Friday, April 18, 2008

From Today's Mail ...

Hi Timothy Harris:

I just mailed this letter to the PI when I picked up the current Real Change and read your update on Nickels, et al, continuing to foul up.

As the U.S. keeps wading the Big Muddy of illegal and immoral wars and occupations, another Depression, Real Change will be ever important.

Enclosed is $10 to keep the pot boiling.

Peace and Justice,
Lyle Mercer
Letter to the Editor,

This 1930s youngster vividly recalls Seattle's waterfront Hooverville (one of many nationwide named after the then current President), a large hodgepodge of crammed shacks, built with discarded lumber and inhabited by hundreds of jobless and homeless men - and a few women. To survive they scrounged for food and cooked it in cast-off pots.

Such deplorable human neglect vanished after World War II when 16 million of us donned uniforms, were fed and housed at no personal expense. The two front conflict totally wiped out unemployment.

Today, with more and more Americans being driven out of their "subprime" homes by crooked money lenders, other workers worry about escalating oil and food prices as the economic crisis deepens.

As Angela Galloway reports, our local governments have yet to eliminate the suffering which forces Seattleites to sleep in doorways and under bridges.

With some 50,000 millionaires thriving in these parts, why are we unable to eliminate homelessness as we did in wartime 1940s?

With only a small portion of the taxes being poured into the Bush Cheney oil war, we could easily shelter the shivering in this late spring.
I will answer Mr. Mercer's question. The massive homelessness in America that began with Civil War demobilization and the painful economic restructuring that accompanied the advent of the factory system of labor was not solved by wartime employment alone. This did indeed empty the Hoovervilles, but things could have returned to the pre-war status quo.

Instead, the GI bill delayed the shock of demobilization by providing higher education to large numbers of white GIs and was the largest engine of class mobility this nation has ever seen. The 1949 Housing Act was passed, promising decent housing to every American family. A suburban housing boom was made affordable to large numbers of people with low-interest FHA loans, and huge public works projects provided continued employment to many (women and minorities didn't fare as well). And, an agreement was forged between government, big business, and the civic sector (labor, churches, civic organizations) to look to the common good. This lead to steady economic growth and declining rates of inequality up to 1973.

Then came globalization and another painful round of economic restructuring. Deepening inequality has been institutionalized within our economy and our political system, and has become the "common sense" of our time. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer, forever.

As more and more people experience the increased economic vulnerability that this system creates for nearly everyone, we are coming to realize that this "common sense" is nonsense, and that we have a mutual stake in deep systemic change.

The letter was accompanied by two five dollar bills and a typed quote at the bottom:
But remember always, Dante, in this play of happiness, don't you use all for yourself only ... help the persecuted and the victim because they are your better friends ... In this struggle of life you will find more love and you will be loved.
- - - Nicola Sacco
Mr. Mercer, you are loved. Thank you.

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