Monday, November 8, 2010

The banana republic of North America

When I was growing up, the term "banana republic" was a pejorative used to deride certain Central and South American countries that had great inequalities in their societies and were constantly prey to having their governments overthrown, either from without or within. These days, most of those countries are making strides toward a more equal and just society. Their governments are elected by popular vote and, for the most part, they work toward improving the lives of their people rather than just enriching an oligarchy of corporate and military interests that spends its time raping the land and taking all the wealth without putting anything back. No, if you are looking for a banana republic today, you can look a lot closer to home. Like out your front door.

In the United States today, 1 percent of the population takes home about 24 percent of the income. C.E.O.s of our largest companies earn more than 500 times what the average worker earns! During the period 1980 to 2005, the richest 1 percent of our populace received more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes. These people are doing very, very well while the rest of us are falling farther and farther behind. And yet there are those in government, many of them newly elected, who will tell you that these people should not pay any taxes, that to require any financial sacrifice from them will depress the economy. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that one of the prime forces suppressing growth is the society's economic inequality, the wide chasm that exists between the very, very, very rich and all the rest of the population.

Our country does not need giveaways for the rich. Our country needs a massive jobs program to put our unemployed masses to work. We need a program to make the infrastructure of this country strong again. Those two needs could easily be meshed to solve two problems at once, if only our government had the foresight and will to do it.

But already, one week after the election, all you hear about is 2012. The politicians are already running for the 2012 election. They are not concerned about the country or about the people's needs. They are only concerned about their own desire to hold onto and enhance their power at any cost. And those few politicians who really are concerned about the country and try to do what is right for it rather than what serves their own interests can expect to be vilified, ridiculed, and derided for the next two years. It takes a very strong person to stand up to all those vested interests and the liars who serve them.

Poor U.S.A., where the rich get richer and the poor have no hope and no help. What a sad state of affairs in which to find ourselves. When I was growing up, I would never have thought that I would see this day. The day when my own country became a banana republic.

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