Sunday Roast: The American Dream, a race to the bottom

New York Times, Bob Herbert

In his last column for the NYT, Bob Herbert hits the nail on the head regarding the American Dream — it ain’t for the ‘small people’ anymore.  We all know it, we all feel it, but Bob Herbert puts it down in words that sear into the soul.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

AP Photo

This is the America I’m leaving to my men:  A lifetime of $9-$10 per hour jobs (if they’re lucky), during which they will never realize any possible dream of a home, family, vacations, or retirement.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations.

The youth of this country had no way of knowing that the high school summer job, or the job they held in college for extra cash, was quite likely the best they were going to have.

If we listen to the politicians in this country, we will find out that this country is “broke.”  There just isn’t any more money for job creation, schools, or public sector wages.  Sorry folks, the piggy bank is empty…or is it…?

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Did you read that last sentence?  Read it again…“the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007…”

Yes, you read that right.  The top 10% — the people who don’t even need a raise — received ALL of the income growth between 2000 and 2007.  All of it.

I am just…speechless.

To my men, their generation, and beyond, I give you an apology…

I am so very sorry about the condition in which you receive this country.  Even though there is no excuse for it, I must admit that I didn’t see it coming.  I really had no idea that by the time I was reaching my own age of majority, the American Dream was dead, and the looting of the corpse had commenced.  The elites had killed it stone dead, and we had no idea until recently, and now I’m truly afraid we will not be able to turn the tide before we hand over the reins to you.  I know in my heart that if we are able to mend this, even partially, we will do so.  That’s my promise to you.

I’m sorry it couldn’t be more…

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.

We will do our best.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss amongst yourselves.

Who are the Good Guys?

Story Time, by hoodathunk

In this world today, this isn’t a rhetorical question.  When I was a little kid I learned that America was the good guys.  As I got a little older and started having to think about what I wanted to do with my life I did so in the opening act of Viet Nam.  Saving the world from evil Communism, Domino Theory, helping the poor fledgling democratic government who asked for our aid.  That all sounded pretty good to a twelve year old kid.  Of course I was also faced with the images on the nightly news about what was going on with the civil rights movement and listening to the rhetoric from both sides of that issue.  I think that is where I began to wonder.  MLK made a lot more sense than George Wallace.

Then along comes Tet and the burgeoning anti war protests.  More information on the news about carpet bombing and napalm.  Older brothers and cousins of friends and family returning from Uncle Ho’s Happy Playground with tales that made HP Lovecraft look like Dr. Seuss.  As my high school years dwindled down and the draft loomed ever closer, I got to thinking real hard.  And studying so I could figure out just how true it was that America was the good guy and that we really did believe in Truth, Justice and the American Way.  The more I looked, the more I learned.  Even then I was more of a cynical realist but I also had a romantic optimist’s heart.

I figured out that America was really two countries.  The one we played on TV was kind, generous, altruistic and that was the one that believed in Superman and Santa.  The greater majority of the population held this in their hearts to be true.  This is still true today.  With the exception of Hurricane Katrina, the American people reflexively respond with support and effort in the face of crisis and calamity.  There is still a strong outflow of support for charities today in spite of the dire straits we all find ourselves in.  The heart of America, the belief in our TV image is still strong on Main St.

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