As lives at work and home were thrown into chaos by a devastating pandemic that’s killed a globe-leading 600,000 Americans (and possibly far more) amid fear, conspiracy theories, and anti-vax propaganda, working-class stress rose immeasurably — or perhaps I mean measurably. In 2020, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, “U.S. and Canadian work forces saw the highest levels of daily stress globally” at 57%. And if American workers were indeed among the most stressed out on the planet, you can count on one thing — even if Gallup doesn’t measure it — this country’s billionaires weren’t.
America’s ever-expanding billionaire class raked in an estimated extra $1.6 trillion in the worst of the pandemic months. Not so surprisingly, then, as Inequality.org notes, by April “America’s 719 billionaires, this country’s .001%, held over four times more wealth ($4.56 trillion) than all the roughly 165 million Americans in society’s bottom half ($1.01 trillion).” And as ProPublica recently reported, having “obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people,” unlike working-class Americans, many of them essentially paid next to no, or no (yes, that’s right, no) taxes at all. Sometimes, quite literally not a cent. Oh, unless you want to count as a form of taxation (with representation) the rather generous contributions some of them have made to favored politicians.
This is the world of ultimate inequality and turmoil that Americans find themselves in at a moment when, as TomDispatch regular and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign Liz Theoharis suggests, this country may be in the early days of a new era of Reconstruction, the third in our history. If so, how appropriate, since who can doubt that, facing such a surge of Republican extremism and repression, ranging from the suppression of the vote to the suppression of what can even be taught in a classroom, a wave of genuine reconstruction couldn’t be more in order. Tom
Have We Entered America’s Third Era of Reconstruction?
West Virginia, a state first established in defiance of slavery, has recently become ground zero in the fight for voting rights. In an early June op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin vowed to maintain the Senate filibuster, while opposing the For the People Act, a bill to expand voting rights. Last week, after mounting pressure and a leaked Zoom recording with billionaire donors, he showed potential willingness to move on the filibuster and proposed a "compromise" on voting rights. Nonetheless, his claim that the filibuster had been critical to protecting the “rights of Democrats in the past” and his pushback on important voting-rights protections requires scrutiny.
After all, the modern use of the filibuster first emerged in the 1920s and 1930s as a response to civil rights and anti-lynching legislation. In 1949, senator and southern Democrat Richard Russell, then a chief defender of the filibuster, unabashedly explained that “nobody mentions any other legislation in connection with it.”Read More