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Imagine A Country: Life in the new millenium
Imagine a country where one out of five children is born into poverty and wealth is being redistributed upward. Since the 1970s, the top 1 percent of households has doubled their share of the nations wealth. The top 1 percent has close to 40 percent of the wealthnearly the same amount as the bottom 95 percent of households.
Imagine a country where economic inequality is going back to the future circa the 1930s. The combined after-tax income of the top 1 percent of tax filers was about half that of the bottom 50 percent of tax filers in 1986. By the late 1990s, the top 1 percent had a larger share of after-tax income than the bottom 50 percent.
Imagine a country with a greed surplus and justice deficit. Imagine a country where the poor and middle class bear the brunt of severe cutbacks in education, health, environmental programs, and other public services to close state and federal budget deficits fueled by ballooning tax giveaways for wealthy households and corporations.
Its not Argentina.
Imagine a country which demands that people work for a living while denying many a living wage.
Imagine a country where health care aides cant afford health insurance. Where people working in the food industry depend on food banks to help feed their children. Where childcare teachers dont make enough to save for their own childrens education.
Its not the Philippines.
Imagine a country where productivity went up, but workers wages went down. In the words of the national labor department, As the productivity of workers increases, one would expect worker compensation [wages and benefits] to experience similar gains. Thats not what happened.
Since 1968, worker productivity has risen 81 percent while the average hourly wage barely budged, adjusting for inflation, and the real value of the minimum wage dropped 38 percent.
Imagine a country where the minimum wage just doesnt add up. Where minimum wage workers earn more than a third less than their counterparts earned a third of a century ago, adjusting for inflation. Where a couple with two children would have to work more than three full-time jobs at the $5.15 minimum wage to make ends meet.
Its not Mexico.
Imagine a country where some of the worst CEOs make millions more in a year than the best CEOs of earlier generations made in their lifetimes. CEOs made 45 times the pay of average production and non-supervisory workers in 1980. They made 96 times as much in 1990, 160 times as much in 1995 and 369 times as much in 2001. Back in 1960, CEOs made an average of 38 times more than schoolteachers. CEOs made 63 times as much in 1990 and 264 times as much as public school teachers in 2001.
Imagine a country that had a record-breaking ten-year economic expansion in 1991-2001, but millions of workers make wages so low they have to choose between eating or heating, health care or childcare.
A leading business magazine observed, People who worked hard to make their companies competitive are angry at the way the profits are distributed. They think it is unfair, and they are right.
Its not England.
Imagine a country where living standards are falling for younger generations despite increased education. Since 1973, the share of workers without a high school degree has fallen by half. The share of workers with at least a four-year college degree has doubled. But the 2002 average hourly wage for production and non-supervisory workers (the majority of the workforce) is 7.5 percent below 1973, adjusting for inflation. Median net worth (assets minus debt) dropped between 1995 and 2001 for households headed by persons under age 35 and households that dont own their own home.
About one out of four workers makes $8.70 an hour or less. Thats not much more than the real value of the minimum wage of 1968 at $8.27 in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Its not Russia.
Imagine a country where for more and more people a job doesnt keep you out of poverty, it keeps you working poor. Imagine a country much richer than it was 25 years ago, but the percentage of full-time workers living in poverty has jumped 50 percent.
Imagine a country that sets the official poverty line well below the actual cost of minimally adequate housing, health care, food, and other necessities. You were not counted as poor in 2001 (latest available final data) unless you had pre-tax incomes below these thresholds: $9,214 for a person under 65, $8,494 for a person 65 and older, $11,569 for a two-person family, $14,128 for a three-person family, and $18,104 for a family of four. On average, households need more than double the official poverty threshold to meet basic needs.
Imagine a country where homelessness is on the rise, but federal funding for low-income housing is about 50 percent lower than it was in 1976, adjusting for inflation. The largest federal housing support program is the mortgage interest deduction, which disproportionately benefits higher-income families.
Imagine a country where more workers are going back to the future of sweatshops and day labor. Corporations are replacing full-time jobs with disposable contingent workers. They include temporary employees, contract workers, and leased employeessome of them fired and then rented back at a large discount by the same companyand involuntary part-time workers, who want permanent full-time work.
Its not Spain.
How do workers increasingly forced to migrate from job to job, at low and variable wage rates, without health insurance or paid vacation, much less a pension, care for themselves and their families, pay for college, save for retirement, plan a future, build strong communities?
Imagine a country where after mass layoffs and union busting, just 13.5 percent of workers are unionized. One out of three workers were union members in 1955. Full-time workers who were union members had median 2001 weekly earnings of $718 compared with just $575 for workers not represented by unions.
Imagine a country where the concerns of working people are dismissed as special interests and the profit-making interests of globetrotting corporations substitute for the national interest.
Imagine a country negotiating free trade agreements that help corporations trade freely on cheap labor at home and abroad.
One ad financed by the countrys agency for international development showed a Salvadoran woman in front of a sewing machine. It told corporations, You can hire her for 33 cents an hour. Rosa is more than just colorful. She and her co-workers are known for their industriousness, reliability and quick learning. They make El Salvador one of the best buys. The country that financed the ad intervened militarily to make sure El Salvador would stay a best buy for corporations.
Its not Canada.
Imagine a country where nearly two-thirds of women with children under age 6 and more than three-fourths of women with children ages 6-17 are in the labor force, but affordable childcare and after-school programs are scarce. Apparently, kids are expected to have three parents: Two parents with jobs to pay the bills, and another parent to be home in mid-afternoon when school lets outas well as all summer.
Imagine a country where women working full time earn 76 cents for every dollar men earn. Women dont pay 76 cents on a mans dollar for their education, rent, food or childcare. The gender wage gap has closed just 12 cents since 1955, when women earned 64 cents for every dollar earned by men. Theres still another 24 cents to go.
The average woman high school graduate who works full time from ages 25 to 65 will earn about $450,000 less than the average male high school graduate. The gap widens to $900,000 for full-time workers with bachelors degrees. Men with professional degrees may expect to earn almost $2 million more than their female counterparts over their work-life, says a government report.
Imagine a country where childcare workers, mostly women, generally make about as much as parking lot attendants and much less than animal trainers. Out of 700 occupations surveyed by the labor department, only 15 have lower average wages than childcare workers.
Imagine a country where most minimum wage workers are women, while 95 percent of the top-earning corporate officers at the largest 500 companies are men, as are 90 percent of the most influential positions, from CEOs to executive vice president. Less than 2 percent of corporate officers at the largest companies are women of color.
Imagine a country where discrimination against women is pervasive from the bottom to the top of the pay scale and its not because women are on the mommy track. In the words of a leading business magazine, At the same level of management, the typical womans pay is lower than her male colleagueseven when she has the exact same qualifications, works just as many years, relocates just as often, provides the main financial support for her family, takes no time off for personal reasons, and wins the same number of promotions to comparable jobs.
Imagine a country where instead of rooting out discrimination, many policy makers are busily blaming women for their disproportionate poverty. If women earned as much as similarly qualified men, poverty in single-mother households would be cut in half.
Its not Japan.
Imagine a country where the awful labeling of children as illegitimate has again been legitimized. Besides meaning born out of wedlock, illegitimate also means illegal, contrary to rules and logic, misbegotten, not genuine, wrongto be a bastard. The word illegitimate has consequences. It helps make people more disposable. Single mothers and their children have become prime scapegoats for illegitimate economics.
Imagine a country where violence against women is so epidemic it is their leading cause of injury. So-called domestic violence accounts for more visits to hospital emergency departments than car crashes, muggings, and rapes combined. About a third of all murdered women are killed by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners (less than a tenth are killed by strangers). Researchers say, Men commonly kill their female partners in response to the womans attempt to leave an abusive relationship.
The country has no equal rights amendment.
Its not Pakistan.
Imagine a country where homicide is the second-largest killer of young people, ages 15-24; accidents, many of them drunk driving fatalities, are first. It leads major industrialized nations in firearms-related deaths for children under 15. Increasingly lethal weapons designed for hunting people are produced for profit by major manufacturers and proudly defended by a politically powerful national rifle association. Informational material from a national shooting sports foundation asks, How old is old enough? to have a gun, and advises parents: Age is not the major yardstick. Some youngsters are ready to start at 10, others at 14. The only real measures are those of maturity and individual responsibility. Does your youngster follow directions well? Would you leave him alone in the house for two or three hours? Is he conscientious and reliable? Would you send him to the grocery store with a list and a $20 bill? If the answer to these questions or similar ones are yes then the answer can also be yes when your child asks for his first gun.
Its not France.
Imagine a country whose school system is rigged in favor of the already privileged, with lower caste children tracked by race and income into the most deficient and demoralizing schools and classrooms. Public school budgets are heavily determined by private property taxes, allowing higher income districts to spend much more than poor ones. In the state with the largest gap in 1999-2000, state and local spending per pupil in districts with the lowest child poverty rates was more than $2,152 greater than districts with the highest child poverty rates. The difference amounts to about $861,000 for a typical elementary school of 400 studentsmoney that could be used for teachers, books, and other resources. Disparities are even wider among states, with spending in districts with enrollments of 15,000 or more ranging from $3,932 per pupil in one district to $14,244 in another.
In rich districts kids take well-stocked libraries, laboratories, and state-of-the-art computers for granted. In poor schools they are rationing out-of-date textbooks and toilet paper. Rich schools often look like country clubswith manicured sports fields and swimming pools. Poor schools often look more like jailswith concrete grounds and grated windows. College prep courses, art, music, physical education, field trips, and foreign languages are often considered necessities for the affluent, luxuries for the poor.
Wealthier citizens argue that lack of money isnt the problem in poorer schoolsfamily values areuntil proposals are made to make school spending more equitable. Then money matters greatly for those who already have more.
Its not India.
Imagine a country whose constitution once counted black slaves as worth three-fifths of whites. Today, black per capita income is about three-fifths of whites. Imagine a country where racial disparities take their toll from birth to death. The black infant mortality rate is more than double that of whites. Black life expectancy is nearly six years less. Black unemployment is more than twice that of whites and the black poverty rate is almost triple that of whites.
Imagine a country where the government subsidized decades of segregated suburbanization for whites while the inner cities left to people of color were treated as outsider citiesseparate, unequal, and disposable. Recent studies have documented continuing discrimination in education, employment, banking, insurance, housing, and health care.
Its not South Africa.
Imagine a country where the typical non-Hispanic white household has seven times as much net worth (including home equity) as the typical household of color. From 1995 to 2001, the typical white households net worth rose from $88,500 to $120,900 while the net worth of the typical household of color fell from $18,300 to $17,100.
Imagine a country that doesnt count you as unemployed just because youre unemployed. To be counted in the official unemployment rate you must have searched for work in the past four weeks. The government doesnt count people as unemployed if they are so discouraged from long and fruitless job searches they have given up looking. It doesnt count as unemployed those who couldnt look for work in the past month because they had no childcare, for example. If you need a full-time job, but youre working part-timewhether 1 hour or 34 hours weeklybecause thats all you can find, youre counted as employed.
A leading business magazine observed, Increasingly the labor market is filled with surplus workers who are not being counted as unemployed.
Its not Germany.
Imagine a country where there is a shortage of jobs, not a shortage of work. Millions of people need work and urgent work needs peoplefrom creating affordable housing, to repairing bridges and building mass transit, to cleaning up pollution and converting to renewable energy, to staffing after-school programs and community centers.
Imagine a country with full prisons instead of full employment. The jail and prison population has nearly quadrupled since 1980. The nation is number one in the world when it comes to locking up its own people. In 1985, 1 in every 320 residents were incarcerated. By 2001, the figure had increased to 1 in every 146.
Imagine a country where prison labor is a growth industry and so-called corrections spending is the fastest growing part of state budgets. Apparently, the government would rather spend $25,000 a year to keep someone in prison than on cost-effective programs of education, community development, addiction treatment, and employment to keep them out. In the words of a national center on institutions and alternatives, this nation has replaced the social safety net with a dragnet.
Imagine a country that has been criticized by human rights organizations for expanding, rather than abolishing, use of the death penaltydespite documented racial bias and growing evidence of innocents being sentenced to death.
Its not China.
Imagine a country that imprisons black people at a rate much higher than apartheid South Africa. One out of seven black men ages 25-29 are incarcerated. Many more are on probation or on parole. Looking just at prisons and not local jails, 10 percent of black males ages 25-29 were locked up at the end of 2001, compared with 1 percent of white males. Black non-Hispanic women are five times more likely to be imprisoned than white non-Hispanic women. Meanwhile, nearly one out of three black men and women ages 16-19 are officially unemployed, as are one out of five ages 20-24. Remember, to be counted in the official unemployment rate you must be actively looking for a job and not finding one. Surplus workers are increasingly being criminalized.
Imagine a country waging a racially biased War on Drugs. More than three out of four drug users are white, according to government data, but three out of four state prisoners convicted of drug offenses are black and Latino. Racial disparities in drug and other convictions are even wider when non-Hispanic whites are distinguished more accurately from Latinos.
A study in a prominent medical journal found that drug and alcohol rates were slightly higher for pregnant white women than pregnant black women, but black women were about ten times more likely to be reported to authorities by private doctors and public health clinicsunder a mandatory reporting law. Poor women were also more likely to be reported.
It is said that truth is the first casualty in war, and the War on Drugs is no exception. Contrary to stereotype, The typical cocaine user is white, male, a high school graduate employed full time and living in a small metropolitan area or suburb, says the nations former drug czar. A leading newspaper reports that law officers and judges say, Although it is clear that whites sell most of the nations cocaine and account for 80% of its consumers, it is blacks and other minorities who continue to fill up [the] courtrooms and jails, largely because, in a political climate that demands that something be done, they are the easiest people to arrest. They are the easiest to scapegoat.
Its not Australia.
Imagine a country where the cycle of unequal opportunity is intensifying. Its beneficiaries often slander those most systematically undervalued, underpaid, underemployed, underfinanced, underinsured, underrated, and otherwise underserved and underminedas undeserving, underclass, impoverished in moral and social values, and lacking the proper work ethic. The oft-heard stereotype of deadbeat poor people masks the growing reality of dead-end jobs and disposable workers.
Imagine a country that abolished aid to families with dependent children while maintaining aid for dependent corporations.
Imagine a country where state and local governments are rushing to expand lotteries, video poker, and other government-promoted gambling to raise revenues, disproportionately from the poor, which they should be raising from a fair tax system.
Imagine a country whose military budget tops average Cold War levels although the break up of the Soviet Union produced friends, not foes. This nation spends almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined and leads the world in arms exports.
Imagine a country that ranks first in the world in wealth and military power, and 34th in child mortality (under five), tied with Malaysia and well behind countries such as Singapore and South Korea. If the government were a parent it would be guilty of child abuse. Thousands of children die preventable deaths.
Imagine a country where health care is managed for healthy profit. In many countries health care is a right, but in this nation one out of six people under age 65 has no health insurance, public or private. Healthcare is literally a matter of life and death. Lack of health insurance typically means lack of preventive health care and delayed or second-rate treatment. The uninsured are at much higher risk for chronic disease and disability, and have a 25 percent greater chance of dying (adjusting for physical, economic, and behavioral factors). Uninsured women are 49 percent more likely to die than women with insurance during the four to seven years following an initial diagnosis of breast cancer.
Imagine a country where many descendants of its first inhabitants live on reservations strip-mined of natural resources and have a higher proportion of people in poverty than any other ethnic group.
Imagine a country where 500 years of plunder and lies are masked in expressions like Indian giver. Where the military still dubs enemy territory, Indian country.
Imagine a country which has less than 5 percent of the worlds population, but uses more than 40 percent of the worlds oil resources and about 20 percent of the coal and wood. It is the number one contributor to acid rain and global warming. It has obstructed international action on the environment and climate change.
Its not Brazil.
Imagine a country where half the eligible voters dont vote. The nations senate and house of representatives are not representative of the nation. They are overwhelmingly white, male, and millionaire. At least 170 senators and congresspeople are millionaires. Thats nearly one out of three members of the house and senate. Just 1 percent of the population they represent are millionaires.
Imagine a country where white men who are falling down the economic ladder are being encouraged to believe they are falling because women and people of color are climbing over them to the top or dragging them down from the bottom. That way, they will blame women and people of color rather than corporate and government policy. They will buy the myth of reverse discrimination. Never mind that white males hold most senior management positions and continuing unreversed discrimination is well documented.
Imagine a country with a president who, even more than his father before him, was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. The president wants to undo affirmative action. Never mind that despite all his advantages he was a mediocre student who relied on legacy affirmative action for the children of rich alumni to get into a top prep school and college. Never mind that he rode his family connections in business and politics.
Imagine a country where on top of discrimination comes insult. Its common for people of color to get none of the credit when they succeedportrayed as undeserving beneficiaries of affirmative action and reverse discriminationand all of the blame when they fail.
Imagine a country where a then presidential press secretary boasted to reporters: You can say anything you want in a debate, and 80 million people hear it. If reporters then document that a candidate spoke untruthfully, so what? Maybe 200 people read it, or 2,000 or 20,000.
Imagine a country where politicians and judges whose views were formerly considered far right on the political spectrum now rule both houses of congress and the presidency and increasingly dominate the judiciary.
Imagine a country whose leaders misuse a fight against terrorism as camouflage for undermining democracy. Fundamental civil liberties, including the right not to be imprisoned indefinitely on the word of government officials, are being tossed aside. The attorney general attacked critics of administration policy with McCarthyite words: To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity...They give ammunition to [our] enemies and pause to [our] friends. The attorney general would burn democracy in the name of saving it.
Its not Italy.
Its the United States.
Decades ago Martin Luther King Jr. called on us to take the high road in Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? King wrote: A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. We are called to play the good Samaritan on lifes roadside; but...one day the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life.... A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth....There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American citizen whether he be a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid or day laborer. There is nothing except shortsightedness to prevent us from guaranteeing an annual minimumand livableincome for every American family.
Holly Sklar is the coauthor of Raise The Floor: Wages and Policies That Work For All Of Us.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.