Monday, January 08, 2007

Moyers for President!

America 101

Bill Moyers, Oct 2006

Bill Moyers in a talk delivered to an audience of educators in October 2006 made the argument that the social compact of the United States contained in the preamble to the Constitution has been grossly violated. The USA now needs to invest $268 billion in our schools just to make them physically safe for children to occupy. The lack of investment in public schools may help explain why U.S. children rank 24th out of 29 industrialized countries in math scores and 15th out of 27 in reading and literacy (Moyers 2006). Our roads and power grid are in horrible shape, and our supposed technological superiority is a façade. The U.S. has fallen from “4th to 12th place on the information superhighway” as other countries rush ahead of us to give their people more and easier access to greater broadband speed (Moyers 2006).

A 2002 report commissioned by Paul O’Neill, the then Secretary of Treasury, revealed that “our fiscal gap – the difference (in present value) between the government’s future receipts and expenditures – assuming the same net tax rates going forward, was a staggering $45 trillion dollars. This is $4 trillion more than the entire capital stock of industry ($25.9 trillion) and total market capitalization ($14.3 trillion) in 2003” (Moyers 2006).

Despite this looming shortfall in needed government funds, the richest 1 perccent will get over $479 billion over the next ten years as a result of Bush’s tax cuts in 2001. Pension plans are in jeopardy, workers wages are worth less and less, and the concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich has reached Gilded Age proportions. In the past 25 years manufacturing workers’ real wages fell 1 percent; real income for the 1 percent at the top of U.S. society rose 135 percent. In 1960 the gap between the top fifth of the population and the bottom fifth was 30 fold. Today the top fifth gets 75 times the bottom fifth (Moyer 2006).

Moyers charges that wealth concentrated among the rich does not benefit the rest of society. “According to Census Bureau data, Americans have become progressively less likely to advance up the socio-economic ladder. One study cited by Stephen Heinz concludes, ‘The rich are likely to remain rich and the poor are likely to remain poor.’ ” (Moyers 2006). Even a robber baron like J.P. Morgan felt those in charge should get only twenty times more than the workers. Today the average CEO grabs 262 times what an average worker gets. Real weekly wages for workers has declined from $332 a week in 1972 to $278 a week in 2004 (Moyers 2006). Moyers quotes a Goldman Sachs report which states, “The most important contributor to higher profit margins over the past five years has been a decline in labor’s share of national income.” (Moyers 2006). By the way, that’s the Goldman Sachs that split $16.5 billion, $623,000 per employee, at the end of 2006. Top traders took in $17,000 – $33,000 an hour, assuming a 60 hour work week (Blodget, New York Times op-ed, Dec. 20, 2006). Moyers speaks for those on the other end of the economic ladder.

"So it is that to make ends meet in the face of stagnant or declining incomes, regular Americans have gone deeper and deeper in debt – with credit card debt nearly tripling since 1989. Poor kids are dropping out of high school and college at alarming rates, the middle class and working poor have been hit hard by a housing squeeze, 45 million or more Americans – eight out of ten of them in working families – are without health insurance. 'The strain on working people,' says the economist Jeffrey Madrick, 'has become significant. Working families and the poor are losing ground under economic pressures that deeply affect household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, political participation, and civic life.' The American Dream has had its heart cut out, and is on life support.” (Moyers 2006).