In April 16 Issue
By John Thompson, Columnist
At Monday's Fiscal Court meeting it was pointed out the fine industries we have in Russell County.
There's no reason to knock the industries. The products made and the services performed have a market and these businesses are doing an admirable job meeting these needs with quality services and products while keeping costs low and profits high.
That's good business; keeping the costs low and the profits high. Workers, I suppose you're doing an all right job too.
I guess what I don't understand is why, with all the good businesses, Russell County is so darned poor? Seven major industries, it was pointed out, are located in Russell County. Now that's not too shabby in a poor, rural county of 17,000 souls.
I've heard my whole life that a few people run this town. Oh honestly I didn't believe it. But I do now, and I know why. They are the ones who are involved enough to protect their interests. They showed up well represented at Monday's Fiscal Court meeting. I'm guessing the number of millionaire speakers at the meeting spoke on a ratio of 1:2. One millionaire spoke for every 2 millionaires we have in Russell County. Forgive me if I'm off by a factor of 1 or 2.
That isn't to say that the rest of the folks weren't represented. Russell County heeded the call of Kathy Foley and myself and showed up and spoke also. But I'm guessing this ratio was closer to 1:3,000 or
1:4,000. One spoke for every 3,000 to 4,000 in the county, or if we want to count children, maybe one in 5,000.
Last week I got on the magistrates for knuckling under, but I was wrong; they can't vote the will of the people when the people no longer have a will of their own. But who can blame them; chances are they're too tired and confused to care; just hand them another beer or tv program so they can steel themselves for another work day.
Oh, I know, I've done it. It isn't pretty. It's why I vowed I would sleep in the streets and eat out of garbage cans before I enslaved myself again the way I had in South Carolina. I suppose after last
week's and this week's column the possibility exists that that's exactly how I'd have to survive were I to lose this job. Oh well. You only live once.
Last week I had a quote by Upton Sinclair. He wrote a book just over 100 years ago about the deplorable conditions at meat packing plants. Sinclair spent his life writing, trying to wake up the working people to
the notion that they were a force to be reckoned with if they would only act together. They didn't listen. My guess is they were too tired and uneducated to read. When Sinclair released his seminal work "The
Jungle," the book we all learned about in high school, a furor was raised that eventually led to the formation of the Food and Drug Administration, which began regulating the food industries to insure
clean and safe practices. This wasn't Sinclair's intention.
His intention, again, was to awaken labor. He later said of that book, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." I suppose he didn't realize real labor, and I'm talking men and women who really get out there and bust their hump, really don't have time to cultivate their heart. They're lucky to have enough heart to share with their family. They're too busy making sure there's food on the table. Because making money is not in the purview of labor. Surviving is their game. And a large part of that is doing just what I said last week when I quoted Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."
But really, what does it matter? It's not as if the audience that would be affected by these words would 1) have learned enough basic understanding of the history of labor to even comprehend what I'm
saying and what sacrifices have been made to make for better conditions for labor , and 2) know how to behave in their own interests beyond that of someone with Stockholm syndrome or battered spouse syndrome.
I think it's mainly those making pretty decent money who read my column, I'm guessing. I said mainly, as I know some of the rest of you do read it. Call me self-aggrandizing but I think you'd do well to somehow get others to read this particular column, better yet, last week's; the very people who are working hard and are probably too tired to find out for themselves.
Believe in fairness, you're called a socialist, a Marxist. If you believe that the inequity of the worker to the owner is getting out of hand, and you're a socialist, a Marxist… a redistributor and a maker of class warfare. The "masses" in Russell County may get angry for what I'm saying. Funny thing about anger, it's like water; water travels the path of least resistance; often anger is directed along the path of least risk. History shows people often get angry at someone who tells the truth. Back to the tax.
I know, because I've talked to them, that there are people out there who make over $80,000 a year, and they don't think it's right to have an $800 cap, even though they themselves will have to pay more;
maybe a $1,000 or $1,200. I applaud them. I would never point them out. Why should they put themselves out on the line for a bunch of poor $20,000 a year saps that don't care themselves?
At the Fiscal Court meeting a beautiful soul came to me, I swear with tears welling in her eyes, and implored that I keep going. That I keep trying to get people to see what I'm saying. I asked her why? If people don't care anymore than they do, why should I? You people don't think I already put my job on the line writing this kind of stuff? Are you aware that the threat of the lifeline of a newspaper, advertising dollars, can make me gone 'like that?' No, I think I've done enough. I've got another reason I don't talk about local issues beyond the fact that I report on them, and that is, I love my job, and, thank you very much, I'd like to keep it. I hope I can.
Personally, I'd like to see what the county government would do if it had an extra $300,000 or $400,000 over the next 2 years. It's radical, I know. I would have preferred that citizens said, ok, we're going to trust you with this money to govern justly, fairly, and keep our infrastructure up, become innovative on how you can spend that money to attract good paying jobs or high dollar tourists, or even, heaven forbid, explore ways in which a little community wealth might be used to help the community realize it's a community. Heck, a nonprofit coffee shop with a stage so performers can come entertain the folks, with books and magazines on tables promoting discussions that would insure the "well informed electorate" that Thomas Jefferson said would be vital to an actual democracy. I don't know; I'm just thinking outside the box.
We cut federal taxes a decade ago, which, with the costs of war, drained the federal government. In turn they began starving the states. States starved began starving counties. And now we don't want to fund them. Then you can get used to a crumbling infrastructure. You should be used to it anyway.
A country that built the largest middle class in history and created the massive interstate highway system was done through a highly progressive tax. Read: the more you make the more you're taxed; and if you make obscene amounts, well, under Eisenhower the top personal income tax bracket was over 90 percent. We wouldn't have those interstate highways if it weren't for those taxes. And with a top tax bracket of 33 percent today, and the largest corporations paying no taxes at all, we'll sit back and watch it continue to crumble. C'mon folks, facts is facts, and NOBODY is suggesting a 90 percent tax bracket. If we just went back to what it was under Clinton, and, you know, stop warring with other countries, we would be well on our way to getting rid of the deficit, just as Clinton was.
What is going on here is what is going on nationally, and in some ways internationally… and I can't help but draw the comparisons.
Forbes magazine pointed out recently that this nations billionaires added an extra $1 trillion to their pockets last year. I do so wish you could read that again and grasp the magnitude of what it says, in these hard economic times, the richest of us, the billionaires, added $1 trillion to their pockets… and they say we're broke. I'll tell you what we are:
Uninformed; brainwashed; and propagandized beyond hope; best to think it's my mentality that's at fault; easier for them, and easier for you.
So, I don't know where everyone was that thought a cap was unfair on Monday. Clearly they had other things to do. You can all but bet the issue is over. If I were magistrate or Judge I wouldn't bring it up again. Clearly everyone is fine with paying proportionately more of their often meager incomes than they are willing to ask of someone much, much wealthier.
Sure, a rich person doesn't use the roads or many of the services of the county more than other people; but the people who work for the rich have to use the roads.
Again, and to conclude; these wealthy individuals organized and showed up to support their position, as they saw was right. We… we on the other hand either relaxed, or spent time with family, or just tried to recuperate for another day of work.
I said at the beginning of last week's column; I don't write on local issues. Best I can tell, I don't suppose I'll be doing it in the future.