this month, about 3,000 of the world’s business and political
powers gathered in Davos, Switzerland, and heard from some of their
own that the worldwide crisis in income and wealth disparity is about
to have repercussions that they are not likely prepared to solve in
any peaceful way.
example, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund,
told the gathering that the unrest among ordinary workers was fueling
populism, while Meg Whitman, chief of Hewlett Packard, told her
audience, according to International Business Times, “It's up
to leaders in this room, particularly in the technology field, to
think 'How do we help manage the transition of people who have been
disrupted by robotics or automation' – which, by the way, is a
far bigger cause of job losses in the US than economic
is difficult to know whether she was just tossing in the comment
about job loss due to globalization, as opposed to automation and
computerization, or that she actually wants the American worker to
forget that the millions of jobs shipped to low wage countries were
done without regard to the millions of families that have fallen into
a lower standard of living or even into penury. Either way, both
reasons for the loss of well paying jobs and the alarming disparity
in wealth and income is the greatest in a century, not only in the
U.S., but also in most countries.
it was Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, a Chinese
e-commerce company, that gave the U.S. business and political bigs
the toughest criticisms of the week, when he said, as reported by
Business Insider: “In the past 30 years, America had 13 wars
spending $2 trillion ... no matter how good your strategy is you're
supposed to spend money on your own people. The money goes to Wall
Street. Then what happened? Year 2008 wiped out $19.2 trillion in US
income ... What if the money was spent on the Midwest of the United
States? The other countries steal jobs from you guys — that is
your strategy. You did not distribute the money in the proper way.”
Ma, the “proper way” of distributing at least some of the
money that American corporations and their political enablers
generated from the global economy would have been to make the
investments in the people, in the cities, in the rural areas and in
agriculture, in education, in health care, in roads and bridges, in
housing, and improvements in the quality of air, water, and soil.
Instead, they gathered it to themselves and paid themselves in ways
that the Robber Barons of a century ago would have envied.
wars that the U.S. has initiated have indeed deprived American
citizens of what they needed during all of that time: health care for
all, housing, education (especially among the most needy
communities), jobs that pay a living wage, for example. A fraction
of the $19.2 trillion would have provided for most of this and
started to close the gap between the rich and the poor of America.
is quite well established that the U.S. wars and the preparation for
war has forced the living standards of all Americans downward, but
especially the standards of those who were at the bottom third of the
income scale: the elderly, the disabled, the sick, blacks and other
minorities, those who live in the abandoned regions of the country
(flyover country), and those with limited education.
hardest hit, no matter what their station in life, are undoubtedly
the young, the “millennials,” who have been told they
must have a college degree or more to make it in the modern economy.
Not that education for its own sake is not a fine thing; the lie in
this is that these young people are projected to be the first
generation that does not do better economically than their parents.
In fact, the news media are full of stories of college graduates who
have returned to live in their parents’ homes, because they
can’t find work in the field for which they were educated and
the jobs available to them are such low paying service sector jobs
that it will take decades to pay off their student loans.
a recipe for disaster for the millions so affected, for their
families, and probably most important, for the good of the entire
economy of the country. Meantime, the rich and their political
allies meet in luxury in Switzerland, wondering aloud about the
possible outcome of the growing disparity between the rich and the
poor across the globe. But, there is no widely publicized plan to
deal with this growing problem and its dangerous outcomes.
of the White House this week, the first week of the Trump presidency,
there was no sign of a plan to turn things around to make the economy
fairer or to take the burden of student debt from the young. Rather,
there was a vigorous display of racism and Islamophobia in Trump’s
order on immigration, which, according to some experts, is
unconstitutional or dancing around the edge of unconstitutionality.
It is something that only a long trip through the court system will
determine. In any event, the new president is off to a shaky start
and to the most casual observer, he is doing exactly what he did on
the campaign trail: Mocking and insulting those who disagree with
him, while he continues to shoot from the hip, not even aiming in the
general direction of any target, except at the moment, at Muslims at
home and abroad.
response has been electrifying, to say the least. Hundreds of
thousands have swarmed airports around the country in opposition to
his edict to halt immigration and the misery that his order has
visited upon numberless families affected, both in the U.S. and the
various countries he has targeted.
on the women’s march in Washington, on the day after his
inauguration, the anti-Trump demonstrations blossomed and there are
millions who are ready to stand against his erratic approach to
problems as he sees them with the same vigor and in ever-greater
people are beginning to understand that reckless behavior, whether it
emanates from the White House or elsewhere, must be confronted
directly and it must be confronted by individuals and organizations
that are working together, in solidarity. Otherwise, it will be
business as usual in the political swamp that is Washington, D.C.
Rather than draining the swamp, as Trump promised on the campaign
trail, he has diverted rivers of Right Wing propaganda and policies
to make the murky waters deeper.
of impeachment is in the air in America, mainly (so far) about the
way Trump deals with foreign policy, particularly in countries where
he has considerable business interests, but that may only be the
beginning. There are many other issues that could bring him down,
since he cannot go on issuing executive orders and, in effect, ruling
by fiat. He doesn’t seem to know that there are three branches
of government, each separate from the others and he’s in charge
of only the executive. He must learn that he has to work with the
other branches and that he cannot control them, as he controls his
Ma might have made the most cogent comments, while the rich were in
retreat in Davos: the U.S. spends too much money on war and
preparations for war and too little on the people, who have little
control over the priorities of the federal budget. A few trillion
dollars spent domestically would go a long way toward reducing the
yawning gap between the rich and the other 90 percent of Americans.
First, though, Trump and his Right Wing backers need to learn that
there is more to running a country than issuing orders and that this
is, at least in its founding documents, a “nation of laws, not
men.” He may not be capable of learning something so
straightforward, but then, he doesn’t read much.
those with their hands on the reins of power listen? That remains to
be seen, but the beginning of Trump’s term of office has not
started on a good note. To even things up a bit, there is one thing
that millions of citizens need to do and that is keep the walking
shoes in good condition.