by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III
Austerity, perpetually high unemployment and other aspects of the New Domestic Order are creating a new “precariat” – a class condemned to permanent precariousness and insecurity.
Connecting the Dots to a Frightening Future
by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III
“They are saddled with debt from school loans, working two and three jobs at subsistence wages with no health care, no pension, and no sense of permanency or security.”
Post Racial America, New Normal, Austerity, and The Precariat Class.
These concepts, when discussed individually, make for interesting dialogue. Moreover, when assessed in a larger context, these same concepts should become a cause for concern.
Right after Senator Obama became President there were many discussions and articles written about a Post Racial America. Had we evolved into an America devoid of racial preference, discrimination, and prejudice? During the 2008 presidential campaign The New York Times published an article by Matt Bai entitled Is Obama the End of Black Politics? The premise of the article was that in 2008, 60 years after Strom Thurmond left the Democratic Party over the issue of integrating the armed forces and 45 years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” the Democratic party was poised to deliver its nomination for the nation’s highest office to an African-American. Bai’s article asked if Obama’s nomination somehow signaled the end of Black politics?
The answer to Matt Bai’s question is; of course not. America cannot be closer to being post racial when a candidate for president has to run a deracialized campaign in order to make the masses comfortable with the obvious aesthetic. We are not in a post-racial America when the unemployment rate in the African American community is more than double the national average and the wealth accumulation of the average European American family is 20 times that of the average African American family. The dangerous subtext to that question is that it ignores the struggle for justice and equality that African Americans still face. It also reinforces the conservative view that the government should no longer enact and enforce legislation guaranteeing the rights of minorities.
“We are not in a post-racial America when the unemployment rate in the African American community is more than double the national average.”
As the American economy has remained stagnate with 1.3 percent growth, the national unemployment number has stayed close to 8%, 17% in the African American community. Close to 5.4 million people have dropped out of the workforce and now analysts and commentators have started talking about a “New Normal.” Americans are supposed to get used to dismal rates of growth and high unemployment while the stock market soars and American corporations sit on record cash balances. According to CNBC, corporate “cash balances have swelled 14 percent and are on track toward $1.5 trillion for the Standard & Poor's 500, according to JPMorgan. Both levels would be historic highs.”
These record amounts of cash being stockpiled by corporations are not “trickling down” to the working and middle-classes. The “job creators” are not creating jobs. According to Pimco Investment founder Bill Gross. “It’s time to recognize that things have changed and that they will continue to change for the next—yes, the next 10 years and maybe even the next 20 years.” This is the “new normal” and it’s not good.
The solution being proposed by conservatives and subtly endorsed by President Obama to address the financial crisis is “austerity.” Austerity is the policy of deficit-cutting by lowering spending via a reduction in the amount of benefits and services provided by the government. Instead of focusing on what to save, they are debating what to cut.
“The ‘job creators’ are not creating jobs.”
In challenging times such as these the government should be investing in the economy not cutting back. Reductions in government spending tend to increase unemployment which increases demands on social programs or “safety-net” programs. Increased unemployment also reduces tax revenue. As with the Great Depression, short-term government spending, financed by deficits may be required to support economic growth when consumers and businesses are unwilling or unable to do so.
When you start to connect the dots between, New Normal and Austerity, you see a new picture. There is a new class of existence being created in this country. Professor Guy Standing calls this new class the “precariat”. “Millions of workers, mainly young and educated are being habituated to a life of unstable labor and uncertainty, a precarious existence…The precariat is wanted by multinationals and many corporations”…because their precarious existence makes them easy to exploit. They are saddled with debt from school loans, working two and three jobs at subsistence wages with no health care, no pension, and no sense of permanency or security.
As the African American community continues to be plagued by disproportionate rates of unemployment, poverty, hunger, wealth disparities, incarceration rates and other social ills the development of a precariat class will prove to be catastrophic. African Americans and many others would continue as Dr. King said in 1963, to live “…on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity…languishing in the corners of American society and find(ing) (themselves) an exile in (their) own land.”
“The development of a precariat class will prove to be catastrophic.”
If the underclass, working class and precariat become dissatisfied with their existence what will they do? Will there be an uprising from the masses? What would the government do? How would the government protect its interests and repel the domestic uprising?
When you assess the implications of a Post Racial America, the New Normal, Austerity and The Precariat Class in a larger context, you begin to see a different America than the one being portrayed in mainstream media. When you connect these dots with a government that is engaging in warrantless wiretapping, calling for the ability to indefinitely detain American citizens, stop and frisk laws, and an American Attorney General who states that the president has the authority to assassinate American citizens any place in the world without judicial review, you get a very frightening picture. The picture reflects a battle between democracy and fascism and the battle for democracy should begin now.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: [email protected] www.twitter.com/drwleon, and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facbook.com.
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