Monday, August 23, 2004


Following from the Spokesman Review, 8/17/04, p. A8:

“The growing disparity is even more pronounced in this recovering economy. Wages are stagnant and the middle class is shouldering a larger tax burden. Prices for health care, housing, tuition, gas and food have soared.

“The wealthiest 20 percent of households in 1973 accounted for 44 percent of total U.S. income, according to the Census Bureau. Their share jumped to 50 percent in 2002, while everyone else's fell. For the bottom fifth, the share dropped from 4.2 percent to 3.5 percent....

“New government data also shows that President Bush's tax cuts have shifted the overall tax burden to the middle class from the wealthiest Americans.”

There you have it, fellow Americans. The income gap between wealthiest top 20 percent of our citizens and the bottom 80 percent is growing, and if you study history, you’ll see that the Republican Party’s intellectual fringe, always calling liberals and the Roosevelts “socialists”, have been trying to return America’s economy to the early part of the 20th Century, before the reforms of Roosevelt made things fairer. I’ve pointed this out several times, and the facts continue to back me up. In 1910, 85% of our wealth was in the hands of 15% of us, while the the rest of us, 85%, battled over the remaining 15% of America’s wealth. Right now 50% of our wealth is in the hands of 20% percent of us. And whose labor created this wealth?

The situation is still a far cry from being as bad as it was in 1910, but the last two times I’ve come across these figures, they’ve been headed in the wrong direction. With the advent of Reagan, the Republicans openly began their tactic of creating huge deficits so that responsible Democrats have had to cut Roosevelt’s programs in order to bring the debt under control. It’s a callous and malicious Republican strategy, and so far, most Americans are blithely unaware of what’s happening to them and to America’s economic justice.


Okay, a few post back, I called attention to my weak memory and to my wrong understanding of the terms of U.S. senators. Then, as if by magic, I came across another item in Newsweek, I think, that tells me where I got my wrong impression. It seems that U.S. senators used to be selected by each state’s legislature. Then in 1913, because of the corruption among senators that this system created, the Progressive’s of that era brought an end to that system and made the U.S. senator an elective office. Keyes, the conservative talk show host, made the a cornerstone of his drive to win elective office in Illinois. He wants to return us to the days when big business had even more control over our federal government than they do now. In those days, senators were actually owned by various rich individuals. The rich could much more easily control their state delegates than they could the population of any state. Why Keyes wants to return to that corrupt system, I don’t know, unless he sees that he can gain quite a lot of power and money for himself in the pockets of the rich as Senator from Illinois. But, now, I see why I got a wrong impression about that change in the early part of the 20th Century.


Both the previous news stories in this post have something to do with another story that appeared in the Spokesman Review of 8/15/04, p. A7.

When I was a kid and youth in the late 40s and the 50s, I never saw a bum in the streets. As I grew older, I learned about the Depression era hobos who traveled the country in search of work and who my grandfather used to invite in for a meal when he passed them along National Route 40 on his walk home from work. He never owned a car and always walked or took the streetcar.

Nowadays, we see hobos on every street corner near Interstate highways and some are venturing ever further into the cities and taking up stations at other corners and in mall parking lot entrances. Why is that? Is it truly because we have so many more “lazy” people? Or is it because under the Republican leadership of the last 20 years things are getting imperceptibly worse for the ones on the economic bottom? Republicans have removed so much of the safety net that the very most needy persons are falling through and onto public streets.

Some may say that they can go into shelters, but so many of the damn shelters these days are religious charity shelters. No one should be required to listen to lectures about faith in order to get help in America. That was my whole idea as a liberal—to create a system where those who needed help could find help when they needed it as a matter of RIGHT rather than as a matter of numbing charity. That’s my idea of a fair system. We all work and we all contribute as a matter of social policy and social fairness which makes for a stable society. As we all benefit by a stable society so we should all contribute to it. None of us minds contributing to the social stability a police force represents. Why should we complain of the social stability a safety net creates?

Anyhow, I’ve almost escaped the point. In those good old bad days of the Depression, I heard many of my elders say that they could understand and forgive a man who stole bread for his children to eat when they might not understand someone stealing money for drink and party. Well, here in Spokane, Washington, a man was arrested recently for trying to make off with about $100.00 worth of food. That’s right, he was stealing food. In the short entertaining tale of the battle between him and the security guard, we may have missed the point that the man was desperately stealing food and not panhandling for money for booze.

Yes, we’re ever getting closer to bushman’s world of the have and the have nots.

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." —John F. Kennedy

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