Click above, for articles in this issue.
Is it Morning Again in America?
Ronnie Reagan had a big hit when he was running for the White House back in 1979, a political advertisement declaring that “it was morning again in America.” America had been facing a severe recession and an oil crisis that caused long lines at gas stations, those few that had gasoline--in many states in America-- gasoline was rationed, inflation was gallivanting in double digits and people were hurting. Reagan promised better times…
Do you remember the film Network, back in the late 1970’s. There is a scene that remained in memory, because it was soooo funny; this character Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) a television news anchor, becomes deranged after being told by his bosses that he will lose his job because of lousy ratings. As a result he launches into a rant ‘on air’ and declares that life is “bullshit”, he snaps and retorts about the ills of society, unending corruption and so on, and he lets out a slow rising guttural yell of anguish… “I’m MAD AS HELL, and I’ m not going to take this anymore…”
Sadly I think today, many feel that frustration and can identify with the character of Howard Beale. Too much happening in America today is truly abhorrent and detestable… The great hope that many felt at the election of Barack Obama has over the last two years degenerated into a slow motion train wreck of unending wrong turns in policy and implementation of idiotic attempts to lead that instead are landing us in an abyss of darkness. Think about some of the following remarkable events that make one really cringe:
Anyone thinking about flying will have to make a choice; either be exposed to a full body X-ray which is the equivalent of at least a hundred regular medical X-rays or subject himself/herself/ or one’s minor children to up close and very personal hand action in one’s pants by some stranger in uniform. Sad as well that many of those same personnel in uniform don’t have a clue that they are being cumulatively exposed to some really deadly radiation. Do you know what is even sadder? A competing technology which does not use radiation was produced at the US Air Force Research Laboratory in the mid 1990’s however Homeland Security opted for the Rapiscan Systems. Former Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff is a stock holder of Rapiscan Systems and has been lobbying in the company’s favor. A piece of legislation currently before the U.S. Senate will make it mandatory for all passengers to be screened by the full body X-ray machine by 2013. Additional measures will deploy the machines in train, bus and subways across America. Just think of the amount of radiation everyone using mass transportation will be exposed to on a DAILY basis.
Think HUGE dollar signs, if you own stock in pharmaceutical companies devoted to cancer research, nursing homes, pharmacies… or in Rapiscan Systems! A bit of sarcasm here friends, to me such profits are the epitome of unethical.
Onto another topic…
BBC world news reported that one billion people on the planet experience various degrees of hunger. It is estimated that the world’s population is approaching seven billion people, and 1 in 7 does not have enough food to eat. The statistics on hunger were compiled in a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute entitled ‘The Global Hunger Index.’ The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) establishes hunger as the consumption of fewer than 1800 kilocalories a day, the minimum required to live a healthy and productive life. It is recognized that most of the malnourished on the planet are children.
In a separate article by BBC America, the news service disclosed that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that increasing numbers of Americans are finding it difficult to provide for their families and are being forced to apply for Food Stamps. In November 2010, food stamp recipients were increasing by 20,000 per day. At least 12% of U.S. households are on food stamps; of these 28% are African-American. In 239 Counties of the nation at least 25% of households receive food stamps, and in 750 counties 1 in 3 blacks need food stamps to survive.
The USDA report also found that 15% of Americans did not have enough to eat in 2009. The numbers of people experiencing hunger in America has been rising since William Clinton’s presidency in the early 1990’s. [ It should be noted that Clinton’s initiative to ‘reform’ part of the social safety net by limiting access to Welfare has been detrimental to the poor in the United States. ] The BBC further reported that of those found to be food insecure, 28% experienced days when they did not eat anything at all in a span of 24 hours.
The Los Angeles Times further documented that the States with the greatest levels, 15% or more, of hunger were to be found in the old South, Maine, California, Ohio and the State of Washington. Virginia, and Louisiana had rates of less than 10%, while Nevada and South Carolina had rates between 12 to 14%.
As I write this, I must remark that it is truly ironic that Michelle Obama, the First Lady, seems more concerned in fighting obesity, and has visited schools across the nation to preach her message of watching your calories, and avoiding junk food. Junk foods are allowed into school lunchrooms because they create a viable income stream for companies having profitable deals with school systems across the country.
Did it ever dawn on Michelle Obama to instead lobby her husband to create a legislative initiative to mandate healthy-foods-only at schools ?! Did it ever dawn on Michelle Obama to consider that some kids have to resort to buying potato chips and candy because it is the only food items within their economic reach during their school lunch period ?!
Ironic as well that the Obama administration has spearheaded an initiative to outlaw organic food by revamping the FDA into a quasi-police agency to shutdown family farms that produce organic food, raw milk and cheeses. Mega agriculture on the other hand has a free hand to become food monopolies that forcefully market genetically modified seeds that are contaminating nature’s own varieties. Many small farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to purchase ordinary normal seed stock, which is not genetically modified and patented by companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Chemical and Dupont. Where is the concern for the food of the people, of the children of this nation, who are being used like guinea pigs to test varieties of laboratory created seeds that incorporate poisons to kill insects? Over time what else and whom else will suffer negative consequences from foods produced from these experimental crops? As of this writing, five companies now control worldwide the marketing of all seeds. Is it any wonder that food security is increasingly at risk, hunger is on the march and possibly disease as well?
Unfortunately more food insecurity and hunger will increase in America and in the world in 2011 and beyond. The United Nations announced that food prices are spiking around the world, it is a “silent Tsunami” which has resulted in 15% inflation for food items in 2010.
Have you noticed that cereal and ice cream packages are getting smaller while prices stay pretty much the same? That my friend is inflation in hiding-- your money is purchasing less in quantity while your grocery bill seems to stay the same. Grocery chain stores in the U.S. are having difficulty in increasing prices because of a fear of losing customers to the competition. As a result some are losing the battle to absorb costs and are being pushed into insolvency, like A&P who filed for bankruptcy protection recently, a company that a few years ago had absorbed Pathmark another grocery chain that went belly up.
Hunger of course is the result of not being able to buy food because a family lacks enough income to do so. The cause of which can either be found in long term poverty or as a result of under/ or unemployment. CNNMoney.com reports that U.S. unemployment hovers between 9.8 to 10.4 of the population. Some critics however complain that the U.S. government has within the last two decades manipulated data to hide the true numbers; for example people who exhaust unemployment benefits cease to be included in the unemployed statistic and therefore deflate the true number of the unemployed. Shadowstats.com has for several years analyzed government data and revamped government statistics to shed light on the truer numbers. According to Shadow Stats current U.S. unemployment is closer to 22%.
More irony is to be found in the fact that as more Americans are thrown into the unemployment line, and lose their homes to foreclosure, the nation’s lawmakers are making more money than ever. The Washington Post reported (As U.S. Economy Plunged Congress’ Wealth Soared) in November that the personal wealth of members of Congress collectively increased 16%. The median income of members of the House of Representatives increased from $645,503 in 2008 to $765,010 in 2009, while in the Senate the median increased from $2.27 million to $2.38 million in the same period. The top two lawmakers making $300 Million a year were both from California, a State on the brink of bankruptcy.
Members of the Baby Boomer generation, the generation born in the 50’s and 60’s, who embraced education as a way to increase their lot, are in shock to witness the turnaround in the access to higher education for their offspring. Many Boomers got ahead because of the GI bill—education made available to U.S. veterans that enabled most to climb the ladder of economic success. Society profited by it, great wealth in this country was produced as a result of the ingenuity, and the hard work of the members of that generation. But their children or grandchildren won’t have the same access to University degrees. The costs associated with a College education have been exploding while financial aid packages have been greatly diminished and since the Reagan years loans to students have been the mainstay in paying for four years at colleges and universities.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, while median family income in the U.S. increased 16% from 1991 to 2009, costs at a public 4 year university increased 67% during the same period; and at private 4 year colleges the inflation was 50%.
The CollegeBoard, lists on their site average costs of a public 4 year degree at about 15,000 per year and a private 4 year degree at about $35,000 per year.
Meanwhile the leaders of academic institutions of higher learning are being paid ‘athlete’ salaries. Bloomberg reported that “Columbia, Yale, Penn Presidents’ Pay Topped $1 Million in 2008, Study Says.” Leaders of 30 U.S. Colleges were paid in excess of $1 Million a year, according to a study published by the Chronicle of Higher Education. As more and more high school graduates view college costs as beyond their reach, College Presidents rake in the big bucks… Makes you wonder what is happening...
Are you yelling out the window yet… “I’m MAD as HELL and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Not yet? O.K. consider this;
In 2008, the country voted in droves in November 2008 for a future President who espoused change, change from the course that the country was being led by George W Bush. People were crying in the streets after the election, in joy that an African-American man, who espoused the beliefs of a more humane society promising to embrace the ideals of the civil rights era, had been elected. He would tear down the walls of secrecy erected by a Republican neo-conservative and usher in a fully transparent government loyal to the U.S. Constitution, they felt.
The result two years later; aside from fulfilling an initiative in health care coverage for all Americans, none of Obama’s promises have been fulfilled. In fact in many aspects Obama has pursued Bush’s quest for an Imperial Presidency, he has signed more Executive orders as signing statements which seek to qualify the spirit of laws, and extend Executive privilege. Rather than demolishing the wall of secrecy, Obama has increased the classification of SECRET and TOP SECRET.
Obama vowed to close Guantanamo Bay Detention Center within a year—the center is still operational and this past week he signed an Executive Order that extends Guantanamo Bay and other harsh measures. Obama vowed to abolish the practice of torture, yet diplomatic cables disclosed by Wikileaks reviewed by journalists have confirmed that torture continues under U.S. purvey but performed by non-U.S. nationals.
And here is another shocker… the Obama White House declared that the use of child soldiers is O.K. so long as they are being used to combat terrorism! More irony to be found that the White House disclosure was made in 2010 during the week of Halloween a quasi celebration of and for children. Ironic as well is the White House rationale that justifies child soldiers so long as they are part of the fight against violent extremism and purveyors of terror.
What greater terror could there be than the wanton destruction of one’s childhood, what greater terror than to turn an innocent child into an implement of terror and death? What greater terror than to expose children to the violence of wars, death, pillage, suffering, and the horrors of war?
Nicholas D. Kristof, the New York Times columnist of considerable renown wrote a column (Our Banana Republic) that encapsulated the destruction of our way of life in America. In it he cites some sad statistics that enlighten us as to the gross inequalities in our nation: “…C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001… from 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent… To me, we’ve reached a banana republic point, where our inequality has become both economically unhealthy and morally repugnant.”
There is much more to reflect on like the giveaways to the Wall Street crowd and the Bankers, aka the Banksters, reflecting the connections between the Banks and organized crime, but that is a topic for another article.
America has changed quite a lot in the last two decades, with much of the profanity emerging since the reign of George W Bush. It is said that economics follows cycles, an ebb and flow of upward movement and downward movement. Anyone who follows the stock market, can identify with that.
I remember a college professor of mine who thought that ideas across history also followed cycles, an ebb and flow like the tides. As a bright and somewhat brash youngman I privately scoffed at such a notion. Ideas evolve, just as humans evolve, I thought. History records human activity, and human activity reflects a dialectic, an Hegelian dialectic that evolves over time. We can see it, can we not, we no longer live in caves. We travel to distant star systems via spacecraft guided by computers that we have built. We have conquered diseases and pestilence, although many countries on our planet still fight the diseases of old, Haiti struggles with Cholera and Typhus… Africa still struggles with the worst of plagues, and Biblical locust swarms…
But I digress…
America has resurrected the practice of torture and now the Catholic Church in America has convened a Bishops conclave to resurrect the practice of Exorcism. The New York Times reported this past November (For Catholics, Interest in Exorcism is Revived) that the practice is being restored. R. Scott Appleby, a professor of American Catholic history at the University of Notre Dame called it perfect timing [that] “makes perfect sense.” He says what the bishops are doing “is to strengthen and enhance what seems to be lost in the church… the church is not like any other institution. It is supernatural…”
At this rate, I guess soon we will be reading that the Catholic Church will be reviving Councils of Inquisition to root out the Deceivers and Evil incarnate among us—lest we forget tomes on such matters are readily available in the Vatican library and ready for implementation given the right mood and time.
On second thought perhaps my old history professor was right, perhaps societies do go through cycles, an ebb and flow, an up and down of progress and degeneration.
Who knows, perhaps that would help explain our society’s descent into stupidity, which we witness with each passing year of this new millennium.
I just opened my window, put my head through and listened; saw the vapor of my breath as I exhaled; heard the roar of a truck as it accelerated along a nearby street, the wind struck my cheek with an odd snowflake, I heard nothing else except the wind jostling through denuded branches in nearby trees. No yells, no guttural exclaims of I’m MAD as HELL. People are too despondent over the crash of the economy and of their lives, no time to think things through rationally… another weekend is here… time to hit the Mall with credit card in hand and worry about things later.
As the country comes crashing down around the ‘little people’ of this nation, they increasingly hug each other, and shrug things off, they hope for a better ‘morrow, hope for a better leader in the White House, and keep their yelling inside hidden amongst their tears, as the thieves in Washington and on Wall Street, chug along Martini in hand, cavort around fireplaces and sing the praises of another great and profitable year.
Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps people won’t sit still and give up… there are rumblings in Wisconsin you know, and across the land of labor… who you ask?
Labor, the people who gave us 8 hour days and 5 day work weeks… I for one, am hopeful in the strength of my countrymen... can’t keep a good man down forever, things will change, you’ll see…
Perhaps a Populist Party will rise, no not the Tea Party people, some others who are enlightened and led not by a Sarah Pallin who calls an Australian Assange, Unamerican—HE IS AUSTRALIAN you Twit!
Oh dear, but that is material for another article. Go on raise your glass, say cheers--to better days… and dare to smile at the ridicule that we have become.
Victor Saraiva, Editor
Posted March 11, 2011
URL: www.thecitizenfsr.org SM 2000-2011
You are here: HOME page-SPRING 2011 issue-Editorial
Previous : Middle Class