What Are We Really Talking About?

                            What Are We Really Talking About?

Yes, the average American has sufficient cause to be daunted. Many of those with moderate to formidable educations and, by most global standards, considerable tools, skills, energy and ambition to pursue a gainful and rewarding life, have hit a wall.

There were roughly 8.8%, or 13.5 million unemployed in this country as of the end of March. These figures vary and flux within and across demographic groups, and the numbers can only reflect what is reported, which fuels speculation that the figure may be higher, as a number of unemployed no longer regularly search or apply for work.

(Nearly 14 million Americans — 9.1 percent of the working population — are unemployed. That’s just a couple of a million shy of the populations of Greece and Ireland, Europe’s two problem children, combined. Another 8.5 million would like to work full time, but can only find part-time jobs. A further 2.2 million have been so discouraged by the grim labor market that they have given up looking for jobs altogether....http://blogs.reuters.com/chrystia-freeland/)

If we seek statistics, we will find them. They can be more telling than what flies with flurries of bombast, misinformation, shrill rhetoric and non-news we have in our eyes, noses and ears if we’re within ear shot of a speaker or eye shot of a screen. And that would be most of every day, thanks very much. We can shop and compare stats until we’ve a feel for what may be something close to the truth, but most average Americans don’t do that. They haven’t the time, the energy, or even the inclination to wade into the waters of esoterica and factoids which require trained insight and arcane analytical skills.

The wellspring of all data is seemingly and endlessly rife with the trivial to the meaningful and grave, and it’s ironic that this modern day volume of immediate availability is lost on most. Many youngsters, in spirit or age, prefer to skim at light speed across the billion mile deep and wide ethers while immersed a mere inch at most, with eyes barely a squint at best.

The general lot of us who live, love and work daily, maintaining enough spiritual health to find some enrichment in our lives, can only follow our chosen paths and instincts, while keeping our eyes and ears discerningly open.

Keeping our minds and our hearts as open is quite another matter and sometimes the greater challenge.

Somewhere along the line, in the context of an empowering zeitgeist in which opinions--presumably informed opinions--exist on the air, on the web, in the ear, in the palm and feverishly ticking along on the edges of even the most mundane tableaus, we arrived to a point where, each voice can be constantly broadcast and chronically present in a public forum, we feel helpless in attempting to effect any real change with our thoughts and words.

The best we can do is share an article, an opinion—hopefully written by someone educated, dedicated, qualified, and whose job it is to impart insight in an accessible language that gets a salient point across readily, that is, effectively conveying a point that can be understood by more than a relative few.

What’s saddening to me is the banal polarity of this conversation. These days, we find even the most traditional and respectable voices turning shrill. Language on the right actually accuses the left of “attacking” big business and “the rich” for suggesting that it may seem somewhat unfair that they enjoy a greased path to exponential increases in their wealth while a small business owner is still struggling to procure a start-up loan from a “too big to fail” financial institution.

That same person may reflect on this while filling his gas tank only halfway due to you know what. That person, when in line at the checkout, sees the headline that the oil company enjoyed a double digit percentage increase in profits from last year.

He reads a book that states the staggering statistics of Wall Street salaries, while the Supreme Court rules that corporations now may enjoy unfettered contributions to political campaigns, with the same free speech protection of individual persons. Defense of this mostly deplored (by the middle and left) development was prompt and harsh: that this would also apply to labor unions, as though there is some sort of parity in spoils there, especially in light of the radical efforts to bust those same unions, while somehow managing to stigmatize school teachers and public employees in general as villains who are unreasonable in attempting to retain collective bargaining rights after having already made considerable concessions for the common good.

In this land, the rich have gotten richer--exponentially more than ever before. There are statistics that bear out that during the expansive period from 2002 to 2007 we went from a time in which most of the nation’s income gains went to the bottom 90 percent of households (the pattern of the economic expansion of the 1960s) to one in which more than half go to the richest 1 percent.

That’s a lot of wealth going to not a lot of people. I don’t blame those people. I not attacking them. I merely see a playing field before us that’s extremely tilted. If those people are actually paying a lion’s share of utility sustaining taxes, then good. Percentages of a lot amount to more than percentages of a little, and folks that are strapped and making those monthly choices to fill the gas tank or their kid’s stomachs, pay for the blood pressure medicine or the day care, pay the electric bill or the phone bill, don’t have a whole lot to spare. I’m not sure what folks mean when they say the rich will be “taxed into submission”. They proclaim tax hikes as a “redistribution of wealth”. From where I sit, reflecting over hopefully none-too-skewed facts and figures from the last 20-25 years, there already has been a massive re-distribution of wealth. The trickle down economic theories work very well, for folks with money. Do they deserve more because they have more? I do feel there is a moral center to many of these arguments.

That’s the reality, no matter which and whose President passed NAFTA or signed DOMA. If the  folks who are hurting, especially those among that 8-10%, are interested in any pointing fingers, it’s the one’s toward cheap groceries and bargain priced coats. I do feel strongly that they deserve more.  

To the man and woman who were once content while simply working hard, supporting their family while working their shift at the auto plant, or the sneaker factory, or running a small hardware or sporting goods store, these facts serve as a harsh reminder that the days of dreaming of a better future for their kids are over. Yes, it was reasonable that those companies moved their manufacturing overseas to China and the like. It was good for business. The big box stores came, and who could stop them? But one certainly can’t expect those jobless folks to pledge allegiance to the flag quite the same way again, even though there’s probably someone on the air, in a pulpit, or behind a podium somewhere who’s convinced them they should if they ever want to see the light of a gainful day again.     

But all the while, America is still an imperial power. We own or operate military bases in over 130 countries. If asked, I’d be hard pressed to name that many countries.

I hope my Grandkids have an education that allows them to know how health care works in other countries, and be able to name all the states in this one. I hope they grow to care about people regardless of their religion, fiscal worth,  or political leaning. I hope they read much and often, and are able to express their own mind without the help of ubiquitous and anonymous voices to indict and rant and make them feel like victims.

This is a harsh and dismal time for many good hearted and hard working folks. I feel for them as I feel anxious for me and mine. If posting a link to a piece that states a case that furthers what I feel should be a growing proactive dissatisfaction with the status quo offers a little juice for a conversation going on somewhere around a dinner table, then good. But the center of any argument I make is that of compassion for the suffering, and a hope that hard work and caring for our fellow humans wills out.

All the tit-for-tat jockeying we hear, as if for a debate team win using informed angles and extrapolations, at this point, seems trite and a little sad to me, while there are folks merely in need of real help, real hope.

I’ve decided to not post any more vent-oriented provocative articles that, at this point, merely restate  the obvious: that our land is in trouble. Wherever I find data or unbent info, or a piece that may inspire, elucidate or facilitate, or is good for a laugh, I’ll throw it up for whomever may be interested.

But it’s our real blood on the line. And that’s shouldn’t be sport.