Anyone who doesn’t have their head in the sand knows that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, particularly when you factor in inflation. But for everyone else out there who is still too busy humping unregulated capitalism to pay attention, here’s another wake up call:
The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans, data in a new report by the Congressional Budget Office shows.
The poorest fifth of households had total income of $383.4 billion in 2005, while just the increase in income for the top 1 percent came to $524.8 billion, a figure 37 percent higher.
The total income of the top 1.1 million households was $1.8 trillion, or 18.1 percent of the total income of all Americans, up from 14.3 percent of all income in 2003. The total 2005 income of the three million individual Americans at the top was roughly equal to that of the bottom 166 million Americans, analysis of the report showed.
Yes, they felt the need to repeat it, and so do I. We’re not talking about the total income for the top 1% of income earners. We’re only talking about the increase in that income. And in two years, it has increased by an amount that is more than the earnings of the 20% of lowest-earning Americans.
Let that sink in.
And on the same day as this report came out, I come across this post that is in no way directly related to the results of this research, but highly related to the ways that people both interpret and ignore this information. It’s a rewriting of the hard-working ant/lazy grasshopper fable, told from a “modern” (read: conservative) point of view. The many typos are not my own:
The ant works ha rd in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.
The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well-fed while others are cold and starving.
CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. Americans are stunned by the sharp contrast.
How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?
Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when they sing, “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”
Jesse Jackson stages a demon stration in front of the ant’s house where the news stations film the group singing, ‘We shall overcome.’ Jesse then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper’s sake.
Nancy Pelosi & John Kerry explain in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.
Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer.
The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.
Hillary gets her old law firm to represent the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the ant, and the case is tried before a panel of federal judges that Bill Clint on appointed from a list of single-parent welfare recipients.
The ant loses the case.
The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant’s food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant’s old house, crumbles around him because he doesn’t maintain it.
The ant has disappeared in the snow.
The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Be careful how you vote
Now, this supposedly clever, vomit-inducing piece of shit is clearly racist and classist beyond belief to anyone who doesn’t have an extremely strong stake in upholding racism and classism — or, to anyone who doesn’t think they have a stake in it.
Because the fact of the matter is that it’s not the top 1% richest Americans who believe this shit. They’re just the ones who helped to make it up. The believers are people in the middle-class. People like say, my father, despite the fact that most of these middle-class income earners are really only a layoff and a couple of months without being able to find work away from needing public assistance, themselves. I’m also sure that most would feebly deny the racism here, despite the reference to Jesse Jackson, to Kermit the Frog going on about skin color, and allusions to gangs and declining property values. So let’s just be honest here, folks: the grasshopper is black.
And the grasshopper is not only poor, he is also lazy. You see, he just doesn’t want to work. If he would only work three full-time minimum wage jobs, which still wouldn’t allow him to feed his kids and pay the rent, well . . . well, the higher classes still wouldn’t feel any social responsibility towards him. So it’s an awful big relief that the grasshopper is so lazy. Otherwise, the ant buying the big screen TVs that he “earned” might have to feel guilty about the fact that the grasshopper just had his power shut off or about his unwillingness to give the grasshopper one of his many, many sandwiches.
In the ant’s world, you have to work for human rights. And you have to work at a job that pays enough for you to earn them. The ant would like human rights to be bought and sold. And the ant believes that if you don’t meet his standards of hard work, you literally deserve to starve to death. And let’s be fair: the original fable was conservative propaganda, too. The rewriting, though, openly mocks the assertion that we should not let people go hungry.
The problem here is that the grasshopper actually works her ass off to provide for her kids, but can’t do so based on the shitty wages that she’s paid by her ant boss, who inherited the company from his ant dad and only shows up a couple of days a week. The grasshopper didn’t fail to work all year: the ant just always showed up at the last minute and carried off the earnings on his back. There’s also the fact that no matter how hard the grasshopper worked all year, she’s still a bug like the rest of us and deserves some basic dignity.
Most of the people who promote the rights of the ant aren’t ants themselves. They’re just deluded enough to believe that they could be, someday. They’re so eager to not identify as grasshoppers that they ignore the fact they’re being fucked over almost as badly as if they were. Pretending that you’re not a grasshopper is easier than not having a grasshopper to blame.
It’s also telling that when mainstream conservatives actually decide to discuss poverty, they have to use these kinds of “cute” bullshit metaphors to say what they really mean. They also need to dehumanize the poor by turning them into insects — the kind of being that is perfectly acceptable to squash at your whim. And being compared to an insect themselves — a “better” one, though! — is a small price to pay.
Wake the fuck up, people. The top 1% of richest Americans didn’t increase their earnings in two years by more than the amount that the poorest 20% of Americans make in one year by “working hard.” Three million Americans together don’t make the same amount as 166 million other Americans do combined because those Americans are all a bunch of lazy bums. Jackass, that 166 million is probably you. And if it’s not, it still doesn’t give you the right to encourage and oversee the starvation of those less fortunate. Seriously, stop being a fucking ant for a minute and try to act like a person.