Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
Jan 20, 2012
Mr. President: This week the White House has been concentrating on
inequality. About time! This site has been discussing it off and on for almost
two years. All kinds of figures are exploding on the internet: the top one
percent own as much as the bottom third; the top 10 percent own as much as
the bottom 60 percent, and so on.
Here are some facts: the Gini Index, a recognized indicator of inequality, as
reported by the CIA for the most recent year is Norway 25, Germany 27,
Pakistan 30.6, India 36.8, China 41.5 and the USA 45. It turns out then that the
U.S. is almost twice as unequal as Norway and about one and one-half times
worse than a Pakistan governed by an elite. The ratio of the average income
of the richest 10 percent to the poorest 10 % is Norway 6, Germany 6.9,
Pakistan 6.6, India 8.6, China 21.8 and the USA 15. At least we beat China on
the latter measure, but appalling that we are almost twice India's figure.
Jeffrey Sachs in a recent book, "The Price of Civilization", informs us that
wealth is twice as concentrated in present day USA than it was in Imperial
Rome which was a farmer and slave society. One conclusion that may be
drawn is that slaves in Rome were better off than our working poor.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour amounts to $290 per week or
about $15,000 per year. It explains why fully one-third of Americans are
below, or hover just above the poverty line, and it is an insult to democracy.
Amy Glasmeier, head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT
has developed a Living Wage Calculator available on the web at
livingwage.mit.edu. It seems in general, the minimum wage keeps a single
adult barely above poverty. Add a child and a living wage is double the
minimum. One is left to wonder whatever happened to the Democratic Party
of FDR who said famously that our nation should devise a way of "insuring to
all our able bodied men and women, a fair day's pay for a fair day's work."
Of course, we have not mentioned the high-paying manufacturing jobs. They
have declined to the point where now only 9 percent of jobs fall in that
category, and we will need to add 2 million just to get to where we were
before the recent great recession.
The second George Bush signed a bill raising the minimum wage $2.10 in
three steps from $5.15 to $7.25, an increase of 41 percent. Nothing
comparable has emerged from this Democratic administration. George Bush
also introduced a tax cut skewed inordinately to the rich. This could have
been allowed to lapse last summer. It would have done wonders to the
deficit, and the Republicans could never have mustered a majority to pass
an equivalent. Instead the tax cuts have been extended and the working
poor languish in abandonment.
Henry Ford paid his workers well forcing others to do the same. He knew a
consumer driven economy needs consumers. The lesson seems to have
been lost a century later where the quick buck takes precedence in the
corporate boardroom and the campaign donation in political preference -- all
legal of course.