my quote, many with conservative leanings will rush to shoot the messenger and ignore the larger issue, which to all workers, is their impoverishment as corporations wield their overwhelming power over them.
We’ll fight each other over whether free market Capitalism is under threat, or our economy is under threat due to declining real wages of the middle class, which does the lion’s share of spending.
But this isn’t a left-right issue. It’s an American issue. Even if you don’t work for one of those wage-slashing companies, their wage rates affect workers elsewhere. If our best paying manufacturing jobs pay $30,000 a year for a man or woman trying to raise a family, what can we expect for spending and economic growth overall?
This trend towards low wages has produced outcomes that include polling that showed that 31% of Americans age 18 to 34 live with their parents. Only 48% of Americans can raise $400 in an emergency, and 52% cannot afford the house they’re living in now. Is this a sign that we live in the richest country in the world? Maybe in a related finding, only 36% of Americans can name all three branches of their government.
Things have gotten so skewed towards the interests of the richest minority that shared sacrifice no longer mans shared gains. Our government has become so well controlled by big money that any sense of fairness has disappeared. It’s not just in America that we see this.
Filmmaker Adam Curtis produced a short piece for the BBC and this quote describes the content of it:
But the dark heart of this shape-shifting world is Quantitative Easing. The government is insisting on taking billions of Pounds out of the economy through its austerity program, yet at the very same time it is pumping billions of Pounds into the economy through Quantitative Easing … But it gets even more confusing, because the Bank of England has admitted that those billions of Pounds are not going where they are supposed to.
A vast majority of that money has actually found its way into the hands of the wealthiest five percent.
It has been described as the biggest transfer of wealth to the rich in history. A ruthless elite, siphoning off billions in public money. But nobody seems to know. It sums up the strange mood of our time, where nothing seems to make any coherent sense.
We live with constant contradictory stories that make it impossible for any real opposition to emerge, because they can’t counter it with any coherent narrative. It means that we become ever more powerless, unable to challenge anything, because we live a state of confusion and uncertainty.
Are things any different in the U.S.? A solid majority opposed the first bank bailout program called TARP back in 2008, yet it passed in the Congress and was signed by President Bush. While tens of billions in fines and penalties for illegal behavior have been paid by big banks in recent years, not one banker has paid any price for any of the offending crimes.
We clearly have a two-tiered system of justice and punishment, yet we accept it while arguing over Barack Obama’s birth certificate or whether the cost of food stamps is what’s really bankrupting America.
That is something that affects us all. That’s a small set of examples of the real threats to each of us as Americans. My friend and I think far differently on political issues. But he’s not my enemy. Neither are you – based on your religious or social convictions.
So why do we allow ourselves to argue over small things that when far larger issues go uncontested?
Corrupt government can only be fought by a united populace. Those at the very top know this better than we do, so they do all they can to distract us into arguments that go nowhere and change nothing.
I am convinced that the Democrats will do nothing to show support for workers or needed regulation of rogue bankers, and Republican politicians will do nothing of real substance on social issues. They’re too important as wedges that divide us and reduce our power over them. So they trot them out each election cycle for their own benefit. They manipulate our emotions, leaving our rational sensibilities tuned out.
We need to be on guard for those divisive tactics that today’s politicians and corporate giants use against us. Only when we come together and argue over what affects us most, such as affordable education for our brightest young minds, wages high enough to reflect workers’ true contributions to profit generation, and a health care safety net that assures that we won’t be bankrupted through no fault of our own as seen in every other developed country, will we truly be arguing over something that affects our best interests.
The only thing preventing a fall into failed empire status is us, but we can’t get there the way things are today. United we stand has never meant so much to each of us, and the country as a whole. Divided we fall seems the path we are on and must veer away from.
Editor’s Note: Bob Wood is investment advisor and TMO contributor. His opinions are his own.