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What Tea Partiers Owe Progressives

Tea Party activists may put up as many billboards as they like accusing President Obama of “socialism” and comparing him to Hitler but the fact is the only people Obama successfully bailed out so far are the big bankers and, as economist Dean Baker puts it in the July 19th issue of The Nation, when it came to helping ordinary folks, Obama’s 2009 stimulus package “was nowhere near large enough.” The rest of the republic is struggling with 9.7 per cent unemployment, with millions of people working two or more lousy jobs to make ends meet, with still other millions whose unemployment insurance has run out, and with yet other millions who have just given up looking.

To begin with, it’s doubtful some of the Tea Party Obama-haters brought to you by Fox News know what “socialism” is. Webster’s defines a socialistic society as one “in which the means of production and distribution of goods are owned and controlled collectively by the government.” In point of fact, as more and more U.S. corporations have abandoned Michigan and Ohio to manufacture products in Communist China there isn’t a whole lot of goods being made in America anymore left to distribute. Tea Party activists need to take a walk past those rusting Midwest factories and explain how it was government, not private enterprise, that failed those communities. Where was the Made In America spirit when countless private businesses took off and set up shop south of the border in Mexico? Not only is there no socialism in America, but there ain’t much capitalism left, either.

Tea Party activists who idolize Dick Cheney need to ask why Halliburton left Houston in 2007 to move its headquarters to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates? Were the taxes of the Republican Bush administration imposed too high for them? For that matter, why did New Jersey-based Ingersoll-Rand, the truck manufacturer, leave New Jersey for Bermuda in 2001? Why is it every time you make a call about a broken appliance you’re chatting with some employee in Bombay? In short, corporations have been pulling up stakes in USA for years because they don’t want to pay what the people’s Congress says is their fair share of taxes. And you and your job be damned!

In 1928, the year before capitalist America tumbled into the Great Depression, the richest one percent of Americans shlurped up 23.9 percent of all total income, Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary, writes in The Nation. (Okay, so he did not use the word “shlurped.” As a result of the New Deal, the GI Bill, and the Great Society—all pushed through largely by liberal Democrats in Congress—by the late 1970s the top one percent only gobbled up about 9 percent of total income. “But after that,” Reich writes, “inequality began to widen again, and income reconcentrated at the top. By 2007 the richest 1 percent were back to where they were in 1928—with 23.5 percent of the total. Each of America’s two biggest economic crashes occurred in the year immediately following these twin peaks….when most of the gains from economic growth go to a small sliver of Americans at the top (and) the rest don’t have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing.”

President Bill Clinton may have boasted of all the jobs created during years in the White House but there was no boasting about the fact wages stagnated, as they did later under his imperial successor President George W. Bush, and the gains resulting from improved productivity never found their way into the pay envelopes of the working man and woman. At the same time Clinton did not fight to preserve the New Deal legislation that prevented wild investing on the part of the banks nor did he successfully protect the right of AFL-CIO labor unions to organize. These unions, after all, not only saw to it that their people were paid decently but by paying them well forced non-union companies to raise wages to compete for talent. While corporate chieftains were howling that labor leaders were living like kings and firing innocent employees for organizing, CEO salaries, Reich noted, skyrocketed from 30 times to 300 times that of the typical worker between the Fifties and today. (Ha! Ha! And you Tea Partiers believed them?)

Get it straight: the best remedy for what ails America is to pay working people fairly. It is the toil and dollars of the American people that made America great. A big factor in America’s rolling prosperity after the Civil War was that each new generation of immigrants, (yes, immigrants) who found jobs and earned and spent paychecks, created new demand that drove the economy and made everybody more prosperous. The same thing happened in the South. When blacks were kept out of good schools and good jobs, they had nothing to spend. When the walls of segregation cracked, blacks earned more, spent more of what they earned, and helped create new jobs for white workers as well. And this scenario holds true for Women’s Liberation as well. Does anyone doubt that womens’ paychecks have kept millions of American families from going under? The more we have paid women, the more jobs we have created for men. Don’t Tea Partiers know what they owe liberals who fought for equal rights, trade unions, and the Made In America label?

Get real, Tea Partiers! Pinning the tail on the Democratic donkey is ludicrous. Thinking that the Republocrat bailout solved anything is naïve. This country urgently needs to create millions of new jobs and if the private sector continues to run to Dubai and Mexico where do you expect the jobs to come from? I’d prefer to see greedy Halliburton and the rest of the myopic private sector do right by the American people and return Stateside and create new jobs in America for a change and pay their fair share of taxes as mandated by Congress and invest in American entrepreneurs with new ideas whose plants would be built by American workers who are fairly paid. As for blaming the evil “Socialist” in the White House for an economy that’s in the toilet, (and who doesn’t have the guts to stop the wasteful wars for oil in the Middle East,) that’s really funny. So if it’s that funny, why am I not laughing?

SHERWOOD ROSS formerly reported for major dailies and wire services. Currently, he runs a public relations firm for good causes. Reach him at sherwoodross10@gmail.com.

 

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