“Them or Us?”

Steve Earle

“Four score and a hundred and fifty years ago
Our forefathers made us equal as long as we can pay.
Yeah, well maybe that wasn’t exactly what they was thinkin’ —
Version six-point-oh of the American way.

But hey — we can just build a great wall around the country club
To keep the riff-raff out until the slump is through.
Yeah, I realize that ain’t exactly democratic, but it’s either them or us and it’s the best that we can do.”

Steve Earle — “Amerika v.6.0” (2003)

It’s now 2013 — 10 years down the road.

I live ever more unencumbered by great wealth.

And with plenty of company.

A new study released last week by the Pew Research Center dramatically demonstrates an undisputed fact — economic inequality has widened substantially during the first two years of our current recovery from the Great Recession as the upper 7% of American households have witnessed an average net worth increase of 28% — almost a full third — while the wealth of the remaining 93% of us has flat out declined. Got it?

From 2009 to 2011, the average accumulated worth of America’s 8 million most affluent households jumped from $2.7 million to $3.2 — even as the average holdings of the bottom 111 million families fell from $140,000 to $134,000, a drop of 4%. OK with you?

That top 7% owned 56% of the nation’s wealth in 2009, but it jumped to 63% by 2011 and is still climbing, leaving the rest of us to fight for little pieces of the remaining less than 37%. Paul Taylor, Director of the Research Center, summed it all up as follows — “It has been a very good recovery for those at the upper end of wealth distribution, but there has been no recovery for the lower 93% — which is nearly — EVERYBODY.” Think that’s cool?

Let’s face it, folks. Forget redistribution. We need restitution. That’s not evil envy — just honest observation. For over thirty years the American middle class has been on a slow but steady decline. Anyone who doubts this only need look about and take a true count.

Want more jobs? At living wages? With real security, a return to prosperity and pride restored?

The whole sad scene needs a time machine. Climb in! Get set! Hang on, Sloopy!

Yes! Eisenhower era tax rates! Dwight David Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces when he won World Was Two as a five-star general, let alone being elected to our nation’s highest office as a great Republican.

Let’s see. For the wealthiest Americans making over $400,000 a year that would be a marginal rate of — 91% — effective from 1954 through 1963 when I graduated from college, still leaving the rich with tons of money. My friends and I were doing fine as well. Today it’s way less than half that — only 35% above $388,350, even as The Tea Party sulks and sobs over “highest in history” taxation as they continue their vigilant search high and low for FEMA Concentration camps wherein Barack Obama is worshipped as a living god, women wear pants while voting and spoken English is forbidden.

For those who preach financial belt tightening as a hangman knots his noose, that whole “austerity” deal was finally revealed as the fraud it was only days ago with the discovery of “a spreadsheet coding error” in a seminal economics paper quoted time and time again by conservative elements insisting “spending is the problem.” It’s not. Long constriction by wrong conviction is. We’re collectively being had while those having us laugh all the way to the bank — amused that so many still unwittingly accept free fall when it’s promoted as freedom. Free? Dumb!

We can flash the cash. Borrowing has rarely been cheaper. Only the badly bewildered doubt we’re good for it. Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Paul Krugman is correct. “The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor.”

The only true burden our grandchildren might bear will be the inevitable consequence of not trusting in ourselves. Their future well being depends upon a collective commitment to our flag, our nation and, most of all, to each other.

Nothing to it — but to do it.

And why not make lobbying a Federal Felony, punishable with all the money anyone has and life imprisonment in a padded cell with 200 decibels of Justin Bieber piped in 24/7?

We ARE the Country.

Let’s take our CONGRESS back!

3 Responses to ““Them or Us?””

  1. Charles Walker Says:

    A. How do you define Wealth?
    B. How much did the “Top 8 Million” lose between 2007 and 2009?
    C. What does the Heritage Foundation report say?
    D. If we have 91% marginal rates can we have the same deductions we had back then as well?
    E. What is a Justin Beiber?

  2. Charles Walker Says:


  3. petercavanaugh Says:


    A = I don’t
    B = Who cares?
    C = It doesn’t talk. One reads it.
    D = No
    E = David Cassidy Squared

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