Sunday, July 15, 2012

How To Fix the American Economy

It should be no surprise as to why the American economy is such a disaster for your average, working class person.  Beginning in the 1970's, the Bretton-Woods system that regulated capital markets, prevented speculation on currency, and helped balance the markets was dismantled.  Add to this the growth of information technology.  Capital could be transferred from nation to nation in the flash of an instant.  Trades began to occur by computer.  The financial system grew larger than any one nation to control.  Outsourcing, thanks to better communication technology, became feasible and profitable.  It used to be that 90% of capital was used for productive purposes.  Now, the tides have turned--90% of invested capital is used to speculate on currencies.  This means no real value is being created.  It's no wonder no real wealth in America is being created.

It is a large shell game.  Unlike the 1930's, the new technology isn't going to go away.  Blue collar jobs are going to China and if power remains in the hands of large multinational corporations, these jobs aren't coming back.  White collar jobs are next.  This means engineers, lawyers, scientists, and other professions are being outsourced to highly educated countries like India.  After all, an email travels just as fast to India as it does to the office in Boston.    Those with vocational skills are safe--at least temporarily.  We still don't have robots to act as truck drivers, plumbers, and carpenters.

All of this is supposedly to increase "efficiency."  The problem is that using fuel to ship materials half way across the planet just to exploit cheap labor is hardly efficient.  It is cheaper, yes, but certainly not efficient.  It was not efficient to mothball already existing factories in the U.S. to move them to China.  But in our system, the costs, or "externalities," are not factored into the bottom line prospectus so these things don't matter.  So, for example, if you build a factory and pollute a river that costs millions of dollars of public funds to clean up and costs millions of dollars in health care costs to families with children who develop leukemia, these don't count.  So long as the next quarter's profits are good, then all is well.  And if the CEO doesn't follow this formula, he or she gets fired.  That's the way things work.

Because of the corrupt campaign system, only those politicians who cater to the needs of special interests with deep pockets get elected.  This isn't going away.  The sad thing is that the populace has become so indoctrinated, so docile, and so propagandized that the flood of special interest money works so well.  It should be that people are educated enough to see through the obvious lies and deception contained in political advertising.  Yet they don't.  In school, children need to be taught critical thinking skills and should learn in civics and economics how marketing and propaganda work so they aren't deceived.  Yet we are going in the opposite direction.  Children are forced to take an endless series of mindless standardized tests which require them to memorize basic facts and perform other mundane tasks.

After having the benefit of working longer hours for lower pay, people are tired when they get home.  They don't want to work at reading several newspapers, analyzing the news, and breaking things down.  They want to relax.  This means worrying more about what Kim Kardashian or Snooki are doing.  Being tired also helps break down your defenses.  So when the newest political advertisement for some jerk or another comes on, they are more easily sucked in.

Sometimes, there is a candidate that does in fact stand out and isn't totally eliminated by the system.  Ron Paul would be a good example.  He actually has integrity and is calling for real, meaningful reform.  But the media have done their best to shut him out.  On NPR, Don Siegel chided Paul for even exercising his right to run for President.  Fox News is hardly more sympathetic.  The media has a way of limiting the range of political discussion.  They will select one supposedly "left" pundit and one supposedly "right" pundit and let them go at it.  That is supposed to be "balanced" coverage.  The system frowns upon having a wider area of discussion because this would be offensive to its advertisers, who don't want their entrenched interests compromised.  The media themselves are corporations.  So, for example, on Fox News you aren't going to see advocates of laws which break up the highly consolidated media industry.  Rupert Murdoch would never allow that to happen, not with his ownership of multiple newspapers, TV channels, cable TV holdings, magazines, and everything else he owns.  The same goes for MSNBC.  You aren't going to be getting advocates of worker owned, collaborative corporations making their pitch on a station owned by General Electric.

Things could get better.  We could have a surge in manufacturing here in America once again.  We could make it happen if we worked together and organized.  The problem is that we are competing against a massive, very well organized, and serious lobby that doesn't want to be challenged.  It wants to keep the masses docile, uninformed, and in the dark.  Overcoming this isn't easy.  Thanks to social media like Twitter and Facebook, people in the Middle East organized to overcome some very brutal regimes.  These technologies can help people get together in America as well.  But sometimes it takes a disaster to get people mobilized.  The financial meltdown was that opportunity a few years ago but it was squandered.  Given the current direction of the country, it may take another crisis before enough people are angry enough to favor real change.  In the mean time, we are heading toward Third World status, with a few rich and an overwhelming number of poor.

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