Feb 28, 2013 - Issue 506

Sequester Me, Please

Okay, the sky is about to fall, and now, people are concerned. When the Republicans were playing hardball and the Democrats were talking about raising taxes - on the rich - you were silent…my working-class brothers and sisters. You were watching Scandal and going out to Chuck E. Cheese in your shiny, new BMW. Federal budget cuts totaling $85 billion could result in nearly 800,000 people losing their jobs and a reduction in economic growth of about half a point…and now, you’re worried.

When left-wing crazies like me were out fighting off the assault of corporate take-overs and monopolies, you sat on the sidelines and flipped your cable remote to catch the latest sports highlights. Now, you’re the highlight. Your job is at stake. You are a government worker - a government contractor. You could care less about a “living wage” or Obamacare. Your BlueCross/BlueShield was better than any of that. Now, you’re in jeopardy.

Do you think I care? You see, I’ve been among the ranks of the underrepresented, muted and unemployed who were put out of the game years ago. Even unemployed or fighting within a recessed economy - that we didn’t cause - we were told to go out and spend, as the rich enjoyed Bush-era tax cut after tax cut. Remember the “economic recovery?” The 1.2 million households whose incomes put them in the top 1 percent of the U.S. saw their earnings increase 5.5 percent in 2011, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Earnings fell 1.7 percent for the 96 million households in the bottom 80 percent - those that made less than $101,583. That’s a lot of people I know. And now, “the sequester” has got you anxious. When you should’ve been voting and taking a stand on “voter suppression” laws, you sat in your easy chair and said, “That’s not my problem.” In the meantime, people who are now playing chicken with your means of earning a living are dangling your life - and your family’s existence - in the wind. But you were smart not to get involved, huh?

The recovery that officially began in mid-2009 hasn’t arrived in most Americans’ paychecks. In 2010, the top 1 percent of U.S. families captured as much as 93 percent of the nation’s income growth, according to a paper by Emmanuel Saez, a University of California, Berkeley economist who studied Internal Revenue Service data. So if the top 1% gained that much in wealth, how much do you think you gained?

While corporate CEOs’ salaries tower above yours - by over 400 times - we let the media lead us into believing that there’s a recession. There’s no recession; it’s the CEOs. They’re stealing the wealth…and we let ‘em! According to Census data, in 2011, the earnings gap between rich and poor Americans was the widest in more than four decades, surpassing income inequality previously reported in Uganda and Kazakhstan. The notion that each generation does better than the last - one aspect of the American Dream -- has been challenged by evidence that average family incomes fell in the last decade for the first time since World War II.

Just know that you’ve been partially responsible for voting for (or not voting for) the very people who are causing this anxiety. I’m not anxious though. You see, I’ve been broke - before, during and after the sequester. There’s no 401(k) for me to have get ripped off. Each time ExxonMobil, Shell and BP raise gas prices, we know not whether they pay more or less per barrel…and no one’s going to check.

We’re getting ripped off each year: Gas prices, rents and municipal costs rise by 3%, while paychecks rise only a tenth. That’s not a fair trade-off, but who’s keeping track? I bet you that the Republicans are…they say they want “smaller government” don’t they? Well, the job losses would result from declines in government spending in a wide range of government programs. Does that sound like “pain all around” to you? Are the rich going to suffer any in that scenario? The across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester are slated to take effect Friday.

Get in the game, will you? Every dance in political brinksmanship affects us all. Even you! In the meantime, I’m not concerned…sequester me, please.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Perry Redd, is the former Executive Director of the workers rights advocacy, Sincere Seven, and author of the on-line commentary, “The Other Side of the Tracks.” He is the host of the internet-based talk radio show, Socially Speaking in Washington, DC. Click here to contact Mr. Redd.