A look at last week's U.S. Census Bureau report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage shows the Orwellian nature of what is becoming known as the Republican's YOYO - "you're on your own" - economics.
The report shows that in the last year the median income for American households fell by $275, part of a trend that since 2001 has seen family incomes fall by an average of $2,000. In the past year under this Republican administration the number of our citizens who have no health insurance has grown by 1.3 million to 46.6 million, or 15.9 percent of the population. In this, the world's biggest economy, whose gross domestic product rose at a 3.2 percent rate last year to the loud huzzahs of the Bush loyalists, 12.5 percent, or one in eight citizens, lives in poverty.
All of this as workers' productivity continues to rise. According to conservative pundit William F. Buckley, Jr.'s National Review magazine, the output of the American labor force has increased 33 percent over the last ten years.
Those who routinely squeal "class warfare" anytime awkward economic realities are raised are in fact waging a consistent, blatant, and escalating campaign against the ability of everyone else to stay afloat.
Pay for chief executives of the 15 top oil companies now averages $32.7 million per year, and the average pay of CEOs at the 34 largest military contracting companies jumped from $3.6 million to $7.2 million in the four years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Since 1990, the overall CEO-to-worker pay ratio in the United States has grown from 107-to-1 to last year's 411-to-1.
Corporate-funded spin opposing a raise in the minimum wage passes for legitimate argument, even though the rate currently falls beneath the poverty level by the farthest margin (about 53 percent) since that measure of living standard was established in 1959. The insurance industry tasks armies of minions with the goal of denying claims, and companies like Keane Inc. brazenly advertise their prowess in outsourcing American jobs overseas on so-called publicly funded outlets like National Public Radio.
The Republican arm of the class war marches in lockstep with mega-business to "starve the beast" of crucial social programs and infrastructure an increasingly impoverished citizenry needs to get by. They have reveled in cutting the "red tape" of regulation that protects citizens from the ravages of profit, denying the non-wealthy meaningful legal recourse from corporate-caused harm, and privatizing as much of the public's business as they possibly can.
For a few weeks after the man-made Katrina disaster, it appeared a national introspection of the gross inequities rampant in our country was under way. How could this happen? The unprecedented yet crucial question was seemingly raised in all quarters. But those who knew the answer weren't willing to share, and so by the time of the first anniversary of the catastrophe, the conversation had largely shifted to discussions of the logistics of rebuilding.
American presidents have always taken pains to reassure the electorate that their economic policies are working for the benefit of the many. Often a sleight of hand has been required to fool all of the people some of the time, and vice versa. Up to this point in our history genuine electoral revolts have been rare. Hopefully this fall will be different.
Dave Wheelock is a professional university rugby coach in Socorro, New Mexico. He holds a history degree from the University of New Mexico and is a frequent contributor to the Santa Fe Sun Monthly. His Pencil Warrior column appears in the Socorro Mountain Mail. Mr. Wheelock is a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. He can be engaged at firstname.lastname@example.org.