“He worked all his life to feed his family, and he died hungry.” I heard that on a news program about a week ago, and I can’t get it out of my mind. For months Obama has been saying we were coming out of the recession. Now, suddenly, we aren’t. The economy is slowing. People are afraid.
I’ve been thinking a lot about recessions lately. They’re cyclical, economists tells us. They happen when people stop buying. Goods pile up. Companies, responding to high inventories, lay off workers.
I’m just about ready to say that government is responsible for recessions. More specifically, our Senators and Representatives. When the public perceives that the government is in bed with industry, and the bills that are passed benefit not the people, but big business, we get discouraged. When we realize we are powerless to do anything about it, and it will only get worse, we close our wallets and prepare for hard times.
We go into recession when the working people in America are squeezed to the point where they can no longer stand the pain. The pressure is applied a little at a time. They put a surcharge on our electric bill when summer is at its hottest or winter its coldest. Our property taxes go up. What our health insurance policy once covered, it no longer covers. Social programs go on the chopping block so we can finance wars that never end. Bankers and Wall Street bandits pocket billions of tax-payer dollars, and our government does nothing about it.
Little by little, the screws are tightened, and we suffer, but we get used to living with the pain, and we go on with our lives. Then the government in collusion with big business ratchets it up a bit more. More pain. We adjust to this new level of suffering, and we go on. Finally, there comes a point where we can stand it no more. The pain is too much. We quit going to stores. We don’t buy that new car or new pair of jeans because we’re afraid of what tomorrow might bring. We don’t go to movies. We stay in our houses and we worry.
All wealth in this country comes from the hard work of the lower and middle classes. But it’s the rich who rake it in. The poor keep on working, trying to pay their bills. We talk about things like “throw the bums out.” But deep down we know that if we throw the bums out, the new bum will be just as bad as the old one.
The bills passed by Congress with very few exceptions benefit big corporations, not the people. The new health care legislation surely benefits big insurance companies. They got millions of new customers. They have four years to reject people with pre-existing conditions, and in that four years, they will surely figure a way to make it eight. They beat back the public option, our only chance to force insurance companies to treat people fairly. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, formerly the US Minerals Management Service, allows oil companies to submit fraudulent documents, to drill baby drill with no plans to deal with calamities like the Deep Horizon Oil Well. The EPA tells BP to cut its use of the dispersant Corexit by 50 to 75%, but BP ignores the directive, keeps right on pouring the stuff into the Gulf. NOAA tells us 75% of the oil is gone, but scientists from the Universities of Florida and Georgia tell us it’s still there, on the bottom of the Gulf, poisoning plant plankton which is the basic food source for all living things in the Gulf. The FDA allows GlaxoSmithKline to continue to market drugs that are killing people. A massive spill of toxic ash flows from a TVA power plant in Kingston, Tennessee, covering over 300 acres, polluting the Emory and Clinch rivers. TVA uses taxpayer money to fund a study that, predictably, shows no adverse health effects associated with the toxic spill.
Three years after the financial meltdown, Congress passes financial reform, but it is so full of loopholes no one really believes it will help. Nothing is done to cut the “too big to fail” banks down to manageable size. They neglect to do anything meaningful about derivatives.
Congress passed credit card reform, but they left enough loopholes to drive a truck through. That new business card you got in the mail to replace your personal card? It’s not subject to the new rules.
The Tea Party and conservative Republicans would like to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, repeal the new Health Care legislation, apologize to BP for asking them to pay for the damage they’ve done to the Gulf, retain the Bush tax cuts for the rich, keep women in bondage by repealing Rowe vs Wade, allow coal and energy companies to pollute the environment at will, allow banks and credit card companies to tie their customers in knots and extract every dime they possibly can.
Recessions happen when hard working people can no longer take care of their families. They’ve been squeezed too hard. By taxes. By corporations who fire people in order to protect their bottom lines. By politicians who want to rip away the safety net from those who are unable to pay their bills, afford a place to live, buy food for their tables.
He worked all his life to feed his family….