"Speaking truth to the powers that be..." is our most powerful weapon. "Trading liberty for security results in the loss of both" "Give me liberty or give me death - Patrick Henry" "Government of, by and for the people"

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Economic Discrimination Trumps All

Over the last 50 years we as a nation have struggled to address the reality of discrimination in its many forms. We have passed laws which explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age, national origin, and sometimes political affiliation. In each case our courts and legislative bodies have embraced the concept that discrimination is bad. However, in too many cases the teeth to enforce such efforts to root out discrimination have been missing. We all know that what we cannot logically defeat in a full and fair debate, can surely be defeated by denying the money and manpower needed to enforce same.

Today we are seeing a wholesale change in the enforcement of laws that have been on the books so long that most people just assume that any debate over enforcement was settled long ago, and that they will continue to be enforced without any further effort. This is absolutely wrong.

We know it is wrong to deny the right to vote, employment, a place to live, and education based upon the color of one's skin. We know it wrong to provide lower pay and promote less often a worker just because the worker is female. Likewise we know that older workers should not be fired more often and paid less than younger workers doing the same work. Yet in each case each of these protections is being eroded by the present Administration in Washington as they cut the number of personnel needed to carry out these important functions. This is accomplished primarily by a cut in funding to agencies assigned these duties.

Each of these types of discrimination are abominable in their own right, and deserve to be addressed by our government with taxpayer dollars for the common good.

However, the rise of economic discrimination promoted by this Administration stands to become the trump card of all discrimination. Insidiously implemented under the banner of various "good causes" it literally determines the future for us all.

As public schools come under attack and funding is cut, government support for private schools is growing. The quality of education is directly related to the wealth of the school district in which you live, and/or the tuition you can afford to pay. As colleges shift more of the costs of education to the students, and earmark more financial aid for award on the basis of merit instead of need, the ability to obtain a college degree is tied more to how much you can afford to pay than ever before. We now know that the liklihood that a college student will graduate in 4 years is directly related to that student's economic standing.

As our country, and the world at large, comes to grips with globalization, it is clear that a college degree is a requirement to obtain a job with the hope of pay increases and advancement. Those without a college degree will be relegated to positions which provide pay increases which may not keep up with the inflation rate, and often have a hard ceiling of a college degree requirement which prevents advancement.

Since this Administration took office there has been a concerted effort to provide tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest in our society, while at the same time shifting more of the tax burden to wage earners and away from investment income.
Likewise corporations have been allowed to avoid funding the country that provides them with their wealth by moving their principal place of business offshore in name only. With elimination of the estate tax, the wealthiest families(approximately the top 1% or less) are now able to pass on wealth to the next generation without paying any tax on the assets at all.

And where corporations and wealthy individuals engage in wrongdoing and injure others, this Administration provides them with a "get out of jail free" card. The costs of pursuing a claim through the court system has been raised to the extent that the least wealthy are virtually shut out of the system. Class action reform, and the awarding of attorneys fees to the prevailing party are used as a stick to preempt the filing of a claim for fear they will end up owing not only court costs and the costs of their own attorney, but the huge attorneys fees run up by counsel for the other side if they lose. Not to mention bankruptcy reform which ensures that individuals hit with catastrophic expenses will remain financial indentured servants for years to come to the credit card companies, banks, corporations, and business interests which charge exorbiant interest rates and fees.

The clearest example of economic discrimination is the field of health care and insurance. Where else do we have two scales of payment for the rendering of the same services? Those economically unable to obtain major medical insurance often are charged more than twice the rate paid for the same services that the economically wealthy receive. If you can afford major medical insurance, the discount applies as a result of the deal provided to the insurance company. This preempts healthcare for millions of children, the disabled, and full time workers. Over 25% of the population of North Carolina have no health insurance of any kind.

All other forms of discrimination are bad, but far and away discrimination based upon economic standing is and has become the greatest threat to our pursuit of life and liberty and general welfare.

As this Administration works to implement its will based upon preference for the wealthy and corporations, it is time to call them out for what they are doing, expose their policies for what they really promote, and vote them out of office at the earliest opportunity. Those who claim they are right because they are religious are usually wrong on both counts, and this Administration is no exception.

To remain silent and depend upon this Administration to do the right thing as they wrap themselves in the flag and religion is to ensure the elimination of our constitutional guarantees, and create a bleak future not only for us but for the next generation.


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