The Next ‘Painful’ Cut: Unemployment, Race, & Social Apartheid

Citizens protesting against unemployment.

Judging from the deluge of propaganda coming out of mainstream channels and the matching endorsements  for wholesale oppression found in the daily papers, it’s nearly impossible not to think that the US government and their corporate masters are attempting to forcefully drag the world’s population into the twilight zone. Indeed, these entrepreneurial gangsters need no instruction, they know how crucial it is to obey that old neoclassical maxim: when accumulating profits you must share the risk. Unfortunately, the generosity of these CEO’s, investors, and hedge fund managers fail to extend beyond this point. For empirical proof just take a glance at your morning issue of the Wall Street Journal, a report from the Economic Policy Institute, or (if you dare) the thousands of unemployed Black and Brown people around the nation breaking their backs to survive. I’m sure you’d find these revelations to be quite disturbing. Although I should add, it’s an accurate indication of the “philanthropic” deeds of, using Obama’s logic, our “job-creators”.

But who are these mysterious “job-creators” showering the benighted masses of America with stagnating wages, reduced health benefits, employment insecurity, and de-unionization? What god (or goddess) donated 40% of their toxic assets to Europe, supplying European governments with a pretext to implement highly regressive austerity measures? Who will unveil the face of that robust demigod who thought it was a good idea to displace millions of farmers from India to Tanzania before the altar of “modernization”? Whatever the answers may be to these queries, the first line in a Wall Street Journal article titled Business Abroad Drives US Profits provides valuable insight into the real nature of this situation: “While the US economy is struggling, US corporations aren’t.”

And these corporations are not only well-off, they are drowning in profits. For example, General Electric has just recorded a 21% increase in earnings from 2010. This dramatic leap in profits sets their second quarter earnings at $3.8 million dollars. Furthermore, international industrial profits increased by a staggering 23% to 13.4 billion dollars. Figures of this kind are not only obscene but immoral when the disparity between the wealthy and the working class continues to break long-standing records. Take for instance President Obama’s so-called “budget proposal”–which in more honest circles would be called his “plan for public disposal”–that introduces a form of public spending (as a share of GDP) 33% below the 49 year average. This particular proposal for public spending, a mere 2.2% of GDP, doesn’t even rise to the level of the Reagan administration’s 3.4% spending level, confirming  long-held suspicions that the Democratic-Republican dichotomy is, at best, an artificial construction of the ruling class.

But while these statistics can become cumbersome, there’s another fact that has somehow escaped the purview of the corporate media, the US Congress, and the Obama administration as a whole. Tragically, the election of a Black president has done little, if anything, to lift people of color out of their assigned role in the American empire: the role of the invisible, superfluous people. Pushing aside the deplorable state of the prison system, the job climate in Black and Hispanic communities speaks to a resilient legacy of racism and prejudice that has possessed America since the first “colonists” landed on this “unpeopled” soil.

The Hispanic community protesting deportations.

Appearing on Democracy Now! on July 28th, Howard University’s Roderick Harrison commented that the current economic climate “takes us back to a period of two societies, separate and unequal.” In short, Mr. Harrison sensed the unmistakable markings of what the great English socialist and historian, E.P. Thompson called “social apartheid”. This observation was reiterated by Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center who reported that “in 2005, the wealth gap ratios [between Whites and Blacks] were roughly 10 to one. And they doubled to 20 to one. So they were already big, and they got even bigger.” And these hardships in the Black community are matched by the Obama administration’s decision to carry out a systematic campaign of discrimination against the Hispanic community. Since 2010 the Obama administration has presided  over the deportation of over one million Hispanics who have been kicked out of this country for the crime of trying to provide a decent life for themselves and their families.

All of these state and corporate crimes are unmentioned yet they deserve to be talked about in public spaces, in spaces where people can organize a push back against these kinds of injustice. Taking a glance at this burgeoning culture of social and economic imperialism, the “heated” debates about “debt ceilings” and “balanced” budgets should fail to elicit anything more than laughter from working people (if not a scornful sigh). I’ve noticed that every time President Obama wants to leg sweep the working class he laments over having to make, what he calls, “painful cuts”. Yes, the mass unemployment is painful. The declining wages? Painful. The lack of health benefits? Painful. The deportations? Painful. To live trapped in a state of perpetual invisibility? Painful. With all this abundance of pain I just hope that when the working people unite with their signs, fists, and voices and the police rush in it’s not too . . . well . . . painful.

Linebaugh, By Kate. “Business Drives U.S. Profits –” Business News & Financial News – The Wall Street Journal – Web. 29 July 2011
Thompson, E. P., and Dorothy Thompson. The Essential E.P. Thompson. New York: New, 2001. Print.
“Major Budget Proposals Pit Public Investment against Vital Services.” Economic Policy Institute. Web. 29 July 2011. <;.
Kamat, Anjali. “Wealth Gap Between Minorities and White Americans Doubles After Housing Crisis, Recession.” A Daily TV/radio News Program, Hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Airing on over 900 Stations, Pioneering the Largest Community Media Collaboration in the United States. Web. 29 July 2011. <;.

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