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SPOTLIGHT
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Matter with Kansas? You're kidding, right?

Published on -4/19/2013, 10:27 AM

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"The greater the disparity in wealth between the very rich and everyone else, the more unstable an economy becomes. Our nation has now created a larger gap in the distribution of wealth than the massive chasm that helped fuel the Great Depression. In 1928, one year before the global economic collapse, the wealthiest .001% of the U.S. population owned 892 times more than 90% of the nation's citizens. Today, the top .001 percent of the U.S. population owns 976 times more than the entire bottom 90 percent."

"Plutocracy Reborn," Rhonda Winter. Ecolocalizer.com

"He who dares not offend cannot be honest."

Thomas Paine

So here it is. In Kansas, homo sapiens are increasingly outnumbered by homo sappy un's,

How do I know this? Well, I was driving up Pomeroy Avenue in Hill City, and there was this proud bumper sticker: "Government Isn't the Answer; Government is the Problem." Grinnery head-wagger Reagan. You know, that Ronnie Reagan under whose two terms of "conservative" administration the national debt went from $712 billion in 1980 to almost $3 trillion in 1988? The illegal arms sales to Iran to fund undeclared war in Nicaragua guy?

Well, indeed, gummit (borrowing spelling from Molly Ivins, whom I miss dearly) can be the problem. It depends on who and what gummit is. Doesn't a gummit truly of, by, and for the people -- all the people, that is -- beat hell out of one of, by, and for Monsanto or Exxon Mobil or WalMart or Conoco-Phillips or Bank of America or their paid politicians? I think so. You?

Teddy Roosevelt, one Republican smart enough to understand, argued that gummit truly representing the people had to be bigger and tougher than one owned or controlled by profiteers -- by a plutocracy, that is. Pluto, in case you've forgotten your Greek mythology, was the god of the underworld where the gold and silver were stored.

Eisenhower said the same thing in warning us of the "military-industrial complex" but missed the mark by not including corporate plutocrats.

Sorry to be judgmental, but if you're among the homo sappy un's you probably don't like looking at graphs any more than you like reading anything more demanding than the cereal box, watching anything but Fox News or -- in this area -- listening to Patriot Radio. But I can always hope.

A graph prepared by National Taxpayers Union shows both sides of a mountain. The climb side, from 1932 to 1963 shows the top income tax bracket ascending from 25 percent to over 90 percent. Then at the peak, there's a corresponding ski slide down to our current 39.6 percent today. It's a meager hike from GW Bush's 35 percent, which came as still-to-be-prosecuted Republican neo-cons lied us into two deadly and dumb wars. Both unpaid for, let us add.

For those who haven't gone to sleep (or have decided to desert to Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity), there's a second graph, this one of the wealth gap.

This graph tracks how the middle class grew steadily in the years following the Depression until about 1964 -- as tax rates on the wealthiest increased. Then, from 1964 it tracks how the middle class has lost out on the down-mountain ski slide -- while tax rates for the rich dropped to levels not seen since 1932. Meanwhile, underworld plutocrats bragged up trickle-down.

There's a third graph. Union membership rose following the Great Depression as workers were successful in organizing to fight for decent wages and benefits and safer working conditions. By 1967, 28 percent of laborers were unionized. In 2008 the percentage had dropped to about 11 percent. Today, a majority of union members are public employees -- and under relentless attack.

The rich have been successful in selling to ordinary Americans the idea that unions are evil. To be sure, trade unions have had their own shortcomings. However, it is a mistake to overlook the accomplishments of unions for the greater good of average Americans, and a mistake to overlook the relationship between tax breaks for the wealthiest, union decline and the decline of the middle class. Not to understand who really runs gummit these days is not a mistake.

It's a tragedy.

Now, if you've read this far and figure it's all no concern of yours ... if you think carrying your .45 caliber Glock into the college dorm or the grocery store will make us safer ... if you're all hot to get the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall and make sure public school kids are reciting the Apostles' Creed ... if you're determined gays don't marry ... if you preach against any abortion for any reason unless the female is over 80 and has parental consent -- well, that's Kansas.

Just don't bitch to me as your wallet keeps getting thinner.

Bob Hooper is a fourth-generation western Kansan who writes from his home in Bogue.

celtic@ruraltel.net

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