Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A View from Moscow by Valentin Zorin… Only the Beginning


Washington political pundits are busy; they’re looking for an answer to the question why none of them anticipated the sudden explosion of social protest shaking America these days. It’d be useful and clarify the situation if we paid particular attention to a report just published by the US Census Bureau. This report provided us with data rarely found in official government documents. In fact, it was sensational information. Without exaggeration, the dry figures stated that more than 15 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. To make that figure more comprehensible, it turns out that, today, poverty stalks a little over 46 million Americans. Economics professor Lawrence Katz of Harvard University wrote in the New York Times, “We’ve lost a decade. We thought that America was a place where each generation lived better than the last one. However, today, we see that the typical American family is noticeably worse off than it was at the end of the ‘90s”. It wasn’t accidental that Professor Katz chose to use the term “typical family”. Of course, he knows perfectly well that, despite the crisis, the fortunes of the most privileged and the size of American business grew to record amounts in American history. In no small measure, these facts give us a clue as to why the streets of American cities these days are full of people who don’t accept the contemporary state of affairs in America.

It would be simplistic to reduce this situation only to being a problem of the poor and hungry. It’s rather more complicated than that. People are disappointed in their politicians and political system. They see that politicians are divorced from the needs and problems of society; they see foreign policy failures, with a humiliating military defeat in Iraq, and clear signs of a stalemate in Afghanistan. An influx of illegal migrants exacerbates racial tensions, and a number of other noteworthy circumstances significantly affect the deterioration in America’s public mood. Nevertheless, the problem of poverty, and the loss of traditional American hopes for a better future, I think, rank amongst the main reasons for the public outrage exploding on the streets of American cities. Indeed, they might be the principal catalysts sparking off that outrage. The increasing tempo of the 2012 US Presidential election campaign just exacerbates this critical problem. Recently, Hillary Clinton said, “Our domestic economy will become the fundamental and crucial theme in the upcoming election, since one of the main effects of the economic crisis was a rise in unemployment”.

The leaders of both so-far-unchallenged ruling parties in American politics are aware that what happens now could decide the outcome of the struggle for the White House and the control of Congress. Connoisseurs of “inside the Beltway” Washington, apparently, not without reason, believe that Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on Americans who earn over a million dollars a year has become the trump card of his re-election campaign. If you can’t feed all the hungry, the leaders of the Democratic Party think that this move might assuage popular anger. Unfortunately, the fly in the ointment is that Obama’s team hasn’t overcome resistance from leading GOP elements to this initiative. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives defeated his attempt to overturn the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy. Soon, it’ll become evident if current events will alter the current position of the die-hard defenders of the “fat cats”. However, the conundrum caused by millions suffering in poverty, whilst a few enjoy unjust and disproportionate wealth, has obviously become the focal-point of political life in the contemporary United States. It seems that the mass discontent splashing out these days on the streets of American cities is just the beginning.

19 October 2011

Valentin Zorin

Voice of Russia World Service




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