Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Elections and the South Valley: Part I

Washington may seem a long way from Cazares' grocery store in Anthony, or Severo's bar in La Mesa, but this year presidential elections might make a difference in the Valle del Sur. After 28 years of trickle down economic policy it is just possible--not certain--that a different overall approach to governance will emerge, should Barack Obama become president. This isn't a partisan statement. Remember, after eight years of enjoying the blessings of Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House, in 2000 Anthony had a per capita income of $6674, compared to a national average of $21,587. This was a lot closer to the per capita income in Cd. Juarez ($3714) that year, in a Third World country twenty miles down the road where the cost of living is a lot lower, than it was to the New Mexico average of $17,261. And after 8 years of Ronald Reagan, 4 of GHW Bush, 8 with Bill Clinton, and 2 with "W," the average weekly wages in 2003 for non-management workers in private industry were about $6000 lower (in 2003 dollars) than in 1973, when adjusted for inflation. The last five years have been even worse for most workers. At the same time, during the 28 years since Reagan was elected, an enormous economic expansion more than doubled the nation's production in real dollars; in per capita income terms, income increased by over 68%. Problem is, this expansion of wealth did not benefit most workers, whose wages actually fell, in real dollar terms. For the most part it benefitted the top 1% of wage earners, whose tax rates just kept falling steadily after 1980 even as their salaries got bigger and bigger. And, forget it, places like Vado and Anthony and Sunland Park were largely abandoned by U.S. national policy under Democrats as well as Republicans. The recent collapse of the financial markets, accompanied by massive welfare checks to some of the strongest advocates of trickle down policy and deregulation to"keep government out of the markets," has angered millions of Americans who appear eager to punish the Republican Party for its leading role as an enforcer of the doctrine of trickle down all these years. There is, yes, a possibility that people in the South Valley may get some tangible relief from the damage these and other policies have inflicted on the vast majority of Americans. But be prepared: you may have to make your voices heard to prevent a return to politics as usual, and you may have to fight for the limited funds available after our government and Wall Street squandered all credibility through their actions and then told us that about $10 trillion or so just disappeared into the unregulated black hole of derivatives, hedge funds, credit default swaps, selling short, and other marvels of trickle down economic policy in practice. Vote Obama.

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