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WIP against the backdrop of American history

A brief note of gratitude and a clarification

Works In Progress came into being and continues to exist, thanks to three decades of generous and the mostly anonymous volunteer labor of hundreds of individuals. The publishing Committee would like to pause and thank all of those who have taken part in the change of production that make WIP possible. This large group encompasses: printer workers, carriers, distributors, advertisers, grant founders, donors, subscribers, writers, editors, graphic artists, translators, doers, talkers, haranguers, fellow travelers, and critics in good and bad faith. Not to mention our readers (real or imaginary), that with different levels of agreement or disagreement have plowed through our pages for thirty years. This in itself, constitutes a peculiar event considering that reading printed material has become a rare skill in our digital world (WIP-online addresses that particular cultural fact).

On the other hand, to all of those located at the opposite end of our political spectrum, those who, on more or less regular bases, continue to vandalize and destroy our distribution boxes, etc., let them be the recipients of our contempt, and let their actions prove the failure of their intellect.

WIP as a collective contrarian

Given the progressive ideology that since 1990 defines our paper, each issue of WIP can be understood as the diary entry of a collective contrarian. As a monthly oppositional voice questioning existing social conditions. In other words—and this is perhaps one of the keys to understand the longevity of the paper— WIP exists in critical relation to the existing social reality of our community, the nation and the world. What gives life to WIP is that it stands in opposition to the existing conditions imposed by a society which we consider to be marked by social inequality, corporative greed, racism, restrictions to popular political participation, and environmental destruction, among other malevolent traits.

Granted, WIP’s voice is not, it has never been, and cannot be, the voice of a single political idea or ideology, but a platform for a combined group of voices, not always at unison, sometimes not even in the same ideological language and with different talents and levels of knowledge. Nonetheless, they are united around the general principles of democracy and social justice. That is what has always mattered in the nearly 5,000 pages published since 1990, and those principles constitute the core of the paper.

WIP has survived thirty years, and yes, we continue to be dissatisfied, question, and oppose the current outcomes of our society. The following paragraphs intent to provide the reader with a panoramic, albeit incomplete view, of the last three decades of social life in the U.S. With that in mind, we have used some key categories to which we have added some brief information to illustrate the current conditions in America.

Thirty years later

Democrats vs. Republican Presidents since 1990

  • Number of Elected Presidents: Republican (3), Democrats (2)
  • Years at the White House:
    Democrats (16), Republicans (14)
  • Party in control for each United States Congress/ Senate: Republicans (8), Democrats (6)
  • Party in control for each United States Congress /House: Republicans (10), Democrats (6)

Wars since 1990

  • Number of Wars involving the United States Initiated by Republican vs Democrats Presidents: Republicans (8), Democrats (12)
  • Larger number of wars initiated by an administration: Obama (7), Clinton (5), Bush, H. W (4), Bush, G. W. (4)
  • Wars that were the result of Congress’ official declaration of war: 0
  • Total number of U.S. military deaths since 1990: (7,188)
  • Estimated number of people displaced by “war on terror”:
    31 million.

What About the Economy?
(And no, you don’t have to be stupid!)

  • Income inequality: Income inequality in the U.S. is the highest of all industrialized nations. Which in simple words, means that the already super-rich keep getting even richer, and the poor keep getting poorer, the difference being that in the U.S., the ultra -rich get richer than anywhere else in the world. (Pew Research Center)
  • Since 1989-1998 the richest families are the only group to have gained wealth since the Great Recession. Middle class incomes have grown at a much slower rate than the upper-tier incomes in the last five decades (Pew Research Center)
  • The Bailout of the Banks: Both Republican and Democratic administrations have been willing to use people’s money to bailout banks and corporations. In 1989-1990 during the Savings and Loan Crisis, George H. W. Bush used around $160 billion to save greedy and socially irresponsible S&L organizations. Almost a decade later, his son George W. Bush signed the malignant Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), meant to bailout the banks for their financial mismanagement. Not too many Americans know that the TARP act wasn’t signed by Obama, but by Republican G.W.Bush. Nonetheless, a few weeks later TARP was duly implemented by the Obama administration in spite the fact that having a majority in Congress, he could have easily stopped it. Instead Obama preferred to exonerate the criminal activities of bankers and placed the financial burden not on wealthy financial institutions but on borrowers. Overall, Republicans and Democrats shamelessly joined forces and authorized $700 billion to bailout the wealthy. This is a fact not well known by most of Americans.

Public Health:

In spite of being the wealthiest nation in the history of humanity, we rank 37 in the quality and efficiency of our health system. Suffice to say that regarding the Covid-19 epidemic we have surpassed the death toll of 200,000 and over 7 million cases. Paradoxically, in this infamous category we have “Made America Great Again” and rank first in the world. It is difficult not to compare the billions assigned to bailout the banks and big finance, versus the meager help provided by the Trump administration to public health institutions to fight this lethal virus.

Race, Police Brutality, and Criminal Justice:

The Pew Research Center reports that currently majorities of both white and black Americans say black people are treated less fairly than whites in dealing with the police, and by the criminal justice system as a whole. The months of continuous protests against police brutality, and the growing acceptance of the BLM movement speak for themselves about the conditions of race in America. Equally illustrative—and concerning—is the government tolerated public presence of armed, white supremacist militia groups used to intimidate public civic dissent.

Thurston County

  • As August 2020, the average rent in Olympia shows a 12.89% increase from last year.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, the population living below poverty in Thurston was 8.4%
  • In 2018, 835 people were counted as homeless in Thurston County, which represented a 56% increase compared with the previous year. We assume conditions have not improved
    in 2020.
  • The Thurston County Homeless Census Office considers four main reasons for becoming homeless: Job loss/ unemployment, Eviction /loss of housing. Family rejection, and domestic violence.
  • The Port of Olympia’ questionable management style has been persistently opposed and continues to be criticized by local citizens ( see article in this issue)

The Environment

  • The Trump administration has accelerated a de-regulation process within the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) practically eliminating all environmental protective measures put in place by Obama. Trump and his administration have created within government an ‘official discourse’ favorable to carbon-based extractive industries, and paved the way to increase their economic interests with complete disregard for the environment.
  • Internationally, a recent report by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environmental Institute, notes that from 1990 to 2015 the carbon emissions of the wealthiest 1% of the world population, was three times greater than the emissions of 50% of the poorest half.

The Years to Come

The previous panoramic social vignettes of the nation are not, by any means flattery. The inner logic of capitalism is meant by definition to benefit a minority, that is, those who own the means of production and the overall wealth of the nation; and that logic hasn’t change either with Republicans or Democrats. Also, by definition, as reflected by the name of our paper, our struggle for social justice since 1990 is continuous, it is a ‘work in progress’ meant to persevere as long social reality remains unchallenged. But the contrarian voice of WIP is not enough, if social change is to occur, and if humanity makes it possible to live in a better world—if there is to be a world for humans at all in the future—we need the participation of the largest number of people. In the words of social critic Noam Chomsky:

As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome

Let’s stop the powerful from doing as they please!

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