Nowhere to be found, not under the mistletoe, Christmas tree nor tucked in gift bags are what Black Americans need most for the coming year: Faith, courage, and leadership to stem a snowballing crisis.
All over the United States, many non-White, non-wealthy citizens are shivering from the passage of an $858 billion tax bill that feels like an iceberg crashed down on their heads, freezing out dreams of a better life.
Moreover this year the usual cheery lyrics extolling a White Christmas take on cynical even angry significance.
Passage of the bill will extend 13 months of unemployment benefits at a cost of $60 billion, but this is a mere sop when you see almost $800 billion going to the rich and the super-rich. The scenario looks worse because covering the costs means more misery for people at the bottom who face stagnant wages, rising fuel costs, and slashed education funds.
How much more can middle-America take from the job squeeze, mortgage foreclosures and billions fleeing from housing, education, and energy assistance?
Could all the pain eventually erupt into open class warfare like that unfolding in Britain? U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders certainly thinks so. On the Senate floor, the Vermont Independent took his colleagues to task about America's "disappearing and shrinking middle class."
Sanders said that the wealthiest Americans today earn about 12 cents of every dollar in the economy, adding that the top 1 percent of income earners make 23.5 percent of all income. According to Sanders, that is creating a severe unequal distribution of wealth in America. "We got to own up to it," Sanders concluded. "There is a war going on. The middle class is struggling for existence. Greed has no end. If we don't start representing those families, there will not be a middle class in this country."
The war is claiming casualties among African-Americans, many of whom were considered middle-class. Black unemployment is now about 16.7 percent, compared to 8.7 for Whites. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 40 percent of African Americans will have experienced unemployment or under employment by the end of 2010, and this will increase child poverty from one-third of African American children to slightly more than half.
While the Black middle class and the elderly become cash poor, the deal makers on the hill are shamelessly continuing the President Bush era money grab.
The Center for Tax Justice states that the wealthiest one percent of taxpayers will pocket almost $77,000 per year more as a result of the new tax deal. The top one percent would take home more than 25 percent of the total tax cut; the bottom 60 percent would share less than approximately 20 percent.
Reports showing the depth of greed are outrageous. The Economist Magazine reported that "As great wealth has accumulated at the top, the rest of society has not been benefiting proportionally. In 1960 the gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was thirtyfold. Now it is seventy-five fold. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives in the country was 30 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker."
Two years ago, in a report entitled Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality, the American Political Science Association concluded that progress toward realizing American ideals of democracy in some areas have reversed. "Privileged Americans roar with a clarity and consistency that public officials readily hear and routinely follow while citizens with lower or moderate incomes are speaking with a whisper."
In other words, while the privileged demand and even defend their largesse as their entitlement, those who are being exploited raise hardly a whimper.
The handwriting is on the wall, the money grabbers have been buoyed by how easy it was under President George W. Bush and now President Barack Obama to grab taxpayers money for their special interests. Can we say with any certainty now that Social Security or Medicare, will be protected or the continued raid on school budgets to make up for shortfalls won't critically destroy education progress for millions of young people?
The silence of those being exploited must cease. There are no more comfort zones for the have-nots to rest. Behind the gated enclaves of the newly arrived black upper middle class, hard-times are knocking on their doors. With much of the corporate press on the side of the privileged, either the stepped on will stand up or be ground into the dirt.
Leadership must grab hold of this Winter of Discontent before it snowballs into a revolution. That will take courage and faith that the great victories Black Americans helped won can be won again.