As has been proven time and again both here and on other progressive, informative sites and magazines, there is no wonderful economy unless you just happen to have most of its benefits in the first place. Unless you own stocks and property and have a well paying, benefit rich position or a comfortable two earner household, the economy offers nothing but more poverty in exchange for harder work and less security.
Consider this one, simple fact. While the 50 richest men and women in Los Angeles county are worth a combined $60 billion, one out of every three children in Los Angeles county lives in a family at or below the poverty line (defined as a family of four earning less than $16,450 a year)
When the following information is thrown into the debate about the benefits of this economy, it becomes even more troubling.
More that 20% of all Los Angeles county residents live below the poverty line.
The median rent in Los Angeles county is just at $8,000 a year or roughly half or more of the earnings of a family in poverty.
The one in three children living in poverty has increased from one in four just nine years ago or at about the time that this supposedly wonderful economy began its expansion.
An estimated 236,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles county alone, making for approximately 100,000 or more children living in the bushes or in the alleys behind your homes.
In Los Angeles county alone:
43% of all Latino children live in poverty.
33% of all African American children live in poverty.
21% of all Asian American children live in poverty.
21% of all Anglo children live in poverty.
2.7 million people, just in Los Angeles county alone, are without any form of medical insurance.
One out of every four children in Los Angeles county have no medical insurance.
Adjusted for inflation, the percentage of the total national income attributed to wages and salaries dropped from 64.2% in 1970 to 54.7% in 1998.
Again, adjusted for inflation, the hourly wage of the average American is less than was earned in 1970.
"Total compensation" for employees, defined as wages and employer contributions to Social Security and health care plans paid for by the employer, etc., has dropped from 75.5% of national income in 1970 to 71.6% in 1998.
During the same period, the percentage of total national income that is attributed to owners of capital (stocks, real estate, rent, business profits, interest income, etc.) rose from 16.3% in 1970 to 21.4% in 1998.
American workers now work longer cumulative hours at work per capita, 2000 hours, than any other citizens in the world, even longer hours than Japan which has held that dubious distinction for decades.
The individuals charged with your safety at all airports, the security personnel who run the metal detectors and who assure that bombs are not placed on your flight at LAX, earn at or below $12,000 a year.
Between 1983 and 1995, the inflation adjusted net worth of the top 1% in America increased an astonishing 17%. The net worth of the bottom 40% lost an astonishing 80%.
Median income for American workers was $54,600 in 1989. By 1997, the median had shrunk to $49,000.
Nearly 20% of all American families have a net worth of zero or, worse, a negative net worth. This is nearly twice the figure for 1962.
12% of all elderly people living in Los Angeles county live below the poverty line, an increase from the 9% recorded in 1990.
The after tax income of the bottom 20% is $7,175. If that 20% earned the same share of the national wealth in 1994 that they did in 1977, that income would grow by nearly a third to $9829.
If, however, the same rational was applied to the top 1%, their income of 1994 of $374,131 would drop an amazing $132,000 to $241,176.
Fact: the inflation adjusted wages paid in 1997 are lower than in 1973. If wages had risen in step with productivity and Corporate American profits, the average hourly wage would now be $18.10 rather than the anemic $12.77 it was in 1997.
When Forbes magazine first created its list of America's richest 400 people, it only took a net worth of $91 million to qualify and there were but 13 billionaires. In 1998, it took $500 million to qualify and there are now 189 billionaires.
As for the stock market's 1336% growth from 1983 to 1998, the top 20% of all Americans enjoyed 89% of that paper profit, leaving but 11% for the other 80% of Americans.
While unemployment in the late 1960's hovered at 4% due to the government's insistence on full or nearly full employment, the same 4% figure in 1999, after the federal government decided to increase unemployment whenever the fear of inflation appeared and the decision by the Reagan Administration to change how the nation's unemployment figures are arrived at, is actually closer to 9-10% if all Americans who are neither employed nor registered with a federal job agency were to be again included. It would be far closer to nearly 20-25% if all Americans who cannot acquire full-time employment is included.
The Federal Reserve Board's obsession with inflation doesn't hold water once it is closely examined. During the 1960's and 70's, America recorded moderate inflation, meaning between 3-5%. During that same time, prices inched up but so did wages and the value of capital such as real estate. Unions had the strength to bargain decent benefits and wages for their members and the world saw nation after nation clamor for a democratic form of government for their communities.
In the 1980's, when the focus changed from full employment and a high standard of living for all Americans to the current focus which is one in which unemployment is a tool used to control inflation, the nation is experiencing falling wages, high (but unreported) unemployment and a growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of the nation. Unions have been vilified as the cause of that unemployment as has the progressive's constant efforts to keep the minimum wage high enough to keep pace with the poverty level but neither is the true culprit. Instead, the cause of unemployment is the capitalist notion that creating higher unemployment rates keeps inflation in check due to the worker's fear that, if an attempt is made to acquire a share of the vast wealth that they are helping to create by asking for a raise, they will lose their jobs to someone currently in the ranks of the unemployed. Now, instead of a world-wide clamor for democracy, the world sees nation after nation rushing headlong into a pit that is 1990's capitalism where democracy is incidental to abusing and victimizing their own fellow citizens in the name of greed, alone.
Inflation, even at a moderate rate, erodes the value of stocks and bonds, making the wealthy slightly less wealthy. There is no danger of the wealthy becoming poor, only that the wealthy will not be wealthier as quickly.
As it was put so overtly to Congress by Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Board Chairman, "Should labor markets continue to tighten, significant increases in wages will inevitably result." Should wages rise, corporate profit might fall, creating, in the words of Greenspan, "imbalances that place our economic expansion at risk."
Remember, gentle readers, that during the time in the 80's and 90's that saw wages fall sharply and corporate profits soared, there was no cry regarding the "imbalances" nor of "risks to our economic expansion".
In other words, your own government is actively working and setting policies that will keep the average American as poor as possible while constantly insuring that the wealthy maintain and even dramatically increase their wealth.
This isn't due to Republicans nor is it due to Democrats. They are both completely to blame for these policies. The absolute and undeniable root cause for the policy of keeping you poor is that only the wealthy can own their own representative and you and I can only watch from afar as their dirty little dealings go on and on, with the average American having zero say in how the economy is shaped. As long as either party can so openly sell their souls to the highest bidder (witness the millions being spent to buy what little soul George W. Bush, Jr. has), then ideas like fairness and kindness and equality will continue to be only archaic words soon to be removed from all dictionaries for lack of use.
Gentle readers, for those of you who have struggled to keep pace with the sad reality of America's economic "miracle", you know that there really isn't any good news for the vast majority of real Americans. In fact, you know that for that majority, not only is the news very bad today but we will soon be looking back on today with great fondness, considering this to have been the "good old days"!
For those of you who haven't been able to acquire the knowledge that this site and others like it have offered, may I recommend three other articles that directly pertains to this economy? Here you will discover that all of the depressing and painful news that this commentary offered is only the tip of a rather large, looming iceberg, one metaphorically far larger and more dangerous than the one that met the Titanic. I would recommend checking out the resources that these articles refer you to, as well, since many of these sources are in grave danger of passing away due to the overwhelming hatred that the conservative movement and Corporate America has for the truth.
Perhaps, with just this small amount of knowledge you can all set out to encourage your friends and neighbors to rethink their blind obedience to voting for any idiot, as long as his political party is the right one. Perhaps their knowing of the damage that voting for the same clowns over and over, rather than voting for someone with a mind and heart, will convince them to "throw away" their votes for third party candidates so that these parties can gain a foothold in the American political landscape. It's worth a few minutes out of your life, isn't it, to try to force America to again care about its most defenseless and least thought of majority, the poor, the elderly and the children? (1, 2, 3, 4)
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