U.S.A — While ordinary Americans fight for political crumbs, the rich get richer – opinion

 By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

The federally mandated minimum wage is $7.25 an hour but the average actual wage is $19.33; for Florida, $16.

The average hourly wage of a CEO is $369 but can be as high as $9,000. The average hourly wage of a billionaire is $1 million but can be as high as $4 million.

Billionaires numbered 565 in 2017and their combined wealth was $2.7 trillion. By 2020, in four years of the Donald Trump presidency and a year of the coronavirus epidemic, their number rose to 614 and their wealth to $2.9 trillion. By April 10, the number increased by15 to 629 and their wealth to $3.2 trillion. Meanwhile, more than 20 million Americans have had to survive on about $333 per week in jobless benefits.         

The $7.25 hourly wage was set 12 years ago, Hamilton Nolan reported in The Guardian. During that time, “we have been through an economic crash, a slow, decade-long recovery and another economic crash, and after all of that it is still legal to pay a full-time employee working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks less than $15,000 a year.” If the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity over the past 50 years, it would be more than $24 today, Nolan said.

It is in this context that the demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage must be considered, along with President Joe Biden’s insistence on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package that includes a $1,400 relief check for individuals. But it is more than that.

“The real political battle in America today is not between a ‘liberal’ left and a ‘fascist’ right,” Rana Dasgupta wrote in the December Harper’s magazine. “It is between the people and a grandiose private system of social, economic and political management that has the power to bring to an end the democratic certainties on which Americans have come to rely. If we wish to preserve those certainties, we will have to do a lot more than remove Donald Trump.

That means tackling economic inequality. But that requires a political will which does not currently exist and economic and taxing policies have been held captive by billionaires, especially in “extractive” industries such as oil, for at least 40 years, as journalists such as Vanity Fair’s Jane Mayer have pointed out.

A concentration of power in the hands of a very few started long before Trump arrived, thanks mostly to the Kansas-based Koch family, their nearly $1 trillion wealth and their “unanimous espousal of anti-government, free market self-reliance,” as Mayer wrote in her book “Dark Money.” That stranglehold will not be easy to break. The Democrats’ 2020 electoral victories are not a strong enough national mandate to confront the puppet masters head-on and the demographics from the 2020 polls are not encouraging.

The African American male vote for Trump increased from 13 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in 2020, New York Times columnist Charles Blow reported in morning-after tweets. The African American female vote rose from four percent to eight percent. The LGBT vote doubled for him.

Trump “gained traction with every major demographic (including Muslim voters, despite his travel ban),” based on early polling figures, culture critic and author Thomas Chatterton Williams wrote in Harper’s. The percentage of Latinos and Asians voting for Trump also increased. Only European American males showed a decrease, though a “modest” one.

In addition, a Pew Research Center study found that, in 2019, about 40 percent of African Americans, regarded as a key Democratic voting bloc, considered themselves moderate and another 25 percent conservative; only 29 percent said they were liberal, Williams reported. This means “that we can’t depend on the “browning of America to dismantle white supremacy and erase anti-blackness.”

That should be disheartening for all Americans. Almost every facet of American life that is in distress stays that way because the obscenely rich make money off misery. It is so whether it is war-making, to benefit from killing foreigners; the crumbling infrastructure, which allows for profiting off ventures such as private prisons; immigration, where it is lucrative to cage children; lack of affordable health care, which allows for monetizing human suffering. Name it and there is a mercenary reason why the United States lags far behind other developed nations that provide their peoples with sleek, fast trains and buses, superhighways, superior education, efficient public services and amenities and leisure time for a comfortable life.

Tens of millions of Americans remain brainwashed into believing that what is good for the wealthy is good for them. It is no wonder that Koch-influenced propaganda maintains that it is “socialists” and “communists” who criticize the systemic inequality. It is a cynical ploy intended to distract people, just as with the “culture war.”

“The minimum wage is a moral issue masquerading as an economic one,” Hamilton Nolan argued in The Guardian. “Stone-cold capitalism does not demand a minimum wage, any more than it demands child labor laws or workplace safety.  Rather, we demand a minimum wage due to the belief that there must be a floor on human dignity. The public debate on the issue should always happen on those terms, lest we allow it to slide into the insincere wasteland of ‘What’s best for small business,’ where all ideas good for working people go to die.”

That is the real challenge ahead.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who worked for several years at The Guyana Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating in 1984 to the United States, where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On 02/26/2021 at 3:15 am

    Wow ! Wat an enlightening read !
    Music to my ears !

    With the power vested in me I hereby
    Knight you
    Sir Mohamed Hamaludin

    You may rise to the heavens my friend.

    It’s not about a minimum wage it’s more about a liveable wage.
    On retirement at 60 moved to Spain.
    On my Royal Mail pension at 60 could not afford to live in UK. £6500pa
    On my 65th birthday started receiving my UK
    state pension £7500pa
    Could afford to return to UK with both pensions.
    As my new income was over £14.000pa linked to inflation UK was affordable.
    However the tax man stepped in demanding 22% tax on any income over my tax allowance
    £10.500pa.
    Am back in UK enjoying my retirement in my rented bungalow provided for seniors by my local government CBC.
    Am also busy gardening writing my biography
    for my next generations after my exit.

    QED
    RIP

    Kamtan aka lard k uk-ex-EU

    Enjoyed your article

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/12/2021 at 1:06 am

    Dave Gonigam of The 5 Minute Forecast posted:

    “I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for half of my working life. We were the first to be laid off and will be the last to be rehired,” writes a reader reacting to our take on the $1.9 trillion spending bill the president will sign today.

    “My state is still at 50% capacity for indoor dining. Few of my co-workers have been able to return to work. I am immuno-compromised and have been sick very often even before the pandemic, but loved my job and continued to work. Now I can’t work anywhere till I get vaccinated.

    “I’m a die-hard progressive, especially after having lived in Canada for a few years. I know that the COVID bill has a lot of pork, but for those of us forced to stay home this past year, the unemployment and stimulus money have been a GODSEND.

    “Please don’t belittle us. Our job is physically and socially demanding. It’s a job that’s very consequential when you look at how many people with higher incomes can afford to take vacations and eat out. We all love to do that. I personally won’t receive the benefits of the stimulus package that will lift many families out of poverty in the short term. However, it’s important since the lowest-income people have been hit the hardest, while the top incomes have gotten wealthier during this pandemic.

    “All of my co-workers are looking forward to getting back to work. We know that conservatives hate all of this but it won’t go on forever. A lifeline has been extended to all of us and we are very grateful to have it. I thank you, WE thank you, and soon all of the rest of you can get back to your favorite restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts. And we can get back to our favorite restaurants too.

    “Love The 5!”

    The 5: To be sure, there’s an argument to be made that under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, businesses and their employees are entitled to some sort of redress if government forbids them from plying their trade.

    We wish you the best as 2021 goes on… and we thank you for your polite, heartfelt feedback and your continued readership.

    Best regards,

    Dave Gonigam
    The 5 Minute Forecast

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/12/2021 at 1:21 am

    The following is worth highlighting – It boggles the mind how ….

    Well, Winston Churchill said it, already ….. –

    “Democracy is the worst system, except for all the other systems”:

    The African American male vote for Trump increased from 13 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in 2020, New York Times columnist Charles Blow reported in morning-after tweets.

    The African American female vote rose from four percent to eight percent.

    The LGBT vote doubled for him.

    Trump “gained traction with every major demographic (including Muslim voters, despite his travel ban),” based on early polling figures, culture critic and author Thomas Chatterton Williams wrote in Harper’s.

    The percentage of Latinos and Asians voting for Trump also increased.

    Only European American males showed a decrease, though a “modest” one.

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