the jobs crisis in America prompted New York mayor Michael
Bloomberg to predict that riots will come if jobs are
not created soon.
“We have a lot of kids graduating college, can't find jobs,”
Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. “That's what happened
in Cairo. That's what happened in Madrid. You don't want
those kinds of riots here.”
“The damage to a generation that can't find jobs will go
on for many, many years,” he added.
As for a nation with multimedia diversions - not to mention
a stubborn, widespread belief that the American Dream of
upward mobility still will come to all who want it - I have
maintained that it will take a great deal for riots to come
to this country once again. I certainly would not want
to see violence fall upon anyone in any community.
At the same time, as a student of history I understand that
things do happen. In the 1960s, communities of color reached
a tipping point. Call them riots, civil disturbances or
urban rebellions, they often arose from acts of police brutality.
But ultimately, they came to reflect frustration over poverty
and inequality, a lack of economic opportunity, no jobs,
bad schools and a shortage of housing.
And it was also a time of heightened political awareness
and political activism, with the civil rights, antiwar and
Black Power movements in full force. Meanwhile, J. Edgar
Hoover and the police made their best effort to neutralize
these protest movements, even if it meant assassinating
Now, I’m sure that some commentators at the time dismissed
the riots as acts of vandalism and mayhem on the part of
“those” lawless people, meaning black folks, who just don’t
know how to behave.
And yet, while blacks, Latinos and other historically marginalized
groups have always known pain, whether back in the day or
under the current recession, today we are witnessing something
fundamentally different. Today, the thumbscrews are being
applied to America’s poor, working class and middle class,
as a collective. And you can’t help but believe that the
torturers are engaged in a perverse experiment to see how
much they can get away with.
If the U.S. has not reached a tipping point of sorts, but
you can’t help but think it will come soon. Some 6.9
million jobs have been lost since the trap door came
loose on the nation’s flawed economic system in 2007. Add
to that the jobs needed to keep up with population growth
and America has a jobs deficit of 11 million jobs.
A jobs crisis exists side-by-side with a staggering rate
unmatched in over half a century. One in six Americans
lives in poverty - 46.2 million people, or 15.1 percent
- a third of them children. The Latino poverty rate is
26 percent, with 27 percent for blacks. The U.S. is experiencing
a lost decade, and beyond the numbers there exists a profound
psychological toll that defies any degree of quantifying.
It is one thing to say that half of all Americans earn less
than $26,000, and only 1 percent earn over
$250,000. You can also point out that in the land of
opportunity, the nation with the highest
inequality in the industrialized world, 400
people have more wealth than half the entire country
But it is an entirely different proposition to ask why,
and how to stop it.
Simply put, America’s political governance system has been
purchased by the nation’s top 1 percent, and they are getting
their money’s worth. Corporate money has taken over the
government, and the government is unable, no, unwilling
to take care of the needs of its people, sans the 1 percent
who possess their sales receipt in hand.
American politics is legalized bribery and corruption.
With the social welfare system peeling away for austerity’s
sake, American capitalism, unfettered, is reverting back
to its natural state of exploitation - allowing a few winners,
mostly losers, and a lot of cold-bloodedness and cold-heartedness
to go around.
The party controlling Congress is a Koch Brothers-led sideshow
of extremism, lunacy, instability and racial paranoia.
And the party in the White House is led by a man who means
well on his best days, but has placed far too much faith
in Ivy League white dudes. He has sought friendship with
those who plan his demise - and that of the nation’s economy
for political gain - as he legitimizes and embraces their
pathological ideas. Half-measures and Clintonian triangulation
have appeared misplaced and wholly inadequate, falling far
short of the bold promises of hope and change in the 2008
Right now, the president is on the right track in his populist
efforts at pushback against the GOP, including a proposal
to end the Bush tax cuts and tax the wealthy more, or at
least as much as the rest of us.
Ultimately, public pressure will turn all of this around,
as it always does. What we learned is that elections are not enough, and politics is not a spectator
sport. The people must demand what they want from their
elected officials, and change the terms of the public debate.
Mass protest, not President Obama, will do the job of saving
us from American capitalism.
A movement called Occupy
Wall Street has decided to take a cue from the Arab
Spring, and engage in nonviolent mass occupation to fight the greed and corruption
of the top 1 percent and restore democracy in America.
The movement, which plans to camp out on Wall Street for
a few months, is not getting as much attention as it should.
Hopefully that will change. We could use a little class
warfare right now. It is always good to know where things
Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights
advocate based in Philadelphia, is
a graduate of Harvard College and
the University of Pennsylvania
Law School. and a contributor to The Huffington
Post, the Grio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily
Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.