Televisions are counting down the days; partisan pundits are screaming over each other; conflicting polls are rolled out by the hour; super PAC big-money ads are competing to influence your vote; debates are advertised like Monday Night Football or the Super Bowl but alas, such is the circus that is America’s election process.
But amid all the hoopla, some very important issues are missing for candidates are avoiding them like the plague on the campaign trail and during the debates. The media is not asking them either and it’s almost “E-Day.” Issues like equal pay for women, equal marriage rights, deep income disparity, the rising cost of food, rising poverty, gun violence, separation of church and state and the abuse of church tax exemptions, sick leave days and pay for millions of workers, maternity and paternity leave, an affordable wage as opposed to the minimum wage and the steady rise of college tuition. (If I have forgotten any or you have some of your own to add, do so in the comments section below).
Every election cycle, poverty is the elephant in the room, looming large but skirted around and ignored. Candidates stop short at the middle class, courting them like love-sick Casanovas--until Election Day, that is. Then campaign promises are forgotten and the middle class seem to fall by the wayside in lieu of whatever administrations deem more important.
But the rising poverty, in what legislators like to boast is the best country in the world, is alarming. Bothand President Obama speak of America’s “exceptionalism” and I often wonder which part of government reflects that. The rising food prices, rent costs , the mortgage crisis, and high unemployment has compounded an already dire situation, sending already poor families into destitution and middle class families into swelling the poverty lines.
Sick days and pay is especially important for those already struggling through this tough economy. We don’t hear much on this topic but a whopping 78 percent of food and public accommodation workers do not get paid sick days—not even one. That number is 48 percent for private workers. Over 145 countries provide their workers with paid sick days, so what is wrong with the world’s self-proclaimed leader?
Democratic Senatorof New York went to Washington in 2006, and is now working on one glaring problem:Congress’s automatic pay raises, which is fundamentally unfair. Our elected officials got automatic salary increases, while they simultaneously voted down increasing the minimum wage numerous times. In fact, it took 10 years to raise the low-end pay limit from $5.25 an hour.
Gillibrand now up for re-election, along with a few others, feel that if hard-working Americans aren’t guaranteed an annual pay raise, neither should their leaders in Congress. Writing on her website, she says: “Over the last two decades, career politicians have made out pretty well. From 1991 to 2009, Congress voted to raise its own pay 13 times, raising its annual salary by more than $70,000.”
(Read it here:Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat for U.S. Senate | Reform Agenda).
This is unconscionable. The folks, who are supposed to be working for the people are getting fat on the people’s dime, while keeping taxpayers who pay their salaries, cushy healthcare and retirement plans, struggling in poverty. Does this resemble democracy?
According to ataxingmattera, the reason for the deep disparity in wealth, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is because the U.S. has, “followed policies, essentially since Reagan, that favor the rich--from deregulation to relaxation of anti-trust to reduction in tax burdens to privatization to deunionization.”
To implement the Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s tax plan would, “add further rich-friendly policies to our tax code at this point” and should “not be countenanced,” they added.
During the thick of the Occupy Wall Street protests, one demonstrator held up a sign which read, “Minimum wage per year, $16,000, CEO of Goldman Sachs, $16,000 an hour.” This shocked many for though we all know the big bailed out banks behind the financial collapse of this country, still paid their top executives obscenely high salaries, we have never seen it compared in bold placard print.
A minimum wage worker earns, before taxes, $15,080 a year--at $7.25 per hour in some states, others a few cents higher or lower.
For CEO, it gets decidedly more complicated for his earnings encompass a myriad compensatory avenues--like stock options, bonuses, company expense accounts that includes luxurious cars, private jets etc., so after taking all this into account, the smart folks at PolitFact calculated his hourly pay at $9,165. Not quite $16,000 per hour but impressive nonetheless.
Here is how PolitiFact broke down the earnings of Blankfein, the same head honcho who was in charge at GS when the devastating financial meltdown occurred. His total earnings in 2010 were a reported $19.06 million.
$185,000 for company car.
$464,067 in 401K earnings.
$12.6 million in restricted stock.
$5.4 million bonus.
Though President Obama called what the too big to fail banks, Wall Street and the mortgage giants did "irresponsible, immoral and inappropriate," nothing much was done to them or about that climate of reckless behavior which existed and still exists-- because he said it wasn’t illegal. Some regulation was finally put in place but the $2 plus billion lost at Morgan Stanley Chase and MF Global losses of $136 million after regulations were imposed, show business as usual rules the day. Now Romney is promising to roll back what little regulations this administration has managed to enforce if he gets to Washington, while labeling 47 percent of hard-working citizens entitled moochers.
It’s time for a seismic shift in America and as the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "A revolution of values."
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