I was speaking this last Sunday on the phone with a very good friend of mine who I have known for over a quarter century. Although I have probably never admitted it (or at least not recently) to my friend, I consider him to be a rather smarter, wiser person than myself. Academically he had me beat all throughout our high school years. When we spoke on Sunday our conversation began in the normal way for us, the Packers had just defeated the Panthers of South Carolina and their number one draft pick, the highly touted quarterback Cam Newton. We discussed pattern routes, the role of fullbacks in the modern pro era and such matters.
Having exhausted our football related discussion points we moved onto the standard small talk. What was happening in central Wisconsin where he and his family reside. What was happening with myself down here in Madison in southern Wisconsin. So of course we ended up discussing the big ongoing subject of badger state politics as is usually the course of our talks.
We were in agreement as usual until the conversation steered more to the side of economics and the impact on the citizenry and the shape of things to come. My friend was very concerned about the situation with extended unemployment benefits and where the money would come from to pay for such benefits at a time when the nation is on the brink of near economic collapse. I was just beginning to bring up the unfair burden placed on the hard working citizens who comprise the vast majority of our population, and how they were being shouldered with the burden of paying not only for tax cut after tax cut for the overly-prosperous, but also the multi-billion dollar corporations.
I didn't get to complete my statement though as my good friend, stressed out by his own financial challenges and similar concerns hung up on me. I was very surprised and disturbed to say the least. Here I am in Madison, ground zero of the movement to protect the poor, working and middle classes, and my own working class best buddy ever cuts off communication with me.
I thought about this for a little while and I began to see where he was coming from as I tried to place myself in his shoe's. My friend has labored everyday since our high school years to build himself up and to provide for his wonderful little family that he dearly loves. He is a good man and nothing could ever change that opinion which I have of him. But like many others he is frustrated. Like myself he is middle aged now, his body is becoming tired and worn from decades of labor. He has received no reasonable pay raise for years, though his work load increases steadily. His benefits are in doubt and he is fearing for the future of his family and his ability to provide for them in the way he feels is their due. In other words he is getting squeezed from both ends and he is feeling the pressure very acutely.
He is angry at what he feels to be too many people riding out 99 weeks of unemployment while he busts his hump all week long and then toils on his brothers farm most every weekend. Like I said my friend is very hard working and has little patience for those he deems to be 'lazy' or 'not trying hard enough.' And I don't blame him for those sentiments, how could I? We are both the product of central Wisconsin farm country work ethics.
What I wish I would have been able to say though, on the phone to my friend on Sunday is this. Although the evening news may tell you that the national unemployment rate is hovering around 9.6 % the REAL percentage is much higher. When you add in folks who have dropped off of the radar because their benefits have run out, those who have grudgingly had to apply for welfare. Those who are in re-training or continuing vocational education hoping to have a job available on graduation, those who have given up out of frustration and depression, the actual unemployment rate in this nation is around 16 %. Add in the folks who are under-employed, only working part time and such and something close to a 25 % unemployment/gross underemployment rate is the reality.
That figure is NOT a result of laziness or unwillingness to job search properly, it is not a disinterest on a massive scale by Americans to properly care for their families. It is an economy and a job market that has been systematically weakened to the breaking point by abuse of those in charge of leading economic matters. It is a result of uncontrolled and under-regulated greed. And greed is just plain old human nature by those without a proper conscience.
I understand the frustration untold millions of our citizens are feeling. They have worked their butts off for years and as this crisis goes on longer and longer they are reaching the snapping point. Like a dog on a leash tormented by those just out of reach, they are about to break loose and attack whatever is in front of them, that is human nature as well.
But those worse off than ourselves are not the cause of this nor are they our enemy. The corporations who have spent millions of dollars lobbying for unfair tax breaks to save billions of dollars, are the cause and the enemy. The millionaires and the billionaires who have done likewise are the cause and our enemy. The politicians and lobbyists who worked together to cause the crisis to reach this point are the cause and the enemy of working folks. And I know when you take a look at your own calloused hard working hands and look at the ivory towers of the overly prosperous you don't see how you can fight them as an individual. And so you lash out at something or someone that you feel you can defeat, you turn on the weaker of those amongst us and label them as the problem.
But in our hearts we know this is not true. When we listen to the overly-prosperous on the evening news with crocodile tears in their eyes, whining and moaning about how "on paper last year I made six million dollars, but after taxes, and re-investing a couple million in profit back into my own company as a write-off, I had to somehow struggle to provide for my family on only $700,000 last year."
Give me a gosh darned break here folks. We are struggling on maybe $32,000 a year and we attack someone trying to maintain their home and family on 2/3 of the income they previously made, which is what unemployment pays out to you, if you qualify? And you still pay tax on that at the end of the year. The lying figure on the t.v. pissing and moaning about his taxes has $700,00.
SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS !!!!!!!
And we should feel sorry for this person?!?!?! Why because they can only afford two vacation homes and four months off every year? Because the cost of fuel (which they write off as a business expense) for the Lear jet is going up steadily, just like unleaded, just like home heating fuel? Give me a break folks, please come back down to Earth. Do not drink the kool-aid, put it down and walk away!
At the radical extreme of folks who have started to believe the crying, pissing and moaning of the rich, are the tea party who shake themselves to sleep at night with the lies of billionaires in their heads. Does anyone really believe in their heart of hearts that someone who worships money and has their whole life will ever change? When someone gets on Fox business news and states shamelessly in public that " I work hard and for the last decade have averaged 88 million dollars a year in pay, now with the economy in the tank I'm only going to make 57 million this year, its not worth it, I will shut down my company and go to work for Taco Bell."
They are not going to work for Taco Bell. They can wait this recession out, heck they still have billions in the bank. Besides 99 out of a 100 of these folks grew up wealthy beyond our dreams and they don't have any real world job skills. They are terrified at the very thought of working for a living, having to produce or be terminated, that is their nightmare of nightmares.
They will not shut down all American industries, they will not let the auto industry fold, the armaments industry fold and likewise with pornography, music and high speed pizza delivery, the things our nation succeeds at. They are playing with your mind. They are making you confused and frustrated to the point where you begin to believe them from the sheer repetition of the lies. Until you begin to drink the kool-aid. And when you do that you not only weaken yourself but all other working people as well.
There is no need to get rid of a self sustaining "entitlement" like social security. Where in the world did this recent renaming of s.s. as a 'entitlement' instead of a 'right' come from? If there is 'entitlement' here it is the workers, who have labored, and paid into this system they believed in. They are entitiled to reap the benefits of that which they have sown. And yet the term is thrown around blindly,and by whom? From the same lying and whining millionaires and billionaires who want you to drink the kool-aid, that is who. An entitlement is being overly prosperous, being one of the 400 (yup that's all) families that control 50% of all the money in the United States, and throwing a temper tantrum because they want more, and they want to take it from the working folks who have suffered tax increase after tax increase under the former President Bush.
Stay the course my friends, we are gaining momentum and we are winning this fight. It will be long and it will be hard. We have been suffering for years and there will be more suffering and toil in our futures. But stay the course and we will come out ahead. Let the rich pay the fair share of the burden as they should instead of allowing them to step on our necks as they bloat living off the fat of the land. This is our country and we are the majority. We are the people, and the will of the people shall prevail. We are waking up lately to find ourselves embroiled in a class war not of our making. But it is a class war, well........it's only a class war if you have the brains and backbone to fight back. Or else your just allowing yourselves and your families, your children and their children to be raped by corporate evil.
It is not fair and it is not right that this conflict should be thrust upon us. But we cant close our eyes and make it go away. We are in it now and we are obligated to see it through and carry the day. Where would we be now if after in 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor, if America said "we do not want, nor did we ask for this fight, so we will simply give up?" You cant even imagine that can you, just as you cant imagine how bad our future's will be if we give up now. Solidarity.
On Wisconsin! FORWARD!!!!