Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday America

From the framing of the Declaration of Independence to achieving most of what it espoused was a long and hard road. In the midst of today’s recession we must be vigilant and speak-up against simplistic slogans and solutions, which will do nothing to improve our economy but only further divide people and increase the gap between haves and have-nots.

The framers wrote:
“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed… ”
It took almost 200 years of struggle to achieve equality for most, yet a large number of citizens are still discriminated against because of sexual orientation, institutionalized racism persists, and the “American Dream” becomes elusive for an ever-growing proportion of our population.

An article by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the income gap between the very rich and everyone else has more than tripled in the last three decades.
“…The gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest fifths of the country more than tripled between 1979 and 2007 (the period for which these data are available), according to data the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued last week. Taken together with prior research, the new data suggest greater income concentration at the top of the income scale than at any time since 1928…”
Income inequality has been promoted going back to Ronald Reagan, aided by the neo-liberal policies of Bill Clinton, and further abetted by the George W. Bush tax cuts.
Union busting, trickle-down economics, deregulation, and plain greed at the top, are doing its best to turn our country into a third world economy.

We pride ourselves on being the land of opportunity, the place where everyone has the chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they want to. This narrative ignores all those that go barefoot.

A recipe for job growth is offered by Andy Grove, co-founder and senior adviser to Intel, in a long but worth reading
article for Bloomberg news:
“…As time passed, wages and health-care costs rose in the U.S., and China opened up. American companies discovered they could have their manufacturing and even their engineering done cheaper overseas. When they did so, margins improved. Management was happy, and so were stockholders. Growth continued, even more profitably. But the job machine began sputtering…”
While his article deals specifically with Silicon Valley and other high-tech industry, his prescription could be applied to all of the once flourishing American manufacturing sectors. He goes on to say:
“…You could say, as many do, that shipping jobs overseas is no big deal because the high-value work -- and much of the profits -- remain in the U.S. That may well be so. But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work -- and masses of unemployed? …”
As we celebrate our country’s birthday, let’s also pause a moment and reflect on where we are going, and what we need to address to truly offer economic opportunity for all.

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