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UPDATED: Bruce McFarland: The rich get richer

Democratic Voices

Posted: March 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

It certainly has been a tumultuous couple of weeks in world news, from Egypt and the Middle East quest to be free from domination to Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe.

One thing I’ve been hearing a lot of is how great the Japanese people are; helping each other, helping strangers in need and working for the common good, often at their own peril. I cannot imagine what kind of dedication it must take to stay behind to try to heal a deteriorating nuclear power plant.

The preamble of our Constitution states: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.”

In Japan, it seems the “general welfare” is more important to the people of that country than it is in the United States. We have different values.

On the plus side, we believe in individuality — that any one of us can do great things, that our children should be richer, healthier and happier than we were, that each person is created equal, that the United States is the land of opportunity, and much more.

On the minus side, we believe greed is good; government help is bad; if a person can’t make it on his or her own, he or she probably doesn’t deserve to make it; and unbelievably, that rich people should get to keep as much of their wealth as possible, even to the detriment of the country as a whole.

We are not Japan.

I am worried about the United States. I see the great middle class getting further and further behind and smaller, too — as the rich getting richer and richer.

Most of us were not here when unions demanded worker safety, reasonable work standards and a living wage for America, but we have all benefited from them. The union ideas were so good that they frequently became law.

Today, unions are said to be unnecessary by some, and crooks by others. People who teach our children, protect us from fire and crime, and those who go to work every day for our many governmental agencies are lambasted, as if their efforts to keep government performing for our general welfare are getting ill-gotten gain.

Unfortunately, the ill-gotten gain in our country is by large corporations that feel no salary or profit margin is too high to ask from the American people, especially the middle class.

In order to perpetuate corporate greed, corporatists have established and reiterated a number of grand lies that, because of their appeal to the rugged individual stereotype we like in America, seems to get many of us fighting for things that are not in our own best interest.

The grand lies of the corporatists include: private ownership is always better than public ownership, government can do nothing effectively and greed is good, citing the theory that because individuals in corporations have to be lean and mean to survive in the corporate world, they must be better at running things.

Our overly profiting health care system is a great example of bad decisions made by government. We are supposedly the best country in the world, but we are 33rd or 46th, according to the United Nations and the CIA World Fact Book, respectively.

High health care costs notwithstanding, we are 36th and 50th for life expectancy, according to the same sources.

The healthiest and most cost-effective system for basic health care is unquestionably a single-payer system in which everyone is covered. Too bad for the health insurers, but I’m sure they would find lots of other ways to make money.

Unfortunately, many in America would rather assault the pensions of teachers, firefighters, police and government workers than question the obscene profits of insurance companies and health care providers.

Oh, but there’s so much more. I believe it’s the middle class that has made America great, and I believe that the middle class is now declining. Check out Gapminder.org to see a marvelous chart of the health and wealth of nations from 1800 to the present.

So who thinks the original Bush-era tax cuts for millionaires was a good idea? What about extending them? I guess many people fell for the corporate lies about government. And I guess it’s the same people who don’t want Californians to be able to vote on their own taxes, and whether they want to spend the money to save the state.

How about you? Do you want to see California fail? Have you fallen for the grand lie?

Bruce McFarland is a Santa Clarita resident and represents the 17th state Senate District at the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. “Democratic Voices” runs Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.

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