Friday, October 19, 2007

You're Not Imagining Things: Life Was Fairer 30 Years Ago

graph AFL-CIO NowBlog

The Class War: Playing The Middle Against The Poor
To Make The Wealthy Enormously MEGA-Wealthy
...'Cause Everyone Hopes To Be Rich Someday.


People are being had.

We're talked (and will keep talking about Racism.)

We're going to start talking of Class -- economic power, and how it divides us in favor of The Man.

There will be more posts on Classism. We'll be speaking more about what we mean, doing posts on specific points, breaking down and setting up an entire world of distinctions. It's going to take a while. Months, half a year.

Don't sweat it. The Man's been using this system ever since The Man's been around. It ain't going no where. You're not late to the party.

Here is some suggestions I've heard used. Don't get attached to these words yet, till I confirm them solid:

  • Capitalist Class - Top 20%
  • Ruling Class - 60-80%
  • Middle Class - 40-60%
  • Working Class - 20-40%
  • Under Class - Bottom 20%
In any event, don't confuse the words of a distinction, with the distinction itself. The map is not the territory.

For example, when we promise something, it's a commitment between two parties to do x by time y with conditions of satisfaction z given the following background of obviousness. It isn't necessary to say, "I promise, I vow, I swear, I commit, I give my word, Yeah sure okay, I'll do it, You can count on me, No problem, I'll get it done, See you tomorrow, Pick you up at 8, It's a deal, Shake on it," and so on and so on. Sometimes just a nod of the head, or even bringing over the Cup of Coffee, is enough to indicate you not only made a promise, you're fulfilling it right now. The words are not the distinction.

What matters here is grasping the Distinctions of Economic Power being pointed to in these five proposed categories:
  • Capitalist Class - Top 20%
  • Ruling Class - 60-80%
  • Middle Class - 40-60%
  • Working Class - 20-40%
  • Under Class - Bottom 20%
Remember please that almost everyone -- (this is part of the problem):
  • Overestimates the Class they are in.
  • Hopes to move into the next Class "RealSoonSomeDaySoon",
  • Is statistically unlikely to change more than half to one class in a generation.
  • The lower one's class, the harder it is to move up.
  • Opposes restrictions on higher Classes due to false identification with and hope of attaining higher classes.
  • The two highest classes through economic control of the political system AND religious systems, systematically set factions of the lower classes against each other in methaporical and actual wars, while taking real financial profits.
Welcome to the Group News Blog Classism College.
I believe Classism is critical to speak of. As critical as women's rights was and as racism was and remains today. As GLBT rights is. Classism's time is now.

Along with my regular posts, I'll be spending time posting about Classism, both with posts pointing it out, and with posts breaking down and laying out key distinctions, and the distinctions on which those distinctions rest, and the ones on which they rest as well. Some of which will require some real study to work through. "Classism College."

If the world rests on the back of a giant turtle, you'd want to know, what the turtle stood on, right? As the the old woman said to the noted scientist at the lecture when he asked her that question, "Oh you can't fool me Young Man. It's turtles all the way down."

We're going to really get into the core of the distinctions. It will take months. Not as if it will suddenly take over GNB or anything. Just know when you start seeing discussions of Class on GNB, it's by design. There's a conversation going on here.

Sara -- feel free to come right on to this post and mark it up if you want, including correcting nomenclature. Or you know, write your own posts. Guys -- you're welcome to post directly, fix, mark this up directly as you wish. I'm just working it out on the fly.

Maggie -- please put corrections on nomenclature and percentages in comments.

Everyone -- please read The Underclass.
(Any quoting I do it would be inadequate. I read the whole damn thing to Kyle last night. Blew her away. My 17 year-old kid -- falling asleep -- was as excited as I've seen her in a long time about a political idea which didn't obviously directly hit her interests. Class, when communicated clearly, clearly strikes at ALL our interests. "The Underclass" is a GREAT article.)

Study the graph up top:

In adding hard data to Lardner’s impressionistic observations, The Wall Street Journal reports that “the richest Americans’ share of national income has hit a postwar record, surpassing the highs reached in the 1990s bull market, and underlining the divergence of economic fortunes blamed for fueling anxiety among American workers.”

The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earned 21.2 percent of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. That is up sharply from 19 percent in 2004, and surpasses the previous high of 20.8 percent set in 2000, at the peak of the previous bull market in stocks.

The Journal’s conclusion, based on an analysis of tax data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), is the latest in a growing body of information pointing to the widening gap between the Two Americas and an increasing public awareness that something more than a cyclical economic “adjustment” is wrong with this nation’s economy. Earlier this week, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which sponsored the panel, issued a report with the Center for Social Policy that finds low wages, inadequate benefits, and limited work supports leave one-in-five people (nearly 41 million) in working families struggling to make ends meet.

Bridging the Gaps: A Picture of How Work Supports Work in Ten States” confirms what the union movement has been asserting for some time: Many workers are in jobs that do not provide health insurance or enough earnings to cover basic expenditures. At the same time, these workers earn too much to qualify for work supports such as Medicaid and Food Stamps. (The Economic Policy Institute held a panel discussion last week on how work supports, properly funded and run, can bridge the gap for the working poor. More here.)

In fact, since 1973 the incomes of the top 0.1 percent—families earning $1.3 million a year—increased 353 percent. More than half of all economic growth since 1979 has gone to the richest 10 percent of America’s families, most of it to the top 1 percent. This data is part of the AFL-CIO’s “An Economy That Works for All” campaign, in which we are holding trainings with union members across the nation where it becomes clear that while we once grew together as a nation, today we are growing apart—economically, socially and politically. The goal of these trainings is to mobilize activists to take action and reverse this slide into Rich-Poor nationhood.

CEPR Economist Heather Boushey, co-author of the study, also spoke at the panel here last week, where she offered even more confirmation of the Two Americas. Boushey notes the corporate tax burden of top earners has declined by two-thirds since 1962, even as most of us are working an average 13.3 weeks more per year compared with the previous generation. Yet, as the CEPR study shows, these longer hours aren’t benefiting millions of working people.

Boushey also points out why most of us feel a disconnect between claims that we are living in a sound economy and our own paycheck-to-paycheck reality. When mainstream media describes the economy, two contradictory points are made: How rich we are as a nation and how we as a nation are unable to afford a robust safety net.

Reconciling these two themes, says Boushey, is the fact that the nation’s growing economic benefits have been funneled to a small group of the already wealthy, depleting the nation’s tax base and effectively defunding programs such as those that would make a difference for the working poor. When we hear the government can’t “afford” such programs, Boushey says, what that translates to is:

Let the wealthy take a bigger piece of the pie while telling the rest of us that’s the way it is.

Some Republicans in Congress scream “socialism” when fighting to prevent passage of children’s health insurance, but when it comes to tax cut handouts, they not only are first in line, they ensure Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy pass every time. Not only are Bush’s tax breaks (passed multiple times since 2001) heavily skewed toward the very wealthiest few, according to Citizens for Tax Justice:

Because the tax cuts are being paid for with borrowed money, the cost of paying the added national debt more than wipes out any benefits from the tax cuts for 99 percent of residents in each state. Only the best-off one percent are net winners from the president’s fiscal policies.

The struggles we’re facing aren’t a temporary blip in the economic cycle. Since 1973, the growth of family incomes has been much slower, even as the incomes of the richest 20 percent of families have risen much faster. As the percentage of workers in unions declined during this period, their power and the ability to protect their living standards also diminished.

As Jason Furman, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and an adviser to Democratic politicians, said in today’s Wall Street Journal:

We’ve had a 30-year trend of increasing inequality. There was an artificial reduction in that trend following the bursting of the stock-market bubble in 2000.

Understanding that the widening income gap in this nation is not a passing phase is the first step. Electing those to office in 2007 and 2008 who also understand this is the next.

"It's not about the economy, stupid", to mis-quote the Big Dog's famous 1992 campaign line.

It is about mis-identifying your place in the American Dream, and coming to grips with how your life has been being used by the forces of Class, and you didn't really grasp how deeply.

Yeah, I know some of you, the radicalized ones, the arrogant ones, you think you know this. Some of you may. I thought I did. Wrong.

Please be open to the possibility that where we're going to take you for on this ride, has something new to teach you, new distinctions, new oppotrunites for learning. Which implies of course, that you don't know all the answers, and even that some of what you do know to be the truth, ain't. That possibly, you may have been had, in a major, major way, including in places and domains you didn't, don't, see/saw coming.

The committment I'm making, what I'm attempting to do with GNB Classism College, is by the time we're done -- and it's going to take months and months, perhaps even a year; I don't know how long it will be, but it's going to take a long time, let's just say that for now -- is reveal levels of how we've all been used by Classism and the unseen unexamined distinctions within which it operates, the distinguishing of which will knock you, our regular GNB reader, for a loop. *smiles*
Becoming a competent observer of your life through a rich set of distinctions around economics, power, money, trust, force (state violence), history, biology, language, mood, and other core distinctions of Class, in a way you have not here-to-for lived life day-to-day distinguishing, will leave you operating in life able to make choices you've never been able to make.

Choices are also power.

Classism is about control of power.