Step right up, folks, and take your chances in the Amazing New American Workplace. Constantly high unemployment! Low wages always! No employee bargaining power! A corporate paradise!
Indeed. They’ve got what they wanted: a paucity of jobs against a glut of workers making for a terrified workforce and a terminally insecure society, the destruction of the unions that were all that offered hope to laborers that they wouldn’t forever be trapped on the bony rack of the minimum wage, and a populace trained to think of corporate managers as heroes and Masters of the Universe even if the populace doesn’t particularly like to think of them that way.
Yes, it’s a Brave New World sprinkled here and there with gold dust, chock full to the rafters with poverty and hopelessness.
There is nothing “natural,” inevitable, or inadvertent about this. For some 30 years, corporate and political powers have been deliberately, fiercely, and relentlessly battering the democratic pillars of our economy, creating a proliferation of cracks that have steadily crept into the center of our social structure. Then, in recent years, these power elites have turned their backs with calculated disregard as the cracks deepened into the very firmament of our economy, creating sinkholes that are not only swallowing “the least” of us, but most of us–including large chunks of America’s middle class.
This is the America they want us to be proud of. An America of skinflints and ragamuffins. An America of fat cigar smokers behind armed guards and electric gates, and emaciated tramps living under bridges because all the jobs have been moved to Third World dictatorships. An America where health care is, literally in some cases, a lottery, and where old men and women can go back on the streets with their tin cups to beg for change to cover the gaps when their Social Security is cut. Again.
OK, I’m trying but it isn’t easy. I’m having a hard time understanding what there is to be proud of in a country run on the basis of what’s best for the plutocrats and the military, that will cheerfully increase poverty if that will put another dollar in a millionaire’s pocket, that will watch without expression as an entire generation of children and old people die from preventable diseases if that will buy an HMO CEO a third yacht. It all strikes me not as something to be proud of but something small and mean an exterminator would step on.
The Census Bureau found that 31 million people lived beneath the poverty line in 2000. That was 11.3 percent of our people– bad enough. But in the next decade (spurred by the Bush-Cheney regime of wage-busting corporatists and Koch-headed ideologues in Congress), the percentage moved steadily up, reaching 15.1 percent in 2010, or more than 46 million of us—the highest number in the half-century the Bureau has been reporting poverty figures. This despite the fact that America’s wealth grew astronomically in those same 10 years (yes, there was the Wall Street crash of 2007-08, but the Great Recession it caused officially ended in mid-2009, and more wealth than ever quickly began to be generated. Yet in 2010, another 2.6 million of us plummeted into poverty).
I don’t feel like I’m going to a birthday party. I feel like I’m going to a funeral and it might be mine. Certainly it seems to be the country’s. We appear to have given up on the American Dream in return for a fake invitation to party in the Hamptons.
I must be missing something.