Paul Andersen: Fair Game
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
There is only one reason that I could live in Florida – so that I could vote Alan Grayson into Congress. Better yet, Grayson should run for president. Then I could vote for him and still live in Colorado.
Last week Grayson sent out an email blast about what he called “economic racism” in America. Quoting census data, Grayson reported that Anglos in America have 20 times the wealth of African-Americans.
“Not 20 percent more,” he emphasized. “Not twice as much. Twenty times as much! The median household wealth for Whites in 2009 was $113,149, and the median household wealth for African-Americans was $5,677.”
Grayson found that in 2007, Anglo household wealth averaged $149,900, while Hispanic and African-American households averaged $23,300. A year after the Great Recession, Anglo households fell from $149,900 to $113,149, and African-American households fell from $23,300 to $5,677.
“These numbers confirm just how hard the Great Recession has whacked minority households,” Grayson concluded. “But there is a deeper issue. Can someone please explain to me how, in a country where we are told again and again that we are ‘all created equal,’ one group ends up with 20 times as much as another?”
Some bridle at Grayson’s charge of economic racism.
“You will still find right-wingers who insist that America is now a color-blind society,” he wrote. “But the numbers tell a different story. They suggest that America is not a color-blind society, but rather a racism-blind society.”
Grayson’s remarks coincide with a recent Time magazine interview with billionaire Warren Buffett. In the first line of that interview, Buffett acknowledged that it was pure luck for him to be born in the U.S. as a male in 1930. To be born of color in America then was to endure a life of subordination to the Anglo hierarchy.
Grayson wrote, “Martin Luther King’s dream was that his four young children would ‘one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ What are we supposed to think – that one group has twenty times as much character as another?”
Grayson is a politician who spins his message with a reformer’s zeal. Buffett is a businessman who speaks his practical mind. Where their views intersect is in America’s failure to provide better opportunities for economic fairness among races.
President Obama made this same point during his State of the Union address, saying that the wealthiest Americans should be taxed at higher rates in order to ease taxes for struggling families.
“You can call this class warfare all you want,” Obama said, “but asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? (His reference was to Warren Buffett, who pays a lower tax rate than one of his wage-earning employees.) Most Americans would call that common sense.”
While Grayson, a self-made millionaire, makes economic racism a moral issue, Buffett frames it pragmatically, saying that America’s strength lies in valuing equally all levels of the work force.
“We need a tax system,” Buffett said, “that essentially takes very good care of the people who just really aren’t as well adapted to the market system but are nevertheless doing useful things in society.”
Buffett advocates overhauling health care, which he calls a “tapeworm in America.” He says that the wealthy should voluntarily raise their taxes. He says that Washington should “stop coddling” the super-rich with tax breaks. He says corporate loopholes should be closed because it’s “baloney” that their tax rates are considered burdensome.
If you respect Buffett’s views, then give support to candidates such as Grayson who support equitable taxation. And if you happen to live in Florida, please cast a vote in my name for Grayson, a standout who has the guts to challenge the status quo.
It’s due to courageous people such as Grayson, Obama and Buffett that economic racism will become an open target, as Grayson has so appropriately mandated.
“Ask yourself:” he appealed to constituents, “When has any elected official, ANY elected official, ever discussed this inconvenient truth and tried to discern what should be done about it? Why is there a veil of silence over such a salient, central fact about the country we all share?”
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