Monday, March 24, 2008

Candidate McCain

Let’s not talk about his supposed qualifications. Let’s talk, instead, about his lack of qualifications and what a disaster a McCain Presidency would be for the country.

As part of his strategy for addressing economic meltdown, John McBush McCain would make DUHbya’s (yes, it’s spelled with a capital DUH) tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. Huh? Wouldn’t that mean that the middle class would shoulder a disproportionate share of the massive debt burden run up by Bush’s misadventures in Iraq?

By his own admission McCain doesn’t know much about the economy. Shouldn’t the President know enough about the economy—about budgets and deficits and taxation and sound fiscal policy, among other things—that he or she can recognize good economic advice from bad and make policy decisions accordingly?

If recent speeches and interviews are any indication, he doesn’t know much about the Middle East, either, and this calls into question his competency and qualifications to hold the nation’s highest office. When a President can’t distinguish the differences between the major players on the home team, how can he possibly create winning strategies for ending the conflict?

Also disturbing is McCain’s expressed willingness to keep troops in Iraq for another 100 years, if that’s what it takes to win. But what, exactly, is it that America hopes to win? Victory over global terrorism? Peace in the Middle East? Control of Iraq’s oil? Good luck with those!

While it might have been impressive and funny to school children, McCain’s silly chant, “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” should have raised red flags and sent chills of fear racing down the spines of all Americans in possession of critical thinking skills. Do we really want to face the consequences of yet another reckless military adventure? As a nation, have we finally arrived at the point where we value war more than we value peace? Or have we always been there?

Given McCain’s relative weak stance on important issues such as the environment, global climate change, renewable energy resources, health care, education, and myriad others, I find no compelling reason why he deserves to be elected President, and no logical argument why he should be. But I do, in fact, fear for the nation if he is.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

U.S. Economy Lagging, Dragging, Sagging, Flagging

Last week’s Carlyle Capital collapse and Friday’s Bear Stearns meltdown offered further proof that the U.S. economy is in deep doo-doo and that the doo-doo is getting deeper.

George DUHbya (yes, it’s spelled with a capital DUH) Bush demonstrated once again just how far out of touch with reality he is when he said of the economy, "It's important not to overcorrect, because when you overcorrect, you end up in a ditch." Had the First Fool been paying attention, he’d know that the economy has been in a ditch for quite some time, and that it’s sliding inexorably along that increasingly rocky channel toward a cliff.

The bottom half of the middle class can tell you how tough the economy has become. Rising prices and the difficulties of making mortgage or rent payments, putting food on the table, and obtaining health care are the standards by which they judge.

Even more aware of the economy’s inadequacies are the members of the leisure class at the low end of the economic food chain. They judge the economy by the same standards used by the middle class, but in addition, they have a legitimate argument in that, in many ways, the economy has bypassed them completely. For some of them—perhaps for many of them—the underground economy becomes a viable option.

Few people outside of the privileged class argue that the economy is doing just fine. While members of the economically disadvantaged classes mostly agree that the economy is seriously out of whack, they have no idea when—or even if—things will get better.

If Bush has his way—and for some twisted reason he almost always does—the economy will never improve. His tortured logic tells him (yet another example of why information obtained through torture is unreliable) that as long as the wealthiest few percent are getting wealthier, the rest of us don’t matter. Thus far, his approach to remedying our broken economy ensures that it stays broken. Preemptive wars and open-ended occupations are not the solutions. Tax rebates funded by future tax returns are not the solution. A taxpayer-funded bailout of investment bankers and other sub-prime mortgage lenders is not the solution. Bush’s strategy of punishing the victims and rewarding the victimizers is not the solution.

So, what is the solution? To get at that answer, we need to develop a clearer picture of the problem. As I understand it, the problem is twofold. On one hand you have manufacturers, middle men, and merchants, all of whom complain that sales have stalled because consumers aren’t buying due to lack of discretionary income or, in many cases, lack of any income. On the other hand you have middle class and lower class consumers, most of whom cite unemployment, under-employment, stagnant wages, and rising prices as their main reasons for not spending.

What if there was a solution that would simultaneously satisfy the needs of both groups? Well, there is such a solution, and the idea for it was first posited in a short sci-fi story some 30 or 40 years ago. I’ve forgotten the story’s title and who its author was, but the story’s basic premise was that endless cycles of production and consumption are the essentials of a stable economy. To achieve that economic stability, the author had his protagonist fully engaged in consumption and locked into a quota system. The only things the protagonist could look forward to were a series of “promotions” signified by corresponding reductions of his consumption quota.

By now the possible solution to our economic woes that I’ve been hinting at should be obvious to you. If businesses want more paying customers, they should hire more people and pay them a living wage. As an alternative, they could simply pay people to do nothing but consume, thereby avoiding the expense of paying benefits and the necessity of providing them with a workplace.

If they aren’t willing to do one or the other, they should just shut up and suffer in silence.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Truth's Truth

As writing of my previous post The Qualm before the Storm neared completion, I stumbled upon this fabulous bit of insight on the BikePortland Blog (see comment Post #5, by Truth). It’s so good I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.

At the author’s invitation, I took the liberty of reposting his or her comments, albeit in heavily edited form. Because the original appeared as one impossibly long paragraph, I broke the text up into paragraphs where it seemed logical to do so. Although I rewrote a couple of sentences for clarity's sake, I retained the original wording to the greatest extent possible, and otherwise limited editing to spelling, punctuation, and formatting.

The following was written by a person identified only as Truth:

Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. It’s like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now holds 1/2 of all United States wealth. Unlike lesser estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own “humanitarian” spin on it, calling attention to her own “good will.” What a disgusting hypocrite slob.

The richest 1% has literally made world prosperity absolutely impossible. Don’t fall for any of their “humanitarian” crap. It’s a sham. These people are causing the same problems they pretend to care about.

Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim (actually, it can; it’s called inflation —Ed.). At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within any economy of any size, so when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slips further into debt and the lower class further into poverty.

A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of all world wealth. This is even after you account for all of this “good will,” “humanitarian” BS from celebrities and executives. It’s a sham. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current U.S. recession.

The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transferred to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about trillions of dollars transferred from us to them over a period of about 27 years. That’s Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top, shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class, causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems.

But the rich will never stop. They will never settle for a reasonable share of anything. They will do whatever it takes to get even richer, leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax-deductible crumbs and call themselves “humanitarians,” cashing in on the PR and getting even richer the following year.

It can’t work this way. Their bogus efforts to make the world a better place cannot possibly succeed. Any “humanitarian” progress made in one area will be lost in another every single time. It absolutely cannot work this way. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly.

The current U.S. recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst U.S. depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. So don’t fall for all of this PR crap from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street pigs. It’s a sham. Remember: They are filthy rich even after their tax-deductible contributions. Greedy pigs.

Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. Send a “thank you” note to your favorite millionaire. It’s their fault. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that huge transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggravated because of greed. If it weren’t for the obscene distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with, which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. It makes them richer.

The credit industry has been endorsed by people like Oprah, Ellen, Dr. Phil, and many other celebrities. It makes them richer. Now, there are commercial ties between nearly every industry and every public figure. It makes them richer. So don’t fall for their “good will” BS. It’s a lie. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool.

Wake up, people. It’s all about the money. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible, without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves.

Vioxx? Their idea. Sub-prime? Their idea. NAFTA? Their idea. Outsourcing? Their idea. The commercial lobbyist? Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit? Their idea. $200 cell phone bills? Their idea. $200 basketball shoes? Their idea. $30 late fees? Their idea. $30 NSF fees? Their idea. $20 DVDs? Their idea. Subliminal advertising? Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed credit card-pharmaceutical-lovesick celebrity junkie? Their idea. Their ideas, all of which have been created and endorsed by celebrities, athletes, and executives, concentrate the world’s wealth and resources and wreak havoc on society. It makes them richer. So don’t fall for their “good will,” “humanitarian” BS. It’s a sham, nothing but tax-deductible PR crap.

Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and that’s just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world, causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem.

Extreme wealth has made world prosperity absolutely impossible. Without world prosperity, there will never be world peace or anything even close. Greed kills. It will be our downfall.

Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause.

We are in big trouble.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Qualm before the Storm

Apprehension doesn’t begin to describe the way I feel about our country’s prospects for the future. To say that I have a qualm or two doesn’t begin to quantify my trepidation; widespread complacency among the citizenry and their mass inability to overcome inertia does nothing to assuage my fears or overcome my doubts.

While a perfect storm of ineptitude and neglect threatens to overwhelm the commonwealth, complacent Americans continue their embrace of 20th-century ideology at the expense of 21st-century reality. With blinders firmly in place, they pursue unsustainable lifestyles fueled by conspicuous consumption and driven by hope that the vague feeling of something amiss festering just below the level of consciousness is only a phantom. Living in denial of global climate change, peak oil, a looming recession, widespread corruption, and myriad other warning signs, they miss the big picture, the one that shows America is an emerging third-world nation desperately clinging to its first-world superpower status.

Signs of the imminent failure of the once-great nation known as the United States of America are plentiful and pervasive—and unmistakable. Our government, a former republic now well into its conversion to fascism, is riddled with corruption and failing the people at every level. In the manner of foxes tasked with guarding the chickens, control of the very agencies meant to protect the people has been handed over to the corporations the agencies were designed to protect against.

Under government protection, the environment has now degraded to a point where it might as well be called an international disaster area. Global climate change and air, water, and ground pollution push ocean ecology to the edge of collapse and threaten food and water security for most life on the planet.

Poor fiscal policies reduced the economy to a shambles. Fractional reserve banking made possible the growth of a debt-based economy, which became an impediment to accumulating real wealth for millions of people. Add to that a massive federal deficit, the decline of U.S. dollar value against other currencies, the off-shoring of jobs and the concomitant loss of our manufacturing base and subsequent rise in unemployment, stagnant wages, the long-predicted collapse of an unsustainable housing market (see Petey’s Pipeline E-zine, issues #16 & #22) and what we have are a few of the main ingredients in a recipe for global economic disaster.

U.S. energy policies haven’t been anything to brag about, either. Beyond high gasoline prices, few people seem to know anything about peak oil, and of those that do few seem inclined to do anything about it. Easy, quick and dirty are the corporate and political rallying cries for energy solutions, with petroleum, coal, and nuclear benefitting the most from political influence and absorbing the bulk of energy investment dollars. Renewable fuels and alternative energy resources, while making solid advances, still struggle to earn respectable seats at the energy solutions table. Wrong choices here will only add to environmental woes and increase the drag on the economy.

Security & defense are also grossly mismanaged. The war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq siphon 43 cents of every tax dollar away from infrastructure maintenance and social programs, such as health care and education to benefit Americans. Money that could be used to build up our country is instead being used to destroy others. With the military under-equipped and overextended and with National Guard units deployed overseas, critical areas of US defense are severely compromised.

At what cost do we wage war in the Middle East? More than we can afford. More than our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren can afford. The cost of Bush’s Folly is truly astounding: Over $5 billion every week; $720,000,000 every day; more than $30 million every hour; $500,000 every minute; $8,333.33 every second. But, hey, it’s okay, because we’re doing it all on credit.

Conservative analysts estimate the final costs of Bush’s Folly at something over $3 trillion. Less-optimistic analysts predict final costs in the range of $5-7 trillion, which, in my opinion, is a more realistic estimate. Since when have there ever not been cost overruns?

But the costs of Bush’s Folly go far beyond those of wasted lives and misspent treasure. Neglected critical infrastructure—roads, bridges, dams, power plants, shipping ports, rail transportation, public transit, schools, libraries, hospitals, and water and sewage treatment facilities—continues to erode; deferred maintenance and extended construction startup times drive the costs ever higher. These, too, must eventually be paid for—or abandoned.

Nor do U.S. social policies and programs escape scrutiny and criticism. Due to years of neglect, misplaced priorities, bad practices or unintended consequences, a broad spectrum of social programs, services, agencies, systems and issues has fallen into states of disrepair, with Social Security, education, health care, the justice system, and many others in various advanced stages of crisis.

Over the next 20 years some 70 million Boomers are expected to retire from the workforce, making a huge impact on Social Security solvency. Had not various administrations raided the Social Security trust fund time and again to prop up military spending or general fund shortfalls, Social Security would be in fine shape.

Thanks to NAFTA, CAFTA and SHAFTYA, a huge wave of illegal aliens exacerbates immigration problems and threatens to overwhelm a wide range of human services, particularly those related to housing, public education, and health care. The price of cheap corn is paid not in dollars, but in human lives and livelihoods. Bush’s solution for illegal immigration? Build a fence!

Other signs that the nation has lost its collective sanity and soul include having the largest per capita prison population in the world, the second-highest level of infant mortality among industrialized nations, and a rank of 29th in the world for life expectancy—among the worst of industrialized nations. It’s not a record anyone can or should be proud of.

Compounding all of the problems mentioned in the preceding paragraphs is the ongoing erosion of the Constitution, and of the rights and liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Taken individually, each of these problems could be addressed and overcome. That all of these problems (and many lesser ones) converge at a single point in time exponentially increase the difficulties in successfully dealing with them and cast serious doubts about the nation’s ability to survive.

Suffice to say that no nation that subverts its Constitution and ignores the welfare of its citizens on so many levels can long endure.