Thursday, October 30, 2008

A shrinking economy is good for you ... and the Earth!

Economy shrinks as consumers cut back on spending

"Consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the economy, dropped by the largest amount in 28 years in the third quarter."

This is a good thing!

What passes for pundits these days have all attended the University of Media Clich├ęs. While cries of "consumer suffering" abound, it is not consumers who are hurt by a receding economy, it's investors and big business tycoons who are looking for the nearest 10-story ledge.

Consumers are doing fine. Consumers are buying less, conservatively and wisely spending their money on necessities rather than frivolous toys, houses they can't afford and overpriced bourge-mobiles. An economic decline serves the very real and necessary purpose of resetting the economic perspective after it has become ridiculously overinflated.

The first step on the road to a steady-state economy is a declining economy, moving back to sanity, reality and living within the means of the Earth. Anything else is a foolish fantasy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Let's Invite President Obama Aboard the Green Train

It now looks certain that Barack Obama will be elected the next President of the united States. After decades of yokel ignorance in the White House, we will now have an intelligent, capable and moderately progressive President.

This will not be enough. Climate change is descending fast upon the Earth, with Peak Oil in one hand and economic collapse in the other. If the human species is to remain extant, a prospect I don't necessarily endorse, President Obama must usher deep, basic and substantive change into the workings of the united States government.

War? Forget about it. Accomplishes nothing, uses up vital natural resources and lays waste to the natural world. It's time to grow up as a society and put away our childish toys. Invite our military men and women back to the united States and put them to work in the green economy. Transform the military-industrial complex into the environmental restoration complex. Stop selling weapons all over the world and start distributing tools and skills to build and maintain appropriate levels of technology in countries that have been decimated by colonial exploitation.

"The" economy? No such thing. Global free-market capitalism is officially dead and kicking up it's massive feet around the world. Build a green economy based on production for use in local economies, local consumption, local egalitarian control. Put the people to work, all of the people, including those now wasting their lives in jails across the country. Create thousands of new green jobs cleaning up the mess left by corporations, growing food in local gardens and farms, building and installing local solar and wind energy systems. Get CEOs out of their suits and into their jeans to do some productive work for a change and to free their bloated salaries for those who do the real work.

No real change has ever been accomplished by politicians and government bureaucrats unless they were forced to change by a massive popular uprising. Barack Obama knows the challenges of the future and is intelligent enough to listen and learn from the people. We have an opportunity, as the Obama Administration is being formed, to provide direction and inspiration to move the united States government in the direction the people are already moving.

This will not be an easy task, as the fundamentalist fringe will not melt away into the night when President Obama takes over the White House. Even with a majority in both Houses of Congress, opposition to substantive and meaningful change will be huge and effective. We must not allow a repeat of President Carter's neutralization by the rampant right.

This will take massive organization, in every form available: national organizations, community meetings, regional committees, blogs, Face Book, letter writing campaigns to all our "representatives" and like-minded people running for public office. The leadership must come from the people, because our "leaders" will take us in a direction we are not prepared to go.

The election is almost over. It's time to practice democracy!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Business Party Wins Again - and the Earth loses

In a lucid analysis of uS politics and "The Economy," Noam Chomsky strips the mask from the illusion of America's "two-party" political system:

"Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business," concluded America's leading 20th century social philosopher John Dewey (1859 - 1952), and will remain so as long as power resides in "business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda."

The present economic crisis, for the investor class, is repeatedly compared to the Great Depression of 1929, and assurances are already being offered that this too will pass, we will weather this "adjustment," and all will be well soon. Government socialization of corporate losses once again rescues corporate capitalism from inevitable failure.

There is a difference this time around, however, a difference that no one is talking about. The global recessions of the 1890s and 1930s were rescued by military Keynesianism, the influx of public money into the private economy through military spending. The post-World War II economic recovery was brought about by the expansion and globalization of the petroleum economy, which brought cheap energy to businesses and families throughout the developed world. Oil money allowed the projection of uS power throughout the world and solidified uS economic hegemony ... until most recently.

Things are different now; different is not the same.

In 1929, we were at the beginning of the oil economy. In 2008, we're near the end. Rosy projections of economic recovery following this natural and necessary collapse of corporate capitalism are based on the economic conditions of the past when oil supplies, and prices, were on the rise, the human population of the world was much smaller (1929 - 1.8 billion), natural resources were more numerous and cheaper to produce, and the world's environments were not changing rapidly as a result of human industrial activity.

"Free-market capitalism" has never existed, and can never exist in a world of finite resources. The only thing free about free-market capitalism has been the free ride for its adherents and defenders ... until now. The present economic collapse is the bill slapped onto the table by a surly waiter, the bill for 75 years of profligacy and economic opportunism marked by the destruction of the natural environment for human profit.

Mother Nature is calling in her markers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Health Care" vs. medical intervention

An important question was asked at the Obama-McCain second debate (aka mediated talking points discussion) that was not adequately addressed by either candidate.

A woman in the audience asked Senator Obama "Is health care a commodity," implying, to my mind, that health care cannot be made equally available to all in a capitalist economy in which health care is marketed according to supply and demand (albeit, highly manipulated supply and demand).

Neither candidate directly answered the questions, nor did they even acknowledge the "commodity/capitalism" basis of the question. Each candidate touted his own variety of a health insurance/medical technology industry support proposal.

The problem is two-fold. Health care is what each individual does for him or herself or for his or her family. Health care consists of good nutritious food, plenty of sleep and moderate exercise. Once could also include positive interpersonal relationships, satisfying work and freedom from stress as elements of one's health care. What the medical industry provides is medical intervention in the event of accidents resulting in injuries requiring medical intervention, communicable disease and catastrophic illness.

Furthermore, medical intervention in a capitalist, for profit society, when marketed as a commodity, is available to medical intervention consumers only as a function of ability to pay for it. The best medical intervention is available to those with ability to buy it.

The situation is further exacerbated by the medical insurance industry which mediates one's ability to access medical intervention by one's ability to pay regular medical insurance premiums in perpetuity until such care may, or may not be required.

The cry is always raised that "socialized medicine" would necessitate unbearable taxation. To this objection there are two responses: 1) other countries support high quality medical care without undue tax burdens; and 2) the amount of money Americans now pay (personally or through their employers) for "health insurance" (plus co-payments and costs not covered by insurance) far exceeds the extra taxes required to fund a national universal health care coverage.

A system that piles profits on top of the cost of the system of medical care for two separate industries, health insurance and medical technology, will, of course, cost far more than a system that provides medical care with no middleman profits. This is not rocket psychiatry!

Just as we expect our government to provide quality education for all of our children as a right of citizenship, so too can we expect our government to facilitate access to medical care equally for all, when needed, in conjunction with responsible personal health care. Government can't do it all for us; we must see to our own health. But when we truly need life-saving medical intervention, it is immoral and criminal to parcel out preferential access such care to the highest bidder.