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Posts Tagged ‘Class Warfare’

The Depression is Lumpy

May 16, 2011 4 comments

Depression? It Depends on Where you Live

Most of the time, when we speak of the economy, our language seems to represent it as a sort of national monolith. As if we all experienced the current situation the same way. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact there are several economies in America, and which one you are a member of will determine whether you are living through a depression, a recovery, or the one of the biggest booms of all time.

The Recovery

For a certain group of people in the upper middle and upper class, there was a fairly steep recession, a terrible scare in the market, and then, for the last couple of years, a slow but steady recovery as stock market prices climbed back to their pre-crash condition. Though this group still suffers from the general malaise of the real estate market, in general they are out there buying things again.

Let the Good Times Roll

Another very small group of 1%ers made obscene profits from the housing and market crashes. These self-styled “masters of the universe” have grown fat on fraud and the misery of others, and have no intention of stopping now. Paying no taxes and avoiding the prison sentences they justly deserve, they are, at this very moment, engaging in further speculation of the type that fuels inflation that none of the rest of us can afford, and causes grave harm to society.

Main Street

For the rest of us, it depends on where you live. When we see articles in print and online touting the “recovery” it is this fact that they rely on. Statistics are easy enough to skew. What we focus on determines what we see. That is why the employment numbers posted by the government are so confusing and at times misleading. It is common knowledge that the official definition of the word “unemployed” serves to skew the figures right from the start. Add to that the excitement whipped up over the job creation figures when many of these new jobs are not at all comparable to the old (lost) jobs, and we have a very murky picture.  It is true that if you happen to live in a state with comparatively low unemployment you probably aren’t catching the worst of the depression. But what would happen if we all moved to these few states?

The Rest of Us

For all of us regular citizens that have the bad luck to be denizens of the more unlucky regions of the country, such as the south, the rust belt, or the whole state of California, the depression is an obvious daily fact of life. In fact, sinse I began using the term “depression” about three years ago, not one person from any of these places has challenged me. I think of this every time I see a headline once again proclaiming that we are in “recovery” from the “great recession”.

The Poor

This final group has been living in depressed conditions forever. The reasons that a certain number of Americans have always lived in poverty are complex, but with enough will on our part it would be possible to reduce these numbers to near zero. Instead, under the flawed logic of supply side economics, that great and cruel experiment in social engineering brought to you by Ronald Reagan and the billionaires club, the number living in misery is actually growing. Soon it won’t matter what state you live in.

Food Insecurity and What we can do About it

May 12, 2011 3 comments

When These Squash Mature They will Feed us all Summer

One thing that keeps coming up over and over again as I travel the country and as I hang out in my Sonoma County home is the lack of food security for those living in poverty in the United States. Food security is an issue everywhere as large corporations have colonized both our supply and our production capacity. But, as prices skyrocket, the system now in place hurts poor people first, and hurts them worst. There are many right now that must choose between food and electricity.

What can be done? The first line of defense is to grow a garden, whether it is on land you control, or in little containers. Whether you do it alone, or with friends and neighbors.  Just get out there and grow some food. This is the weekend for the 350 Garden challenge. All over the country people are starting first-time gardens and taking control of their own supply of fresh produce. For more information on this movement, here is a link: http://www.350.org/en/about/blogs/growing-bigger-350-home-garden-challenge

If you don’t know how to grow your own food now is a good time to start learning. There are master gardener groups in many areas that can help answer questions. The people at your local seed supply will be able to suggest good plants for your eco-system. There may be a free or very cheap class at your local junior college. Or, you could just ask around till you find someone in your world that is a class A gardener. Gardeners love to talk about what they do. Just ask.

Once you get the garden in, there are a few other things you can do. Join or start a locally sourced meat-buying collective. Shop at local grocers and at farmer’s markets. Get to know the people that feed you. Even if you live in the city you can ask questions about where your food comes from, and make wise decisions accordingly.

It is also necessary to get involved politically. The corporations in the factory farming business and in the convenience food business have a vested interest in controlling what you eat. They make periodic attempts at making self-help around food illegal, usually using safety as an excuse. As if human beings haven’t been feeding themselves from this good earth for untold millennia. It is our job as citizens of these United States and this planet to resist these food-control laws. And if they do manage to pass such a law, to use civil disobedience by continuing to produce and share our own food.

Madison Wisconsin- The Protest Continues

March 22, 2011 3 comments

Capitol Square

I arrived in Madison WI on Saturday March 19th. When I got to Capital Square there were several hundred protesters walking around the Capitol Building. This is a small number compared to the week before, when at least 200,000 people had descended upon the capitol to welcome the 14 senators who had fled the state several weeks earlier to prevent Governor Walker’s union busting bill from being passed. They left because the GOP dominated senate still need them to create the necessary quorum for a vote on any bill that is primarily fiscal in nature. In the end, Walker had tried to do an end run by saying that the “Budget Repair Bill” had nothing to do with money. So the senate passed the bill without the 14 and without the required 24 hour notice. There was an immediate legal challenge which the governor lost and has now appealed. Now focus is on recalling him and his cronies.

But, even with fewer numbers the signs of protest were everywhere, and the protesters themselves were filling up every café and bar as they ended their day with some hard earned refreshment.

At that point I had checked into the local hostel, and though I no longer had three days of road grime on me I still had not slept in some time. The moon was full that night, and I decided to go find some food. The first people I met were a couple of local progressives that had been here for the whole thing. I will never forget sitting there at the Old Fashioned across from the capitol as the sun went down. They bought me a couple of beers and shared their dinner with me as they explained some of the fine points of Wisconsin politics. I can’t remember everything we discussed, but I do remember feeling so much better after a hard three day ride. Also, I learned that the place I needed to go was Williams Street (Willy to the locals) and there I would find a great thrift store, a food co-op, and plenty of good coffee.

Everywhere I go in this town people are talking about this. I asked a woman in a bar what her favorite thing was about the protests. She replied that it was the amazing sense of community. For several weeks there had been a little city

Everywhere There Are Signs

within a city in Capitol Square. People from all over the world, including Egypt, were sending food for the protesters. An amazing gift economy sprang up. For her, it was the community. But her friend had a different idea. He said he loved it that no matter where you went in town, everyone was taking part, even as they went about the mundane business of living. If you saw someone taking out the trash, they would be wearing a recall Walker t-Shirt. A baby stroller passing you miles from the square would be sporting a Kill the Bill sign. There were and are signs everywhere.

A bartender at a brew-pub across the street from the hostel told me about the day Walker pulled the skullduggery. Everyone was getting ready to go collect signatures for the recall effort when he got a tweet to get to the square right away. By the time he arrived there were 10,000 people. The capitol building is supposed to be the people’s house. It is supposed to be open to the public. In the first several weeks of the protest people had been sleeping inside the building. Then the governor had ordered the building cleared for “cleaning” and pushed everyone out. Now, people were pushing back in again. The police, whose sympathies were clearly with the protesters, would leave one entrance unguarded as they rushed to another. Many officers would change in to protest t-shirts as soon as they got off shift. Now, all but one entrance to the building is nailed shut.

Don't Mess with the Badger

Yesterday I walked up to Willy Street and finally got completely full at the salad bar at the food co-op. I got into a conversation with a substitute teacher who filled me in on the process for doing a recall. As the conversation developed we began to get into the psychological and philosophical problems presented by the dirty politics of the 21st century. She said she believed that Scott Walker is a sociopath, and I concur. When it comes to voting, people on the left are so often left with voting for an ineffectual or corrupt representative to keep a patently insane candidate from winning. But I have come to understand that though the candidate may be insane, and the citizens who vote for the candidate may be duped, the ones financing the whole thing are neither crazy nor stupid. They are just plain evil, and they have a well thought out plan that they have been in the process of implementing it for a long time. The great instability we are experiencing now is the end game. As we discussed this we began to wonder aloud-What makes a multi-billionaires so discontent with their lives that they have to go after even more of the available resources in the world? Why can’t they be happy and gracious and pay their fair share gladly? Why do they need ever more power and money, grabbed at the expense of those less fortunate? Why do they want to consign the entire world but themselves to slavery or starvation? And that, my friend, is the very definition of an imponderable.

 

More Frodo than Joan de Arc

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

The View from my Window

Here I am, a month off course, and ready to finally take the big leap. It has been a hard winter for many, myself included. I have been ready to roll for weeks, but not with bronchitis and not without any cash at all. Today I am breathing deeply and my little paycheck will be in my hands within days. Enough to make it all work.

Another consideration has been the weather. This winter has been a very hard one all across the country, even the Deep South. My plan was to go there first and avoid the deep freeze in the north, but then the snow and freezing weather went south before I did. But, freezing or not I will be heading out.

There is a certain excitement in the traveling, even for the purpose in which I am engaged. I have my maps, a guide book or two. I will be going by bus, so I must travel light. I have to carry my equipment-camera, computer, recorder, phone, and whatnot, plus food and water, in one carry-on bag. The other bag will have everything else. On the bus, you never know when you will have to schlep.

I am more like Frodo than Joan de Arc. I would gladly spend my days busying myself around the little piece of the world I call home, studying all the things that are fascinating and enjoying the passing days. But, I see the world (both my little corner and everyplace else) sinking into ever greater darkness. I often think that if I had been lived in France during the World War II, I would have been compelled to be part of the resistance no matter what my temperament.

Packing Up

Today, the uber-rich have been waging a vicious class war on the rest of us for a good many years, and we have not, for the most part, offered any resistance. This is finally changing.  The events in Wisconsin over the last few days should act as a clarion call to the rest of us. The uber-rich have caused a depression for the rest of us while they rake in record profits on our backs. They have used the corrupt doctrine of corporate personhood to purchase the federal government, and therefore delegitimize it. And now they want to all but dismantle that government, except for the military of course.

This is evil. Plain and simple. Wage slavery and economic colonization is just as evil as the old kind of slavery and the old kind of colonization. Ownership of one person by another is always wrong, no matter how it is framed. I am concentrating on America because I am an American, but this war, waged by the rich on people and planet is and has been a global affair. In fact, American citizens are the last victims, not the first.

I am not saying that every uber-rich person, as an individual, is evil. But, as a class, the uber-rich are destructive, anti-democratic, and wicked. They hide behind the un-workable ideology of laissez-faire capitalism, making the Orwellian claim that free markets = free people, when the opposite is clearly true. Having purchased Washington, they have caused the anti-trust laws to be all but forgotten, thereby allowing them to buy the mass media and ruin the free press in the United States. All of these things make the uber-rich a wicked class. It also make them traitors to their country, sanctimonious flag waving notwithstanding.

When faced with evil it is necessary to act, however powerless one feels. So, off I go on my odyssey into the wide world. My gift is that of the wordsmith. I can’t feed the victims of this depression, nor give them shelter, but I can at least give them a voice.

What is the American Middle Class Anyhow, and Why Should We Care?

January 14, 2011 2 comments

The American Dream

First, a little history: In Feudal times, there were three classes, or estates. They were the aristocracy, the clergy, and the peasants.  These classes were conferred at birth and the amount of social mobility was nil. As the market economy began to emerge in Europe and the New World this began to change. For the first time a moneyed merchant class rose up from the peasant class. These merchants came, for the first time, not from the landed aristocracy but from the common people. As their buying power increased so did their influence on the affairs of the day.

But, even at that, there were still large income inequalities. These inequalities lasted through the gilded age and continued into the 1920s.The American middle class as we know it today rose up as a result of the economic policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. This is the origin of the American Dream, which consists of home ownership, a decent education, and a job with a future and a large enough salary to enjoy the good life. The social safety net created by the New Deal made this dream possible for millions of people.

Though poverty was still endemic in certain areas the overall condition of the people was lifted up. The middle class also provided something to aspire to if you weren’t there yet. Every year there were newly minted graduates of universities that could say “I am the first in my family to finish college.” And the implied promise of the social contract was fulfilled-as graduation rates went up, so did incomes. The professions, formerly the bastion of rich white males, were forced to open there doors to everyone else.

They bounty was not confined to white collar workers. Through strong unions and a powerful manufacturing base the working class too joined into the American Dream. As did small business owners of all kinds. This new middle class were able, due to increases in standard of living, to pay more taxes, which built up cities, counties, and states. It also funded the safety net to protect those who were still behind in the game from real destitution. Neither hunger nor homelessness were big problems in those days. In fact, they were almost non-existent.

It would seem that having a large powerful middle class forming the glue of society would be considered a good thing all the way around. But there were those that thought differently. I am not going to discuss reasonable criticisms of the American Middle Class in this post, for instance the criticism of American over-consumption and waste, though I will discuss these in future posts. In this instance I am speaking of the elite class, defeated (in their own minds at least) by the New Deal policies that allowed the middle class to rise up to begin with.

The class war actually began around 1980, with the election of Ronald Reagan. It was slow and quiet at first, and always surreptitious. Slowly the market was deregulated, the jobs outsourced, the safety net eaten away. The apotheosis of the “free market” created a new body of “common knowledge”. The mental institutions shut down and the inmates were ‘set free’ to freeze and starve on America’s streets. And the price of education shot through the roof, as did the cost of medical care. As a new, now global, class of corporate elites formed, the luster of the American middle class began to fade.

The coup de grâce came in 2007 with the completely avoidable sub-prime crisis and the collapse of the economy, at least for us ordinary folk. The stock market itself came back very quickly, as did the million dollar bonuses. But not the jobs or the tax base. Now the rest of the safety net is in great peril, both from attacks by the elite and from being overwhelmed by millions of new ‘customers’. The middle class, once the greatest source of funds for services to the poor are now in need of such services themselves. And the elite class is not willing to foot the bill. They believe, along with Marie Antoinette, that we should “eat cake”

Here are some informative links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kwA-CwFK5A Paul Krugman discusses the origins of the American Middle Class

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A Elizabeth Warren on the coming collapse of the middle class

http://www.alternet.org/economy/41192/ Thom Hartmann on the war against the middle class