New reports speak volumes about the state of the class war in this country. The news? We’re losing badly. While the capitalists are using the crisis to further consolidate their class power the working class has yet to act in its own interests at all (the Ford vote notwithstanding). Often times, if the past is any indicator, a fight back lags well behind the crisis. We’re hoping that dynamic in the context of the United States at the end of 2009 doesn’t mean a generational lag, but it might.
The first is the USDA’s Household Food Security Report for 2008. Among the findings was that 14.6 percent of all households, comprising about 50 million people, were “food insecure” sometime during the year. For food insecure read “went hungry.” Reminder: The United States is, by a rather big margin, the wealthiest country in the world. 50 million hungry people? Goddamn Uncle Sam. Of those 5.7 percent are described as having “very low food security.” If you’ve ever been in a situation of “very low food security” then you know it’s a damn scary place to be and if you have kids, well is there a more terrible place for a parent to be then the inability to feed their children?
These numbers for 2008 are up dramatically from 2007 where rates of food insecurity and very low food security were up from 11.1 percent and 4.1 percent. Rates are higher among black and Hispanic homes and households headed by single parents. Hunger is much worse in the South and than in the Northeast even as much more food is produced in the South than the Northeast. Gotta love the market. At the end of 2008 the unemployment level was 7.2% now it’s well over 10%. Certainly the numbers now, at the end of 2009, are much worse than those reported for 2008. We are heading into winter where there will be extra heating costs and a new round of foreclosures. Times look to get harder in the short run, not better. Well, Wall Street is up and eventually that will trickle down, right?
If anecdotal evidence is any indicator than the long lines at the too few Ypsilanti food banks tells a grim story. I occasionally volunteer at a food bank that I have had to go to in the past and unscientifically I can tell you that need is through the roof in my town all the while there are fewer donations and resources available. When I am at the DHS to sign in for my stamps the office is not crowded, there is a crowd in the office. Rising prices, declining wages, underemployment and other factors all combine to create this crisis. People who work, even full time, are not making enough to feed their families. No wonder the schools are a mess; we’re sending kids to school with empty bellies.
Banks fail through their own fault and billions from the public purse gets thrown into their laps. Apparently it worked pretty well for them since Wall Street is going on to record profits this year according to a new study. That’s right, in the midst of the recession the banks are set to make more than they did at the height of the bubble. While you are going to bed with a growling stomach Goldman Sachs is putting money into piles too big to count. The top six banks have set aside 112 billion for salaries and bonuses this year. Class war? Is it really a war if only one side fights? Yeah, we’re getting the shit kicked out of us big time and we better start kicking back or we’re going to be knocked unconscious.
A look at the state of the unions bodes poorly for such a fight back. A recent study by the Center for Economic Policy Research on the state of trade unions in the country should be required reading for leftists and trade unionists. In 1983 over 20% of all workers were in unions. Now that number is 12.4%. Unions in the private sector have fallen even more dramatically. The most disheartening number from the perspective of future struggle is that the lowest rates of unionization is among workers aged 16-24. There only 5.7% are in unions. With numbers like that we will continue to see hunger among millions along side the fat bellies of a handful of billionaires.
It should, by now, go without saying that the Obama administration is not interested in the plight of those peckish millions. No, their interest lies with the bloated bankers. It took no time at all for Obama to find the will to funnel billions to the fat cats and yet there is not even a hint of that same urgency to fight the food crisis. Of course not. And yet folks still seem to think that Obama is some sort of closet New Dealer who only needs to be pushed a little to unveil himself. He is not; nor is he a blank slate. This administration has proven, and some of us would like to say “we told you so”, that it is a firmly neo-liberal one. And neo-liberal in the face of the of the failure of neo-liberalism! We should base our tactics on that reality otherwise “the left” will always be chasing the wind with this guy.
More numbers: 30-40,000. That’s what is being reported as the number of additional troops Obama is about to sign off on for Afghanistan. While it might be too late to join the current escalation, if you’re hungry and out of a job I believe that there will be a whole lot of new openings in the armed forces over the next few years as last year’s poor return from the mountains of South Asia in boxes. Where’s my torch and pitchfork? Where’s yours?