Sunday, December 13, 2015

The American Dream: A Reality Check

The American Dream. It was built on innovation, determination, ingenuity and a willingness to take calculated risks. It created the most economically successful nations in the history of the world. Our success also required freedom of thought and a balance between freedom of action and creating a balanced playing field whereby everyone was given the same opportunity to succeed, or to fail---and get up and try it again and again if necessary. We've battled not just foreign powers but the greed of some here at home which sought to corner markets and enslave us economically. We fought back, not just through legislation, but also by banding together to create unions and worker associations. In doing so, we created a nation of abundance and what powered our national success was the middle class. It was open to everyone, and it allowed every man and woman to climb the economic ladder as far as their drive would take them. Nowadays, that's no longer the case.

America is no longer the freest nation on earth. We're not even in the top ten (we rank 21st in the world. just behind Portugal and ahead of Spain) We're not the most economic successful nation either. We rank 12th. Education is considered perhaps the most important determent of a nation's future. How do we far compared? Well, we rank 36th overall out of 60 nations. Schools have gone from a place of acquire knowledge and develop critical thinking and socialization skills to glorifed babysitters, abusive, undisciplined and sometimes dangerous students, not to mention teachers having sex with students (given the ages of some of the students, it borders on pedophilia).
According to a recent Gallup Poll report, American confidence in our institutions remain at below historical lows, at 28% (only the military and small businesses remain above high with 72% and 67% respectively). Even in terms of leadership, America is falling behind. The US President has ranked first in the world for decades. However, over the past couple of years, we've dropped to second, behind Russia's Putin. This year, we dropped to third, behind Putin and Germany's Merkel. So what happened?

Well, it appears what happened was that the vehicle which droved and protected the working and middle classes, the unions, declined. Unions were essential to protecting worker rights; for ensuring they had safe jobs; for making it possible to buy homes and to save for "rainy days" as well as their children's education by striking for a livable wage as well as kept our children out of the labor force and in school. They kept us healthy by demanding that employers provided health care, and gave us time off to relax (by the way, Americans are ranked 37th in the world for overall health in case you're wondering). Yes, Labor did have it faults. There was corruption. There was greed, especially in the upper echelons where Labor presidents and staff earned as much as the corporate presidents and board members they were suppose to protect the workers from, and yet the employees still gained more than they lost.
These days, unions are about gone in private sector with about 6% unionized and basically survive only in the private labor market (comprising roughly 1/3 of all government employees), albeit much more clipped than in previous years. In addition, corporations began exporting jobs, especially production jobs, to undercut unions and above average paying jobs and take advantage of pennies on the hour workers with no benefits as well as child and prison labor and a no strike guarantee labor force; all while continuing to get taxpayer based subsidies and tax breaks.

About two years ago, there was an major academic study which confirmed what the public had understood for decades, that government no longer represented ordinary Americans. The heavily documented study confirmed that the government---legislative, judicial, executive and the supporting bureaucracy---primarily serve the interests of the top economic 1%, which included the major transnational corporations and banks. Most of us had intuitively known this for decades, but even for the doubters, the illusion was shattered when the Obama Regime bailed out Wall Street and several failing companies with taxpayer money despite the public outcry. The reason wasn't some economic catastrophe. It was old fashion greed plain and simple. An ongoing attempt to bilk customers out of billions and it failed. So, with pressure from the government's corporate overlords, Obama authorized billions of our money and yet no one went to jail. In fact, some of our money actually went to pay millions in bonuses for these crooks in their stripped three piece suits who should have been wearing stripes of a different kind.

This study went on to confirm that, thanks to corporate money, the business-government revolving door, the working and middle class have little or no impact in US policy---domestic or foreign, or in US laws. This was verified again when the not-so-supreme Supreme Court affirmed Citizens United which declared that corporations were, in fact, "people" and as such, entitled to the same rights as flesh and blood people were, with one key exception. The High Court also ruled that money equated to free speech, and while you and I are capped as to how much "free speech" we are allowed to contribute to political campaigns, these "Frankensteins" aren't restricted in what they can give. That means they can buy who they want out in the open.

At the time of this study, the top 1% controlled approximately 40% all wealth. Now, comes a second study, this time by the Pew Research Center and the news isn't good. As of 1971, 61% of Americans fell with the parameters which defined the middle class. Now, according to the study, less than 50% of Americans qualify as middle class while the number of poor or working poor has steadily risen to the current 20%, up from 16% in 1971. While no specific cause was mentioned, there were several contributing factors, among them NAFTA, CAFTA, and of course, the Citizens United misruling. The super secret Trans Pacific Agreement will no doubt makes matters worse as it comes into play. Meanwhile, while income levels for ordinary Americans rapidly decline, the pay for CEOs has risen 937% since 1973; some 300 times more the pay of the average employee. Is it any wonder that with the US making up just 5% of world's population, it has 46% of the world's wealthiest individuals? So, add to this rising prices from everything from food to clothing to rent (of which seniors comprise the largest bloc), as well as the wildly fluctuating fuel prices, electricity, water, sewage and garbage costs, and non-essentials such as cell phones and internet plans, and you have the makings of some serious economic trouble and political instability (and this doesn't even include the wars in the Middle East, illegal immigration, and terrorism. Good thing we have the "Patriot Act" and government surveillance, a perpetual push for gun confiscation, a ruling oligarchy and the militarization of the police huh?).

As if all this wasn't bad enough (and it is), there's some more news on the economic front. As I told you earlier, the 1% control not just the federal government and a significant amount of the wealth, a new study shows that globally, the top 1% controls just under 50% of all the world's wealth---48%, which wasn't supposed to happen until sometime in 2016. That equals around $218 trillion dollars (yes, trillion with a "T").
The report was made public by the Swiss investment bank, Credit Suisse. The report goes on to say that the top 10% owns 87.7% of the world's wealth, which leaves everyone else---90% of the world's population---a paltry 12.3%. Is it any wonder why there's been such a revised interest in democratic socialism and libertarianism? The report concluded by saying that by the end of the decade, the world's top 1% will control more wealth than the entire remaining 99%. Needless to say, this is not acceptable. So dear reader, I put it in your hands. What should we do?

Pew Research: The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground

America's Middle Class Is Getting Squeezed Out

Middle-class families, pillars of the American dream, are no longer a majority, study finds

Pew Study: Middle Class Declining, No Longer Majority

The Top 1% Now Owns 50% Of World's Wealth

US Confidence in Institutions Remain Below Historical Norms

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