Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As usual, the arrangement with syndicators, means this column is released a week after its newspaper submission)


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Now that the July Fourth celebration of the nation’s beginning has come and gone, the day off should serve as a reminder of those millions of desperate unemployed countrymen and -women who are forced to be “off” every day. The number is about 14 million, in fact; 14 million people who are trying to find jobs but cannot, in a dreary economy that is so wildly inequitable that it threatens the vision of our founders.

One poll after another shows the optimism of the American dream being jolted by the pessimism of present-day realities. A new one from CBS News/New York Times counts 39 percent of those asked who “believe the current economic downtown is part of a long-term decline and the economy will never fully recover.” Tellingly, CNN also tallies 30 percent who feel they’ll lose the jobs they have now.

Nearly half of the respondents — 48 percent — fear a great depression. After the last crash, unemployment rose to a quarter of the workforce.

Bleak statistics explain this emotional depression: The New York Times commissioned another analysis that demonstrates how top-heavy the recovery has been. In 2010, the typical top executive at the top 200 corporations made $10 million, up 23 percent from the year before. They have been well-compensated for protecting profits, often by laying off staff. As for the holders of those stocks, the wealthiest in the U.S. make up 80 percent of them.

Pollster Mark Penn writes of a Time magazine/Aspen Ideas Festival survey in which “a startling 71 percent … sees the U.S. as worse off than a decade ago.” Is it any wonder? “Americans,” he goes on, “blame their leaders and politicians for the decade of decline.” That’s not hard to understand, considering the day in, day out display of self-interest chaos that passes for government. But blaming the “leaders and politicians” only tells part of the story.

The melancholy also is fueled by the feeling of being helpless to do anything about the stockpiling of financial resources by an amoral cabal of the wealthy. This self-anointed royalty is hoarding misbegotten trillions of dollars that should be plowed into an economic rescue. They get away with it by manipulating their office-holding puppets.

While these self-selected few float on their cushions of wealth, multitudes battle to stay afloat. As Vice President Joe Biden put it, “Millions have been stripped of their dignity.” Of course, Biden’s efforts to create a bipartisan way out of the debt-ceiling crisis have sputtered. He, his fellow Democrats and their Republican adversaries are stuck — so much so that his boss, the president, has decided to dabble in leadership and recite a little tough-guy rhetoric about how the GOP side is protecting those evil cabal members who fly around in corporate jets.

It should be obvious that the Republicans are enabling the Hood Robins, but Barack Obama seems unable to generate outrage. That his opponents believe he will cave in the face of their resistance to a “balanced” solution instead of creating a groundswell is understandable.

As a result, GOP candidates like Mitt Romney score points by charging that Obama “is out of his depth when it comes to the economy.” Of course, Romney has built his party’s biggest war chest by amassing millions of dollars from the already coddled ranks of big business and investment. Right now, all they might worry about is whether the unemployed will decide to stand up for themselves and create some political fireworks of their own — whether they’re too disgusted to wait until another Fourth of July comes and goes in which they are still shut out of the “Pursuit of Happiness” cited in the Declaration of Independence from that earlier ruling class.

© 2011 Bob Franken

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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