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INTO THE MORASS

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In the U.S., working families are struggling to survive financially as the economy loses its heavy industry and offers only service jobs. Even those service jobs are at risk as thousands of more-desperate Mexican "guest workers" arrive every day and American workers are expected to compete with them. Underemployed and unemployed workers suffer hardships, and the rest of the working class have to provide them with food stamps, subsidized housing, and other services while the service corporations such as hotels, chain stores, and restaurants make millions in profits.

The Pew Research Center 2001 report "Economic Inequality Seen as Rising" shows that 44 percent of Americans believe that the nation is split between 'haves' and 'have-nots,' compared to 26 percent who sensed that kind of economic segregation in previous decades.

President Bush's domestic policies keep adding to that gloominess. His budget for the fiscal year starting October 1 has an $80 billion deficit and he plans to use the Social Security surpluses to fund other programs through 2013. Bush claims that by that time those Social Security funds can be returned. Such deficit spending is jeopardizing not only the 150 million workers participating under Social Security but also all other workers who will see their taxes increased sooner or later.

Yet even today, with all the shameless jingoistic hysteria created by Bush and the media aimed at distracting us from the economic deterioration inside the U.S., many Americans know that this country is headed in the wrong direction domestically and internationally.

Many Americans sense that economic predators like Enron have taken over completely and will create even more future economic hardships for taxpayers. Consider this little-publicized fact about the Enron debacle: Enron obtained a $2 billion loan guaranteed by the taxpayer-funded U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to build a power plant in Maharashtra, India, after U.S. government officials pressured the Indian government into giving Enron that contract. Despite massive and bloody resistance by the Indian people, Enron built the plant. However, the promised low-cost electricity never materialized and now that Enron is bankrupt, U.S. taxpayers may have to pay off the $2 billion loan. U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vermont) warns "OPIC and other taxpayer-funded banks are providing corporate welfare to companies that harm workers in the U.S. and harm communities and the environment overseas. Enron is not the only company receiving loans backed by U.S. tax dollars."

So-called experts argue that campaign finance reform is one way to take away from corporations and wealthy donors the absolute control they now have over the political system. Others suggest creating an independent labor party and alternative economic models. There are many solutions being proposed by expert observers.

However, the only way that any substantive changes will occur in the U.S. is if the civil society is organized and mobilized from the bottom up to take control of their own socio-political environment. Common people, beginners in the socio-economic-political arena, must be the ones who dictate the changes that are viable. This requires that persons of conscience always tell them the truth about how our country's policies got us into this dark tunnel and the nightmare waiting for us at the other end if we don't stop. People must be enlightened before they can have the courage to join the movements for social change. Some argue that more "educated experts" is the answer, but look at the abyss that these "experts" have dug for us precisely because they have been "educated" and programmed to think a certain way — to strive towards a narrow pro-corporate economic goal. Another Zen saying offers us a better alternative: "In a beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are none."

Startling stats
The Conference of Mayors, as part of a national study, surveyed hunger in San Antonio and found a 15 percent increase in unmet need over the past year.

Sixty-four percent of last year's $1.35 trillion tax cut will go to the top 1 percent income earners over the long term, while the recent so-called "economic stimulus package" will reduce corporate taxes by $114 billion, or more than a fifth, over the next three years.

Bush has proposed a 19 percent increase in military spending.

The Economic Policy Institute released its study recently, showing that the number of Americans in economic trouble is more than twice the number of "poor" families. This means that about 80 million people or 30 percent of the population are in financial trouble.

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