The Widening Gap In America’s Two-Tiered Society

Americans, particularly ones from the middle class, need to realize that there are no core entitlements imparted by their government representatives, nor any other sources. They have none and should adjust their expectations accordingly.

If the U.S. populace somehow imagines that its members are viewed any differently than any other populations across the world that are used to produce maximal profits for the top economic class, there’s a rude awakening in store ahead. Further, most legislators simply do not care whether middle and lower class interests are or aren’t well served as long as they, themselves, can somehow make out well in the times ahead.

Besides, why should any Americans feel that they deserve to be treated more favorably by the transnational moneyed elites and their government backers than their counterparts across the rest of the world? As A. H. Bill reminds: “The richest 225 people in the world today control more wealth than the poorest 2.5 billion people. And… the three richest people in the world control more wealth than the poorest 48 nations.”

Occasionally someone making a staggering amount of money in a crooked sort of way might raise a few officials’ eyebrows or induce a mild reprimand. In addition, he might, occasionally, be singled out as the token fall guy so as to be made into a warning example as was Bernie Madoff. Most of the time, though, no action is usually undertaken to correct the situation when directors of major companies carry out activities that are, obviously, right on or over the edge of fraudulent practices.

As Barak Obama, perhaps hypocritically, chastened, “Under Republican and Democratic administrations, we failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productive and sound business practices. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales.”

Yet, he, himself, showed no hesitation during his election campaign over collecting $40,925 from the bailout fund recipient and nearly bankrupt investment house Bear Stearns, $161,850 from the bailout fund recipient and mortgage underwriter Morgan Stanley, as well as benefits from countless other institutions that have received government favors at taxpayers’ expense. As such, it’s hard in actuality to deliver more than just a mild verbal rebuke about these organizations’ modus operandi if one picks up a personal windfall from not meddling. Thus, the financial corruption continues at all levels of government.

A case in point is the self-serving oil trader Andrew Hall. His relationship with Citigroup’s (C.N) Phibro energy-trading unit brought him approximately $100 million in 2008 despite that his parent company registered a net deficit of $18.7 billion for the same year and received $45 billion in TARP funds.

However, it’s been pointed out that he could moderately adjust his current level of gain and continue to maintain the same procurement pattern if he manages to stay out of the limelight. If he follows this plan in the near future, his earnings and bonuses won’t likely duplicate the $250 million personal compensation that he’d received in the past five years. Yet, he could still make out quite well all the same!

In any event, one has to question such lavish rewards considering that Citigroup suffered a 95% loss of its share value since 2007 in relation to which Phibro “occasionally accounts for a disproportionate chunk of Citigroup income.” At the same time, the U.S. government will shortly be the owner of 34% of this company. Put more bluntly, is Andrew Hall’s personal prosperity and propensity to add to his private art collect the best use of taxpayers’ funds?

As long as he’s a lavish beneficiary, would he care if they weren’t? As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith once suggested: “The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.” Naturally, Andrew Hall aims to keep such a cozy arrangement intact.

Besides, his personal take is relatively inconsequential. It’s a mere pittance contrasted to the almost two and a quarter billion dollars grand total — roughly $2,217,800,000 — that the top ten U.S. business moguls collectively grossed as their own recompense in 2008.1

At the same time, it cannot not be expected, in a market based economy, that political influence is not also a purchased commodity. Clearly, opinions are bought and sold just as easily as are any other products and services with payment being campaign funds, such as Obama’s, from big industry — offers of high paying future jobs and other lavish advantages dangled as bait.

On account of this kind of shady deal, tax subsidies connected to executive pay amounted to $20 billion in 2008 according to United for a Fair Economy (UFE) and Institute for Policy Studies. (Imagine if this money, instead, were allocated towards improvements in public education, provision of a universal heath-care plan or any number of other programs that could uplift the American public as a whole.)

During the same period, average CEO pay, at $10.54 million, was 344% higher than typical worker pay. This disparity, also, is generally indicative of a trend that increasingly funnels wealth upward rather than having it more equitably distributed across class lines.

Another sign of this ascendant drift can be found in the change between the first Forbes 400 report (1982) and its 2008 version. In 1982, an entrepreneur only needed slightly more than $100 million dollars to get on the list. By 2008, he wouldn’t be in the top 400 unless he’d garnered at least $1.3 billion. In other words, so much more wealth shot upward in the last twenty years that $100 million now is almost viewed as chump change in comparison to the new top gains.

In addition, Congressional reports have indicated that widespread tax avoidance tricks, like use of overseas banks that do not report amounts to the IRS, have cost taxpayers more than $2 billion annually. Certainly, these lost moneys could well be used to help people less fortunate. For example, the hidden $2 billion could be used to create job training programs for any of the one in nine Americans currently forced to rely on food stamps as an alternative to starvation.

To be eligible for such aid, a family of four, for example, has to have no more than $2,389 as its gross monthly income or 130% of the official poverty level and no more than $1,838 net monthly income or 100% of the poverty level. (There are few deductions and exceptions to the requirements allowed, along with limits for owned property value imposed, that further determine whether one meets qualifications.)

In other words, a typical household of four cannot receive this help if the gross income for the foursome exceeds $28,668 annually and, for an individual, the gross not to be surpassed is $14,088. Additionally, recipients cannot have a great deal of assets with a clearly defined, too high level of worth.

As such, they have to be nearly broke across the board. Meanwhile, it’s clearly disgraceful that more than 27,651,388 Americans are so extremely poor they require food assistance to try to make ends meet.

Even that help, though, is often not enough to prevent further poverty and many folks are unable to avoid outright destitution across the so-called wealthy U.S.A. So next, they lose their homes… and they lose them in droves.

The huge portion of Americans who do so are staggering: While the number of U.S. foreclosure filings climbed by more than 81% in 2008, the total is still sharply rising in 2009. In relation, 300,000 homes foreclosed per month from March to May in 2009 and 1.8 million homes represented the anticipated total for the first half of the year. With such a backdrop, one out of every 398 homes received a filing in April and a whooping 6.4 million homes are anticipated to be in foreclosure by mid-2011. Simultaneously, a record number of individuals, also, applied for bankruptcy.

In a similar vein, the jobless rate, despite some minor dips downward, is still seemingly on the rise. Therefore, the current number of out of work adults could well exceed 20% if all of the hopeless ones, who are no longer collecting unemployment benefits and who gave up looking for opportunities, are added into the mix.

Moreover, they will not be able to jump-start the economy so long as they cannot find work, and especially work at a living wage. After all, how can anyone make lots of purchases or take out bank loans if he has no reasonable income? So it follows that even more retail and wholesale stores, along with banks, will go belly up.

At the same time, the supply side of the market, itself, has created labor troubles. This is because goods have been overproduced. Consequently, there is overstock piled high in warehouses and shipping containers across the world ready to resume its path to the market once the spending reinitializes. However, spending cannot resume as long as the money has largely flowed to the top economic tier and away from average former and low wage workers, who can not expect to have decent paying jobs to create more goods until the current product glut diminishes.

In other words, consumers can’t buy much when money’s tight and work won’t be provided when there’s an oversupply of merchandise largely produced in second world sweatshops whose workers are paid so little that they hardly can put food on their own tables let alone make many more extravagant purchases — ones like toothpaste, soap and shampoo. Besides, they, too, face employment opportunities diminishing because worldwide sales are down for many of the products that, previously, their companies too copiously produced.

Concurrently, the bailouts, oriented towards fixing the credit side of the equation, are not addressing these sorts of supply side problems. Therefore, they will not keep the financial collapse from worsening.

Alternately put, TARP and other payoffs to the self-serving, unconscionable banksters and Wall Street high rollers largely responsible for the downturn will not produce an abundance of jobs. So the reasonable salaries, ultimately needed to buy the wares to cause industrial output to resume, won’t materialize any time soon.

It’s rather simple to understand, really. So why don’t Ben Bernanke and his colleagues seem to notice that massive job loss, itself, needs to be addressed posthaste? Why hasn’t a public works program been initiated? Why don’t they grasp that the act of offshoring all kinds of American jobs to maximize profits at the top tier does not ensure that products will be avidly snapped up by a greatly unemployed and underemployed public?

Since they, apparently, don’t understand, the downturn, with a few small upward twists, will remain in its plunging slide, which in turn will create further layoffs. All the while, the über-wealthy and their corporate supporters, such as most members of Congress, will continue to pamper themselves with capital largely derived from struggling taxpayers and massive loans that raise the federal deficit.

More to the point, how could the slump not last when the affluent elites gamble away huge fortunes comprising of their own and others’ money while manufacturing bubbles and Ponzi schemes in the process? How could anything change when they keep amassing more and more assets for themselves while indifferent to their impact on society as a whole?

Such practices as theirs, obviously, cannot sustain the American middle and under classes and it cannot buoy up the utmost bottom rung either. On account, scores of individuals of all ages continue to wind up in tent cities or ensconced on public park benches. (Supposedly, families with children represent the fastest growing subset of the homeless population in the U.S.A. at present and the average age of a homeless person is nine years old.)

When the upper-crust keeps getting richer by taking an ever greater portion of the overall wealth and government schemes assure that the process continues, nearly everyone else becomes increasingly cash poor. When every now and then big investors suffer hefty losses, the government steps in to shore them up again and again. However, this practice, clearly, does not help the populace in general. The evidence that it does not can be seen everywhere across the American landscape and the entire world.

It follows, then, that, “in the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2004, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.3% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.3%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.2%…”, according to G. William Domhoff, a sociology professor at University of California at Santa Cruz.2

Another way to measure the shift in wealth is by noting some of the corporate trends, themselves. As Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh, at the Institute for Policy Studies, point out:

1. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations; only 49 are countries (based on a comparison of corporate sales and country GDPs).
2. The Top 200 corporations’ sales are growing at a faster rate than overall global economic activity. Between 1983 and 1999, their combined sales grew from the equivalent of 25.0 percent to 27.5 percent of World GDP.
3. The Top 200 corporations’ combined sales are bigger than the combined economies of all countries minus the biggest 10.
4. The Top 200s’ combined sales are 18 times the size of the combined annual income of the 1.2 billion people (24 percent of the total world population) living in ”severe” poverty.
5. While the sales of the Top 200 are the equivalent of 27.5 percent of world economic activity, they employ only 0.78 percent of the world’s workforce.3

Especially exemplifying this type of corporate immensity is the Wal Mart company. For example, the Walton heirs have a collective worth of around $65 billion and over 1.7 billion shares, or 43%, of Wal Mart stock in addition to earning $29 billion off the stock price rise alone from November 2007 to June 2008.

Meanwhile, the Waltons pay their jean laborers in Nicaragua approximately $1.50/ day. Simultaneously, their average U.S. workers are given wages of about $12,000/ annum causing a full one half of Wal Mart’s 720,000 employees to qualify for food stamps.

At the same time, the clearly exploitive Wal Mart business model is considered an unqualified success — one that should be more often duplicated across the board. After all, it shows the capitalistic free market with its best possible outcome — profits beyond imagination and the American Dream come true (for the few who manage to take unfair advantage of the actual wealth producers)!

Perhaps, though, the best way to look at the new arrangement between citizens, State and the rising corporate structures is through this superlative summation by Benito Mussolini:

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management.4

Even if Benito Mussolini’s position has an alarmingly familiar ring to it, no one still should expect U.S. legislators to create laws any time soon that would enact tax code changes in order to remove subsidies that encourage overpayment to executives and that cost taxpayers $20 billion a year. Indeed, nobody should expect any major changes at all that would level the financial playing field, remove a sense of economic injustice or bring back jobs and reasonable wages to the American people.

As Joel H. Rassman, Toll Bros. CFO in 2006, explained about CEO Robert I. Toll’s $20 million compensation while shareholders were suffering a 22% loss: “I have yet to meet the person who has enough money.”

Like Toll, a majority of Congressional representatives, of whom many are multi-millionaires, apparently imagine that they never have quite enough for themselves and justify their dodgy choices accordingly. They, also, know who butters their bread and it surely is not the increasingly impoverished average U.S. citizens, who continue to be the indirect victims of corporate rapacity and pathetic corporate oversight by executives and Congressmen alike.

In relation, one wonders when a significant number of Americans will, finally, recognize that they’ve been had. Put another way by Andrew Greeley: “It should be no surprise that when rich men take control of the government, they pass laws that are favorable to themselves. The surprise is that those who are not rich vote for such people, even though they should know from bitter experience that the rich will continue to rip off the rest of us. Perhaps the reason is that rich men are very clever at covering up what they do.”

This explanation in mind, we need not worry as much about the terrorists from abroad as the terrorists from above and the duped voters who repeatedly fall for political candidates pandering to this broadly malignant upper class. The latter bunch and their sycophantic legislative admirers, more than any foreign guerrillas, are leading the world’s wealthiest nation into ever deeper ruin.

  1. Top CEO collected $702 mln in 2008,” Yahoo! News. []
  2. Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power.” []
  3. CorpWatch, “Top 200: The Rise of Corporate Global Power.” []
  4. Benito Mussolini, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions (Rome, ‘Ardita’ Publishers, 1935): 133-135. []

Emily Spence is an author living in Massachusetts. She has spent many years involved in human rights, environmental and social services efforts. She can be reached at: EHSpence@aol.com Read other articles by Emily.

16 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Justin said on August 25th, 2009 at 11:29am #

    Things are getting desperate, Emily. Great article. You should read Paul Craig Roberts

    http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts08192009.html

    Americans Ruled by Serfs is its name by the secretary of the treasury under Regan. authoritative.

    and also, type Larry Flynt’s “Common Sense 2009″

    Great article.

    Also, I would submit that we do not, and have not for some time, lived with

  2. Justin said on August 25th, 2009 at 11:29am #

    Things are getting desperate, Emily. Great article. You should read Paul Craig Roberts

    http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts08192009.html

    Americans Ruled by Serfs is its name by the secretary of the treasury under Regan. authoritative.

    and also, type Larry Flynt’s “Common Sense 2009″

    Great article.

    Also, I would submit that we do not, and have not for some time, lived with

  3. Justin said on August 25th, 2009 at 11:31am #

    whoops, i pressed enter prematurely…

    we haven’t lived under capialism for some time; instead, some perverse form of crony capitalism or command and control.

    or rather an uberclass, above and beyond traditional values and the rule of law, with a collectively sociopathic disposition

  4. Don Hawkins said on August 25th, 2009 at 1:28pm #

    Just watched John McCain on Fox News in Arizona town hall meeting. Mostly older women short hair go get them John, go back to Washington John and nukem John. No health care for illegal immigrants John and John and that sense of humor he is so funny. Then the President of the United States today on the golf course with the head man from UBS. Where’s the ball in the hole in the hole don’t you just love golf. For all of you out there that are still young thirty’s is young learn how to travel light and move fast in Clowntown USA.

    Again I sent this e-mail to CNBC and Dick Armey was on this morning. If even read I guess a clerk might find it interesting. To smoke pot or whatever drug of choice is one of those 1,000 topics and there is a few topics that can make drugs somewhat academic. In the coming years for the younger people to learn to travel light and move fast better known as survival is a good one. Not that serious oh yes it is. There’s the e-mail and I will put again something that was well put.

    Good morning,

    I watched a little Fox News yesterday Glenn Beck and Maybe it’s official now. He said that there are a lot of reasons to believe that climate change is not real and even if it is there is nothing we can do about it. Is that true? Some believe that reason, knowledge the real thing and facing the problem that should be first focus, imagination, hard work and the big one working together could just work. So far do we see any of those things happening? Why not what is the reason for that is there a reason. Of course there is always’ rocket’s for that aerosol injection that we seem to be so good at covering up the problem. It’s to late and there is nothing we can do I thought some would be a little more clever than that. I hear many say we can’t do this right now what are we doing for future generations all that money what kind of a future are we leaving them? The answer to that so far is none. Cap and trade will it pass maybe in a watered down bill or not pass then what simple as possible but not simpler no there is nothing we can do but wait the rocket’s will that work no it sure will not. The next year or so different to say the least.

    Don

    Twin Plagues Threaten Northern Forests

    HAINES JUNCTION, Yukon Territory
    (Aug. 23) – A veil of smoke settled over the
    forest in the shadow of the St. Elias Mountains,
    in a wilderness whose spruce trees
    stood tall and gray, a deathly gray even in
    the greenest heart of a Yukon summer.
    “As far as the eye can see, it’s all infested,”
    forester Rob Legare said, looking out
    over the thick woods of the Alsek River valley.
    Beetles and fire, twin plagues, are consuming
    northern forests in what scientists
    say is a preview of the future, in a century
    growing warmer, as the land grows drier,
    trees grow weaker and pests, abetted by
    milder winters, grow stronger.
    Dying, burning forests would then only
    add to the warming.
    It’s here in the sub-Arctic and Arctic — in
    Alaska, across Siberia, in northernmost Europe,
    and in the Yukon and elsewhere in
    northern Canada — that Earth’s climate is
    changing most rapidly. While average temperatures
    globally rose 0.74 degrees Celsius
    (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) in the past century,
    the far north experienced warming at
    twice that rate or greater.
    In Russia’s frigid east, some average temperatures
    have risen more than 2 degrees
    Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), with midwinter
    mercury spiking even higher. And
    “eight of the last 10 summers have been extreme
    wildfire seasons in Siberia,” American
    researcher Amber J. Soja pointed out
    by telephone from central Siberia.
    Along with shrinking the polar ice cap
    and thawing permafrost, scientists say, the
    warming of the Arctic threatens to turn boreal
    forest — the vast cover of spruce, pine
    and other conifers blanketing these high
    latitudes — into less of a crucial “sink” absorbing
    carbon dioxide and more of a
    source, as megatons of that greenhouse gas
    rise from dead, burning and decaying
    wood.
    American forest ecologist Scott Green
    worries about a “domino effect.”
    “These things may occur simultaneously,”
    said the researcher from the University
    of Northern British Columbia. “If the bark
    beetles kill the trees, you’ll have lots of
    dead, dry wood that will create a really, really
    hot fire, and then sometimes you don’t
    get trees regenerating on the site.”
    Dominoes may already be falling in western
    North America.
    From Colorado to Washington state, an
    unprecedented, years-long epidemic of
    mountain pine beetle has killed 2.6 million
    hectares (6.5 million acres) of forest. The
    insect has struck even more devastatingly
    to the north, in British Columbia, where
    clouds of beetles have laid waste to 14 million
    hectares (35 million acres) — twice the
    area of Ireland. It is expected to kill 80 percent
    of the Canadian province’s lodgepole
    pines before it’s finished.
    Farther north, in the Yukon, the pine
    beetle isn’t endemic — yet. Here it’s the
    spruce bark beetle that has eaten its way
    through 400,000 hectares (1 million acres)
    of woodland, and even more in neighboring
    Alaska, in a 15-year-old epidemic unmatched
    in its longevity and extent.
    “It’s a fingerprint of climate change,”
    Aynslie Ogden, senior researcher for the
    Yukon Forest Management Branch, said in
    Whitehorse, the territorial capital. “The intensity
    and severity and magnitude of the
    infestation is outside the normal.”
    Hiking through the wild and beetle-ravaged
    Alsek valley, Legare, the Yukon
    agency’s forest health expert, explained
    how the 6-millimeter (quarter-inch) insect
    does its damage.
    “Usually the female bores into the tree
    first, followed by the male, and then they
    mate and they both excavate a main egg
    gallery which runs parallel to the wood
    grain,” he said.
    The hatched larvae, just beneath the outer
    bark, then feed via perpendicular galleries
    they bore around the tree, cutting off
    nutrients moving through the phloem and
    killing the plant. Its needles turn reddish,
    later gray, and eventually wind topples the
    dead wood.
    Winter spells of minus-40-Celsius
    (minus-40-Fahrenheit) temperatures once
    killed off larvae, but those deep freezes now
    occur less often. And warmer summers enable
    some beetles to complete their reproductive
    cycle in one year instead of two,
    speeding up population growth.
    Years of summer drought, meanwhile,
    weakened the spruces’ ability to extrude
    sticky pitch, to trap and expel beetles. Because
    the snow-streaked peaks of the
    5,000-meter-high (15,000-foot-high) St.
    Elias range block moisture from the Pacific,
    a mere 250 millimeters (10 inches) of precipitation
    falls each year. Even a slight
    shortfall stresses the trees.
    The Yukon has experienced smaller,
    briefer beetle outbreaks in the past, fed by
    patches of fallen trees left by road construction.
    But “what makes this infestation different”
    is that climate change is a primary
    cause, said Legare.
    As he spoke, smoke from dozens of fires,
    some nearby in the Yukon, some in distant
    Alaska, wafted over a landscape already
    bleak with dead forest.
    In an authoritative 2007 assessment, the
    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
    Change (IPCC), the U.N.-sponsored scientific
    network, cited multiple studies linking
    the spread of wildfires to warmer, drier
    conditions.
    This June, in the latest such study, as
    early flames flared in California’s wildfire
    season, Harvard scientists said the area
    burned in the western United States could
    increase by 50 percent by the 2050s, even
    under the best-case warming scenario projected
    by the IPCC.
    In Siberia, “fire has been increasing, and
    there’s an earlier fire season,” Soja, of the
    U.S. National Institute of Aerospace, reported
    from the Sukachev Institute of
    Forestry in Krasnoyarsk. Her research this
    summer found that a warmer, drier climate
    appears to be stifling regrowth of burnedout
    areas on the Siberian forest’s southern
    edge, turning them to grasslands.
    In Canada, area burned is double what it
    was in the 1970s, despite greater firefighting
    capacity and some recent favorable
    weather, said Mike Flannigan, a fire researcher.

    And let me add again the changes are moving much faster than first thought still time with a Herculean effort and to me to try instead of what we see now insanity, illusion, foolishness, seems so much better. What are the reasons to not do that. It appears some still think you can eat money.

  5. Don Hawkins said on August 25th, 2009 at 2:57pm #

    Emily those numbers are amazing to see. Although as history as our guide not unusual same for 10k years. There is something very different about today and that is to see the changes coming to the Earth we human’s must go back two million years then 55 million years. Yes BH before human’s and if you watch the history channel or National Geographic channel they both have on something called life after people. Why are they showing that? Well some very good minds are trying there best to say we need to change. So far do we see us changing the us being human’s? Any demonstrations for change not really maybe a commercial by re power American that ask’s we hope our Senator’s are listening. Go back to Washington and show them who’s boss John. I watched Glenn Beck a little tonight man that person is nut’s but he does have some very good ratings in Clowntown USA. The next year should tell most of the story but probably better now to learn to travel light and move fast and how long before you will really need those shills 20 years and that could be pushing it. Anyway I wonder how the President’s golf game went today high 70′s how’s he doing in the ratings, poll’s. We must ask ourselves these questions it’s very important. John where’s Mesopotamia do you know where Mesopotamia is John you don’t do you John.

  6. beverly said on August 25th, 2009 at 6:49pm #

    You know things are beyond fucked when even flacks from the Reagan administration (see: Paul Craig Roberts’ Counterpunch.org articles) are making sense. Roberts’ articles are always insightful and spot on, however, I notice he never mentions the havoc wrought by his former boss.

  7. United-Socialist-Front said on August 25th, 2009 at 7:57pm #

    BEWARE OF THE ULTRA-RIGHT WING, LIBERTARIAN TEA PARTY TERRORISTS. THEY WANT TO KILL OBAMA !!

    Fidel Castro’s Reflection: I Wish I Were Wrong

    http://www.escambray.cu/Eng/Special/Comradefidel/2009/Cwrong0908251138.htm

    I was amazed to read the wire services issued during the weekend about the US domestic policy, evidencing a systematic decline in President Barack Obama’s influence. His surprising electoral victory had not been possible in the absence of the deep political and economic crisis affecting that country. The American soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq, the scandal about tortures and secret prisons, and the loss of jobs and housing had shaken the American society. The economic crisis was spreading throughout the planet, thus increasing poverty and hunger in the Third World countries.

    Such circumstances made it possible for Obama to run for office and be elected in a traditionally racist society. No less than 90 per cent of the poor and discriminated against black people, most of the voters of Latin descent and a broad working and middle class white minority, especially the youth, voted for him.

    It was only logical for those Americans who supported him to entertain lots of hopes. After eight years of adventurism, demagogy and lies, which led to the death of thousands of American soldiers and almost one million Iraqis in a conquest war over the oil of that Muslim country, which had nothing to do whatsoever with the atrocious attack on the Twin Towers, the American people felt tired and ashamed.

    Not only a few people in Africa and elsewhere got excited about the idea that the US foreign policy would change.

    However, an elemental knowledge about reality would have been enough in order not to raise hopes about a possible political change in the United States after the election of a new president.

    Obama had certainly opposed the war launched by Bush against Iraq long before many others in the US Congress. Since he was a teenager he knew about the humiliations of racial discrimination, and just as many other Americans, he admired Martin Luther King, the outstanding civil rights fighter.

    Obama was born, educated, went into politics and managed to be successful within the United States’ imperial capitalist system. He neither wished nor could change the system. Curiously enough, despite that, the extreme right hates him for being an Afro-American and opposes anything the President does to improve that country’s deteriorated image.

    He has come to understand that the United States, with hardly 14 per cent of the world’s population, consumes about 25 per cent of the fossil energy, and is the biggest source of emissions of pollutant gases in the world.

    Bush, in his ravings, did not even sign the Kyoto Protocol.

    Obama, for his part, intends to implement stricter rules against tax evasion. For example, reportedly, the Swiss banks would supply data about approximately 4 500 financial accounts of a total of 52 000 owned by US citizens under suspicion of tax evasion.

    A few weeks ago in Europe, Obama committed himself before the G-8 countries, especially France and Germany, to put an end to the use of fiscal heavens by his country in order to inject huge amounts of American dollars into the world’s economy.

    He offered health care to almost 50 million citizens who had no medical insurance.

    He promised to the US people that he would grease the wheels of the production apparatus machinery, stop increasing unemployment and resume growth

    He promised the 12 million Hispanic illegal immigrants he would put an end to the cruel raids and the inhumane treatment they receive.

    He made other promises that I will not list, but none of them questions the system of imperial capitalist domination.

    The powerful extreme right will not tolerate any single measure that could in the least mean a reduction of its prerogatives.

    I will just limit myself to refer to some reports published in recent days by US news and press agencies.

    August 21:

    – According to a poll published that day by The Washington Post, the confidence of American citizens on Presidents Barack Obama’s leadership has substantially decreased.

    – In the midst of an increasing opposition against he health system’s reform, the telephone poll made by that newspaper and the ABC TV network among 1 001 adults from August 13 to 17 revealed that … 49 per cent of respondents believe that Obama would be able to significantly improve the US health care system. This results accounts for 20 percentage points less as compared to the period before Obama started his presidential mandate.

    – Fifty five per cent of the respondents believe that the US general situation is not going well, as compared to 48 per cent in April.

    - The fierce debate over the health reform in the US evidences an extremism that has become a source of concern for experts; they are alarmed about the presence of armed men in popular gatherings, the drawing of swastikas and the images of Hitler.

    - The experts in hatred crimes have recommended watching these extremists closely. While many Democrats have felt overwhelmed by the protests, others have decided to directly confront their fellow countrymen.

    - The young woman who carried a manipulated picture of Obama, wearing a Hitler’s style moustache, nurtured the theory that the President would create ‘death panels’ that would support euthanasia among senior citizens with no hope of recovery.

    - According to reports, there are those who pretend to be deaf and resort to convey messages of hatred and extremism, which Brad Garrett, the former agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), deems as alarming.

    - Last week Garret said to the ABC network that we were certainly living through scary times, and added that the secret services are afraid that something may happen to Obama.

    - According to reports, just on Monday last about twelve people were proud to show their weapons outside the Phoenix Convention Center in Arizona, where the President was delivering a speech before the war veterans in which, among other things, he defended his medical reform.

    - It was said that another man was carrying a gun bearing the following inscription: the time has come to refresh the tree of liberty, which evoked the phrase pronounced by President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) when he said that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed … by the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

    - Some messages have been even more explicit; they have wished for the death of Obama, Michelle and their two daughters.

    - Those incidents show that hatred has penetrated America’s politics more strongly than ever before.

    - Larry Berman, from the University of California, who has written 12 books about the US presidency, said to EFE that right now we are talking about people who shout, who carry Obama’s pictures in which he appears characterized as a Nazi (…), and refer to the term ‘socialist’ with contempt. He believes that part of what is going on is due to the racism legacy that still lives on.

    - Reportedly, after The New York Times published the day before that the CIA had hired Blackwater back in 2004 to perform the tasks of planning, training and surveillance, this day’s newspaper revealed further details about the activities entrusted to that controversial private security company whose current name is ‘Xe’.

    - The newspaper revealed that the United States Central Intelligence Agency recruited several Blackwater agents to install bombs on board of drones in order to kill Al Qaeda leaders.

    - According to the information revealed by government officials to The New York Times, those operations were carried out in bases located in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the private company equipped the planes with Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs.

    - It was reported that the current director of the Agency, Leon Panetta, decided at some point in time to cancel the program and reveal before Congress in June the type of collaboration that existed between Blackwater and the CIA.

    - According to the news, Blackwater’s collaboration ended a few years before Panetta was appointed as CIA chief, because the agency officials themselves questioned the convenience of having external agents participating in programs of selective assassinations.

    - Blackwater is said to be the main private security company in charge of protecting the US staff in Iraq during the George W. Bush administration.

    - Reportedly, its aggressive tactics were criticized on different occasions. The most serious case occurred on September, 2007, when some agents from the company killed 17 Iraqi civilians.

    - After considering the record figures of suicides and the wave of depression spreading among its soldiers, the US army is said to be, little by little, creating some special groups whose task will be to enhance its troops’ resistance against the war-related emotional stress.

    August 22:

    - This day the US President Barack Obama is said to have harshly criticized those who oppose his plan to reform the health system in his country, and accused them of disseminating false and distorted information.

    - According to reports, as he himself has pointed out in his speeches, the objective of the reform of the health care system is to put a halt to its rapidly increasing cost and ensure health coverage for almost 50 million Americans who have no health insurance.

    - According to the news, this should have been an honest debate, not dominated by the deliberately false and distorted reports that have been disseminated by those who would benefit the most if things continue to be the way they are.

    - According to what was published by The New York Times this day, the US State Department has continued funding Blackwater, the private company of mercenaries who were involved in the assassination of Al Qaeda leaders which is now called Xe Services.

    - It was reported that the Governor of the State of New York, David Paterson, expressed on Friday last that the media had resorted to the use of racial stereotypes in its coverage of black officials like him, President Obama and the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick.

    - It is said that the White House has estimated that the budget deficit during the next decade will amount to 2 trillion dollars more than the figure recently estimated, which would be a storming blow for President Barack Obama and his plans to create a public health system largely financed by the State.

    - Forecasts within 10 years time are said to be very volatile and could vary with time. However, the new red figures in public funding will reportedly pose serious problems for Obama in Congress, and will cause a huge anxiety among the foreigners who are financing America’s public debt, especially China. Almost all economists consider them to be unsustainable even if there were a mass devaluation of the American dollar.

    August 23:

    - The top ranking military who commands the American army is said to have expressed on Sunday last his concern about the loss of popular support in his country to the war in Afghanistan, while indicating that the country continued to be vulnerable to the attacks of the extremists.

    - Mike Muller, the chief of the military joint command said that the situation in Afghanistan was serious and deteriorating, and added that in the last two years, the Taliban insurrection has improved and become more specialized.

    - In an interview aired by the NBC TV network, Mullen did not specify whether or not it would be necessary to send more troops.

    - According to reports, a little bit more than 50 per cent of the respondents in the poll made by The Washington Post and the ABC TV network, whose results were recently published, expressed that the war in Afghanistan was not worth it.

    - Reportedly, by the end of 2009 the United States will have three times more soldiers than the 20 000 who were deployed in Afghanistan three years ago.

    Confusion is rampant within the American society.

    September 11 will mark the eighth year since the fateful 9/11. On that same day, at Havana’s Sports Coliseum, we advised that the war was not the way to put an end to terrorism.

    The strategy of withdrawing troops from Iraq and sending them to the Afghan war to fight the Taliban is wrong. The Soviet Union was trapped in a quagmire there. The US European allies will be ever more reluctant to see the blood of their soldiers shed in that country.

    Mullen’s concern over the popularity of that war is not far-fetched. Those who perpetrated the attack on September 11, 2001, against the Twin Towers were trained by the United States.

    The Taliban is an Afghan nationalist movement that had nothing to do with that event. Al Qaeda, an organization that has been financed by the CIA since 1979 and was used against the USSR during the years of the Cold War, was the one that masterminded that attack 22 years later.

    There are still some dark events that require further clarification before the international public opinion.

    Obama has inherited those problems from Bush.

    I do not have the slightest doubt that the racist right will do its best to try to wear him out by hindering his program and leaving him out of play, one way or the other, at the lowest possible political cost.

    I wish I were wrong!

    Fidel Castro Ruz

    August 24, 2009

    5:15 p.m.

  8. Max Shields said on August 25th, 2009 at 8:02pm #

    beverly

    Interesting observation about Paul Craig Roberts. I once asked him and he just more or less ignored the point.

    I’m not sure what rationale he uses given his criticism of both Bush and Obama. I think he must simply feel they’ve crossed a line, or he has.

  9. David said on August 26th, 2009 at 7:02am #

    Beverely, this is a good article and worth reading.

    I have just one caveat, though. You wrote:

    “During the same period, average CEO pay, at $10.54 million, was 344% higher than typical worker pay.”

    Let’s not confuse percents with real numbers.

  10. Don Hawkins said on August 26th, 2009 at 7:07am #

    I think Obama would try and could I be wrong, yes. To me it’s truth or lack of truth the only way to try is to tell all the people the truth. Of course changes and big time changes would have to go with that truth. So far that truth is not happening. My fellow American’s people of Earth we are in deep do do. Why can’t it be said? Ah then we would have to face the problem, four. Why can’t I just eat my waffle. About six month’s we will see as far as the eye can see.

  11. Emily said on August 26th, 2009 at 7:35pm #

    Thank you, everyone, for your commentary, shared reports and links. They are all engrossing and informative!

    As a somewhat related aside, I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday and replied to his remarks:

    “You are right that they [a large number of the authoritarian, power mongering, moneyed elites] do not think like us and they, also, have managed to shape nearly our whole society so that it, too, represents their plans — so that it is seen as normal and good to be greedy, self-centered, hedonistic, largely apathetic towards others, etc. (Yes, “they walk amongst us” and are usually unnoticed as being different as they, usually, are polished, crafty, adept at manipulation and glib.) So they have turned the norms to be sociopathic, narcissistic and pathological. People are, thus, “turned” so as to be like them, but it is not inherently in the majority of people’s underlying natures when the process is more widespread as it is at present. Instead, it is based largely on learned behaviors… So only around 5% or so are sociopathic, narcissistic and pathological in actuality, but they twist around 20% – 25% off into their ways of acting Machiavellian. (Capitalism is at its “finest” moment when this happens. It takes off like mad with many human and nonhuman populations and natural environments deeply harmed in the mix)…”

    In addition, the analyses at these links pretty much indicate some of the reasons, aside from wealth disparity, that humanity’s in a “mess” at present. Similarly, the evaluations convey a sense of where we’re collectively heading:

    The fallacy of climate activism | Grist
    Aug 23, 2009 … The fallacy of climate activism 31. Adam D. Sacks ….. Adam Sacks has been a climate activist since 2001 and is the former director of the …
    http://www.grist.org/…/2009-08-23-the-fallacy-of-climate-activism/ – Cached – Similar

    Twenty Nine Reasons People Need To Pull Their Heads Out Of The …
    By Wanda Marie Woodward. 17 May, 2008. Countercurrents.org. When money speaks, the truth keeps silent. Russian Proverb …
    http://www.countercurrents.org/woodward170508.htm – Cached – Similar

    World Energy and Population, http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.paulchefurka.ca/WEAP/WEAP.html&ei=r-qVSu69HpGZlAfIy6i8DA&sa=X&oi=smap&resnum=1&ct=result&cd=1&usg=AFQjCNH9Nu7uRBFGK2SfDlJ9T3WttVwtHQ

    Population, the elephant in the room
    Copyright 2008, Paul Chefurka. This article may be reproduced in whole or in part for the purpose of research, education or other fair use, provided the …
    http://www.paulchefurka.ca/Population.html – Cached – Similar

  12. United-Socialist-Front said on August 27th, 2009 at 7:48am #

    HERE WE ARE IN THIS DYSFUNCTIONAL NATION WE CALL THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WHERE 300 MILLION SOULS LIVE, AND ONLY ABOUT 10% TO 25% CAN LIVE COMPLETE SELF-REALIZED LIVES !!

    Here we are in this jail, hell and prison boring police-apathetic state we call United States which was supposed to be a nation where you could at least reach some sort of human-development and have access to Universities, colleges, low fat foods and medical treatments, motivation, pleasures and entertainment.

    But that’s not the USA for the majority, this is a country that has 12 million immigrants without a legalization opportunity and who are treated like animals, and slaves. But that’s not all, how about the “legal” people here. They also are treated like pieces of shit, and who are so depressed that the majority of people living in this damn jail have to resort to all kinds of addictions like smoking, binge-eating, sex, alcohol, workoholism, exercise-addiction and all sorts of personal disorders and addictions in order to cope with the reality of having to live in such a painful country, etc.

    What a hell and what a dysfunctional nation-state.

    I wish that we had a bloody revolution soon in order to put an end to this dysfunctional country of wealth and self-realization for a few, and pain and misery for the majority.

    .

  13. kalidas said on August 27th, 2009 at 7:57am #

    Truth is, if there was an elephant in the the Western civilized room, the advanced and oh so educated barbarians would kill and eat him.

  14. Deadbeat said on August 27th, 2009 at 12:36pm #

    Ms. Spence offers references in her response that reveal a disturbing Neo-Malthusian outlook to her perspective. This view of the world essentially focus on “over-population” as being the “elephant” that “no-one” want to deal with or discuss.

    The problem with the focus on “over-population” is that much of the world consumes less than $2.00/day. The real “over-population” is the over-population of rich capitalist who has concentrated resources and POWER that rules the whole planet. In other words they have set up the CONDITION whereby the planet and her people are being exploited.

    The tendency of the neo-Malthusian to play up “over-population” shift the “blame” and focus away from Capitalism onto those who are EXPLOITED by Capitalism and are essentially SLAVES of the system. Notice that where there is the greatest growth in population you’ll find some of the severest poverty and worsening environmental conditions as the rich nation dump their waste onto world’s poor.

    The neo-Malthusian has the luxury of being bourgeois and unfortunately I think their bourgeois clouds their analysis of the world and their perspective. I find this perspective racist on it face.

    Some of the more “sophisticated” neo-Malthusian analysis that I have seen weaves “overpopulation, consumerism, and capitalism” (in that order). This is tactic IMO is an attempt to avert criticism but essentially it places people rich AND poor, Capitalist AND workers are EQUALLY to blame for the world’s ills. This strain, IMO, will do more harm and will retard solidarity as it generates more confusion than clarity.

  15. Gary Corseri said on August 28th, 2009 at 10:03am #

    Much thanks, Emily, for knitting these staggering statistics into an immensely readable, enlightening, even infuriating, article.

    Who are these super-wealthy? One can almost believe they are beings from another galaxy inhabiting human forms. The classic sci-fi 50′s movie, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” comes to mind. Perhaps if we can begin to imagine them with lizardy scales under their merino wool suits, we’ll have a better sense of how to deal with these monstrous creatures.

    Your point about so many Americans voting against their own self-interests, not realizing who their real enemies are–that the traitors, terrorists and saboteurs–are here on the list of the Forbes 400, and among their suitors, courtiers and functionaries in the media, in academia, among the bureaucrats at the banking institutions, in our legal, judicial, legislative bodies, etc.–that point about not recognizing where our own best interest lie–has been deftly illustrated in Joe Bagean’s DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS and in Morris Berman’s DARK AGES, AMERICA, among other books.

    One little problem with one of your numbers. You write that: “During the same period, average CEO pay, at $10.54 million, was 344% higher than typical worker pay.” Would that it were only so! The number, of course, is 344 TIMES higher!

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words; but a picture with superior text to accompany and framework it–such as your text–is worth considerably more. To get a sense of the nightmare world the bastards (or is that “basterds”?) and their sycophants have created for us, check out these photos:

    http://www.jamesnachtwey.com/

    Cheers on the anvil! Let’s make ourselves swords of justice!

  16. Karen said on December 9th, 2009 at 6:09pm #

    Thank You for sharing your knowledge.