The Coastal Post - October 1999

The Income, Wealth and Reality Gap

By Frank Scott

"The transmission from generation to generation of vast fortunes by inheritance or gift, is not consistent with the ideals and sentiments of the American people."

Franklin Roosevelt might spin in his grave if he knew the size of the present financial gap between America's working majority and its inheritor minority. In the more than sixty years since the New Deal brought this nation to a state of near civility among its people, we have descended to borderline madness in human relations, and absolute injustice in the distribution of wealth.

When FDR spoke those words in 1935 he expressed an idea that most could agree with, unless they were of the minority inheritor class. That clan has grown in number, but even more in the wealth it controls and the damage it causes our alleged democracy.

The richest 2.7 million Americans-1 percent of the people-have as much combined income as the bottom 100 million citizens. And the gap between those groups has widened since 1977, when the top 1 percent had as much as the bottom 49 million. Worse, as a percentage of gross income, 80 percent of American families-217 million people-are taking home less money now than they did twenty years ago .

The political system is a sub-division of this unjust economic arrangement, with parties and candidates operating at the behest of their financial employers. Rhetoric about democracy should not be confused with fact; while many use the term sincerely, the reality of our political system has as much to do with democracy as a Nevada house of prostitution has to do with love. Democratic theory is nice, but our practice relates more to oligarchy .

We supposedly offer small business endeavors an opportunity to compete in a free market place. But the economic distance between the Main Street majority of small businesses, and the Wall Street minority of corporate monopolies grows greater every day. Just as the income and wealth gap has become an abyss, the business gap has become a chasm between believers in the dream of competition, and the harsh reality that is modern global capitalism.

Massive mergers are a daily occurrence, with gigantic conglomerates first engulfing the small, then devouring the large, and finally buying out or merging with the very large. This creates competition-free zones in the economy, despite rhetoric of a free market which , like democracy, exists only in a mental or metaphysical state, not in reality.

With an ever smaller number of massive corporations dominating the market system, a vast majority of hard working small businesses must struggle to survive. As in the income battles between inheritors and workers, they are at a serious disadvantage. In fact, small business people are workers, though they are taught to think of themselves as something closer to little, if puny, capitalists .

Just as the label "service worker" covers everyone from janitors to lawyers, the label "business" is made to cover Nike, IBM, Walmart, and family, franchise or other small enterprise. When janitors think they are the economic equal of lawyers, they may have personal psychological problems, but when small business people identify with their massive corporate commissars, we have a more serious social problem.

The working majority is conditioned to respond to situations as though it were the equal of the investor minority, and that is a critical social problem. It leads to acceptance of inequity in work, wealth, salary and taxes. This acceptance is based on a contradiction between physical reality and conscious perception that is rooted in the financial gap between the rich and the rest of us.

The distance between material and perceived reality is created by corporate mind management, through its media channels of information. These are operated in the interest of maintaining the status quo, even when calling it revolutionary change. As when pundits metaphorically drool over the great new world of globalization, which they interpret as radically democratic, because their corporate employers are their models for democracy.

And we hear endless claims of record-breaking economic boom on the Wall Street side of the gap, countered by reports of Main Street sinking more deeply into debt, working longer hours to stand still in the economic progress game, and descending into pits of depression, divorce, division, dysfunction and legal or illegal drug escape.

These gaps ,whether material or psychological, are based on economic foundations on which the structure of political power is exercised by minorities who have been selected and elected by money. They protect a morally deaf, dumb and blind system of private profit accumulation which hears, speaks and sees no evil in its ape-like pursuit of economic gain.

Thus, Americans can be led to accept something called humanitarian war, which destroys innocent people from foreign Main Streets, in order to protect the profit margin for powerful forces from global Wall Street.

Environmental damage and climate changes that help cause floods, droughts, hurricanes and heat waves are said to be acts of god or nature. But what mindless pursuit of profit does to our planet should not be blamed on invisible men, women or fairies. Corporate capital is not god, but it might as well be, as long as the gap between our thinking and its practice cause us to treat it uncritically .

Closing all the gaps between the Wall Street class minority and the Main Street mass majority is part of the work of saving the social and natural environment for everyone on earth. The second cannot happen without the first. The unjust economy is the source from which all other injustice flows. Face it, kids, or drown in it.

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