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
December 20, 2013
Mr. President: First, let me wish you and your family a happy Christmas and holiday.
A deserved break from the tumult of Washington, one cannot help but notice Hawaii is
as far as one can get from Washington and still remain in the United States.
Nothing substantial emerged from your press conference today other than the
remarkable, and nimble, verbal dexterity with which you explained away
self-contradictions. Contrary to your professed purpose, which I do not doubt, the
American middle classes are worse off, the American fifteen-year-old scores the
lowest among OECD countries -- the Chinese is two years ahead and the new jobs
produced are by far of the low-level service kind generated in the hotel and
entertainment fields. Eating and gambling our way to success in a competitive world
economy has to remain a pipe dream.
Meanwhile inequality continues to rise, the U.S. being the most unequal society
among developed countries, worse in this respect than even some of the poorest like
India or Pakistan. Our famed social mobility has become a myth in comparison with
Europe primarily because of our schools, where poor localities are funded poorly in a
property tax supported system.
Here is an appalling statistic: if we take into account inflation and the gain in
productivity, the American worker should be paid $18 an hour or about $37,000
annually, a living wage without reliance on food stamps as some Walmart employees
are forced to to survive.
According to the OECD, labor's share of national income is falling not only in the U.S.
(from 70% to 64% in 30 years) but in most countries across the globe. Labor's loss is
capital's gain and the owners of capital are the richer households. The trend unless
reversed is towards a more unequal society. A simple way to increase worker share
is cooperative ownership of the firm including representation in management -- the
latter is already the case in Germany and one of the reasons why German jobs are
not easily exported.
A turn towards a more cooperative society and away from the ruthless competitive
pressures of unfettered capitalism exerts a countervailing force against the persistent
decline of the middle class. Otherwise, without exaggeration the trend points towards
a society that existed in Russia before the 1917 revolution.
On the subject of inequality, Senator Elizabeth Warren's new bill proposes a $70
monthly increase in social security pensions. The total cost: about $3.5 billion
dollars, a pittance in the $3.7 trillion budget but an amount making a significant
difference in the average social security check of about $1,200. Yet there is little
mention of it in the media. It did not merit a question and we have yet to hear your
opinion on the matter. The cost is also about two weeks worth of soldiering in
Afghanistan -- a wasteful and debilitating enterprise where the likely end result could
have been achieved years ago through negotiation, without demands and
preconditions, and with an understanding of the enemy; the latter prescribed by Sun
Tzu two and a half millenia past.