A misunderstood relationship: Shirley Sherrod, the dog whistle from the far right and 22 statistics that explain the demise of the American middle class.
A preface to this post: There are so many titles and directions this post could go in. I’m almost tempted to title this post “The New Southern Strategy” or the ‘New Compromise of 1877” and talk about how historical events serve as the backdrop to what the far right is doing now in going after the administration and the NAACP. While these topics would be interesting to explore, and I may do so later, I want to focus on the economics of the situation at hand here as I feel that is behind all of the brouhaha around the race question. There are some folks working overtime to keep the race issue up front and center as they desperately want to retake majorities in the fall election. There’s a reason for that and it has little to do with taking back America and all of the other nonsense that’s constantly bantered about.
Given the our current economic malaise, there have been a number of pundits who’ve suggested that the US will ultimately go to war to divert the attention of the people from their economic predicament. These pundits didn’t realize that while on the way to war, the political discourse would stop by a way station known as race in America. The dog whistles from the far right signal that we’ve arrived at this stop and I suppose we’ll have to stay here a little way while they attempt to change the conductor. Apparently, the current conductor (Obama) doesn’t appear amenable to traveling to a way station that involves war with Iran and says he wants to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. That doesn’t fit the agenda of those who economics are based on war and conquest. I’m convinced that all of the clamoring about race from the right isn’t really about race anymore than war with Iran is about nuclear weapons. These are both just diversions. Issues of race and class in America have always had the backdrop of money behind them without exception
What would we be talking about if it weren’t for tea parties, NAACP “racism”, Shirley Sherrod, socialism and etc.? That’s what I call a pregnant question as once you ask it, many possible answers present themselves.
I’m a great believer in looking for news in places other than the headlines. The fact of the matter is that what is frequently called “the news” is nothing but a diversion and with the economic times being as they are, there’s more of a need to divert the public from the real issues that have contributed to the conditions, otherwise folks might begin thinking about the how and why of their circumstances. Here are some statistics that are fairly sobering about the relative economic health of the average American citizen. These statistics are evidence of at least two things: 1) A citizen who has been systematically ravaged by the federal reserve’s incessant money printing and credit creation which were used as substitutes for income growth and jobs and 2) A citizen who has been made to pay by a system that has allowed wealth accumulation to be consolidated in the hands of a few by a variety of means (deregulation, outsourcing, lobbies, tax policies and etc.):
1. 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
2. 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
3. 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
4. 36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything to retirement savings.
5. A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
6. 24% of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
7. Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
8. Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
9. For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
10. In 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
11. As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
12. The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
13. Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
14. In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
15. The top 1% of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America’s corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
16. In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
17. More than 40% of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
18. For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
19. This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
20. Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
21. Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 – the highest rate in 20 years.
22. The top 10% of Americans now earn around 50% of our national income.
These measures outline clearly the fact that the average citizen doesn’t have a lot of room between a lost paycheck and being out on the street as there’s little or no financial cushion in savings or investment. However, there is a lot of debt.
These conditions didn’t arise in the last 18 months since Obama took office, but were put in place over time starting with the oil and inflation shocks of the 1970’s and ending with the on-going financial collapse that we’re currently grappling with. There are specific people and policies that account for these conditions and if it weren’t for the diversions, much of our focus and conversation would revolve around these things.
That can’t be allowed to happen, so the tea party and the far right enter with a diversion— race, which is the third rail of American politics. Again, as I indicated in a previous post, even race issues have a limited shelf life, so expect the far right to attempt to keep the initiative here. Note how they got the tea party spat out of the airways with the story about USDA’s Shirley Sherrod’s firing in less than 24 hours. Last week this time, they were harping about the Black Panthers and next week this time it will be something else. We’ve got about a month of this, then they’ll check Obama’s poll ratings to assess damage.
Of course, in the interim, the 22 statistics listed above continue to go unaddressed, and more importantly, un-discussed. You really can’t discuss them without assessing those persons and institutions that got us here. Folks of all political persuasions contributed to this mess, but those on the political right are well represented among them. This is what they don’t want the citizens either thinking about or talking about. One can’t really think or talk about any of this without clamoring for the sorts of changes that will prevent this from occurring again. They don’t want that discussion on the table. They want to create some fictional issues and establish them as facts on the ground, hence they want race and tea parties filling the airways as the issues of the day.
The one thing I fault the administration in all of this is allowing these people to force knee jerk reactions to this false agenda they’ve created. The only way this can be countered is to establish the true facts on the ground beginning with the 22 statistics listed above while launching into a full frontal assault on why the republicans were holding up the unemployment extension for not being “paid for” when they’re the very ones who’ve created the massive debt we’re in because they never paid for a number of items. Supply side economics, pushed by the Reagan administration, was the single greatest contributor to the national debt along with Bush’s policies. They need to hang that around these guys’ neck like a bad piece of jewelry. They also need to attack them on every position they’ve espoused and expose their hypocrisy and lies rather than waltz on the battlefield set up by the opposition and expect to win. They need to trust that the people can interpret the facts.
The problem is that Obama and the democrats have never behaved as if they’re the majority and Obama seems afraid to use the bully pulpit of the presidency. This is the time to go for it and set all fears aside. If he’s going to be a one-term president, he’s not going to avoid it by playing it safe. It is time that he go boldly after his foes and if he’s a one termer, so be it.