Original Link: http://www.alternet.org/economy/145667
By David DeGraw
The economic elite have robbed us all. The amount of suffering in the United States of America is literally a crime against humanity.
"The American oligarchy spares no pains in promoting the belief that it does not exist, but the success of its disappearing act depends on equally strenuous efforts on the part of an American public anxious to believe in egalitarian fictions and unwilling to see what is hidden in plain sight." -- Michael Lind, To Have and to Have Not
We all have very strong differences of opinion on many issues. However, like our founding fathers before us, we must put aside our differences and unite to fight a common enemy.
It has now become evident to a critical mass that the Republican and Democratic parties, along with all three branches of our government, have been bought off by a well-organized Economic Elite who are tactically destroying our way of life. The harsh truth is that 99 percent of the U.S. population no longer has political representation. The U.S. economy, government and tax system is now blatantly rigged against us.
Current statistical societal indicators clearly demonstrate that a strategic attack has been launched and an analysis of current governmental policies prove that conditions for 99 percent of Americans will continue to deteriorate. The Economic Elite have engineered a financial coup and have brought war to our doorstep...and make no mistake, they have launched a war to eliminate the U.S. middle class.
To those who feel I am using extreme rhetoric, I ask you to please take a few minutes of your time to hear me out and research the evidence put forth. The facts are there for the unprejudiced, rational and reasoned mind to absorb. It is the unfortunate reality of our current crisis.
Unless we all unite and organize on common ground, our very way of life and the ideals that our country was founded upon will continue to unravel.
Before exposing exactly who the Economic Elite are, and discussing common sense ways in which we can defeat them, let's take a look at how much damage they have already caused.
Casualties of Economic Terrorism, Surveying the Damage
The devastating numbers across-the-board on the economic front are staggering. I'll go through some of them here, many we have already become all too familiar with. We hear some of these numbers all the time, so much so that it appears as if we have already begun "to normalize the unthinkable." You may be sick of hearing them, but behind each number is an enormous amount of individual suffering, American lives and families who are struggling worse than they ever have.
America is the richest nation in history, yet we now have the highest poverty rate in the industrialized world with an unprecedented amount of Americans living in dire straights and over 50 million citizens already living in poverty.
The government has come up with clever ways to downplay all of these numbers, but we have over 50 million people who need to use food stamps to eat, and a stunning 50 percent of U.S. children will use food stamps to eat at some point in their childhoods. Approximately 20,000 people are added to this total every day. In 2009, one out of five U.S. households didn't have enough money to buy food. In households with children, this number rose to 24 percent, as the hunger rate among U.S. citizens has now reached an all-time high.
We also currently have over 50 million U.S. citizens without health care. 1.4 million Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2009, a 32 percent increase from 2008. As bankruptcies continue to skyrocket, medical bankruptcies are responsible for over 60 percent of them, and over 75 percent of the medical bankruptcies filed are from people who have health care insurance. We have the most expensive health care system in the world, we are forced to pay twice as much as other countries and the overall care we get in return ranks 37th in the world.
In total, Americans have lost $5 trillion from their pensions and savings since the economic crisis began and $13 trillion in the value of their homes. During the first full year of the crisis, workers between the age of 55 - 60, who have worked for 20 - 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. "Personal debt has risen from 65 percent of income in 1980 to 125 percent today." Over five million U.S. families have already lost their homes, in total 13 million U.S. families are expected to lose their home by 2014, with 25 percent of current mortgages underwater. Deutsche Bank has an even grimmer prediction: "The percentage of 'underwater' loans may rise to 48 percent, or 25 million homes." Every day 10,000 U.S. homes enter foreclosure. Statistics show that an increasing number of these people are not finding shelter elsewhere, there are now over 3 million homeless Americans, the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population is single parents with children.
One place more and more Americans are finding a home is in prison. With a prison population of 2.3 million people, we now have more people incarcerated than any other nation in the world -- the per capita statistics are 700 per 100,000 citizens. In comparison, China has 110 per 100,000, France has 80 per 100,000, Saudi Arabia has 45 per 100,000. The prison industry is thriving and expecting major growth over the next few years. A recent report from the Hartford Advocate titled "Incarceration Nation" revealed that "a new prison opens every week somewhere in America."
The government unemployment rate is deceptive on several levels. It doesn't count people who are "involuntary part-time workers," meaning workers who are working part-time but want to find full-time work. It also doesn't count "discouraged workers," meaning long-term unemployed people who have lost hope and don't consistently look for work. As time goes by, more and more people stop consistently looking for work and are discounted from the unemployment figure. For instance, in January, 1.1 million workers were eliminated from the unemployment total because they were "officially" labeled discouraged workers. So instead of the number rising, we will hear deceptive reports about unemployment leveling off.
On top of this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently discovered that 824,000 job losses were never accounted for due to a "modeling error" in their data. Even in their initial January data there appears to be a huge understating, with the newest report saying the economy lost 20,000 jobs. TrimTabs employment analysis, which has consistently provided more accurate data, "estimated that the U.S. economy shed 104,000 jobs in January."
When you factor in all these uncounted workers -- "involuntary part-time" and "discouraged workers" -- the unemployment rate rises from 9.7 percent to over 20 percent. In total, we now have over 30 million U.S. citizens who are unemployed or underemployed. The rarely cited "employment-participation" rate, which reveals the percentage of the population that is currently in the workforce, has now fallen to 64 percent.
Even based on the "official" unemployment rate, just to get back to the unemployment level of 4.6 percent that we had in 2007, we need to create over 10 million new jobs, and most every serious economist will tell you that these jobs are not coming back. In fact, we are still consistently shedding jobs, on just one day, January 27, several companies announced new cuts of more than 60,000 jobs.
Due to the length of this crisis already, millions of Americans are reaching a point where the unemployment benefits they have been living on are coming to an end. More workers have already been out of work longer than at any point since statistics have been recorded, with over six million now unemployed for over six months. A record 20 million Americans qualified for unemployment insurance benefits last year, causing 27 states to run out of funds, with seven more also expected to go into the red within the next few months. In total, 40 state programs are expected to go broke.
Most economists believe the unemployment rate will remain high for the foreseeable future. What will happen when we have millions of laid-off workers without any unemployment benefits to save them?
Working More for Less
The millions struggling to find work are just part of the story. Due to the fact that we now have a record high six people for every one job opening, companies have been able to further increase the workload on their remaining employees. They have been able to increase the amount of hours Americans are working, reduce wages and drastically cut back on benefits. Even though Americans were already the most productive workers in the world before the economic crisis, in the third quarter of 2009, average worker productivity increased by an annualized rate of 9.5 percent, at the same time unit labor cost decreased by 5.2 percent. This has led to record profits for many companies. Of the 220 companies in the S&P 500 who have reported fourth-quarter results thus far, 78 percent of them had "better-than-expected profits" with earnings 17 percent above expectations, "the highest for any quarter since Thomson Reuters began tracking data."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median wage was only $32,390 per year in 2008, and median household income fell by 3.6 percent while the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent. With the unemployment rate now at 10 percent, median income has been falling at a 5 percent rate and is expected to continue its decline. Not surprisingly, Americans' job satisfaction level is now at an all-time low.
There are also a growing number of employed people who, despite having a job, are still living in poverty. There are at least 15 million workers who now fall into this rapidly growing category. $32,390 a year is not going to get you far in today's economy, and half of the country is making less than that. This is why many Americans are now forced to work two jobs to provide for their family to hopefully make ends meet.
A Crime Against Humanity
The mainstream news media will numb us to this horrifying reality by endlessly talking about the latest numbers, but they never piece them together to show you the whole devastating picture, and they rarely show you all the immense individual suffering behind them. This is how they "normalize the unthinkable" and make us become passive in the face of such a high causality count.
Behind each of these numbers, is a tremendous amount of misery; the physical toll is only outdone by the severe psychological toll. Anyone who has had to put off medical care, or who couldn't get medical care for one of their family members due to financial circumstances, can tell you about the psychological toll that is on top of the physical suffering. Anyone who has felt the stress of wondering how they were going to get their child's next meal or their own, or the stress of not knowing how they are going to pay the mortgage, rent, electricity or heat bill, let alone the car payment, gas, phone, cable or Internet bill.
There are now well over 150 million Americans who feel stress over these things on a consistent basis. Over 60 percent of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck.
These are all basic things every person should be able to easily afford in a technologically advanced society such as ours. The reason we struggle with these things is because the Economic Elite have robbed us all. This amount of suffering in the United States of America is literally a crime against humanity.