Wilmer Leon connects the dots in a supposedly “post-racial America” and finds a frightening possibility that the new normal may well be decades of austerity for a new “precariat class,” with insecure jobs and vanishing civil liberties.
These concepts, when discussed individually, make for interesting dialogue. Moreover, when assessed in a larger context, these same concepts should become a cause for concern.
Right after Senator Obama became President there were many discussions and articles written about a Post-Racial America. Had we evolved into an America devoid of racial preference, discrimination and prejudice? On August 10, 2008, The New York Times published an article by Matt Bai entitled “Is Obama the End of Black Politics?” The premise of the article was that in 2008, 60 years after Strom Thurmond left the Democratic Party over the issue of integrating the armed forces and 45 years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the Democratic party was poised to deliver its nomination for the nation’s highest office to an African American. Bai’s article asked if Obama’s nomination somehow signaled the end of black politics?
The answer to Matt Bai’s question is; of course not. America cannot be closer to being post-racial when a candidate for president has to run a de-racialized campaign to make the masses comfortable with the obvious aesthetic. We are not in a post-racial America when the unemployment rate in the African-American community is more than double the national average and the wealth accumulation of the average European American family is 20 times that of the average African-American family. The dangerous subtext to that question is that it ignores the struggle for justice and equality that African Americans still face. It also reinforces the conservative view that the government should no longer enact and enforce legislation guaranteeing the rights of minorities.
As the American economy has remained stagnate with 1.3 percent growth, the national unemployment number has stayed close to 8 percent, 17 percent in the African-American community. Close to 5.4 million people have dropped out of the workforce, and now analysts and commentators have started talking about a “New Normal.” Americans are supposed to get used to dismal rates of growth and high unemployment while the stock market soars and American corporations sit on record cash balances. According to CNBC, corporate “cash balances have swelled 14 percent and are on track toward $1.5 trillion for the Standard & Poor’s 500, according to JPMorgan. Both levels would be historic highs.”
These record amounts of cash being stockpiled by corporations are not “trickling down” to the working and middle classes. The “job creators” are not creating jobs. According to Pimco Investment founder Bill Gross, “It’s time to recognize that things have changed and that they will continue to change for the next – yes, the next 10 years and maybe even the next 20 years.” This is the “new normal” and it’s not good.
The solution being proposed by conservatives and subtly endorsed by President Obama to address the financial crisis is “austerity.” Austerity is the policy of deficit-cutting by lowering spending via a reduction in the amount of benefits and services provided by the government. Instead of focusing on what to save, they are debating what to cut.
In challenging times such as these, the government should be investing in the economy – not cutting back. Reductions in government spending tend to increase unemployment, which increases demands on social programs or “safety-net” programs. Increased unemployment also reduces tax revenue. As with the Great Depression, short-term government spending financed by deficits may be required to support economic growth when consumers and businesses are unwilling or unable to do so.
When you start to connect the dots between the New Normal and Austerity, you see an additional picture. There is a new class of existence being created in this country. Professor Guy Standing calls this new class the “precariat.”
“Millions of workers, mainly young and educated, are being habituated to a life of unstable labor and uncertainty, a precarious existence. . . .The precariat is wanted by multinationals and many corporations”. . . because the precariousness of their existence makes them easy to exploit. They are saddled with debt from school loans, working two and three jobs at subsistence wages with no health care, no pension and no sense of permanency or security.
As the African American community continues to be plagued by disproportionate rates of unemployment, poverty, hunger, wealth disparity, incarceration rates and other social ills, the development of a precariat class will prove to be catastrophic. African Americans and many others would continue – as Dr. King said in 1963 – to live “on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity . . . anguishing in the corners of American society and find[ing themselves] . . . exile[s] in [their] own land.”
If the underclass, working class and precariat become dissatisfied with their existence, what will they do? Will there be an uprising from the masses? What would the government do? How would the government protect “its” interests and repel the domestic uprising?
When you view the implications of Post-Racial America, the New Normal, Austerity and The Precariat Class through a larger prism, it’s easy to see the America that many forces are working together to create. Doing away with laws designed to protect the rights of those who have been mistreated, redefining the expectations we have of America as the “land of opportunity,” moving the government away from being a force that invests in the least of us and creating a new class of workers that can be manipulated by big business does not benefit 99.9 percent of Americans. Ask yourself. Who does benefit?
When you connect these dots with a government that is engaging in warrantless wiretapping, calling for the ability to indefinitely detain American citizens, stop-and-frisk laws and an American attorney general who states that the president has the authority to assassinate American citizens any place in the world without judicial review, you get a very frightening picture. The picture reflects a battle between democracy and fascism, and the battle for democracy should begin now.