By Paul Bucheit / CommonDreams
Wealthy Americans are afraid of too much change, the kind that might occur with a Democratic Socialist as president. But it’s too late for gradual change. Only a popular uprising against big business greed can restore a semblance of normalcy to our perversely unequal society.
The election should be about the economy—but the economy of average Americans, not of establishment wealth. The election should be about these beaten-down groups of Americans:
The Black American
“I cringed when people would ask me where I lived… Just to say ‘public housing’ was basically saying that you’re dirty, you’re bad, you’re dumb, you’re lazy, you’re a problem.” —Shana Griffin, New Orleans activist
Emergency home repairs? Not for black families. The average African American family had readily available liquid wealth of only $200 in 2011, less than $1 for every $100 owned by whites.
We tend to believe that education is the great equalizer. But a middle-aged black person with a graduate degree has about the same odds of being a millionaire as a white person with only a high school diploma.
“My little sister. She’s hungry.” —An Ohio boy, sifting through his school’s garbage bin.
For every THREE homeless children in 2006 there are now FIVE. For every THREE children on food stamps in 2007, there are now FIVE.
And yet spending on children’s programs recently declined for the first time in nearly 20 years.
The Senior Citizen
“I am over 60, and I was pushed out of my job because of my age. My rent, car note, and electricity are all two months behind. I can barely get food. Utilities will be cut off soon.” —A Laurel, Maryland senior citizen
With the average cost of a year’s worth of life-preserving drugs over $50,000, 43 percent of sick Americans skipped doctor’s visits and/or medication purchases in 2011-12 because of excessive costs. It keeps getting worse. About half of households age 55 and older have no 401(k) or IRA or other retirement savings.
The Young Adult
“I was denied the license to practice in my profession because of my student loans…I make $8.50 an hour as a cashier at ACE Hardware.” —Hilary, a student
Over one generation, from 1984 to 2009, the net worth of an American under 35 dropped from $11,521 to $3,662, a 68 percent decline, in good part because of debt. In approximately the same time, the percentage of stay-at-home young adults rose from 11 percent to almost 24 percent.
“This figure runs around the corner…it looked like a little kid to me.” A silent white flash filled the computer screen. Bryant paused, then turned to his partner. “Did that look like a child to you?” —Brandon Bryant, former drone operator
Over a third of American troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder. Yet from 1970 to 2002, the per capita number of public mental health hospital beds plummeted from 207 per 100,000 to 21 per 100,000 — nearly a 90 percent cut! After the recession state funding was cut some more.
The American Woman
“My husband lost his job… I graduated from a four-year nursing school… but I have been unable to find a nursing job and was working part time… my student loans are all in deferral… I am expecting to give birth in one month, so I can’t get a second job.” —Woman in Bergenfield, NJ
“I have enough money to last about a month before I go homeless…a year-long waiting list for any housing assistance. I have nowhere to turn.” —Renter in Missoula, Montana
According to the Census Bureau, median income has dropped by 6.5 percent since 2007. But rents keep going up. As a result, the number of families spending more than half their incomes on rent—the ‘severely’ cost-burdened renters—has surged from 7.5 million to 11.4 million in the last decade, a stunning 50 percent increase.
Billionaire Steve Schwarzman finds the growing anger among voters “astonishing.” But his company, Blackstone, is a corporate model for making money at the expense of desperate former homeowners. Since the recession, it has become the nation’s leading landlord, buying up tens of thousands of homes at rock-bottom prices, and then renting them back, often to the very people who lost them.
What is truly “astonishing” is that people like Schwarzman fail to see—or refuse to see—what their lust for money is doing to beaten-down Americans.
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Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.