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
January 10, 2014
Mr. President: This Wednesday marked a half century since President Lyndon B.
Johnson declared the War on Poverty in these United States. Fifty years since
January 8, 1964 and we still have approximately 1 in 7 Americans living in poverty. In
2009, when the nation celebrated its first black President, 37.6 million were in
poverty. Of these 11.2 million managed to climb up out of poverty. Unfortunately,
another 13.5 million had slid down yielding a total of almost 40 million by 2011. Some
also quibble the goal posts have been moved in determining the poverty threshold.
We have heard from you on income inequality recently. The statistics are shocking
as the Gini Index for the U.S. is worse than countries like Egypt, India and Pakistan.
One cause is the stagnant minimum wage which also impacts poverty. The latest
polls indicate over two-thirds of Americans supporting the goal of cutting poverty in
half within the next decade and no-one, except the one percent (and maybe a few
more percenters), favors increasing income inequality.
The sad fact remains: we have had rhetoric and more rhetoric, goals and more goals
but nothing when action was possible. Candidate Obama ahead of the election in
2008, promised to raise the minimum hourly wage to $9.50. But elected President
Obama did nothing to act upon his promise despite the Democrats controlling both
the House and the Senate when passage was feasible.
Black households might have held high hopes in 2008, but their wealth is now 19
times less than white. To put this into perspective the ratio of white to black
household wealth was 7 to 1 in 1995.
"Who Stole the American Dream"? is the title of Hedrick Smith's latest book. The
Pulitzer winner explains how post WW II prosperity was reversed from the 1980's
onwards in the shabby mantra of less government, less taxes, less regulation. First
the Savings and Loan debacle when the lending controls came off costing over $360
billion, then NAFTA and the Ross Perot "swoosh of jobs", then banking deregulation,
and the predicted banking crash. Now we have a thousand pages of nonsense to
apply the Volcker rule giving rise to a Swiss cheese of loopholes when simply
forbidding trading on their own account as in Glass Steagall would do. The lust for
money-making mortgage instruments, the housing bubble, the destruction of millions
of lives and not a single crook in jail.
NAFTA, WTO (and now the forthcoming TPP) have played their part including this
week, Boeing, as it announced an agreement with its skilled workers made under the
threat of shipping out their jobs. The workers lose: not just on wages but their
pensions as Boeing transfers the burden to 401k plans. How can an ordinary person
suddenly become expert on managing his own pension plan? And the financial
experts? Unfettered by regulation, the worst of their kind is depicted in "The Wolf of
Wall Street" directed by Martin Scorcese and nominated for the Golden Globe awards
to be held this Sunday. Almost unbelievable, it is based on the true story of Jordan
What was the American Dream if not hard work, a decent wage, a reasonable
retirement and a better future for one's children -- taken away one by one by silky
toned politicians serving only their bosses and paying the voters lip service. Not
unlike the previous Democratic President sharing their pain all the way to the bank to
the tune of $100 million, half of it in speaking fees.