Media and the Message. CNN; Retain Bush Tax Cuts


CNN’s Fareed Zakaria says the easiest way to cut the deficit is to let the Bush tax cuts expire.

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

The day was Sunday, August 1, 2010.  Former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan appeared on Meet the Press.  When asked to discuss the Congressional debate on tax cuts, the man known to move markets, a person who leans to the “Right,” offered a decisive decree.  In direct disagreement with Republican officials and the profitable corporations that fund countless political campaigns, Mister Greenspan declared, “Look, I’m very much in favor of tax cuts,  but not with borrowed money.  And the problem that we’ve gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money, and at the end of the day, that proves disastrous.  And my view is I don’t think we can play subtle policy here on it.”  

This statement was as a slap in the face to corporations, or more correctly to the tycoons who head these firms.  Multi-millionaire media moguls might understand this best.  These television and radio Executives experience firsthand that influence over an industry can translate into influence over an outcome.  Cable News Network Chief Officers are among those who actively make use of this truth.  Tax cuts expired?  “Never;” say network Administrators and the newscasters such as Allan Chernoff, who do their bidding.

Prominent persons in the Press know a snappy slogan, a simple statement repeated over and over again, an authoritative analysis, will yield a colossal return.  If the powerful exert pressure, they can sway the public and those who will persuade Congress to act, or not take action.   Without resorting to force, the wealthy need not worry. Forceful levy loopholes and tax rate reducers were long ago secured and still loom large.

Companies, most of which pay no United States taxes are often led by the affluent who, for years, sought greater protection for their wealth..  Indeed, many corporations forfeit less in levies in 2010 than in previous years.  Deductions are a delightful indulgence.  Even the electorate has grown to appreciate this pleasurable pursuit.

Individuals influenced by industry infomercials have insisted on the luxury.  Tax bills in 2009 are at the lowest level since 1950.  Regardless, many moneyed Americans want these lowered, if not eliminated in total. Thus, the public sees what they have for days, or is it weeks, a flood of news stories that speak in contrast to Economist Greenspan’s pronouncement.  The powerful understand that the former Fed Chairs statement was quite a severe blow to those invested in a taxless ideology.

On the same date, on Cable News Network’s a distinguished Anchor, Newsweek and Washington Post Columnist, Fareed Zakaria concurred.   The time to cut the deficit and let the Bush tax cuts expire is now.  Editor of Newsweek International and a New York Times bestselling Author, Mister Zakaria asserts, “Were the tax cuts to expire, the budget deficit would instantly shrink by about 30 percent, or more than $300 billion. But Republicans are now adamantly opposed to any expiration of the Bush tax cuts because they say that would weaken the economy.”  This contention, with consideration for a credible source, was a second slam to commercial interests and to the political Party that promotes their causes.  

Mister Zakaria’s editorial would not be aired endlessly on various outlets. Nor would Alan Greenspan’s words be heard on many a local channel.  Another expert on policy, one who also speaks for the “Right”,  David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan would also be kept out of sight.

Only a day earlier, an article penned by Mister Stockman appeared in The New York Times.  In the missive, Stockman, once identified as a man with “Lincolnesque credentials”  expressed the angst he feels when his cohorts’ claim the need to extend the tax cuts.  The Reagan Budget Director cynically summarizes “How my Republican Party destroyed the American economy.”  The treatise titled Four Deformations of the Apocalypse, was the final strike.  

These slams could not stand, high salaried Chief Executives and their shills, such as Cable News Network, calculated.  Turner Broadcasting Systems decided to turn the ultimate key.  Media is the message.  The Press is able to manufacture promotional presentations and produce alternative authenticities.  The company realized the need to take restrained; yet aggressive action.  Slick salespersons, public relations professionals in the Press are well aware of the sound adage; a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.  People like sweetened solutions.

While true; each of the three esteemed experts spoke eloquently, and with abundant authority, the more persuasive and popular drone can and does drown out a meaningful message.  Cable News Network has vast resources and knowledge of how to deliver decisively, the populace demands, words of woe and whoa!  The Turner channels, with Corporate Chiefs interest at heart, transmits, as many Republicans, Democrats, and Independents wish to believe; life as we have come to know it cannot change.  

Regardless of Party affiliation, in America the public professes, “We are taxed enough.” En masse, citizens clamor;  “No new taxes!” “No tax increases!” We do not want to pay the price, is the consensus.  Most do not want to acknowledge, as Alan Greenspan and Fareed Zakaria have, Americans have paid for their own indulgence and chosen ignorance dearly.

In accordance with the adopted corporate mission, the wishes of Chief Executives, and possibly his own penchant, Correspondent Allan Chernoff compiled   a report that would please the common folk. This puff-piece touts as the public wishes to believe; the people need not contribute to the greater good of the community.  The innocent “documentation” that passes for fact, or is passed on as the truth, floods the airwaves.  It appears on local stations and hour after hour on network programs.  

This “news story” [sic] makes no mention of how the quoted sources benefit from a promoted belief, “In planning to let taxes rise, President Obama hopes to chop the budget deficit. But if families have to cut back on spending to pay those taxes, that may hurt the economy. It could de-rail the recovery.”

The Press hides what threatens the wealthy; the words of Alan Greenspan, He said “The problem that we’ve gotten into in recent years is that spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money, and at the end of the day that proves disastrous and my view is I don’t think we can play subtle policy here.”  

The “Right” and media moguls who used to anxiously await Alan Greenspan’s advise now reject the man once titled an oracle.   David Stockman, once characterized as a wunderkind is no longer welcome at the White House, on Wall Street, or in the Mainstream Media studios.

Interesting, or possibly, as expected, the words of the esteemed Mister Zakaria are also void in the less than honest, well honed, and more aired, Cable News Network account. “Federal tax receipts as a percentage of the economy are at their lowest point since 1950, and they had dropped to very low levels even before the recession. Half of Americans now pay no income taxes.”

Instead, the report that invites Americans to retain Bush Tax cuts is broadcast farther and wider than the more informed elucidations.  Contrary to the tax cutters claims that President Obama plans to punish the Middle Class, Bloomberg reports, “Obama and congressional Democrats want to extend [the tax cuts] for households earning up to $250,000 and let them end for wealthier taxpayers.”  Fareed Zakaria and perchance more surprisingly, in another forum, David Stockman, wish this were true.

Truthfulness is often tweaked when expert and powerful prose point to a vapid veracity, one that is less desirable to the self-defined blissful spenders who were featured in the ubiquitous Cable News Network account.  

The no tax and spend only on self throng condemn the acumen Mister Zakaria avows; “We have to be willing to pay for the government we want, which by the way is among the smallest in the industrialized world or we have to dramatically cut the government, which means cutting popular middle- class programs, since that’s where the money is.”

No, the pious people proclaim loudly, we will not pay taxes, then assert, we want no government in our lives.  Tax cuts advocates forget the foundation that our forefathers fashioned.  Essayist, Pamphleteer, Philosopher Paine espoused as Fareed Zakaria did today.   The two understood and addressed the necessary apprehension for Administrative rule while each concedes the commonweal must care to invest in the greater good.  Were we to forget that no man is an island, we will forsake the future as we have in recent decades.  Rarely remembered or recited is the founder’s resolve to embrace an elected Legislative and Executive Branch.  Perchance today, Fareed Zakaria spoke to the practical reality.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.

A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing.  This necessity . . . will point out the necessity, of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

Instead of Paine’s and Zakaria’s profundity, the language Americans long for is the sentiment expressed by profiteers highlighted in the Chernoff commentary.  Scott Hodge, President of Tax Foundation, an institute that Nobel Prize recipient Paul Krugman acknowledged as an unreliable source, reinforced the accepted alarm.  Mister Hodge affirmed, “If Congress does nothing, it could lead to one of the largest tax increases in American history.”  Robert Traphagen, a partner with Traphagen Financial, and a man who makes money when affluent clients invest in purely personal wealth, affirmed, “If new tax legislation is not implemented, it would be a dramatic effect to the middle class.” Indeed, it would.

Were we to adopt as Fareed Zakaria, Doctor Greenspan, and David Stockman think wise, Americans would have more money for schools, streets, services. The middle class would thrive.  Media moguls would have less money to survive. Hence, the mantra, the message, If Bush tax cuts expire this will  hurt America

References for varied realities . . .

Capitalism; Dead, Alive, and Broken


copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.

For but a moment, whilst the Group of 20 [G20] met in London’s ancient financial capital, ,”The City,” the roars of remorse, could be heard.  Words of woe had been whispered in hushed tones for quite some time.  Scholars spoke of various possibilities on occasion.  Whether Senior Economic Fellows from various think-tanks thought a system to be dead, alive, or near doomed, there was perhaps a bit of agreement.  “I see what you mean.  It is broken,” Economist Mark Thoma mused more than a year ago.  

The public screamed out in pain for decades; however, few cared about the cries of countless common folks.  Those who argued against principles that place profits before people were easily ignored for they had no power and less influence.  Much to the chagrin of corporate titans, even Economists warned; this could be the end of Capitalism.  Yet, until early in the day, only weeks ago, no one paid much attention to what has become a customary declaration for everyday workers.  Morning has broken, and Capitalism is shattered as well.  

America adopted and advanced a system that was unsustainable..  More than once, “systemic failures” revealed the folly of free enterprise principles.  Nonetheless, worldwide people were convinced to purchase damaged goods and premises.  Yet, as Journalist Professor, Robert Jensen contends, “most notably those in the business world and their functionaries and apologists in the schools, universities, mass media, and mainstream politics” do not want to admit that this is so.

Wanted; Dead or Alive

The evidence is everywhere.  What was a question rarely uttered, “Is Capitalism Dead?” has become a statement, or perhaps the dream of those who have been severely affected by this most devastating downturn.

Wealthy watch breathlessly as stock markets crash.  Banks fail.  Blue Chip companies crumble.  Foreclosures flourish, and people, those once thought prosperous, pour out onto the avenue in search of a job, or some sense of stability.

Perhaps, that is why, average citizens felt a need to break the silence, to speak of the broken Capitalist system.  In the shadow of powerful and prosperous Presidents and Prime Ministers, who gathered together for the G20 Conference, 4,000 demonstrators pleaded, not for pity, but for relief from a fiscal system that requires poverty.  

Frustrated and forlorn by an attitude that fosters further advancement of free market principles, at least in the United Kingdom, dissenters shouted in disgust.  It would not be wise to work within an economic structure that changed the global culture in ways that ultimately brought international institutions down.  

On a fateful day, early in April a young girl in the crowd, Aeyla Windridge pleaded.  I want “the death of Capitalism.”  The twelve-year-old spoke to what Heads of State had not for centuries.  “Capitalism isn’t in crisis, capitalism is the crisis,” so said another activist.  

Recovery, Reinvestment, and Rescue

Few of the principal players, those who represented the twenty participant countries were willing, or able to acknowledge the free market theory is flawed.  Most of the prominent Heads of State were, and continue to be, content with sanguine assessments.  Up to 85 percent of global gross national product comes from the shores of but a score of countries.  Eighty [80] percent  of world trade comes from these territories.  Americans, who might be thought of as the authors of Capitalism, saw and see no reason to change the status quo, at least not substantially.

Borrow and spend had worked well in the past for the superpower, or so the US government attempted to advocate.  While the President poses this philosophy cannot stand, America must move away “from an era of borrow-and-spend to one where we save and invest,” in the same breath, the Chief Executive who represents the country that gave birth to free enterprise, endorses the framework, just as those who preceded him did. (Please peruse the text What Ever Happened to Free Enterprise, By Ronald Reagan)

Capitalism, the Obama Administration states, was not the cause of the planet-wide monetary collapse.  Only greed, excesses, and a lack of regulations brought about the demise of the dollar, and the rate of exchange.  As he addressed other world leaders in attendance at the G20 Conference President Obama conceded, “the crisis began in the United States.  I take responsibility even if I wasn’t even president at the time.” However, Mister Obama contends all countries must be accountable for this massive macro-breakdown.  America’s Chief Executive proposes plans intended to strengthen a Capitalist structure.

In his April 4, 2009 Action to Address to the Global Economic Downturn, President Obama encouraged more regulations in an attempt to expand a consumer-based Capitalist theory.  With little regard for how the American way of life, which the President does not apologize for, cripples common, people throughout the world, Mister Obama declared.

“(W)e know that the success of America’s economy is inextricably linked to that of the global economy. If people in other countries cannot spend, that means they cannot buy the goods we produce here in America,  . . . if we continue to let banks and other financial institutions around the world act recklessly and irresponsibly, that affects institutions here at home as credit dries up, and people can’t get loans to buy a home or car, to run a small business or pay for college.

Ultimately, the only way out of a recession that is global in scope is with a response that is global in coordination.”

One is reminded of why, in earlier years, no one spoke vociferously of the crisis that is Capitalism.  Ordinary people were busy.  For centuries, regular folks worked day and night only to bring home a nominal paycheck.  Even in prosperous nations, people could barely afford to put food on the table.  People took trivial jobs just to secure shelter.  Millions felt forced to pursue professional paths that offer few rewards.  The only goal for the average Joe and Jane was to stay afloat.  Few have had the time or energy to protest their circumstances, or what the powers-that-be had and have imposed internationally.  Today, and in the past, worldwide economic slavery has sufficed.  That is until now.  

Lest the President and Prime Ministers elsewhere forget, in the States, and abroad, people are out of work.  The promise of an ownership society,where “people, from all walks of life,” would open the door of their private residence and say, “Welcome to my home” proved to be but a myth.  The pledge of plump stock portfolios for everyone through Capitalism was a claim never substantiated.  Contrary to the oft-voiced assurances, the American Dream could be achieved anywhere on Earth If people only invested in a free market economy, this current fiscal crisis has shown the world, words were but wishes promoted by the prosperous.

Regardless of how average people are punished by a fiscal formula that requires there be poor people, the current President intends to preserve the Capitalist principles that govern a global economy.  While Mister Obama may not profess a commitment to an “ownership society,” he too wishes to encourage people to possess what they cannot afford.  

Broken Beyond Benevolence

In contrast, more than a few Economists have begun to contemplate the wisdom of a system based on constant consumption.  Experts in monetary movements examine, What went wrong and, rather more importantly for the future, what did not. Other statistician who study the social science of fiscal affairs suggest there is ““Good Capitalism, (and) Bad Capitalism.”  Certainly, no matter the belief, with cause, “Capitalism is under fire.”  

William Pfaff, the author of eight books on American foreign policy, international relations, and contemporary history has pondered the depths of a paradigm profoundly broken. Mister Pfaff offers a perspective less limited than the simpler theories often presented by Administrations and Academics.  The  observer of intercontinental issues writes . . .

The essential question is, what capitalism are we talking about? Since the 1970s, two fundamental changes have been made in the leading (American) model of capitalism.

The first is that the “stakeholder,” post-New Deal reformed version of capitalism (in America) that prevailed in the West after World War II was replaced by a new model of corporate purpose and responsibility.

The earlier model said that corporations had a duty to ensure the well-being of employees, and an obligation to the community (chiefly but not exclusively fulfilled through corporate tax payments).

That model has been replaced by one in which corporation managers are responsible for creating short-term “value” for owners, as measured by stock valuation and quarterly dividends.

The practical result has been constant pressure to reduce wages and worker benefits (leading in some cases to theft of pensions and other crimes), and political lobbying and public persuasion to lower the corporate tax contribution to government finance and the public interest.

In short, the system in the advanced countries has been rejigged since the 1960s to take wealth from workers, and from the funding of government, and transfer it to stockholders and corporate executives.

There is ample evidence to support the author’s contention.  In 1970, the recipient of a Nobel Memorial Prize on Economic Sciences, Milton Friedman, encouraged an emphasis on corporate earnings. A culture that creates a vibrant community, Friedman insisted is counter to “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”

Decades later, his disciples of sorts, Presidents Ronald Reagan,  George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, each implemented plans that increased earned income for the influential and decreased available dollars for the already disadvantaged.  Policies designed to protect and promote an American entrepreneurial taxonomy, or Capitalistic interests, were proposed as a means to spread democracy.  Planet-wide, people and economic practices were transformed.

The second change that has taken place is globalization.  The crucial effect of this for society in the advanced countries is that it puts labor into competition with the poorest countries on earth.

We need go no further with what I realize is a very complex matter, other than to note the classical economist David Ricardo’s “iron law of wages,” which says that in conditions of wage competition and unlimited labor supply, wages will fall to just above subsistence.

There never before has been unlimited labor.  There is now, thanks to globalization – and the process has only begun.

The variance is vast.  Those who have possess so much.  The portion of population that owns little, have far less than even an average individual might imagine.  The wealthy cannot conceive of a life where food might be the most valuable commodity.  A world in which water is worth more than gold seems unthinkable to those who thrive in “civilized” communities,  Yet, this reality may come to towns in a Capitalist country.   Indeed, in some American communities, this truth appears today.

Nonetheless, agreements secured at the G20 summit ensure the adoption of a debt-driven American-style “democracy.”  An arrangement, in which all are not created equal, will continue to be the practiced and preferred economic system planet-wide.  People will once again forget assessments presented less than a decade ago.

Many of the radicals leading the protests may be on the political fringe.  But they have helped to kick-start a profound re-thinking  about globalization among governments, mainstream economists, and corporations that, until recently, was carried on mostly in obscure think tanks and academic seminars.

The reassessment is badly overdue.  In the late 20th century, global capitalism was pushed by leaps in technology, the failure of socialism, and East Asian’s seemingly miraculous success.  Now, it’s time to get realistic.  the plain truth is that market liberalization by itself does not lift all boats, and in some cases, it has caused damage to poor nations.  What’s more, there’s no point denying that multi-nationals have contributed to labor, environmental, and human rights abuses as they pursue profits around the globe . . .

(After a ten-year expansion of market capitalism around the world, as of the year 2000) The World Bank figures the number of people living on a $1 a day increased to 1.3 billion, over the past decade.

The extremes of global capitalism are astonishing . . .  If global capitalism’s flaws aren’t addressed, the backlash could grow more severe.

Indeed, the repercussions have been relentless.  Near a century of consumption, solely for the sake of profits, has weakened the world.  The current fiscal crisis reveals Capitalism was never the cure for what ails the people on this planet.  Persistent poverty, and the threat of increased insolvency, born out of a free enterprise system is an expense few, if any, can afford.  One need only look at Capitalism, and what it has wrought.  Acquisitive individuals may acknowledge one reaps what one sows.  Independently, or collectively, as a global community anyone might come to understand, “If my brother is poor, I/we too will suffer.  Ultimately, I/we will pay for the poverty I/we accept.”  

Without such a realization, and inspired by the spirit of an individualism that has flourished amongst free-marketers, people may, as President Obama proclaimed.  Worldwide, or here at home, we “want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that [has] been missing.”  However, it is not another glorious “morning in America.”  Nor is it a beautiful day in most neighborhoods.  Were the clouds to clear, globally people might avow, authentically, there need be an actual new dawn.  It is time to dream of economic structures that have never been.

The majorities in the States, and throughout the globe, are no longer silent.  Common folks have spoken.  Capitalism is broken.  It is not wanted, dead or alive.

Sources for economic and empathetic structures . . .

Let the Bailouts Begin

Bush’s Billion-Dollar Bail Out

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Tis true.  For days, if not weeks, months, or years the country has been in a state of financial crisis.  Americans experience what it means when the President of the United States says he will act boldly.  Economically, he has been brazen.  Our current Chief Executive unabashedly embraces businesses, just as he had in his private pursuits before he entered the Oval Office.  Bush policies allow corporations to run free.  If need be, he says, as he did early on in his Administration, Let the bailouts begin.  

Today the need to extend financial relief to American corporations is far more dire than it had been in the past.  Estimates place the figure at 1.8 Trillion dollars; that is trillion.  with a “T.”  

Conservative calculations state the amount needed as $700 billion.  However, several say that appraisal only refers to an aspect of the aid, the shaky assets now on the books of financial firms.  As he reflected on the exact amount to be paid out and the delicate balancing act of bailouts, Thomas A. Renyi, former chairman of Bank of New York Mellon, said, “Psychologically, it’s very, very important.”  What is said and done must be amenable to the people, big and small.

What George W. Bush and his Administration have done was in accord with the desires of the few; the millionaires and billionaires were pleased.  Enterprise has always been the way of entrepreneurs.  The others, the masses did not realize how the decisions might matter to them.  As long as the plebs worked as economic slaves had for eons, no questions would be asked.  Workers believed in the American dream.  Doubt rose only when the size of bailouts grew.  Now, in September 2008, what began as a bailout or two has emerged.  Americans are faced with an enormous nightmare.  However, this need not be a surprise.  Citizens of this country might instead inquire, are they willing to compromise the future.  Americans could also consider the question; can the United States economy continue to survive on credit.

As of last week, people pondered as they had not before.  Countless considered American history and how each Administration altered financial stability.

It seemed the poor, the wage earners, and the salaried associates poured their hearts and souls into work.  None realized substantive reward.  Nonetheless, for the most part the populace was content.  Everyday people paid taxes.  Yet, the public received few services.  Under the direction of President Bush, the blood sweat and tears of American labor went mostly to the levies that were and perhaps will be lent to those who earned billions in profits.

In recent years, rich business owners manufactured only liabilities.  Still, their securities were preserved by a business friendly President Bush.  

For decades, as deregulation flourished, more so since Bush, the American people lived on credit, as did the conglomerates.  The difference being, with George Walker Bush in the Oval Office, businesses had a friend on Pennsylvania Avenue who would help them out.  Those who reside on Main Street did not.  There was no one to turn to if you were among the working people.  Yet, a conversation has begun.  Recent talk of greater bailouts for bankrupt businesses reminds Americans of what they hoped would pass without fanfare; recession, depression, financial despair.

Since George W. Bush and his corporate cronies came into power, average Americans have experienced one economic catastrophe after another.  Budgetary surpluses realized in the 1990s were depleted.  Monetary gains for the Middle Class are but a myth.  Perchance, in the past an individual could realize an increased income.  However, that was then, pre-President George W. Bush.  Today, economically, the United States has failed.  Earlier in the year, a Los Angeles Times poll concluded 75% blame Bush’s policies for an economy gone badly.  The American Research Group, Incorporated states, at present, George W. Bush’s Overall Job Approval is at an all time low.  Eighty-two percent (82%) say the national economy is getting worse.  Countless cannot imagine that is possible.

As President Bush and his appointees protect the nation from monetary doom, banks file for bankruptcy.  Bear Sterns, one of the largest global investment banks and brokerage firms, finally buckled under pressure, after two brushes with near death.  Billions of dollars in toxic mortgage-backed debt could no longer be erased from the books.  Liabilities could not be hidden from view.  Arrears ultimately appear, if not in ledgers, in the effect it has on an affluent culture gone wild with irrational exuberance.  The corporate love of cash has created what America now experiences as a crash.

Businesses benefited from the Bush budget.  Decrees of deregulation allowed for imbalance.  Income inequity became common.  The public struggled to save greenbacks.  Most, in what was once the Middle Class had adequate access to the dollars they needed.  

Currently, Americans can barely count on a regular paycheck.  Permanent employment is thought to be a luxury of the past.  Companies are strapped for cash as are employees.  Some, in the richest nation on the planet, are barely able to survive.  The common folk are fearful of what might happen if the economy sinks further into a doldrums.  People run to banks only to withdraw their holdings.  They sense the fiscal boom has gone bust.  

In July 2008, there was little time to indulge.  The lazy days of summer did not calm those with substantive concerns.  Only George W. Bush, his family, and friends found solace in the statement, “The fundamentals are strong.”  Presidential candidate, John McCain’s use of the words only hours ago did nothing to quell the concern citizens in this country have felt for too long.  A Nobel laureate, Joseph E. Stiglitz, envisions a generation will be lost in the struggle to recover.  He writes in the The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush, The next president will have to deal with yet another crippling legacy of George W. Bush: the economy.

Average Americans understood this.  They knew they could not rest.  The poor and those far from prosperous realized they had reason to act.  In droves, people ran to retrieve their assets.  IndyMac, a large mortgage bank, was seized by Federal regulators.  The second-largest bank failure in United States history occurred after anxious customers attempted to claim their deposits.  A massive run on the bank left the financial institution short of reserves.  George W. Bush sat tight, safe in the sanctuary of the Oval Office.

One business after another collapsed.  Conglomerates crumbled.  Corporations tumbled.  The people in the middle were taxed.  Most of the news coverage focused on the fiscal devastation companies felt.  Men and women without jobs, people who were fearful of an eminent foreclosure read of the monster mortgage firms, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The Federal Reserve pledged to provide as much as $100 billion for each of these ill-fated establishments.  Stunned, John and Jane Does said nothing.  They only wondered why no one made funds available to them.  Few thought the President would come to their aid.  Visions of the victims of (name a recent calamity) raced through the heads of those hurt by an economic crisis.

Then, security firms stepped into the mix of mergers and mega-moneyed bailouts.  Lehman Brothers, another global investment bank declared itself in a state of crisis.  This firm also concluded they would file for bankruptcy.  On this occasion, historians affirmed, this liquidation was the largest in United States history.  The company founded in 1850 had flourished.  Now, it was said to have perished.  However, as death waited at the door, some associates did not feel they could rest in peace.

The staff in Britain was furious when they learned Lehman Brothers’ colleagues in the New York office were expected to share in a $2.5 billion bonus bonanza. Associates in the United Kingdom were told they  would be paid just until the end of the month.  Perhaps, wealth is not meant for everyday workers.  A spokesman for the Trade Union Congress, the national trade union centre in the Great Britain, which represents the vast majority of organized workers surmised: “It looks like those that will suffer the most from the Lehman Brothers collapse are those at the bottom of the corporate chain while many of those at the top will be looked after.”  

The Union representative went on to reflect; junior staffers would suffer.  “Few may have sympathy for the red braced bonus receivers but there will be many more lowly staff facing real hardship.”  A British employee of Lehman Brothers mused only those in the United States are saved from financial ruin; however, in truth, even in America, those without remain without.  

For ages, personnel did not prosper whether they lived here in the States or abroad.  Ordinary people feel the pain corporations complain of.  If the cost of doing business climbs, the consumer is required to pay the price.

Health care premiums have increased by over 80 percent. . . .  Premiums are rising twice as fast as wages and inflation.  . . .  The number of uninsured Americans has increased every year since President Bush took office, from 39.8 million in 2000 to a record high of 46.6 million in 2005.  (1) . . .

Gas prices have climbed over $3 a gallon.  Prices at the gas pump have jumped 107 percent from $1.47 per gallon the week President Bush took office in January 2001 (3) to $ 3.05 in the latest week of energy price data.  (4)  . . .

Housing affordability has reached a 15-year low.  In 2006, housing affordability reached its lowest level since 1991.  (9)  According to the Washington Post, “the scarcity of affordable housing is a deepening national crisis, and not just for inner-city families on welfare.  The problem has climbed the income ladder and moved to the suburbs, where service workers cram their families into overcrowded apartments, college graduates have to crash with their parents, and firefighters, police officers and teachers can’t afford to live in the communities they serve.” (10)

The tragedies did not end.  On September 15, 2008, Merrill Lynch, expressed a fear.  Might this company suffer the same fate as Lehman.  Merrill Lynch tycoons moved quickly.  The company sold itself to Bank of America for $50 billion.  Many mused; the transaction was quite a steal.  However, few were relieved.  Americans, now savvy soothsayers said, what would be next.

Less than twenty-four hours passed before there was news.  September 16, 2008, was a typical day for Americans.  However, that changed when The Federal Reserve agreed to rescue the American International Group.  The United States government was slated to control an 80 percent stake in the insurer.  Yes, even Insurers seek assurance from the Administration when they cannot pay their bills.  Only citizens cannot come to the White House with claims.  

The American people are the Insurer under George W. Bush.  The people are expected to bailout every business, and they do.  Yet, now, the load, the loans have become too great a burden to bear.  Americans are angry.  Most feel powerless.  For too long they have stayed silent.  No one seems to know what to say anymore.  Perhaps it is too late to protest or proclaim.  Yet, fortunately some one has.

Senator Bernie Sanders reflected upon the Hard Truths About the Bailouts, or the ultimate bailout.  This week, the Bush Administration pledged to pay seven hundred billion to one trillion in taxpayer dollars to businesses that engaged in dubious credit practices, and the Vermont Senator voiced his trepidation.

Sanders Op-Ed: Billions for Bailouts!  Who Pays?

By Senator Bernie Sanders

September 19, 2008

The current financial crisis facing our country has been caused by the extreme right-wing economic policies pursued by the Bush administration.  These policies, which include huge tax breaks for the rich, unfettered free trade and the wholesale deregulation of commerce, have resulted in a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthy.  

The middle class has really been under assault.  Since President Bush has been in office, nearly 6 million Americans have slipped into poverty, median family income for working Americans has declined by more than $2,000, more than 7 million Americans have lost their health insurance, over 4 million have lost their pensions, foreclosures are at an all time high, total consumer debt has more than doubled, and we have a national debt of over $9.7 trillion dollars.

While the middle class collapses, the richest people in this country have made out like bandits and have not had it so good since the 1920s.  The top 0.1 percent now earns more money than the bottom 50 percent of Americans, and the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.  The wealthiest 400 people in our country saw their wealth increase by $670 billion while Bush has been president.  In the midst of all of this, Bush lowered taxes on the very rich so that they are paying lower income tax rates than teachers, police officers, or nurses.

Now, having mismanaged the economy for eight years as well as having lied about our situation by continually insisting, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong,” the Bush administration, six weeks before an election, wants the middle class of this country to spend many hundreds of billions on a bailout.  The wealthiest people, who have benefited from Bush’s policies and are in the best position to pay, are being asked for no sacrifice at all.  This is absurd.  This is the most extreme example that I can recall of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.

In my view, we need to go forward in addressing this financial crisis by insisting on four basic principles:

(1) The people who can best afford to pay and the people who have benefited most from Bush’s economic policies are the people who should provide the funds for the bailout.  It would be immoral to ask the middle class, the people whose standard of living has declined under Bush, to pay for this bailout while the rich, once again, avoid their responsibilities.  Further, if the government is going to save companies from bankruptcy, the taxpayers of this country should be rewarded for assuming the risk by sharing in the gains that result from this government bailout.

Specifically, to pay for the bailout, which is estimated to cost up to $1 trillion, the government should:

a)  Impose a five-year, 10 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year for couples and over $500,000 for single taxpayers.  That would raise more than $300 billion in revenue;

b) Ensure that assets purchased from banks are realistically discounted so companies are not rewarded for their risky behavior and taxpayers can recover the amount they paid for them; and

c) Require that taxpayers receive equity stakes in the bailed-out companies so that the assumption of risk is rewarded when companies’ stock goes up.

(2) There must be a major economic recovery package which puts Americans to work at decent wages.  Among many other areas, we can create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and moving our country from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.  Further, we must protect working families from the difficult times they are experiencing.  We must ensure that every child has health insurance and that every American has access to quality health and dental care, that families can send their children to college, that seniors are not allowed to go without heat in the winter, and that no American goes to bed hungry.

(3) Legislation must be passed which undoes the damage caused by excessive de-regulation.  That means reinstalling the regulatory firewalls that were ripped down in 1999.  That means re-regulating the energy markets so that we never again see the rampant speculation in oil that helped drive up prices.  That means regulating or abolishing various financial instruments that have created the enormous shadow banking system that is at the heart of the collapse of AIG and the financial services meltdown.

(4) We must end the danger posed by companies that are “too big too fail,” that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy.  If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.  We need to determine which companies fall in this category and then break them up.  Right now, for example, the Bank of America, the nation’s largest depository institution, has absorbed Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, and Merrill Lynch, the nation’s largest brokerage house.  We should not be trying to solve the current financial crisis by creating even larger, more powerful institutions.  Their failure could cause even more harm to the entire economy.

The words ring so true.  Several, too many, or most have not spoken of what caused them great distress in recent years.  The public accepts and allows this Administration to run rampant.  The electorate acknowledges what is reality for them only when in seclusion.  American people have become apathetic.  However, the statistics scream out and a Senator shrieks.  Perhaps it is time to ask, can citizens of this country permit this latest proposed policy to stand.  Might it be time to face the financial crisis, or will more days, weeks, months, or years go by.  Will the people remain passive and agree to another bailout, bigger than any other has been?

Might Americans again adopt the refrain, “Let the Bailout begin,” or will the people ponder their own fate first and declare it is time for a complete change.  Could it be time to embrace other than a free market mentality and the plans of a President who put us into this precarious situation.  Will the commoner and the conglomerate submit to the counsel of Senator Bernie Sanders and say, we must no longer rely on credit to survive.  The United States is at a turning point.  Might the average American chose to state, “Let the Bailouts end!”  “Lets us balance our books!”

Sources For Financial Security and Strife . . .

Misogyny; Women We Love or Hate

Women in Film

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

There are many wondrous women.  Females are loved and lovely.  The face of the “fairer sex” is photographed, fondled, treasured, and cherished.  The being that brings life to us all is beloved and beautiful.  I am a woman.  As such, the idea of misogyny infuriates me.

Yet, with few exceptions, men are not the persons who cause me to fume.  At times, a male in defense of a scorned spouse will use define another fellow as a woman-hater.  However, it seems to me, a gent will offer this proclamation when the lady he appreciates is not acknowledged in the manner that he thinks just.  I realize, more often than not, when my fellow females use the term, and I am exasperated.  In all of my life, I have never felt as though a person whose gender differs from my own treated me, feminine as I may be, with disdain.

Indubitably, many a man I have meet openly proclaims an undying devotion to women.  Countless chaps cherish those of the opposite sex, in word and in deed.  Men, I associate with admire what they consider the stronger sex, females.  Still, women scorned, shriek “misogyny,” and I inquire where.

I am well aware of income inequities. I abhor the practice that devastates millions of women, particularly those without a man in their lives.  However, as I read the research it seems to me, those without a legal life partner no matter the gender, are shown greater contempt than persons of one sex or another might be.

The Lake Research Partners study, commissioned by Women’s Voices Women Vote, found unmarried women earn only 56 cents for every dollar a married man earns.  In terms of personal earnings, unmarried women live on only $37,264 per year, which is nearly $6,000 less than unmarried men ($42,843) and nearly $30,000 less than married men ($66,646) earn.

Bachelors bring in 64 cents for every hundred pennies a conjugal chap nets.  Perhaps, we are marriage misanthropes or is it the reverse?  Men or women without a band, or a state sanctioned bond, do not garner the greenbacks they might.  Possibly, singles struggle regardless of their identity.  Matrimony may move millions to the good life, or money may move people to wed.  

Wages, as reported, may best explain the adage “wedded bliss.”  The statistics may indicate Americans accept a legal union.  The data, I believe does not validate that misogyny is alive and well.  

A man of means may realize, the woman behind him helped him to secure a substantial salary.  Perchance, the phrase was coined for few misogynists walk down the aisle.  I know not.  I do not recall a time when misogyny was listed as a reason for divorce.  Might we ask whether nuptials necessitate bliss or benefits?  I struggle to understand how a man who says, “I do” does not like women.

Even single males seem to search for the one.  Each year 2.2 million males exchange vows with females.  Yet, stereotypical standards have been sustained.  Conventional wisdom claims women suffer in the workplace; although, many women are extremely successful.  Only tonight, I spoke with one, a stranger to me before today.

Mary mentioned, “superiors” in the business world did not wish to stop her rise.  None tried.  The woman now in her fifties mused, she excelled and was esteemed.  Mary stated she never felt pressure to perform less well.  Nor was she stifled by those in the corporate hierarchy were thought to be above her.  Indeed, this highly educated scholar soared without hindrance.  

The Miss I met this evening expressed her surprise when a peer told her others looked upon her as the “person to beat.”  Mary marveled, apparently she was a threat to those akin to her.  Misogyny was not her experience.  Competitiveness amongst colleagues was the only source of sorrow that affected her climb.  Mary consistently reminded me, the subtle antagonism did not have an effect on her career at all.  She revealed she never felt she must marry.  I was startled.  I had not considered the connection.  For Mary, women have long been free to be.  Perhaps that is true.  I ponder.

Too successful for a mate?

By Kris Frieswick

MSN Money

The majority of my most successful, good-looking, educated, talented girlfriends are still single.

If they had Y-chromosomes, they would have been married a decade ago.  Instead, like successful single women all over the country, they trek into their mid- to late 30s on their own – experiencing fabulous professional success, buying real estate and making savvy investments for the future, without much going on in the relationship department.

What gives?

Carolyn Kaufman, 33, has a doctorate in clinical psychology and teaches college in Columbus, Ohio.  She is a perfect example of a woman who has everything except a date.  “I have this crazy belief that I have the right to expect my potential partner to be at least as successful as I am, and to have as many things to offer as I do,” she says.

Good luck, Carolyn.  With more women than men earning advanced degrees — 61% of master’s degrees conferred in 2007 will be to women – those kinds of men are going to become harder and harder to find . . .

Then there’s the issue of time.  Most highly successful people work crazy hours, which makes it even more difficult to meet a suitable match.  Christine Mohr, director of marketing and community relations for the YMCA in Washington, D.C., is out nearly every night of the week at fund-raisers, benefits, and business dinners.  “The person I’m trying to find is just as busy as I am,” says Mohr, 29.  “If we’re both that busy, when is the time when we’re going to meet?”  She says the men she does meet at these events are usually married.

Of course, you have heard all these excuses before, from women both successful and not – I’m too busy, there are no good men left, they’re all married or gay, etc.  But there’s another factor at work for women at the top of their game: They’re intimidating to men.  No matter how enlightened most men claim they are, few are ready to pair up with a woman who is more successful, better paid and better educated — not to mention better traveled, more connected and more socially savvy than they are.

Women are not weak.  They are strong.  That may trouble a man, or another Eve.  Who we are as a unique being breeds contempt or compassion, a connection or a crack.  Fissures and fractures in a relationship with a female are not indicative of the organs within.  Nor do men generally define all those of the “fairer sex” by the mannerisms and makeup of one, at least no more than a woman might when she declares with disregard, “Men!”

An individual woman, or man, might threaten the ego strength of a mate, or a person of the opposite gender.  The men that might not choose a particular woman do not hate the sex.  They fear intimidation, just as a women might.  I believe love or loathing is reserved for individuals of one gender or another, not for the inherent sex of a person.

Sex may not stimulate revulsion.  However, I experience race and religion give rise to repulsion.  There are those who hate a particular “clan,” or rage against a creed.  I have yet to meet a misogynist.  

Might we ask, were women hung from trees for beauty that was skin deep?  Do men burn crosses on the lawns of females whose pious beliefs or practices they despise?  Has any chap said, “I do not want one of them to live in my neighborhood” as he looked at the females that grace every enclave.  When fathers fondly envision a family, do they forbid their sons to engage with a feminine friend?  Has Papa pledged never to allow his male offspring to associate with one of them, women?  I do not recall such scenarios.

Men and women differ biologically, they may disagree on occasion.  Still, organically the genders are equivalent.  I am an advocate of equal rights.  I have been for as long as I remember.  Glass ceilings, when or if they exist, I believe, must be broken.  As I study, I understand as Mary states; many have been shattered.  I trust any obstructions can and will continue to crumble.  I wonder how many limits were placed in a desire to love, not destroy.  

I understand; there are women who feel as though they are less valued.  However, I often reflect upon what I observe.  The “gentler sex” is more esteemed.  We need only consider the contrast; Mother’s Day is observed with lack of restraint.  Dad does not fare as well.  Perchance, the women in the world are revered.  Females are given grand respect and hence the most significant responsibility.  Moms, misses, matriarchs are afforded an honor that few imagine.  They are frequently cared for and given the opportunity to teach the children.  Many a mother, a mentor, a nursemaid, holds mankind’s future in her hands.

Cross-sectional studies usually have supported the idea that the higher the husband’s income, the lower is the labor force participation rate of his wife.  This relationship is just what the theory of the backward-bending supply curve would predict-a strong inverse relationship, other things being equal, between husbands’ income and women’s participation rate.  A wife’s freedom from the labor market is looked at as a normal good.  So, accordingly, only “poor” women work out of economic necessity.  

Husbands with higher incomes would tend to have a smaller proportion of wives in the labor force, because they could afford the luxury of stay-at-home wives and the wives could be relieved of the stress of contributing to the family income.  However, considering the rise in real income that, in general, has taken place over time, the increase in labor force participation of wives in recent years generates some doubt about the presumptive relationship.

The need for money to help make ends meet seems to be one of the most popular explanations of wives working, but that can hardly be the reason for the rapid rise in married women’s participation rate, because wives stayed home in earlier decades, when their husbands were earning less.  Needing money seems to be a universal and constant factor and thus cannot explain the increasing labor force participation of women.

Illumination may be found in freedom.  Women have much liberty to think, say, do, feel, and be as they think best.  This may be more true now or less.  As a society, we cannot be certain.  Have the times changed or do the predominate preferences of the past no longer prevail?

Many of us have heard, “When Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.”  Might it be that Mom, a Miss, or a Madame no longer loves what she once did.  Have women wandered into a world they did not imagine decades ago, or has the opportunity to choose evolved over the centuries.  Is there more or less misogyny or is there more to consider?

I am intensely cognizant of my desire to be me!  I have no interest in being similar to the males of my species.  I do not wish to be approached as though I am identical to a mister.  I believe gents are not gals, and a guy does not receive greater gratification.  Nor does a man hate a woman simply because she is a female.

Granted, at times, monetarily there may be a modicum of difference.  Yes, that does need to change.  Nonetheless, for me, the hatred of women is not the reason for the discrepancy.  Men who despise a woman do not detest her sex; they disdain an individual for whatever reason.  She may be a menace, a martyr, a manipulator, or just like the men he has met, who also are a source of misery.

I experience women as people are not hated.  Misogyny does not mar an existence.  Females who feel slighted might wish to wonder why is he [or she] not fond of me.  Might the lovelies look at the image that appears in the mirror and meditate.  Ponder the beauty that is reflected back and sense what is not seen.  The love or hate others express is not as easily explained as misogyny.

Annals for Misogyny or Misology . . .

The State of the Union is Strong?

The Real State of the Union… Call Bush’s Bluff

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

In 2007, the State of the Union was not as we were told it was; nor is it as we were told it would be.  Each year, and for eight long years, George W. Bush promised to unite us, and perhaps he has more so than most other Presidents.  Collectively, Republicans and Democrats alike understand that as a nation we are not strong.  

We have not been judicious with our capital.  The President has not provided financial security as promised.

To extend this nation’s prosperity; to spend the people’s money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us. (Applause.)

A Nobel laureate, Joseph E. Stiglitz, believes Americans will not recover economically from a George W. Bush presidency for at least a generation.  The next President, the person who follows that individual into the Oval Office, and even those who enter the White House later will be part of a struggle to recover from the economic catastrophe this President created.

The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush

By Joseph E. Stiglitz

Vanity Fair

December 2007

When we look back someday at the catastrophe that was the Bush administration, we will think of many things: the tragedy of the Iraq war, the shame of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the erosion of civil liberties. The damage done to the American economy does not make front-page headlines every day, but the repercussions will be felt beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this page.

I can hear an irritated counterthrust already. The president has not driven the United States into a recession during his almost seven years in office. Unemployment stands at a respectable 4.6 percent. Well, fine. But the other side of the ledger groans with distress: a tax code that has become hideously biased in favor of the rich; a national debt that will probably have grown 70 percent by the time this president leaves Washington; a swelling cascade of mortgage defaults; a record near-$850 billion trade deficit; oil prices that are higher than they have ever been; and a dollar so weak that for an American to buy a cup of coffee in London or Paris-or even the Yukon-becomes a venture in high finance.

And it gets worse. After almost seven years of this president, the United States is less prepared than ever to face the future. We have not been educating enough engineers and scientists, people with the skills we will need to compete with China and India. We have not been investing in the kinds of basic research that made us the technological powerhouse of the late 20th century. And although the president now understands-or so he says-that we must begin to wean ourselves from oil and coal, we have on his watch become more deeply dependent on both.

Up to now, the conventional wisdom has been that Herbert Hoover, whose policies aggravated the Great Depression, is the odds-on claimant for the mantle “worst president” when it comes to stewardship of the American economy. Once Franklin Roosevelt assumed office and reversed Hoover’s policies, the country began to recover. The economic effects of Bush’s presidency are more insidious than those of Hoover, harder to reverse, and likely to be longer-lasting. There is no threat of America’s being displaced from its position as the world’s richest economy. But our grandchildren will still be living with, and struggling with, the economic consequences of Mr. Bush.

Nonetheless, a man who reminds us that his legacy is not important to him, a President who frequently states, history will decide how well he did, performed miserably.  Some believe we are in a recession.  Others claim the economy is decidedly depressed.  So too are the people.  The common folk are perhaps in greater need of mental health care services.  Daily stresses in America have taken a toil.  Physically, we fare no better.  The expense of medical insurance and the cost of services to aid in our well being cripple our citizenry.  When ill or injured, millions delay before they see a physician.  The expense is thought more painful than a cure.  In the last state of the Union, President Bush addressed this issue.

A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care. (Applause.) When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children. And we will meet those responsibilities. For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs. (Applause.) But many Americans cannot afford a health insurance policy.

Our offspring can least afford Health Care Services.  The babies are dependent on Mom and Dad for medical coverage.  Parents can no longer provide as they did years ago.  Jobs no longer last for life.  Benefits are not a given.  Employers, who feel the impact of an economy gone wrong, also understand the problem with the current Health Care system.  Numerous corporations and institutions have dropped insurance plans from personnel contracts. Our little ones are in dire straits.  While the Federal government once helped to ensure that, at least the children would be cared for, since the Compassionate Conservative concluded he was the ultimate decider, our progeny suffer in silence.

Bush Vetoes Children’s Health Bill

By David Stout

The New York Times

October 3, 2007

President Bush vetoed the children’s health insurance bill today, as he had pledged to do, setting the stage for more negotiations between the White House and Congress and sparking unusual dismay from some prominent Republicans.

Mr. Bush wielded his pen with no fanfare just before leaving for a visit to Lancaster, Pa. The veto was only the fourth of Mr. Bush’s presidency, and it may have spawned the most anger, not just from Democrats but also from some members of Mr. Bush’s own party.

To cause confusion among colleagues once was not enough.  To hinder parents whose only desire was to provide for their progeny did not seem Presidential.  To repeat the practice would be unthinkable.  America wept for her children and will the stroke of a pen continues to cry.  

As Expected, Bush Vetoes SCHIP Bill Again

By Martin Kady II

CBS News

December 12, 2007

(The Politico) For the second time, President Bush has vetoed a major expansion of the children’s health insurance program, making it clear that the debate will linger as a political issue throughout 2008.

In 2008, and far beyond this New Year, Americans will feel the pain of policies invoked by the Bush Administration.  We may recall, that in 2000, two oil men entered the White House.  With the Blessings of oil magnate Bush, Vice President Cheney met with other industry leaders and devised an energy policy for the benefit of friends and family.  The White House did not seek to invest in alternative fuels.  The profits from petroleum were great.  There was no reason for change. Corporations prospered and the people need only line the pockets of those in power.  While the President’s words were wondrous . . .

On Oil Prices Topping $100 a Barrel

By Speaker Pelosi

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

It is unfortunate that President Bush opposed our legislation to repeal multi-billion dollar subsidies given to Big Oil companies. We will again seek to repeal these subsidies and to enact strong legislation to stop price gouging at the pump and pursue anti-trust actions against OPEC entities that fix the price of oil.

Perchance oil has always been the main issue.  Originally, for George W. Bush, crude would certainly help America to remain on the road to prosperity, or at least the United States citizens who own petroleum pumps would do well.  Indeed, for those at the top, times are good.

This economy is on the move, and our job is to keep it that way.

Indeed, it is Mister President.  Economically, America spirals downward.  There is no stability in the  market or market place.  Our scant dollars are in decline.  Our hopes and dreams have been all but destroyed.  The average citizen cannot be certain from day-to-day whether they will have a job.   If an individual is privileged enough to work, will their income remain the same.  Some workers are asked to labor for less.  New hires are offered a lower wage.  More Americans live without a job, and without hope.  This tumble downward began early in the Bush Years.

Poverty rate in U.S. rises as median income falls

Weak economy trimming middle class earnings, too

By Robert Pear

?New York Times

September 25, 2002

Washington – The proportion of Americans living in poverty rose significantly last year, increasing for the first time in eight years, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

At the same time, the bureau said that the income of middle-class households fell for the first time since the last recession ended in 1991.

The Census Bureau’s annual report on income and poverty provided evidence that the weakening economy had begun to affect large segments of the population, regardless of race, region, or class. Daniel Weinberg, chief of income and poverty statistics at the Census Bureau, said the recession that began in March 2001 had reduced the earnings of millions of Americans.

The report also suggested that the gap between rich and poor continued to grow.

All regions except the Northeast experienced a decline in household income, the bureau reported. For blacks, it was the first significant decline in two decades; non-Hispanic whites saw a slight decline. Even the incomes of Asian and Pacific Islanders, a group that achieved high levels of prosperity in the 1990s, went down significantly last year.

The Census Bureau said the number of poor Americans rose last year to 32.9 million, an increase of 1.3 million, while the proportion living in poverty rose to 11.7%, from 11.3% in 2000. Median household income fell to $42,228 in 2001, a decline of $934, or 2.2%, from the prior year. The number of households with income above the median is the same as the number below it.

We continue to bleed.  Americans can no longer find shelter from the storm of Bush, his policies, and the ploys now in place, each of which favors big business, banks, and balloon payments.  Citizens of this country find themselves out on the streets, or in homes that are not worth what they once were.

America’s Hardest-Hit Foreclosure Spots

Matt Woolsey


January 28, 2008

What could be worse than getting behind on mortgage payments? Owing your lender more than your home is worth.

That’s what’s happening to homeowners across the country, many of whom just a couple of years ago opted for interest-only or adjustable-rate mortgages. For them, just as their loans reset and interest rates rose, home values began to plummet, leaving them with negative equity; this is where their mortgage is greater than the value of their home.

Of course, some homeowners started off walking a shakier tightrope than others. Many subprime borrowers acquired piggyback mortgages, where a second mortgage covered the downpayment, leaving them with negative equity from the beginning. Congress’s Joint Economic Committee estimates that 2 million Americans will lose their home over the next two years, a figure in line with most research firms and rating agencies.

Who is most feeling the crunch? Using data from RealtyTrac, a national firm that tracks foreclosures using data from multiple listing services, bank-owned property records, bankruptcy records, loan histories, tax liens and lender information, we evaluated which of the nation’s counties had the most negative equity loans, by examining all loans currently in foreclosure.

Our President failed us economically.  He failed to ensure our energy independence.  Mister Bush did not provide adequate Health Care for our children or us.  George W. Bush moved us closer to poverty and kicked Americans to the curb.  We need not delve into the subject of war or Iraq.  There is enough pain without that discussion.  The President of the United States, George W. Bush has failed us, or perchance we, the people have caused our own demise.

America, we have done nothing to prevent this President from acting as though he has absolute power.  We have but a year left in this term.  Will we, the people continue to watch George W. Bush destroy the nation and shred the Constitution.  Citizens of this once great country, you have a choice.  Move to impeach this Administration, or watch as we wane further.  The future is in your hands.

The State of the Union, The Slide, The Sources . . .

The Myth Of Hard Work

It is my honor to introduce Forgiven.  I believe his thoughtful, reflective treatise speaks volumes.  As I read it, so much of the information resonated within me.  I hope you too will appreciate the missive and the message.

copyright © Forgiven The Disputed Truth

There is a common myth that runs through America, propagated by the wealthy for mass consumption.  This myth has been one of the most dangerous and divisive instruments used against the American working class of all races.  This myth has been a part of Americana from the beginning and continues today unabated for the most part and constantly being reinforced by the media, corporate America, and the talking heads.  The myth is simply this: that if an individual will work hard, follow the rules, and be patient that they can be successful.  The biggest determinate to a person’s rise in this society is hard work and personal responsibility.

On the surface, this myth seems plausible and almost logical.  The harder one works the more successful one will become.  It is simple cause and effect, right?  It is precisely this logic that allows the constant criticism of our poorest citizens as being lazy, irresponsible, and foolish to go unchallenged.  If asked, the majority of Americans of all races will state unequivocally that most people are poor because of a lack of personal responsibility and hard work.  The truth is that in accumulating wealth hard work plays a very small role.  The wealth and income gaps between Americans is not based on the fact that one group worked harder than another.  If that were in fact the case in American history, no group has worked harder than the slaves that built this country, the Chinese that built the railroad, or the Mexicans that continue to do the menial labor that drives our information society.

Today, as Tim Wise writes in “The Mother of All Racial Preferences” white baby boomers are benefiting from the largest transfer of wealth in American history as they inherit their parents’ estates.  Some of that wealth dates back to the years of slavery, when Blacks were forced to work for free while their white owners and the American economy accumulated the benefits of their toil.  Another large category of the transferred wealth is land, much of it stolen by the American government from Native Americans and Mexicans and sold for a pittance to white settlers.  For the average white family, however, some of the largest sources of wealth are the result of racial preferences in government policies that were started in the 20th century.   Focus On Affirmative Action

As I was researching this essay, I began to look back on my own work experiences and it was a fact that I worked the hardest on the jobs that paid me the least.  There is something wrong with a system that pays a person more who is actually doing less and not only are they paid more but there is a great disparity in those earnings.  How can we in good conscious claim that the person working for minimum wage or working two menial jobs is not working hard enough and are therefore responsible for their lack of wealth?  Unfortunately for them and most other poor minorities, wealth is the accumulation of advantages or disadvantages.  If we are honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge the discrepancy of labor to income, except for labor intensive trades.  These low end wage earners work very hard and yet despite their efforts they continue to be poor.

The problem I have is simply this, I want the opportunity to be successful based on the premise that all are equal and therefore have equal access to the tools of success.  The issue is not whether everyone will take the opportunity provided, the issue is that the opportunity be provided to all equally.  Not every white person takes advantage of all of their advantages, but I don’t hear any talk that they as a group are not worthy to have opportunities.  For some reason, if some blacks choose not to take advantage of their opportunities, it is an indictment against all blacks and therefore we do not deserve any opportunities.  The point is this, if not one black takes advantage of an equal education or employment opportunities, so what.  Equality is the key, not what one does with it.  These opportunities should still exist and be equal for all, because that is what is right.

Critics of affirmative action lean heavily on the myth that people make it on their own in the United States based on hard work and individual effort.  They also maintain that government intervention in the wealth creation process is not just unprecedented, but un-American.  Simply put, they ask: Why should the beneficiaries of affirmative action be the recipients of preferential governmental policies when whites acquired their wealth through hard work?  The answer is simple: in reality governmental policy has played an absolutely crucial role in determining the racial character of the haves and the have nots in America.  Focus On Affirmative Action

Since the beginning of America, the government has provided the tools for one group to have advantages at the exclusion of other groups.  The majority of wealth in America is based on the government policies that favored one group over another, for anyone to say that the government should not now show any favoritism is either being blatantly dishonest or ignorant to the history of America.  The majority of personal wealth in America is based on home ownership, if governmental policies provided funds for one group and not all groups equally then that is favoritism.  With the government condoning and encouraging “red-lining” in mortgage loans by the FHA, it allowed whites to receive low interest loans on their mortgages thus providing them with the needed equity to begin the process of wealth accumulation.  This is just one of many government policies that helped to decide who was going to be well-off in America and who wasn’t.

I want to state that I believe that personal responsibility is important.  It is important however not for accumulating wealth, its importance lies in the health of the society.  The health of a society is based on the principle that everyone in that society is personally responsible for their actions, not because it leads to wealth but because it leads to a better society.  Whether you are a low wage worker or the CEO of a Fortune 500, it is incumbent upon all of us to do what is right and to do our best.  Again, the point is not that we base opportunity on a given person’s response to it, but on equal access.  When we reach the stage where everyone has equal opportunity for success, then we can talk about who is taking advantage and who isn’t.  Until that time it is a moot point, because the myth will still just be a myth.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic – John F. Kennedy

Home Is Where You Put Your Stuff – A Christmas Story

copyright © 2007 Judith Moriarty

[Commentary followed by A Personal Reflection of Christmas Past]

“In Manhattan the income gap between the rich and poor is greater than in Guatemala, and within the U.S. is surpassed only by a group of 70 households near a former leper colony in Hawaii.”

~  Gap Between Rich and Poor in New York City Grows Wider, By Sam Roberts.  The New York Times. December 25, 1994

What is a home?  It is easier to understand homelessness by taking a minute to define a home.  A home is a space of our own that is considered to belong to us.  We may not have a whole house, a whole apartment, or even a whole room, but we have our own space.  It is secure: we know where we are going to sleep tonight; we know that ‘home’ is going to be there when we get there.  It is safe.  Although no safety is perfect, we have a way to lock our home, to control who comes in when we are there and when we aren’t.  We can leave our belongings at home and have a reasonable expectation of finding them safe when we get back.  We are sheltered from rain and cold.  We have a means to warm ourselves.  We have a bed.  We have a way to store and prepare food.  We have cold and hot running water, a toilet, and a shower or bathtub to wash ourselves.  We can come and go at our own choice.  Home is where you put your stuff.

While the media portrays (deliberately) the homeless as ‘losers, drunks, addicts, the mentally ill, and parasitic segment of society – too lazy to work’; this is a rather shallow simplistic view!  It lumps everyone suffering a crisis into the same stereotype.  True, many are homeless due to drinking, drugs, mental illness, and poor work ethics.  But then, many are drunks and dope addicts, who aren’t homeless.

At one time people were identified as the ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ poor.  A family down on their luck, due to a death in the family or crisis of unemployment etc were seen as ‘worthy’ of intervention.  The able bodied, who found themselves homeless, were seen as bums – or lazy ner’ do wells.  FDR’s New Deal – and WWII saw many government housing projects built.  These were seen as a stopgap measure, until people could recoup their losses/ and for veterans returning from war.  They were mostly occupied by whites.  These folks went on to gainful employment, and in many instances became homeowners.  The project, during the 60’s onwards, became dumping grounds for the poor (mostly minorities).  Repairs and maintenance were disregarded.  These ‘hives’ became despairing hovels filled with crime.

Today many of these projects are being torn down or left vacant.  Vouchers for housing have been cut, with many of the working poor left with no place to secure affordable housing.  Even in the best of times, a person (family) could be on a waiting list for years before there was an opening.  The crisis in America (all communities) today is affordable housing.  New York City sees an approximate 10,000 families suffering homelessness (not counting single people) each night.  Meantime the un-homeless, contrive different programs, consisting of rules -regulations – and policies, which even a legal student couldn’t decipher.  Everyone is agreed that society needs (besides its bankers – brokers – professionals – etc) laborers, clerks, mechanics, janitors, window washers, nursing/hospital personnel, teachers, etc.  With rent in many urban areas (even rural America) running upwards of $750.00 to $1000.00 a month (not including utilities) its not hard to see why those making $15,000 to $25,000 a year can easily find themselves homeless.

Once upon a time in small town America; steel mills, paper mills, textile plants, manufacturing plants, the auto industry, sheet metal shops, tool and die shops, farming etc; had people, while not living opulent lives, able to afford the necessities of life.  Rents – fuel – medical care – prescriptions – schooling – taxes – cars and homes were affordable.  People weren’t made to choose between food or buying exorbitant prescriptions.  But then the pharmaceutical, insurance companies and HMOs weren’t writing the legislation!  One could afford a visit to the ER or doctor’s office.  A Department of Education didn’t exist; throwing down mandates from Foggy Bottom (Washington) demanding increasingly draconian policies, regulations, testing, and social engineering  (putting the costs on beleaguered tax payers).  It takes money to create obedient, illiterate,  passive, groupthink drones,  for a future in a Wigget factory or the military.

This ‘mudslinging’, identified as ‘debates’,  has shown how far removed those running for office are from the people.  NOTHING of any merit (either party) has been accomplished.  It’s a game for clowns and opportunists, with  each (except for a few) trying to grab the  golden ring,  on the gaudy,  maniacal,  carousel,   that represents today’s  politics.  Only in  America, do we see  the few  with their  multi-millions,  and  backers of  special interests,   able to  secure  media  attention.  If the truth be told, the owners of the world have already chosen the next puppet.  All this campaigning is mere theater.  Note how the few, with any credible message,  have been quickly marginalized.  Government is now corporate owned and corporate controlled – with the herd encouraged to vote (feminists) for the first woman, or the war crowd,   with their law and order mentality,  for a Giuliani (911 brought him fame and fortune).  Our energy policy ( plotted behind closed doors by oil men) sees oil that was at $28.00 per barrel in 2000 now close to $100.  The golden ring means many things to many people.  Especially good fortune!

The majority of those running for office are well heeled  and have long ago lost  connection with work-a-day citizens (or the poor).  The Clinton’s arrival in Foggy Bottom now sees them as multi-millionaires.  President Bush,  who failed in every family backed business,  is now sitting on easy street.  In a land of 300 million,  we’re supposed to believe, that per chance Ms. Clinton wins, (she will – it’s in the bag) we’ll have us 28 years with a Bush or Clinton in office!  What’s wrong with this picture?  

Many of those in Congress/the Senate;  including the various candidates,  have secured lobbying jobs for their offspring (family members).  Trent Lott is jumping ship.  It’s reported that he’s now going to ‘cash in’ (work for a lobbying firm for big bucks).  That’s what its really about ——–self-interested – grasping greed.  The only thing this gang of hustlers managed to accomplish,  is voting themselves yearly cost of living raises, and tax payer subsidized health care.

President Bush/Vice President Cheney (Washington politicians) aren’t worried over the cost of hospital care.  No  drone in some cubicle reports to their physicians,  that such and such a procedure isn’t covered.  They are not demanded to have cash in hand when seeing a dentist.  Never be poor and have a toothache!  You’ll die before receiving aid.  Any medical crisis or ache or pain sees Washington politicians (bankers – Federal Reserve officials, lobbyists, corporate robber barons etc, being   afforded the best of medical care.  President Bush advises (having a physician on hand at all times)  that Joe citizen and his family go to the ER.  True!

Try being poor or homeless and getting  medical help in Super Power nation, U.S.A.  Try being a senior citizen, or a struggling family,  trying to secure special medications, chemotherapy, or hospital care.  Strom Thurmond once spent a month in a hospital resting up!  Today the poor will die on an ER floor (Los Angeles) of a perforated bowel,  while staff walks around them!  Today the poor are made to sit from morning to evening in a free clinic for help (most of these are being closed).  Mostly though, people just die.  They die in freezing, rat-infested tenements, in abandoned homes, in their cars, and under bridges.  They die in rural America,  in homes without heat.  They die in shelters and on city streets (dumped there by hospitals.) .  They die in decaying, unheated tenements owned by slum landlords.

These Washington hucksters aren’t worried over their pensions (also seeing yearly cost of living raises) or heating their homes.  Besides their lucrative salaries,  they receive all kinds of perks – from medical to housing allowances, fees for their offices, and exotic vacations,  which they call ‘fact finding missions’.  They don’t care because they don’t have to.  How many ‘debates’ do you see being held in an empty steel mill – paper mill – abandoned downtown Detroit, the empty Maytag factory, a shelter, or soup kitchen?  They voted these trade deals,  which have emptied America of livable wage jobs.  That’s why they stay away from the real America!  They are serving their corporate sugar daddies  by  ignoring the slave labor  that is being imported (thanks to NAFTA’s failure) to America.  These candidates  voted for the bankruptcy laws that are now  impoverishing  Middle Americans in a crisis.  Corporations are safe to in declaring bankruptcy and that’s all that counts.  They voted (Hillary told Silicon Valley she’ll bring in more) for hundreds of thousands of guest workers (professionals) to replace American workers.

And people wonder why homelessness is increasing at such a drastic level?  Today in America,  from Seattle – Oregon – to New Orleans,  people are now being housed in tent cities!  Detroit is filled with thousands of vacant buildings (hotels) and people are living in tents!  Why aren’t these newest housing projects of the 21st century being shown on the news as we spend 2 billion a week on war (estimated cost 1.6 trillion+).  With winter blasts upon us,  try to imagine yourself in that abandoned car – a tent – or living under a bridge.  Try to imagine yourself watching (New England) the crowds from the city zooming by,  on their way to exotic ski lodges – spending hundreds of dollars a day;  to ski down a mountain – drinking,  and gouging themselves on exotic meals.  Workers at these various resorts are imported guest workers.

It’s hard to imagine living in a land of such wealth under such deprivation.  It’s absurd.  Maybe that’s why people avoid looking at the  homeless?  When I’m  looking at you, (laying in a doorway) I begin to see me?  Who are the homeless?  Today, many folks are only a few paychecks away from joining the ‘unworthy poor’ (new label when you lose out in the race).  Millions of homes are in foreclosure; due to the greed of bankers – mortgage companies and politicians,  too busy feathering their own nests to deal with the crisis.

Who are the homeless?  They are the foster children  whom its assumed reach instant adulthood at age 18.  It’s the numerous abused and battered wives, (children)  who’ve escaped a house of mayhem and possible  murder.  With institutions closed down over the past few decades, its the mentally-ill.  Regional crisis centers were supposed to open,  but it never happened.  People haven’ t stopped becoming mentally ill – its just that now,  we jail them or they end up on the street (those without family).

We spent the money meant for the mentally ill/housing etc;  on raises for Washington – billions for war  – exotic vacations – golf courses – space stations – crumbling levees – studies of the sex lives of beetles  – bridges to nowhere – a museum for Woodstock – and mercenary forces ($1,200 a day) etc.  There just wasn’t any left over for everyday people!  Who are the homeless?  It’s Virginia a senior citizen I found on a park bench,  who lost her home due to the catastrophic illness of her husband (he died).  When she went for help, she was offered a bus ticket out of town (greyhound therapy).

Who are the homeless?  It’s the homeless veterans ( approximately 192,000) of all wars.  It’s James (Korea) who I found under a bridge (his nephew had stolen his SS checks).  It’s Billy the young man I found in a city park in a johnny-coat soaked with urine.  Billy with clubfeet, spina bifida, and a colostomy,  had been dumped on the street by a hospital.  Who are the homeless?  It’s Martha crippled with arthritis, Danny a foster boy, Henry and Joe, WWII veterans, Mr. Elliott, beaten to death in his wheelchair (WWII naval photographer) by an illegal immigrant dishwasher, looking for crack money.  The stories go on and on.  No the homeless are not all ner’ do wells on welfare having a half dozen kids!  There are numerous lazy, drunken, drug addicts of wealth.  You don’t hear the label ‘worthy or unworthy rich’.  President Regan, from the warmth of the White House said that the homeless preferred the great outdoors.

Depending on the luck of the draw in life;  the rich or well-connected citizen,  is protected from the harsher elements of being set outside the city gate.  Wealth and a proper  family  name (or profession) exempts them from being  labeled (except as eccentric).  If you’re a starlet – gladiator sports star – relative of a politician – or Al Gore’s son etc; you don’t end up in jail .  You end up in a $48,000 seaside rehab center  to escape the ‘stress’ of a  life.  Forget all the advantages these folks  were offered.  The stress of being coddled, pampered, and excused,  from any and all responsibilities,  takes its toll – so we are told?  Drunk or no drunk, heck  instead of ending up in a shelter  you could find yourself in the White House.  It’s all in how the life’s  cards are dealt !  Most of the rich and famous you see on the nightly news, involved in  numerous drug or drunken events,   would be laying in the gutter today  if not for money!

Homeless for Christmas

It was a cold – sleety night  in a large corporate Ct. city.  Gentrification had torn down neighborhoods (affordable housing); to make way for glass towers and a huge windowless mall,  consisting  of upscale boutiques and specialty stores.  The homeless were not permitted to roam its various floors seeking warmth during the days.  

I had written a play,  “Homeless for Christmas” which I put on in the pocket park entryway.  The manger scene consisted of Anna (Mary) a Native American Indian ( homeless due to sexual abuse) – Carlton ( Joseph) from Jamaica, and  Matthew (Baby Jesus) my three-month-old nephew.  Alicia (littlest angel) stood behind them in her white gown with tinsel halo.  Mary was attired in an old lace curtain and Joseph in an Indian blanket.  The three Wise Men,  could be seen approaching from the far end of the park,  with their shopping carts,  bearing gifts for homeless Jesus.  They were three homeless veterans.  As the crowd of homeless folks sang.  ‘ Away in a Manager’ the three veteran Wise Men presented the Holy family with gifts of canned food, a blanket, and a bouquet of poinsettias .

A few shoppers stopped for a moment  but then rushed on to buy those last minute gifts in the climate controlled  mall.  When the play ended,  we passed out (the vets and myself) toys to the numerous homeless kids and those  from the tenements.  Disney had donated $10,000 worth to me.  This was their way of saying they were sorry.  A month before  they had come out with a homeless doll called, ‘ Steve the Tramp’.  Steve carried a large board (with plastic nails).  On the package it said, “You’ll smell him before you see him.”  I organized a protest at the mall  (called all the media).  I made a huge poster depicting Mickey Mouse with huge bulging blood shot eyes  holding a spiked board.  My sign read, “Mickey Rat – You’ll Smell Him Before You See Him.”  Disney  took the doll off the market immediately and had a truck deliver tons of toys!  Protests do work ( at times).  I have to say they (Disney) have to be commended for their prompt action.

After our gala play and Disney toys  event, the kids  returned to the decaying tenements (far from the mall) .  The remainder of my homeless  crowd returned to the dingy shelter.  There’s nothing sadder during the year than to spend Christmas at a shelter.  There’s something about the hustle and bustle, holiday crowds, festive lights and Christmas caroling;  that makes the humiliation, the hopelessness, the alienation,  all the more painful.  I could relate,  as I remembered when my dad (factory closed) relocated us from the mountains of Pennsylvania to Connecticut.  He had secured a job in a Catholic hospital as their boiler room engineer.  We arrived in Ct with nothing but our meager suitcases of second- hand clothes.  I hated Ct from the first moment I saw it.  I promised myself when grown that  I’d leave.  I did.

We had to stay in a single-room occupancy hotel until my dad could save enough to get us an apartment.  That took some months.  I remember that Christmas.  I  pushed  aside the cheap plastic curtains on the one window  and watched the shoppers laden down with gifts.  I had decorated the plastic tulip plant on our dresser with some tinsel,  from the manger scene at  a nearby church.  It’s a surreal kind of feeling being on the outside watching others go about life’s routines – joys.  You feel like your  watching a movie – unable to join the happy actors on stage.

A shelter is a place where nobody owns anything and no spot is special.  It is dreary and joyless.  The noise is deafening and the stench from unwashed humanity unbearable at times.  If despair had an odor,  it could be found in a shelter.  Christmas (small town America) was once a time of neighbors on downtown streets.  In the luminous glow of Christmas lights, children played catching snowflakes on their tongues.  There was a hushed silence, as neighbors gathered around the Nativity in the park and  sang ‘Silent Night’.  Today the parks are empty.  Many Nativity scenes in the climate of political correctness (ACLU with nothing better to do) are gone.  All religious language is now banished.  Christmas is now the   Holiday  Season;  with  grotesque elves  –  cartoon  balloon parades  –  and  safe secular songs.  It’s  now  secular holiday  with  the focus on retail sales.  The biggest issue now,  is how to choose amongst all the toxic toys imported from China!

Perhaps it’s the deprivation, the poverty, the degradation or just plain awfulness,  of a small family huddled in the darkness of a stable,   that is abhorrent to some in today’s materialistic world?  There was no room in the Inn, but there was room in the stable.  The Inn is the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world’s moods, the rendezvous of the worldly/moneyed, the rallying  place of the popular.  The stable is a place of outcasts, the ignored, the forgotten, the almost impossible things.  Divinity is always were we least expect to find it.

I remember a past Christmas at the shelter.  The faces; white, black, and  some gray ; from weariness or illness.  They were  etched in stoic longing and loneliness.  The remnants of the donated food (office parties) lay untouched on plastic trays.  The muted sounds of “Joy to the World,”  echoed forth from a blurred black and white TV.  Some covered their ears, some wept, some hummed along, eyes closed.  Perhaps they were remembering a time long ago when they belonged and were loved?

Teresa, her bruised face swelling from a beating on the street, lay in a crumpled heap on the bench.  As I put a blanket on her thin shaking body, I wondered that she hadn’t been killed as yet?  (Note – Teresa was murdered five months later for her canning money – near the city’s yacht club).  Henry, an elderly Black gentleman, brandishing his cane through the crowded community room,  looked like an escaped scarecrow on the lam.  In a whirlwind of decaying leaves, falling off his outlandish attire,  he demanded better service or the Mayor would hear about it.  Martha, eyes rolling back in her head, clutched her Christmas package of socks and gloves in her crippled hands, all the while singing her own song that had no beginning and no end.  Margaret (middle aged) her dirty blond hair pulled back in a severe bun – thumped her Bible damning everyone to hell for their sinful, slothful ways.  Having no dentures, she’d worked diligently one night cutting strips from a two-liter Pepsi bottle.  With a razor blade,  she cut the appropriate notches,  so that it had the appearance of teeth.  She painted them with white- out, then affixed the flexible strips to her upper and lower gums with denture adhesive.  As long as she didn’t eat, she was fine.

Richard, pacing back and forth, became more and more agitated with each dire warning from Margaret.  He finally turned, and in  his affected French accent,  pronounced that the finer hotels he was accustomed to staying at,  would never allow such rabble in their establishment.  Richard had existed on a family trust fund for years.  It  ran out and he was left stranded on the streets.  

Daniel, a small fastidious man, like a nervous ferret, hovered in the shadows of the outer hallway.  Daniel felt that as long as he kept his distance, he wouldn’t be identified as being a part of the unwashed and unwanted.  Frank with his thick coke glasses  was once a prosperous businessman.  He suffered a mental breakdown and now imagined himself a secret agent for the CIA.  Every morning at 4:00am, he would leave messages near the transformer at the train station.  In turn, he told me, he’d get directions for his next job  from the obituaries in the New York Times.

In a world of liposuction, health clubs, marathons, gated communities, designer clothes, decorators, tented wine parties etc, those seen as flawed  are relegated to the outer darkness.  In a throwaway society, life’s rejects (seconds) are tossed – much like litter.  We’re a disposable society.  The intimacy of small town America is gone.  We now exist in isolated cocoons: of poverty – wealth – war – prisons – raging protests, and daily messages of fear.  I suspect,  that  should the nation suffer a crisis ,  that only the homeless will survive.  It’ll be just another day for them.

Christmas ends:  All was silent in the shelter as the midnight service drew to a close.  A last burst of song washed over the heaps of broken humanity from the Washington  Cathedral choir ———“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep; God is not dead; nor doth He sleep!  The wrong shall fail.  The right prevail.  With PEACE on Earth, good will to men!”


  • Gap Between Rich and Poor in New York City Grows Wider, By Sam Roberts.  The New York Times. December 25, 1994
  • School Diversity Segregates Some. Divided Neighborhoods Isolate All

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Today, I was reminded of how deeply divided this nation is.  I read School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some.  I discovered in an attempt to offer equal opportunities, indeed, schools discovered discrimination remained a dominant force.  School Boards, Administrators, and the community-at-large concluded educational institutions would be more diverse if learners were assigned to schools based on family incomes.  A plan was introduced and implemented.  The outcome was mixed; however, the pupil populations were less so.  Some races, colors, and creeds were abundant within a given institution; others were not well represented.

    This findings were contrary to the expected and desired intent of educators.  School Districts were determined to establish a sense of unity in their local schools.  They did not wish to register or reject students on the basis of race.  Family earnings were used to ascertain eligibility.  Enrollment numbers were controlled; however the outcome was not as predicted.  In a recent New York Times article Journalists Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder reported.

    San Francisco – When San Francisco started trying to promote socioeconomic diversity in its public schools, officials hoped racial diversity would result as well.

    It has not worked out that way.

    Abraham Lincoln High School, for example, with its stellar reputation and Advanced Placement courses, has drawn a mix of rich and poor students.  More than 50 percent of those students are of Chinese descent.

    “If you look at diversity based on race, the school hasn’t been as integrated,? Lincoln?s principal, Ronald J. K. Pang, said.  “If you don’t look at race, the school has become much more diverse.”

    San Francisco began considering factors like family income, instead of race, in school assignments when it modified a court-ordered desegregation plan in response to a lawsuit.  But school officials have found that the 55,000-student city school district, with Chinese the dominant ethnic group followed by Hispanics, blacks and whites, is resegregrating.

    The number of schools where students of a single racial or ethnic group make up 60 percent or more of the population in at least one grade is increasing sharply.  In 2005-06, about 50 schools were segregated using that standard as measured by a court-appointed monitor.  That was up from 30 schools in the 2001-02 school year, the year before the change, according to court filings.

    It is not a mystery why this might occur.  Perhaps, as often happens, one child spoke to a classmate of his, stating an interest in a particular school or program.  One mother chatted with her neighbor over the backyard fence.  They discussed her son’s education.  A father, in the local barbershop, mentioned his daughter would enroll in this facility or that.  Another resident of that small community thought the idea a good one.  They too entered their child in that facility. 

    People tend to discuss their decisions with those they know.  Word travels; however not as far and wide as it might.  We are acquainted with those that live near us.  Likely, the person next door or down the street has an income similar to our own.  Common interests are usual among people residing in the same community.  Often, people of one race, religion, or creed associate with those of similar backgrounds. 

    Humans are rarely distant from those they relate to.  In the workplace, the peons have no choice but to converse with those at their level.  Corporate Executive Officers rarely confer with their subordinates.  Middle managements lauds over the people that work for them.  However, they do not frequently lean over and say, “Would you like to join us in a meeting, come to dinner, or call me, just to talk.”  Our children watch us; they observe and absorb the characteristics that they experience.  Our offspring learn from us.

    Young persons typically admire their parents, or at least, those that care for them are an important influence.  We teach the children.  They learn their lessons well.  If we loathe our brethren, we can expect that our offspring will too.

    Hate is a learned response; so too is the gravitational pull to certain “types” of people.

    As we assess the recent report or other news of the day, we might wonder why segregation is so prevalent.  The answer abounds.  We heard it again only weeks ago.  The logic of Supreme Court Justices loomed large.  After assessing the evidence as it relates to Parents Involved In Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1 these esteemed Jurists announced their decision.

    “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a plurality that included Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. “The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again — even for very different reasons.”

    He added: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

    Again, we must acknowledge the attempts in San Francisco.  That School district thought they did as the Chief Justice directed.  Bay Area locals were resolute in their desire not to segregate on the basis of color.  Yet, they realized their efforts led students into greater isolation.  When School Boards concluded differences in incomes would lead to diversity, they negated an inherent fact.  As cited earlier in this essay, but bears repeating.  Frequently we forget, left to their own devices people prefer to be with their kind.

    I believe this reality is not innate; nor is it healthy.  It is a habit.  Imaginary “boundaries” were developed long ago before any of us was born.  The need to build walls and partitions has been passed down through the centuries.  Generation after generation does as their parents did.

    In prehistoric times, safety and a need for survival might have been a reason for concern.  People were nomads; they did not know, nor did they have the time to become acquainted with their neighbors.  Much has changed.  Civilization led to the growth of communities.  Now, we are connected, in cyberspace, and in cities.  Even those in the countryside are not far from other people.

    I think in order to make change we must be more conscious of our choices and what we accept as common wisdom.  Among the most proverbial conventions is there will always be poor persons. 

    I believe as long as there are underprivileged neighborhoods, there will be disadvantaged schools. 

    Educational institutions in our slums serve students already facing difficulties in their daily life.  The educators willing to teach in these facilities will likely be of lesser quality.  There may be a few committed to a cause; however, this is out of the ordinary.  Books will be borrowed, or cast-off when the elite schools think them obsolete.  Indeed, the pupils in these locals will be fortunate to have text to read.  The Center on Education Policy discusses this dynamic.

    Black and Hispanic students tend to take less-rigorous courses.  Though there are more black and Hispanic students taking academically rigorous courses now than in the past, whites and Asians still tend to be overrepresented in such courses.  In part, this situation results from the lack of advanced courses at high-minority schools.  In particular, researchers have found that schools in high-minority or high-poverty areas often offer a less-rigorous curriculum to begin with.  They thereby fail to challenge students, since they cover less material or give less homework.  This is a problem because research has found that students enrolled in challenging courses?in topics such as algebra, trigonometry, chemistry, and advanced English?usually have higher test scores than their peers.

    There is a lack of experienced teachers.  [Nancy Kober, author of the Center on Education Policy’s report] points out that black students are more likely to be taught by less-experienced teachers than white students.  Researchers have cited this factor as one of the most critical variables for explaining the achievement gap: there is a correlation between higher teacher certification scores and higher student achievement scores.  Teachers in districts where there are high percentages of black or Hispanic students tend to have lower scores on their certification tests.

    Teachers set their expectations low.  Studies have suggested that teachers sometimes have lower academic expectations for black and Hispanic children than they do for whites or Asians.  Kober warns that by setting expectations low, teachers run the risk of perpetuating the achievement gap since they do not encourage black and Hispanic students to follow a rigorous curriculum.

    Resource disparities handicap schools.  Low-minority schools tend to be much better funded and have all-around stronger resources than do high-minority schools. The same relationship holds true for schools in low-poverty versus high-poverty areas.  There is persuasive evidence that this factor contributes to the achievement gap.  For example, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show the achievement gap between low-poverty and high-poverty schools increased throughout the 1990s.

    Low-income and minority students tend to be concentrated in certain schools.  Kober notes that if a school has high levels of poverty, that can depress achievement for all the children in that school, even if they are from higher income families.  This fact hits Black and Hispanic children the hardest, since they are more likely to attend higher poverty schools than are whites or Asians.

    Student performance anxiety hampers minority students.  Some research has suggested that black students can become anxious about corresponding to negative racial stereotypes in their academic work.  The result, researchers say, is a kind of vicious circle: Black students can be so worried about seeming stereotypically ungifted academically that their anxiety actually makes them perform less well than they could.

    While on paper, Americans declare all persons are created equal, students know in practice this is not so.  Our pupils experience separate is not equal.  Even when “shipped” to schools far from home, they remain detached.  Their personalities are split.  They are the poor mingling amongst the rich.  An education helps; nonetheless, it does not eradicate the deeper divide.

    Discrimination is visible and it is our veracity.  Those that we judge harshly are characteristically the poorest among us.  Frequently and subtly, we deny these individuals their rights, and provide little so that they might achieve their dreams.  They huddle in hovels and call these home.

    Academics argue there is no need for a poor population.  Nonetheless, their perception of why one exists is as skewed as efforts to eliminate poverty are.  What is pervasive is too easily accepted, even expected.  Expert, scholarly opinions, I believe, do not consider the whole or a truth.  It seems what is too real for many is beyond the intellectuals’ ability to grasp.  I offer one authors reading of the problem, and an answer I find troublesome,

    A theorist, a scholar, and a Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, Dinesh D’Souza, writes in an article titled, Why Are There Poor People?

    Mister D’Souza acknowledges and accepts the impoverished are victims of a collective configuration that does not reward them.  He states . . .

    The left-wing view is that poor people are the victims of unjust social structures.  Historically this view is sound.  Slavery, colonialism?these were oppressive institutions that prevented people from exercising their freedom and rising in society.

    The left-wing argument is also an accurate description of the situation in much of the Third World today.  If you take a train through the Indian countryside, you will see farmers beating their pickaxes into the ground, frail women wobbling under heavy loads, children carrying stones.  These people are working incredibly hard, yet they are getting nowhere.  The reason is that institutional structures are set up in such a way that creativity and effort don’t bring due reward.  No wonder the people in these countries are fatalistic.

    However, he continues, “institutional structures” that  keep the poor down do not exist in America.  Dinesh D’Souza states “capitalism and technology” provide opportunities for all.

    [I]n the West capitalism and technology have worked together to lift the vast majority of the population out of deprivation and up to a level of affluence that, in the words of novelist Tom Wolfe, would “make the Sun King blink.”

    So what about the underclass, the inner-city poor that we hear so much about? I agree: it is terrible to grow up in many parts of the Bronx, New York, or Anacostia, Washington DC, or South Central Los Angeles. But that?s not because of material poverty.  Rather, it?s because of the shocking moral behavior of the residents.  High crime rates, the crack trade, and the absence of stable families all work together to destroy the cultural ecosystem and make normal productive life so difficult in these communities.

    This is where the right-wing argument gathers force.  Conservatives contend that the bourgeois virtues of family stability, the work ethic, the respect for education and law are essential for individuals and groups to advance, and where those are jlacking, chaos is the predictable result.  The solution is to recognize that prosperity does not come naturally.

    Such is the attitude, the belief, and the perception of many in our society.  Numerous persons say, the poor do not avail themselves of the opportunities within the market place.  Capitalism offers chances for all.  However, I must inquire, do people of color, those of lesser means and little education, truly have the same prospects the prosperous do.

    I observe that not all in the Western world have benefited from free enterprise; nor do each of us have access to technology.  Entrepreneurship is but a dream for those that have little education and few funds.  People that experience discrimination because of their color or perceived background lack hope. 

    In America, for hundreds of thousands skills are lacking.  Millions of people living in this country are illiterate or not well versed in disciplines that might help them climb from the clutches of poverty.  “Equipment” is not evenly distributed.  In impoverished areas, children are fortunate to have textbooks and teachers that care.  Richer areas [are] more successful in attracting qualified teachers.

    I must ask, if I am born to a welfare mother, a woman that is poor, or not white, will I have an equal chance to succeed.  We know that schools and society discriminate against those whose flesh is darker and those of lesser means.

    If my father had to work as a child to support his family, and therefore, never had the time let alone energy to complete school, am I likely to do well.  If my guardian must work long hours, doing manual labor in order to provide me with food and shelter will she or he be available to assist me with my homework.  Will they be in the room with me when I need reassurance or feel discouraged.  If they are will, they be able to honestly tell me “Everything will be all right, it always is.”

    Can a parent that has little knowledge of schoolwork or experience learning through scientific method teach me the habits that might benefit me, or society?  A child born into poverty does not hope or dream of succeeding as other children do.

    Discrimination leaves a legacy. The harmful effects of segregated schooling and similar forms of discrimination will continue to persist for several decades, studies show.  These effects can persist as a family link: children whose grandparents? educational achievement was limited or restricted may not enjoy the benefits of a family that values or encourages rigorous academics. Such values may simply not be a part of the family?s culture, partly because past discrimination inhibited the grandparents? achievement.  Moreover, other forms of discrimination, such as in housing or employment, can also negatively impact a child?s educational opportunities.

    Home and community learning opportunities are critical. In general, minority children are less likely than white children to have parents with high levels of educational attainment. This factor, together with others such as lower family income and parents? work schedules, may limit the extent to which parents can foster positive opportunities for learning at home, Author of the Center on Education Policy’s report, It Takes More Than Testing: Closing the Achievement Gap, [Nancy] Kober claims. Hence, opportunities such as having access to books and computers?or even being read to before bedtime?may be more limited for minority children. Also, it is an established fact that high-minority and high-poverty communities tend to enjoy less access to such resources as libraries and museums that can benefit children. Finally, if the family speaks a language other than English at home, that can also affect a child?s learning opportunities.

    Good parenting practices need to be encouraged. Parental approaches to learning at home differ, and cultural variations undoubtedly play a role in children?s learning and achievement. However, the most effective practices should be encouraged, although more research is necessary to determine which do provide the greatest benefits.

    Contrary to the beliefs Dinesh D’Souza professes, only in rare cases does a blood relation or guardian teach criminal behavior.  Most mothers and fathers have the best of intentions.  Parents do not work to raise felons.  No matter what their background, color, or creed people have ethics and values, customs, and traditions.  Humans have emotions; they feel for their children.  Moms and Dads want their children to achieve the accolades they did not.

    Frustrations breed the social structure that inhibits achievement.  All the computers, cameras, telephones, and televisions in the world cannot provide the connection a parent might.  Technology cannot substitute for the tender, caring, touch of a Mom or Dad.

    However, in a country where massive amounts of money are a must in order to maintain a menial subsistence, parents may not be as profound an influence as they might be.  They may not be the best role models. 

    Nonetheless, a child can turn to another adult for guidance and quality instruction.  Perchance a teacher in a good school will stimulate the mind and rekindle a heart starving for attention.  Parents, not your own might help to involve an expectant pupil.  That was the hope in the districts intent on initiating socioeconomic diversity.

    The purpose of such programs is twofold. Since income levels often correlate with race, they can be an alternate and legal way to produce racial integration. They also promote achievement gains by putting poorer students in schools that are more likely to have experienced teachers and students with high aspirations, as well as a parent body that can afford to be more involved.

    ?There is a large body of evidence going back several years,? Mr. Kahlenberg said, “that probably the most important thing you can do to raise the achievement of low-income students is to provide them with middle-class schools.”

    Economic integration initiatives differ from each other, and from many traditional integration efforts that relied on mandatory transfer of students among schools. Some of the new initiatives involve busing but some do not; some rely on student choice, while some also use a lottery. And so it is difficult to measure how far students travel or how many students switch schools.

    The most ambitious effort and the example most often cited as a success is in the city of Raleigh, N.C., and its suburbs.

    For seven years, the district has sought to cap the proportion of low-income students in each of the county?s 143 schools at 40 percent.

    To achieve a balance of low- and middle-income children, the district encourages and sometimes requires students to attend schools far from home. Suburban students are attracted to magnet schools in the city; children from the inner city are sometimes bused to middle-class schools at the outer edges of Raleigh and in the suburbs.

    The achievement gains have been sharp, and school officials said economic integration was largely responsible. Only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight in Wake County, where Raleigh is located, scored at grade level on state reading tests in 1995. By the spring of 2006, 82 percent did.

    “The plan works well,” said John H. Gilbert, a professor emeritus at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who served for 16 years on the county school board and voted for the plan. “It’s based on sound assumptions about the environment in which children learn.”

    While this is impressive, and validates that those of any background can and will improve given quality education, the truer problem, for me, is not eradicated.  Will these Black students find a way to enter college.  Might they cultivate a career that will ensure financial success.  If they are able to accomplish much, when they walk down the street will they be accepted as a wealthy white person would be.  Might a person of color have the same prospects their Caucasian brethren do.  Probably not.

    If we continue, as we have, competing in a free market society will not be possible when the color of your skin is not white.  The wad of bills in your pocket may help; however, perceptions too often take precedence. 

    Before an American child enters the workplace, where supposedly, opportunity abounds.  They must obtain an education.  We place a huge burden on our children if we remain separate as a society.  We can bus our offspring, and perhaps we may have to until parents learn to adjust.  However, asking our young to sit idly for hours while they travel to a world not their own gives rise to other issues.  The most obvious is the plight of the poor.

    As long as we, in the United States continue to have poor neighborhoods, we will have institutions that help sustain the cycle of poverty.  If we send all the underprivileged to the better neighborhoods, who will attend the remaining pitiable properties intended to educate our youth?  Why would we need facilities that favor no one.  Indeed, why do we need communities that propagate a truth that we do not endorse, poverty.

    Let us replace the myth that only hinders civilization as a whole.  Discard what defines our youth and even their elders as deprived .  They, we, are not Black or white, rich or poor, alien or native, advanced or behind.  We are individuals; we must furnish all with what they need to thrive. 

    As Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard cautions, “Once you label me, you negate me.”

    If as a culture we expect Black and Hispanic children to live in low-income families, they will.  If their parents are not educated well, or accepted into society, the children will be less likely to live in neighborhoods that nurture an innate desire to learn.  We must be willing to integrate our neighborhoods, and truly provide the means for all our citizens to live as equals.

    We need to ask ourselves, do we truly wish to endorse a system where everyone is equal.  If so, let us begin to embrace the challenge and create the structure our forefathers’ spoke of.  If we do not we will continue to look for solutions that shift the responsibility to our children. 

    I believe we can live and succeed as a Union.  We need only invest authentically in our offspring, all of them, and more importantly in ourselves.

    If we decide not to fear our fellow man or see him or her as an alien, a stranger, the enemy, or someone we would not wish to be part of our family, then divisions will exist no more.

    Diversity need not be our undoing.  Please let us look at the United States Constitution and allow the principles that guide us to be our truth.  Might we make this country great and preserve our integrity.  We are one and all.

    When you grow up in a totally segregated society,
    where everybody around you believes that segregation is proper,
    you have a hard time.
    You can’t believe how much it’s a part of your thinking.”

    Shelby Foote [Historian, Novelist]

    Poor Schools, Poor Neighborhoods, A Sad State of Affairs . . .

  • School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some, By Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder.  The New York Times. July 15, 2007
  • pdf School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some, By Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder.  The New York Times. July 15, 2007
  • Parents Involved In Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1  Supreme Court Of the United States.
  • Divided Court Limits Use of Race by School Districts, By Robert Barnes.  Washington Post.  Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A01
  • pdf Divided Court Limits Use of Race by School Districts, By Robert Barnes. Washington Post.  Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A01
  • Parents involved in Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1. Supreme Court of the United States. June 28, 2007
  • It Takes More Than Testing: Closing the Achievement Gap. A Report of the Center on Education Policy. By Nancy Kober.  Center on Education Policy.  Educational Resources Information Center.
  • lliteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice? The National Right to Read Foundation.
  • Richer areas more successful in attracting qualified teachers.  USA Today. April 24, 2006
  • Income Inequity. The Real Reason the Rich Get Richer. ©

    Income inequity has been in the news of late; disparity is increasing.  Jared Bernstein, of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote of this in,  “The Catch-Up Economy.”  Paul Krugman, a writer-economist for the New York Times shared his views in “Left Behind Economics.”  Economics Professor J. Bradford DeLong comments on the subject.  However, it seems to me that the views of these learned economists are limited.  While assessing the statistics, I think experts miss the substance, what lies behind simple “economic” causes and effects.

    For years, scholars have discussed whether the situation has changed or remained the same.  They discuss cause and effects.  Intellectuals say the middle class is shrinking.  The prosperous are not growing capital as expected.  The “super-rich” are becoming wealthier.  Academicians and regular Americans alike wonder, what are we to do?

    Welfare is reformed and the results are devastating.  Proposals are submitted to increase the minimum wage.  Yet, this solution was too little too late.  It was also tied to amendments that would ravage federal revenues and thankfully, or not, the measure did not pass.  People ponder the discrepancy between rich and poor as though it were unusual; however, for me, this subject is not a novel one.

    It has been on my mind for as long as I can remember.  I was born into a household of means; however, the family that cared for me, the people I felt closest to lived the inner city.  I spent much time traveling from one neighborhood to the other.  The disparity was striking.  As a child, I began to theorize, what caused such a discrepancy.  Why were the rich so prosperous and the poor so impoverished?  Why did they not intermingle freely?

    Being intimately a part of two very different worlds simultaneously, my mind was stimulated; questions flooded my reality.  Fortunately, I was encouraged to think about my concerns and ask of these.  My earliest memory was of the streets, which ones were used when and by whom.  I was well aware that freeways were the preferred passageways for the affluent.  Expressways allowed for a free-flow of traffic.  There were few if any visual distractions.  The highways were walled off from the city.  Slums were not seen; nor were those living there heard from.  As the affluent passed through town, all was a blur.

    Those with lower incomes were more likely found on the slower urban streets.  I often heard how dangerous the metropolitan thoroughfares were.  Yet, I played on those avenues when with my second family.  I lived there for days at a time.  People were always pleasant to me.  There was a sense of community in these ghetto boulevards.  Still, the well-off avoided these roadways.  I concluded the rich did not wish to see the poor.  They did not want to be reminded of what they had created and allowed to flourish.

    The moneyed preferred to believe that all were thriving, just as they were; thus, they created a world that allowed them their beliefs.  However, in truth a large portion of society was barely able to survive.  In fact, I think the affluent knew this, and purposely, conveniently chose to ignore it.  They knew that they had imposed their reality on the poorer public in order to prosper.

    The rich understood they needed the poor to serve them.  A less-well-informed, undereducated, underprivileged population could and would meet the needs of the affluent.  Those born with silver spoons in their mouths trusted that they would associate with the proper people.  They would be groomed, breed, and grow greater.  The rich would learn how to build empires and indeed, they have.

    It is my contention that the most affluent among us centuries ago established a system that they knew was flawed; nevertheless, it endured.  I think, the idea of scarcity, supply and demand breeds a world divided.  This economic theory presumes there is only so much to go around; resources are limited.  Therefore, those that have, horde, and those without, want.  All are dissatisfied, thinking there is never enough, though in truth, there is.

    Man creates deficits and depletes resources; nature replenishes continually.

    For the most part, the poor have been unwittingly satisfied to just pass.  In earlier eons, the poor and middle class were not punished so severely for their station.  There was a time when those of lesser means still had hope and some were able to do well and move out of poverty, though their numbers were always kept in check.

    A modicum of security, with the potential for limited growth quelled the masses.  As a consequence of the freight experienced during the Great Depression Americans embraced the approach of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Even the wealthy were willing to accept the initiation of Public Work programs.  More people were able to have a scrap of safety.  After all, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

    As revealed by Journalist Teresa Tritch in The Rise of the Super-Rich,

    In post-World War II America, between 1947 and the early 1970’s, all income groups shared in the nation’s economic growth.  Poor families actually had a higher growth in real annual income than other groups.

    Still, they remained humble and subservient.  Most felt well taken care of.  Businesses offered benefits, and the government was a supposed friend, or so it seemed.  Employees were loyal to those that served them, not realizing, in truth, they, the laborers were servicing the master.  For without a working force there was no wealth for the entrepreneur.

    In those post-World War II years, labor and productivity increased.  Workers produced more materials.  Corporations were generous with their profits.  The economy grew and entrepreneurs were willing to share.  Actually, the government demanded this.

    Government policies worked to ensure that productivity gains translated into more pay for Americans at all levels, including regular increases in the minimum wage and greater investment in the social safety net . . . Full employment was also a government priority.

    Fair wages, generous salaries, and reasonable benefits were given to employees.  Laborers were recognized for their worth.  A happy worker is and was a good worker.  A satisfied staff would serve the customers well.  The businessmen and women would benefit; corporate owners would reap the greatest rewards.

    In those years, unions were a driving force.  Workers had bargaining power.  Of course, that was before the Reagan reign, and prior to his presidential dictums, those that promoted union busting.

    Then beginning in the

    mid-1970’s until 1995, the trend reversed.  The gap between the rich and poor widened at a rapid clip.  The upper echelons ?” generally the top 20 percent of American households ?” experienced steady gains, while families in the bottom 40 percent were faced with declining or stagnating incomes.

    Once again the planets were aligned, or at least an ancient economic theory was.

    For centuries, there was a well-known belief that twenty percent of the population owned eighty percent of the wealth.  In 1906 one man, Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of dollars that he observed within his own country.  Later that code would be named the Pareto’s Principle.  This principle presupposed that there was only a given amount of assets.  These limited treasures must be divided among the masses.  However, because the supply was small and the rich already retained much of the wealth that was, there was little leftover for those of lesser means.  As the population increased the prosperous became more so; they understood the rule of 72.

    This canon is evident in recent reports.

    Rich people are also being made richer, recent government data shows, by strong returns on investment income.  In 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, the top 1 percent of households owned 57.5 percent of corporate wealth, generally [realized as] dividends, and capital gains, up from 53.4 percent a year earlier.

    The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank, compared the latest data from Mr. Piketty and Mr. Saez to comprehensive reports on income trends from the Congressional Budget Office.  Every way it sliced the data, it found a striking share of total income concentrated at the top of the income ladder as of 2004.

    • The top 10 percent of households had 46 percent of the nation’s income, their biggest share in all but two of the last 70 years.

    • The top 1 percent of households had 19.5 percent (see graph).

    • The top one-tenth of 1 percent of households actually received nearly half of the increased share going to the top 1 percent.

    Whether we speak of centuries past or the present, the poor continue to pound the pavement.  They were, and are, searching for their lump of salt.

    In America, the Puritan work ethic feed and feeds the folly of scarcity, sacrifice, and service well.  The standard suggests

    a Calvinist value emphasizing the necessity of constant labor in one’s calling as a sign of personal salvation.  Protestants beginning with Martin Luther had re-conceptualized work as a duty in the world for the benefit of the individual and society as a whole.  The Catholic idea of good “works” was transformed into an obligation to work diligently as a sign of grace.

      However, few noticed that the most well-off worked little.  They had and have servants, slaves, and subordinates.  For many of the moneyed, wealth was and is handed down.  The truly well-to-do worked and labor little; yet it was believed and thought true today, they are superior and certainly would be well received at the Pearly Gates.

    It was and is the majority population, the masses that labor diligently.  The poor and the middle class hope to get ahead.  At least they yearn to stay solvent.  The middle and lower classes sweat, they slave, they survive, and looked forward to salvation.  They do this while the wealthiest continue to reap greater gains from their toil [capital gains.]

    It seems obvious that the populace has adopted a misleading notion, that there is only so much to go around, or they believe that they must pay their dues before they can prosper.  It seems to me that people, for the most part accept their station, and expect others to recognize theirs.

    Those of color, minority races, ethnicities, or creeds rarely are given opportunities to excel; nor do they truly and deeply believe they will be able to do so in a society such as ours.  Individuals in the middle, as few as there are nowadays, are gratified when they have enough.  They expect little more than meets their needs.  They have been taught not to crave more than creature comforts.  They learned their lessons well.  The wealthiest among us are the masses mentors.

    In 1906, Italy, and in America today, I think poverty is imposed.  Scarcity is supported; the idea of abundance for all is avoided, intentionally.

    I have actually heard many prosperous persons speak of their need and desire to keep the poor, poor.  Thus, I present my personal theory for your “consumption.”  I think until we truly address the issue of attitudes, and more importantly, the perception of scarcity, nothing will change.

    I believe this myth was originated within the world to preserve opulence for the few.  The fable has long been maintained by “superior” beings.  The blue-bloods believe they are deserving.  Thus, they deem it just.  The poor and impoverished must sacrifice their souls while working in meaningless jobs; they must spill their blood while the rich wage war and they do.

    I proclaim the legend is not true.  There is abundance for all.  Let us look at nature.

    If we enter the ocean and exit with a bucket full of water, we will leave no hole.  The space we made will be filled instantly.  If we scoop up a pail of sand, no void will be visible.  Within minutes the wind, the water, and Mother Nature herself will replenish what we took away.  Granted we can strip the land naked.  Nevertheless, we cannot kill it, though human beings certainly try.

    A polluted pond will produce algae in abundance.  Life grows.  A concrete highway will not seal away the weeds.  Look between the cracks.  Consider the bugs, the vermin, and viruses.  Man tries to kill these; yet, they never truly die.  More emerge where others once existed.

    You may question my thinking and suggest our limited supply of oil.  I offer this.  Were it not for man’s spoils, his need to accelerate the depletion/reproduction cycle within his surroundings, the Earth would be replenishing the petroleum supply.  Actually, it is.  We simply steal from the source before it can create greater resources.

    The super rich have created the illusion of scarcity and we all believe it.  They have sold society this package of goods and we buy it.  Those that live lavishly have created a civilization of consumerism.  They need us and we want to be them.

    However, contrary to popular belief, I think a world of disparity devastates our social order.  I have little complaint for the rich getting richer.  I struggle with the poor getting poorer, and the comfortable middle becoming less so.  Again, I contend there is abundance for us all.

    I invite you to explore.  Please take some time to assess life, the real world of plenty, and the artificial world of scarcity.  Observe it from an alternative perspective.  I ask you to be cogent; are you accepting and expecting less because you were taught, “you should.”

    Please witness nature and absorb the wisdom.  Watch the plants, the animals, the insects, the water, the sand, and see for yourself.  Ponder the prospect.  Were it not for the influence of man would resources be in balance, reproducing and reducing only to ensure stability and beauty?  I think they would.  Oh, what we do and have done.  Then we wonder why is there income inequity.  We continually create it.

    ~ You may enjoy discussions on the New York Times article, Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity, By Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt. August 28, 2006.
    • Brad DeLong offers, Greenhouse and Leonhardt on Real Wages and Productivity
    • Max Sawicky presents The Poverty of Pedantry
    • Mark Thoma tenders Paul Krugman: Wages, Wealth and Politics

    Plunge into Poverty, Pass into a Life of Simple Pleasures, or Seek the Land of Plenty . . .

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