The Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the most comprehensive source of data on the finances of American families, was released Thursday. Its findings are sobering. The so-called recovery has bypassed 90 percent of American families, who have gained nothing in terms of income or wealth; and the bottom 20 percent are worse off than when the recovery started. Only the rich have done better. Between 2010 and 2013, the most affluent 10 percent of families saw their incomes rise 10 percent, and their wealth increase 2 percent to an average of $3.3 million. (Those in the top 1 percent and top one-tenth of one percent did far better than this.)
Before you say “duh,” you should note that this is the first “recovery” on record that has shown this pattern. Although inequality has been widening for thirty years, the business cycle usually hid it when the economy was expanding, as in the late 1990s. The range of remedies many of us have been pushing for – a higher minimum wage, for example – are necessary but hardly sufficient. The entire economy must be reorganized in more fundamental ways. (I'll be suggesting some larger reforms in coming posts.) You agree, and, if so, what do you think are the biggest changes that are necessary?
News like this usually angers me. I'd be ranting to the 4.59 people who happen to read this post about how Democrats, especially New Mexico's Democrats, aren't even mentioning this stuff, are in fact aiding and abetting it.
But in a way it's kind of fascinating to see the America you grew up in disappear before your eyes. To see the political party you grew up in do nothing about it. To assist in its destruction.
It's a social phenomena as much as anything. We see what happens when people grow up like we did. Americans are too weak to stand up and fight for themselves, and there are good and logical reasons for that. We, who grew up when one person working in a family could support the family, buy a house and a car, maybe two cars, retire with dignity, with Social Security and maybe even a pension, when all the kids who wanted to could attend college and graduate debt free or at worst with a paltry loan you could pay off in a couple years, we who grew up when Americans' economic security was practically assured, I mean, all you had to do, really, was spend a day filling out applications, we, who grew up believing America was the best country and could do anything it wanted to, we don't know how to fix this. And we're afraid if we say anything it might be worse for us. And besides, we have our shopping and our TVs and our back yards, our opiates of mindless entertainment, and we've got our scapegoats, and we've got payments to make.
And the politicians, who do know what's wrong but are afraid to even admit that it's wrong, they're simply pathetic figures, to me, today. I read an account today in The Guardian written by a Douglas Hunter, a McDonald's employee in Chicago, a Black guy who's raising a little girl. Hunter, who skipped work Thursday to participate in a nationwide strike of fast food workers, with one straightforward glance could stop any one of our haughty politicians in their tracks.
He knows how to fix this. What you do is, you fix it. You do what everybody knows we have to do. You don't run around having your picture taken in front of pretty scenery or pretending to be moving around cases of food at a food bank. You don't take the money and the responsibility to represent the peoples' interests and them leave the people to rot. You sacrifice, like Douglas Hunter did. You forgo a day's pay, which is a lot to do without for someone like him. You don't go to work one day and you risk it all. You sacrifice. You risk not having your name on the door of your fancy capital hill office.
So it won't be us who fixes it. It will be the young people like Douglas Hunter, a Black guy in Chicago who doesn't have the encumbrances of fear we do and is driven to do what we cannot. It will be fixed by immigrants who didn't grow up in the country we did and don't know how to keep their mouths shut, and by the Occupy people who will figure out how to harness the power that they already know can be unleashed with a single breath. In a single moment that has the rich and the powerful and the politicians running to hide behind their security guards and cops.
It won't be us, but it will be someone. It always has been and always will be There has always been revolt and revolution and people rising up. It's our nature. They may be able to frighten us, especially we who have the reigns at the moment, with their around the clock surveillance and their cameras and their ability to scoop up every piece information there is, but there have always been new technologies. The rich and powerful had them first, the people had them soon afterward. The people figured out how to get around them. It wasn't the rich and powerful, after all, who invented them. They just bought the first ones. We invented them. We invented what defeated them. It's pretty simple, really. There are more of us. They know that. They know, too, that they need us. And every time, we figure out that we don't need them.