Sunday, September 5, 2010

Warring on Working People

My core orientation is my evangelical Christian faith, with a Republican twist. I became interested in politics as never before when so many of my Christian friends treated President Bill Clinton with such shabby disdain when he got into trouble with Monnica Lewinski. I found Clinton appealing but in deep trouble. The ferocity of pharisaical and judgmental Christians who fought him with such irrationality totally repelled me and I began reading with new purpose.

Labor Day weekend is a good time for me to mention one of the many books of history, economics and politics that I read: Lou Dobbs , War on the Middleclass, NY, Viking, 2006).

This self-professed conservative Republican reported half of Americans making more than $44,000 and half less (16). In more than forty years of preaching I never made anything like that, but so what … the items I mention in this article are some of the things with which ordinary working folk must deal … things that keep the working man down, while the rich and powerful fill their pockets at other people’s expense, with the help of the legal structures.

Regarding that median of $44,000, Dobbs added, “We have allowed the elites to subvert the principles of free market and a democratic society, and establish the lie that the unfettered growth of our economic system is far more important than the preservation of our political system”(11). Actually, I already knew that!

My reading of the Bible tells me Jesus defended the vulnerable, the impoverished, and the wasted masses. With that in mind, I found much of what Dobb’s criticized in “American life” decidedly unchristian. For example: Dobbs noted:
income increase up 18% for median family income;
up 200% for top 1% of wealthiest (16).

This tells me the system is stacked against the working class, regardless of what the Tea Party says about tea and stuff. I fail to find any American democracy in such and I simply can not understand how good fellow Republicans can support such policies … but they do. At the very least, I credited the bible with condemning this widening gap as unfair and immoral greed.

In a similar vein, Dobbs suggested among greatest dangers as follows:
(1) CEOs et al with millions in stock options, who have become rich on options based on company performance and will maintain at any cost. EXAMPLE: NW Airlines increased Executive Compensation by $2.5 million while the company fought bankruptcy and slashed worker pay. Excuse me; I find this “unconscionable.”
(2) Dobbs referred to George Bush describing - “work Americans won’t do” (a statement I heard Bush make). I challenged it myself but I have to agree with Dobbs when he concludes “we no longer honor honest work” (emphasis added).

In spite of such statements about work we will and won‘t do, I can tell you about my friend who is a converted alcoholic (evangelical Christian). He gets up at 1:00 a.m. every morning and reports for work at 3:00 as a trash truck driver. I know him, I know his story, and I know he is honest, honorable, and hard working.

On the other hand some of the biggest CEO increases, reports Dobbs, are up to 200% (on Defense Contracts) - people who are “getting rich at our expense” from the government‘s “Just War” philosophy. Under Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler I could accept that, but it is indefensible in America.

Dobbs reported K-Mart filing bankruptcy in 2002. Yet, CEO Chuck Conley received $9.5 million in severance while laying off 22,000 workers without severance. A similar story happened at Polaroid and I find these inexcusable and contrary to what made America great. Makes for great celebration on Labor Day!

Now, while both political parties seem to agree in theory with Dobbs that reforms are needed, yet Dobbs reports “the U.S. cannot be healthy while lobbyists influence the laws, [and] the fact remains that the public cannot get beyond the politicians to make the necessary reforms. In actual practice, 62 Lobbyists registered in 1968, as Lobbyists, whereas today we have 34,000, including 2,390 former public officials + 240 Congressmen. This prompts Dobbs (and many others of us) to believe that we have the best government that our money can buy (cf. Bush, Abrahamoff et al). Speaking of our “culture of corruption“ ...I say we need to take back our government!

The President of the Chamber of Commerce told Dobbs, “We’re spending money so that the government doesn’t put so many impediments in the way that we kill the goose that laid the golden egg” (42). Do you wonder that that made my blood boil just a few degrees? Yet, Glen Beck and others have the audacity to call President Obama a socialist, and worse.

Speaking of Corporate America, Dobbs reported that 50 years ago corporation taxes paid 1/3 of federal revenue; today 1/8. Simultaneously, the Middle Class pays roughly half of all Federal Taxes. But get this: according to Citizens for Tax Justice, the largest 275 US Corporations dropped 1/5 over past 3 years (2004) from 21.4% in 2001 to 17.3% in 2003. They reported pretaxes of near $1.1 trillion but paid only $557 billion.

Mr Raymond, CEO at Exxon Mobile told Congress, (one of those poor Oil companies), “We’re all in this together all over the world.” His 13-year compensation as chair & CEO was $l44,573 per day, with the following additional benefits:
+ retirement package approximately $400 million,
+ stock options, pension, personal and home security,
+ $1 million consulting contract,
+ use of corporate jet
+ other perks (25-26).

Now, even I can understand that these issues involve “corporate welfare,” whether the company makes money or not. Yet, my neighbor (a Rush Limbaugh fan) supports a Republican candidate who hopes to return to office so he can vote out Social Security and slash Welfare fraud. My friends from the far right speak repeatedly of Obamania and use words like “socialism” and define “social justice” as Christian code words for liberalism and socialism.

At the time Dobbs wrote his book, CEOs had been paid an aggregate of $865 million in compensation during the five prior years (CEOs of AT&T, BellSouth, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Lucent, Merck, Pfizer, Safeway, Time Warner, Verizon & Walmart) while shareholders lost $640 billion.

Some of us are asking questions; some of us want change. I ask you: should a CEO be paid as much as the market will bear;
18% for median family income;
up 200% for top 1% of wealthiest (16).
When does the working man get an equal opportunity?

From Warner’s World, I am

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