I fit in with the other 40% of Americans who really and truly don’t give a fuck about the S&P 500 andDow Jones both hitting all-time record highs this month. The rest of us who don’t draw income taxed at a preferential rate by throwing numbers at each other in space can barely keep up with basic necessities, much less have anything left to invest.
After my seasonal political work ended last November (successfully ousting a Tea Party congressman from office and helping out on the Jill Stein campaign as her debates organizer), I’ve been supporting myself with writing. And I know that out of rent, utilities, a car note, groceries, medical bills, gas, moving expenses and a smartphone, one of those bills won’t get paid on a freelancer’s income. I’ve most recently learned how to do without the smartphone, as my service was finally shut off after not being able to pay the bills that have piled up. And because I have a roof over my head and a vehicle, and no student debt nor children to care for, I’m still in a far better financial situation than most Americans.
In the last 40 years, income for the bottom 90% of Americans only rose by $59. Income for the top 10% rose by more than $116,000. David Cay Johnston noted that on a chart, if the $59 increase was marked by 1 inch, the 84 percent increase in income for the top 10 percent over that same time period would be 163 feet. The top 1 percent’s increase in income would be marked by a line 884 feet high on that same chart. And for the Mitt Romney class, whose average 2011 income was roughly $23 million, the increase over that 40-year period would be nearly 5 miles high. This recent viral video attempts to illustrate those differences. And when you factor in how much the cost of living has risen, that $59 increase would buy far less now than it did 40 years ago. It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that the vast majority of us are being bled dry by an insatiably greedy few at the top.
The problem is, those bleeding us dry don’t see it that way. The corporate executives and Wall Street hedge fund managers, the richest one of whom makes as much in ONE HOUR as the typical family would earn in 29 YEARS, glorify the concentration of wealth into the hands of a few. They’re of the belief that poor and middle class people don’t know how to manage resources or invest money, let alone save it. They believe that the 1 percent who owns 42 percent of all financial wealth in this country deserves it, because they’re the best to manage those resources. The game of capitalism isn’t of human empathy or compassion, but of cold calculation. If they can find ways to rob you of your home, job, pension and savings, then you probably didn’t deserve to have it anyway, and they did. They will continue behaving this way and find ways to rob us even more efficiently until we all collectively stop them from being able to do so.
The reason most of us Americans still plod helplessly along the same doomed course of longer hours for less wages and act like nothing is wrong is best summed up by John Steinbeck, who said, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily-embarrassed millionaires.” But the beleaguered poor of today should listen to Alice Walker, who said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” This evil system of organized robbery of the most vulnerable will only continue with the consent of us, the bottom 90% who can barely keep a roof over our head. If we want to abolish the slavery of low-wage, dead-end jobs imposed upon us by the chains of debt to which they’ve shackled us, all we have to do is organize our anger into something that even those who have stolen all of our livelihoods will fear.