Monthly Archives: August 2010

Social Inequality in America

from “Social Inequality in America: Widening Income Disparities,” by Vi Ransel, at Information Clearing House, from Global Research, 3/14/10:

…The mid-twentieth century “deal” between the “opulent minority,” the government and the people left the “opulent minority” with the lion’s share of the country’s wealth, but a little bit more of that wealth was shared with the workers who created it. The government was the referee who enforced the rules, and the years between the end of the Second World War and 1970 were America’s most prosperous overall, producing the largest, wealthiest middle class in history.

Americans assumed that this was the new normal, that a solid social contract was now standard operating procedure. But this overall prosperity was only a glitch in minority rule, a safety valve to stem the pressure of a popular, revolutionary mood that had been building since the Civil War and had come to a head during the Great Depression. Now the country is returning to its natural state, including the immense chasm between the incomes of the “opulent minority” and the rest of us, as squalor once again stands side by side with splendor.

“According to the United Nations Gini Coefficient, which measures the national distribution of family income, the US had the highest level of inequality of the highly industrialized countries, based on the data available in 2008. It was ranked slightly more unequal than Sri Lanka, and on a par with Ghana and Turkmenistan. (1)

In the 70s, US economic global supremacy was waning, in large part, due to increasing competition from Europe and Japan as they recovered from the devastation of World War II. This made the “opulent minority” rethink the New Deal-bone they’d tossed to the majority of Americans, and they brought in Ronald Reagan to put in force a Raw Deal that began a cascade of deregulation, privatization and consolidation that put America back astride the global economy by putting America’s wealth gap on the way back to the Gilded Age. Today the “opulent minority” appropriates everything it can get its hands on – “legally” – while the middle class holds on by its fingernails and the rest of us go over an economic Niagara Falls without a barrel into “Third” World-style poverty. Government is no longer the referee that promotes the general welfare. Government is the facilitator for the “opulent minority,” ensuring that they can extract every last penny from the people they impoverish.

Since 1980, the richest Americans have seen their incomes quadruple, while for the “lowest” 90% of us, incomes fell. The average wage is lower today than it was in the 1970s, while productivity has risen almost 50%. (2) In 1983 middle class debt held at 67% of income. In 2007, middle class debt had gone over the falls to 157% of income. (3) In 1950 the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s was about 30 to 1. Since 2000 that average has ranged from 300 to 500 to one. (4)

“As of late 2009, the number of billionaires soared from 793 to 1,011, and their total fortunes from $2.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion. …Despite the crisis, the list of billionaires has grown by 200 people and their aggregate capital has expanded by 50%. This may seem paradoxical but only at first glance. …

read the full article at Information Clearing House

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Our Weird and Wanton Wars

by Jim McCluskey, t r u t h o u t, 28 August 2010

Many citizens in Britain are puzzled. Why do we always seem to be at war? How can this come about? What does it mean? At the same time, we seem to think of ourselves as a peaceful nation. In seeking answers, let us list a few notable characteristics of our current wars.

Our wars are fought by of our young men; those who enlist. The rest of us (including most of our young men) are essentially out of it – not affected – not involved – focused elsewhere.
Most of the young men in the armed forces are from relatively poor families and have not benefited from higher education.

The people who are killed from our side in our wars are these same young men from poor families. They have no political clout. The rest of us are at no physical risk.

The great majority of the people who are killed in our wars are foreign civilians in poor countries. These people are of a different culture from ours. We know little or nothing about them.

A high proportion of the foreign civilians killed in our wars are women and children. Of course, we do not experience this as though it was our own women and children who are being killed.

The people who start the wars and direct them are middle aged and elderly politicians and senior army officers.
The politicians and generals who start and conduct our wars are not at risk of death or physical injury; nor, generally speaking, are their offspring or other relatives….

keep reading at t r u t h o u t

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Have you completed your summer reading yet?

If not, from the American Library Association:

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

1 Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3 The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4 And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5 Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7 Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8 His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9 TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11 Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12 It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13 Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15 The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16 Forever, by Judy Blume
17 The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18 Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19 Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20 King and King, by Linda de Haan
21 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee Continue reading

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Bob Herbert on job creation

from Bob Herbert, “Fire and Imagination,” New York Times, 8/13/10:

…Besides responding to the nation’s greatest need, job creation would have been the one issue most likely to bolster Mr. Obama’s efforts to bring people of different political persuasions together. In the early months of 2009, with job losses soaring past a half-million a month and the country desperate for bold, creative leadership, the president had an opportunity to rally the nation behind an enormous “rebuild America” effort.

Such an effort, properly conceived, would have put millions to work overhauling the nation’s infrastructure, rebuilding our ports and transportation facilities to 21st-century standards, establishing a Manhattan Project-like quest for a brave new world of clean energy, and so on.

We were going to spend staggering amounts of money in any event. There was every reason to use those enormous amounts of public dollars to leverage private capital, as well, for investment in projects and research that the country desperately needs and that would provide enormous benefits for many decades. Think of the returns the nation reaped from its investments in the interstate highway system, the Land Grant colleges, rural electrification, the Erie and Panama canals, the transcontinental railroad, the technology that led to the Internet, the Apollo program, the G.I. bill….

read the full column at New York Times

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