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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/4/11

That Giant Sucking Sound and East Coast Wealth: Will the U.S. Split Apart?

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Message Cameron Salisbury

The New York Times ran a recent article about income disparity in the U.S., this time focusing on geography. It seems that the Atlantic corridor, centered in New York City and Washington, DC, has far and away the greatest concentration of household wealth per square mile, and has benefited also as income disparity has turned into a runaway freight train.

That, of course, is as expected; a natural result of the politics of no-holds-barred financial capitalism with a criminal, taxpayer subsidized underpinning to ensure its continuity. Only the wealthy need apply.

U.S. financiers and their co-conspirators in Washington have fine-tuned the art of sucking the economic life out of the rest of the country. Institutionalized fraud is now an accepted way of life among those who make the rules.

First there were the trillions of dollars in 2008 bank bailouts. After massive popular resistance to then Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson's railroad act, Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, decided that he should hand out additional trillions more discretely, meaning without informing the public. So he very discretely turned on the printing presses.

Mission accomplished with no more of that messy interference from voters as their wealth was diluted and transferred to the East Coast to prop up domestic and foreign banks, river boat gamblers, thugs and other assorted criminals.

A far less expensive and less destabilizing alternative might have been for the government to find a way to guarantee pension funds lost in the morass and then allow the banks to fail. But there was no time for thinking. Mr. Paulson, grifter in charge, insisted on action NOW, and those bought-and-paid-for lackeys in Congress agreed without hesitation. Ominously, there was no daylight between then-Democratic front runner Barack Obama and Hank.

The second thing that has enriched the East Coast are our tax dollars that pay inflated government salaries and benefits to millions of Washington-based employees, contractors, retirees and military.

When the average salary of border patrol agents in Texas was $92,000 in 2009, plus health care, pension, cost of living and "locality" adjustments, you'll have to guess what all those high-level managers and super managers in D.C. bring home and into retirement because official information is hard to come by. Undisputed is the fact that there has been enormous inflation in the number of federal uber-managers in recent years. A common personnel tactic to compensate for a salary freeze is to simply promote.

How long will the East Coast governing and capitalist classes get away with enriching themselves while depleting the rest of us?

As demonstrations break out in the U.S. and across the globe, protesting joblessness and an often IMF-imposed decline in the standard of living; as race/ethnic and class polarization marches on, voices answering "Not for long," are beginning to sound reasonable. At the far end of the looking glass, somewhere in the foggy distance, the dissolution of the 50 united states may be lurking.

The first person on record to predict the disintegration of the United States was a Russian professor named Igor Panarin, who survived the 1990s collapse of the USSR, took another look at its nemesis on the other side of the globe, and predicted the future: the U.S. was no more likely to go the distance than his country had. He believed that the US was headed for extinction because of capitalist excesses leading to high unemployment and the virtual shutdown of entire cities, as well as the problem of financialization: too much money in too few hands, too few manufactured goods, too much in personal losses.

He says now that a number of other factors are also contributing to the fragmentation of the U.S., including political stalemate, civil dissension and a lack of unified national laws.

He left out the rest of it. In addition to politics and the economy there is also geography.

The U.S. stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific -- from sub tropics to the frozen north -- and encompasses four time zones.

It contains tens of thousands of square miles of cultural differences, from the financial and governing centers on the East Coast, to the wide Hispanic band along the southern border, to the Asian enclaves of California, to the one-off culture of the Pacific Northwest. There are other unique areas: the Great Lakes, Texas, the High Plains and the mountain states, and the Great Plains, once known as The Great American Desert (Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner). Toss in incipient problems with water resources, the disappearance of the oil economy, the weakening bonds of a unifying national language, and come face-to-face with the possibility of an eroded nation-state.

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Cameron Salisbury is a biostatistician, epidemiologist and grant writer living in Atlanta.
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