Friday, July 20, 2012

In the News as Week Ends: The Super-Rich as People, the Rest of Us as You People

As the week ends, a selection of news articles and commentary on the news that interests me: the following focus on the declining fortunes of everyone except the 1% in the U.S.:

At Salon, Joan Walsh finds it interesting that, in the little piece of diversionary theater involving Ann Romney a day ago--theater designed to humanize her husband and distract us from his refusal to release tax statements--Ann Romney let slip that the GOP now regards all of us as "you people."  The 1%: people.  The 99%: you people.

Walsh writes, 

Ann Romney’s comment about “you people” is particularly fascinating to me because I can’t get over the way the contemporary right has taken insults they once reserved for African-Americans and applied them to a much broader swath of the country, including white folks, who happen to make up 90 percent of their base. The obvious example I’ve written about before is Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” which blames the hard times suffered by the white working class on its own laziness, aversion to marriage, and fondness for the dole – the same personal traits he blamed for African-American poverty in the 1980s.

At Alternet, Jeff Faux offers an essay drawing on his new book The Servant Economy: Where America's Elite Is Sending the Middle Classes which argues that both of the major political parties in the U.S. have made a "tacit agreement" with the super-rich elites to scale back standards of living for everyone in the nation--except, of course, the 1%.  More and more of us are being slated by the 1% and its D.C. lackies (of both parties) for a condition of semi-servitude from which we cannot rise even with college educations.

Faux observes,

Moreover, going to college is no longer the escape route for the vast majority of young people without elite connections or rich parents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2010 and 2020, nine out of 10 of the largest and fastest growing occupational categories will not require a college education. And the tenth, which includes medical professionals and college teachers, are likely to suffer dramatically in the coming age of fiscal austerity. The bright college graduates working as retail clerks at the Apple Store for $12 an hour are beginning to sense that their jobs do not represent a pause on the way up the professional ladder, but rather are a taste of their long-term future.
And he adds that too few of us recognize what's going on, and too few are willing to push back hard against the decision-making process at the highest levels of our government which tacitly accepts these developments.  We continue with the illusion that all of this will happen to someone else, to someone else's family, even as we recognize that something is seriously awry in the economic life of the nation as a whole.

And, of course, as I read Faux, it strikes me that our denial about how grim our economic situation has become, and how the super-rich elites intend to reduce everyone beneath them to servitude, is not vastly different from our denial about how far along the path to serious crisis we find ourselves due to global warming.  In one posting after another, I've been saying that it seems to me many of us just don't get that the failure of crops across broad swathes of the planet that once fed millions can very quickly produce dire conditions for large numbers of human beings.

Mark Bittman strikes a similar chord in a statement to which I pointed yesterday, which points out that, right in the thick of the growing crisis, we hear hardly anyone talking about the dimensions of the problem and how to address it.  And today in the New York Times John Eligon reports that the drought is the most widespread in over half a century and is expected to grow--with serious effects on crops in America's Midwestern breadbasket.

And I wonder if many of my fellow Americans are seriously enough deluded to imagine that with Mr. Romney in the White House next year, and the House in GOP hands, any of this will be seriously and proactively addressed.  Or if the U.S. Catholic bishops, who are actively working to such an end, and who tell us they are all about combating hunger and economic oppression, are seriously enough deluded to imagine that they have any credibility left as moral leaders, while they work towards ends that will almost certainly make economic oppression and even hunger more pronounced.

P.S. (later, several minutes after original posting): I now see that Andrew Sullivan is reporting at his Daily Dish site that video footage of Ann Romney using the phrase "you people" in her recent interview has been clipped so that the "you" is now missing.  Sullivan says he can't understand why this expurgation would have been done, since he thinks she was referring to the media and not all the rest of us.

I don't agree.  I agree with Joan Walsh who makes a compelling case for the argument that Romney was addressing the 99% with her remark.  And that would explain, of course, why footage is now being expurgated: she inadvertently gave away a game she and her husband and the 1% don't intend to give away as they talk about their plans for the rest of us.

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