Sunday, July 7, 2013

Seven Facts for the Fourth of July

A July 4th Memo To America
From a Concerned Citizen

One of the primary purposes of this Web ministry is to stand against social injustice and economic inequality in all its forms, as well as the extreme immorality of waging warfare. I firmly believe that any minister who does not do this is simply not doing his or her job while occupying the pulpit. In that case, all they would be doing is collecting a paycheck every Sunday morning for the sake of profit and materialism, forgetting that Jesus preached against this very thing over and over again. (But don't take my word for it, it's in all four gospels, go and read it for yourself.) Although Jesus did take His ministry to the religious establishment of his day, which centered around the temple at Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin (or Hebrew ruling elect) of that time, he was rejected and ultimately executed by them just as the Old Testament prophets foretold. Instead, He went to the poor and downtrodden, the outcast and the marginalized who otherwise had no voice at all. He ministered to the sick, the homeless, the addicted and the unemployed and all others who had nothing, with the knowledge that the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ is vastly superior to mere material possessions. I try my best to emulate this mind-set in my ministry and in the people I meet in order that my words and actions may most accurately imitate my Savior and the redeemer of my very soul, Christ Jesus the Lord.

In today's world there is social injustice everywhere you look. A veritable class war is ongoing here in the USA, throughout the Middle East, in Europe and in Asia that has the wealthy accumulating ridiculous amounts of wealth in a downright obscene orgy of greed, and all at the expense of the middle and working classes who are being economically decimated as a result. This illegal and immoral accumulation of wealth is unparalleled in world history. The signs and indicators of this obscene wealth that has fallen into the hands of an elite minority are everywhere. Mass unemployment is at every turn and stands at stubbornly high levels. If we look at the true levels of unemployment, which by definition must include those who are underemployed (working part time at one or more jobs when full-time employment is both desired and required) or those who have left the job market for good (like men and women in their middle 50's and older such as what I experienced first-hand), the true level of unemployment exceeds 24% in the US alone, not counting the rest of the developed world. Instead of creating more jobs that are the hallmark of any economic recovery, fewer and fewer people are doing more work for less pay. The rest of US and European workers are increasingly finding themselves out in the cold, often literally. In the meantime, those lucky individuals who still have jobs run the increasing risk of having their jobs out-sourced overseas for pennies on the dollar, or being replaced by workers from the third world who are being imported through H1B work visas by none other than the US federal government to work for wages that are a fraction of their American counterparts. Meaning, our US government has been short-changing its constituency in this manner for decades, but they can't keep it a secret any longer. As this is happening, the unending war in Afghanistan plus the clandestine wars being wage on every continent, are costing the US government $6 billion dollars each day, money that could be much better spent here at home to create some badly needed new jobs.

Clearly this is unsustainable and will bankrupt the country if it isn't stopped, if we are not there already. American capitalism and the American empire have run their course, and I maintain that capitalism as we have known it is on the deathbed of history where all empires go when they die. America is in decline while the former “third world” has become the developing world, and where even poor countries continue to develop rapidly. The combined economies of China, Russia, India and Brazil will all overtake the US economy by 2020 at the latest, with China in the lead. (the Chinese economy will be the world's largest by no later than 2016, a mere 3 years away; what will Wall St. do then?)

This is a series of social injustices that could be ended by creating jobs through large public works programs to give US infrastructure a badly needed overhaul and by an accelerated and invigorated space program, mankind's final frontier. On the other hand, there must be a program in place to retrain all the workers who have been unable to find jobs, and there is legislative precedent for this. In the mid-1940's after the end of WW2, Congress passed the GI Bill, as it was called. The end result of this was that hundreds of thousands of ex-soldiers who wanted a college education were given just that with no strings attached. It worked very well by reeducating an entire generation at only nominal cost to those who took advantage of it. Well, if it could be done in the 1940's, why not here in the 21st century? What's holding it back you may ask, the cost? Let me illustrate why America can easily afford to do this. If the combined US military and intelligence communities set aside the financial expenditures equal to a single day's cost of the occupation in Afghanistan and put the money into an interest-bearing account of your choice, there would be sufficient funds for a 4-year college education for every school kid in America, from pre-K to a high school senior inclusive. And that's just from one day's expenditures!

But what do we have instead? American workers are being thrown away by multinational corporations as being no longer useful or too expensive to keep around, resulting in a wave of homelessness not seen since the 1930's. The majority of today's homeless population is college educated, not stereotypical street bums, not by a long shot, and that is a great social injustice. This has been going on for so long now that the American empire is dying as a result, of that we can be sure. The time to make alternative plans for a possibly rocky future is upon us now. As the Great Recession and its bogus “recovery” grinds on, politicians in most industrial countries have an incentive to make exaggerated claims about the supposed coming economic recovery. Some say the recession is over. Obama is in the group that claims we're “on the road to recovery," while other nations can only spot recovery "on the horizon." Below is my list of my “unlucky seven” facts that point to a more realistic and truthful economic and political outlook.

1) Central Banks are Clueless. The usual tricks that U.S. and European central banks use to avoid recessions are long-exhausted. Interest rates cannot get any lower. And because cheap money hasn't been working, the printing presses have been turned up considerably, into what the U.S. federal reserve calls quantitative easing – injecting trillions of dollars into the world economy, escalating an emerging trade war.

2) Trade War. Speaking of which, for a global economy to grow, global cooperation is needed. But in a major recession all countries engage in a bitter struggle to dominate foreign markets so that their own corporations can export. These markets are won by devaluing currencies (accomplished in the U.S. by quantitative easing), installing protectionist measures (so that a nation's corporations have monopoly dominance over the nation's consumers), or by war (a risky but highly effective form of market domination).

3) Military War. Foreign war is a good symptom of economic decay. The domination of markets – every inch of them – becomes an issue of life and death importance. Wars have been unleashed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Yemen. "Containing" economies like China and "opening" economies like Iran and North Korea become more urgent during a major recession, requiring brute force and creating further global instability in all realms of social life.

4) U.S. Economy at a Virtual Standstill. The most important consumer market in the world, the U.S. is a nation of nearly bankrupt consumers. Well over thirty million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, while further job losses are certain, due to nearly every state's budget deficit. The New York Times explains: "Now states are bracing for more painful cuts, more layoffs, more tax increases, more battles with public employee unions, more requests to bail out cities. And in the long term, as cities and states try to keep up on their debts, the very nature of government could change as they have less money left over to pay for the services they have long provided." (12-05-10)

5) Bailout Capitalism. First it was the banks and other corporations that needed bailing out, and now whole nations. Western nations bailed out their banks by falling into the massive debt that they are now drowning in. Greece and Ireland have been bailed out, with eyes shifting to Portugal, Spain, and Italy. The entire European Union is being called into question as the Euro takes a beating in the bailout spree. If the EU is dismantled, the shock waves will quickly reach other economies.

6) Bailout Repercussions. All western nations -- including the U.S. and England -- are grappling with their national debts. Rich bond investors are demanding that these countries drastically reduce their deficits, while also demanding that the deficits be reduced on the backs of working families, instead of rich investors. This is tearing the social fabric apart, as working and poor people see their social programs under attack. In Europe mass movements are erupting in France, Spain, Portugal, England, Greece, Ireland, Italy, etc. Social stability is a prerequisite for a recovered economy, but corporate politicians everywhere are asking much more than working people are willing to give.

7) The Far Right Emerges. To deal with working people more ruthlessly, the radical right is being unleashed. In normal times these bigots yell furiously but no one listens. But in times of economic crisis they're given endless airtime on all major media outlets. The message of the far right promotes all the rottenness not yet eradicated by education: racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, violence, and a backward nationalism that fears all things "foreign."

These core beliefs effectively divide working people so that a concerted campaign against the corporate elite is harder to wage. Meanwhile, labor unions, progressives, and other working class organizations are instead targeted. The above phenomena do not happen in a normal economic cycle of boom and bust. These symptoms point to a larger disease in the international economic system, a disease that cannot be cured by politicians who swear allegiance to this deteriorating system and to the wealthy elite who benefit from it. To ensure that the economic system is changed so that working people benefit, large-scale collective action is necessary, based on demands that unite the majority of working people: a massive job-creation program at the expense of Wall Street, no cuts to Social Security and Medicare, a moratorium on home foreclosures, passage of a $12.00 per hour minimum wage, and so on. With the unions in the lead promoting these demands, working people can and should put up a real fight.

The best solution that I can think of, then, that takes care of all this and more, is to come up with an innovative, effective and efficient nonprofit economy. Here are a few examples of what I mean: What's the underlying cause of the skyrocketing prices of fuel, groceries, college tuition, and medical care including the cost of private health insurance? All of the above industries needed more operating capital to keep going due to rising prices for goods and services that they purchase. But even more basic than that – the least common denominator – is the current corporate business model, where the shareholders needs come first instead of the customers and employees of the firm. More profits must be generated for this cadre of people whose demands for 'more' are only exceeded by their self-importance, and this must stop, the sooner the better. But what if this weren't true? What if the hundreds of billions in profits that each one of these enormous multinational corporations racks up each year were returned to the employees so they, and not the shareholders who don't do a damn thing anyway, share in the profits? If you multiply 500, the number of Fortune Magazine's biggest corporations, by all those hundreds of billions in profits they each made, that comes to a sum of money so huge that my calculator won't display the answer – it doesn't have enough memory. One thing is for certain; the time for employee-owned businesses has arrived.

If the US wants to clean up its act, a complete repudiation of capitalism and greed would be a very good place to start. Let's spend this coming week thinking of all the things we could do for each other and the whole world with the money that, as I write this, is still being hoarded by the few. Let's invent fair and equitable ways we can peacefully distribute it to the many.

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