Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The American Economy and the American Dream

The American Economy and the American Dream

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The American economy has undergone tremendous changes over the past several decades. Presently, we are in an acute phase of a chronic condition that has been festering for years. In the past 18 months, trillions of dollars have gone to Wall Street and the mega-banks, while state and local governments continue to slash their budgets, and millions have lost their jobs. The LAT has a must read piece regarding devastating cuts to public transit and their impact, not in LA, but in Georgia. Clayton County is majority black abutting Atlanta. The bus service is going to be canceled, according to the article:

A large number of suburban working poor may now be stranded: A survey of riders in April 2008 found that 65% of them do not have access to a car. In a survey last month, 3 out of 4 said they may lose their jobs when the buses stopped rolling.

Can you imagine people in the US not having a car, and not having a car living in a suburban area? Why don’t they have a car? They can’t afford it. Why, isn’t a car an essential aspect of the last half of the 20th century American Dream? The article further states:

Since 1995, public transportation use is up 31%, more than twice the U.S. population growth rate, according to the American Public Transportation Assn., the nonprofit that represents the nation’s commuter systems. Last year, Americans took 10.2 billion public transit trips.

People didn’t increase their public transit use out of environmental concern, no, solely for economic reasons. Two years ago, when gasoline was plus $4 a gallon, and with every wisp of news the economy is strengthening the price heads quickly back, public transit use greatly expanded. Thinking we’re going to rebuild the auto-industry at 35 mpg is stupid, whether looked at from an environmental, economic, or war and peace perspective. Cutting public transit is the last thing we should be cutting, we should be doing just the opposite, investing more, yet:

In a survey of 151 (public transit) member agencies released Thursday, the association found that about 9 in 10 of them reported flat or decreased local and state funding. Nearly 3 in 5 had already cut service or raised fares.

Understand, when the economy fails tens of millions of people on an essential element like transportation, it is failing grandly. So, when you see all the anger being vented, remember what really underlies it: an American economy that increasingly works for fewer and fewer people. Eldrin Bell, a black Commissioner of Clayton County put it best, “I’ve lived with racism, But this is a new one — it’s called classism. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

When class becomes permanently entrenched in America, that will truly be the death of the American Dream.

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