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Connecting the Dots Creates a Frightening Picture

  By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III


( - There are some concepts that have become popular over the past few years. When these concepts are discussed individually they make for interesting dialogue but when assessed together and in a larger context should become the cause of some concern.  The concepts are Post Racial America, New Normal, Austerity, and The Precariat Class.

During the 2008 presidential primary 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 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.  Did this somehow signal the end of Black politics?  Others began to ask if this signaled the realization of Dr. King’s dream.

Right after Senator Obama became President; there was a lot of discussion and articles written about a Post Racial America.  Had we entered an America devoid of racial preference, discrimination, and prejudice? The dangerous subtext to these questions is that the issues that African Americans have been fighting for since 1619 are no longer relevant and African Americans should no longer look to the government to enact and enforce legislation protecting and guaranteeing their rights. In Religion and Politics Judith Weisenfeld wrote, “Most often, media figures have deployed the term to indicate that Obama the candidate and president deemphasizes the divisive history of race in America in favor of universal histories and experiences that unite.”

As the American economy has remained stagnate with 1.3 percent growth, the national unemployment number has stayed close to 8 percent and close to seventeen percent in the African American community. Close to 5.4 million people have dropped out of the workforce and now analysts and commentators describe this as the ‘new normal.”  Americans are supposed to accept and get used to the dismal rates of economic 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…Both levels would be historic highs.”

These corporate stockpiles of cash are not “trickling down” to the poor, working and middle-classes. The “job creators” are not creating jobs.  The “One Percent” are doing even better with more. 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.

In challenging times such as these the government should be investing in the economy not cutting back. They should not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, working, and middle-classes. Instead of focusing on what to save, they are debating what to cut. Reductions in government spending tend to increase unemployment, which increases demands on the “safety-net” programs they want to cut while reducing tax revenue.  Also, as with the Great Depression; short-term government spending financed by deficits supports 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 measures you see a new 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 their precarious 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.  It is a precarious or tenuous existence at best.

As the African American community continues to be plagued by disproportionate rates of unemployment, poverty, hunger, wealth disparities, incarceration rates, and other social ills the development of a precariat class will prove to be catastrophic.  African Americans and many others will 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…languishing in the corners of American society and find(ing) (themselves) an exile in (their) own land” a racialized America.

If the underclass, working class, and precariat become dissatisfied with their existence what will they do, rise up?  If so, what will the government do?  How will the government protect its interests and repel the domestic uprising?

When you connect these dots and discuss them within the larger context of a government that is engaging in warrantless wiretapping, calling for the ability to indefinitely detain American citizens, stop and frisk laws, and an 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.

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