Is it okay with you if people live in squalor, with no hope for a decent job, education or life? We ask because we're already well down the road to that future, and we don't hear many people complaining. Is that because they don't care or because they don't know what's going on? If it's the latter, here's what's going on right here.
Over a quarter of North Adams residents -- almost a third of the children -- were below the poverty level in 2009. The city's median income was $29,675, meaning half had incomes below that. At the same time, about $1 of every $5 of income in the U.S. went to the "top 1%" in 2007, the rich-poor gap widened into a chasm and CEO compensation continued sky high.
Do you like what has "trickled down?" Big business interests, mostly corporations, have been chipping away at your life and future for decades under the banner of "conservatism." Today's large corporations have the economic power of a good-sized country (Wal-Mart's 2011 revenue: $420 billion). They have the ear and wallet of most elected officials, the sympathy of a Supreme Court majority and a legal duty to care only about their shareholders' financial interests.
Government is the one institution that could -- should -- keep corporations from steamrolling the people. But business employs countless lobbyists to prevent that. Do you have one? Even the national Chamber of Commerce is little more than a lobbyist for the largest corporations. The New
The Supreme Court decided that corporations, which exist only because a legislature created them on paper, are people with "free speech" rights.
Have one over for lunch, or take one golfing so you can get to know it better. You can't and the only way "it" can speak is by spending massive amounts of corporate money to influence elections.
In this America, big business simply matters more than you, a mere human.
Drug companies have a right to obtain your doctor's prescribing history, even though the doctor doesn't want them to have it. You, on the other hand, have no right to know where your food comes from, or which corporations funded the latest pro-business/anti-government campaign. In fact, Senate Republicans filibustered a bill to require disclosure of corporate and interest group campaign expenditures.
Corporations have no obligation to be moral, patriotic or concerned about you in any way. That's why America's founders, who did not trust corporations -- especially ones that influenced the government -- strictly controlled them. That's why Teddy Roosevelt said, "In order to insure a healthy social and industrial life, every big corporation should be held responsible by, and be accountable to, some sovereign strong enough to control its conduct."
Millions of jobs have already traveled from America to countries with lower labor costs, lower standards of living and lower quality of life. Every company that outsourced or financed and facilitated outsourcing, and every legislator who encouraged outsourcing, aided a shift from our values to the values of the low-cost country.
Conservatives, especially tea party members, do not scream about corporate power and corporate abuse, they scream about too much regulation, too many taxes. Yet weak regulation allowed the financial meltdown, Enron and Madoff. Taxes? The highest federal income tax rate was 50 percent or higher every year from 1932 to 1986; now it's 35 percent.
Having lowered taxes during war time, and enabled the finance industry's mugging of America, they now scream about the deficit as a way to attack programs that benefit people: Social Security, Medicare, etc.
The next time you hear a Fox "News" commentator talking about over-regulated business, or a tea party member screaming for lower taxes, please remember what John Kenneth Galbraith said: "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
Again, do you care at all about the kind of future your children and grandchildren -- all of us -- will have? Do you oppose a world where your kids and grandkids eat garbage, steal for a living and live under a bridge that's too deteriorated to carry traffic?
If so, you really need to get involved. It's not a game. It's not scare tactics. We are losing America and have been for a long time. But we really can take it back. So, do you take a corporation to lunch or do you take a corporation to task?
This guest commentary piece was submitted for Occupy Northern Berkshires by Lee Russ, of Bennington Vt. It was also signed by Bette Craig, of Williamstown, Carol Estes, of Adams, Trish Gorman, of Williamstown, Lodiza LePore, of Bennington, Vt., Peter May, of North Adams, and Shaun Sutliffe, of Adams.