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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When Will The Conservative Church Wake Up To Today's Economic Apartheid

The wife and I just saw the movie The Butler. This movie is based on a true story of a Black man who was eventually hired to work in the White House as a butler. Here, I must issue a spoiler alert, the actors they picked to play Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson, and Reagan neither looked nor spoke like the presidents they were portraying. The actors they picked to play Eisenhower, Ford, Carter, and Obama however, did well.

This movie starts with the crucial childhood event of Cecil Gaines, the main character, witnessing the murder of his father by a White landowner. This murder followed a nonviolent rape of Gaines's mother by the same landowner. All of this happened with impunity because it was during Jim Crow. The movie then shows Gaines working his way up from a house servant up through his becoming a butler in the White House and working from the Eisenhower Administration through to the Reagan Administration. During this time, a progression of  civil rights advances is shown. Finally, Gaines resigns as a butler, restores a broken relation with his son who, from college, had become a civil rights activist, and the story finally ends with Gaines witnessing the election of Barack Obama whose candidacy Gaines supported.

Afterwards, the wife and I discussed the movie. My complaint was that though some things have politically changed for Blacks, ending the story there doesn't show how civil rights advances have not changed the economic story for many Blacks. Wealth disparity between the races has continued to widen over the past 50 years (click here and there). Similar to what happened in South Africa in the post-apartheid days, significant gains in civil rights have not translated into advancements toward economic equality. 

So we continue to struggle in overcoming racism. But should note another struggel that is just as disturbing and pervasive as racism. Income disparity between the rich and the nonrich has increased more under the Obama Administration than under Bush (click here). Here, we are not comparing the status of ethnic groups, we are comparing the well-being of the economic classes. We are comparing the rich and the non-rich. And the rich in this post are sometimes referred to as the 1 percent who make more than $383,000 or to the 10 percent who make more than $140,000 (click here). And what we are seeing is a separation by the rich from the rest of society. This separation takes place in several ways including wealth and income disparity. And this separation marginalizes to varying degrees all others.

The first separation is in actual income. Whether one compares the rich vs the unrich in the general population or the workforce vs CEOs in terms of income, income disparities have been growing for some time now. In terms of recent history, the upper 10% have been making overall gains from 1973 to 2000 while the rest of the population has lost income (click here). But what is most telling about our direction is the explanation given for the chart showing the change of income over time.

The article points to the golden era of prosperity during the Bretton-Woods System, which lasted from 1948 to 1968 for the 10 percent and from 1948 to 1973 for the 90 percent. The article states that something "bad" happened in 1968 and this might reveal something about the person performing the analysis. For despite something "bad" happening in 1968, the 90 percent continued to experience increases in income through 1973. After 1968 was a 14 year period of stagnation for the 10 percent following by something "good" happening, that is when Reagan's policies took effect in 1983 which, according to the writer, caused incomes to rise again. But note whose incomes rose and for what time span. It was the income of the 10 percent that rose after 1983. The incomes of the 90 percent started to decline in 1974 and continued to decline until the latter part of Clinton's presidency when it rose to the percentage that the author attributes to Reagan's policies. After that, the income of the 90 percent dropped to when the data ends in 2012. In the meantime, while the income of the 10 percent is said to have stagnated, that income spiked twice. And the income disparity that existed greatly favored the 10 percent. 

We should also note with the analysis given in this article, credit for the collapse of the financial markets and the economy goes solely to government actions. The phony financial products and other trickery practiced by the private sector run markets were were not mentioned. The article closes with a call to leave the fiat dollar and return to gold. And while the return to gold is debatable, what is lost is that the most sustained and stable growth measured on the chart occurred during the Bretton-Woods System and this system not only based the dollar on gold, it saw one of the highest levels of government involvement in the economy.

And lest we make judgments solely based on one man's view alone, the person's work cited in the article attributed the economic problems to the lack of freedom for the markets, something that is reversed with neoliberalism.

We should note that there is also an income disparity between CEOs and the average worker. This disparity began to gradually climb during Reagan's presidency and then shot up during Clinton's tenure (click here). Then starting with 2000, we see a similar behavior in CEO pay changes that we saw in the income variations of the 10% from the previous chart.

In addition to income disparity, there is a disparity in government representation of its citizens. A February, 2011, article in The Economist (click here) tried to explain the obvious of elected officials paying more attention to the wishes of the wealthy than to the rest of the population. Reasons stated included preexisting social connections and the business of securing campaign funds. An additional reason could be that by doing the business of the rich, legislators have played the right politics in securing lobbying jobs that would follow the end of their political careers.

Dr. Larry Bartels, formerly of Princeton University, described Senators as being "more responsive" to wealthy constituents than to their middle class counterparts in a variety of issues including civil rights and abortion. He found that these same Senators were unresponsive to constituents from the bottom third of the economic class (click here). 

None of this should surprise us. Former Marine Corp Major General Smedley Butler wrote against the government's use of the military to benefit the wealthy. Of course, his writings were in the 1930s. All we need to do is to look at the current legislation that provides secrecy and immunity to corporations and financial institutions while we constantly receive new updates on how we are being monitored and tracked by the government and this is done with the assistance of corporations.

Finally, we need only to briefly mention how individuals, especially government whistleblowers face the full wrath of the government for exposing its secrets or while others are imprisoned for simple drug use, fraudulent corporate behavior and the supporting of criminal activities, such what as happens in money laundering when practiced by financial institutions, merely receive a relative slap on the wrist.

We can attribute a significant increase in preferential treatment of the rich to our current form of capitalism. Today's breed of capitalism is called  neoliberalism. The global switch over to this form of capitalism has been occurring gradually on a country by country basis. And with each changeover comes a democratic decline while some were accompanied by violence. Examples of countries where force was required include Chile and Argentina in the '70s and Russia in the '90s. We should also note that part of what the Arab Spring has sought to undo is neoliberalism.

We should note that neoliberalism is a kind of classical liberalism whose economic precepts were practiced before the Great Depression. And between the post-Depression years and the early '70s, the Bretton-Woods System, which gave governments more control over the value of their currency, was the model being followed as a correction to the problems caused by classical liberalism. 

We should finally note that with the practice of neoliberalism within a country comes a cutting of business's chains to the state which comes in the form of a great reduction in state oversight and taxation, a significant reduction in or end to state welfare programs, and a replacing of the provider of public services and space with providers from the private sector. Across borders, neoliberalism allows for the free flow of capital and acquisition of property. Noam Chomsky notes that this neoliberalism makes moot the democratic concerns of a nation's people as well as of their representatives.

In all of these disparities, the disparity in wealth, the disparity in representation, and the disparity in legal accountability, we've seen a near complete marginalization of those in the lower economic class while those in the middle class are either being marginalized as well or are being economically forced into the lower class. This is the current status quo of our country and while some churches are beginning to wake up and see the need to challenge the still horrible but more subtle systemic racism that exists in our society, the same churches refuse to challenge the economically based marginalization and even the subsequent separation of the rich and the nonrich. 

At this point, we need a simple word substitution for the word 'separation' to match the tragedies that are being forced on many of the nonrich and provide the appropriate emotional response. That new word would be apartheid.

Apartheid carries the emotional baggage associated with South Africa's history where a white majority ruled over and brutally treated nonwhites. However, the word simply means separation and this what we are seeing in our economic classes. The rich are separating themselves in the ways previous listed and leaving the middle and lower economic classes to fend for themselves. At the same time, the rich are outcompeting the poor for access to government funds and resources. This leaves the poor extremely vulnerable and in a state of hopelessness. In the meantime, many in the middle class see the state of the poor as their future.

In all of this, the Conservative Christian Church has sided with the rich by remaining silent. That is, the Conservative Christian Church refuses to preach repentance to the rich and the neoliberal economic system they have forced on the country. By doing so, the Conservative Christian Church in aiding and abetting the rich in their grabbing for more while leaving all others behind in varying degrees of deprivation. In other words, the Conservative Christian Church is sinning. And since many in the Conservative Christian Church are not rich, they are sealing their fate for the neoliberal bell is tolling for all of the nonrich.



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