the holistic radical

April 9, 2008

What is the Significance of the National Debt?

It’s a good indicator of how we ruined a once solid economy.

http://www.naturalnews.com/022931.html

Comments by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger

As we wind our way towards an election between the professional liars that have been put forward as candidates for U.S. President, it seems to be a great time to remind us all about the issue being routinely ignored by virtually everyone (except Ron Paul, of course, who was never really embraced by the “please lie to me” mainstream public). To what issue am I referring? The national debt, of course.

As you can see in this bumper sticker, the way to annoy a liberal is to “get a job,” as the pop culture bumper sticker says. To annoy a conservative, all you have to do is “defend the Constitution.” But how do you annoy everybody? That’s simple: Explain the national debt.

Americans don’t want to hear about the national debt. It’s like a family living paycheck to paycheck, maxed out on their credit cards, trying to pretend the collection notices are all being lost in the mail. They don’t want to admit they have no ability to actually pay off the debt they’ve incurred by pursuing a flamboyoant lifestyle, blowing wads of cash on high-priced wines, luxury vehicles, and an occassional line of coke — they desperately want to imagine they can keep living on money that appears from nowhere, regardless of how much they owe to everybody else and the fact that their incomes don’t even come close to matching their expenditures.

Too bad every household in America doesn’t have its own Federal Reserve, huh? If it did, we could all just print money to pay off our debt, save our skins, and ignore the fundamentals of economics. But even in Washington today (and New York), the Federal Reserve is too busy bailing out greedy, criminally-operated banks to turn much attention to the much larger issue of the United States’ national debt. Apparently, saving the banks is more important than anything else, and the Fed is now committed to destroying the U.S. dollar through runaway hyperinflation in order to prevent a few rich bankers from facing the consequences of their outrageous sub-prime lending sprees.

America runs its finances like a crack addict

But let’s get back to the national debt for a moment. The United States government is broke. The only reason it’s been able to operate for this long is because other nations and foreign central banks have been foolish enough to keep lending the U.S. government more money. It’s like giving cash to a crack addict and hoping he will somehow seek out a drug rehab center on his own.

This is the person who never gets a job, never makes an honest living, but yet somehow manages to hit up everybody else for cash. You know how it works: “I need to buy a car to get a job,” they say. And then when you pony up the cash for their car, they get drunk and wreck the car, and they never try very hard to get a job in the first place. They keep spending and spending, tossing money down the drain on blows of crack, meth, heroin or booze. They promise to go into rehab someday, if you’ll only help them through “the next month” with a little more cash. This is the life of a drug addict. (Do you know one? Everybody does, it seems…)

America is that drug addict. It borrows cash from the central banks around the world, blowing it all on Medicare prescription benefits signed into law by Bush (money for drugs, see?). It spends trillions on military campaigns that accomplish nothing positive, yet enrage the global community and recruit lifelong enemies of this nation. Notice how the price of oil has more than tripled since the war with Iraq started? It’s so bad now that truck drivers are going on strike over the price of diesel.

America spends money not merely like a drunken sailor, but like a crack-addicted sailor with a wheelbarrel piled high with one-hundred dollar bills, locked in a room full of Gov. Spitzer’s favorite hookers and a suitcase spilling over with blow.

Don’t dare explain the national debt to anyone

But try to explain the simple workings of finance, debt and economics to the uninformed, and you’ll be accused of being a doomsayer, a pessimist, or — the worst insult in today’s fear-based society — unpatriotic! How dare you point out the economic truths that will soon bring this country’s federal government to its knees! Such blatant truths shall not be tolerated… especially not in a country whose entire financial system is based on a cascade of fictional financial instruments propped up by nothing more than wishful thinking and Enron-style accounting fraud.

Let me translate all this for you in serious terms: The United States is already broke. The Federal Reserve is destroying the currency. The U.S. dollar will soon be virtually worthless. There is no saving the dollar, and there’s no saving the savings of any U.S. citizen foolish enough to be holding dollars when the music stops. The Federal Reserve has already decided to do anything in its power to save the rich bankers; even if it means destroying the value of all the dollars held by hard-working Americans. The day will come, folks, when your savings accounts will all be “recalibrated” and you’ll be given ten cents on the dollar while the Fed slinks away with 90% of your savings, using it to bail out overpaid bank owners.

And the federal government? Under a long string of presidential crooks — Democratic and Republican alike — it has decided to pursue a dangerous experiment called, “What happens if we never pay our debtors while running up more debt?” That experiment, not surprisingly, will end in the financial demise of this nation. (But there’s good news: A new, better system may emerge from the dust of the greenback… keep reading…)

You can’t defy the laws of gravity… nor economics

These aren’t careless predictions, by the way. These are simple observations the follow the fundamentals. Why are the nations of the world fleeing the U.S. Treasury debt auctions? Why are dollars increasingly worthless everywhere except in the United States itself? The answer is because the Fed is hyperinflating the currency to save the banks, even while the government is snorting yet more crack and spending unprecedented levels of increasingly-worthless dollars on drugs and war (or, as they call it, “medication and defense”).

Hence the bumper sticker: Annoy everyone. Explain the national debt. People don’t want to hear this. They’d rather imagine none of these problems exist; that debt doesn’t matter; that unlimited dollars can be created out of nothing with zero impact on peoples’ savings; that the U.S. government is wise enough to avert financial disaster. These are the hopes of the deluded. These are precisely the ramblings of Enron’s accountants before the crash, or dot-com stock pushers before that crash. They’re the slobbering blatherings of all the people who said housing prices will never fall, and therefore everyone will get rich off the never-ending housing price booms!

Being right does not make you popular

I’ve spend many years pointing out the idiocies of the deluded. I publicly predicted the dot-com crash and began warning people to get out of the market in 1998 – 2001. (This is a matter of public record, not some wishful hindsight.) I also publicly predicted the collapse of the housing market right here on this website, beginning nearly two years ago. And now, those predictions that once seemed “radical” are the Wall Street Journal’s front page news. What am I predicting now? Like I said, it’s not a prediction, it’s just an observation.

It’s like observing gravity. If you toss something into the air, you can be confident it’s going to come falling back to the ground. You don’t have to “predict” gravity; it’s a law of the universe. It works by itself, like clockwork, regardless of what you want it do to (I’m ignoring near-light speed travel, relativity, quantum physics, and all that fun stuff for the purposes of this metaphor, by the way, for those readers who are physicists). Likewise, when you see a nation throw its dollars into the air, spending its way to oblivion, ignoring its debt and ramping up its spending to even higher levels, it doesn’t take much of a prediction to know that it’s all going to fall back to the ground in a grand economic collapse.

So I’m not even calling the coming collapse of the U.S. government a “prediction.” It’s just common sense. It’s as obvious as gravity. If you don’t believe me, do the math. There is no mathematical solution to the current financial crisis facing not merely the banks and the currency, but the federal government itself. The only unknown factor is WHEN things will happen. Can the Fed help the economy limp along in a state of near-collapse for another year? Perhaps. Five years? Maybe. Ten years? I doubt it.

Now for the good news: The good news is that the U.S. federal government will eventually go bankrupt. Yes, that’s the good news! Because after the financial chaos passes (which will not be fun, believe me), we have a chance to create a new society, a new currency and a new, honest system of government that actually represents the People for a change. The current cabal of corruption and criminal behavior that sits in Washington and pretends to protect the interests of the voters is about to find itself on the receiving end of an angry mob. The 200+ year experiment called The United States of America is in its final chapter. But out of its failure, we can learn important lessons. We can learn things that will help us create a better future society. Lessons like:

• Never let a private company (the Federal Reserve) control the money supply.

• Never let “representative” legislators vote in your place. Insist on a DIRECT Democracy in the next society. (We don’t need Senators and Congresspeople, folks. The whole concept is long since outdated, and most Senators and Congresspeople are crooks.)

• Never let a government abandon the gold standard for its currency. If you do, that government will inevitably hyperinflate the currency and leave the people broke.

• Never let corporations run the government. If you do, your government will become a branch of the corporations, and the regulators (like the FDA, USDA, etc.) will become agents of corporate-sponsored terrorism that abandon all ethics and destroy the health and safety of the People.

• Never allow the centralization of power in one branch of government. For example, do not allow the creation of Executive Orders we’ve seen signed by the President.

• Never allow one man (the President) to commit acts of war. Didn’t we learn this after Vietnam?

• Never allow people from industry to take jobs in the government where they become biased, pro-corporate pushers of everything from pharmaceuticals to beef.

• Never allow politicians to censor scientists.

• Never allow the population to be dumbed-down through sub-standard public schools that only raise a generation of obedient workers, not skeptical thinkers.

• Never allow the media to control the population through advertiser-supported propaganda and violent programming.

• Never allow politicians to destroy citizens’ rights. When they attempt to do so, march on your capitol (in a non-violent way, of course). Arrest the politicians. Prosecute them for crimes against the People.

• Never allow corporate lobbyists to have access to lawmakers. If you do, you’ll end up with a corrupt government that only protects corporations, not the People.

• Never allow your government to operate in secret, with secret prisons, secret wiretapping laws and secret war “evidence” that is never made public. Secrecy breeds corruption. Honest societies do not need to conduct their judicial processes in secret.

• Never allow corporations to play God with the food supply by genetically modifying the crops.

• Never allow corporations to be granted intellectual property ownership over seeds, genes, animals and medicines. If you do, you will one day wake up impoverished, “homeless on the continent your fathers conquered,” to quote Jefferson.

• Never allow banks to operate on a fractional reserve system of loans and money creation that’s just begging for a series of cascading failures.

… I could go on, but you get the point. We have learned some very tough lessons over the last 200+ years, and once this present government collapses, it is crucial that we apply those lessons in creating a new system that abandons tyranny and embraces genuine freedom. We will have this opportunity soon. Many Americans will lose their life savings on the journey towards this new opportunity, but if we maintain our collective vision of a brighter future society, I believe we can create something much better out of the ashes of this failed experiment called the United States of America.

Please note: In no way do I support violence of any kind in creating a new society in the aftermath of this current one. I only support collaboration, openness, freedom and great respect for all living creatures as well as our sacred planet Earth. I believe the passing of this failed government is a blessing, not a curse, and I believe the collapse of the U.S. dollar will ultimately help awaken many to the tough but rewarding decisions that will face us all in the very near future. We must consciously decide to take back our freedoms, our rights and our futures from a system of corporate and government control that has destroyed our planet, exploited our people, and stolen our savings. But if can make the rights decisions based on creating a more promising future for our children, then the rewards will be unimaginable.

We the People hold the power to create a new society based on the freedoms and promises once held sacred in this land. Be ready to play your role, a constructive role, in the aftermath of this current society. And do not be surprised when gravity kicks in and this entire fictional government charade comes crashing down along with the fractional reserve banking system, the criminal Federal Reserve, the war-mongering politicians and the endless, endless debt. There is no way out now other than collapse and rebirth.

I can’t say when it will come, or exactly how it will play out. I only urge us all to remain positive, informed and constructive. The coming chaos will be painful in the short term, but out of the ashes of a failed society, we can work together to rebuilt a new one based on real freedom, honest money, sensible medicine and limited government.

Shocker: Endless, Unjust Wars Lead to Economic Crisis

Vote Ron Paul or we’ll be in Iraq forever and watch our dollar go down with it.

———–

USA in Iraq: Recession in the Crosshairs
By Jean-Louis Denier
Marianne2

Sunday 30 March 2008

The exorbitant cost of the war in Iraq risks plunging the United States a little further into a recession catastrophic for it … and the rest of the world!

If one effects a comparative analysis with other conflicts, one realizes that the binomial, quagmire/occupation of a large territory is not economically neutral. The longer this kind of war lasts, the more it costs; the more it costs over a long period, the more it disturbs and distorts the economic machine, notably by the inflation and monetary depreciation it generates. The consequences of Operation Iraqi Freedom on the American economy seem, in appearance at present, to limit themselves to the sole question of the United States’ federal deficit, since the increase in military expenses, including those related to Iraq (total US federal budget for 2009: $3,100 billion, with a 7.5 percent increase in the Pentagon’s budget, which represents $515 billion, in addition to which a special supplement of $70 billion is reserved for Iraq and Afghanistan) has consequences.

The effects of this headlong rush:

  • A $410 billion deficit for the 2008 fiscal year (2.9 percent of American GNP) and another deficit of $407 billion for 2009 which the new administration will inherit next January. You will note that these sums are twice the size of the $162 billion deficit recorded for fiscal 2007 and approach the record $413 billion deficit recorded in 2004.
  • Dark dealings in the federal budget, such as the 22 percent reduction (to $2 billion only) in the amount available to help poor families pay their heating cost, or the 34 percent reduction in investments accorded Amtrak, the national passenger railway company.

But one should not trust appearances, for the deficit in American public finances interacts with the global economy as a whole. Since the American taxpayer does not have enough money to pay all the expenses of his federal government, that government turns abroad to borrow money and bring capital back to the USA. In this way, the savings of foreign countries are solicited – notably through the purchase of American Treasury bonds or other dollar-denominated assets – to cover purely American expenses. No comment up to there. Except that the foreign countries exporting capital to the USA are primarily Asian – with China in the lead – which countries profit from the financial flows created to align their currencies to the dollar – to undervalue it even – and thus put their own international trade competitiveness on steroids through that exchange rate chicanery. Moreover, overindebted and consequently overexposed vis-à-vis their creditors, the Americans are happy to reimburse them with worthless currency and consequently … to depress the dollar exchange rate – by reducing US interest rates – notably vis-à-vis other currencies, including the euro, but also against the British pound sterling.

And the Rest of the World in All This?

This vicious spiral (deficit plus dollar fall plus undervaluation of other currencies, like the Chinese yuan and the Japanese yen) has been ongoing for several years, but is especially dangerous:

  • For the USA’s creditors: The dollar’s nosedive entails the progressive devaluation of assets denominated in that currency; those who hold those assets find themselves less rich now than they were the day they bought them for more.
  • For the USA itself: How long will the USA’s creditors trust the USA and continue to cover its unbridled spending if the federal government seems too exposed through its abysmal debts? Moreover, the rise in foreign capital equates to increased dependence, even submission to foreign financial power. Finally, if $1,300 billion of subprimes generate $1,000 billion to $2,000 billion of losses and suffice to plummet global exchanges, what will happen when the markets realize that the war in Iraq could cost between $1,000 billion and $3,000 billion in the middle of a complete American economic recession, consequently with fewer fiscal revenues for the US federal government, consequently with more deficits?
  • For the Europeans, including the French: The depreciation of the dollar will never stop, since it results from a deliberate American strategy of lightening the federal government debt burden, a strategy that condemns the euro to an unremitting rise and European products to no longer being produced or even conceived in the euro zone, transforming said zone into an economic and social desert over the long term. More than ever, Europeans could hear: “The dollar is our currency; it’s your problem.”

Conclusion:

The Vietnam War, through its length and its cost, provoked the abandonment of the gold standard for the dollar, as well as strong American inflation, provoking a temporary crisis in the exercise of American hegemony over the world. The war in Iraq is taking the same path, with two exceptions, only worse: it combines with a mixed (American household and the federal government itself) overindebtedness and recession in the American economy against the background of a rampant global banking and financial crisis.

Consequently, all the ingredients for a crash followed by a wide-ranging and long-lasting depression (like the one of the 1930s) are potentially brought together. And this time the revision of American hegemony will not be temporary only. Will Osama bin Laden have won not only “his” war, but the war?


Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/040108G.shtml

April 8, 2008

The greatest country in the world has 28 million on food stamps–but, hey, no recession here–just business as usual

The number of people on food stamps does not reflect the number of people who are malnourished because they do not qualify for food stamps–i.e., unsteady addresses, lack of documents, etc. Food is a human right. This is civilization?

USA 2008: The Great Depression
By David Usborne
The Independent UK

Tuesday 01 April 2008

Food stamps are the symbol of poverty in the US. In the era of the credit crunch, a record 28 million Americans are now relying on them to survive – a sure sign the world’s richest country faces economic crisis.

New York – We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families.

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.

The increase – from 26.5 million in 2007 – is due partly to recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.

Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet. As a barometer of the country’s economic health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can certainly tell a story.

Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry, has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in 2000. “We have seen a dramatic increase in recent years, but we have also seen it climbing more in recent months,” Maureen Sorbet, a spokeswoman for Michigan’s programme, said. “It’s been increasing steadily. Without the programme, some families and kids would be going without.”

But the trend is not restricted to the rust-belt regions. Forty states are reporting increases in applications for the stamps, actually electronic cards that are filled automatically once a month by the government and are swiped by shoppers at the till, in the 12 months from December 2006. At least six states, including Florida, Arizona and Maryland, have had a 10 percent increase in the past year.

In Rhode Island, the segment of the population on food stamps has risen by 18 percent in two years. The food programme started 40 years ago when hunger was still a daily fact of life for many Americans. The recent switch from paper coupons to the plastic card system has helped remove some of the stigma associated with the food stamp programme. The card can be swiped as easily as a bank debit card. To qualify for the cards, Americans do not have to be exactly on the breadline. The programme is available to people whose earnings are just above the official poverty line. For Hubert Liepnieks, the card is a lifeline he could never afford to lose. Just out of prison, he sleeps in overnight shelters in Manhattan and uses the card at a Morgan Williams supermarket on East 23rd Street. Yesterday, he and his fiancée, Christine Schultz, who is in a wheelchair, shared one banana and a cup of coffee bought with the 82 cents left on it.

“They should be refilling it in the next three or four days,” Liepnieks says. At times, he admits, he and friends bargain with owners of the smaller grocery shops to trade the value of their cards for cash, although it is illegal. “It can be done. I get $7 back on $10.”

Richard Enright, the manager at this Morgan Williams, says the numbers of customers on food stamps has been steady but he expects that to rise soon. “In this location, it’s still mostly old people and people who have retired from city jobs on stamps,” he says. Food stamp money was designed to supplement what people could buy rather than covering all the costs of a family’s groceries. But the problem now, Mr Enright says, is that soaring prices are squeezing the value of the benefits.

“Last St Patrick’s Day, we were selling Irish soda bread for $1.99. This year it was $2.99. Prices are just spiralling up, because of the cost of gas trucking the food into the city and because of commodity prices. People complain, but I tell them it’s not my fault everything is more expensive.”

The US Department of Agriculture says the cost of feeding a low-income family of four has risen 6 percent in 12 months. “The amount of food stamps per household hasn’t gone up with the food costs,” says Dayna Ballantyne, who runs a food bank in Des Moines, Iowa. “Our clients are finding they aren’t able to purchase food like they used to.”

And the next monthly job numbers, to be released this Friday, are likely to show 50,000 more jobs were lost nationwide in March, and the unemployment rate is up to perhaps 5 percent.

——-

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/040108T.shtml

March 12, 2008

How do you spell “Recession”? D-I-S-C-O-N-T-E-N-T

and P-O-V-E-R-T-Y.

from truthout.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/013108B.shtml

America’s Middle Classes Are No Longer Coping
By Robert Reich
The Financial Times

Tuesday 29 January 2008

It is an election year and the US economy is in peril of falling into recession or worse. Not surprisingly, Washington is abuzz with plans to prevent it. President George W. Bush has proposed a $150bn stimulus package and all the main presidential candidates are offering similar measures, including middle-class tax cuts and increased spending on infrastructure.

Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve have reduced interest rates another three-quarters of a point. But none of these fixes will help much because they do not deal with the underlying anxieties now gripping American voters. The problem lies deeper than the current slowdown and transcends the business cycle.

The fact is, middle-class families have exhausted the coping mechanisms they have used for more than three decades to get by on median wages that are barely higher than they were in 1970, adjusted for inflation. Male wages today are in fact lower than they were then: the income of a young man in his 30s is now 12 per cent below that of a man his age three decades ago. Yet for years now, America’s middle class has lived beyond its pay cheque. Middle-class lifestyles have flourished even though median wages have barely budged. That is ending and Americans are beginning to feel the consequences.

The first coping mechanism was moving more women into paid work. The percentage of American working mothers with school-age children has almost doubled since 1970 – from 38 per cent to close to 70 per cent. Some parents are now even doing 24-hour shifts, one on child duty while the other works. These families are known as Dins: double income, no sex.

But we reached the limit to how many mothers could maintain paying jobs. What to do? We turned to a second coping mechanism. When families could not paddle any harder, they started paddling longer. The typical American now works two weeks more each year than 30 years ago. Compared with any other advanced nation we are veritable workaholics, putting in 350 more hours a year than the average European, more even than the notoriously industrious Japanese.

But there is also a limit to how long we can work. As the tide of economic necessity continued to rise, we turned to the third coping mechanism. We began to borrow, big time. With housing prices rising briskly through the 1990s and even faster between 2002 and 2006, we turned our homes into piggy banks through home equity loans. Americans got nearly $250bn worth of home equity every quarter in second mortgages and refinancings. That is nearly 10 per cent of disposable income. With credit cards raining down like manna, we bought plasma television sets, new appliances, vacations.

With dollars artificially high because foreigners continued to hold them even as the nation sank deeper into debt, we summoned inexpensive goods and services from the rest of the world.

But this final coping mechanism can no longer keep us going, either. The era of easy money is over. With the bursting of the housing bubble, home equity is drying up. As Moody’s reported recently, defaults on home equity loans have surged to the highest level this decade. Car and credit card debt is next. Personal bankruptcies rose 48 per cent in first half of 2007, probably even more in the second half, which means a wave of defaults on consumer loans. Meanwhile, as foreigners begin shifting out of dollars, we will no longer have access to cheap foreign goods and services.

In short, the anxiety gripping the middle class is not simply a product of the current economic slowdown. The underlying problem began around 1970. Any presidential candidate seeking to address it will have to think bigger than bailing out lenders and borrowers, or stimulating the economy with tax cuts and spending increases.

Most Americans are still not prospering in the high-technology, global economy that emerged three decades ago. Almost all the benefits of economic growth since then have gone to a small number of people at the very top.

The candidate who acknowledges this and comes up with ways not just to stimulate the economy but also to boost wages – through, say, a more progressive tax, stronger unions and, over the longer term, better schools for children from lower-income families and better access to higher education – will have a good chance of winning over America’s large, and increasingly anxious, voters.

———

The writer is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He is former US secretary of labour and author of Supercapitalism


    Go to Original

Pro-Business Bias Survives Economic Bust
By Max J. Castro
Progresso Weekly

31 January to 05 February 2008 Issue

Boasting about the strength of the economy has been a staple of Bush administration propaganda for a long time. In fact, while the rate of economic growth and the level of unemployment have been pretty good for the last few years, throughout the Bush era the economy has been “strong and getting stronger” only for those at the very top of the income distribution.

It is a trend that began long before George W. Bush became president but which has been aggravated by his policies. Since 1973 and especially in the last ten years, those in the top one-tenth of one percent of income earners have done spectacularly well. Those in the top one percent of the income ladder have done very well, and those merely in the top ten percent have made much less impressive but real gains in income. In contrast, and in spite of vast economic growth, between 1973 and 2005 everybody else, the remaining 90 percent of the population, experienced a significant drop in real income!

The current administration’s policies of giving huge tax breaks to the very rich, restricting government spending on middle class and low income programs, and giving business a free hand in every sphere have been a major factor in bringing about the obscene levels of inequality in existence today. But these policies have done more than just deepen inequality. By undermining regulation and oversight, these policies have led to many corrupt and irresponsible business practices, with results such as the Enron scandal and the current sub-prime lending crisis.

The regulatory mechanisms that emerged in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street crash and the Depression of the 1930s were not the product of a socialist conspiracy or anti-business ideology. They were lifesaving devices for the capitalist system and the American economy.

The administrations that have run the country for the last three decades seemed to have forgotten this and, in a frenzy of free market faith that has been particularly intense during Republican rule but has also been present during Democratic presidents, have poked huge holes not only in the social safety but also in the economic and financial safety net.

Now the myth of a perfectly self-regulating market has burst, starting with the housing market crisis and spreading through the economy. Many analysts are predicting a recession. The Federal Reserve Board, which usually acts with caution, was so alarmed as to carry out a record decrease in interest rates in order to boost the economy and prop up sinking stock market prices. The administration acted too, but as usual it saw the drama of millions of Americans in danger of losing their houses and their jobs as first and foremost an opportunity to further its ideological agenda in line with the interests of corporations and the very rich. The Democrats in Congress pushed a different set of policies to ward off recession, but in the end once more largely caved in to Congressional Republicans and the administration.

Democrats in Congress wanted to increase food stamps and extend unemployment benefits, measures that would have helped those hurt worst by an economic downturn but also the groups most likely to spend any additional income quickly, exactly what is needed to give the economy a quick boost.

Republicans were adamant against this approach. The GOP’s priority was to continue and expand tax cuts for business and the rich. The Republican argument is that this will stimulate the economy by encouraging investment.

Despite controlling Congress, the Democrats ultimately gave in on almost every issue except making the 2001 Bush tax cut permanent, which the Republicans dropped. The compromise that was approved by the House of Representatives and Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not include increased funds for food stamps or unemployment benefits. It does include new tax breaks for business investment. Pelosi did manage to obtain some payments for those too poor to pay taxes and to reduce tax rebates for households with higher incomes.

Despite these small Democratic wins, the irony is that a program intended to provide relief for a looming crisis caused to a significant degree by policies wildly biased in favor of business is itself rife with some of the same biases.

An economy in which income is increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and that withholds its rewards from the vast majority of the population even in the best of times is not sustainable politically, socially, economically, or morally. The lesson of the compromise economic stimulus package is that neither Republicans nor Democrats are ready to confront this reality.

GNP not an indicator of reality–more proof economics is elitist code/lingo–fight for progress

from truthout:

Our Three-Decade Recession
By Robert Costanza
The Los Angeles Times

    Monday 10 March 2008

The American quality of life has been going downhill since 1975.

    The news media and the government are fixated on the fact that the U.S. economy may be headed into a recession – defined as two or more successive quarters of declining gross domestic product. The situation is actually much worse. By some measures of economic performance, the United States has been in a recession since 1975 – a recession in quality of life, or well-being.

    How can this be? One first needs to understand what GDP measures to see why it is not an appropriate gauge of our national well-being.

    GDP measures the total market value of all goods and services produced in a country in a given period. But it includes only those goods and services traded for money. It also adds everything together, without discerning desirable, well-being-enhancing economic activity from undesirable, well-being-reducing activity. An oil spill, for example, increases GDP because someone has to clean it up, but it obviously detracts from well-being. More crime, more sickness, more war, more pollution, more fires, storms and pestilence are all potentially positives for the GDP because they can spur an increase in economic activity.

    GDP also ignores activity that may enhance well-being but is outside the market. The unpaid work of parents caring for their children at home doesn’t show up in GDP, but if they decide to work outside the home and pay for child care, GDP suddenly increases. And even though $1 in income means a lot more to the poor than to the rich, GDP takes no account of income distribution.

    In short, GDP was never intended to be a measure of citizens’ welfare – and it functions poorly as such. Yet it is used as a surrogate appraisal of national well-being in far too many circumstances.

    The shortcomings of GDP are well known, and several researchers have proposed alternatives that address them, including William Nordhaus’ and James Tobin’s Measure of Economic Welfare, developed in 1972; Herman Daly’s and John Cobb’s Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, developed in 1989; and the Redefining Progress think tank’s more recent variation, the Genuine Progress Indicator. Although these alternatives – which, like GDP, are measured in monetary terms – are not perfect and need more research and refinement, they are much better approximations to a measure of true national well-being.

    The formula for calculating GPI, for instance, starts with personal consumption expenditures, a major component of GDP, but makes several crucial adjustments. First, it accounts for income distribution. It then adds positive contributions that GDP ignores, such as the value of household and volunteer work. Finally, it subtracts things that are well-being-reducing, such as the loss of leisure time and the costs of crime, commuting and pollution.

    While the U.S. GDP has steadily increased since 1950 (with the occasional recession), GPI peaked about 1975 and has been relatively flat or declining ever since. That’s consistent with life-satisfaction surveys, which also show flat or dropping scores over the last several decades.

    This is a very different picture of the economy from the one we normally read about, and it requires different policy responses. We are now in a period of what Daly – a former World Bank economist now at the University of Maryland – has called “uneconomic growth,” in which further growth in economic activity (that is, GDP) is actually reducing national well-being.

    How can we get out of this 33-year downturn in quality of life? Several policies have been suggested that might be thought of as a national quality-of-life stimulus package.

    To start, the U.S. needs to make national well-being – not increased GDP – its primary policy goal, funding efforts to better measure and report it. There’s already been some movement in this direction around the world. Bhutan, for example, recently made “gross national happiness” its explicit policy goal. Canada is developing an Index of Well-being, and the Australian Treasury considers increasing “real well-being,” rather than mere GDP, its primary goal.

    Once Americans’ well-being becomes the basis for measuring our success, other reforms should follow. We should tax bads (carbon emissions, depletion of natural resources) rather than goods (labor, savings, investment). We should recognize the negative effects of growing income disparities and take steps to address them.

    International trade also will have to be reformed so that environmental protection, labor rights and democratic self-determination are not subjugated to the blind pursuit of increased GDP.

    But the most important step may be the first one: Recognizing that the U.S. is mired in a 33-year-old quality-of-life recession and that our continued national focus on growing GDP is blinding us to the way out.

    ——–

    Robert Costanza is the director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont.

January 12, 2008

Dark Age for Women: Hillary Clinton Makes Women Look Bad

Women, are you going to be voting for someone who uses stereotypes of women in order to win over another candidate (Obama, for you democrats) who is far more qualified and policy-minded?

Clinton is not the “candidate for women;” she is abusing women with her displays. She is setting women’s rights back at least two decades. Powerful women, stand up and vote on the issues, not on identity politics.

Yes, Obama is more qualified in that he is not resorting to emotions, and is sticking to policy issues. He is qualified in that the “greatest nation in the world” should have a president that looks like a large amount of its population, after 43 presidents that didn’t represent most of its population: i.e., nonwhite and immigrant, the people who are constantly being exploited. This here is not identity politics; this here would be representation for the issues for people who have been constantly denied representation. White women have not been constantly denied representation in this country. It’s safe to say they have a fair amount of power now, and it’s time they shared some of it. We don’t need a Clinton dynasty. Clinton is running on her name alone. Don’t be fooled, don’t be lulled, don’t buy the mainstream media hype that the Clinton era was some kind of glorious time–though it may now look marvelous compared to what Bush & Co. have put us through for two terms. Some of us didn’t benefit when the “wind blew up all sails” in the Internet-boom of the 90s. Some of us were still poor in the 90s. And note I said the “Internet boom” of the 90s. Clinton I cut welfare in the 90s, to the point that if there was a major recession tomorrow (it is on its way), many of the poor and middle class would be hard-pressed to get benefits now–the welfare infrastructure in this country, as well as the rest of the government, has been eroded to a skeleton, to allow for more corporate subcontracting when a major disaster should strike. Any economic upswing in the 90s was not due to government creativity or policy as much as it was due to the novelty of the Internet–and that’s why we’re having hard times now, because that glittering has worn off and we don’t know what the next gimmick will be. And we are a country of gimmicks, because all of our jobs and manufacturing are outsourced to overseas nations. Woe to the American who was failed by the educational-indoctrination system, then cannot fit themselves into the bureaucratic-job-legal-aboveground system of employment–they’ll next be employed in a prison or FEMA concentration camp. Welcome to the future.

The amount of time you’ve been in the status-quo Washington DC Beltway does not make you qualified, Hillary.

Haven’t women been fighting for decades to not be treated like stereotypes, especially the stereotype that they’re emotional and can’t be decisive? Isn’t that the excuse behind the “glass ceiling”?

It is economics, stupid. It’s always been all about the economics. Voting doesn’t matter much if you can’t eat, if your housing is substandard and overcrowding, if your salary (unlike that of Congress members) doesn’t go up every year with inflation/cost-of-living-increases, but your rent goes up 10% a year. What’s Hillary’s economic policy?

Please look beyond the Democratic-Republican paradigm/circus and see that there is a candidate who actually knows something about economics: Ron Paul. He’s on the Republican ticket, but is actually closer to Libertarian values.

Though I may not agree with all of Ron Paul’s takes on social issues, I see that social issues are really caused by ECONOMIC INEQUALITY and disparities in the distribution of wealth, and that when economic issues are really attended to (instead of taxing the poor and middle class and using tax dollars for corporate welfare and defense contracts), the government will not need to step in on social issues to keep the domestic peace. Indeed, the Founders would turn over in their graves to see the extent to which our government intervenes in SOCIAL issues involving our freedom of CHOICE and liberty–what we can eat, how we can dress on the job or in school, what documents we must carry to travel, what substances we can put in our bodies, what substances the State feels everyone must have in our bodies (i.e., vaccines), etc.

But, for God’s sake–this may be our last free election in this rapidly-transforming-to-fascist-nation–if you must vote for a Democrat,–I guess because you like the label–please do not vote for Clinton. Vote for Obama. I’d love a Paul-Obama ticket or an Obama-Paul ticket, or some combination with Kucinich with one of them in a top cabinet post.

A vote for Clinton is a vote for power as it’s always been.

And we all know how power corrupts.

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