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Two tragedies on Obama's lap

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US needs economic enlightenment, not economic “recovery”

We, Americans, not unlike other materialistic societies inhabiting this earth, have for the most part a very narrow focus on the problems we face and an even narrower one on the problems that might sprout beyond our frontiers.  A few tears will be shed this week by those more compassionate in our society for the horrendous catastrophe befallen Haiti, but  rest assured that life will continue on, the major issue of concern in our lives remaining at center stage, and that happens to be: the dismal state of our economy.

In a week or two, after the media has milked dry this human tragedy occurring in the Caribbean, those poor souls living in Western Hispaniola most likely won’t be given a second thought.  Help will be sent initially by much of the world, including this neighbor less than 200 miles to its northwest, but it will be limited; after all, it’s money that the US will have to borrow this year in addition to the $700+ billion dollars needed to conduct two wars… plus a few other empire-building incidentals.  But after the initial phase, this natural disaster will be treated with similar disregard as the many others that happen to be manmade.  And the desperately poor Haitians will be left to fend for themselves, just as those who continue to live in utter despair in “punished Gaza”, or millions victimized by our wars of choice (Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis) and surreptitious ways (Cubans do come to mind); none of these people-issues appear as a major concern to Americans if for no other reason than the purposeful silence imposed by our corporate press.

So the American media, after a slight pause, will return to covering some aspects – definitely not all – that affect changes in the economy.  For the most part, they will continue parroting what politicians and other special interests want Americans to believe: that the recession is over; that our economy is on the mend.  Confidence must reign supreme in order to maintain the capitalist house of cards intact; after all… isn’t “consumer sentiment” supposed to be the most revered leading economic indicator among the sacred ten?        

The recession is over; our economy is on the mend… that’s what we are being told.  But how accurate is that?  Such statement, however well intentioned, couldn’t be any further from the truth!  This recovery, so-called experts say, does not follow the old pattern of putting people back to work.  Who, then, recovers if not the people who suffered most?

Our Washington leeches – whether elected, selected or connected – are telling us that the United States, or rather its economy, is on the path to recovery… except that in the process we may have added a few more million workers to the unemployment rolls.  To either the permanent unemployment or the underemployment rolls!

To this date, most world economists have accepted the idea that under capitalism a certain amount of unemployment is inevitable, the result of the dynamics in the labor market – no “hidden” unemployment such as that which occurs in socialist economies, they will say.  This inevitable unemployment has been known, depending on its origin, by many names: classical, cyclical, frictional and structural.  In the United States we have been living with structural unemployment in the range of 3 to 5 percent for the best part of four decades, a range that we have been taught to accept as a necessary evil, a tribute we must pay for the opportunity to live in a first world nation under the wings of what we inaccurately call free enterprise.

Figures from our government’s “statistical house” indicate there are 15.3 million people jobless, or 10 percent of what is considered the labor force, versus 7.7 million jobless at the start of the recession (end of 2007).  Not “statisticalized,” however, we could have an additional 20 million people suffering from some form of underemployment – not employed at their level of skill or only working part-time – or accountability… simply too discouraged to even seek work.  This calamitous situation is not just a byproduct of the recession but the result of a labor holocaust allowed by unregulated globalization, what might be called grievous “deemployment,” the permanent movement of high skill, highly compensated jobs to developing countries at a speed which played havoc with the proper utilization of existing infrastructure in nations losing those jobs, something rarely touched on in the analyses usually made on the total impact of globalization on mature, industrialized economies.  Bottom line: 2 out of 5 American workers have been affected adversely by this “deemployment,” 1 in a very direct way through either unemployment or underemployment, 1 in an indirect way by not being permitted to share in the benefits of a higher productivity (wage stagnation).     

There is some pseudo-optimism to be sure; what I would call “hopeful daydreaming” by some people – mostly those stuck with overvalued real estate assets, both commercial and residential – of a return to yesteryear where everyone was or could easily become a millionaire under an ongoing government-sanctioned Ponzi scheme.  But at this point, the only thing the American government and the Fed are buying is time… and a miracle by which the American debt which now exists, $12+ trillion, plus another $6-10 trillion which has yet to surface as “overvalue” in real estate and stock market assets, is in some way “absorbed” by the world economies, and the US ends up getting a free ride.  Or, as an option of last resort, the US declares de facto bankruptcy by devaluing the dollar by as much as 70 or 80 percent.

Truth be told, not only are we in a recessionary rot but one of three things could happen that would keep us submerged in a very long and deep depression or, more accurately put, bring us to economic reality.  First; that real estate values find their proper bottom without any intervention by the government… and the continuance of artificial values (still 10 to 30 percent too high, depending on locale). Second; that American consumers become rational in their consuming behavior and start saving, instead of being wasteful.  And third; that the international lenders, most particularly China, come to the realization that their economic relationship with the US has ceased to be symbiotic or necessary, and decide to cut off the money supply, thereby creating an insurmountable debt crisis for this nation.  Any of the three, alone or in combination, can call this government’s bluff on its bet that the recession is over, and that we are marching towards economic resurgence.

President Obama concedes that he hasn’t been able to bring the country together… as if such a possibility ever existed!  He also worries that inflation-adjusted weekly wages for those lucky enough to work fell 1.6 percent last year.  And, most concerning to him, he is beginning to realize that it won’t be the wars in the Middle East or South Asia that might doom his administration… but a sick economy; an economy he inherited from his two, yes two, predecessors.  But instead of accepting and passing out the realities of the US economy to the people, educating them as to where we are, his administration insists on falling in the tradition of Washington politicians, talking recovery, for that’s what they believe people really want.  Recovery: a return to normal times… a normalcy which never existed; one of credit, Ponzi dreams and bubbles.

Now with Haiti front and center, Obama has no alternative but to accept the challenge to America’s role in foreign disaster response.  Hopefully, this president will handle such an enormous challenge with clarity and vision, giving the United States an opportunity to shine.  Unfortunately, his choice of two former presidents to lead the charge, if only in a symbolic way, is a questionable start.  George W. Bush is a war criminal and creator of catastrophes… also tested, with failing results, in a major natural disaster: Katrina.  As for the other figurehead, Bill Clinton, one could easily render him culpable of America’s labor holocaust.  Although 35 million mostly penny-jobs were created during Clinton’s two terms in office, which at that time on the surface made him a hero, there were 10 million dollar-jobs lost and the consequential infrastructure devastation for many of our proud, longstanding middle-class industrial communities… all because of Clinton’s love affair with globalization.

No, it isn’t economic recovery the US needs, only truthful enlightenment as to where the US stands in the world as both a producer and a consumer of its resources.

© 2010 Ben Tanosborn

 


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