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Where's the Voice of the Young People?

My generation once shouted down the establishment, protested the war, rejected material possessions. Then the draft ended and we lost our idealism.

Now we run the wars. Our arrogant old generals refuse to admit that we don't need the bloated monstrosity that sucks nearly a trillion dollars a year out of the economy. Martin Luther King said it over 40 years ago, when he condemned the spending of billions on war instead of on education and society.

And now we run Wall Street. The Gordon Gekkos of my generation insisted for years that the economy would grow if the rich were taxed less, for they would spend their money on new business, research, and jobs.

In 1980, when the go-getters in my crowd were settling into management positions, the richest 1% of America already had a big slice of the total income pie. About 1/15 of the pie. Over the next few years they cut a second piece of the same size for themselves. Then they cut a THIRD piece! Three times as much in 30 years, not from working that much harder than everyone else, but from tax cuts and deregulation in the financial industry.

Most of you come from hard-working middle-class families who are struggling more than ever before. If your family had the same size slice of pie as in 1980, based on your contribution to our steadily-growing productivity, you would be making $10,000 to $20,000 a year more than you are now.

The money was taken away by financial experts who have devised intricate, cunning methods to manipulate the money systems, all the while lobbying for lower taxes and less government interference.

So now it's 'legal' to call income "carried interest" instead of income. This is a type of capital gain, like stocks, except that you don't have to possess any capital. It's like a bank robber saying "it's not money, it's only paper."

And now it's 'legal' for CEOs to backdate their stock options to a time in the past when the price was higher. Like changing the numbers on a lottery ticket.

The bank robber and lottery thief would probably go to jail.

My generation has devised a system in which one man can make enough money in a year to pay the salaries of every police officer, firefighter, and public school teacher in the city of Chicago, while paying a lower percentage in taxes than the people cleaning his offices. A number of hedge fund managers did this.

That's why many of you young people don't have a job.

In 1980 1 out of every 15 dollars earned in America went to the richest 1%. Now it's 3 out of every 15 dollars. That's an EXTRA TRILLION dollars a year that goes to the richest 1%.

Money that should be spent on education and jobs for all the people who contributed to our productive economy, and for those of you graduating from high school or college. Instead it's being held in escrow. The richest 500 corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash.

The richest 1% call for taxes on soda pop and online gambling to solve the nation's budget problems. They say "don't tax the most productive members of society" while making most of their money on non-productive financial strategies. They cry 'socialism' at any mention of new taxes while demanding a bailout of their failed financial institutions.

It's your problem now, young Americans. You don't have much money, but you have untapped power in your ability to communicate and organize online. You need to start reminding each other that 1 out of every 5 income dollars goes to the clever little group of people who learned how to change the numbers on the lottery tickets.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Won't Exist.

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

screen_shot_2017-01-23_at_8.39.57_am.pngPaul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago. His latest book is, Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income. He is also founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,,  and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul [at] UsAgainstGreed [dot] org.

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