Saturday, August 6, 2011

God Bless AA-merica

It's no secret that America's economy has been in the toilet for the past decade. The aftermath of 9/11 increased security across our country's airports and borders and threw us into a war overseas, draining our economy from billions of dollars with each passing year. Our banks crumbled, housing markets collapsed, our credibility as a rich world empire vanquished. As our country sank more and more money into fighting terrorism, companies here struggled and unemployment rates skyrocketed to nearly 10%. With each business that closed, more jobs were eliminated which meant less money being put into our economy, which meant less money to help our failing corporations, to create new jobs, to stimulate growth - it fast became a vicious cycle.

Our politicians and President want to keep things sugar coated. They downplay terms like Great Depression and Recession. Oh no, we're nowhere near a depression and barely a recession - we created 1,000 whole jobs last month... in a country of 307 million people where 10% of them remain out of work and without benefits to support them from losing their houses, cars and ways of life. And you know something? They're right. We're not anywhere close to the Great Depression - because when the Great Depression happened, there was no enormous discrepancy between the haves & the have nots, there were not 11 million undocumented illegal immigrants here, there was still a middle class. The playing field for the most part was level: the majority of US citizens at that time were working class people and immigrants trying to make a fair living and finding themselves being completely devastated by the stock market crash.

The difference today is that there are millions of millionaires in this country; the greed of the 80s stock market growth and housing market has left a majority of Americans with seven figure plus bank accounts. This increase in quick wealth led to the outpouring of over-indulgence and consumerism; Luxury vehicles, $800 dog bowls, designer clothes, private jets. And do you know where else the money of these millionaires goes? Into the pockets of our politicians, greasing the palms of those in Congress and the Senate to make choices like ensuring that the rich don't have to pay taxes and making sure that multi-billion dollar corporations in this country don't have to pay taxes, either. So, is it fair that a family of five who can barely afford their mortgage and to put food on their table have to pay a 15% tax every year, while a family that dines on caviar and champagne every night can jet away to their private villa in Hawaii in their tax-sheltered G5 jet? What happened to America's Horatio Alger-esque roots?

America doesn't seem like it's in a depression because there are so many people with so much money and big houses and riches that they are overshadowing those living in their cars, on the streets, moving back in with family, taking on second, third, fourth jobs just to make ends meet; overshadowing those who work minimum wage jobs and yet have no health insurance since their companies won't give them a full 40 hour a week shift because they're too cheap to pay the premiums. And yet, our politicians had the nerve to sit fighting until the 11th hour over a deal which would ensure that the United States doesn't default on its loans, struggling and cursing each other over which programs to cut and keep when the solution was simple, right in front of their faces: Tax the rich and stop turning your back on Real, hard working Americans.

This is the problem. America started out as a country by the people, for the people. Now, we have become nothing but talking heads and assemblymen, special interest groups, democrats and republicans who are only looking out for their wallets' best interests, completely forgetting that they're supposed to be in charge of a country full of people who are in need, desperate for their voices to be heard, desperate for jobs, for hope, for someone to stand up and remember the little people for a change. We (allegedly) elect these people and for what? We hope they'll do what's right and good for America as a whole - not just for those who can afford their $20,000 a plate political dinners. Whatever happened to Democracy?

And so, with that all being said, the United States had its credit rating downgraded this week from AAA to AA. Our reputation is shot, both economically and politically (I could get into the other reasons why other countries hate us, but there's enough fodder for its own separate post). And all I can think is, is America ever going to be great again? To be that land of the free, home of the brave, stars & stripes nation that attracts millions from around the globe to its shores because we are rich and powerful and strong once again? Can we ever have that same pride and trust in our country's leaders, in our economy and in our political system as in years past? To get back to our roots of an American community, with leaders who believe in the little people, who are willing to hear us and fight for us, to fight for America as a whole and not just those with a great stake in its financial interests. Hopefully this week's activities will be a wake up call; and hopefully it won't take the US losing another point on their credit rating for them to see where real change is needed.

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