“The cost of our empire of illusion is not being paid by the corporate titans. It is being paid on the streets of our inner cities, in former manufacturing towns, and in depressed rural enclaves. This cost transcends declining numbers and statistics and speaks the language of human misery and pain. Human beings are not commodities. They are not goods. They grieve and feel despair. They raise children and struggle to maintain communities. The growing class divide is not understood, despite the glibness of many in the media, by complicated sets of statistics, lines on a graph that chart stocks, or the absurd, utopian faith in unregulated globalization and complicated trade deals. It is understood in the eyes of a man or woman who is no longer making enough money to live with dignity and hope.” (boldface mine)—Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion, Chapter V: The Illusion of America, pp. 159-160, 2009
Obama declares income inequality a ‘defining challenge of our time’
By Jim Kuhnhenn, The Associated Press, 4 December 2013
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama prodded Congress to raise wages and secure the social safety net as he issued an overarching appeal Wednesday [4 December 2013] to correct inequalities that he said make it harder for a child to escape poverty. “That should offend all of us,” he declared. “We are a better country than this.”
Focusing on the pocketbook issues that Americans consistently rank as a top concern, Obama argued that the dream of upward economic mobility is breaking down and that the growing income gap is a “defining challenge of our time.”
“The basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed,” the president said in remarks at a non-profit community centre a short drive from the White House in one of Washington’s most impoverished neighbourhoods.
Though he offered no new initiatives, Obama blended a call for Congress to act on pending short-term economic measures with a long vision aimed at correcting a growing level of income inequality in the United States. The speech came amid public doubts over Obama’s stewardship of the economy, as his overall approval ratings sink and as he seeks to move past the health care troubles that have consumed his presidency in recent months.
He acknowledged his administration’s “poor execution” in rolling out the flawed website that was supposed to be an easy portal for purchasing insurance, while blaming Republicans for a “reckless” shutdown of the government.
“Nobody has acquitted themselves very well these past few months,” Obama said. “So it’s not surprising that the American people’s frustrations with Washington are at an all-time high.” Worse for Americans, he added, are their growing difficulties in trying to make ends meet no matter how hard they work.
The speech coincided with growing national and international attention to economic disparities — from the writings of Pope Francis to the protests of fast-food workers in the U.S. The president cited the pope’s question of how it isn’t news when an elderly homeless person dies from exposure, but news when the stock market loses two points.
And he noted that in the United States, a child born into the bottom 20 per cent of income levels has less than a 5 per cent chance of making it to the top income levels and is 10 times likelier to stay where he is — worse than other industrial countries such as Canada, Germany and France.
House Speaker John Boehner blamed Senate Democrats and Obama for the lack of action on jobs-related legislation. He said bills passed by the Republican-controlled House that would help the economy and create jobs have been blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate. “The Senate and the president continue to stand in the way of the people’s priorities,” he said on the House floor.
Obama conceded that “the elephant in the room” is the political gridlock that has prevented congressional action. He said issues of inequality of upward mobility would not likely be resolved even over the next five years. But he pointed to the health care law as one example that he said is already helping families by providing insurance coverage to more Americans and by pushing down the costs of health care.
Obama specifically called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour. A Democratic bill by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa would raise the threshold to $10.10 an hour in three steps and tie automatic annual increases to changes in the cost of living.
A vote in the Senate is not expected in December, when the chamber will mostly focus on stalemates over the budget and other issues. Whenever it is debated, the measure seems unlikely to win the 60 votes it would need to clear the Senate due to GOP opposition.
Obama also pressed Congress to extend jobless benefits to 1.3 million long-term unemployed people. The benefits are set to expire just three days after Christmas. The additional weeks of benefits have been extended each year since 2009, but a senior Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, said Tuesday that Republicans oppose yet another extension. (italics, boldface mine)
Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.
Follow Jim Kuhnhenn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn
RA: Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to play with his… scandals.
Harper is merely a corporate puppet. He is negotiating trade deals in total secrecy (because he cannot bear to divulge that these are corporate bills of rights and nothing more). At the same time, his government is moving to crush all opposition originating with Labour. The public hears nothing about CETA and TPP, while the obnoxious scandals upstage the media centrestage.
More information can be found at these links:
Why CETA is Little More than a Corporate Bill of Rights:
Trans-Pacific Partnership: 11 Things Harper Doesn’t Want To Reveal About Uber-Secretive Trade Pact: