Last summer the Seattle Theater Group treated its season ticket holders to a champagne lunch aboard a Holland America cruise ship.
The closest we’d come to a cruise was a day trip from Helsinki to Talin. Thom dusted off his sports jacket…
…and we went to lunch with our friend Monica.
…there was unabashed glitz and glamor.
…they turned us loose.
We acquainted ourselves with the pool.
And the dance floor.
…and colors were striking.
It was ‘The Titanic…
…meets Blade Runner.’
A place out of time. A floating island. Everyone the star of his or her own movie.
Across the harbor it was business as usual.
Gritty stories were played out in choppy waters, a world apart from our pampered microcosm.
As we left the parking lot, we drove through a sobering intersection of poverty and privilege.
Having just left a luxurious cruise boat, I thought of the Titanic. Many historians believe steerage passengers were treated with indifference at best, and that racism and classism was a factor in the dismal survival rates of the poor. Only 25% of the Third Class passengers survived, while 62% of the First Class passengers did.
One would hope for improvement in the last hundred years, and things did get better–for awhile.
From the 1950s through the 70s, middle class prosperity grew: more people could afford higher education, resulting in better jobs and owning homes. Then Ronald Reagan introduced Trickle Down Economics, claiming that by making the rich richer prosperity would trickle down to the poor, but that just kicked economic inequality into hyperdrive. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich also made the rich richer, while depriving the nation of income that would prevent the lower and middle classes from slipping further behind.
From 1979-2007, income of the top 1 percent grew by 275%, while the bottom 80 percent averaged 29%. From 2009-2012, the top one percent raked in 95% of all income growth in the nation.
Economist Paul Krugman says soaring profits of the one percent are achieved by squeezing those below: cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions. Elite priorities exert a wildly disproportionate effect on policy, such as slashing social programs for the needy while lowering taxes for corporations and the wealthy.
But there is hope.
In yesterday’s election, Seattle voted to shut big money out of politics, after having already led the nation in a vote to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
I AM SO PROUD OF SEATTLE!
When Abraham Lincoln said America’s representative democracy was of the people, by the people, and for the people, I’m sure he did NOT mean corporations.
We are all in the same boat. I’m thinking it’s time to bust out the life preservers, and this time, let’s make sure there is one for everyone.
All images and words ©2015 Naomi Baltuck