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The honeymoon is over


February 17, 2010
Times are hard. We've all heard that statement over and over from people — hard-working people — who are pouring every bit of energy they can muster into trying to just pay the bills.

It still looks good on the surface. Most of us are driving decent and fairly new automobiles; you don't see too many clunkers on the roads these days. We're all still able to dress decently, and a lot of us aren't on food stamps, yet. But, again, that's just on the surface and looks can be deceiving.

Our way of life — two cars in every garage and a chicken in every pot — is slowly being whittled away, not dollar by dollar — that would be too noticeable — but nickel by nickel, benefit by benefit, and we never saw it coming. All of a sudden, we're all aware that we are no longer able to make headway. The old premise that "the harder you work, the better you'll live" no longer applies. Now, we're being pushed harder to produce more in less time, and Americans have responded to those demands. We now work more hours and are more productive than almost any country in the world, but for less and less in return for our labors.

Our wages have been stagnant or even decreasing — after being adjusted for inflation — for a decade. We lost ground in the 1980s, during a large recession, then made a few gains in the late 1990s, then began losing again with the beginning of a new century. Ten years later, we're still losing.

The jobs that were lost since 2000 have never come back. The concessions made and the benefits that were cut to "save companies" were never replaced, even though many of those businesses have been doing quite well. A recent article in The Washington Post pointed out that many large corporations, including Google, are sitting on billions and billions of dollars, not spending, not hiring people, just hoarding up cash that could help an ailing economy and put people back to work. Remember those concessions we were talking about at the beginning of this paragraph? This is who they helped, and this is what we get in return. And remember the huge tax cuts George Bush gave the rich that he promised would stimulate the economy? Where's that stimulation? Hey, we're still waiting for the cash to start coming our way, George. It's been years. When can we expect it?

For the last two or three years, the sheep's clothing has been falling off the wolf and we're slowly beginning to see it for what it really is: greed, greed and more greed. Wall Street has about cleaned our plow. They created the housing bubble that so many people fell for and fell victim to, they cleaned out many of our 401K investments and pension funds. They increased interest rates on everything from mortgages to credit cards, gave their big-wigs unfathomable bonuses and laughed all the way to the bank. The banks then claimed they were broke and too big to fail, so Bush bailed them out before he left office. Then, Barack Obama added more billions in hope of turning things around, when all along, we should have let them fail instead of the people.

More than 10 percent of the people in the richest country in the world are out of work, more than 46 million are without health insurance, a staggering number of children are living below the poverty level and don't have enough to eat, and millions who are working are losing ground because the cost of living is still climbing and wages aren't. Now, the banks are reluctant to loan anyone the money we loaned them. We must have "sucker" written all over us.

Now, just recently, we've discovered that thousands and thousands of the extremely rich have been hiding their billions in offshore banks to avoid paying taxes, even after Bush gave them an enormous tax break. Am I missing something here?

And where is this heading, you ask? Well, I guess it's too late to make a long story short, so bear with me another three or four paragraphs.

On Jan. 21, we found out that the conservative Supreme Court justices created a law that gives corporations the same rights as people. Corporations can now put an unlimited amount of money into political campaign ads. So, essentially, the Supreme Court has issued what could lead to the demise of our democracy. Big business can now — remember paragraph five? — use all those billions of dollars they are sitting on to simply buy an election. If any politician doesn't suck up and give them what they want, big business can force them out. Or they can use their money to promote a politician of their liking. We, the people, are, for the most part, broke. So, how can we compete? We can't buy tomorrow's lunch.

And there's something else to consider here: Corporations have no allegiance to this country; they'll move to Mexico in a heartbeat if they have to pay a decent wage or abide by pollution limits here. They'll hire people in India to answer phones, provide customer service to their patrons or manufacture their goods without any consideration of American workers. And the even bigger problem is that many foreigners own companies here. So, will Japanese businessmen or Saudi Arabian investors or Chinese entrepreneurs now be able use their money to determine the outcome of American elections? Probably so.

The Supreme Court put Bush in office when the voters rejected him. The Supreme Court gave corporations the right to take our property by imminent domain when, before, only the government could rob us. The Supreme Court confirmed that corporations could discriminate against women by paying them less for doing the same job as men. Now, the Supreme Court has given corporations the right to use their money to determine who represents us. Our vote is the only voice Americans still have, and now it's utterly worthless.

So, big business, after decades of helping us afford homes, raise our families and pay our bills, has, for the most part, taken everything we had, our houses, our wages, our benefits and, now, they will openly and legally even own the people we put in office. Capitalism and democracy walked hand-in-hand for generations. But the honeymoon is over, and it's quite obvious that democracy is bringing up the rear.

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
Friday
11 - 17 - 17
06:19
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