by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash
If the productivity gains of American workers since 1980 were reflected in our wages, our median household income today would be $92,000 a year instead of $50,000.
That's $42,000 per year that our 1% has stolen from our 99%. In fact, our wages today, when adjusted for the cost of services and goods, are the same as they were in 1970. Yet from 1820 to 1970, American business paid the American worker higher wages year after year after year.
Imagine what kind of economy we'd have today if our median household income was $92,000. We'd be thriving — instead of reeling from unemployment, home equity loss, underwater mortgages, credit card debt, student loans and medical bills.
What would have to change for us to get back the $42,000 per year we're being cheated out of?
Everything. Even if the minimum wage went to $15 or $25 an hour, or taxes on folks earning over $1m per year went to 50% or 70%, where they were before Reagan, or unions were back in full strength, representing at least 30% of our labor force, that $42,000 per year would still be going to the top. CEOs in America would still be getting 300 to 500 times more money than their workers, unlike Europe (20-something times) or Japan (10-something times).
Our business system is feudal. There's nothing more undemocratic. It's not as if any CEO is elected by his workers every four years, as it should be if our businesses were democratic. Then that CEO would be responsible to his workers, to whom he would owe his job, instead of responsible to himself and his cronies. The Germans, way smarter than us, have labor unions represented on the boards of their companies. They don't think it's the job of the top brass to screw their workers into the ground.
We used to be a Ford economy: at the outset Ford decided to pay his workers enough money to be able to afford the cars they made. Today we're a Walmart economy: Walmart doesn't pay its workers enough wages for them to get off food stamps. We're forced to live on credit. When our 1% of rich folks inflated the housing bubble to create their fraudulent derivatives, regular folks had enough equity in their homes to finance their living standards. For a short while. Then that Ponzi scheme collapsed. Today we Americans don't get paid enough for us to have an economy. The rich have plucked the goose so bare, there's nothing left but the bones.
America's workers have been completely disempowered. They're the most pathetic bunch on the planet. They live in the biggest economy on earth, and they have fewer rights than peasants. They're like women in Saudi-Arabia — hapless, helpless, and completely oppressed. In Washington, nobody's talking about creating more work for workers, like FDR did with his Public Works Administration, which would be the sensible thing to do. They're talking about deficits, a smokescreen issue of the 1% to take down our social safety net of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Wall Street would dearly like to have Social Security privatized, so they could have all that money to gamble with.
You and I are screwed forevermore.
How on earth did the 1% get the GOP and the Dems to do its bidding in Washington against the interest of the 99%? For example, what lies behind the GOP's policy of no new taxes, cut spending and shrink government, the agenda that dominates Washington, even for the Dems?
Racism, pure and simple. What the GOP is really doing, is saying to white people: the government is taking your money to spend it on black people. On poor people. On them. The takers. The moochers. The 47% of freeloaders who won't take responsibility for their own lives.
No amount of rebranding can sugar this hard core of what the Republican Party is all about. The fact is, more than 50% of white people in America are still racists. They'll let smart, clean, articulate, bourgeois black people go to Harvard, become doctors and lawyers, even some of them CEOs. But President? No, that's going too far. We want our country back.
The Republican Party is the party of the rich who uses social issues to get dumb white people to vote for them along racist lines. That's what the whole Southern Strategy was all about, and they're still running on it.
Lee Atwater said it best:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' ― that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me ― because obviously sitting around saying, 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'Nigger, nigger.' “
When Obama happened, it simply exposed the GOP more blatantly for what they are. Racists. Birthers. Tea Partiers. Let's not forget that the Tea Party was promoted from a few disgruntled racists who didn't want a black President to give their money to poor people into an influential movement by the Orwellian-named FreedomWorks, the outfit that recruited and trained them, and is funded by those exemplars of the 1%, the Koch brothers.
But the 1% have done more than steal $42,000 a year from us. They've also shifted the tax burden from corporations to individuals. After WW2, for every dollar that individuals paid in taxes, corporations paid $1.50. Today it's 25 cents. Under George W. Bush, companies were allowed to use off-shore tax havens to escape taxes, which is why Goldman Sachs can pay less than 2% in taxes, and GE nothing. We're not the moochers off the government tit — our big corporations are. So are our 1%. Since 1997 the 400 richest Americans have more than tripled their average annual income to $345m, while their taxes have gone down by 40%. A billionaire like Romney pays 13% in taxes, far less than you and I.
There is one little hitch in the so far successful program of the 1%.
You can't win elections with a majority of the white vote anymore. Demographically, the most useful idiots of the 1%, the GOP, are screwed. Screwed forevermore.
The interesting thing is this: could a white male Democratic candidate for president command the winning Obama-voting coalition of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, young people, gays, single women and educated whites?
Not necessarily. It seems that, in 2016, the Democrats will have to field either a black man or a white woman if they want to win. If they run a white male against the Republican male, the difference will be blurred enough for the Republicans to take advantage of it. Like George W. Bush did against Gore with his “compassionate conservatism” con.
But can a Democratic president make any difference? No. In fact, it was a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who deregulated the banks and passed a law that exempted derivatives from any oversight, thereby preparing the ground for the big Wall Street blowup of the economy in 2008. Democrats are as complicit in the takeover of our country by the 1% as the Republicans. There's no way we're going to get our stolen $42,000 per year back. The rip-off is built into the system.
We'd need strong labor unions to negotiate and strike for fair wages, and we don't have them.
We'd need a progressive Democratic Party to start rolling back the privileges of the 1% and give us all a fair share of the American pie.
A Democratic Party of Elizabeth Warrens, Sherrod Browns and Alan Graysons, instead of a Democratic Party of Blue Dogs, Rahm Imanuels and Barack Obamas, which is what we have today.
Will we see strong labor unions and a progressive Democratic Party in our lifetime? I don't think so. The 1% have won, and the 99% are too powerless to reverse a process that has now stultified into an oppressive, predatory, corrupt status quo. We're a plutocracy, plain and simple. A kind of Mafia-run place, because, on top of everything else, our 1% are crooks.
And it is a Democratic President who has let Wall Street get away with wholesale fraud. Yes, under Barack Obama, no senior Wall Street executive has gone to jail. President Obama has been the worst lackey of the 1% we've ever had. Under Reagan, for example, at least 800 senior executives went to jail because of the Savings and Loans scandal. Today, after a far bigger event of congenital and widespread fraud that led to millions of jobs and homes lost — with banks shorting their own fraudulent products, ripping off homeowners, hiring trucks to drive bags of druglord cash over borders, investing funds for terrorists, rigging the Libor rate … not a single big bank executive has gone to jail. All the crooks are keeping their blood money. Sometimes the banks pay a fine, but that's the cost of doing business, and it's a small percentage of their criminal profits. The fact that Wall Street can steal, con, commit fraud, cheat pensions funds, screw little old ladies and tank the economy with impunity proves that the 1% have become untouchable. The fix is in. We the 99% are powerless to change it.
But maybe we can hope. We can hope that the Elizabeth Warrens will increase in number, and peck away at the privileges and impunity of our 1% plutocracy.
Otherwise the American Dream will remain as dead as it is today.