The haves and have-nots

“Fill it up.” That’s what Paul Allen says when he pulls into the slot where he gets his tank filled. Then Allen plunks down $250,000 for the fill-up. That’s right, one-quarter million dollars, and at the “old” prices at that. The huge gas tank sits in his 413-foot-long yacht. It is the size of an ocean liner. It has all the latest technology, a full-sized screening room and a lavish music room.

Yes, it’s his private yacht. It is estimated to cost a mere $200 million. Absurd? Disgusting? Outrageous? Grotesque? Nauseating? Oh, yes, but wait, there’s more. Tucked away in the ship’s hold are a 60-foot “tender,” a submarine that photographs the sea bottom, and two helicopter pads. The “Octopus,” as it is called, takes its owner and friends anywhere in the world they want to go, or picks them up wherever they want.

Allen can afford it. He’s said to be worth $21 billion, which he “earned” as founder of Microsoft, along with Bill Gates.

By the time you read this, the Octopus may be only the second or third largest ocean-liner-sized private yacht. As the billionaires’ club grows and grows, so do the orders for yachts.

As J.P. Morgan said long ago when asked how much he paid for his yacht, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.”

These are the guys who got one-third to one-half of the Bush tax cut – money they were going to “invest in the economy,” we were told. But, in fact, they were building private ocean liners, and not in the United States.

While gasoline shot up to over $2 a gallon, milk shot up to $1.50 a quart. Parents are getting hard put to respond when their kids hold out that milk cup and say, “Fill it up, Mom.” If you have to ask the price of milk, you can’t afford it.

The inordinate accumulation of wealth results from a long-term process, a process which was accelerated during the Reagan years, starting with the Reagan tax cut. It got a new lease on life from the pro-corporate, pro-Wall Street policies of the current right-wing Bush administration.

Under George W.’s policies the public treasuries have been looted and the pensions and savings accounts of the masses have been exhausted.

A few facts:

• Governmental mortgage and consumer debt runs into the trillions of dollars.

• An average of 347,000 new unemployment insurance claims are filed every week.

• Stable employment continues to decline, with new jobs paying about 20 precent less than the jobs being lost, on average.

• Real wages have been stagnant and falling, especially for low-paid workers.

• Employer-paid health care is disappearing, especially for retirees.

• Recession has also exposed growing state and local fiscal crises, directly affecting millions of families where they live and pay taxes.

• The 1996 welfare “reform,” the lack of jobs, the cuts in child care and other support programs are combining to produce a much larger sector of impoverished workers, living in perpetual insecurity.

• Total unemployment, in all forms, in May 2004 was 9.7 percent.

• Job discrimination continues, especially against African American men.

• Government spending on human needs is being cut, including throwing kids off CHIP (health insurance), refusal to renew TEUC (federal unemployment compensation), further decline in public housing and Section 8 vouchers.

If you are hopping mad at the growing obscenity; if your overworked and overextended credit card is giving you fits; if your paycheck buys less and less, then it’s time to act.

Take time out to:

• Call your congressperson and senators, or better still, visit them.

• Register to vote.

• Register others.

• Organize for Nov. 2 to elect a more responsive president and Congress.

• Move with others, such as unions, peace groups, welfare rights groups.

• Get the People’s Weekly World into the hands of others.

Your actions count!

Pat Barile is a member of the National Board of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at