The new poverty numbers from the Census Bureau are out and they’re terrible. One in two Americans is now either living in poverty or is so near the poverty line as to be considered poor. It’s the worst off we’ve been since the first settlers hit the beach in Jamestown with nothing at all and proceeded to take what they wanted, current owners be damned.
We’ve come a long way since that first settlement, only to arrive at our new low with half our fellow Americans either broke or nearly in poverty. All of it’s gotten me thinking about the joys of Christmas and that great American entrepreneur, Henry Ford. Oh Sure, Ford, was a bit of a fascist wacko, micro-managing the lives of his employees, down to demanding that they attend church on Sunday. Can’t have Ford workers going to hell, after all. Can’t have any immorality or unethical behavior exhibited by those taking part in the American capitalist system. Wouldn’t be right. He was a bit of a nut job, wasn’t he? Or perhaps he was so much saner than any of our movers and shakers today, that he simply looks crazy from a contemporary perspective.
You must admit, Mr. Ford did make a very sane decision to build cars using an assembly line. But his real stroke of genius was the acknowledgement that selling his product would require a public with enough money to purchase what he was selling. Brilliant! Well, I’m sure it probably seemed that way at the time, back when you had to pay for what you were buying. So Henry Ford, became an advocate of paying a living wage, enabling his workers to buy his cars. If only we’d stuck with it. But we didn’t. “Pay as you go” became an idea corporate America needed to circumvent. So they did. With a little help from the bankers.
For those who could no longer afford to favor the marketplace, credit cards were invented, putting average Americans in an even deeper hole than before. Hopelessly so, for many. And there were those oh so attractive (seemed that way at the time, didn’t it?) long-term loans for homes and automobiles, leading to thousands driving around in cars they really can’t afford with loans stretching out for a full 60 months, and the country sliding toward some 10 million homes in foreclosure by 2012 while the federal government, in collusion with criminal financiers, bleeds off even more money from the middle class to prop up the gambling habits of Wall Street.
What timing, releasing the new poverty numbers for Christmas! A holiday about…..what? Any religious or spiritual significance has been all but obliterated by American commerce. Buried by the artificial need to buy all the crap you can carry from your local super-store, putting those who can afford it the least even further in debt. Of course, in the finest capitalist tradition, they have nobody to blame but themselves. It’s the argument of the rich. Both now and in the future, as things get even worse.
Businessweek, quotes Sheldon Danazinger, public policy professor at the University of Michigan with saying, “Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too `rich’ to qualify. The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal. If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.”
Student loan debt in America now exceeds the nation’s credit card debt and is expected to hit one-trillion dollars in the not too distant future. Maybe Michele Bachmann and her friends on the Christian far-right can show the nation’s recent college grads how they can pray the debt away?
Who to blame? Well, we can’t blame the corporations for offshoring jobs and raising prices while wages remained flat, leading to record profits for wealthy Americans (and others) who can sit back and reap huge dividends. Can’t blame the banks for extending credit to those who can’t afford the usurious rates. Can’t blame the ad agencies that fill our airwaves with commercials, bristling with subliminal hooks designed to get you to run out to the stores and buy, buy, buy! Gotta do all we can to prop up Black Friday and Cyber Monday! Television news anchors grinned as they once again served as mindless shills to further brainwash the masses, affordability and common sense be damned. This is Christmas, after all.
Even the baby Jesus, wants you to buy more than you can afford and then eat and drink yourself to the point of feeling ill for several days. Doesn’t he? It’s good to be used, isn’t it? Isn’t that the message? Or maybe not? What was it the Bible said about usury? A whole lot actually, including something about taking “no usury or interest from him…” The Bible doesn’t speak well of usury or those who partake in it. Remember Jesus and the money changers? It should be a major problem for a mostly Christian country with nearly half its population living in poverty, so much of it the result of usury. The fact that it’s not puts a lie to much of what so many say they believe in — when it’s convenient to do so.
It isn’t as though Americans don’t want to work for a living. That may be something to think about this Christmas, as the Republican Party, the party of usury, continues to argue for cuts to those social service programs that continue providing food and shelter to those among us who are at or near the poverty level. Not to be overlooked, the Democrats, most of them (there are two or three who haven’t sold their souls), are equally responsible for getting us into this mess.
How much did Nancy Pelosi make from that IPO a major credit card company offered her family even while she was “working” on credit card reform?
Time to stop living in denial. Oh, and have a very merry Christmas.