I've been working on an essay for several months -- ruminating mostly; rolling things round in my head looking for supporting or counter-arguments. The gist of the piece is that the United States is becoming or - more nefariously - is being turned into a Third World economy.
From personal observation, I've seen my friends and family, by necessity, change from manufacturing jobs or occupations as skilled workers to service jobs, losing pay, perks, union representation, and a sense that the situation will improve with time. Associating those numerous anecdotes, with the dismantling of social services and the disintegration of infrastructure, I wondered what other element would further the affect the USA's slide from First World to Third World economy in this depressing scenario.
(n.b. Scenario construction like this is one, is a technique I employ to control my natural ebullience.)
Since the time last March when this dismal thought first occurred to me, the US economy has imploded; the huge no-strings-attached bail-out funds of TARP have mostly been distributed and dispersed to some of the largest corporations on the planet. Unemployment has risen unofficially to nearly 20% and officially in double digits. Home foreclosures and bankruptcies are pandemic. The missing element that would precipitate the change in the US from a First to a Third World economy became evident; massive debt to foreign creditors. Being heavily indebted to foreign entities is an economic characteristic of all of the poverty-stricken nations of the Third World.
The unknown trillions of dollars borrowed from the Fed, the PRC, France (and who knows where else) hemorrhaging from the U.S. Treasury to pay war profiteers (e.g. Halliburton, Blackwater, et al.), Defense Contractors, corporate subsidies, and the out-and-out wholesale bail-out of the most morally destitute, most conniving, self-serving, rapaciously avaricious swindlers, scammers, hornswogglers, flim-flammers and thoroughly destructive bunch of crooks seen in nearly a century would, I judge, qualify as over-bearing burden of debt. A perfect shitstorm of financial hanky-panky, two never-ending wars and the continuing slavish dependence on petroleum just might be the fulcrum by which the middle class of the USA begin to empathize with the citizens of Nicaragua and Colombia.
This postulation was an apparent orphan, though, as far as I could tell -- a depressing day-dream but nothing more. I found little real evidence supporting the idea and that offered some relief.
Until I saw a segment of "Real Time with Bill Maher" from Friday, September 25th, that is. In that segment, Paul Krugman, a Nobel Laureate in Economics said, "On bad mornings I wake up and think that we are turning into a Latin American country," Krugman said. "If America was officially a Third World country, the international monetary fund would come in and say, "You've got to break the power of your oligarchs. Those banking interests; they have too much power. You've got to end all of this crony capitalism" We're not in good shape."
He went on the say that while the American dream is not totally dead, it is "dying pretty fast," particularly when it comes to social mobility.
Sometimes, I surprise myself. I only wish that the surprise was a more pleasant one.
Right this way, Mr and Mrs America. Your hovel is waiting.