Thursday, October 13, 2011

99% and the 1%... USA's great economic divide

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.  Justice Louis Brandeis, 1941

A StarTribune editorial by Paul Zerby, "Living in Occupied America", helps to explain the great level of frustration expressed through the Occupy MN protest and those elsewhere in the US.  He refers to a statement made a few years back from a law classmate of his... "the principal in Washington is no longer the government or the people it represents.  It is the Money Power." He notes that the overarching theme of the protests is that 99% of Americans need to find a way to limit the power that the 1% currently has over the rest.  Given the vast amounts of money in Washington DC that goes into political campaigns and lobbying, this change in the balance of power won't come without rocking the boat.

During this prolonged recession a tragic waiting game has been occurring, with many corporations stock piling cash, fearful of investing in their infrastructure or employees. And so the economy spirals further downward.  Those still holding jobs are left with the work load of a a few people.  People are stressed either because they have a job or because they don't. 

On the nonprofit side of the equation recent years have been brutal for many charities.  An article in the StarTribune, Giving drops with economy, noted that charitable giving decreased between 2008 and 2009, going from $5.4 billion to $4.9 billion. Most nonprofits, unlike their for profit cousins, have been operating all out to meet human needs.  Sadly, given a decline in resources many have been forced to reduce their staffing and services, merge or perhaps go out of service. So, during a time when need is up, resources to meet these human needs are diminishing. An indicator of this condition was announced at our church on Sunday when we heard that the local food shelf being operated by PRISM (People Responding in Social Ministry) was bare, much like Old Mother Hubbard's food shelf.  In addition to increased demands PRISM has also been under severe financial stress.

While a simple "tax the rich" solution may not go nearly far enough to balance the budget, it would go a long way in helping the other 99% feel like all were making some sacrifices for the long term health of the nation during these most difficult economic times.  

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