How did things get so out of balance?

By Sherry Wilson

I recently had the privilege of participating in a day of general strike at the University of California Berkeley. My daughter is a student there and the strike was a response to the university’s brutal police retaliation against the students’ “Occupy Cal” encampment the previous week.

The “Occupy” encampment and the subsequent strike were prompted by the UC Regents’ reported recommendation to increase tuition at California public universities by 81 percent over the next four years, and, in general, the defunding and privatization of public education in California.

Their complaint, and mine, is that when tuition is more than $18,000 per year, there is little to no difference between public and private schools, and higher education becomes all but unaffordable for all but the very wealthy. Thus, the exclusion of so many lower and middle-class Californians from the opportunity for a public education seems very appropriate to me in the broader “Occupy” movement whose focus is the widening gap between the haves and the have nots, the disparity in the distribution of income, and the demise of American democracy.

The general assembly at Cal drew more than 6,000 people. For those who think the “Occupy” movement is comprised mostly of a bunch of out-of-work hippies and bums, I can personally attest to the fact that that is NOT the case. In addition to students, the majority of participants I saw were people like myself: middle-aged, middle-class, white, working individuals. They are people who are concerned because social and economic inequality is higher than it has been in almost 100 years and is showing no signs of declining.

They are also concerned because tax rates today are lower than they were under Eisenhower while more and more millionaires and corporations are finding ways of avoiding paying any federal taxes at all (for example, Bank of America made $10 billion in profits in 2010 and paid NO federal income tax). Further, they are concerned that more and more of our jobs are being outsourced to other countries and even great American products like the iPhone employ more Chinese than Americans in their manufacturing.

These are people who are outraged that UC President Mark Yudof has a base salary of $591,084, a 46 percent increase from his predecessor, and a total salary, with benefits, of $924,642. This includes the $13,365 the University of California pays every month for his 16-room mansion. This, along with their outrage at the average CEO bringing in more than $10 million a year while the average public school teacher and/or police officer makes less than $50,000, is testament to the fact that this is a movement of the middle-class demanding to know how things got so out of balance.

For the period between the late 1940s and early 1970s, the median American’s household income doubled. Since then, the less-affluent, 90 percent of Americans, have realized barely a 5 percent increase in income. However, between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent have seen their incomes soar by 281 percent. Coincidentally, this time frame falls right in line with trickle-down economics and Congress’ tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Today, the top 400,000 Americans control more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans. Add to this the fact that more than 1,500 millionaires paid no income tax in 2010 and that, since 2004, people with seven-figure salaries have accepted more than $9 billion in Social Security payments and you begin to understand the outrage of the average American.

Now, let’s include our elected public officials who serve in our nation’s Congress. Since 2008, the net worth of members of Congress has grown by 25 percent, while the average American household has lost as much as 20 percent of its net worth.

Apparently, some Congressional officials routinely engage in a legal form of insider trading, profiting from investment activity that would send the rest of us to prison. And this activity is across the board, including both houses of Congress and individuals from both parties. Even Sarah Palin has weighed in on this topic stating that, “Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves. . . Members of Congress exempt themselves from the laws they apply to the rest of us.”

Things are way out of balance in our country and I don’t see them getting any better until more of us stand up and demand the reinstatement of our democracy where our elected officials truly work for us rather than for their own enrichment, and where all contribute their fair share to our nation’s coffers for the benefit of all citizens.

We are the 99 percent!

Sherry Wilson is a Ramona resident.

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  5. Activists gather to ‘occupy’ downtown San Diego

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Posted by Karen Brainard on Dec 2 2011. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “How did things get so out of balance?”

  1. mike saylor

    sherry you are a tool. a cog in the wheel of stupidity. you have joined with racist, anarchist and general idiots. you write to make these idiots seem normal but, my mom told me, 'you are who you hang with.' the people that are backing these useful idiots are the nazi party, the iranian govt, and the exleader of the ku klux klan. they want to bring socialism to america, where has that worked? cuba? ussr? mexico? americas poor are rich to the 99% (poor of the real world) . you may be educated but, you are not smart! that college you daughter went to is a hot bed of bad teachers from the 60s. nancy pelosi, nancy grace and sherry wilson are whats WRONG with america! too much talking and too little thinking!!!!

    • Patrick Skahan

      Mike Saylor, take your hate out of this community. Sherry, great post! As a Cal alum, I've seen tuition increse 300% since I started as a freshman merely 9 years ago. Your facts are right on, with one exception that I noticed. The richest 400 Americans – not the richest 400,000 – control more wealth than the bottom 150 million. This country needs to occupy every street, until our leaders recognize they lead for the people, not the 1%.

  2. David Biesemeyer

    The problem is not with our "democracy", democracy is the problem.

    Our forefathers gave us a republic not a democracy.

    A democracy is best defined as two wolves and a sheep voting together what shall be for lunch.

    A republic is based upon fixed laws and governments with limited and enumerated powers delegated to them by THE PEOPLE.

    Our republic like all of those governments where western civilization has placed its foot print, is based upon the English common law.

    Our Constitution acknowledges this and grants the Judicial power in this manner: "the judicial power of the United States extends to all cases in law and equity arising under this constitution…(Law and equity are the two branches of the common law)

    So answer this one question for me and then I will tell you what is wrong with America:

    Where can I find a court that has "proceedings after the course of the common law"? (Rules of Court that protect rights according to the ancient principles and rules of the common law?)

    We are suckered into debating as political subjects, matters of law. Those subjects never delegated to a legislative body… Abortion, the definion of marriage, right to the first lien on the fruits of one's own labor… the list goes on.

    Restore our courts of law, restore the republic.

    Without the rule of law, we are mere chattel of the government to be sold at will. We will have government masters rather than public servants. Priviliges instead of rights.

    Samuel Adams: If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace, we ask not your arms nor your councel. Bow down and lick the hands that feed you, may your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our bretheren.

    Benjamin Franklin: Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

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