People say, “Enough is enough,” when they are done with an abusive relationship. The people of Egypt had enough of the corrupt “presidency” of Hosni Mubarak. They Facebooked and Tweeted up a popular nonviolent revolution. We saw similar things happen in the Soviet Union when it fell. The Russian troops would not shoot their own people when they rioted. Most dictators and other authoritarian regimes go quickly when they go. When fear no longer grips people and they realize they have the power to overthrow any regime, then that regime usually falls.
The Egyptian people were subsisting on $2/day. The minimum wage was $7/mo. That is SEVEN dollars per MONTH! The unemployment was similar to the rate in the U.S., about 9%. This is true austerity. The people of Egypt knew that the corruption and power of an oppressive regime was literally robbing them of a better life. They had had enough.
Leaders of the 20 largest economies of the world, the G-20, went home after their last meeting and announced their answer to failed and fraudulent practices and unregulated “free market” greed of companies like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and AIG. Their answer was, yes that’s right, “austerity”; austerity for the working people, the retired, the sick and the poor.
The United States and the world are in the midst of the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn in 80 years. U.S. wage earners have had no real gain in wages in almost 30 years. Corporations are making record profits, and CEOs have to hire Brinks trucks to take home their bonuses. The disparity between the wealthy and the working people is at an all-time high. Our governments, both local and national, can’t seem to grasp the idea that tax money pays for government functions. So, while granting more tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, they simultaneously cut public jobs and necessary services. They subsidize corporate/business interests at our expense and tell us it is to help create jobs and taxes. But it doesn’t.
Am I the only one who sees the ill logic and hypocrisy of these arguments? Am I paranoid, when I think that organized labor and the rights of working people are under attack? Am I the only one who thinks there is something seriously wrong when our city government would rather gamble tax dollars to facilitate relocation of a big box store than keep firefighters on the job? These are not logical solutions to a deficit problem.
These actions are part of the same ideology we see working out in Wisconsin. These actions are grounded in the same greed and oppression that the people of Egypt decided to unburden themselves of. This is not about Left–Right, Democrat–Republican, Capitalist–Socialist ideology or policy. This is about oligarchy or, more rightly, plutocracy, rule of the rich: the overpowering of the safeguards of democracy by the few through the means of economic wealth. Our past presidents warned and warned us, but we didn’t listen; we have forgotten our history. We are at the point now where everything in government is up for sale; our Congress, our Presidency and the Supreme Court are all on the auction block. Call it campaign donations, call it all-expenses-paid vacations from lobbyists, call it revolving-door job security after your stint in the legislature, call it a high-salary position for your spouse. I don’t care what you call it; it looks like corruption to me.
When I saw the courage and resolve of the Egyptian people, I couldn’t help but think of our own revolution against a corrupt and oppressive monarchy. When I see the workers of Wisconsin stand up for their rights, I become proud to be an American all over again. When I see thousands of people, in every state, show solidarity with those workers, it restores my faith in my fellow men and women. When I see people doing what people do most nobly: caring for each other, it makes me want to “walk like an Egyptian.”
Doug Bennett is a retired contractor and construction worker who lives in Redding. He was previously an airborne Russian linguist in Air Force intelligence during the Vietnam War. Since retiring in 2000, Doug has become a founding member of the Shasta Tehama Trinity Chapter of the ACLU-NC, and chair of Citizens for Responsible Government, a grassroots nonprofit. He also serves on the boards of Sustainable Earth Alliance of Northern California and the Shasta Cascade Farm and Food Coalition. Much of his work is dedicated to community education on sustainability, environmental and social justice issues.
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