Image by Beverly & Pack via Flickr
Eagle looked decidedly better after he had eaten. It was hard to tell with an eagle, naturally gaunt, yet striking-looking creatures; yet Cuckoo was an experienced observer; and to him, Eagle looked more relaxed.
It showed less in his face than in his posture. Eagle was very hard to read, but he had a different way of holding himself when he was unwinding. It wasn’t in his nature to slump, but his bearing now conveyed relaxation. When duty wasn’t driving him, he could be a most agreeable companion. Cookie regarded him with great affection though he tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to maintain some degree of distance if only because he had some idea of the trials Eagle was about to endure.
“Excellent food,” he said. “Thank you, Cuckoo. “
“The perks of travel,” said Cuckoo. “More wine or Calvados?”
Eagles eyes gleamed with restored good humor. “Calvados at this stage, I think.”
“You are saying before I so rudely interrupted you?” said Cuckoo. “And, by the way, I like your term for the Rich and Corporate Interests: The New Plantation Owners. I think that has legs.”
“The Republican Party has moved so far to the right that I cannot but wonder,” said Eagle. “Its leaders seem to be completely unaware of the plight of well over half the population. Instead they exude self righteousness, arrogance and complacency as if they were High Priests presiding over, and judging, a bunch of sinners. Meanwhile they have corrupted the political process, done much the same to the legal system, and evolved a form of crony capitalism which is so incompetent that it needs to be bailed out by the taxpayer every few years. And the system is blatantly corrupt. Good grief, do you know how much the CEO of Lehman Brothers helped himself to before its collapse? Over half a billion dollars? And yet he goes unpunished. And he is but one of many.”
“Technically, the U.S. is now a plutocracy,” said Cuckoo. “It is government by the rich for the sole benefit of the rich. But, Eagle, you know that by now. Yet when you returned earlier, you were enraged. What set you off.”
Eagle sipped his Calvados. “The scale of the greed,” he said slowly, “combined with how far this country has fallen in relation to our competition. And I blame myself for not having noticed it earlier.”
“You’re an eagle,” said Cuckoo. “You were looking after your own, and very well too, may I add. Until I came along.”
Eagle smiled. “And opened my eyes,” he said.
“The Eagle’s role has traditionally been that of being the symbol of the United States of America,” said Cuckoo. “No more. And, as such, you have always discharged your duties impeccably. You have no reason to chastise yourself. But circumstances have changed. And you are now the last best hope for this country. But you haven’t answered my question. What set you off?"
“The Irks have split into teams and are looking at every economy worth a damn,” said Eagle, “and comparing it with ours. They are looking for comparisons, and better ways of doing business. And they are finding answers. But, they are also spotlighting just how badly the American Middle Class is being treated. It is indeed a variation of Jim Crow, and it’s resulting in a form of economic apartheid. Pick a sector, and the Plantation Owners both have pillaged it, and are continuing to do so.”
“Pay?” said Cuckoo.
“No increase for the average American in nearly 40 years,” said Eagle. “Household earnings now in decline. In contrast, household costs are increasing. The official inflation figures do not tell the whole story. The Middle Class is being squeezed into oblivion.”
“Jobs?” said Cuckoo.
“We have an economic system which is still exporting jobs – and which has no interest in creating full employment. Further, small business is seriously neglected, and government employment is being cut to the bone.”
“Unemployment pay?” said Cuckoo.
“Way less than half those out of work actually get unemployment pay. And those who are out of work for longer than 99 weeks get nothing,” said Eagle.
“For all practical purposes, the American worker doesn’t have any,” said Eagle. “Such people are increasingly regarded as inferior beings. I mentioned the Jim Crow laws with good reason. The parallels are striking.
“Worker rights and benefits?”
“A recent study compared 34 leading industrialized nations. The U.S. came last overall, and wasn’t even close under many specific headings. The plantation owners do not believe in worker rights and benefits.”
“Unions have been virtually driven out of the private sector. They have a toe hold in the government, but anti-union legislation is continuing to be passed. The plantation owners are terrified of unions. After all, they are about the only force which has ever helped the average working American.””
“Vacations are becoming the stuff of memory,” said Eagle. “The American worker works longer hours and receives less vacation than the workers of all other developed nations. And suffers accordingly. Half of this country is on prescription meds.”
“We spend twice as much on health as any other country in the world – and get a decidedly inferior result. Ever increasing amounts are being passed on to the Middle Class, who, more and more can’t afford it. Costs went up 9 percent this year – way ahead of inflation. And close to 50 million people aren’t even covered. Add in poverty, hunger, the lousy American diet, and the consequences are predictable.
“Massively neglected. Though we know how other countries do it successfully, we refuse to. As a consequence, we are building up an ever increasing under-class of the unskilled. And many previously skilled workers are being de-skilled while they are out of work.”
“This is a scandal waiting to break of extraordinary size and complexity. On the one hand, many government pensions are underfunded. But it is even worse in the private sector where numerous corporate pensions have been looted by managements. Beyond that, we now now have a situation where corporate pensions are fast being eliminated; and they are already rare in small business.”
“Simply put, we have a lousy K12 educational system compared to the competition. Beyond that, state governments are cutting back on state university costs and overall Third Level costs have increased way faster than inflation. Third Level education is becoming unaffordable for many in the Middle Class. Student debt is now over a trillion dollars.
“The system forces the average Middle Class worker into debt,” said Eagle. “It starts off with a car loan – and most have to have a car to get to work - and then escalates from there. Usury laws have been abolished. The Middle Class are being financially skinned. No wonder they save so little. They can’t afford to.”
The principal asset of the average Middle Class family is their house,” said Eagle. “The housing crisis has drained over $5 trillion from Middle Class net worth – and probably a great deal more - and millions have lost their homes. Though massive fraud has been uncovered, remarkably little has been done about it. Five years into the catastrophe, Congress has been able to come up with a way of resolving the issue – or hasn’t cared to. The crisis continues. It’s beyond an outrage.”
“Congressional support for the Middle Class?”
“Research shows that neither senators nor congressmen listen to the Middle Class. “Instead they listen to those who fund their getting to office – the plantation owners. The Middle Class is no longer represented.”
“We are becoming one of the least socially mobile countries in the developed world,” said Eagle. “If you are born poor, you’ll likely died poor. If you’re are born Middle Class, you stand an increasing chance of dying poor. Either way, for reasons mentioned, your life span is likely to be shorter than it should be.”
“Dividend payments are up. Business investment is down and has been for some time. Investment in research is down. As a result, we are either losing, or have lost, our competitive edge across a range of sectors. So where does those dividends go? Into speculation – everything from commodities to the stock market. As for investment in our essential infrastructure, that’s gone into tax breaks for the plantation owners and wars instead.”
“Have I forgotten anything?” said Cuckoo.
“Lots of things,” said Eagle. “You haven’t mentioned a media that largely turns a blind eye to this issues, government statistics that don’t paint a true picture, the rising prices of necessities like food and gas, the ever increasing demands managements are placing on workers, the lack of adequate public transport, the painting of a completely unrealistic picture of American life by TV, extortionate executive salaries, the health implications of pollution, the corruption of the food chain – and on it goes. And while all this is taking place, corporate profits are higher than ever – and up until recently, the stock market has been booming. What does that tell you?”
“That the plantation owners are doing just fine,” said Cuckoo. “And that they have the money to speculate.”
“If America was a real democracy, the Democrats would be having a field day,” said Eagle. “They’d be slicing into the Right like a hot knife through butter. Instead they are letting the Right set the agenda and are putting forward truly pathetic and inadequate ideas of their own. Why so? Either they are a bunch of wimps, or because they too work for the plantation owners. Or both.”
“The president too?” said Cuckoo.
“That’s what the evidence suggests,” said Eagle. “Look who he appointed to clear up the financial mess when he took office – the very same people who had played a major role in creating it. Look who he appointed as his chief of staff not so long ago – another senior banker. Look at how so little of consequence has happened to the banks. Look at what happened to Elizabeth Warren. Look at how timid he is on most issues to do with the Middle Class. The evidence goes on on and on; and it is not in his favor. Yes, he is better than Bush, but that is not good enough.”
“Since I assume you are not recommending any of the Right Mugs, that leaves this country in something of a mess,” said Cuckoo.
“I don’t think ‘mess’ is an adequate word,” said Eagle. “I think we are on a flight path to disaster. And the plantation owners have the controls; and, as they continue to demonstrate, they do not have the best interests of this country at heart. Their focus is entirely on their best interests.”