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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/13/09

The Future Without A Future

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If I told you that tomorrow would not come, you would laugh at me. If I told you that tomorrow will come but that you will not like it, you would shun me. After all, denial is one ingrained defense mechanism, just as panic is the other. Our biological instinct is fight or flight. But through soothing words and patriotic platitudes, we’re taught that everything is gonna be all right. Isn’t it? After all, we are the United States of America, the greatest country on the planet! Bullshit! Yes, bullshit!

We are a nation led around by the nose, afraid to make noise, afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. We sit quietly while our economic world crumbles around us and lie in our beds at night quaking with fear. We’ve sat quietly while they’ve broken the unions. Maybe we snickered up our sleeves at their loss, but if the boss man doesn’t have to give them healthcare, why should he give it to you? What are you going to do, piss ant? Go on strike?

Our country is in economic ruins. Since 1974 only the top twenty percent of wage earners have even kept up with inflation, let alone gotten ahead. They once snickered up their sleeves at you. Suckers, dolts, while they outsourced jobs and industries to Asia. "They should have gone to college like I did. I’m so much smarter than the herd, I’ve got a sheepskin!" But then the bubble went pop. And just like Bozo at the county fair, they find themselves under water in the dunk tank!

Their retirements are gone, their 401Ks sapped. But Fox News says, "This is a great time to invest. Why, the markets already recovered thirty percent of its value!" But, you get it this time, don’t you? Your money is gone. Your wealth is gone, your losses were from ten or fifteen years of working at your job. A job that has been sliding ever backwards while you added credit debt to make up the difference. Now they are telling you to try again. They’ll hold the football for you, Charlie Brown. It’s gonna work out this time; just you wait and see.

It all centers around a great big cow pie called free trade, which is neither free nor actually trade. Free trade is to trade as prostitution is to sex, the exchange of money to get fucked. A Chinese laborer earns five dollars a day and can live on that and support a family. Can you? We now owe The Peoples Republic of China 1.2 trillion dollars including $774 billion in treasury bonds while China amasses cash reserves of $2 trillion dollars. Remember when they told us free trade would bring jobs? Well it did, it brought jobs to Japan and South Korea and even tiny Taiwan who is, officially at least, at odds with Beijing. When it comes to import partners, the US lags behind an island slightly smaller than Maryland and Delaware.

But when it comes to export partners, the US is second to none. Chinese exports to the US are four times the amount of the European Union. Four times the amount of South Korea and twice as much as the Japanese. And we wonder why our cities are in ruins and our industries are collapsing around us. It is a no brainier, while politicians of both parties stand around whistling at the ceiling. But before you think that I’m being xenophobic or protectionist, let me state that I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of American Capitalism.

The American Capitalists weren’t seeking trade, they were seeking an escape from safety and environmental legislation, and if they could get workers that earned fifty cents an hour thrown in, so much the better. It was a return to the good old days of pumping it right into the sky and dumping it straight into the river. To where an injured worker is taken care of by calling out, "Next!"

Now the situation has reached critical mass; the government in China is spending more on security than ever before. The Chinese workers have only seen the upside of capitalism. Recently a toy factory in Beijing went bankrupt; the workers didn’t understand the concept until they discovered that they no longer had jobs and there was no money for back pay. They trashed the place.

The engine of the economy is broken; those with diminished incomes do not participate in the economy. Those with looted pensions don’t buy retirement homes in Florida. They don’t take vacations or go to amusement parks. They don’t buy clothes or cars or tires or gasoline. The numbers of those people are exploding; by some estimates 15.8% are already unemployed or underemployed. It's a dead weight that drags the rest of the economy down with it. Commercial loan defaults are exploding; Blockbuster has one foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel.

The federal government shovels money into the banks trying to create a firebreak, because if the banks collapse, the jig is up. Remember how the Republicans are always talking about how the government really doesn’t have a Social Security trust fund, just a box of IOU’s? Guess what? They really don’t have a trust fund for FDIC either. Had they not found a buyer when Washington Mutual collapsed, the FDIC would have been almost wiped out. Of course they would have just written more checks, but sooner or later it has to stop.

Now the economic slow down on this end of the pipeline has caused massive disruption in China. China will turn out six million college graduates this year and unemployment has doubled. The millions of rural people headed to the cities for a better life find poverty in the city and nothing to go home to. The Chinese economy is the third largest in the world. The G-20 estimates that China will replace the United States as number one in thirty years. Already the Chinese have started to talk about replacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency. Quite a price to pay for cheap crap at Wal-Mart.

This is your future; these are your prospects. China will continue to build coal-fired power plants because they are inexpensive. Our economies are now keyed to cost-shaving, not for improvement. GE is selling nuclear reactors and trusting to the Chinese to handle the waste products. As long as the check clears, right?

The tens of millions of Americans who have lost homes or cars or defaulted on credit cards are out of the credit game for at least seven years and most probably forever. You can’t land a good job without a good credit score, but the lake is fished out. Tens of thousands go to night school to earn masters and doctorate degrees only to find that they’ve priced themselves out of the job market. Just as we’ve all been priced out of the job market. So, we pay less in taxes. We’ve lost our homes so we don’t pay property taxes; we don’t buy tires or gas so we don’t pay excise or highway taxes. In fact, we don’t buy anything except food, so we don’t pay that much in sales taxes.

Then the city, the county and the state must handle a budget shortfall. They begin by cutting school budgets and by laying off employees, which fuels the cycle yet again.

They’ve strangled the golden goose of the American economy all while the American populace cheered and egged them on. "But what," Scrooge asked of the ghost of Christmas future, "are these things that must come to pass?" The answer is, "No, they don't have to." But they are things which will come to pass without a program aimed at educating the government on the second-best use of a lamp post. For most of us prosperity will not return in our lifetime; our future has no future. This is a labor we must do for our children and our planet. It took twenty five years to recover from the last depression where we lost our jobs, and this one is worse because we didn’t lose them, our leaders gave them away in the name of a quick buck.

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I who am I? Born at the pinnacle of American prosperity to parents raised during the last great depression. I was the youngest child of the youngest children born almost between the generations and that in fact clouds and obscures who it is that (more...)

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