America is at a crossroads

There is a class war going on in today's America.

Whenever anyone attacks current government policies, policies that consistently favor the rich at the expense of the poor and the lower middle class, that great spokesman for the greedy, George W. Bush, either trots out the old patriotism chestnut or claims his critics are engaging in class warfare.

This is sort of like the U.S. government of Custer's time accusing the decimated, pushed-off-their-land, raped, pillaged and native Americans of genocide because they managed, just once, to defeat the U.S. Army - Custer's approximately 200-member Seventh Cavalry.

Don't take my word for it. Look at a few facts.

* "The voices of American citizens are raised and heard unequally."

So says a task force of the American Political Science Association in a recently released report. It noted that only 12 percent of American households had incomes of more than $100,000 in 2000 - but 95 percent of the donors who made "substantial contributions" to both political parties came from that gilded 12 percent.

"In these times of increasing patriotism," to quote The Seattle Times in one of its endless Republican party-line paeans to recently deceased Ronald Reagan - the man who wanted to make ketchup a vegetable for poor people while his White House was eating chef-made five-course dinners routinely - the APSA task force noted, "The educational and training benefits for America's all-volunteer army are modest compared with those in the original G.I. Bill and consequently have made less impact in boosting the schooling of veterans to the level of nonveterans."

As a beneficiary of Richard Nixon's expanded G.I. Bill - I earned two degrees I could have never afforded, directly because of Nixon's concern for veterans - I've followed the current administration's two-faced treat-ment of veterans with interest.

The Little Bush also allowed Congress to reduce death benefits for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And this son of the son of a rich man has stoutly resisted a draft that might actually force those who profit most from our current wars to serve in the armed forces our great leader praises, but diligently avoided in his time. (Showing up for one out of every four reserve meetings doesn't count in my book.)

The rich America that is profiting from the current war - see the recent Seattle Times article noting that more than $1 billion has already been wasted in Iraq by the private companies selected by our leaders to help "reconstruct" that benighted place - waves the flag, while the poor and middle class risk their lives. And then those veterans actually serving get fewer, and reduced, benefits, if and when they make it back Stateside.

* A recent, comprehensive study (conducted by Eileen Applebaum, a labor economist at Rutgers University, and Annette Bernhardt, senior labor analyst at the NYU School of Law) of more than 10,000 workers at the bottom of the 34-million-strong work force discovered that employers are now consistently reducing their costs, not by taking fewer bonuses but by freezing and sometimes reducing wages, cutting benefits, increasing workloads, subcontracting and, when all else fails, outsourcing (another 500,000 jobs, minimum, so far this year, according to labor experts) and automating.

A robot or a Chinese or Indian national is almost as likely to get an American job now as you are.

A recent Gallup Poll showed that more than 1,000 low-end American workers polled believe they cannot find a "good job" in the current economic climate.

* There are hundreds more items all making the same point, all newly risen or at least heightened since the ascension of George W. Bush. But the one I'd like to close with is the most hurtful of all the changes in the America I grew up in and loved.

According to Cover the Uninsured, an organization co-chaired by ex-presidents Jimmy Carter (Democrat) and Gerald Ford (Republican), 44 million Americans are now without any form of health insurance. That number is expected to exceed 50 million - one in six Americans - by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, The Seattle Times ran a front-page story last week highlighting the spending of suburban women soon to be married. One woman talked of spending $26,000 to whiten her teeth for her wedding photos; another, 28 years old, spent $1,500 to remove a sole wrinkle in her smooth, unfurrowed forehead. This at a time when medical bills rank as the top cause of personal bankruptcy.

Of the 44 million folks uninsured, more than 50 percent of whom work 40 hours or more a week trying to stay afloat, at least 20 million are children.

They can't all be lazy criminals or people who don't wish to work.

They are the victims of governmental policies calculated to ensure that some vain young woman can spend almost $30,000 to improve already-healthy teeth or, worse, shoot poison into her face to soften God's marks of time, while denying children basic medical care. In an allegedly Christian "free" country.

The Jesus whom Bush Junior always mentions but evidently doesn't listen to said many things, including, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me." Not make them suffer for our vanity and greed.

America is at a crossroads.

Are we going to be a country for everybody, or a country where the many serve the few?

Are we going to be a meritocracy, or a land where the 12 percent of the people who already have 70 to 80 percent of the property, funds and riches (depending on whose numbers you believe) continue to make laws preserving their "stuff" at the expense of the rest of us?

All my longtime friends have noted my genesis from a lifetime of apolitical living to an odd, and growing, sort of activism.

I can't help it, though.

I see the America of my youth, a place that was trying to be inclusive, turning into what some economists are calling North Argentina.

I'm scared and saddened, and I don't like what I see.

Freelance writer Dennis Wilken is a Seattle resident. He can be reached c/o editor@capitol

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