One thing that all Americans, Tea Party or Occupy Wallstreet can agree on, is that our system is too corrupt. Specials interests are taken better care of than the working Americans, and we need to change something. Well, disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abromoff recently did an interview with 60 Minutes describing just how entrenched and vast the problem is. He’s even thinking of writing a book called “The Idiot’s Guide to Buying a Congressman.” If you don’t mind feeling rather upset, it’s well worth the 15 minutes.
If you don’t watch it, you should take away just how easy it is for lobbyist to get what they want for their clients. According to Abramoff, it’s as easy as offering a congressman a job…
When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, ‘You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.’ Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ’em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.
And the results are real, as a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows, higher levels of corruption equal more special tax breaks for businesses.
But we’ve passed reforms, right? Haven’t things gotten better? According to Abramoff “The system hasn’t been cleaned up at all.” We all have a lot of work to do.
As the Occupy Wallstreet movement continues to grow around the country and with the majority of americans agreeing with the protesters, the 1% who controls nearly half of our nation’s wealth are starting to get antsy. Eric Cantor canceled a speech he was going to give about how income inequality isn’t really a big deal after he found out it would be open to the public (those icky icky poors were planning on attending). And Paul Ryan did a whole lot of double speak about about the dangers of moderate policy. Many conservatives still claim that in America, it doesn’t matter if you are born the son of a banker in Manhattan or the daughter of an unemployed mother of 5 in the Ozarks, if you work hard you’ll do just fine. But a new study shows what most of us already know, that upward mobility or as many call it, The American Dream, is in most cases, not realistic.
And that’s really why the Occupiers are so mad. It’s not that someone else got rich, it’s that they have so little control over their own destiny. After years of school and tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, all they have to show for it is a part time job at the mall, while the people who already have so much are raking it in faster than ever.
That message, that the 99% deserve to be rewarded for their work too, is scaring the 1%. Why else are we seeing scenes that look a lot more like Iran than America. In Oakland an Iraq War vet was shot in the face by a Police rubber bullet. He survived looking for nonexistent WMD’s in Iraq, but when fighting real live Mass Destruction like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America he ends up with a fractured skull. He probably enlisted with ideals like “defending our freedom”, but at home he isn’t allowed the freedom he thought he was protecting.
When scenes that looked like this happened overseas, The Obama administration was quick to condemn government violence against peaceful protesters. I wonder how long it will take to break there silence when it is happening to their own people. If I were a gambling man, I would bet ‘not soon.’
Speaking of inspiring, a youtube user put together this video about the protests called “I’m Not Moving” which compares the statements made by our government about the protests in the middle east along with footage of the Occupy Wallstreet demonstrations and subsequent police response.
Along with the growing and inspiring Occupy Wallstreet movement, there has been an equally inspiring tumblr that you have probably seen by now called We are The 99%. It’s filled with stories of people who have done what they were told to do, tried their best but feel cheated by our economic system. Two of the most common stories are people who went to college, racked up a lot of student debt, and are now underemployed and unable to make ends meet, as well as stories of financial burdens because of medical expenses. They want a more fair system that rewards everyone for working hard, not just the wealthiest 1%.
Of course, not everyone reads a story like this and feels the same way I do. Some look at this post and think “Suck it up whiner.” Those people have created their own tumblr called We are the 53%, a reference to the current Republican claim that 47% of people pay no taxes. For right now, I won’t focus on how that number is completely false, or on how a lot of the people on this tumblr are actually not even in the 53%, but rather on how odd I find it that all of a sudden conservatives seem to be all for raising taxes.
The people who actually don’t pay any income taxes are split up into five major groups. The first three: retired people, children, the unemployed all have no income to tax, the last two are people who have income but are so poor that they receive a refund, and those who have enough deductions through either utilizing tax incentives or donating to charities.
So recapping the 53%er’s argument…
Making rich people paying their fair share = Class Warfare (you freeloading hippie)
Making the poor, elderly, and children pay taxes on the income they don’t have = Compassionate Conservatism.
Luckily, it looks like Occupy Wallstreet is gaining steam in all areas, even among Fox News readers. That’s good news, because this has the potential to be the most important movement since civil rights. But along the way, let’s not forget to be inclusive of all the percents, even the 2%.
The Census Bureau released their report on poverty and income. It’s grim. Poverty as a nation is up to 15.1%, which when you break it down means that one in every six people is extremely poor. Poverty is even worse here in Michigan at 16.2% and REALLY bad for children in Michigan, where 23.5% of kids are under the poverty level statewide and in Detroit 53.6%.
And whenever you look at the poverty level it’s important to know that the figure was originally based off of food costs. Since it was created in the 1950s, most living expenses like housing and health care have increased much more than food, but we still measure it the same way. Here is a helpful image which demonstrates just how much the cost of health care has increased compared to food.
As you can see, we have an incredibly outdated method for seeing how many people are actually living in poverty. But the news doesn’t get any better for poor people, especially in Michigan. Next weekend, thousands of people will start losing their cash assistance, and food stamps has just been severely cut forcing about 15,000 people to lose some level of help in buying food.
You might ask, why has poverty increased so much when our economy is now so much bigger than it was in the 1950s? If there is so much more money, where is it? That is an excellent question that for some reason no one in the news media bothers to ask. The Census Bureau’s report has some helpful information on that as well.
As you can see, yearly income for the poor has risen only $2,600 over 45 years, and if you ask me, that’s a pretty lousy raise. Income for the middle class has risen even less, but for the top 10% it’s jumped over $50,000. That jump is even higher when you look at the top 5% and 1%.
When we cut services for the poor and continue tax cuts for the rich we are literally taking money out of the pockets of the neediest amount us and handing it to billionaires. It’s completely inhumane, yet to suggest that we don’t continue this reverse Robin Hood mentality is said to be committing class warfare. This proves to me that conservatives in this country don’t know what real class warfare is, and if they are going to accuse us of it just for stating facts we may as well actually wage it.
I’m incredibly thankful that some people in New York and Chicago are taking to the streets for the Occupy Wallstreet movement. More and more I believe that civil disobedience is going to be the only thing that creates some real change. And these peaceful protesters are already facing the kind of violent resistance you would expect from people trying to protect the wealthy. Here is a clip posted today of women who are standing still being caged in and maced by police.
I hope this leads more people to action. The only way our politicians will start putting people ahead of profits is if we demand it of them.