World Destruction

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

This is a world destruction
Your life ain't nothing
The human race is becoming a disgrace
The rich get richer
The poor are getting poorer
Fascist, chauvinistic government fools

People, Moslems, Christians and Hindus
Are in a time zone just searching for the truth
Who are you to think you're a superior race?
Facing forth your everlasting doom

We are Time Zone
We've come to drop a bomb on you

World destruction, kaboom, kaboom, kaboom!

Public Image Limited and Afrika Bambaataa circa 1984, the heart of the Reagan era, and more timely now than ever. For months now that song has been in my head like an unshakable commercial jingle. With every story I read on the economy, for instance, I hear the plaintiff whine of John Lydon, "The rich get richer, The poor are ge'in' poorer."

As I've noted in earlier entries, the wealth gap has been increasing steadily over the past 30 years, but the rise of the American aristocracy has been given a substantial boost by Bush Administration policies and the Republican takeover of all the levers of government. Management does set the tone, after all, and one need look no further than the way our CEO President captains his own ship to see evidence of his contempt for working stiffs.

President Bush’s most senior aides -- the ones who hold the coveted title of "assistant to the president" -- recently received a $4,200 cost-of-living bump-up in compensation and now earn a top pay rate of $165,200, according to an internal White House list of staff salaries. The list was compiled by the administration for the year that ended June 30 and is displayed both alphabetically, and by dollar ranking, below. Those at the bottom of the White House staff pay scale -- the folks answering phones and responding to the president’s mail, for example -- remain stuck at last year’s pay floor of $30,000, according to a year-to-year comparison of White House data obtained by National Journal.

I noticed the other day that the Washington Post has noticed the income disparity in its own backyard. In the DC area, they note that the "Well-Paid Benefit Most As Economy Flourishes." Well no kidding.

Wages are rising more than twice as fast for highly paid workers in the Washington area as they are for low-paid workers, an analysis of federal data by The Washington Post shows.

That means the spoils of the region's economic expansion are going disproportionately to workers who are already well-paid, widening a gap between rich and poor in a place where it is already wider than in most of the country.

Molly Ivins points out that the cruel impact of Bush's policies and determination to make the poor more "self-sufficient" are beginning to become very apparent.

Anyone who doesn't think this is a country where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer needs to check the numbers -- this is Bush country, where a rising tide lifts all yachts.

According to the current issue of Mother Jones:

  • One in four U.S. jobs pays less than a poverty-level income.

  • Since 2000, the number of Americans living below the poverty line at any one time has risen steadily. Now, 13 percent -- 37 million Americans -- are officially poor.

  • Bush's tax cuts (extended until 2010) save those earning between $20,000 and $30,000 an average of $10 a year, while those making $1 million are saved $42,700.

And yesterday the New York Times editorial board took the piss out Bush's tax revenue triumph.

Much of the increase in tax receipts is from corporate profits, high-income investors and super high-earning executives, sources that are just as unpredictable as the financial markets to which they’re inevitably linked.

So, the revenue surge is neither a sign that the tax cuts are working nor of sustainable economic growth. A growing number of economists, most prominently from the Congressional Budget Office, point out that upsurges in revenue are also the result of growing income inequality in the United States, an observation that is consistent with mounting evidence of a rapidly widening gap between the rich and everyone else. As corporations and high- income Americans claim ever more of the economic pie, revenues rise, even if there’s no increase in overall economic growth. [emphasis added]

I caught a few minutes of "Hardball" yesterday -- a few minutes is about all I can generally stand. I always get a charge out of listening to a bunch of overpaid TV pundits discussing why average Americans are so down on the economy when it's growing so well. Maybe, Chris Matthews posited, it's because the Iraq war is making everyone feel pessimistic about everything. To his credit, David Gergen pointed out repeatedly that it depends on whether you're part of the investor class or not, and that average Americans really aren't enjoying the benefits of economic expansion. He was a voice of reason in an otherwise surreal discussion. For some reason this exchange has not, as yet, been included in the official transcript for yesterday's show, but others like it aren't hard to find. It's become a running narrative amongst the well-heeled, made very evident in the pondering of the six figure earning punditocracy. They all seem baffled that average folks with stagnant wages, looming threats of lay-offs, and declining health and pension benefits, aren't feeling more upbeat. Becoming a disgrace indeed!