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Wall Street is no Tahrir Square

Occupy Wall StreetFifty Percent Underemployed Labor Force By 2020

We, in America, are a year and two elections away from becoming a nation with half or more of its workforce either unemployed or underemployed.  Any way you wish to peek at 2020, our population will be clearly divided into three groups: those in relative poverty, about 50 percent; those waiting at the doorstep of poverty, scared as can be, representing as much as 30 percent of the population; and the remaining lucky Knights (2 percent) and Squires (18 percent), living the good life, thankful for living in this country of opportunity (for them), exceptionalism and cult to rugged individualism; never mind whether the wealth distributed to them was fair and just.

It really doesn’t take a Nostradamus or the plugging of numbers to a top secret econometric model to arrive at the forecasts I’ve given; we are already half-way there.  All you need to do is look around you and you are likely to find one out of four adults that you perceive as members of this nation’s productive workforce as unemployed, or working at a much lower skill level of that for which they were trained or educated, and the corresponding income of 40 to 60 percent of their skill-expectations.

It’s not likely that the figure of unemployment will reach a number much higher than 10 to 12 percent; the government will make sure that our system of “counting” doesn’t produce a tell-tale number that would reduce confidence in our capitalist system, or prevent us from preserving the myth that ours is a true representative government of the people, instead of the military-industrial complex being in charge.

For three decades now we have had a laissez-faire government which has allowed the corporate business world to enjoy greater flexibility than anywhere else in the world.  That, and the changing composition of GDP, has created an anti-people, anti-labor atmosphere which is not likely to change.  We have allowed technology – or those who own technology – to help create a “two-tier labor market” with the second tier unable to get minimal income and benefits to function in society with dignity.  All gains have gone to the top 20 percent of households.  And, if that weren’t enough, two other factors have catapulted us into what is to become a decade of stagnation: the cost of unnecessary and illegitimate wars and the fact that total government revenues from taxes and other sources  have remained lower, as a percentage of GDP, than that of any other developed nation.

During the past decade there has been an unusual level of questioning in the American mainstream media as to why the United States has been losing so much ground to other developed nations.  The two principal areas have been education and healthcare – the latter reflected in both infant mortality and life expectancy.

However, the principal area in which the US has been losing ground, not just relative to developed nations but developing ones as well has not been touched by the press.  It is a far more important area than education or healthcare, and the foundation for a democratic and justice-aspiring society… and that is how well informed our people are; our knowledge of civics, and our score in civism.

Yet, in our portentous ignorance, without any apparent intention to clean up our democratic act here at home, we go about proselytizing the world to our form of predatory capitalism and pseudo-democracy.

Hopefully, the first seeds of revolutionary turbulence are starting to sprout… and what started almost three weeks ago as a call to arms to “Occupy Wall Street” in New York is starting to spread to several cities throughout the nation.  Here in Portland (OR) we are having our very own at Pioneer Square on Thursday, October 6.  Unfortunately, our clamor in all these protests will not be as loud as that in Tahrir Square, but it will be a beginning, a start.

Although it is a good protest-PR to say that the protesters represent 99 percent of the people in solidarity against the greed and thievery of the other 1 percent, the reality is far, very far from that.  The greed and thievery is courtesy of perhaps 20 percent, not 1 percent, and that’s unfortunately the problem.  That 20 percent of Knights and Squires hold just about all the wealth and power in the nation.  If the crowds grow demanding of their civil rights, they will be deemed unruly, and you will see both police and military answer the call… for they answer not to the people, 100 percent of the population, but only to those who hold the power.

Yet, hope springs eternal; on to Portland’s Waterfront, then march to Pioneer Square.
© 2011 Ben Tanosborn

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