Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....
- Name: Bruce K. Gagnon
- Location: Bath, Maine, United States
Get the revised version of my book "Come Together Right Now: Organizing Stories from a Fading Empire" - updated thru the end of 2008
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
THE YOUTH WANT A FUTURE
Native Americans used to say, “Put your ear to the railroad tracks and hear the train a-coming.” The recent student riots in France are such a warning sign to me.
In many parts of France student unemployment is now 50% or higher. This is the highest youth unemployment rate in all of Europe. And France is the country of liberty, fraternity, and equality.
The students call themselves the “dispossessed generation,” sick of a society run by a permanent elite in which so many people have no place. People feel they are being left out in the cold. One slogan the students have been chanting during their recent street protests is, “We are disposable pieces of shit!”
One young woman described life in France today as, “The government has done nothing to address the hell of life in the poor suburbs – no jobs, prison, broken homes.”
As I look at income distribution in the U.S. I can’t help but hear the train coming. Millionaires and the middle-class in America now pay taxes at almost the same rates. The redistribution of wealth, upward, is reducing the governments ability to provide basic human services like health care, education, job training, clean drinking water, public transit – all things that help to stabilize and form a “more perfect union.”
When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Congress boosted the tax rate for the very rich to 77%. During WW II, the top rate hit a record high of 94%. As recently as 1980, the maximum rate on investment income was 70%, although the top rate on wages was 50%.
Today the basic tax rate for the rich in America is 22%. The rich are getting richer and the poor and middle class in the U.S. are sinking into endless debt and poverty. Today the income pyramid in America looks like this: At the top of the wealth pyramid are 29,000 Americans who own the equivalent wealth of 96 million Americans at the bottom.
You can’t have a democracy in a place like that. You have an oligarchy.
When this happens what kind of future can we expect for our children? When the rich increasing control massive portions of wealth what kind of education will our children have? Will they be able to find jobs other than flipping burgers for minimum wages? Will they ever have health care?
Years ago I read Kurt Vonnegut’s book called Piano Player. It was set in a time in the future where the young people had no jobs. They were superfluous because machines, computers, robots had taken over the essential work functions in the society. The young people had no place in society, no role. They had no stake in the present and saw no future for themselves. By the end of the book the students tore the society apart. They tore up the machines and torn down the social structures as if they were beginning a rebuilding of the society in hopes of creating a new order.
This is what I see happening in France. The elites have gotten so greedy that they no longer care about the rest of us. They build more jails and create endless wars knowing that our children will have to join the military if they want a job or money for education.
This is what the reintroduction of feudalism looks like.
Monday, April 17, 2006
It's tax day in America. Tax day and torture. How does that sound to you? According to the War Resisters League (see link above) 49 cents out of every tax dollar now goes to the Pentagon. That means of course there is increasingly no money for other priorities. No money for health care as 46 million Americans now have no health insurance. No money for education as local schools face teacher lay-offs and other budget cuts. College students face cutbacks in tuition assistance and end up with thousands of dollars of debt upon graduation. On and on the story goes.
But there is lots of money for war....for permanent bases in Iraq.....for torture chambers around the world....for new hugely expensive weapons systems....for an arms race in space......for new expensive Navy destroyers.....for bombing Iran.....
The Repubs and the Dems vote for this madness. They blame each other for the condition of things but both parties hold hands and keep appropriating more money for the endless war cycle we are now in.....$8 billion a month in Iraq and no end in site.
You can claim you don't support the war but in fact you do. Taxes and torture. What are we to do about this? This war is our war now. We are paying for it.....it is in our name.....Iran could be next....how long must it go on before we stand up and resist this insanity?
Tax day and torture.