The Politics of American Greed
By Molly Ivins
07/12/06 "AlterNet" -- -- I don't get it. What's the percentage in
keeping the minimum wage at $5.15 an hour? After nine years? This is
such an unnecessary and nasty Republican move. Congress has voted
seven times to raise its own wages since last the minimum wage
budged. Of course, Congress always raises its own salary in the dark
of night, hoping no one will notice. But now it does the same with
the minimum wage, quietly killing it.
Anyone who doesn't think this is a country where the rich are
getting richer and the poor are getting poorer needs to check the
numbers -- this is Bush country, where a rising tide lifts all
According to the current issue of Mother Jones:
- One in four U.S. jobs pays less than a poverty-level
- Since 2000, the number of Americans living below the
poverty line at any one time has risen steadily. Now, 13
percent -- 37 million Americans -- are officially poor.
- Bush's tax cuts (extended until 2010) save those earning
between $20,000 and $30,000 an average of $10 a year, while
those making $1 million are saved $42,700.
- In 2002, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, compared those
who point out such statistics as the one above to Adolph
Hitler (surely he meant Stalin?).
- Bush has diverted $750 million to "healthy marriages" by
shifting funds from social services, mostly childcare.
- Bush has proposed cutting housing programs for
low-income people with disabilities by 50 percent.
- A series of related stats -- starting with the news that
two out of three new jobs are in the suburbs -- shows how
the poor are further disadvantaged in the job hunt by lack
of public or private transportation.
Meanwhile, for those who have been following the collapse of
the pension system, please note a series in The Wall Street
Journal by Ellen Schultz taking a hard look at executive pension
- "Benefits for executives now account for a significant
share of pension obligations in the United States, an
average of 8 percent (of large companies). Sometimes a
company's obligation for a single executive's pension
approaches $100 million."
- "These liabilities are largely hidden, because
corporations don't distinguish them from overall pension
obligations in their federal financial findings."
- "As a result, the savings that companies make by
curtailing pensions of regular retirees -- which have
totaled billions of dollars in recent years -- can mask a
rising cost of benefits for executives."
- "Executive pensions, even when they won't be paid until
years from now, drag down the earnings today. And they do so
in a way that's disproportionate to their size, because they
aren't funded with dedicated assets."
It seems to me that we've seen enough evidence over the years
that the capitalist system is not going to be destroyed by an
outside challenger like communism -- it will be destroyed by its
own internal greed. Greed is the greatest danger as we develop
an increasingly winner-take-all system. And voices like The Wall
Street Journal's editorial page encourage this mentality by
insisting that any form of regulation is bad. But for whom?
It is so discouraging to watch this country become less and
less fair -- "justice for all" seems like an embarrassingly
archaic tag. Republicans have rigged the "lottery of life" in
this country in ways we don't even know about yet. The new
bankruptcy law is unfair, and the new college loan rules are
worse. The system has been stacked so that large corporations
have an inside track over small businesses in getting government
contracts. We won't see the full consequences of this mean and
careless legislation for years, but it is starting to affect us
Molly Ivins writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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