America's Greatest Shame: Child Poverty Rises and Food Stamps Cut While Billionaires Boom
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Here's the best of all. After getting $480 billion in bailout cash, the top financiers in the country paid themselves more than $150 billion in bonus money for a job well done. Is this a great country or what?
What didn't happen is this: Mortgages were not written down in mass to assist underwater home owners and those who suffered from predatory loans. No lasting jobs programs were created to put the unemployed back to work. No lasting penalties were paid by the individuals who took down the economy. And there was no serious effort at all to cap financial wages and bonuses in the name of justice.
All in all, you could not have designed a more perfect program to enrich the rich and do absolutely nothing for the 99 percent -- and as a result, sink ever more children into poverty.
Waiting for the Recovery That Will Never Come
We are constantly told that the recovery is just around the corner. Liberals say we need more stimulus. Conservatives call for more austerity and cuts in regulations. But all agree that sooner or later more growth will benefit the 99 percent. Unfortunately, it's not happening and it won't happen. Here's why.
First of all, they assume that trickledown actually works, that there is something mechanical within our heavily financialized economy that will bring renewed prosperity to the 99 percent. They look back at previous recessions and recoveries and continue to believe that slumps are followed by renewed growth and income gains for all.
But as financialization has spread throughout the economy, new mechanisms are in place that siphon off wealth into financial gains for the very few. Productive enterprises are turned into financial enterprises that are loaded up with debt and then carved and slaughtered so that wealth can be extracted for hedge funds and private equity firms. In our brave new financialized economy renewed growth turns into renewed incomes primarily for the investment class. The stock market will rise but jobs and incomes won't. The traditional capitalist slump-recovery process died more than a decade ago. Adam Smith's invisible hand no longer produces shared prosperity -- instead it picks our pockets.
Waiting for the Political Pendulum to Swing
Second, we are told how America is essentially a moderate country -- how there's a kind of invisible political pendulum that swings from the extremes back to the sensible center. When the left or the Tea Party gets too wild, the center supposedly pulls them back and common sense economics prevails. But this consoling media meme obscures the fact that our politics are moving ever more rightward. Moderate Democrats and Republicans today are to the right of Eisenhower, Nixon and even Herbert Hoover. They have already agreed to cut the very entitlements that are needed to help alleviate poverty. In fact, they have agreed it's quite OK for America to have 442 billionaires and also have 22.6% of its children living in poverty. The sensible center now sees its role as forging a "compromise" on how much to cut food stamps and other supports for the poor.
Obviously, both political parties lose little sleep worrying about economic injustices. Even most Democrats no longer have a serious game plan to eradicate poverty. That's considered to be 1960s stuff that doesn't make sense in a world where politicians have to make peace with at least some players in the billionaire class in order to survive. As for the poor, alas, they will always be with us.
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