Jun 6, 2005

Why Secret Government Costs Us More Than Our Rights

Our Congress is discussing certain provisions of the Patriot Act [Big Brother] due to expire at the end of the year. These talks are being held in secret, much of what the Republicans wanted to do with the Watergate hearings but failed because they were in the minority then. Why is secret government bad? Because, it leads to unchecked power and is unworthy of a free people. The Repubs often say they want a smaller government [this isn't true in practice as the federal government has grown under Reagan, and the Bushes], but what they increasingly do is to operate in secret while they enhance the state's powers of snooping on its people. It's not an accident that the whistleblowers who want a clean and accountable government are being attacked by the conservatives.

If most Americans realized the extend to which the rules of the game are being fixed, there would be a social revolution. We hear that there has been an incredible economic growth, the stock market has climbed, and other positive indicators. What we haven't heard is that most Americans have, in reality, taken a pay cut! The average real income of the bottom 90 % [yes, you are in it] has fallen by 7% in the period 1973-2000! In 2004 and early 2005, wages failed to keep up with inflation since 1990, while, at the same time they tell us, the economy grew by 4%! So, who's getting what, and who pays for the excesses of big government and Big Brother? Read this article about the mobility myth.

"As the gap between rich and poor has widened since 1970, the odds that a child born in poverty will climb to wealth - or that a rich child will fall into middle class - remain stuck....Despite the widespread belief that the U.S. remains a more mobile society than Europe, economists and sociologists say that in recent decades the typical child starting out in poverty in continental Europe (or in Canada) has had a better chance at prosperity." This from an article that appeared in a bastion of capitalism, The Wall Street Journal (p. 1, May 13, 2005).

Another defender of unbridled capitalism, The Economist, on the eve of president Bush's second inauguration, produced a sobering analysis of what is happening to the old notion that any American can get to the top. "With income inequality not seen since the first Gilded Age...an education system increasingly stratified with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries" and great universities "increasingly reinforcing rather than reducing these educational inequalities.." So, the odds of an American rising to the top by his own hard work are getting longer and longer.

How is it possible than in a democracy the people allow to be manipulated into giving up not only their rights but also their money to the very rich, and, at the same time, being stuck with the bill of a failed war and huge budget deficits? Is it because delving into statistics and examining the numbers is boring? Why do Americans spend more time and thought in deciding their wardrobe and the color of their car than on how the nation's wealth is being spent? We are not talking about "small change," a billion here and a billion there, but about serious money even by D.C.'s standards!

In 1960, the wealth gap between the bottom 20% and the top 20% was about 30 times. Today, the same upper top makes 75 times more! [read J. Holland's article] The numbers are far greater for the top 5% of Americans as compared to the rest of us. Now, there is something seriously wrong here. I'm not in favor of forced equality, but the US ranks the highest in the index of inequality, while it's dead last in fighting poverty among the 20 most-developed countries!

As for the American dream, it will remain just a dream for many Americans who survive on half the median income! Americans are the most productive workers in the world but this without corresponding rewards is another way of showing greater exploitation. And, it's not like we're getting other benefits like universal healthcare, free education, and a strong social safety net. What's been happening is Robin Hood in reverse!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know what it would take to start a national debate about the issues that should matter the most for "ordinary" Americans... most of which don't think politics matter, and that the rulers don't care about them....
Yet, we have frequent elections... and keep re-electing crooks like Delay and big, fat oilmen!
Sharon, MI

Anonymous said...

It's OK to have pride in your country, but not if you're an apathetic moron! I feel the urge to smack those who yell, "We're number one!" while they have no idea and no interest in what's happening around them! Yes, they look like stinking drunk who thinks he's number one simply because he can piss farther than anyone else!

Anonymous said...

Then why so many other people want to come to the US? Some risking their lives in doing so?

Anonymous said...

Because their countries are worse off! Duh! So, OK, you wear socks, (and for this you're better off than those who go completely barefoot) .... shouldn't you care if the richest Americans not only wear expensive shoes and walk on the red carpet, but they kick you in the ass laughing all the way to the bank!...

Oh, by the way, have you noticed (probably not) that only the destitute want to come over.... Good talent is increasingly attracted by other countries....

Take a hint from our NBA Dream Team... It went into the last Olympics with the bragging rights of #1 only to be humbled into third place...

Anonymous said...

We've been told that the rising tide will lift all boats, and it has worked for ..other countries, because in the US we've given more rights to the corporations than to the people!
J.K

Anonymous said...

Another great posting, thanks. I'm also not for socialism, nor even a social revolution, but what's been happening in our country is obscene! I don't mind if others make lots more money than me, but once we lose the social/economic mobility then we're heading into the past, a class-rigid society and the economics of exploitation.
I don't understand how Americans have allowed this to happen... on the other hand, apathy will do us in!

Long Island, NY

Anonymous said...

A friend pointed out that her income has gone up in the last 15 years, so she argued that your statement about income falling is wrong... This is a good point to expand on.... I think that you mean that real income (adjusted for inlfation and cost of living) has indeed gone down in the last 30 years.

Even if it hadn't, I'd still be pissed off that the wealth generated is not more equitably shared. The very rich get tax breaks and other legal benefits to hide their wealth, and of course they don't contribute as much as they should.

By the way, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times is a big fat idiot!

Anonymous said...

Ah, Thomas Friedam believes that the exportation of labor to India is because the Indians are willing to work harder than Americans! What's this supposeed to mean?
That since Indians want to work 35 hours a ..day, Americans should be passed over for work? Ridiculous!

You are right, Americans are the most productive workers, but they don't reap the benefits of their hard work.

NH, RI

Anonymous said...

Maybe Americans think that no matter what they do it doesn't really matter! Politicians will do whatever it takes to push their own agenda, and government will continue to work. We're a big country and we tend to believe we are indeed number one!

Daedalus said...

The problem is that the right actually believes that there is equal opportunity in this country and that if you are poor you just aren't working hard enough. Easy enough to say when you've had no real hardships in your life. I for one am sick of being on the low end of the spectrum.

i tagged your blog for a blog book tag. i hope you will play along. oddly enough, i was tagged by a right winger, who called me a "completely irrational US leftist."

http://washingtonrox.blogspot.com/2005/06/book-tag.html