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 bailed out so far work mostly on Wall Street, not Main Street. As for being "socialist," the biggest socialist enterprise Obama runs is the Pentagon, that is, if the Pentagon does not run him. The Pentagon qualifies as socialist because a majority of the contracts it lets to defense firms are no longer subject to competitive bidding. The favored contractors just line up at the trough. As for America's major export, these days, it's war, pure and simple. The military-industrial complex now supplies 68% of all the killing machines sold on the planet annually and rings the world with a thousand "defensive" bases.
As for helping ordinary folks, economist Dean Baker writes in the July 19th issue of The Nation, Obama's 2009 stimulus package "was nowhere near large enough." Folks at the bottom of the economic pyramid are struggling with 9.7 per cent unemployment, working two or more lousy jobs to make ends meet, and with their unemployment insurance running out. You can see the pain on the hand-made signs of the Tea Partiers. They need to wake up, though, and recognize who's doing them dirt.
Some of the Tea Party Obama-bashers brought to you by Fox News may not 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." Does that sound to you like the United States? That's a million light years away from USA today. Only the defense industry, so heavily dependent on the Pentagon, might qualify here. Certainly, K-Mart and Apple and Johnson & Johnson don't. If Tea Partiers are in pain maybe it's because private sector corporations abandoned Detroit and Los Angeles to manufacture in Communist China. Firms like Goodyear shipped manufacturing jobs to Asia and South America, and a blizzard of white collar jobs are also being exported. Overall, employers show less loyalty to their employees than dog owners to their dogs. As for Obama running a "socialist" government in charge of distribution, the fact is there ain't a whole lot of goods being made in America anymore left to distribute. Where was the Made In America spirit when those outfits relocated in Mexico and Shanghai? Not only is there no socialism in America, but there ain't much capitalism left, either. Tea Partiers 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 is it every time you make a phone call about a broken appliance you chat with some employed worker in Calcutta, not Kansas City? In short, Corporate America has refused 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, etc.---all pushed through largely by liberal Democrats in Congress---by the late 1970s the top one percent gobbled up only 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."
Under both presidents' Bush and Bill Clinton, wages stagnated even though Americans put in nearly 2,000 hours a year, about as much as industrialized workers anywhere. Yet the bounty from their toil never found its way into their pay envelopes. At the same time, managers illegally began firing any worker who wanted a labor union and the percentage of those organized plunged from over 30 percent to about 10 percent. The failure to secure a level playing for union organizers had tragic consequences. It was the AFL-CIO that fought to get its members paid decently. When they succeeded, unions pressured non-union companies to raise wages to compete for talent. While corporate chieftains howled that "corrupt" labor leaders lived like kings, between the Fifties and today it was CEO salaries that skyrocketed from 30 times to 300 times that of the typical worker.
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 for a century 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 employers have paid women, the more jobs theycreated for men. Don't Tea Partiers know what they owe liberals who fought for civil rights, equal rights, women's rights, trade unions, the Made In America label and who opposed the wars that largely benefit the defense industry and suck trillions of tax dollars down the imperial toilet bowl that could be better spent at home? As for Tea Partiers blaming the so-called "Socialist" in the White House for this miserable economy, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org)