Monday, May 5, 2008

Republiconomics and Life in the Reality-Based World

This economic update from The Progress Report does more than expose the size of the gap between wealthy and other Americans. It also demonstrates the size of the lies coming from Republicons about the wonders of Republicon/neo-con/free-trade/shock-doctrine economics.

For those of us who live in the reality-based world--which is 99.99999% of the human race--"free trade" is a synonym for "screw you." Verily. Verdad. I'm not kidding.

Why, just yesterday, I ran across a whole new example of exactly what Republiconomics means to average Americans. It's called the Trans-Texas Corridor, and it's for sure coming to a state near you. More about this momentarily, because it is the all-encompassing metaphor for, symbol of, and manifestation of "free trade." I don't know how I've managed to miss it until now.

Heads Up: While none of us likes to think of hi- or herself as "average" in any sense, you and I are included in the "average Americans" demographic. That makes us merely fodder for the cannibalistic appetites of the emerging new plutocracy, or grist for its mill, if you prefer the Vegan version.

Anyway, here's a snapshot of today's pocketbook economics from The Progress Report. I'm sure it won't surprise you at all.

The Income Divide

The Congressional Budget Office reports that since 1979, the average income for the bottom half of American households has grown by 6 percent. In contrast, the top 1 percent of earners have seen their incomes shoot up by a 229 percent during that same period. Under the Bush administration, the average income of most Americans has fallen, but the average income of top wage earners (those above the 95 percentile range) has increased from $324,427 in 2001 to $385,805 in 2006. Only one other year has seen a comparable income gap: 1928, the year before the Great Depression.
And who took office in 1980? Which party has ruled for the majority of these decades?

WHY THE DIVIDE?: The reasons for this rise in income inequality can be split into three basic components: government policies, tremendous wage inequality, and high investment income. The federal government under Bush, which provides the fundamental rules that guide how economic gains are distributed around the country, has embraced deregulation and an unstructured financial system. Consequently, huge corporations have raked in profits while the economy sags. The administration's tax policies, which lower taxes on the wealthy rather than the middle class, have furthered the problem...
Remember the word "cannibalistic"? Back when the USA was governed by civilized people, the prevailing ethic was based on the notion of the body politic, the notion that the nation is a living organism whose members are as interconnected as cells in a human being. That notion and the resulting ethic, which acted to regulate capitalism's innate cannibalistic tendencies, has vanished. Now the prevailing ethic is based on a Darwinian view. Leviathan corporate entities are at the top of the food chain, and you are, well, krill.
CEO pay, which has increased by 20.5 percent over just the past 12 months, dwarfs the mere 3.5 percent salary increase for American workers. To put this in perspective, the top 500 American corporate executives earned a combined total of $6.4 billion in 2007, about $12.8 million each and roughly 10 percent of all company profits. An absence of laws protecting collective bargaining has removed the leverage that unions once had on companies to increase wages quickly. Wage inequality, the shrinking value of the minimum wage, and the all-around decline in manufacturing jobs only intensify the problem.
So now we begin to see that wage inequality isn't just a problem for "illegals." That being the case, we also see why immigrant rights are worker rights are civil rights.

WHERE DOES [YOUR] MONEY GO?: ... A recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the largest increases in consumer spending between 2006 and 2007 was on necessities: fuel, food staples, and medical bills.
Are you having fun yet?

HEALTH INSURANCE PERILS: ... Approximately 158 million Americans enjoy employer-provided health care benefits. More and more workers, however, are opting out of their health insurance because they simply can't afford it. The average cost of those benefits to employees has increased by $1,500 -- from $1,800 to $3,300 -- since 2001. For a middle class worker, that amount is an entire month's paycheck, which is particularly troubling as national incomes rose only one-tenth that amount during that same period. Due to a combination of bigger out-of-pocket deductibles and co-payments, higher premiums, and less extensive coverage, medical bills now account for almost one-fifth of average family income.
Against this factoid, rhetoric about "the greatest generation" makes me to hurl. Well I guess! Not to diminish its valiant sacrifice in WWII, but holy crap! The GI Bill, employer-paid healthcare, pension plans, cheap housing, and a great economy brought by FDR to grow the US Middle Class? If I sound bitter, it's because I'm reflecting on the difference between life under progressive Democratic economic policies (then) and life under Republiconomics (now). More. . .