Judy Spiers’ column: To the one percent – do you feel me?

by Judy Spiers

I visited a young family this week I hadn’t seen since spring.  The husband had been unemployed, but the wife had a job so they cut expenses and kept going.  Now, the toddler is starting to talk – a couple words. 

But, the wife’s job was just outsourced to India.  The family is losing their home and car.  Just before I left, the older boy had something the toddler wanted, too.  In baby talk – but clearly enunciated – the toddler uttered a complete sentence, “I already said please.”    

 The American people aren’t unlike that toddler who is learning to put his ideas together to express what he needs.  In 2007 when the market collapsed, the American people had things they wanted.  To name just a few: they wanted their jobs back, and see those responsible for the collapse hauled into court and forced to give back their ill-gotten gains. 

They wanted justice.  They wanted those banks that were “too big to fail” to be broken up so the country would never have to go through this again.  They expected and wanted corporations and CEOs to sacrifice like the rest of us have been. 

Anyone who follows the news knows what the ninety-nine percent want.  While the one percent hold 40 percent of our country’s wealth and remain eerily silent, the overwhelming majority are learning to talk. 

They come together around the world to find their voice, to articulate their needs clearly.  They will not be stopped by the Nuevo Riche who insist that the rest of us must say please before they will listen. 

We already said please.”

Never has the gap between rich and poor been this wide in America.  Poverty grows; the middle class sinks.  Some people have been unemployed for three, four and five years – years they should have been working to build their personal wealth, saving for their children’s college educations or paying off their own student loans, and saving for their retirement.  It looks now as if some workers are going to lose an entire decade out of their productive years, and some may never find work again. 

 The Supreme Court of America has issued its binding opinion that “corporations are people.”  Since 1981, corporate and governmental cronyism has reportedly skimmed 80 to 90 percent of the wealth of America to these elites.  This country that was founded on equality has been broken down and divided up into a nation of classes based upon income.     

 A cartoonist might well envision such pelf to be typified by a figure so rotund he can barely walk under the weight of it.  He doesn’t work at a job because he prides himself on making money off other people’s money.  His sticky fingers are delicately pointed in all directions as he reaches for another helping.  His shirt is soiled, because when he lifts his fork it spills because his mouth is so full from what he hasn’t yet chewed or swallowed.  His custom made suit and fancy tie are heavily stained with crony capitalism. 

 He hoards what he has, but he needs more – always more.  Now tipping the scales at 1500 pounds, he rolls out to the pig’s trough and elbows his way in. 

 “Corporations are people, too,” he cries, in plaintiff tones designed to make us feel sorry for him – and them. 

 While he rakes in more, this menacing figure is heard to say, gruffly, to those who Occupy Wall Street, “Go away!  Leave me alone!  Come back some time when you can talk nice to me.” 

 The cartoon figure stamps his feet and jams his fingers in his ears to drown out what he does not want to hear – their response:  “We already said please.  Do you feel me?” 

   

 © Judy Spiers – October 15, 2011

Editor’s Note:  Judy Spiers is a frequent contributor to the Mountain News.

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16 Responses to Judy Spiers’ column: To the one percent – do you feel me?

  1. Paula Morris says:

    Love the analogy of the pig trough Judy. Bravo! Your voice is heard. May all the 99% find their voices and raise them.

  2. Wayne Cooke says:

    Well-put! I love your words! Please write more on this topic.
    Graham must have 1000 “job-seekers”. What if they all got together and decided to help each other? Is there power in togetherness, as in the protests?

  3. One oif the biggest groups that have been hit hardest are the baby boomers. They were some of the first laid off because they were among the highest paid (senority) and then they were told to go and RETRAIN. Fine and dandy, however, most of the retraining ended up being in the computer field and those jobs have been outsourced to India or they have once again been laid off because H1B visa holders are willing to work for a lot less. Once again the baby boomers are faced with retraining, at a huge cost of money and time (usually two years), just to find a viable job. Then the perspective employer is looking at the younger generation. We are left in the cold. How many Walmart greeters can there be? At our age, and yes I am a baby boomer, we should be thinking about saving money to get through our retirement but the savings are gone, cost of living keeps rising and desperation sets in. At least when you are young you have time on your side.
    Thank goodness I am in a bit better shape but I take nothing for granted! You never know what is around the corner. My heart goes out to all of my generation, through no fault of their own, have found themselves wondering what to do now.

    • Wayne says:

      Your point regarding retraining is well put. Except, I retrained and got certified as a bookeeper. However I quickly found out that firms I sent resumes to wanted 3 to 5 years experience. I am 69 years of age and “retired.” The 401(k) is gone, now it’s just social security. I planned and saved all my life, only to have most of it disappear, no matter what I did to save it.

  4. Sorry for all of the misspellings! SENIORITY, PROSPECTIVE and I am sure there are a few others. Please feel free to correct the original post. thanks, Holly

  5. Rick Ward says:

    Ok, I understand. The rich are evil. Business is evil. Corporations are evil. But, what do you want done. You say break up the big banks. How? Those banks are owned by thousands of stockholders; many of them just folks like the family you describe. Are you suggesting we confiscate their property and nationalize it like they did in Cuba and Venezuela? Do we make it a crime to send a job overseas, when to do otherwise means going out of business altogether? You forget who makes foreign-made products profitable; us, the people who buy cheap goods instead of the more expensive ones made here. The minimum wage in Washington is now nearly $10.00 an hour, in Saigon, it’s less than $2.00 a day. The giant corporations we love to hate became giants because we made them that way. Our insatiable desire for more stuff, bigger houses, better cars, drove us to borrow more and more against a house that we borrowed to get in the first place. At our urging, congress told banks to make it easier to borrow in an effort to make the dream available to more people, but eventually, the system just collapsed. When this ends, and it will, maybe we will learn to live within our means, so that we still have the means to live.

  6. catalina says:

    Thank you! Well put.
    I just read Big Burn. Sounds like the misuse and abuse of America was comparable to what is happening now.
    I found some cartoons from that period and sent them to Bruce. Maybe he’ll post them.

  7. Nicole Brown says:

    Good article. My brother’s job was also outsourced to India before he could pay off his student loans. Concerning Rick Ward’s comment, there is something very concerning with United States citizens competing for jobs in a world arena where other countries allow child labor, no benefits, human rights violations, observe few environmental safety laws, and are able to run a overbearing government that allows workers to be paid an amount that leaves them living in extreme poverty.
    Politicians demanded that banks borrow to people who could not afford to pay it back. They wanted more votes.
    I do wonder what kind of country I live in when Warren Buffett finds it easier and more profitable to invest in countries like China instead of the United States. Could it be because the laws politicians make created it that way? The fat cats on wall street are just taking advantage of all the crooked laws made for them.

  8. Rick Ward says:

    Deep down, I believe the problem lies with us. We have for so long been bombarded with the notion that more is better. Americans have long lost the principle of living within our means. And, we have passed that loss on to our government. If we don’t get more money, more stuff, more bennies, we feel put upon. The crash of the real estate market was us trying to get more than we could really afford.

  9. Paula Morris says:

    Rick, I understand what you are saying and you are correct to a degree. If you follow your logic through you will see that, due to our system of capitalism, marketers and advertisers pitch “stuff,” we buy the “stuff,” and the system is self-contained. Now, the corporations want more profit or at least the same profit because shareholders demand it….GREED…….and the manufacturers of our “stuff” find that the only way to do that….since they can’t make more stuff due to less demand…..is to outsource and get the stuff made cheaper, thereby insuring that they make a bigger profit. Essentially, they have turned traitorous. They have sold out the American worker.

    So even though we are addicted to “stuff” and want to live the “American Dream” (because they told us that was a mark of success), by having a house and 2 cars and 2 1/2 kids per household, it is PROFIT, CAPITALISM, CORPORATISM, that has turned our economy upside down. It is GREED and the drive for MORE, MORE, MORE along with the notion that resources are endless and more profit forever is sustainable. We need to change the system, and yes, we need to change our habits. It is the capitalist system that is not working. It self-destructs. We need to curtail resource depletion and limit growth to reasonable levels that is in accord with the ecology of the area. But then, that wouldn’t be capitalism.

    Simplify, buy local, grow your own food, trade with neighbors, downsize your house, move toward an alternate form of energy, form co-operative units with family and neighbors. Tell Wall Street to take a hike!

  10. Rick Ward says:

    So, what is your solution? Pass laws limiting profit? Confiscate any funds over a certain amount? And who would determine the legal profit, or what funds would be confiscated and what would we do with the money? How do we legislate keeping jobs in the country? And if we do, how do we make sure companies survive against foreign products sold at slave-labor prices?

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Live within our means, Rick? Is that it, and everything else goes away? K St, Wall St and back-street political dealings?

      However, there is a nice Zen-quaity to your perspective as I read it. My greed for stuff, and yours, and everyone else’s is the root cause of our world’s troubles. A greed-focused consciousness begets a greed-based economy, and corporate managers simply took logical advantage of my ever-increasing wants. Is that what you are suggesting?

      I like the utter simplicity of your thinking. The only problem is I’m having trouble getting past my rage triggered by the $14 trillion paid world-wide to financial interests in the global bailout program. I have serious difficulty owning that outcome, exclusively, and I suspect another set of responsibility is also at play.

      Bottom line: are you telling me that Tim Geithner and I have the same measure of culpability for this mess?

    • Paula Morris says:

      Like I said Rick, our whole system has to change! I know you and probably me too, cannot yet see all the ways that change is possible. We need to try something new. Let’s think outside the box.

      My ideas: Corporations need to be dissolved. Corporate personhood is illegal and immoral. Companies need to be formed in local areas where local resources are utilized and the structure of the company (which is owned by all the workers) is such that as resources are used, they are replenished as necessary, i.e., new trees planted when old ones are removed. As for minerals and such…an analysis needs to pre date extraction, whereby, only so much of a substance can be taken out of the ground or hills or whatever, leaving at least half of that substance intact. Yes I know….that will greatly reduce the level of production and “stuff” on the market. That’s the idea. New materials can be found for this stuff and if not, the item becomes obsolete. Also, products need to be made to last like forever! Good quality stuff means there is an end to planned obsolescents. (sp?)

      In a non-capitalist system….the main goal is not profit. The main goal is supplying people with good quality necessities. A set 5% profit margin can be set for labor and materials used. Prices for the purchase would be as low as possible in order that everyone could afford to have that necessary product. There would be no incentive for mass sales of unnecessary junk! There would be no need to buy stuff outside the country.

  11. Judy Spiers says:

    Hi, everyone,
    What a great conversation you’ve been having here. Thanks for sharing so many points of view. Rick Ward, thanks for some really great questions. They’ve left me wondering what solutions you might offer. In fact, ‘d love to hear about solutions from everyone. Maybe instead of just hearing about other people’s solutions as reported in the news, we could come up with a few of our own.

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