Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mary Pitt: "Bad Business"

Mary Pitt

(on behalf of all the poor and near-poor who "litter our streets")

So Wall Street is in a panic! So the trillion-dollar corporations are in danger of going broke! So the big-time investors are in danger of losing their silk shirts! So what?

We have been told for years that we must not be cry-babies who go bawling to the government for handouts to help us through the bad times; we must bear up under the load of "personal responsibility"; when our jobs disappear into the "global economy" we must "re-train", mechanical engineers need to become truck drivers, automobile designers to learn to put roofs on house, and secretaries and bookkeepers should go to school to "re-train" for jobs as motel maids!

We are not moved by the plight of the moguls leaving broken corporations equipped with only their golden parachutes. We have been the victims of their business practices for a very long time and now that their unethical practice has turned inward on them, the only message that we have for them is that they need to accept "personal responsibility" for their own plight. They victimized us by slick, fast-talking salesmen convincing us that we could really afford to buy that new car or the fine home. Where were they when the repo men came and drove away in our car? Where were they when our belongings were put into the street while we searched desperately for a homeless shelter? So now they're in danger of losing everything? So let them!

In this wonderful country where we are told that the reason three-quarters of the world hate us "because we're free" and we have the right to make our own choices, why are we denying the mega-corporations the right to fail? We are told that if these mega-banks go bankrupt there will be no available credit. So what? Our credit has been ruined long ago and nobody is borrowing except our government.

These are the same people who were given large tax cuts in order to "encourage them to develop jobs". They did, in China, Indonesia, and any number of other nations where cheap labor can be found! For over seven years, out lives have become more and more constricted by the necessity of working multiple low-paying jobs in order to feed our families and buy the poor-quality Chinese-made clothing from Wal-Mart and pay the rent on our sub-standard housing.

But we pray! Oh, yes, and our constant prayer is that our families stay healthy because one illness of any of them can mean bankruptcy court, if we haven't already been there. Insurance is totally out of reach for the working family and there is no real hope in the offing. Senator McCain wants to give us a tax credit of $5,000 per year per family. He has no idea that the amount will not touch the cost of insurance for a family and how do we pay it for a year before we get the tax credit with our income tax refund? Senator Obama wants to require us to carry insurance but will offer some "assistance", leaving us to to pay the balance of the premiums. With what? The food we need to feed our children and try to keep them healthy?

But those mega-banks are important! Everybody is a stock-holder through their 401-K or in some other fashion. Wrong again! You don't get a 401-K when you are doing non-union manual labor. If you are lucky enough to have a "good" job in some sort of factory, there may be a 401-K plan but the average laborer has no idea where that money goes but are happy to have a "kitty" from which they can borrow when things get tight. In any event, it is not a "big deal" in their financial picture but just another deduction from their paycheck like the ever-present income tax.

There is not one candidate in the major parties who has any real empathy for the "lower-class" of American worker or those retirees who have to live on their Social Security stipend. When their zillionaire buddies screw up their businesses and are in danger of going broke, there is all sorts of sympathy and we are told that we should pay still more taxes to bail them out. Why should we?

They do not care about us, not even in their professions of their own piety and faith. Christian concern for the less fortunate is simply not a factor in their privileged lives. We are the poor fools who clean their crud and carry their fiscal obligations on our frail shoulders while they live the life of Reilly. We are allowed to go through the motions of democracy periodically, purportedly to choose our leadership, but it seems the choices are really made before we even have a chance to vote and, we strongly suspect that choice is made before we have a chance to express our preference.

The wealthy all tell us that capitalism and the free market are essential to our national well-being. If that be so, it is time that they learned that, when they victimize the less fortunate by granting and trading loans for money that they know, up front, that the debtors can never repay, and when those business practices come back and kick then in their fat hind quarters, they have no right to turn to those same victimized people to bail out their sorry behinds and put them back on their feet.

(The author is a very "with-it" old lady who aspires to bring a bit of truth, justice, and common sense to a nation that has lost touch with its humanity in the search for "societal perfection".)

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