Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Economy

The headline was frightful: Job losses in 2008 hit 2.6 million people. That’s nearly 7% of the population. As I walked back from by mailbox in the coldness of the morning, all I could think of was all those people facing an uncertain future in the middle of a brutally cold winter with utility, water, and gas companies raising rates. I wondered if there were be tax revolts. Even garbage companies were passing on the costs of doing business by making their customers pay for their gas. That’s not right. Who do I charge for my gas? My employer? I thought too of all those people who had been working part time through the holidays, who weren’t included in those numbers, but who are shortly to become part of the next quarter’s statistics. There’s just something about a human life being reduced to a mere “statistic” that seems so, well, dehumanizing. What are they going to do? I couldn’t help but reflect on the millions of jobs which were exported overseas, under the auspices of NAFTA, but always for the sake of the additional profit the company would make a the expense of someone’s livelihood and the millions of dollars some corporate executive enjoyed. And now that many have criminally mismanaged their companies, they have turned to Washington for “handouts” in the billions of dollars from the very same people who have been denied jobs, pensions, and healthcare---you and me. Napoleon once said that religion was the only thing which kept the poor from murdering the rich. Perhaps it is well that people turn to religion during times like these. Religion is indeed the “opiate of the masses”.

Words like “greed” and “audacity” really don’t quite express my disgust for these corporate execs, or for the members of Congress who gave them the money over the objections of the American People. And when asked what they were doing with money, they’ve told Congress it was none of their business. It seems that in the hurry to curry favor with their corporate masters, Congress neglected to include language which would require these “billionaire paupers” to disclose how the money was being spent. Now, we’re hearing that the retail, auto, and airline industries are wanting to be bailed out, and yet who is going to bail out the 2.6 million souls facing sudden poverty—and for many, through no or little fault of their own? Who watches over them? Which member of Congress is going to tell seniors to suck it up and put on another sweater because heating assistance is being cut? Which on of them will decide for seniors which prescription to fill and which meal to skip since many can no longer afford to both? Who among them is going to look in a child’s eyes and tell them there’s nothing to eat today or explain what a shelter is since mommy and daddy no longer have a house for them to live in?

I thought of those who still have jobs. They too are casualties of this economic disaster. How so? While they have jobs, many are faced with short term layoffs without pay; shorter hours; pay cuts; and the loss of healthcare (again, I’m reminded of the children). Then there is the added stress of simply not knowing. Will they have a job tomorrow? How about next week? And what about the added pressure of being required to do more work? Some, though not all, employers are taking advantage of the current economic conditions to load up on workers. I can envision turning on the evening news one day soon and watching a report of how someone simply “snapped” and killed their wife and family, or maybe their co-workers. There would of course be all those who would come forward and tell the camera of how “so and so” just wasn’t that kind of person or how they knew “something” was wrong. I wondered too how much more people could…would…take; when would we say “enough”? Or perhaps we did by electing Obama, but will that alone be enough?

So much is riding on Obama that he dare not fail. I didn’t vote for him for any other reason than his lack of experience. The presidency was never my idea for on-the-job training. But I am encouraged by his energy. The pressures facing him are almost unimaginable. Privately, I bet John McCain has thanked his Maker a thousand times over for not winning the election. I am encouraged by the American People, for whom I have tremendous respect. We are an amazingly resilient people. We seem to have collectively acknowledged that we’re in “deep do-do” and the only way out of this is by coming together, and we did this without Washington or the Media thank you very much. I hope too that this translates into more tolerance and compassion, especially for more vulnerable among us, namely our seniors, the handicapped, and most of all, the children.

I walked back into my house, thankful it was still “my” house…for now, and deposited the newspaper, which too has cut back on its content while not changing its price, on the kitchen table. The news I thought to myself was as numbing as the cold, but it was time for me to shuffle off to work. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if today would be “my” day as it was for all those others who shuffled off to work for the final time. But then, perhaps not.

GOP: Future Denied?
Before reading any further, I suggest you check out the following article which recently appeared the Courier Journal:

Click here: courier-journal | Louisville Opinion | The Courier-Journal

The tiny Republican minority (approximately 10%) mentioned in this article, namely the moderates and liberals (which constitutes about 1% of the party) are systemically being purged the GOP. However, it was this very group which dominated national politics since the creation of the Grand Old Party. Its leaders have included Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George H. Bush. Some would include Barry Goldwater, who, although was the “father of conservatism”, is considered a “moderate” by modern standards.

These leaders were responsible for some of the most progressive legislation of their generation, such as pro-labor laws, laying the foundation for the Civil Rights movement, creating national parks and protecting our wetlands, as well as creating agencies to protect workers and the environment. Yet, despite their rapidly declining numbers, many in the Republican Party are trying to blame them for the electoral recent losses. Based on numerous recent articles I’ve read from conservative and Republican websites, the move is on to move the GOP further to Right in more to create a more ideological “pure” party.

Specifically, their objective to bring together the remnants of the “Moral Majority”, the Christian Fundamentalists, Reagan Republicans, along with single issues groups such as the anti-gay and pro-life camps to create a neo-theocratic party while kicking out the so-called heretical moderates and liberals from the party. While they claim the moderates somehow “hijacked” the party, it is interesting to note that many of the party’s core, namely the libertarians, “freedom movement”, state’s rights, and Constitutionalists have long abandoned the GOP, or to put it more accurately, was pressured out of the GOP. In fact, most of the children from the illustrious gentlemen above have left the party; if not in name, at least in their support.

Life seems to move in cycles, whether it’s our physical lives or the economy. Politics is no different. Historically, we seem to swing or shift from the Left to the Right and back again roughly every 30 years. Many, if not most sociologists and political scientists are now saying we are shifting from the Right which reached its high water mark under Reagan and now we're beginning swing to the Left. Instead of embracing and encouraging a return to the fold, the GOP leadership is trying to circle it wagons, but not from the Democrats. Rather, from its core that brought it so much success over the years. Given the current swing by the voting public away from the conservative agendas of the likes of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, or Anne Coulter, this may prove to be the undoing of the Republican Party as a major national player. In fact, I would even suggest that by the time we begin to shift back to the Right, there may well be a third party capable of the absorbing the center right, which at this point has to either gravitate to the Democratic Party; join one of the many growing third parties; or become a member of the rapidly increasing Independent movement.

Maybe this is as it should be. After all, the Republican Party came together essentially as third party from the remnants of the Whigs and several other smaller parties and interests groups such as the “Know-Nothing” movement, Free-Soil Party, and the abolitionists. Perhaps then its future should follow the same course of breakup and realignment into something which reflects the current needs of the American People.

The Radical Center

I would like to take a moment to thank Mark Satin, editor of the Radical Center (http://www.radicalmiddle.com/x_vision2009.htm) for a great run. Mark is great author and spokesperson for those of us who are “independently” minded. Mark also named Another Opinion as one of the top 25 radcial center blogs in America. After several years, Mark is hanging it up. Mark’s insights will be greatly missed.

Book Review

Of all the dangers facing us as a nation, be it the indiscriminate murderers of radical Islam, the economic meltdown, global warming, famine, global pandemics, perhaps none are such an immediate threat to us as Hugo Chavez, the president and dictator of Venezuela. Chavez has the ways and means through the national oil company, CITCO, to inflict damage on the American economy in ways Bin Laden. Kim and Ahmadinejad can only dream about. He has challenged US interests at every step, including supporting drug cartels, narcoterrorists, and acting as a conduit for our enemies, including providing a “training base” for the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah in Venezuela. At the same time, Chavez has worked hard, using his deep pockets of petrodollars to “buy friends and influence nations” while striving to assume the mantle of his childhood hero, Fidel Castro.

Nowhere better is the story of Hugo Chavez lay bare than in “The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America” by Douglas E. Schoen and Michael Bowen. The authors, both highly versed in international intrigue, have written a finely detailed description of Chavez’s childhood and rise to power through corruption, intimidation, and blind luck and know better than anyone what his intentions toward the West are. Like another dictator, Adolf Hitler, Hugo Chavez has never hidden his hatred for democracy, be it in the West or the US in particular. With his deep seated ambition to dominate the Western Hemisphere, Chavez uses CITCO as his weapon of choice rather than bombs. The chief difference between Chavez and his predecessors, as the authors point out, are vast oil reserves at his disposal and our near total dependence of foreign oil. If Hitler, Stalin, or Castro had a “CITCO” at their disposal, the world would be a very different place today.

If you want to know more about this powerful, but rarely reported on enemy of democracy, or if you simply have an interest in geopolitics, I urge to read “The Threat Closer to Home” by Douglas E. Schoen and Michael Bowen. It will be eye opening.

Poll Results

The last time I asked you two questions. The first was who you thought was responsible for the economic crisis. The second was did the economic crisis occur. In response to the first question, 41% of you said that Bush, Congress, Wall Street and both political parties were responsible. 25% of you thought it was mainly Bush and Republicans while 25% thought it was the Democrats. Isn’t that interesting? The rest of you thought the culprit was either Congress or none of the above.

In response to the second question, 42% of you thought the reason for the economic crisis was a lack of government oversight while 30% thought it was old fashion corporate greed. 25% of you thought it was either the failure of Capitalism or all of the above. The rest of you thought the answer lie somewhere else.

Personally, I think the answer to the first question, as to who was responsible, was “all of the above”. I think it was a combination of government and Wall Street. As for the second question, again I think this was to wide spread to be the failure of just one individual or group. Clearly this was another “all of the above”. Thanks for participating!

4 comments:

Bill Hohmann said...

Paul: My God this was a long one but well thought out! You ought to send a copy to Newsweek and see if they will take an excerpt as a representative sample of what Middle Class America thinks and faces as I don't think main stream media fully gets the picture. By the way, it took awhile, but from everything I have seen I like Barak Obama's moves, except for one appointment (Tom Daschle) - I remember him as a real obstructionist when the Dems were previously in the majority especially when he was Majority Leader in 2001, and Pres. Bush was in the beginning of his first term. And to think his backgrund is German and a R.C. to boot.
It looks like we are in another epoch change similar to the industrial revolution and more and more people are going to hve to get along with less of the World's resources. The U.S. is apparently on the descent while China and Russia, and maybe Brazil are ascending. In the meantime their standards of living are far less than ours, except for the elite few. Just tighten your belt as I think 2009 will be tough, but it will take us to the end of the recession.
Sincerely, Bill Hohmann

Donna said...

I really like the way this is written it seems like its from a different point of view this time
good job

LazySusan said...

Thanks, this was informative. There's another great resource on the economy I just heard, a podcast from Dean Baker (Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research) and Andrea Batista Schlesinger (Executive Director, The Drum Major Institute) called The Financial Crisis and the Fall of the Middle Class. It's part of a series put out by the Progressive Ideas Network around their new book - Thinking Big.

Another Opinion said...

Thank you Susan. I hope our readers will take a look. America's Middle Class is in serious trouble, and it's all that stands between the rich and revolution. We need to forget about political labels and start thinking about results.