September 16, 2012
By Rob Kall
I spent about 3 hrs at a flea market today, talking with a vendor, and it inspired some thoughts on our economy, our government and more.
I went to a huge outdoor flea market in Tacony Palmyra NJ today. I usually go once or twice a year to find some bargains. This time, I was also hoping to sell some stuff that's been sitting in my storage unit for way too long. And since a friend was already renting a space, and getting there bright and early, it was a sink-dunk plan.
Tacony Palmyra Flea Market Photo by Rob Kall
We got to talking about how amazing it was that people were coming all the way from New York to set up stands to sell stuff. There are, I would estimate, at least 1000 sellers there, offering cell phone accessories, knock-off copies of brand name sneakers, blue jeans, hats, produce, perfume, office supplies, kitchen accessories, cleaning supplies, incense, bongs and glass pipes, tee shirts, lots of headphones and ear-buds, tons of costume jewelry"
Google Maps view of Tacony Palmyra Flea Market
This is a mostly cash business. My friend and I got to talking about how most of the vendors here were not paying taxes. They were selling here, not getting rich, just trying to survive.
another Google Maps Aerial view of Tacony Palmyra Flea Market
I told him that I'd just done an interview with the authors of the book, Betrayal of The American Dream. Applying Investigative Journalism to Betrayal of the American Dream Donald Barlett and James Steele
While we were talking, I got a call from one of our editors, who'd written an article that suggested that a lot of people from the Occupy Wall Street Movement, who oppose government, were doing the same kind of thing that Grover Norquist was. I disagreed. I said that government that's been serving the wealthy is the problem, not all government. I said that the OWS movement opposes government that serves and protects the one percent.
I finished my phone call and went on to tell my friend how the book, Betrayal of the American Dream, describes how the congress, the White House and a lot of government agencies no longer serve the middle class or the poor-- how they have sold out, screwed and betrayed the middle class. I went on to talk about the bullshit argument that wealthy people built their businesses themselves, arguing that anyone who's become wealthy uses the resources provided by government-- courts to enforce contracts, roads, the internet, educated workers.
But as I was talking, I looked around at all the vendors selling cheap, crappy knock-off shoes and trinkets made in China" out of the backs of their 10+ year old vans and trucks. These people were not benefitting from the government. They were scraping by.
I brought up taxes, how it is not fair that Mitt Romney pays the same or less than the hard working vendors at the flea market. I pointed out that under Eisenhower the top tax rate was 92%, and that it was over 50% even under Nixon. I said we should bring back progressive tax rates, where people at higher incomes paid more for the highest income levels.
My friend said that if such a tax were established, the wealthy people would figure out ways to get out of it.
A lightbulb went off for me. "Your attitude is that the system is so broken, the wealthy can and will get around any rules."
I paused, processing this. It's an idea that Chris Hayes discusses-- that nobody respects anyone, especially those in power-- in his book, Twilight of the Elite.
Photo by Rob Kall taken at S17 1st Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street
If you don't believe that the system can sustain a law, the system is very broken. I think this is a big part of our problem. We have a congress we don't trust and should not trust, because they have acted in ways to totally betray our trust. Why would we expect them to be capable of passing laws that actually protect the middle class and the poor (who are morphing to be more and more the same in many ways.) Why should we have any trust that any laws that they pass will be bulletproof AND enforced.
I took another walk around the flea market. Of the 1000 plus vendor slots, 98% of them are selling new goods, almost all of them made in China, many of them factory seconds. So many stalls are selling the same goods that the prices are whittled down to the bone, so there's little profit. After they pay the $50 or $65 slot fee for them to park their truck and put their tables up, it's tough to leave with much more than minimum wage. One high school student was paid $70 to set up at 5:00 AM and tear down at around 3:00 PM. Throw in travel back and forth and he's working for less than the minimum wage, with no benefits. These are hard times.
What amazes me is that a lot of these people, total victims of the exploitation by the one percent, will not vote or worse, will vote for Mitt Romney. I can see them not voting, because they don't feel that either party will make a difference for them. And I can understand them voting for Romney, if they're white, since they probably watch Fox News for entertainment and to reinforce their prejudices.
As I write this, I'm watching a HISTORY Channel documentary on the rise of Naziism. Words appear on the screen:
Confisticated, Jewish Wealth would support 30% of the German war effort.
I google this and find a 2010 article in the Telegraph that reports that new research showed it was actually one third. is it really that different, with the one percent and the multinational corporations leaning on the middle class and the poor to pay for corporate welfare and the benefits of government that enable the wealthy to acquire and maintain their wealth-- the police state, the judicial system set up to protect big business and the wealthy?
Perhaps we, the 99% are ALL the Jews of Nazi Germany, who at first were boycotted, then had their citizenship taken from them, before they were herded into cattle cars and into concentration camps.
I grow more convinced every day that electoral politics will not change things. We need to keep working to wake up our friends and family and neighbors to the truth-- that we have been betrayed, that we are being exploited and sold out and that it will take action in the streets to change things.
The Nazis exploited German exceptionalism-- a hubris that lead to the worst crimes against humanity. Already, the recent leaders of the US have met the criteria for war criminals.
These are dangerous times. More and more protesters are being legislated and labeled as terrorists. Will Potter is brilliantly chronicling this at his blog, www.GreenIsTheNewRed.com.
Still, we must not only persevere. We must double down and work harder to raise consciousness, educate people beyond the failed education they get in public school, and get them to see why they must soon be in the streets to protect themselves, their families, their children, their future and the American dream.
BTW, while I was at the flea market, I sold $14 worth of stuff while I covered the tables for my friend while he took a long-needed pit stop to the rest room. And I bought about 15 pounds of produce for $3.00 (grapes, yams, Jersey tomatoes and nectarines,) a bag of socks for $5, two headsets for doing interviews for $8, and a knock-off iPhone power adapter/charger. I looked at the Nike sneakers for $20 and $25 bucks, but I asked the vendor if they were legit or knock-offs and he admitted they were "competition." My friend told me he'd bought a pair and his feet ended up hurting-- another metaphor-- thinking we're buying real democracy with our votes, where we're really getting a cheap imitation that hurts.
Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and website architect of OpEdNews.com, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), and publisher of Storycon.org, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor . He is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com
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Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.
With his experience as architect and founder of a technorati top 100 blog, he is also a new media / social media consultant and trainer for corporations, non-profits, entrepreneurs and authors.
Rob is a frequent Speaker on the bottom-up revolution, politics, The art, science and power of story, heroes and the hero's journey and Positive Psychology. He is a campaign consultant specializing in tapping the power of stories for issue positioning, stump speeches and debates, and optimizing tapping the power of new media. Watch me speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.
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