The Coming Crunch, and What We Can Do
The Black Commentator does it again!
M.J. Parrish, from Lawrence, Kansas intended to write us a letter about our piece, but it turned into a wonderful mini-essay. We are proud to share it:
Thanks once again for a prescient article, far ahead of the mainstream media, which offers infotainment to anesthetize the masses. The coming retrenchment you speak of seems unavoidable with at least another year of Bush and neocons steering the ship of state toward the shoals. Current trade agreements plus those on the drawing board - FTAA and CAFTA, plus 30-32 bilateral trade agreements being pushed through almost faster than the trade ambassadors can sign them - will administer the coup de grace to the American economy, ably assisted by further planned tax cuts for the wealthy, further dismantling of the social safety nets, and massive wartime profiteering.
The result will most certainly be, as you predict, a time of retrenchment for Black Americans, but also for wedge politics against every possible group that can be singled out to blame for the dire financial straits so many will find themselves in. The truth is that working families have been on a long, slow slide since 1968, when income inequality, according to GINI measures, was the most equal it has been in modern history. The most recent figures rank the US at number 79 in the world in terms of relative income equality, between Moldova and Thailand - and the data in this 2002 report is based on records that are now 4 - 5 years old. It's evident that 2003 figures would find the US even further down, among Burkina Faso and Malaysia.
The propagandists of corporate America can't afford to have Americans wake up and realize the source of their misery, so the Republican party will play wedge politics for all it's worth. We see it in the Medicare pork-fest, where younger Americans are told that seniors are picking their pockets for their own selfish gain; that refrain will be repeated during the '04 campaign when Bush rolls out his plan for partial privatization of Social Security. We see union workers blamed for the offshoring of jobs, we see those opposed to tax cuts for the wealthy blamed for pushing corporations offshore, we see every single social program blamed for "raising my taxes higher than they've ever been," as goes the mantra from the Limbaugh flock - at a time when federal taxes are lower than they've been since pre-Kennedy days.
The plain truth is that even if the countries of the world hold off on extensive redlining, and even if they delay switching to the Euro - which has been under consideration by the EU, Russia, and the OPEC countries - the US economy simply isn't sustainable. We have an unsustainable debt, an unsustainable budget deficit, and an unsustainable trade deficit that's worsening every year. American workers are being required to compete for jobs with Chinese workers who are paid $1.00 a day, and they'll soon also be required to compete with an even greater influx of Mexican workers, imported by the Bush administration specifically for the purpose of forcing domestic labor costs still lower. Professionals whose jobs have gone to India or who have been replaced domestically by H1-B and L-1 workers will be competing for fast food jobs or work as a night janitor, forcing still more workers with high school diplomas, or less, out of the workforce.
Bush's "ownership society" plan will do away with employer-provided health care, pensions, and employer contributions to unemployment insurance (for the few in this country who qualify under the stringent rules). Instead, Americans will be expected to put aside money (in spite of real unemployment figures of upwards of 10%) in separate savings accounts for their health care and retirement, and the plan is for taxpayer dollars to provide a one-time pittance called a "personal re-employment account," with which those whose jobs have gone away will be expected to pay house payments, child care, retraining expenses and perhaps relocation expenses. Once that's gone, there'll be no more assistance.
Under the no-tax, cheap labor Republicans as represented by Grover Norquist and a host of Senators and House members, American workers will be treated as they're regarded: as lazy bums who must be forced to go to work and forced to take personal responsibility in order to prevent them from following their "normal inclinations" to sit around and demand a free ride. Bush calls this his "self-reliance, industriousness and responsibility" plan - a phrase which rings with contempt for the average American. Workers can take at least meager solace in knowing that American seniors are also going to be expected to "take personal responsibility" for much of their own health care. The "personal responsibility" crowd in Congress, who couldn't vote fast enough to overturn an amendment that would make them live by whatever "benefits" they offered seniors, have stated clearly that seniors as well as others aren't having to pay enough out of pocket for their health care, and so are frivolously consuming far more scarce health care dollars than necessary; this makes them responsible for much of the increased cost of medical care in the U.S., according to the corporate libertarians' version of the story.
It is indeed time for militancy in the U.S. as everyone who's not in the top 1% prepares to retrench. But we're all in this together, and I hope our militancy will include efforts to make common cause with all of the other disenfranchised groups as we redirect people's attention to the corporate oligarchs who have engineered misery never seen in the U.S. since the Great Depression.
Republicans and DLC Democrats to a certain extent will make every effort to divide us by color, gender, religion, age, and national origin so that we're too busy blaming one another to band together against the real authors of our misery. Let's reach out to each other in our militancy, and while we're at it reach out to citizens of other countries as well who have suffered from greedy, self-serving U.S. trade agreements. They're ahead of us in mobilization, having suffered longer, and in ways many of us in this country are only about to experience.
Thank you once again for seeing the big picture and sounding the warning.
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