America’s Inequality in Numbers

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Tahir Mustafa

Dhu al-Qa'dah 10, 1441 2020-07-01

News & Analysis

by Tahir Mustafa (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 5, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1441)

Donald Trump’s favorite slogan is, “Make America great again!” A significant number of Americans that have a stunning lack of understanding of the world because of the deliberate dumbing down of America, believe in this nonsense. Not only does this posit that America was once ‘great’, there is no clear understanding of what it means to be great.

For Trump, greatness means a surging stock market, low unemployment and massive spending on armaments so that the rest of the world would ‘respect’ (meaning fear) America. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, all of the above were in place except that the world still did not fear America despite its awesome military power. Even the ragtag band of Taliban beat the hell out of Americans and brought the self-proclaimed superpower to its knees begging for a deal.

Let us, however, deal with the pandemic that has ravaged people’s lives resulting in two million infections and more than 122,000 deaths in the US so far and counting. It has also exposed the broken US healthcare system. In Trump’s perverse logic, he would boast that America has beaten China even in the pandemic and leads the world by registering more infections and deaths!

Ignorance is a peculiarly American trait. As Professor Stephen Chan reminds us, “Most Americans don’t have passports, and don’t even travel out of their own states, often even their own towns, so everything ‘outside’ seems alien.” He also tells us, helpfully, that George Bush thought Taliban were a “rock group”. The Taliban definitely rock!

The twin crises—the pandemic and protests against systemic racism—have exposed gross inequalities in the US. Even before the pandemic when Trump boasted about a booming economy and a surging stock market that would enable him to retain the White House following the November elections, the poorest 50% of Americans lost wealth. This must be contrasted with the $40 trillion that went to America’s richest 10% in 10 years!

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the poorest in America, most of them African Americans. While 40 million people were already living in poverty, as a result of the pandemic, another 35-40 million Americans have lost their jobs. A recent study by the University of Chicago estimated that over 40 percent of jobs lost are gone for good. The American Bankruptcy Institute reported on June 4 that US Chapter 11 bankruptcies in May ballooned by 48% compared to a year ago. With the exception of Hertz, the car and truck rental company, most bankruptcies were among small businesses. The big businesses—‘too big to fail’—got billions of dollars in government bailout packages.

These harsh statistics must be viewed against the backdrop of the fact that half to three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Most of them cannot afford a $400 extra payment. With 40 million unemployed and rising, and 40% of the jobs lost forever, the poorest people’s paychecks are also disappearing.

There is another statistic that we must keep in mind. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has a skewed method of determining official unemployment rate. Any employee “who did any work for pay or profit” during the week being surveyed is considered to be ‘employed’. That includes part-time workers who are employed for just one hour a week.

The system allows for gross exploitation of the poorest segment of the population. If they refuse to work for the one-hour that is offered at minimal wage, then they are struck off the unemployed list because they are considered ‘not willing to work’!

Does it come as a surprise that hundreds of thousands of Americans have suffered “deaths of despair" from alcohol and drug abuse and suicides because they could no longer provide for their families?
That is Trump’s way of making America great again! And there are still some Americans that believe Trump is going to lead them to the promised land. This was demonstrated yet again on June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a Trump rally (In June 1921, some 300 blacks were massacred in cold blood and their homes set on fire in Tulsa!). Although the turnout was far lower than the organizers’ expectations, the fact that tens of thousands of people came out to listen to and cheer America’s moron-in-chief is truly depressing.

America is a hopeless case, beyond repair and redemption. The ignorant, mostly poor masses—in the words of Professor Chan who have never ventured outside their own state or even town—are cheering for a billionaire fraudster because he promises to make ‘America great again’!

America is staring into the abyss. If Trump retains the presidency, there is every likelihood that he would not only destroy America but also the world.

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