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PORTSIDE  December 2010, Week 1

PORTSIDE December 2010, Week 1

Subject:

Alarmed & Angry at Christmas Time

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Left Margin

Alarmed & Angry at Christmas Time

By Carl Bloice - BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board
Black Commentator
December 2, 2010

http://www.blackcommentator.com/404/404_lm_angry_christmas_time.php

It was just a routine call to set up the logistics for
weekend football watching and I was somewhat stunned by
the response I got from my friend when I asked him how
he was. "I am angry," he said. About what? "Those
(explicative) are not going to extend unemployment
insurance." I recalled that I had recently sent out a
couple emails that used another expletive to describe
the first vote in the lame duck Congressional session
which didn't reach the two-thirds majority needed to
take emergency action to keep benefits going to nearly
2 million people unsuccessfully looking for work. "They
really going to do it," he said, reflecting the sudden,
shocking awareness that that one third of the members
of the U.S. House of Representatives were prepared to
allow all those people - victims of an economic crisis
not of their making - to face the holidays with no
income.

The number of people who have been out of a job for
more than six months is now 6.2 million. Congress has
never cut off extended benefits when the unemployment
rate was above 7.4 percent. It's now at 9.6 percent.

"It is hard to believe, as the holidays approach yet
again amid economic hard times, but Congress looks as
if it may let federal unemployment benefits lapse for
the fourth time this year," the New York Times said
editorially last week.

That's something to get really mad about.

Any shrink will tell you that there's not necessarily
bad about being angry; in fact; trying to repress being
damn mad might not good for you. Still, we are heading
into the holiday season and the pressure is on to "be
of good cheer." Yet, all over the North "Atlantic
Community," situations are being described as
"dickensonian," a reference to Charles Dickens's "A
Christmas Carol." The problem is despite being
repeatedly reminded of our Judeo-Christian heritage,
Scrooge seems to be getting the upper hand on Santa,
the Maccabeen insurgents and the Nazareth carpenter's
son.

The richest and most powerful nation on the planet
somehow can't afford to maintain an adequate
educational system. College tuition costs go up,
classes are cut and secondary school teachers are laid
off while many of those who remain find themselves
using their own money to buy reading materials and
school supplies. More than 2.3 million homes have been
repossessed by banks and mortgage lenders over the past
three years; more than one million American households
expected to have been foreclosed upon this year 2010.
About 40 percent of families facing eviction are
renters whose landlords were foreclosed upon and the
number of children displaced from their homes, schools
and neighborhoods steadily increases.

Meanwhile, people with huge amounts of money of their
own are organizing campaigns aimed at telling working
people nearing retirement (and the retired): you're
going to have to make do with less - both in Social
Security and Medicare. Jobless women and men are being
told to drop dead.

Meanwhile, we are told, corporate profits are up,
banker bonuses rising and on Wall Street, they're
partying like there's no tomorrow.

We're going to be hearing a lot over the next few weeks
about "peace on earth and goodwill toward men." The
problem is, both qualities are in quite short supply
these days. As year's end approaches, a nation which,
to one or another extent, had entertained the idea that
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would by now be coming
to an end, realizes that under current policies, that
is not about to happen. And so, the carnage goes on at
a cost of more lives. And, it continues to erode the
nation's economy.

The wars are the biggest contributing factor involved
in the Federal budget deficit, seconded only by tax
benefits for the most well-to-do amongst us. So, along
come the "deficit hawks" swooping in with their talons
aimed at the elderly, the disabled and the young. The
people pushing these proposals are being called
`courageous" and "realistic" by the major mass media
and leading political pundits.

What would Jesus say? Don't ask.

"Extreme inequality is already contributing mightily to
political and other forms of polarization in the U.S,"
wrote columnist Bob Herbert in the New York Times last
week. "And it is a major force undermining the idea
that as citizens we should try to face the nation's
problems, economic and otherwise, in a reasonably
united fashion. When so many people are tumbling toward
the bottom, the tendency is to fight among each other
for increasingly scarce resources."

"What's really needed is for working Americans to form
alliances and try, in a spirit of good will, to work
out equitable solutions to myriad problems facing so
many ordinary individuals and families," continued
Herbert. "Strong leaders are needed to develop such
alliances and fight back against the forces that nearly
destroyed the economy and have left working Americans
in the lurch."

Over in Ireland, working people are facing a similar
but much direr situation. A harsh austerity program is
being imposed that will mean hardship for many in a
country already hard hit by capitalism's most recent
economic crisis and enduring high unemployment. Like
us, the Irish have been shellacked by their country's
banksters who in their avarice and irresponsibility put
the country into hock to the big banks of Europe. Now,
Irish workers are being told they must pay the cost.

"The middle and poorer strata will be told that their
suffering from austerity policies (in addition to that
stemming from the crisis itself) is part of "everyone's
burden," writes Richard D. Wolff, professor of
Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts.
"The austerity is thus portrayed as a democratic
community-wide necessity. Meanwhile, employers and the
rich - the small minority of Europeans with enough
wealth to lend to the EU and member governments - will
collect the interest and repayments extracted via the
austerity programs. `Community-wide' will not
characterize the beneficiaries of austerity; that is
reserved only for its victims."

"The crash has been sobering and shaming." writes David
Gardner in the Financial Times. He goes on to quote
Brendan Halligan, veteran former general secretary of
the Irish Labour party: "The generation of me, myself
and I is going to be replaced by the generation of we.
You're dealing with a society that has looked at itself
in the mirror." And, Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore
"invokes the spirit of the Meithel, the tradition of
collectively bringing in the harvest - a sort of Gaelic
`Yes we can'."

Maybe things haven't gotten bad enough here at home for
this kind of reaction to take hold and for the kind of
alliances Herbert talks about to take shape (though a
lot of good people are working on it). We should be
under no illusion, however, that things are going to
get better on their own any time soon.

So, I'm off to buy the poinsettia, the rosemary and the
thyme, and there will be pig feet in the pot when the
New Years comes. Come hell or high water the season
will be gaily celebrated with friends and family but
like for a lot of people lurking in the background,
there will be a feeling of outrage.
____________________

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice
is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly
worked for a healthcare union

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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