Black, Brown and White, Unite to Stop America’s Decline!
by Dennis Rahkonen
June 12, 2003
Unemployment is at a nine-year high.
Good pay is so scarce for countless wage-earning Americans that it often takes two or more breadwinners per family to try to meet pressing bills. (According to the New York Times -- Bob Herbert, "Caught in the Squeeze,” May 29, 2003 -- the inflation-adjusted median weekly paycheck fell 1.4 percent over the past year.) Well over forty million of us have no health insurance. Escalating co- pays, high premiums, and growing coverage exemptions render the insurance that many more of us do have...essentially a scam.
Worsening economic hardships keenly felt by white workers strike U.S. minorities with doubled and tripled severity, reflecting the destructive racism that remains deeply embedded in our dichotomized society.
Despite decades of struggle for equality, women still earn change to a man's dollar, with females thereby comprising the "pool" from which unscrupulous business owners draw the source of their profiteering.
An ever increasing number of essential services, formerly provided by government through relatively painless taxes, are now privatized. They're usually exorbitantly expensive, thinning wallets with fearful quickness.
Alone in the developed world, we have no social safety net to speak of. If an American loses employment or is dealt a sudden life emergency, he or she faces a potentially grim fate. As do any kids involved. They're commonly forced to eat in soup kitchens and may go homeless. In civilized and compassionate lands, they'd not be cast to the wolves.
Forty-eight states have budget deficits ranging from the merely worrisome to utterly catastrophic. At best, potholes in unattended roads get deeper. At worst, our children's education is dramatically compromised, even sacrificed.
The United States unequivocally leads the international community in one area -- the awesome might of its superpower armed forces.
But funding the Pentagon's mission (far less objectively glorious than flag-waving propaganda claims) diverts massive sums from worsening human requirements. The same goes for constantly surging corporate welfare, our "socialism for the rich" that leaves so many of the rest of us impoverished.
Jingoists mindlessly shout, "USA! USA! We're number one!"
In truth, we're embarrassingly behind many other countries in quality-of- life indicators from such basics as doctor-patient ratio and infant mortality, to safety on the job and in our streets, to care for the disabled, or the amount of paid vacation time we receive.
Being well and able to function is the most crucial human imperative, but the World Health Organization ranks the US a shocking 37th in healthcare, tailing even Oman and Costa Rica. Communist Cuba has long boasted of having better, more evenly provided healthcare (and education) than most of America's inner cities.
Scandinavia bests us virtually across the board, a fact which impressed an acquaintance of mine who visited Norway and wound up staying, finding a much more supportive, uplifting and secure society.
Data compiled by GeographyIQ.com reveals that 53 nations have a higher literacy rate than the U.S.; our 6% unemployment rate is shared with Fiji, The Central African Republic, and Kyrgyzstan; and we're between Thailand and Syria in percentage of population beneath the poverty line. We’re 33rd in life expectancy.
Why is this unacceptable deterioration occurring?
United for a Fair Economy findings provide the stark answer:
In 1976, the wealthiest 1% of Americans owned 19% of all private material wealth. That's gone to owning 40% of all wealth, more than 92% of the U.S. population combined. Taxes on the wealthy were slashed from a top rate of 68% in 1980s to 28% by 1988. The share of federal tax revenues paid by corporations dropped from 33 cents of every dollar in 1953 to less than 10 cents today.
Those statistics are from 1999, well before the Bush-era's profits-before- people blatancy and its additional favoritism for the rich. Consequently, things are getting unbearably worse.
It has to be made categorically clear that our beloved America is going down the tubes because public welfare and the common good chronically take a back seat to abject Big Business and High Finance selfishness.
Private greed prevails, collective need suffers.
Looked at more broadly, the avaricious "values" of conservatism have wrecked our standard of living, undercut our rights and civil liberties via an anti-terrorism guise, and gotten us universally despised for building empire through shock-and-awe invasions. All that we were taught to believe is worthy about our nation has been sabotaged for the sake of the rightwing rich man's gain!
While we still have channels for free dissent, the unified energies of all citizens possessing good will and true patriotism have to be directed at fundamentally remedial change. All of our country's misused and abused constituencies must unite to put serious street heat on the Bush administration and its plutocratic masters. Expanding the peace movement to resist one-sided class warfare at home is mandatory.
No more lavish breaks and cavernous loopholes for wealthy tax evaders! No endless diversion of the people's money to fat cats and Rumsfeld's imperialistic death machine!
Throughout history, every society's viability has ultimately been determined by how the common people fared. Measured by telling economic and social injustices -- and by a pervasive cultural decay that also severely erodes our future -- we're not doing very well at all.
In his May 24, 2003, radio speech, president Bush acknowledged that U.S. workers are the world’s most productive, although he didn’t say it’s speed-up and forced overtime that make them so. The International Labor Organization says our workers put in the longest hours among industrialized nations, averaging 2,000 hours a year. That’s more than two weeks annually than their Japanese peers, and ten weeks more than in Germany.
But our just reward gets stolen and our communities deteriorate. Setting things right is a mutual task we plainly can't afford to defer.
Working harder while suffering more shouldn’t be the “American Way.”
Fight the Power!
Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, WI, has written progressive commentary and verse for various outlets since the ‘60s. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org