Several years ago a story in the Readers Digest's Life's Like That, was a perfect anthem to the American Dream.
The young man who had sent in the story, was attending business school, and in the summer worked at his father's restaurant, a busy local eatery. With his new found knowledge, he found himself frustrated with the way that his father did his bookkeeping. Receipts were put on one memo spike and invoices on another.
Finally, in exasperation, he asked his father how he could possibly conduct his business like that. "How do you know how much your profit is?"
His father's reply was priceless. He said that he had come to the United States with nothing but the shirt on his back. He now owned a business, completely paid for; a house and furniture, completely paid for and had put three children through college without having to borrow a dime.
"I figure that, minus the shirt, is my profit."
That is what the American Dream was all about, but that kind of dream is now illusive to most Americans.
After many requests, Mitt Romney finally made his financial statements public. It was learned that he "earned" $21.6 million in 2010. To give that some relevancy, the median gross income in the United States is $33,048. Romney made that in less than a day.
$7.4 million of his annual income came from earned interest. Money on money, not on hard work.
When we look at past "millionaires" and now billionaires, most did become rich through hard work and innovation. We loved the stories of Henry Ford tinkering with motors on the kitchen counter, his wife with her sleeves rolled up as his assistant. Or Gerber turning a failing food processing plant into a baby food empire and Howard Johnson selling his first flavoured icecream from a small wagon, when he was barely a teenager.
No one resented them because they were the true inspirational success stories. But Romney didn't make his money with his sleeves rolled up and grease on his shirt. He made it by swallowing up small businesses, which often meant ruin and unemployment for those not terminally rich.
He uses Staples as a success story for creating jobs, but what's the average salary of a Staples employee? Are they living the American dream?
In fact, recent statistics have shown that Americans now rank 10th in social mobility. The citizens of nine other countries, now have a better chance of going from rags to riches, than the country that invented the notion.
One in five children live in poverty in the U.S. One in five Americans is unemployed or underemployed; one in eight mortgages are in default or foreclosure; and one in eight Americans is on food stamps. Newt Gingrich's solution to that is to reduce the number of food stamps issued, which will only make the statistic, one in eight Americans died from starvation.
Neoconservatism is turning the U.S. into a Third World Country.
But before we pat ourselves on the back, we are not doing any better. According to the OECD, Canada has fallen from sixth to 24th place in infant mortality, meaning that babies are more apt to die in this country, than in 23 others, most without our wealth.
The numbers were “shocking” — a word used by half a dozen prominent commentators, including the Conference Board of Canada. We had slipped from sixth place in the world to 24, a virtually unprecedented fall for any country. We are now just above Poland and Hungary, with 5.1 deaths per 1,000 live births of infants less than one year of age. The actual tragedy beyond the percentages: 1,181 infant deaths in 2007.The Conference Board of Canada also cited another statistic:
Canada gets a “C” and now ties the U.K. for 15th place out of 17 peer countries. Its infant mortality rate is shockingly high for a country at Canada’s level of socio-economic development.In a larger study, the U.S. ranked 41 out of 45 nations.
Conservatives like to take the moral high ground over the abortion issue, but as Gloria Steinem once said, for them "life begins at conception but ends at birth". They want to save a fetus but do nothing to save a child. They tout "family values" but are determined to keep most families living in poverty.
"These proposals included cries for billions of new money for social assistance in the name of “child poverty” and for more business subsidies in the name of “cultural identity”. In both cases I was sought out as a rare public figure to oppose such projects.” (Stephen Harper, The Bulldog, National Citizens Coalition, February 1997)The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives just released it's figures on the top 1%. By January 3, most corporate executives had earned the same amount that the "average Joe" will make working a full year. Yet the Harper government just lowered the tax rate for the wealthiest corporations, while raising it for the "average Joe" who will now pay about $150.00 per year more in taxes.
The last two decreases in personal taxes took place in 2001 when the tax rate fell from 17% to 16%, and in 2005, when it was reduced again to 15%. The Harper government raised the personal income tax to 15.25%, the first increase in decades, but then took it back to 2005 levels, under a banner of "Tories lower personal income tax rate". They didn't, they just took it back to previous levels.
This means that the Harper government has presided over the largest personal tax rate increases in a generation, not to mention Flaherty's HST. Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty have made it easier for the rich to get richer, but have done little, if anything, to help the "average Joe" or the "average Jane".
"Universality has been severely reduced: it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy... These achievements are due in part to the Reform Party..." - Stephen Harper, speech to the Colin Brown Memorial Dinner, National Citizens Coalition, 1994.In Arianna Huffington's Third World America, she discusses wealth and the way in which wealth is now created.
We’ve gone from an economy where we make things to an economy where we make things up: Default credit swaps, derivatives, CDOs, and the like have turned Wall Street into a casino ... the promise of upward mobility – that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll do well and your children will have the chance to do even better – has been broken. Two-thirds of Americans now think their children will be worse off than they are.The Canadian banks, who received almost $70 billion in not so much a bailout as a handout, have lowered the interest rates on borrowing, but that also means lower interest rates on savings. We just renewed an RRSP at 1.3%. When we bought it we were earning almost 11%. How can people save for retirement unless they are willing to gamble on the stock market?
And a lower borrowing rate only encourages more debt, and Canada now has one of the highest debt to income ratios in the world.
Mitt Romney's financial statements should come as no surprise, because they are not unlike most millionaire's or billionaire's today. The only way to make any real money is to become a vulture, capitalizing on the misfortune of others.
We all know what happens in Third World countries when that attitude prevails.