Inequality in America

On a Fox TV news broadcast Tucker Carlson noted that the coronavirus shutdowns have crushed huge parts of the economy. “Millions of Americans are out of work. But at least one person has become extremely rich, richer than any man in history. Just yesterday Jeff Bezos made $13 billion in a single day” – from a stock market surge. That’s to be expected, replied Sean Hannity: “People who make money provide goods and services that people need and desire. It’s called freedom, capitalism.”

The on-air exchange illustrates a difference of opinion on the vast gap between the very rich one per cent and the less affluent and struggling ninety-nine per cent, an inequality beyond any other in U.S. history. Today’s top salaries would defy belief even a generation ago. It’s hard to keep track of the climbing salaries, but it looks as if Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle (computer services), is on top, at least until tomorrow, with an annual $103 million.

Current CEO’s make as much as 1000 times what their employees earn, leading to questions of both fairness and good business. Abigail Disney of the founding Disney family raised the issue of Disney CEO Robert Iger’s $65.6 million salary. Surely half of that could be distributed to employees, she advised, without harming the company. Iger took the hint. He settled for a more modest $47.5million.

Today’s CEO’s are worth it, claims an article in Time magazine. There’s a blossoming of innovative firms with a global reach that needs leaders to match. Would that include Dennis Muilenberg, CEO of Boeing, who presided over the launching of the poorly designed 737 Max aircraft that resulted in two crashes and the loss of 346 lives? Families of the victims were outraged that he was removed from his job but left with a tidy $30 million in compensation.

Economic inequality leads to political inequality, supposedly the antithesis of democracy. In its wisdom the U.S. Supreme Court has decreed that money is the equivalent of speech to be used as freely as words in politics. But a greater amount of money buys a greater number of words in political campaigns and also buys more influence with candidates. An example is billionaire Sheldon Adelson, President Trump’s biggest donor, who insisted on a U.S. withdrawal from an agreement with Iran that limited its nuclear activities and offered relief from economic sanctions. Trump obliged, adding more sanctions alongside.

Billionaire Gorge Soros adroitly shifted his funding from national politics to local, putting $52 million into races for sheriff, mayor or district attorney in various parts of the country. Some of his successful candidates then implemented his radical policies that abetted or ignored the rioting in targeted cities.

William Jennings Bryan, 1908 Democratic National Convention

The so-called Gilded Age in the late 1800’s was also a time of great inequality, though not as extensive as today’s. Labor strife, a struggle among classes led to the Populist and Progressive reform movements and notable leaders like William Jennings Bryan and Teddy Roosevelt, later U.S. President. Inequality was reduced by opening up the political system and providing more help for working people.

Today’s one per cent have managed to avoid serious challenge because their potential opposition is divided on issues involving race and social change. They are thus distracted from the most important cause of all. So the one per cent rest content and if anything, inequality increases.

The Biden We Don’t Know

What we know about Joe Biden is none too flattering. On his rocky road to the Democratic Presidential nomination, which promises to be even rougher on the way to the election, he has stumbled in speech and action. Critics deride his snarled syntax and lapses of thought. A former Senate staffer claims he sexually assaulted her 27 years ago. And there’s no explaining how he used his Washington influence over Ukraine to add to his wealth at the expense of this distraught nation.

Yet there is something more to the Vice President that has been hidden from view but becomes clear in Bob Woodward’s 2010 book “Obama’s Wars.” This inside look at the White House debate over the Afghan war is filled with the endless, windy pronouncements of the President, his aides and top military commanders. They circle round and round the topic without deciding why we were in the eight-year war and what it was expected to accomplish. Just continue what we’re doing. was the consensus. Only try harder.

One voice stands out for independence and freshness of thought, and that is Biden’s. The room, he complained, confuse al Quaeda with the Taliban. Al Qaeda terrorists threaten the U.S., the Taliban do not. The U.S. has pushed al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, and they’re not likely to return. So why continue with nation-building and remaking Afghanistan when it’s not really working even with ten thousand troops on the ground.

Biden insisted the Taliban is not monolithic as commonly portrayed. There are hard core believers at the top, but down the line many others are far from committed and open to change. Their differences are exploitable as opposed to trying to kill them all. And the top echelon who will fight to the end are all in Pakistan. Yet we’re at war in Afghanistan. For what?

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden.

There were no answers to Biden at the meeting, just some shrugs and eye rolling. Obama rather condescendingly urged him on without seeming to mean it. “Verbosity” was the charge against him, as it is today, but was it the length and style of his talk that offended or the content? With consistency he went on to oppose the war in Libya as “madness” since the U.S. was already engaged in two other wars – Afghanistan and Syria. Considering the shambles of Libya today, he knew what he was talking about. He also noted that the extensive U.S aid to the rebels against the Assad regime in Syria was largely going to terrorists. Once again, a policy that made no sense.

What if Biden, instead of being ignored, had prevailed? The world would look different today – no ruined, inflamed Middle East and North Africa with a flood of refugees adding to the global burden. But sadly, this point rarely comes up in the current Presidential campaign where Biden is mainly seen to be faltering, unsure of the message he once strongly conveyed.

Invisible Woman for President

Why are we stuck with two elderly white men running for U.S. President? complain the media. No woman, no one of color is now involved. But wait, take a closer look. There’s still still a woman, not altogether white, who remains in the race: Tulsi Gabbard, former congresswoman from Hawaii, who has all the qualities necessary in an era of identity politics.

Continue reading “Invisible Woman for President”