Sunday, November 21, 2010

Two Economies

America seems to have two economies operating. One for the wealthy and one for everyone else. The wealthy are doing as well as ever. Corporate profits are rising, taxes on the wealthy are at their lowest ever, and high-earner incomes are rising. For the rest of us, not so much. Everyday workers are experiencing wage-cuts or wage stagnation, layoff, furloughs, increased medical costs, and/or termination.

This inequity is also mirrored in the Deficit Commission's recommendation for increasing the Social Security age. Using the blanket fact that Americans are living longer, they thus jump ahead with the claim the retirement age should be increased. But as Paul Krugman and others have detailed, only white-collar and more well-off workers are living longer (6+ years versus 1.1 years for workers). Laborers not only work at physically demanding jobs, they also aren't living much longer than they did decades ago. Not only are they doing the back-breaking labor everyday, the Commission now - in effect - wants to make them do this work for more years before they can retire, or die, whichever comes first.

Tax increases are nowhere to be seen nor heard. Even though the richest are making as much as ever and paying the lowest amount of taxes ever, we can't ask them to pony up a few more bucks. Rich apologists whine, "If you tax more, the rich won't spend, they won't work as hard, they won't hire people." The administration of George W. Bush completely discredits this delusion. He was a tax-cutting fool, and he also presided over the worst job-creating presidency ever, yet the rich remained rich. It's everyone else that suffers.

We have an economy built for the well-to-do. The rest of us can only hope for something to trickle down. But that's not happening. Every policy or program gain we've fought for over the years is, also, now being redistributed upward by policies favored and instituted by the rich. We can't spend on mass transportation, libraries, parks, unemployment insurance, Social Security, or health care - you know, the stuff that benefits us all - but money is abundant for tax cuts and other giveaways to the rich.

At every turn, little by little, the policies - that have made the quality of life for American workers the ideal around the world - are being decimated. Pensions are disappearing, health care is expensively out of reach (and Republicans want to keep it that way), wages are declining, and retirement is further and further away. This is alongside the wealthy garnering a larger share of the pie by holding onto more of the gains of productivity and stacking the deck (with legislation and policy) in their favor.

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