State of the Union, in reality
By Raymond Freeman 02/28/2013
Fellow Americans, I’ve had a few beers. I really couldn’t face those Republicans otherwise. Here’s the real state of our union: It’s a total mess.
But it wasn’t always. From 1945 to 1975, things were great. America had everything going for it. But then we threw it all away in a fit of madness because an old B-movie actor told jokes about the government.
We had a strong middle-class, strong industry, great education and sound infrastructure. Taxes were higher but everyone prospered. We followed Henry Ford’s idea of paying workers well. Their spending kept the factories going.
Then Ronald Reagan promised that “trickle-down economics” would produce more wealth for everyone. This didn’t happen. Instead, he tripled national debt. George Bush Senior called it “voodoo economics.” Until 1975, the more productivity increased, the more wages increased. After that, productivity continued to grow, but wages stagnated. Since 1947, productivity per hour of work has risen by 300 percent. So why aren’t Americans 300 percent richer?
Economists say that our problems stem from the concentration of income and wealth at the top. It’s worse than the Gilded Age. Consumers aren’t spending enough to keep it going. The American economic engine cannot run like that. It needs more fuel. We’ve gone from a nation of well-paid manufacturing workers in 1975 to a nation of low-paid zombies. Profits are at record levels, but labor’s share of national income fell to a 60-year low in 2012. Simply put, the pie’s getting bigger, but workers are getting smaller slices.
Millions of Americans have full-time jobs but live in poverty. A quarter of America’s workers earn less than $10 an hour. By rights, to match productivity gains, minimum wage should be around $18 an hour. In Australia, it’s US$16 an hour.
Canadians didn’t fall for Reagan’s fantasies, either. The average Canadian is now richer than the average American.
Their upward mobility is twice ours. So, to achieve the American Dream, move to Canada.
Our biggest problem right now isn’t “big government,” or national debt, it’s the destruction of American workers’ spending power by Republicans, purely to make their rich pals richer. They’ve hijacked the whole economy. What’s more, two spectacular flights of Republican lunacy really shot us in the foot.
George Bush Junior’s stupidity let 9/11 happen. He’d been itching to invade Iraq, so he used it as an excuse, cunningly, and told the most outrageous whoppers imaginable. His plans for grabbing their oil failed miserably. I pulled your sorry asses out of that mess, but we’re still stuck in Afghanistan. Cost to the national debt of this madness? According to economists Stiglitz and Bilmes, it’s a whopping $6 trillion.
The real killer of America’s economy, however, wasn’t 9/11; it was 9/15. That’s 9/15/08, when Lehman Brothers collapsed. This set off mass panic that nearly crashed the whole economy. It was caused by the deregulation of Wall Street. Former Republican Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas, pushed through that little stunt, saying the magic of modern finance would benefit everyone. I pulled your sorry asses out of that mess, too, but it cost a massive $14 trillion.
Republicans opposed my stimulus package for economic recovery, so it wasn’t very effective. That’s why we’re still stuck in this mess. Other Republican policies have added to the mess.
The tax code encourages the destruction of America’s economy by not taxing earnings made abroad. Let’s think that one through: It rewards the outsourcing of jobs; unemployment goes up; the economy goes down! Republicans have done an outstanding job of destroying America’s manufacturing industry purely to make the top 1 percent even richer. So now we keep going by printing IOUs. In any sane society, these people would be tarred and feathered. But in this country, one ran for President.
Many fabulously profitable companies pay hardly any tax. They’re actually subsidized by taxpayers because their miserably-paid employees are on welfare, since they have no unions. These people pay higher tax rates than the super-wealthy. Go figure that one.
I proposed the conservatives’ “individual mandate” healthcare idea. I believed the more reasonably I treated Republicans, the more reasonable they’d be in return. But as thanks, I got their hatred, even though it was their own idea, passed into law by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Nobody cared about this rank hypocrisy. It was politics as usual. It’s corroded the American system of divided government. The Founding Fathers expressly based our system on integrity and compromise. But that’s all gone. Republicans killed it, starting with Newt Gingrich. That’s America’s tragedy.
Republicans control this House only by expert gerrymandering. They got 45 percent of the vote but 55 percent of the seats. Republicans control the Supreme Court. It makes supremely stupid decisions, for instance, that money is free speech and corporations are people.
Thirty-five years of Republican-driven lunacy have crippled our country. Fellow Americans, our Founding Fathers would be appalled at the state of our union today.
Raymond Freeman is a retired banker, a former lawyer and a Democratic delegate for the 44th California Assembly District. His goal is to penetrate the obscurity surrounding economic, financial and political matters, so that the average reader will find this new column interesting and informative. Sharper Focus, VCReporter’s newest column, will be featured every other week.