Throwing Less Fortunate Americans Under the Bus

You must have heard the cliche, “Is this a great country or what?”

It’s supposed to refer to the USA, and the back-up is usually some story about a penniless immigrant who became a zillionaire through brains, hard work and/or good luck.

In America, there’s always a chance that you could be “discovered” and wind up in Hollywood or become a rock star. Or you could win the lottery … or strike it rich in the stock market… or invent a better cell phone … or…

Nobody seems bothered by the fact that your chance of doing any of the above is one in many millions. There’s a much higher probability that your pocket will be picked or your identity stolen or your hard work negated through no fault of your own.

Here, more than anywhere else that I know of, it’s better to be lucky than smart.

It doesn’t seem to hurt to be crooked, either, but I won’t get into that. And I won’t try to sort out the way in which the deck is stacked in favor of the majority white race, especially those who happen to have the right parents.

This blog is simply about the lucky and the not-so-lucky.

Robert Reich, who was President Clinton’s secretary of labor, blames the widening gap between the haves and have-nots for America’s economic woes. In an article in The Nation, he writes:

Consider: in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation’s total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the circle of prosperity. By the late 1970s the top 1 percent raked in only 8 to 9 percent of America’s total annual income. But after that, 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.

Reich details the way in which Republican policies have promoted the rise of the rich and the decline of the poor in America. And he shows how these toxic policies harm the nation as a whole.

You can read it here:

www.thenation.com/article/36893/unjust-spoils

It’s a disheartening story, and the sequel is taking shape as you read this blog. The Republican Party is poised to – possibly – win control of Congress in the fall.

You might think the Republicans have learned from their disastrous mistakes, and if they regain power they will be more compassionate. But it sure doesn’t look like it.

They have blocked every effort to temper the impact of the Great Recession on less fortunate Americans. The threat of a Republican filibuster is currently stalling a bill to create jobs and another to extend unemployment benefits, for example.

And they make no excuses for it. Republican candidates are blaming the unemployed for their own misfortune, accusing them of being lazy and spoiled. Candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky even told the poor to stop complaining because they are a lot better off than the poor in other countries.

Obviously, these Republican candidates don’t mind sounding heartless. They’re counting on the fact that if 10 percent of the work force is unemployed, the other 90 percent must have jobs. And they figure those 90 percent will throw the other 10 percent under the bus come November.

In a country where the kids say,”It sucks to be you,” the chances of their parents showing compassion for their less fortunate neighbors seem slim. Or so it must seem to the Republicans, anyway.

My question then is: “Is this a great country or what?”

November’s mid-term elections will provide my answer.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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