by SAUL LANDAU
An advanced university degree can’t help you find a position –for a year or more. Yet, stocks, bonds, and derivative dealers, and those peddling hedge (evade, prevaricate, get around, beat around the bush) funds amass money (including tax dollars). Pious government officials and TV pundits assure you: the Wall Street establishment maintains the stability of Main Street. You watch Main Street get boarded up; your chances for jobs shut down.
Without work or prospects for a job, your housing becomes precarious – or you become homeless. Your future — worse if you have a family – looks foggy.
Millions share your predicament. No political party or government agency represents you or can channel your grievances. You’ve heard prestigious people eulogizing America and its collective Dream: a home, a car, a job. While sleeping, you still enjoy this dream, if you still have a bed in a home.
Amherst Securities, a brokerage firm, described the bleak housing scenario. Some 55 million Americans own homes with mortgages attached. In 2010, almost 3 million homes got foreclosure notices. In 2011, almost 11 million Americans owe more on their mortgage than their house can sell for – or have failed to make their monthly payments.
More than 50 million people slide toward home loss. The majority – those fortunate enough to pay a deposit – will become renters, since no bank will likely give them a new mortgage. Banks have not offered to reduce mortgage payments — on which they make substantial profits – or refinance the original loans with lower payments, based on the current retail value of the home.
The people who have fallen victim to the system that promised equal justice under the law have begun to say “enough.” They refer to bankers who got paid from public funds after destroying the economy and the poor who go to prison for stealing a loaf of bread. The Occupy Wall Street impulse spreads.
Not everyone agrees. In the locker room of a middle class “fitness” club near Oakland, two upper end members of the 99% exchanged chestnuts. Sneering at the victims of police tear gas and clubs, one real estate broker opined: “Those hippies need to get jobs.”
His tennis partner, who ran a collection business, sympathized with the Oakland cops. “Messing up the streets, provoking the police, shouting out slogans. My God, do they think we’re back in the 1960s. You can smell the marijuana smoke 100 yards away.”
“You know,” the broker explained, “these young people don’t appreciate this country. They should try living somewhere else and then they’d understand how good we have it here.”
Days later, on October 29, a NY Times column by Charles M. Blow answered the cliché masters by citing a report issued by the Bertelsman Stiftung — a prestigious German foundation: “Social Justice in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) – How do they Compare?” The United States came in 27th, near the very bottom of developed countries.
The statistical chart shows more than 20% of American children (slightly better than Turkey) and seniors (worse than Turkey) experience poverty. We rank behind in education and health statistics and near the very bottom of the 31 other countries in “poverty prevention.”
The degeneration began under the beloved (by fools and bankers) Ronald Reagan. Through the 1970s, Americans of most classes saw incomes rise annually by about 3 percent. But this trend went south when Reagan got elected. The economy kept growing, but only the elite benefited.
George W. Bush presided over economic growth years (2002 and 2007), but “65 percent of the income gains went to the top 1 percent.” US productivity continued to rise yet annual incomes fell during the first decade of the Century by more than 10 percent, to $49,909. A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study on the distribution of US family incomes from 1979 to 2007 showed the 1 percent of the population with the highest income grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007. (USA TODAY, Oct. 31)
“Increasing inequality and political control concentrated in the hands of the wealthy elite have drastically reduced economic mobility.”
The occupiers welcome some liberal Democratic support but the Democrats on Congress’ newly created “Super Committee” proposed cutting $400 billion from Medicare and Medicaid and slashing Social Security as well.
Seniors, disabled, and low-income people rely on these programs. The armaments industry also relies on Congress. Its 1,000 lobbyists (Congress has 535 Members) contributed $22.6 million to political candidates in the 2009/2010 election-cycle. The 12 Members of the budget Super Committee received over $1.1 million.
Five former super committee staffers now serve as lobbyists for at least one of the nation’s top ten defense contractors, representing companies like Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The industry as a whole employs 22 lobbyists who are former staffers of super committee members.
House Armed Services Committee chair Howard P. “Buck” McKeon received over three quarters of a million dollars from the defense industry between 2009 and 2011.
These facts should further enrage the 99%. Occupy America? Damn right! It’s ours – the 99% — not theirs (the 1%) – and our new communities cooperate for the common good. OWS has emerged not as a movement, nor a political tendency. These groups of citizens have declared the government, the economy and the political system — don’t forget the Supreme Court with Bush v. Gore and Citizens United — as ILLEGITIMATE.
Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP plays Dec 3 at the New York City New School for Social Research 12thSt. and 5th Avenue. Dvds available at cinemalibrestore.com. CounterPunch published his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD