Me, In a Rainbow, So I Won't Be Sad
I read this, and I’m filled with a seething, red hot rage. It’s nothing new, and there are a million graphs and charts and articles and commentary out there saying the same thing. The rich are bending all of us over while they swill champagne. My husband is willing to take a 50% pay cut just for a job that will keep the lights on, but still his recruiters shrug their shoulders and ask if he wants to relocate to Baton Rouge. I am desperate to work, but with childcare costing us $2,000.00 per month and me being *gasp* a lowly social worker, it’s not feasible.
Last week while cleaning out the coat closet, I found one of the pay stubs from my last job: $1,180 for two weeks of work. You know what I did? I was a Master’s level clinician with a certificate in the Advanced Treatment of Psychological Trauma providing free psychotherapy and crisis intervention to adolescents and adults who had experienced violent sexual trauma. I saw grown men who had been raped by their priests, children who were currently being raped by a parent, husbands of women who had been raped by their employer, teenagers who were raped by a teacher. The work is difficult and heart-wrenching and goddamn it I did good work that is needed, and I happily did it for pennies. I worked on behalf of people who have no advocate. I held hands in court rooms, clinics, and emergency rooms. I loved my work.
And I see my husband struggling to get employment while our life spins down the toilet, and I see these people making millions doing nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. They make nothing. They do nothing. I’m feeling this on an extremely personal level. I used to tell myself that my low pay wasn’t a reflection on me, but on my clients value to voters and policymakers. No one with any power cares about the kinds of people I work with; the poor, the mentally ill, the victims of powerlessness. This lit a fire in me and kept me going working on their behalf, trying to be the best advocate that I could be. And here I am, largely unable to practice at the moment and in a state of extraordinary powerlessness myself and the people wielding the power turn a blind eye to our suffering and our struggles. There is no middle class. The 1% has achieved their American Dream and the 99% paid for it.
Summarized on Yahoo! Finance from the article at thinkprogress.org:
#1) The Top 1% Owns 40% of the Nation’s Wealth:
Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz points out the richest 1% of Americans now own 40% of the nation’s wealth. This disparity is much worse than it was in the past, as just 25 years ago the top 1% owned 33%of national wealth.
How much does the bottom 80% own? Only 7%.
#2) The Top 1% Take Home 24% of National Income:
While the richest 1% of Americans take home almost a quarter of national income today, in 1976 they took home just 9% — meaning their share of the national income pool has nearly tripled in roughly three decades.
#3) The Top 1% Own Half of the Country’s Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds: The Institute for Policy Studies illustrates this massive disparity in financial investment ownership, noting that the bottom 50% of Americans own only 0.5% of these investments.
#4) The Top 1% of Americans Have Only 5% of the Nation’s Personal Debt:
Using 2007 figures, sociologist William Domhoff points out that the top 1% have 5% of the nation’s personal debt while the bottom 90% have 73% of total debt.
#5) The Top 1% Are Taking In More off the Nation’s Income Than at Any Other Time Since the 1920s: Not only are the wealthiest 1% of Americans taking home a tremendous portion of the national income, but their share of this income is greater than at any other time since the Great Depression, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates in this chart, using 2007 data.
I’ve been in the first row as a spectator, watching Occupy Wall Street and our local occupations develop. I so want to be a part of it, but I’m needed at home with the babies right now. I’m inspired and angry, comforted and reassured. I feel a deep sense of solidarity with the other 99% down there yelling on my behalf, and on behalf of us all. The criticism of the protests confounds me; don’t they know that we are all in the 99%? That this is for your benefit, too? I met with my financial advisor last week, and he told me that he wanted to get up from his desk and go join them in the loby! Shocking and a bit scary, considering he has all my money which is still only a fraction of what a CEO would make in a month, but it’s all I have.
I read this amazing article that someone posted on facebook today. Lindsay talks about how to Occupy Wall Street from home. She discusses the act of making soup as a revolutionary act, of removing oneself from the industrial food system as one thing that women and mothers can do to free ourselves from the slavery of the corporatocracy. I also read this article in the New York Times the other day, profiling a woman who found herself in Deep Trouble, and went back to the land in Brooklyn to feed her family. I feel so inspired when I read these. I feel that I am reading this today as a woman who has control over nothing, who has been crying all day at the news that another job we thought was ours has fallen though, at the idea of my family on food stamps and wondering what happened to my good karma points? I have been thinking of my grandmother a lot, a woman who came of age in the Depression in a one room cabin in the Rockies, no electricity or running water. I think that if women like her could get their families through it, then I can too. Then I remember the world I live in, which is so different than hers. How my generation has been cursed with debt beyond even my parents wildest imagination. What are we going to do? Who is going to help us? Will there ever be an end to all of this? Will we ever be OK? Lately, I think not.