A Million Worker March: The Time is Now
February 23, 2009 - 1:44pm ET
Now is the perfect time for a march on Washington, D.C.
For the past thirty years the American working class has seen its wages stagnate and its standard of living kept afloat only through the accumulation of ever higher levels of debt. Consider that from 1980 to 2004, GDP per person rose by almost two-thirds, yet the wages of the average worker actually fell when adjusted for inflation. For thirty years, while the wages and salaries of 90% of Americans increased by only 1% per year on average, those at the 99.9th percentile saw increases of 181% and those in the top 0.01 had income growth of 497%. We live in a nation in which 20% of the working population--over forty million people--do not have enough income to pay their basic living expenses. In a country as rich and productive as ours, this is a national disgrace. We have all been working harder and longer and more efficiently, yet the benefits of that hard work have been distributed only to those at the top. This is the root cause of the current crisis.
Until income is redistributed so that those who perform the productive work of the economy receive their fair share of the fruits of that productivity, we will remain a debt-ridden society stumbling from crisis to crisis. It is troubling that so many working Americans are complacent about their marginalization. I believe the keys to this lie in our refusal to discuss class and our media's remarkable ability to create a mental landscape in which everyone identifies with the interests of those at the top rather than their own interests. It's ironic that a nation born of revolution is so lacking in revolutionary instincts. If you look around the world, people are taking to the streets to protest an economic system that rewards the few and slights the many. Workers in America must follow that lead.
Now is the time for demonstrations and strikes and protests. The American working class must send a message to the financial elites that we demand an equitable distribution of the wealth created by our labor. Every story about the New Deal states that FDR needed to be pushed by an angry, energetic public. We need that anger NOW, and the best way to show it is with a mass demonstration.
The ruling elite know this. Consider a recent article by Chris Hedges in which the Director of National Intelligent mentioned domestic unrest caused by the economic crisis as a future "threat." The ruling class knows that they've been screwing the public for years, and they worry about retribution. For the working class, an increased political consciousness is a matter of survival. If the working class doesn't wake up, our wages will be cut even more, our jobs outsourced, our pensions looted, and our health care slashed. In a recent article in The Nation, William Greider describes how billionaire Pete Peterson is leading an assault on the "entitlements" of Social Security in the name of "fiscal responsibility." What Peterson and other elites refuse to acknowledge is that these "entitlements" are not hand-outs but a fair return for years of wage labor. After all, it's the working class's money that funds Social Security.
Yet there is no end to the hypocrisy embraced by billionaires who have looted this country for years and refused to pay their fair share. Notice how the idea of reversing the Bush Tax Cuts has disappeared from the agenda. While working familes struggle with hunger and threats of homelessness, the wealthy continue to chip away at the safety net. This must stop.
Now is the time to increase taxes on those who have profitted over the last thirty years and refused to share that profit in an equitable manner. The mainstream media will put all of its persuasive power behind blaming "irresponsible Americans" yet will refuse to acknowledge that most debt-ridden Americans had no choice because they were not adequately compensated for their productive contribution to the economy. It is time to stop blogging and e-mailing and staring at our cell phones and time to take it to the streets. We need a Million Worker March on Washington, D.C. The wealthy have waged class warfare against working Americans for the past thirty years, and now is the time for the working class to fight back. A good first step is a demonstration in Washington to show the elites the potential of mass movements.
It is the only way forward.
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