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Thursday, November 04, 2010
Let It Burn

Got a hold of a phenomenal transcribed speech today, passed along via Twitter by Andy Richter, of all people. The speech was given by Bill Moyers at Boston University on October 29th, 2010. It's a long read, and even if you know a little something about how the owners of this country run things, you'll likely still pick up some interesting facts as you read it, and I hope you will.

The guts of it deal with the de-evolution of the United States into a plutocracy, or as Citigroup calls it, "plutonomy." The plan is to continue the 30-year shift of wealth from the working and middle classes to the very wealthy. None of this is being done in a particularly secretive fashion, but the vast majority of the ones catching hell don't seem to be able to form enough cohesion as a group to give a damn.

Well, you might want to consider what your passivity and fealty to wealth has gotten you. According to Moyers' speech:

I must invoke some statistics here, knowing that statistics can glaze the eyes; but if indeed it’s the mark of a truly educated person to be deeply moved by statistics, as I once read, surely this truly educated audience will be moved by the recent analysis of tax data by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. They found that from 1950 through 1980, the share of all income in America going to everyone but the rich increased from 64 percent to 65 percent. Because the nation’s economy was growing handsomely, the average income for 9 out of l0 Americans was growing, too – from $17,719 to $30,941. That’s a 75 percent increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.

But then it stopped. Since 1980 the economy has also continued to grow handsomely, but only a fraction at the top have benefited. The line flattens for the bottom 90% of Americans. Average income went from that $30,941 in 1980 to $31,244 in 2008. Think about that: the average income of Americans increased just $303 dollars in 28 years.

That’s wage repression.

This isn't just bad luck and poor career choices. There has been a highly concerted effort to roll back the gains made by the middle class during the post-war boom when unions were growing strong and creating a living wage for the majority of Americans. Since Reagan started busting unions in '81, your average income has increased about $11 a year, instead of almost $500 per.

You can't even support a starving African kid for $11 a year.

So, what are the remedies? Moyers continues:

Obviously Howard Zinn would not have us leave it there. Defeat was never his counsel. Look at this headline above one of his essays published posthumously this fall by the Progressive magazine: DON’T DESPAIR ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT. The Court was lost long ago, he said – don’t go there looking for justice. “The Constitution gave no rights to working people; no right to work less than 12 hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance….Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel and violate the law in order to uphold justice.”

Organize. Protest. Demonstrate. Strike. Boycott. Rebel. And violate the law in order to uphold justice.

Let me expound on that last one.

I grew up in the Midwest, close to a major GM assembly operation, and Delco labs, founded in 1909, which, in addition to building the only American-built plane to see action during World War I, invented the first dashboard-mounted car radios, and at one point employed 30,000 workers in the US. Union workers.

Even though no one in my family worked for GM or its subsidiaries, it was obvious the value that these jobs brought to the community. People who have good jobs and good wages spend money like no one else, including the rich. Their families go to the doctor and stay healthy, the kids go to college and get even better jobs, and the whole god damned country prospers.

Since the recession of the 70s & 80s, solid manufacturing jobs like these have disappeared. In fact, the assembly plant near where I grew up, after hemorrhaging jobs for 30 years, closed down this year. The city where I grew up, has largely dried up and blown away.

Sadly, I doubt that the information I've given about the town will help you narrow it down to less than a dozen possibilities. This story has happened thousands of times since 1980.

Getting back to it, the only union workers whom I actually know as neighbors today are police, fire fighters, prison guards and teachers. I know there are a lot of unions, but they have almost no power. However, they are certainly welcome to take part in what I'm suggesting.

Police, when a call comes in from a neighborhood of the sort where residents could afford private security, you should really take your time getting to those calls. Think about it! People of means can pay private guards to patrol their property and keep it safe from any type of intrusion. Even better, the wealthy are always well-insured, and can have any item replaced or reimbursed. Why hurry? Most of all, they really hate paying your salary, and in some regards, pay less of a share of it than working-class types, who do not have tax shelters, and cannot find the Cayman Islands on a map.

Fire fighters, same thing. Many of your nicer homes have state-of-the-art fire suppression systems that should be able to handle any manner of calamity. Why race out to some beautiful suburban estate to put out a fire and save a couple lives, when you just know that you're going to get an earful about water damage, tracking soot on the Italian marble, and trampling the rose garden? Heroes! Have some more chili, and go back to sleep.

Teachers? Stay home, you don't feel well. You probably get more crap from the ignorant who think your jobs are sunshine and lollipops because you actually get due process should someone want to take your job from you. Prove them right. Refuse to babysit their idiot progeny, make them pay for day care, or skip work, assuming they still have a job to go to.

Of course, the wealthy often send their precious snowflakes to private schools, so wouldn't this only really hurt the people I'm claiming to want to help?

You bet.

As the Moyers speech details, you can't really hurt the rich through actions like the ones I've outlined, because they are attempting to construct a separate economy from the one the rest of us are living with, anyway.

You! Working class, middle class, unemployed, and everyone hanging on by their fingernails! You need to start feeling this in a way which doesn't just make you scared or frustrated. You need to be angry about this.

Your country and its promise is being stolen away from you, and stolen by people that could afford to pay for it if the law didn't make it so simple for them to just confiscate your dreams and hopes. Until you stop being subservient, stop showing up and making the shareholders wealthier as your wages and benefits shrink, this will not stop.

Organize. Protest. Demonstrate. Strike. Boycott. Rebel. And violate the law in order to uphold justice.

Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. People are going to get beat over the head, thrown in jail, gassed, shot and killed. You can wait until you have nothing left to lose, but that day is closer than you think. Heroes act. The effort required is Herculean, and it will take all of us working together for what's good for all of us. Otherwise, to quote the late, great George Carlin:

"It's called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Wake up.

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posted at 3:20 PM

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