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  An American Outrage: Bernie, AIG--and Us
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COMMENTARY:

An American Outrage: Bernie, AIG—and Us

by Rosemary and Walter Brasch
The one thing we react to, the one thing that moves us to outrage, is money—not all the things that should really be making us angry. Why is that?
There have now been more than 4,000 deaths and 30,000 casualties of American military in the war in Iraq. More than 100,000 Iraqis and others, most of them civilian, have also been killed in what is now known to be an unnecessary war. But, we as a nation are not outraged.

We have recently learned that former President Bush and former Vice-President Cheney had authorized the use of torture. But, we as a nation are not outraged.

The Supreme Court has ruled there have been significant and substantial constitutional violations during the Bush-Cheney era. But, we as a nation are not outraged.

More than 46 million Americans don't have health insurance. Millions don't get the health care they need or are turned away because they can't pay. But, we as a nation are not outraged.

The unemployment rate has climbed past 8 percent. More than 12 million Americans are unemployed and actively looking for work. About three million have been unemployed more than half a year. About 2.6 millions jobs were lost just in the past four months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Companies have eliminated jobs, forcing the remaining employees to work beyond their capacity. These companies have cut wages and benefits; they have shipped jobs overseas. But, we as a nation are not outraged.

About 38 million Americans are living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But, we as a nation are not outraged.

About 3.5 million people were homeless last year. More than one million of the homeless are children, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Over a half-million are veterans. But, we as a nation are not outraged.

Almost every reputable scientist has told us that the world's environment is in jeopardy from man-made destruction. But, we as a nation are not outraged.

We are killing off our animals by a combination of neglect and planned destruction of their lives and habitat. About 1,600 animal species are critically endangered, according to the World Conservation Union; about 25 become extinct every year. But, we as a nation are not outraged.

But, we are outraged about one thing. Our money.

We are outraged that Wall Street financiers, corporate bankers, and real estate brokers have seemingly conspired for personal greed, leading to a plunge in the value of our own stocks and investments, forcing the nation into the worst economic crisis in more than seven decades.

We, as a nation, are outraged that Bernard Madoff scammed individuals and charitable foundations for billions.

We, as a nation, are outraged that executives at failed insurance giant AIG are receiving millions in bonuses paid for by taxpayer funds. In Congress, conservatives and liberals, many of whom were part of the problem of the subprime mortgage crisis, have united for the first time in years and have expressed their outrage. The President, who inherited this mess, is outraged. The media who had failed to adequately report this mess are outraged. Almost every American is outraged.

And why are we outraged? Because it's money.

As homeless children sleep beneath bridges, as millions desperate for work are told to go home and collect a pittance in unemployment, as innocent Iraqis die, as young soldiers return without limbs, as our earth is being destroyed, we sit and yawn through the news, desensitized to the horror. But, sadly, the one thing we react to, the driving impetus to contact our legislators, and the one thing that moves us to outrage, is money.

And we criticize the Wall Street financiers and investors, the greedy bankers and those wanting to make a quick-flip profit in housing?! Perhaps our outrage comes from a deeper place, an inner reality that we see just a hint of ourselves and what each of us is capable of if we were given the financial opportunity.


Rosemary R. Brasch is a retired secretary, labor/union specialist, and college instructor in labor issues. She is a also a former national Red Cross family services specialist for national disasters. Walter M. Brasch is a university professor of journalism, social issues columnist, and the author of 17 books. His current book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available from amazon.com, bn.com, and other stores.


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This story was published on March 25, 2009.

 

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