Monday, November 5, 2012

Power to the Powerless? Another View of Obama's Obligations

From our golden source (of info, not dinero) we get the lowdown.

November 2, 2012

Power to the Powerless

Much to the chagrin of the candidates and their spinmeisters, climate change and income disparity have reared their ugly heads to become defacto issues in the waning days of Eternal Presidential Campaign 2012. Superstorm Sandy has wedged out the wedge issues. Big Bird has flown the coop.

Even corporate media giants like CNN are noticing the inequality. Side-by-side images of desperately hungry people in Brooklyn sifting through garbage in search for food, and VIPs bemoaning the closing of the Dumpling Bar at JP Morgan Chase would never have been possible without the cooperation of Superstorm Sandy.

Poverty was once the word that could not be spoken, especially during political campaigns. Not any more. The shame of the richest nation in the world is hung out for all the world to see. New York City boasts the most glaring income inequality in the entire country. Its arrogant mayor is our 10th richest plutocrat, with a net worth of $25 billion. But more than a fifth of his subjects (you can't really call them constituents) fall below the national poverty line.

It's easy for Michael Bloomberg to brag about the resilience of his fair city in the face of the storm, because he doesn't have to look at the people who are bearing the real brunt. He triumphantly presided over the reopening of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday. He thumbed his nose at Sandy by insisting that the annual Marathon will be run this Sunday.* But thanks to the magic of TV, the rest of America now bears witness to the grinding existence of ordinary New Yorkers who must run the equivalent of a city marathon every single day just to earn a subsistence wage. According to the Pratt Center for Community Development,

We found great disparities in transportation access between higher-income, professional workers and low-wage manual and service workers. High housing costs mean that most low-wage workers live in areas outside the city's subway-rich core. Those workers also must travel to work sites dispersed widely around the city and region. This leaves the lowest-paid workers with the longest commutes to work, and limits the geographic range of job opportunities for residents of high-unemployment communities.
Three-quarters of a million New Yorkers travel more than one hour each way to work, and two-thirds of them earn less than $35,000 a year. By contrast, just 6 percent of these extreme commuters earn more than $75,000 a year. Black New Yorkers have the longest commute times, 25 percent longer than white commuters; Hispanic commuters have rides 12 percent longer.

Meanwhile, Wall Street plutocrats are telling harrowing tales of their own. One investment banker had to find his way to his wine cellar in the dark to scarf down a $1000-dollar bottle of wine before it went bad when the temperature controls failed. The CEO of Morgan Stanley had to hoof it three miles from his corporate suite to his domestic suite. Local news coverage of the storm was interrupted with a breathless announcement from Lexus to luxury car owners whose rides were damaged by flooding. A concierge service will pick you up and take you wherever you want to go while you're waiting for a replacement vehicle.

Jason Sheftell, who covers the luxury real estate beat for the Daily News, is totally blaming utility giant Con Ed -- not the hurricane -- for disrupting the lifestyle to which he is accustomed. His piece epitomizes the high-end whining of the entitled:

Con Edison has temporarily rendered a large portion of the greatest city on planet Earth irrelevant. They are treating us like we’re some kind of small town in Connecticut. In the sticks, power is an afterthought after 10 p.m. New York is the city that never sleeps.... Power is our lifeblood. It is our backbone. Without it, we are nothing. One day, acceptable. Two days, fine. Five days, in downtown New York, an egregious error where someone, somebody, some power company, must be accountable. No more excuses.

It is to the credit of some would-be Marathoners that they are forgoing the Bloomberg staged event and volunteering on hard-hit Staten Island instead. Despite the televised orgy of mutual back slapping and self-congratulations by swarms of political candidates, the government response is not all that it's been cracked up to be. People are stranded, people are hungry, people are cold, and people are getting mighty pissed off. Brooklynites waited in line for hours for National Guard handouts of water and MREs (meals ready to eat) The indy newspaper Gothamist has coined a new phrase for the forgotten people and where they live: The Powerless Zone. The lack of electricity is obvious; the lack of political power, not so much.

But guess what? Occupy Wall Street, that social movement that the PTBs had either written off or co-opted into President Obama's re-election bid, is making a comeback. They're setting up aid camps in the Powerless Zones, even creating their own electricity with those exercise bike generators used in the Zuccotti Park encampment. Information on how to help can be found here.

Mayor Shrillionaire wouldn't dare send his paramilitary police army to bust heads at the new humanitarian Occupy encampments. Or would he?

* Update 5:30 p.m. Sanity prevailed, and the race has been cancelled.

And on the other hand, for those not sufficiently wowwed by Obama's four-year leadership course . . .

All our public resources go to maintaining the ability of our corporations and financial institutions to exploit the world, and of course the ability of our military machine to take and hold whatever territory or resource those corporations deem necessary for their health and well-being, in other words their profit margins. Our economy has tanked because certain elements of society whose wealth gives them inordinate influence have discovered how easily they, through the media outlets they collectively monopolize, can gin up enthusiasm for war, tax cuts for the rich, reduced access to health care and education for the rest of us, and other such programs that would be impossible to impose on an informed citizenry. One cannot count on informed citizens in a democracy judging correctly at every single election; but an uninformed citizenry is hardly ever right and then only by chance, when it has failed to grab the bait dangled by the professional misleaders.

Unfortunately it is often those at the bottom of the economic ladder who are most familiar with the facts. They may or may not be exposed to the same amount of propaganda as those above them, but they are most certainly exposed to the harsh facts on the ground, to use the phrase government planners, especially military ones, have made us all familiar with in recent years. For African-Americans in particular this is not new knowledge; they’ve been exposed to the harsh facts for almost four hundred years, and it has shaped their political views, leaders, and movements. It has shaped their expectations. This, Younge suggests, might help us understand their optimism for the future despite difficult current circumstances and poor prospects.

That black Americans are doing worse than everyone else, and that the man they elected to turn that around has not done so, does not fundamentally change their view of how American politics works; almost every other Democratic president has failed in a similar way while Republicans have not even tried to succeed.Conversely the fact that a black man might be elected president, that enough white people might vote for him and that nobody has shot him, really has changed their assumptions about what is possible.
This is why I cast my ballot for Obama last time, voting for a Democrat for the first time since 1988. William Greider argued that Obama’s election would end white supremacy in America; and I came to see that as a step that would be difficult to reverse, thus justifying my vote for someone I expected to be a poor president. (Little did I know.) To my mind the re-emergence of relatively open racism on the public stage seems entirely predictable: white supremacy will not concede its unearned privilege and power as long as any recourse remains. Nor is that subset of society among the more enlightened or introspective, rather the opposite; thus rationality and argument are of little use.

In the end, though, white supremacy cannot be allowed to direct the course of society, and the lowered expectations of African-Americans and other mistreated groups must not be continually confirmed, if the United States is regain the path toward the ideals stated in the country’s founding documents. We must practice looking at policies and effects, judging for ourselves what might help modify our current hell-bound trajectory. Critiques are not treason.

The day Obama took office, the world may have looked at black America differently, but black America has yet to look at Obama differently. When he went from being an aspiration to a fact of political life, the posters that bore his likeness in socialist realist style over single-word commands like Hope, Believe and Change should have been replaced with posters bearing the single-word statement: power. As Frederick Douglass said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Having cast my vote for Barack Obama four years ago hoping for, and getting, nothing more than an African-American president, I feel liberated now to return to my beliefs and vote for Jill Stein. If Romney wins California you can blame me; but it would be more sensible to blame Obama’s alliance with, even sellout to, power.

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