Friday, July 15, 2011

Sealing our fates, Part Three

Those of you afflicted with total recall may recognize this as a sort of expanded version of a post I put up back in November. Some things bear repeating. Several times.

On Monday, Obama said Monday that he still wants
the “largest possible deal” in the ongoing deficit-reduction negotiations, and that it is possible to construct a package that would involve shared sacrifice from both sides.
Yes, we're told by oh so many voices that answers to America's fiscal challenges will involve "shared sacrifice."

"Shared sacrifice." Oh, my. What a high-sounding phrase. What a wonderful, "we're all in this together" sound bite. Group hug, gang, and a round of Kumbaya!

Well, I don't want to hear about "shared sacrifice." Not a single freaking word. Not one. Not from John Boner, not from PHC*, not even - in fact especially not - from Bernie Sanders. Because it's a pile of unmitigated crap.

Sacrifice? "Shared" sacrifice? Who the hell are they kidding - or, rather, who the hell are they trying to get away with lying to? There are a hell of a lot of people in this country who over the past few decades have done their share of sacrificing, their share and more. They have seen their wages stagnate, their real household incomes fall, their household economies maintained only by working more and more hours.

We - millions of us - have lost our jobs, six million of us so long ago that unemployment benefits are just a memory, a number that increases daily, and long-term unemployment is the worst ever, accounting for over 44% of the unemployed. We have lost our health insurance coverage and with it, often, our access to health care. Growing numbers have lost homes as foreclosures rise and rise again, foreclosures often driven by outright fraud in the banking industry, fraud which is unpunished and which by all appearances will remain unpunished so we can "look forward, not backward."

More and more of us have sunk into poverty, with the rate now at a 15-year high. We have seen our children go hungry, our futures darken, our hopes that our children will be better off than us shrivel, and discovered too often that the light at the end of the tunnel is just a neon arrow pointing down another tunnel.

And now we are being told that we "all" have to "sacrifice." We "all" must "share the burden." We "all" have to "share the pain." And we are being told this by the very people who have gained, who have gotten richer, fatter, more comfortable, more secure, even as we, like Alice, have been doing all the running we can do, to keep in the same place.

Ten percent of the total personal income in US is now taken home by the richest 0.1% of earners while the share of US national income taken home by workers has plummeted to a record low. All - all - of the increase in real national household income in the US over the past 30 years has gone to the richest 10% of the population while 90% of us have lost ground or at best held our own - and the lower down you are, the more ground you have lost. The income gap between rich and poor, between the rich even and the middle class, has been growing since the late ‘70s; it is now the largest in over 80 years - that's since before the Great Depression.

And what the rich don’t get, the corporations do. Between the second quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2010, real national income in the US, not just household income but total income, rose by $528 billion. Some $464 billion - that's 88 percent - of that growth was in corporate profits, profits used to enrich corporate executives and shareholders but not to invest or hire even as they sit on their largest cash reserves ever.

And still, still, still those who have gained over these past decades, those who have profited even as the rest of us fell further and further behind, those who have eaten the meat and even the gristle and sucked out the marrow leaving us only the scraps they thought it too much trouble to pick up, they are the ones who now dare to tell us that we "all" have to do our part, we "all" have to sacrifice, that we "all" have to give more so their stock portfolios won't be damaged in some future financial crunch.

So tell us, any of you business leaders, any of you political leaders, any of you pundits and big thinkers; tell us any of you important people, no matter who you are or where you are; tell us any of you sitting in your clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, with your white collars and cut fingernails; tell us, any of you who do not need to raise your voices in order to be heard**; tell us what you are going to sacrifice. Tell us what part of the pain you are going to bear. Not vague generalities about groups and classes with charts and graphs and bullet points, but you, yourself, personally. How great will be your "sacrifice?" How great will be your burden, your pain?

Because I say to you that if we "all" must sacrifice, if we "all" must bear our burden, if we "all" must share the pain, I say to you that the amount of sacrifice in the decades to come should be directly proportional to the amount of gain in the decades just past. That those who have gained the most should give up the most. And that those among us who have already sacrificed, already lost, have already borne their share and more, should not be expected to sacrifice at all, should not be expected to be the widow giving her two mites to the treasury until after - after, I say - you prove that you will do more than the idle rich who cast in only what they thought they could just as well do without***.

You want to talk about "sacrifice?" Fine. Show us your cards. Put up or fucking shut up.

*PHC = President Hopey-Changey
**Look up quotes from C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. No link because in any I found, the relevant quote was buried in a long list of others and so the link was pretty useless. You're on your own.
***Mark 12:41-44

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