Monday, September 29, 2008

On Solutions Offered to Politicians for Averting an Economic Calamity

I feel the need to preface my remarks on solutions to the current economic climate in the United States and which we see beginning to be spread worldwide with the views expressed in "Beckoning Frontiers" (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1951), the memoirs of Marriner S. Eccles, who was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board under Franklin Delano Roosevelt from November 1934 to February of 1948. This information forms the basis for my insight into potential solutions.

As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth -- not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced -- to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation's economic machinery."

Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants. In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.

That is what happened to us in the twenties. We sustained high levels of employment in that period with the aid of an exceptional expansion of debt outside of the banking system. This debt was provided by the large growth of business savings as well as savings by individuals, particularly in the upper-income groups where taxes were relatively low. Private debt outside of the banking system increased about fifty per cent. This debt, which was at high interest rates, largely took the form of mortgage debt on housing, office, and hotel structures, consumer installment debt, brokers' loans, and foreign debt. The stimulation to spending by debt-creation of this sort was short-lived and could not be counted on to sustain high levels of employment for long periods of time. Had there been a better distribution of the current income from the national product -- in other words, had there been less savings by business and the higher-income groups and more income in the lower groups -- we should have had far greater stability in our economy. Had the six billion dollars, for instance, that were loaned by corporations and wealthy individuals for stock-market speculation been distributed to the public as lower prices or higher wages and with less profits to the corporations and the well-to-do, it would have prevented or greatly moderated the economic collapse that began at the end of 1929.

"The time came when there were no more poker chips to be loaned on credit. Debtors thereupon were forced to curtail their consumption in an effort to create a margin that could be applied to the reduction of outstanding debts. This naturally reduced the demand for goods of all kinds and brought on what seemed to be overproduction, but was in reality underconsumption when judged in terms of the real world instead of the money world. This, in turn, brought about a fall in prices and employment.

Unemployment further decreased the consumption of goods, which further increased unemployment, thus closing the circle in a continuing decline of prices. Earnings began to disappear, requiring economies of all kinds in the wages, salaries, and time of those employed. And thus again the vicious circle of deflation was closed until one third of the entire working population was unemployed, with our national income reduced by fifty per cent, and with the aggregate debt burden greater than ever before, not in dollars, but measured by current values and income that represented the ability to pay. Fixed charges, such as taxes, railroad and other utility rates, insurance and interest charges, clung close to the 1929 level and required such a portion of the national income to meet them that the amount left for consumption of goods was not sufficient to support the population.

This then, was my reading of what brought on the depression."

What is it that our government must do to protect and care for the public, its lifestyle, its assets and its economy? What is it that the government even can do to promote the public welfare and insure domestic tranquility? Dare the public allow this lame duck government to take any action?

Well, dare we? The Bush Administration has a history of generating extreme hyperbole in order to scare Congress and the public into accepting his proposals, such as: 1- invading Afghanistan and removing the Taliban in order to target Osama bin Laden, 2- suspending the search for bin Laden to redirect American military designs against Iraq, 3- passage of The Patriot Act, 4- ratcheted-up hostility with Iran, and now, 5- the Wall Street/Banking Industry bailout. He always seems in a hurry when he wants something, such a big hurry that no one has time to figure out what he's really up to. Yet, in a real disaster, like after Hurricane Katrina, all he did was to drag his and the government's feet.

No, every one of the above listed actions, expedited at Bush's insistence (because “our way of life” depended upon our immediate action), inured to the benefit of Bush, the corporate cronies of Bush and members of his Administration, and Bush's and the neocon's political, economic and foreign agendas. In this light, knowing the history of the Administration to frighten others into accepting the neocon agenda without proper debate and consideration, one wonders at the wisdom in accepting his sudden predictions of economic disaster. It is even entirely possible that a crisis has been invented as a means of trying to prompt the public to back McCain in the election. However, taking the collapsing credit climate as real and Bush as being honest in this instance, that places the whole economic system built upon American Capitalism as being at risk for collapse in the same way Soviet Communism collapsed 20 years ago. Every politician in this country has a personal stake in maintaining, not just Capitalism, but the current state of it, including preserving the current manner and degree in which wealth is distributed. Their positions of economic privilege, social status and political power all depend on keeping everything about the economy, including the positions, wealth and status of their corporate benefactors, just as it is. Consequently, the only ideas which will arise from those politicians will incorporate funding bailouts for the corporations, banks and/or industries whose poor decisions and unethical business practices fueled the greed which gave rise to the economic upheaval facing everyone today.

Before engaging upon an analysis of what can or should be done, one must first arrive at a comprehensive overview of what the problems facing the economy are, how they arose, how they will impact individuals, and what kinds of impacts we can accept versus what kind of impacts remain intolerable.

What happened? Like the lead up to The Great Depression, money was loose, credit easy, investments pervasive throughout the social strata. The finance industry was largely unregulated. The middle class appeared drunk off its growing affluence. People who really didn't have enough discretionary income lodged too great a percentage of their savings into stocks and bonds. Banks and businesses fueled their ever-growing market shares and ever-rising profit margins with deficit spending and a network of loans.

Prior to the market collapse in 1929, the banking sector found itself poised on a precipice of worry. Credit began to tighten because banks had accumulated too many questionable items in their portfolios. The Germans could not meet their payments to the Allies for WWI reparations. When the Germans defaulted on their debts, the Allies found their ability to pay their international debts infringed upon. Banks' incomes shrank as debtors took out new loans just to make the payments on old debts. Even into 1930, credit continued to be available, though its availability increasingly shrank.

One can see the mortgage industry crisis plays a role in the contemporary economic decline in the same way the German inability to promptly pay war reparations in the ‘20s assisted in the failure of banks in the ‘30s. However, the real nature of the problem goes much deeper. The real nature of the economic crisis lies in three areas no politician wants to raise or address. Those areas are deficit spending by governments, un-tempered government spending in the military-industrial complex, and the heavy expenditures arising from international, military conflicts.

Deficit spending is the blank check every politician writes when entering political office. Deficit spending fuels whimsy, whim, science and art, corporate bloat, influence, greed, pollution, corruption and war. Deficit spending binds future taxpayers to an agreement to make payments on loans they did not take out and from which never derived any benefit. As such, it is taxation without representation and a form of involuntary servitude. Deficit spending eats away at any real wealth which might be accumulated in the payment of interest on the principle and the constant pressure of a principle which never seems to go away because, at best, all the governments can do is meet the payment due for the interest on the debts.

The size of the contemporary global economy is astronomically huge. Even the size of the American economy is larger than one can concretely fathom. The modest amount of loan failures arising from immoral and unethical mortgage lending practices, which practices were not industry wide by any remote stretch of the imagination, do not total enough bad debt to undermine either American or world financial institutions. Even by factoring in the degree of bad consumer credit card debt, one cannot arrive at a sufficient amount of debt to send the American banks into industry-wide failure.

The kind of scope necessary to send the banking industry reeling can be revealed by the size of the American national debt. The United States has been borrowing from China since initiating the war in Iraq. The Bush administered American government never saw fit to pay for the war as it was prosecuted. We've gone into debt to the tune of about $500 billion to China at a time when we have spent only about $100 billion more than that on the war. By investing America's heritage and collective estate in producing instruments of killing and the actual killing of others in foreign lands as well as focusing so much of our economy on the illusory financial growth based on paper and services (interest, capital gains, banking, lending, and other service oriented, non-product producing businesses and industries) but never focused on products, we have, as a culture, built Reagan's shining example to the world of affluence and opportunity upon a foundation of quicksand.

The real crisis facing our financial community lies with too many lenders feeling the crunch from consumer defaults in a climate of fear based on the worry that the American government will not be able to continue to make its payments on its overwhelming debt. Simultaneously, the weakening American economy results in a weakened value of the dollar. The dollar is under daily attack by Iran, Venezuela and other oil producing nations through oil price fluctuations (no doubt in response to American treatment of these nations in world affairs).

So, what can the government do? The American economy keeps sliding because the American public is under-employed and underpaid. Consequently, the traditional consumer has such a reduced ability to spend that corporations' incomes dwindle. As business profits shrink, corporations' abilities to pay their business loans suffer, resulting in two consequences: prices for goods and services increase at the same times jobs are cutback, in other words, stagflation, otherwise known by the near impossibility of economic inflation amid an economic recession.

Governments have tended to throw money at such a situation, reducing interest rates and/or infusing additional cash into the economy. However, low interest rates and easy credit fueled this mess. Watering down the economy with additional cash at this moment would only serve to further deflate the value of the dollar. In the present instance, politicians want to throw money at the very people who created the problems and hope they will fix the mess. How very unlikely a result that promises to be.

Politicians are very aware of the need to keep credit fluid. The availability of cash fuels their election campaigns, pays their salaries, and sends them around the world on first class excursions. The availability of cash (primarily on credit) funds investments in local economies, and pays for the instruments of war politicians find so necessary to wield. Additionally, lobbyists and corporate officers are certain to share reminders to those politicians concerning who funds their campaigns, inferring whose needs must be promoted. These influences along with the desire to be re-elected and fear of the likely world war which would result from a collapse of the world's finances, are the reasons why politicians want to fund a bailout of the financial district.

But, remember what Marriner S. Eccles said when you listen to politicians talk about bailing out Wall Street. He determined from reflection upon the events leading up to and during The Great Depression, "Had there been a better distribution of the current income from the national product -- in other words, had there been less savings by business and the higher-income groups and more income in the lower groups -- we should have had far greater stability in our economy. Had the six billion dollars, for instance, that were loaned by corporations and wealthy individuals for stock-market speculation been distributed to the public as lower prices or higher wages and with less profits to the corporations and the well-to-do, it would have prevented or greatly moderated the economic collapse that began at the end of 1929." This is the lesson of history which the present needs to understand so a contemporary plan can be put into action and a crisis averted.

Marriner Eccles is calling to us from his grave, begging us not to hand out billions of dollars to corporations because that didn’t work in his day and it won’t work in ours. No, he’s begging us to give the money to the consumer so the consumer can consume. Through consumption of real products, businesses will find solvency, and the businesses who do find solvency will be the ones who deserve to succeed and prosper on into the future. Those businesses will then be able to hire additional personnel to meet the market needs of the demand for product. It is demand for product which fuels economies, not the superfluous fat of a bloated supply.

In the meantime, to assist the recovery, the government can do what FDR did, that is put Americans to work pursuing public works projects which address real national needs. The government can also proactively assist recovery by investing in the product producing businesses of tomorrow, providing them with the means to develop assembly lines and mass-production facilities for those products of tomorrow based on sound, ecological models. That will put people to work, again increasing the consumers’ ability to consume. Only by efficiently putting the capital in the hands of the consumers can the government avert what Eccles so wisely termed the American economy’s “underconsumption” as being the real problem during the Great Depression, and which threatens us again in 2009 and beyond.

There is a secondary stimulus which the government must not be afraid to broach. The entire world must admit that the whole concept of a continually growing economy in concert with the growth of individual wealth threaten to destroy our climate, and any economy that might exist right along with it. However, as we transition from the contemporary conditions to a new world, we must recognize the need to also convert our energy sources as we fit our lifestyles into nature rather than attempting to dominate nature.

Consequently, the government should employ the nation in a meaningful way. The government should employ people in public works projects, rebuilding the nation’s cities into living communities, incorporating the concepts of Arcosanti developed by Paolo Soleri as well as the latest in solar paneling, indoor paneling to recycle indoor light and incorporating the most effective batteries. People do not need to live on the electrical grid, and are wasting thousands of dollars per year on electric bills.

The government could stimulate the economy of the future, for instance, by paying to retrofit all our buildings with the best solar panels available. The factories needed to mass produce them together with the installation force necessary to accomplish the retrofitting will create a huge new economy, infuse the public with discretionary income which can be allocated to purchasing other products - all at the same time as we cut our energy consumption, reduce the cost of living and actually do something to begin averting the worst effects climate change could bring. What I am suggesting is for today’s government to utilize the ideas behind FDR programs like the TVA and Hoover Dam, and apply them in a much grander scale, nationally. Yes, there is a degree of socialism involved in this approach. It's the only way through the economic mine field we face. However, another step should also be incorporated. That is to deflate the prices for goods and services while increasing the employment rate. Again, deflating the costs places greater opportunity for consumers to consume. Making sure there are enough employed consumers is the key to increasing corporate profits in a manageable manner, one that can be sustained.

Raising the Federal insurance on bank deposits from $100,000 to $250,000 is straight out of the S&L bailout. That led to the governmental indifference for carrying through with oversight of financial industry regulations. The consequence was even more massive S&L failures in the ‘80s. We've agreed to this in the new Wall Street bailout. Given the sudden consolidation of banks currently occurring as so many fail and have their assets purchased by other banks, when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson fails to fully investigate and enforce regulations due to reduced concern given the rise in insurance, nearly every bank in the country left will fail, just like during The Great Depression. Meanwhile, the solvent banks left will possess monopolies on the market and will be able to dictate all future economic conditions. Nothing would be less wise for the American economy.

Economies should be brought into more localized units, something which must occur because shipping of products all over the world cannot continue unabated without exacerbating the effects of climate change. These kinds of alterations in lifestyle must be made anyway, in the long run, and the sooner we agree to initiate the changes, the longer all our planet's resources will last. At the same time, we can employ the vast majority of people in the country in conversion projects, retrofitting, building new, modern, ecologically oriented communities, and through the process of producing locally for local consumption, now at a time when people need employment so desperately. In this way, poverty, hunger and homelessness can be averted. It is through this multifaceted approach to wise investment and prudent public works, and reorganizing the economy to shine as a model for all other nations as we all move towards the future and sustainability rather than cling to the past and certain Climate Change induced doom which the government not only must make and ought to feel morally obligated to make, but which history's lesson from The Great Depression educates us as being the only rational choice. In the present instance, give the public the bailout money, stop wasting exorbitant sums and precious human life in the war, and use tax income to employ the nation in industries which will survive long into the future as we all invest in our own mutual survival, a harmonious world thriving into the tomorrow’s world.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Like Dandelion Clocks

Around how many corners lurking on sanity's fringe
can asphalt stretch out in a postmodern mosaic wasteland?
Crumbling concrete edifices gulped up by the wind
sacrifice immortality to arrogant, rigid uncertainty.

A plotting cabal brews up a cannibalistic aroma.

I don't want no
hangin' judge
elected President

Hand me that red bandanna -
please -
it has Che's face-print
still on it.

Machiavelli lives,
The Prince's rank
fallen to mere Republican.

George Bush plays checkers,
he loves to say, "King me."
John McCain plays Risk,
conquest's game: world domination.

I keep slipping off
to 1971, driving along
PCH at midnight,
radio blaring
All Things Must Pass;
slipping off
to 1972, sitting-in
the ROTC building;
slipping off
to my Venice Beach
open door policy:
walk-ins welcome
to '71 freaks.

Slipping off
seems more real.

Liquid castles frozen
in time clutch aspiration
right out of the sky
only to drift
like dandelion

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Process Based Approach to Life

There are two basic ways to approach discovering one's value in the world. One may determine one's value from viewing the ends derived from one's striving. Another individual's satisfaction might arise from viewing life as a process, as one long continuous event offering enriching experience and occasionally provoking profound insight.

Most Western societies and cultures impress upon individual members the paradigm that justification is only, and always, found by assessing end results. Parents want to know what final grade their child earned in their classes, not how much knowledge was gained and retained. In business, the main concern revolves around the bottom line, not product or service quality, and certainly not the necessity or real value a product or service offers the world. Social status accrues from the degree to which one can ostentatiously display one's ability to both earn and spend. Even the two religions which predominantly influence the West, Judaism and Christianity, teach that an individual's right of entry into heaven is a determination made by tallying up the deeds of one's life. This essential pattern, tattooed upon our minds from infancy, that worth is arrived upon by determining a hypothetical end value, is what seduces people into adopting the immoral position of "the ends justify the means."

The problem with this approach lies in the acceptance of the fallacy that ends ever exist. There is never an instant during which humans can live which any human could properly term a finality or end. There are only instants which transition into new instants which transition... and so on. Not Greek, not Roman, not Mongol, not English, nor Russian Empire, not Communism nor Capitalism, neither Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam nor Judaism; no, no empire or system has ever proven to offer the final answer. No utopias have ever arisen.

As we see, there are only transitions, and each yields a cycle of events. Cycles of love and hate, kindness and cruelty, honesty and greed; yes all kinds of cycles are the games people play to make economies and governments necessary. Governments assert their authority, purportedly in an attempt to regulate behavior in a nation, but really design to do no more than punish bohemians, individualists and non-conformists, beating them into submitting to the social order government enforces. But change is the order of the universe, change amid adaptation to changing conditions and the essential elements of Hegel's dialectic, all of which describe the way the universe and life on our planet thrive.

Viewed from this perspective, one can see that life is a process. Redemption is constantly reassessed in every action, deed and omission. When life is lived as a constant and continuous process, the illusion that any end result one might arrive upon which can be used to assert legitimacy for the life lived dissolves like photons in light waves. Thus, one is constantly forced to prove one's worth over and over again, in every deed. Each moment throughout the long process determines ultimate worth fluidly from moment to moment, breath to breath, deed to deed, thought to thought.

There is more to life than simply living a moral, kind and altruistic life. However, we need not succumb to banal opulence and the narcissistic accumulation of wealth as providing the test of worth. The value in developing a discerning world view which both informs individuality with the values useful to making proper judgments and incites the personality to assert the talents inherent within the individual lies in the Janus-faced dilemma, the balance between the yearning for self-expression, discovery and pleasure and the necessity of maintaining a modest appetite, a sound ecology, and understanding one’s place is in nature, not apart from it. Living in and with nature, we will find a more enduring pleasure than that offered by the glittery intransigence of bank account balances built on loans and paper investments. Nature offers a real world to engage. Thoreau and Emerson will lament the loss of their beloved Walden to the ravages of climate change. Whitman weeps at the changing American spirit, so divorced from the splendor which is our bounty it pollutes and destroys nature while being infused with an indifference and unwillingness to admit responsibility for anything. Jefferson and Lincoln lie in their graves speechlessly, rendered silent by the publics' inability to rise up in its own self interest and demand government be responsive to the needs of the individual. However, the saddest commentary is that our grandchildren will suffer a far reduced quality of life because of the wasteland we will bequeath to them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

American Economic Decline - Stop the Bailout

American Capitalism, like Soviet Communism 20 years ago, feels its own strangling fingers gripping the necks of everyone within its sphere of influence. Like the U.S., the Soviets survived the Great Depression. Actually, because the Soviet economy was rooted in governmentally predetermined Five Year Plans, the Soviet economy grew, not shrank, during the Great Depression, and the industrialization of Russia moved faster than anyone could have imagined. Meanwhile, the American dust bowl stirred up boxcar loads of migrant workers unable to feed themselves.

What killed the Soviet Union was the collapse of its economy. For too many years the Soviet government invested exorbitant sums in its military-industrial complex, furiously struggling with the United States in arms and space races neither could afford. When a nation's investment is nearly entirely vested in instruments of death, the needs of the public will always remain underfunded and unmet. As the economy collapsed and the Soviet public found access to services and goods severely restricted, the human mass arose in self interest, wresting power from Communist control.

Another antecedent, an edifying event, exists comparable to the current state of the stock market and capitalism's current, but sudden and dramatic, global economic downturn. One can see similar conditions existed after the crash in 1929. The market crashed resulting from a domino-like failure of banks. Those bank failures occurred because the Treaty of Versailles imposed punitive war reparations upon the Germans following WWI. The Germans could not pay the debts, meaning other nations could not pay their debts, and soon banks failed worldwide.
Prior to the 1929 bank failures in the United States, the wealthy elite encouraged speculation in the market. They played the average investor into over investing, creating an epidemic of greed. The biggest corporations and wealthiest individuals survived the disaster because they saw calamity coming and sold high, starting the run which led to the crash. This climate in the investment profession, arising because greed was allowed to reign un-reined, rewarded the wealthy and punished everyone else. Regulation's necessity was obviated by the circumstances of the crash. Capitalism and the "free marketplace" had to be reined-in with consumer and public needs protected by regulations and oversight.

In order to provide the most basic, humanitarian relief to the unemployed public, FDR and Congress found their only recourse lay in introducing modest encroachments of socialism. These encroachments included government programs designed to help feed and house the poor. However, like the Soviet Union, FDR found the best avenue to guaranteeing more universal employment lay in government funded projects like the TVA and Hoover Dam, where the U.S. became an employer and a planner of economic activity in similar ways as did the Soviet Union at the same time, though to a far reduced degree of influence and authority. In this way, FDR helped put some Americans back to work while advancing genuine domestic interests.

The current stock market collapse might best be considered within the framework of a much broader set of influencing factors than pundits and talking heads on television currently offer.

1- For far too long, the American economy has been dominated by the concerns of the military-industrial complex. The underfunding for (and consequent continual erosion in the quality of) schools, hospitals, health care, road construction, research into alternative energy sources and maintenance of infrastructure, reveals the devaluation of the individual's quality of life as its consequence. One economic factor which arose can be seen in the reduced availability of funds for minorities and the economically disadvantaged, another in reduced government assistance for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses.

2- Deregulation of industries like banking, securities and real estate gave greed a green light to repeat the mistakes of previous eras. Regulations had been enacted to protect the public from the kinds of calamities we currently endure. Politicians are funded by lobbyists to promote the policies most beneficial to multinational corporations and super wealthy individuals. Those politicians, promoting the agenda of those lobbyists and their employers, re-framed the public perception of self-interest away from protecting the public from corporate greed into a view that removing the restrictions of rules means a level playing field. Nothing could be further from reality. In a deregulated economy, the biggest bullies have all the advantages and Republican economic ideas with and since Ronald Reagan have done nothing but provoke the cannibalistic feeding frenzy from the voodoo economics still practiced by the Bush Administration and promoted by the Republican Party. Past scandals like the S&L bailout in the late '80s and the associated Keating 5 scandal and conviction, in conjunction with the ENRON mess and the dearth of ethics in Washington should have served as sufficient warning that the entire network of our financial interests and businesses were potentially at risk and that more regulation, not less (as John McCain has promoted over and over again with his voodoo economics supporting, Republican cronies) was required.

3- The American economy is more myth and sleight of hand now than concrete entity. There was a time when the GDP measured the Gross Domestic Product of a nation. That economic indicator at least attempted to measure the actual purchasable products made by a national economic unit. However, today it denotes Gross Domestic Profits. As an indicator, it measures very little which is tangible.

Once, the American economic machine was the world's foremost producer of post-WWII industrial and manufactured goods. The GDP was our indicator of our earnings in the world's marketplace from goods sold worldwide. The economy and the worker were strong because of the necessary relationship between a corporation's need for workers to produce products and that corporation's ability to compete on the world stage. Today's corporations are not vested in the workers of any nation. Corporations' strength was once vested in the American workers' ability to out-perform any other nation. Now, corporations are only interested in finding the least expensive labor force. The global economy gives multinational corporations a monopoly on the current economy, all of which is precariously balanced on the scales of international debt.

Furthermore, today's American economic interests are mostly vested in services such as the insurance, banking, medical and legal professions, as opposed to making products. Economists do not bother to determine how much of our economy derives from the making of actual products, how much derives from the transportation of products to markets, and how much is just pure paper. They have created the GDP, as in Gross Domestic Profit to hide from the public that a truly viable American economy no longer exists.

Consider the size of the national debt, the pervasive accumulation of individual debt, and that nearly every business in the United States is cash poor and continues to operate because of business loans, government subsidies, grants and credit card debt. In the current climate of rampant banking institution failures, every business in the world will be affected negatively as profits decrease. As profits shrink, jobs will be cut. As jobs are cut, fewer consumers have funds with which to purchase goods and services. A cycle of economic futility and disaster winds into inactivity, and the economy will spiral downward out of control, just like after the 1929 crash.

4- The global economy is a pipe dream of multinational corporations and super wealthy individuals designed to centralize all wealth into their accounts and which is doomed because it, and every economic factor currently affecting our world, cannot continue long into the future. Fundamentally, the global economy is based on the idea that goods can and will be produced anywhere they can be produced (economists and pundits fail to mention the additional codicil - with the least expenditure of costs) and shipped to the rest of the world's markets for delivery to "hungry consumers." The entire idea runs right into the face of climate change. We cannot keep shipping vast networks of product all over the world with dwindling oil reserves because we will run out of oil and we must also factor in that the continued level of usage of fossil fuels will destroy the viability of the climate and our habitat. All this shipping has to stop. That means every locality must learn to produce all its needs locally, including food. Common sense dictates this, yet few perceive the immediacy needed to convert to locality-based economics.

5- Corporate growth impinges its necessity upon capitalist dogma. The global economy cannot keep expanding. Market shares within the global economy cannot keep expanding, either. This planet is finite place, with finite area and finite resources. The more rapidly we use those resources, the more quickly our offspring will arrive at a time when those resources will start to dwindle (consequently encroaching on their quality of life). Eventually, the resources will disappear, right along with their quality of life. Furthermore, as we voraciously consume today, we alter the climate, poison the seas, dry up the last remaining glaciers (the source for nearly all drinking water on the planet), pollute the environment and undermine the viability of the entire planetary ecosystem which is an interdependent and interconnected, cohesive whole.

6- All political interest and economic aid is aimed at propping up businesses and industries which cannot, and will not, last long into the future. This is a time when science informs us on a daily basis of additional indicators that climate change is speeding up and becoming not only a certainty, but more certainly of greater intensity and duration as each day we add to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It has come to light that the warming trend our planet is enduring has already caused warming during the period between 2005 and 2008 to a degree which scientists had not anticipated occurring until 2070. Our leaders do nothing to correct our course, change the focus of the public, draw down both the demand for products and the demand for accumulation of wealth, convert to clean energy sources, provide clean fueled and accessible mass transit for every large city, or devise and invent economic models which can be viable into the future.

Because power vests in the wealthy, the wealthy determine the ethos of society and the political agenda of the government. Both are funneled in the direction of maintaining the status quo and increasing the wealth of the already wealthy. What is becoming more apparent is that multinationals can see the end of their day coming, so they apply courses designed to drain the economy (read, you and I and every other worker/consumer) of every last penny possible as a hedge against an uncertain future.

Clearly, all government bailouts are designed to protect the currently existing (failed and failing) corporations and preserving dinosaur industries which have no viable futures in a world of scaled-down production to avert excessive carbon emissions, and scaled-down shipping to facilitate additional carbon emission reductions. This is the case because these are the people who use lobbyists to grease politicians' votes and whose campaign donations get politicians elected. Economic bailouts only postpone the inevitability of those companies' demise while simultaneously saddling future generations with tax burdens, the payment of which will never result in the accrual of any benefits to those future taxpayers. Consequently, there exists no moral right to saddle future taxpayers with the debt from this bailout.

7- Nearly all economic units operate in debt. The payment of interest on debt is counterproductive to facilitating the allocation of future sums for research and development. All that happens is each new generation marches off in search of more and more zeros after a one (thousand, ten-thousand, hundred-thousand, million, billion), and unfortunately, they cannot see that all those additional zeros just add up to nothing, nothing except more waste, more pollution, more disease and illness, more suffering, more poverty and more war, all the result of more greed.

8- Overpopulation continues unabated. We cannot now adequately feed, house, clothe, care for medically or employ the roughly six and three-quarter billion people currently on the planet. The huge mass of us drain the earth of its resources. We cannot continue to grow our numbers (which is required under current economic theories in order to perpetuate corporate growth and national economic growth) and survive. More and more people means more and more waste, pollution, war, famine, climate change, poverty and misery.

If the voting public of this nation allows Congress and the President to walk arm and arm into the banking industry bailout, that public is dooming itself to a fate worse than what was experienced during the Great Depression. Those banks are still going under; this plan may delay the outcome for another few months to a few years, but it does nothing to reverse any of the negative trends, nor any of the underlying causes. In the meantime, the "bailout" will rob the public of the funds necessary to insure the maintenance of a reasonable quality of life. The government will use your tax dollars to save the bank accounts of their cronies by buying the homes of the people who no longer could afford those homes because of the banks unethical and immoral business practices which exist to promote corporate greed and/or because those individuals lost their jobs due to corporate downsizing, fueled by the same corporate greed.

This plan is just a band-aid for the wealthy while everyone else runs off to the blood bank to donate. You cannot cure a disease with a band-aid and you cannot reverse an economic downturn by treating symptoms of the problem instead of addressing the actual problems. Republicans have told the public innumerable times that the free marketplace will always correct itself. Yet, in the instances when their cronies' finances have been at risk over the last 20 years, they have taken steps to save failing corporations from airlines to steel companies to automakers and on and on. Clearly, their hypocrisy is financially motivated. Let the failures fail.
What the government owes the public is not to save the banks and lending institutions. What the government owes the public is to protect a reasonable standard of living. We stand at a crossroads, not only for our economy but also for our environment. A saner path actually presents itself, but no one seems to see it.

As millions of people sit idle, unemployed, we do nothing to convert our power needs to clean sources. Proper solar paneling a home enables most homeowners the ability to get off the grid. With gas prices soaring and carbon emissions strangling the atmosphere, a real need presents itself for cities to provide clean powered, efficient, mass transit. We funnel almost $100 billion a year into a war in Iraq, while our schools, hospitals, roads, water, health and welfare systems all remain, more than underfunded, nearly unfunded.

Rather than bailout the banks, investment firms and corporate giants, the government should pull out of Iraq, devise plans to "Re-Green America" by investing in modernizing infrastructure, incorporating the latest strategies in energy conservation and recycling as well as solar and wind power, employ the public in mass transit projects and power conversion remodeling and retrofitting projects, encourage more commerce to reflect a "produce and consume locally" ethos to replace the failed global design so we can cut superfluous emissions along with transportation costs and employ people locally to produce their own needs. In a "local-focused" (as opposed to global-focused) economy, no individual's labors can be spared, so everyone is employed in the cooperative effort involved in a communities' thriving.

In a cooperative local-focused effort, loans will become unnecessary. In a world with scaled-down appetites to accommodate the need to abate the effects of the coming climate change and co-exist responsibly with nature in the future, credit and banks and finance lose their importance. The world must learn that the illusion, this paper economy based on moving numbers through account columns, even the silly concept called money, cannot buy security after all. What I am suggesting is that the government must invest the American publics' tax money in the American public. I am opposed to re-investing it in the greediest men in our nation who allowed their greed to destroy our economy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Opening Thoughts - "Naked to All Eyes" and "Savoring Tomorrow's Flavor"

Conventional wisdom suggests: "To guarantee the security and the viability of a nation, culture or society requires the presence of both fighters and artists." The inherent problem with the assertion lies in the paradox: if there were no fighters anywhere, there would be no need for fighters whatsoever. Actually, to correct conventional wisdom, one should assert a different version of the statement: "To guarantee the security and viability of all nations, cultures and societies requires the absence of fighters everywhere and the presence of artists anywhere."

Naked to All Eyes

sift through the grist
discarded shards:
the broken glass slivers
dusty mental mementos
crackling in the fireplace
next to a creaking rocking chair
only ever slightly muffled
by the hand-woven, wool rug,
faded spectra:
bleached out pastel tones;
see if the singular moment
"I am" stands before the mirror
disrobing in the moonlight
until naked to all eyes.

Love is the most universal of all the guiding principles by which one can lead one's life. Respect is the first prerequisite of Love. Peace is the only way mutual Respect is shared. A Life well lived, in joyous harmony, is the consequence!

Savoring Tomorrow's Flavor

Savoring tomorrow's flavor,
he hears the nitty-gritty low down
in your Aphroditic hours, with fantasies -
gliding on updrafts of your pleasure.
Rolling, he slips down the slopes
of your laughter.
And he grins, simply
knowing you. He suddenly awakens
from precognitive,
but always elusive, memories.

"Military intelligence is to intelligence what military music is to music." - Groucho Marx