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     a forum for anti-authoritarian political opinion, research 
                              and humor
       October 15, 1996       published weekly           #6
       In this issue:  
         Campaign Economics 101: If The Econony's So Great, How
    Come You're So Poor?
         Debates Schmebates
         Urban Betrayal
         We Can Explain Everything
    Economics 101: A Campaign Guide 
    If The Economy Is In Such Great Shape, Why Am I So Poor?
    An excerpt from the entirely mythical
    Frequently Asked Questions section of the
    Eat The State! Users' Guide To Life.
    The conventional "booming economy" mantra of politicians and
    pundits recycles even more often during campaign seasons.
    Both "opposing" parties have agreed for months that the
    economy is swell--even before last week's Census Bureau
    stats showing real wages up and poverty rates down.  Pundits
    credit Clinton's re-election to people voting their swollen
    pocketbooks. Why, then, are we so cranky? Struggling to make
    ends meet? Why do so many of us feel ripped off? Why are we
    so poor?
    The politician/pundit consensus answer to this is simple:
    it's your own damn fault. And maybe it is. Maybe you
    are a fuckup. But probably you're not, and there
    are a lot of other reasons. Here are some handy ones to clip
    and use in your next real or imagined party conversation
    with a dense relative or annoying yuppie...
    1) The statistics used to "prove" universal
    prosperity aren't relevant.  Unemployment figures,
    locally and nationally, are very low. So is inflation. Ergo,
    the economy is good for everyone. And now the Census Bureau
    says so, too.
    Not quite. Inflation doesn't tell you what your labor's
    worth. The level of real wages--what folks are earning,
    adjusted for inflation--does. Real wages in the U.S. have
    dropped in the last generation. More and more people are
    earning salaries that can't support themselves or a family,
    and more of each paycheck is withheld in taxes. More people
    in this country would be below the poverty
    line, except that for over twenty years government has
    continually lowered the definition of poverty to mask the
    While the real wage and poverty rate statistics released
    last week are (if accurate) welcome, they hardly make a
    trend. Long-term economic trends are measured not by the
    shifts of a month or year within a longer cycle, but the
    peaks (or valleys) of one cycle, compared with previous
    ones, over a period of years. 
    The Census Bureau figures (released just before their boss's
    re-election) are blips. Real wages, prior to this year,
    declined for six straight years; the poverty rate figure was
    the best in ten years. People in this country are worse off
    than they were four years ago, or eight years ago, or twelve
    or sixteen or twenty. That is still the long term trend, and
    the policies producing it are being pursued more vigorously
    than ever.
    Unemployment figures are even more misleading. It's commonly
    noted that they don't count people who've given up looking
    for work; it's less commonly noted that they only count
    people registered with the government as looking for work or
    receiving unemployment benefits, which--along with most
    every other type of benefit--not as many jobs offer any
    more. And after a generation of official malice to the poor,
    many folks needing work would rather search on their own
    than risk the humiliation of government help.
    More importantly, unemployment figures don't measure the
    type of work people have. More people are
    working less satisfying, less secure jobs for less money.
    Not only are real wages down, but hours are reduced,
    benefits like sick pay and health care are much harder to
    get, and with temping and downsizing, job performance means
    nothing. The unemployed are taking longer to find new jobs,
    and on average the new jobs they find pay over 20% less.
    When inflation is low, pay raises are lower, and few people
    aren't jobless at one time or another, this means over time
    almost everyone loses ground. 
    A temp agency is now the second largest employer in the U.S.
    As one worker responded to a boast by Clinton, "Don't tell
    me about the millions of new jobs created--I've got three of
    them and I'm not all that impressed."
     2) The economy  is  booming, but only
    for a few.  The most obvious point, so undeniable
    it's even occasionally acknowledged in mainstream media. To
    review the statistics:
    1% of the U.S. owns 90% of the equity; the bottom 80% owns
    less than 5%. Despite the populist rhetoric of capitalists
    ("through pension funds, Wall Street is owned by Main
    Street"), 1% of the U.S. owns over 70% of stocks. The share
    of overall wealth owned by the top 1% has risen in 20 years
    from 21% to 43%. While real wages for the bottom 80% have
    dropped 20% since 1973, real wages for the top 1% have
    tripled. In the '70s the ratio of CEO salaries to worker
    salaries in the U.S. was 40:1. Now it is 225:1. In the last
    40 years the percentage of U.S. taxes paid by corporations
    has dropped from 31% to 9%. Average hourly earnings are now
    lower than they were in 1965; weekly earnings lower than in
    1959. Median family income has fallen over 5% since 1989.
    And on, and on, and on. 
    For people who don't trust statistics, review your own
    lives. Fifteen years ago there were no "homeless" in this
    country; the term was invented during the Reagan era when
    the few hobos, transients, crazies and winos who lived on
    the streets started being joined by large numbers of the
    newly poorer. Most people can remember that, though the
    media rarely does. Many people can remember a generation
    ago, when two-income couples and individuals working two (or
    more) jobs were a rarity. Now it's standard, and folks are
    still worse off. A generation ago, middle class kids left
    home after high school. Now it's unaffordable, as is
    college. Decent-paying jobs are hard to find after graduate
    school, let alone college. Once upon a time a decent-paying,
    secure factory job could be had after high school. In big
    cities, working class couples in their twenties once bought
    new homes. Now middle class home ownership is a long-term
    dream. And so on.
    Twenty years ago, pre-global economy, the popular images
    were of a prosperous America while flies, cows and the
    destitute crowded Calcutta and famine ravaged China and
    Ethiopia. The official mantra was to develop the third
    world, so that it would be as prosperous as we were. Now,
    the official mantra is that we have to be competitive in the
    global economy--i.e., that we have to become as poor as they
    are. The global economy is based on an "underdeveloped"
    world model: a tiny elite owning almost everything, a small,
    struggling middle class, and masses of poor kept in line
    with brutal repression.
    3) Consider the source. Economies are
    complex; times are always better for some people (of any
    income) and worse for others. For those large numbers of us
    not prospering right now, the wisdom that the economy is
    wondrous doesn't come from personal experience. It comes
    from the visible signs of new corporate wealth in our midst
    (e.g., Redmond), and from the corporations, officials, and
    corporate-owned media who have huge vested interests in
    making us believe.
    Corporate media sells advertising; politicians sell their
    own images; big business sells products. Few people buy when
    they think they can't spare the money, or won't be able to
    later. That's why business reports are so big on measures
    like consumer confidence levels--especially now, in the
    weeks before to those holiest of retail events, Christmas
    and the Super Bowl.
    Even more fundamentally, corporations, the economic elite,
    and the governments they've bought aren't neutral players or
    helpless observers in the economic process. Their goal is to
    make even more money. In a time when the rich are getting
    much, much richer and everyone else is getting poorer, the
    conclusion is obvious and inescapable: their wealth is
    coming out of our pockets. 
    This is where politics, policy-making, and the need to
    assert our interests comes in. We're getting ripped off. All
    that money being made in the stock markets and currency
    speculation comes from somewhere. It's the money the rich
    take from us, via the wealth transfer system known as
    government, under the guise of "creating jobs." It is money
    that would otherwise be spent on infrastructure, health
    care, education, housing or food. It is theft. 
    Government, over the last fifteen years, has become more
    powerful in the sense that it has increased its ability to
    redistribute wealth. But rather than redistribute it more
    equitably, government's primary function now--in the U.S.
    and everywhere else--is to concentrate wealth in the hands
    of folks who already have it, and to hell (or prison) with
    everyone else. Hence we have deregulation of industry, a
    more and more regressive tax system (particularly in
    Washington State, with no income tax and high sales taxes),
    far more money to corporate welfare and far less to human
    Left-wingers are correct when they assert that the rich run
    everything and we need better programs addressing
    fundamental social needs. Right-wingers are correct when
    they assert that we have an intrusive, socialistic
    government that needs to be cut way back. We do have
    socialism--for the rich. For the poor, the times are
    increasingly Dickensian. Everyone in the middle is running
    twice as hard to keep what little they have, battling
    endlessly against a system designed to maximize the theft of
    our time, energy, labor and money.
    What we need are policies that redistribute wealth and
    opportunity more equitably to everyone. Such policies aren't
    going to happen unless we use our numbers and demand them.
    The myth of the booming economy for all, and the victim-
    blaming implicit for all who are being ripped off, are
    extremely useful ways to distract, confuse and disempower
    us. In essence, we are told to pay no attention to the
    corporation behind the curtain. Don't worry, be happy. Buy
    this. Your misery will be rewarded in the next life. New
    world order, same old shit.
    Why eat the state? Because we're hungry!
    Debates Schmebates
    After the first Clinton/Dole debate, the headlines in the
    Times and P-I said it all. One screamed: "Dole Comes Out
    Swinging." The other was something like: "Candidates Trade
    Polite Views."
    The two headline writers saw the same debate; they just
    couldn't decide how to make it interesting enough to sell a
    paper. Every Clinton/Dole/Gore/Kemp debate possesses the
    inherent drama of a tube of toothpaste. Or a paid political
    In another commentary, NPR Senior Correspondent Daniel
    Schorr noted that TV ratings for the first two debates were
    down sharply from 1992. He blamed voter disinterest on the
    media, saying that if they presented the race as closer,
    more people would care. Yeah, right.
    Here are two much more likely explanations, strangely
    overlooked by NPR, for viewer disinterest in the debates:
    1) An unprecedented number of voters are repulsed by both
    major party candidates.
    2) There's nothing to debate. The candidates espouse
    virtually the same policies, because they are funded by
    virtually the same interests--and in many cases the same
    corporations. Clinton and Dole don't just like each other.
    They are each other.
    Daniel Schorr spent years during his network bureau time in
    Moscow knowingly and repeatedly feeding CIA misinformation
    to U.S. politicians and the public. Rather than ending his
    career, those misdeeds serve as prime credentials for
    "liberal" public radio.
    Apparently Schorr is still in the business of exaggerating
    the strength of a one-party superpower that suppresses
    internal dissent. Sadly, so are virtually all of his
    colleagues at NPR, PBS and all the other networks shilling
    for the corporate state.
    Urban Betrayal
    People who have corks up their asses never have to worry
    about finding a restroom in downtown Seattle.
    Perhaps this explains the city's abrupt reversal of its
    plans to fund the Urban Reststop, a hygiene center in the
    former Glen Hotel at 3rd and Union that downtown social
    service agencies spent three years planning. The goal--
    shared by agencies, public health and homeless advocates,
    and city officials--was to provide clean public restrooms,
    showers, and other facilities for anyone, even the poor who
    live there.
    Instead, city was bribed. Mayor Norm Rice, who agreed in
    1994 to fund the facility, was set to sign off on it
    September 30 but at the last moment changed his mind.
    Without consulting or negotiating with any of the sponsoring
    agencies or community groups, Rice killed the project and
    announced his decision was irrevocable.
    The change of heart was apparently spurred by $350,000
    raised by the Downtown Business Association to fund a plan
    they like better: removing riff-raff from the downtown
    retail core. The DBA plan will create two much smaller,
    separate facilities, one for men and one for women (how
    chaste!), located some ten blocks southeast and north of the
    original site. Unless, of course, businesses in those areas
    buy off the city in three more years, and the process starts
    all over again. Meanwhile, that bladder's getting awful
    full. Or people will keep peeing in alleys, a practice much
    likelier to devalue property than the Urban Reststop.
    The DBA plan has been ridiculed by everyone working on the
    issue as unworkable and ineffective. The result--especially
    with welfare and food stamp cuts likely to result soon in a
    huge new wave of homelessness--will be a completely
    unnecessary and cruel public health disaster. But the
    homeless don't give gifts to the city, or campaign
    contributions to officials, and once again Norm Rice has
    demonstrated that money comes way, way before public good.
    Of course, this is not just an issue that affects people
    living in cardboard boxes. The few remaining public spaces
    of any part of any large U.S. city resemble TV sitcom sets:
    no bathrooms. Poor people--that is, people not working or
    shopping--are not expected to have digestive systems. Or
    perhaps they're not supposed to eat. Or exist. It's a sad
    insight on just how hostile to simple human needs the modern
    city is; and how greed, not common sense, calls the shots.
    The Urban Reststop Advisory Committee still hopes to build
    enough public outcry to reverse Rice's decision. Call City
    Council members and the mayor's office. For more info from
    URAC call Astrid Berg, 441-5100, or Ciro Viamontes at 443-
    9935, ext. 107.
    We Can Explain Everything
    Raul Salinas, brother of disgraced Mexican ex-President
    Carlos Salinas, added yet another chapter to the bizarre
    saga of corruption in Mexican politics last week with the
    discovery of a body buried at his ranch. The body is
    believed to be that of a former governor of the state of
    Guerrero who was suspected, along with Raul, of plotting the
    assassination of the secretary general of Mexico's ruling
    party, the PRI, in 1994. The conspirator vanished a few days
    later. This, mind you, is the free, open democracy that the
    U.S. continues to shovel money, guns, and sweatshop jobs
    into, while decimating its local economy.
    Raul has been in jail since early 1995. Murder is only one
    of the charges he faces. Those charges include violation of
    a law jurisdictions in the U.S. really ought to consider:
    "inexplicible enrichment."
    Nobody has had any difficulty explaining Raul Salinas'
    exponential increase in net worth during his brother's term
    in office (corruption and drug running, for starters),
    except as a matter of karma. A similar legal interpretation
    in this country could do wonders...and Bill Gates would only
    be the first...
    "I continue to believe in the quest to achieve...respect for
    all Americans. I will not allow myself to be sidetracked
    from this fight by legislation designed to cynically push
    emotional buttons..." - Clintonoid Sen. Patty Murray, who
    also voted to decimate welfare, in a letter to constituents
    explaining why she voted to ban gay marriage.
    Oct. 15. 1966. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black
    Panther Party for Self-Defense. Oakland, Calif. 1969: An
    estimated two million or more in U.S. participate in the
    first national moratorium against Vietnam War.
    Oct. 16. 1859. Abolitionist leader John Brown leads an anti-
    slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, hoping to set off a
    mass slave revolt throughout the South. He is later hanged
    by the state of Virginia for his efforts.
    Oct. 17. 1796. Canada passes Antislavery Act. 1988: 600
    arrested at Pentagon in a blockade protesting U.S. war in
    Central America.
    Oct. 19. 1964. Seattle CORE announces campaign to boycott
    downtown Seattle stores due to discriminatory hiring
    Oct. 20. 1963. Between 3,000 and 5,000 rally at Seattle's
    Garfield H.S. in support of an open housing ordinance for
    the city. 
    Fri.-Sat. Oct. 18-19 SCCC, 1701 Broadway Room 3217-3219
    Teach-in: Confronting Corporate Power, Creating Democracy.
    Begins Fri. 6:30. 587-2916.
    Sat. Oct. 19. 9:30-5:00 Direct Action Nonviolence Training,
    sponsored by Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia. $5-10,
    noone turned away for lack of funds. Pre-register 547-0952.
    Sun. Oct. 20. 3:00 PM, Elliot Bay Bookstore, 1st S. & S.
    Main. Carmel Budiardjo, Indonesian Human Rights Activist,
    sponsored by East Timor Action Network. 633-2836.
    Mon. Oct. 21. 8:30 AM, Municipal Bldg., start of trial for
    Muni 5 activists arrested last spring during city removal of
    Municipal Bldg. homeless encampment.
    Tue. Oct. 22. Noon, Westlake Park, Protest Against Corporate
    Welfare with TV Nation's Michael Moore. Sponsored by Wash.
    Free Press & various local groups. 324-1026.
    For an excellent and much, much longer compilation of
    upcoming and ongoing progressive events in Seattle, check
    out Jean Buskin's Peace Calendar: or e-mail her at
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