Rising Tide of Unfairness
August 13, 2002
By Bob Volpitto
half century ago I was a college student, studying for a degree
in Economics and Business Administration. That was a long
time ago, but even today I find the subjects required for
that degree as dry and boring as an Allan Greenspan prognostication
and a hypocritical George Bush rah, rah, rah for the corporate
executives who bought him the tainted distinction of the privilege
of living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (at least part of the
My professor, who was over age for service in World War II,
dryly lectured on and on while constantly spinning two paperclips
chained together. Most of his hour long discourses consisted
of his experiences working in a machine gun factory during
the recently concluded hostilities.
Only in later years did I become engrossed in the workings
of the U.S. and world economies; how they functioned and why.
I must confess, much of this subject remains an unsolved puzzle
to me as much as Bush's dilemma about how he sold his Harken
Energy Company stock at a profit without filing proper papers
with the SEC that would have indicated an insider trading
deal without being an insider trading deal. Are you confused?
That makes three of us, if you include Mr. Bush.
Of one matter I am certain. That is: why is the Bush administration
backing a "$30 billion lifeline for Brazil from the International
Monetary Fund" (New York Times, August 11) while "The stagnation
in the nation's total wages and salaries, adjusted for inflation,
affects 110 million workers" (New York Times, August 11)?
I'll tell you why. It's Herbert Hoover Economics 101 - save
the banks and to hell with the 8-9 million workers regarded
statistically as unemployed. In the Thirties, actress Joan
Blondell rendered a "torchy" version of "My Forgotten Man".
The song tells about an unemployed victim of the Great Depression.
Passionately she sang with tears, "How he used to love me,
how he used to take care of me, my f-o-r-g-o-t-t-e-n man",
and it rang true among the skilled and unskilled workers of
It was reported that job growth in July of this year was
projected to be as high as 75,000 but rose to a mere 6,000.
We hear how, in that same month, the average work week regressed
by 24 minutes and how the Bush statisticians cover up the
loss of factory jobs paying $20 to $35 an hour with increases
of service sector employment whose workers' gross hourly wages
range from $5.50 to perhaps $6.50. We've heard from Rush Limbaugh
how those collecting $300 weekly unemployment checks are content
with that meager amount and how it covers the family needs
to the point where the beneficiary is satisfied not to look
for another job until the payments cease. Hogwash!
I've researched the rising problem of personal indebtedness
and how perhaps millions of wage earners are on the brink
of seeking relief from them in the form of bankruptcy. So
what do Bush and his "save the institutions" Republicans do
to help? They want to tighten the bankruptcy laws to make
it more difficult for those in dire need, through no direct
fault of their own to restructure their debts and remain solvent.
Recently widowed women with small children and overwhelming
medical bills would be treated as common deadbeats if Bush
& Co. have their way. Displaced textile workers and unemployed
middle managers face the same fate. Its unfair to bail out
foreign countries and let our own suffer.
Various mainstream journalists have noted that desperate
families are kiting one credit card with another, ignoring
the inevitable. They explain that many in this nation have
a "negative net worth", that is they owe more than their assets,
if reduced to cash, would bring if sold to cover their debts.
I recommend you read T. H. Watkins' The Hungry Years
- how he describes the Great Depression and its effects on
city and rural citizens alike. He tells how young boys would
wait outside row houses in the city and watch law officers
set a family's furniture and other possessions out on the
sidewalk in front of their rented apartments. After the officers
departed, the youths would cart the items back into the family's
quarters until another month rolled around and repeat the
process all over again.
Watkins tells of "penny auctions" in rural areas where a
farm family's land, house and out buildings, equipment, animals
and private possessions were to be sold to the highest bidder.
Neighboring farmers would attend the auction to bid, say,
five cents for a pig, seven cents for a cow, $1.00 for the
home, etc. Of course no one outbid those crafty farmers and,
with some not too gentle persuasion, the sheriff's deputies
representing the mortgage holding bank and the auctioneer
agreed to let the sale come to an end on those terms. It was
more than chicanery; it was neighbor helping neighbor. It
was scenes like those that prompted Will Rogers to quip, "If
a farmer robs a bank, its a crime. Now if a banker robs a
farmer, it's business."
Are we to come to that again?
Obviously there is no Franklin D. Roosevelt on the horizon
who will call for "bold, persistent experimentation" with
the nation's economy. There are no New Dealers waiting to
try almost anything to get the country back on its feet with
an unfettered distribution of goods and services rolling in
motion again. We don't need them.
What we do need is a progressive-minded Congress and a leader
in the White House who recognizes the American people's need
for economic security and confidence in people who head our
business and political institutions. We need an open government
that is not part of the corporate malfeasance that taints
the Bush-Cheney regime. We must not have a corporate controlled
media that fears the wrath of Big Brother and his henchmen
who threaten with near Nazi intimidations telling them to
"be careful what they say".
We need an enlightened electorate who let the free unregulated
economy rats jump off the ship or be made to walk the plank.
Some like Dick Armey and Phil Gramm have already jumped rather
than be pushed. It's up to the voters to rid the Congress
and the White House of the rest of those who harken back to
the Mark Hanna/William McKinley days.
We need to harness the strength of America and set it on
the right course. A majority of those polled recently have
indicated overwhelmingly that the country is headed in the
wrong direction. Come the first Tuesday after the first Monday
in November, 2002, the electorate has a chance to begin the
process of turning the nation around and set it on the right
Will you do it?