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Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy any other kind of holiday, including secular celebrations of being.

Some little bits of news.  Last week, the Standard & Poor's 500 index reached the price it was at the week before the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy filing that began the crash of 2008:  

 

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7.40, or 0.6 percent, to 1,240.40. It was the third straight day that the S&P index closed at a new high for the year. The index has gained 11.2 percent this year and is now trading at the same price it did the week before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in September 2008.

Stocks edge higher on encouraging economic signs

The unemployment rate last month was 9.8%. In September 2008, when Lehman Brothers fell, it was 6.8.  Millions have lost jobs and they have not rebounded with new jobs as stocks have done.  

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2010 9.70 9.70 9.70 9.90 9.70 9.50 9.50 9.60 9.60 9.60 9.80
2009 7.70 8.20 8.60 8.90 9.40 9.50 9.40 9.70 9.80 10.10 10.00 10.00
2008 5.00 4.80 5.10 5.00 5.40 5.50 5.80 6.10 6.20 6.60 6.90 7.40

United States Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate in the United States was last reported at 9.80 percent in November of 2010. From 1948 until 2010 the United States' Unemployment Rate averaged 5.70 percent reaching an historical high of 10.80 percent in November of 1982 and a record low of 2.50 percent in May of 1953. The labour force is defined as the number of people employed plus the number unemployed but seeking work. The nonlabour force includes those who are not looking for work, those who are institutionalised and those serving in the military. This page includes: United States Unemployment Rate chart, historical data and news.

My title is for two reasons.  First, I came here in October 2006, and it seems starting in November 2006, a significant number of diaries have been about Barack Obama. I've written my share, pro and con.  I'm kind of tired of talking about him. It seems that all that can be said has been said, pro, con, and indifferent, over and over and over.  I'm sure it will continue, but I'm opting out of those threads as my own Christmas present to me.

Second, no charismatic figure, no matter how talented, can fix the systemic problems we face.  There are real and difficult issues and obsessing, pro or con, about a political figure seems counterproductive.  

Millions will be suffering this holiday season and afterward.  We all hope the economy will improve in job creation, and there is reason for some optimism.  Perhaps the unemployment rate will get down to 8% by mid-2012.

But compare 8% to 6.8 when Lehman fell or even to 5% in January 2008 as the recession started.

And so many more are not even counted in the unemployment statistics.  The rate underreports unemployment.

Even if it improves, many still will be suffering.

I believe we have a moral obligation to change an immoral system, and this system that concentrates wealth at the top and spreads poverty at the bottom is immoral.

So as we celebrate these holidays, remember those who are being left behind.  If we let so many fall so far behind, the entire society will suffer.  It already is.

Peace now! Solidarity! Happy Holidays.

Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

snip

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  

 

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail

And for the Christmas season:

And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'

Matthew 25:40

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Proverbs 14:31

Or, for those of you who look to a more secular understanding of exploitation and poverty:

"Big industry constantly requires a reserve army of unemployed workers for times of overproduction. The main purpose of the bourgeois in relation to the worker is, of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible, which is only possible when the supply of this commodity is as large as possible in relation to the demand for it, i.e., when the overpopulation is the greatest. Overpopulation is therefore in the interest of the bourgeoisie, and it gives the workers good advice which it knows to be impossible to carry out. Since capital only increases when it employs workers, the increase of capital involves an increase of the proletariat, and, as we have seen, according to the nature of the relation of capital and labour, the increase of the proletariat must proceed relatively even faster. The... theory... which is also expressed as a law of nature, that population grows faster than the means of subsistence, is the more welcome to the bourgeois as it silences his conscience, makes hard-heartedness into a moral duty and the consequences of society into the consequences of nature, and finally gives him the opportunity to watch the destruction of the proletariat by starvation as calmly as other natural event without bestirring himself, and, on the other hand, to regard the misery of the proletariat as its own fault and to punish it. To be sure, the proletarian can restrain his natural instinct by reason, and so, by moral supervision, halt the law of nature in its injurious course of development." - Karl Marx, Wages, December 1847[1]

Reserve army of labour

In 1962, Michael Harrington wrote a book called "The Other America," a book that had an impact on the Kennedy administration and on Lyndon B. Johnson's subsequent War on Poverty:

Poverty is off the beaten track.  It always has been.  The ordinary tourist never left the main highway, and today he rides interstate turnpikes.  He does not go into the valleys of Pennsylvania where the towns look like movie sets of Wales in the thirties.  He does not see the company houses in rows, the rutted roads (the poor always have bad roads, whether they live in the city, in towns, or on farms), and everything is black and dirty.  And even if he were to pass through such a place by accident, the tourist would not meet the unemployed men in the bar or the women coming home from a runaway sweatshop.

Then, too, beauty and myth are perennial masks of poverty.  The traveler comes to the Appalachians in the lovely season.  He sees the hills, the streams, the foliage – but not the poor.  Or perhaps he looks at a run-down mountain house and, remembering [French Enlightenment philosopher] Rousseau rather than seeing with his own eyes, decides that ‘those people’ are truly fortunate to be living the way they are and that they are lucky to be exempt from the strains and tensions of the middle class.  The only problem is that "those people," the quaint inhabitants of those hills, are undereducated, underprivileged, lack medical care, and are in the process of being forced from the land into a life in the cities, where they are misfits.

These are normal and obvious causes of the invisibility of the poor.  They operated a generation ago; they will be functioning a generation hence.  It is more important to understand that the very development of American society is creating a new kind of blindness about poverty.  The poor are increasingly slipping out of the very experience and consciousness of the nation.

Michael Harrington, The Other America (1962).

It's not off the beaten track anymore.  In 1962, the unemployment rate was 5.5%, a rate we would consider great today.  Bureau Of Labor Statistics. Yet there was poverty, and a lot of it.  

As wealth has concentrated, so too has suffering grown.  The link is clear.  There is a class war and it has always been against working people.  

Originally posted to TomP on Thu Dec 23, 2010 at 06:22 AM PST.

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