The Bush bail-out plan is nothing more than a slap in the face of all working families.
As Peter Dreier notes, “we have been here before—in the 1930’s Depression, when the entire economy collapsed, and in the 1980’s, when the savings-and-loan industry imploded.” It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Again, working families are being asked to shoulder madness.
And again, all our families remain unseen and unheard during this financial crisis.
Unable to be heard over the cries of the wealthy, stories of people like my relative Michael rarely enter the national debate. Michael is the guy who after high school, holding no high ambitions to be rich or famous, went to work in the same sector as his father. When he became engaged with my sister, I would find Michael rushing to the local college campus after work and then coming home in the evening to hunch over an open book and stack of papers. But somehow he always made the time to sit with my sister for dinner or play with my children when we would come over.
One day, Michael came through the doors and announced his promotion and took us all out to celebrate. Having saved enough money, Michael and my sister bought a house in a clean and safe neighborhood. Everybody kept saying home ownership will provide relatively more security and they wanted their first child to have the best chance for a brighter future. My sister also went to work as clerical staff to shore up their income.
Over the last few months, budget cuts have led to Michael’s position being eliminated and he was returned to his former job. Since my sister also works under the same employer and was last hired, we wonder if she will soon be laid off. Two months ago, they celebrated their son’s first birthday around the same time they witnessed the value of their house drop about 20% (Over $120,000 loss). I asked Michael last week what will he do if his wife loses her job, he responded, “I don’t know.”
Michael is all about family and the values he embodies is at risk.
Michael’s experience is representative of the hundreds of thousands of homeowners across this country. RealtyTrac reported that California homeowners were subject to 459,499 foreclosure filings between January and July of 2008 (a rate of one filing for every 29 households). As people lose their homes, the executives of the fallen financial giants lavish in their multi-million dollar estates. ABC reported that CEO Daniel Mudd of Fannie Mae, even as he presided over the financial problems of the company, received $14million in compensation last year and lives comfortably in a 22-room Washington mansion that includes a wine cellar, a home theater, a fountain and a landscaped garden. Mudd is typical of the executives of all the large financial institutions seeking help.
We are ignoring the wealth gap that has widened to Great Depression proportions despite increased national productivity. US Census Bureau and US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that from 1973 to 2005, the bottom 20% saw a 3% increase in their incomes while the top .01% received a 531% raise. The social compact forged in the aftermath of the 1930’s Great Depression that ensured working people would share in the wealth they create has been broken. The true crisis in our nation is escalating income inequality.
Cumulative total of $900,000 taxpayer dollars have already been issued beginning with the Bear Stearns debacle to now. Bush now calls for an additional blank check of $700 billion.
For the past 30 years, the principles of hard work and family have been eroded by policies that reward a select wealthy elite through deregulation and weakening labor laws. In a sense, we have been telling people like Michael that they are not the basis and strength of our country as we simultaneously empty their pockets. Yet, people like Michael continue to work hard everyday and still believe their efforts and merit will eventually be awarded.
So I will say it for him,
“Bush, keep your damned hands out of our pockets! Wall Street has enough money; let them pay for their own mess!”
John Delloro is the Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, LACCD and currently sits on the Legal Advisory Board of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) and the Board of Directors of the PWC. He was one of the co-founders of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (PWC) and served as the president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). For the past decade, he also worked as a regional manager/organizer for SEIU 1000, Union of California State Workers, a staff director/organizer for SEIU 399, the Healthcare Workers Union, and an organizer for AFSCME International and HERE 226, the hotel workers union in Las Vegas.