Crashing and burning
Taking stock of bulls and bears
Expanded from the 3-4-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Japanese and Chinese banks have been willing to bail out Dubya's liberal war spending in order to further enslave the U.S. consumer who is compelled to buy imports at Cheapo Depot.
That consumer is not to blame, although we are a nation of true suckers for what we see advertised on TV, be it a candidate, a can of beans or canned Toyota.
I know a local man who campaigned his heart out against a Wal-Mart store in his neighborhood. But he had to buy the very expensive drugs needed by one his children at the pharmacy of the Arkansas predator.
American consumers are allowed only phony choices.
- Lookalike and uniformly unsafe high speed mobile gasoline bombs, called cars for short. (The energy to fuel them is controlled by a price-fixing oilogopoly.)
- A food supply becoming increasingly lethal as corporations are deregulated and asked to police themselves.
- Mass media controlled by another oligopoly of six major companies which are currently lobbying for more deregulation to go on top of the depredations caused by Telecommunications Law of 1996 which allowed cable TV systems to monopolize markets and fix prices.
- A health care system which is currently only a boon to one industry: Have you seen the national TV ads by the big drug companies trying to convince people to tell their congresscritters not to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription prices?
The advertising will probably work. At any time, about one-third of the great unwashed favor the consumption of American lives and treasure on war, roughly the same number as approve of the president's job performance.
Our predilection for killing and violence predisposes a large swath of the public to support institutionalized mass murder headquartered in the world's largest office building built in the sign of the devil hisself. Did the architect of the Pentagon have a subtle sense of humor, perhaps figuring that dumbass generals would be too stupid to see that their monument to the military-industrial complex lacked only 666 as a street address?
Conservative shill P.J. O'Rourke has a hernia-weight book out about the life and economic philosophy of Adam Smith, the progenitor of the idea that growth is good, cancerous or not. It's almost like right wing corporations have funded one of their own to keep beating the drum for Bushy-Reaganautic-hands-off policies for bigbiz. (See the web edition of this column at Barbwire.info for a quick primer on the history of corporate propaganda over the past century.)
This month's Mother Jones magazine published a much shorter counterpoint  to O'Rourke's pimping and prosaic paean to painless prosperity.
Excerpted from his new book entitled Deep Economy, Bill McKibben argues that it's high time to re-evaluate the growth-is-good axiom. He asserts, with good evidence, that "more is better" is not only false, but does not bring happiness with it.
"Our single-minded focus on increasing wealth has succeeded in driving the planet's ecological systems to the brink of failure, even as it's failed to make us happier. How did we screw up? The answer is pretty obvious we kept doing something past the point that it worked. Since happiness increased with income in the past, we assumed it would inevitably do so in the future," McKibben states.
Unintentionally reinforcing McKibben's central point, last Thursday's New York Times business section published an analysis of the super wealthy.  Unlike Warren Buffett, who plans to give away almost all of his billions (42 of them), the mega-rich intend to hoard most of their money for no discernible reason.
They can't take it with them, they can't spend it as fast it's coming in, and they don't intend to leave it all to their heirs. The only conclusion is that they get their jollies by having more than the Joneses up the gated bridle path.
Apparently Jesus got it right when he said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Meanwhile, our greed and warmongering is about to extract some penance. Last week, both Alan Greenspan and his successor as chair of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, were trotted out to quell fears as stock markets around the world slightly crashed.
A drop on Wall Street was caused when computers got backlogged so that a triple-digit drop in the obsolete Dow-Jones Industrial Average happened in one minute.
This is a cautionary tale. It won't take much of a scare for our financial house of cards to fall. My money, if I had any, would be on a crash caused by hedge fund speculation in market derivatives, a deadly financial game of Russian roulette with lots of zeroes to the left of the decimal point, which very few people understand.
Let's just say that such investors are betting on quadruple trifecta on any given day.
We live under the pleasant fiction that after the Great Depression of the 1930's, we acquired the rough tools to control the economy. But we've worn them out. In order to depress wages, the biggest component of inflation, guys like Mssrs. Greenspan and Bernanke are really in the business of manipulating the money supply in order to keep unemployment higher than the market would otherwise allow. So much for O'Rourke's beloved hands-off governing.
The tools to smooth economic waves were largely kernelized by Lord John Maynard Keynes. Simply put, government spending should shrink during good times but exponentially expand during depressions in order to kick-start a recovery.
There are those who rightly say that our WW2 military spending (paid for by the biggest tax increase in history) actually brought us out of the Great Depression.
But we have now been on a war footing for so long (roughly 65 years) that even a government with a capable president would be hard pressed to bail us out of another depression. No less than Greenspan himself hinted at storm clouds while dismissing the potential of a recession last week.
So what can you do if you're like the guy who has to buy at Wal-Mart because he's financially strapped, as are most members of America's quickly-shrinking middle class?
Economize at your house as best you can. Don't assume that tomorrow is going to be better if you can just hang on. Don't wait for help from political leaders. They only move after crashes, and then not very efficiently be those crashes of dollars or New York skyscrapers or concrete pentagrams laughing at the devil of war.
Be well. Raise hell.
1. McKibben, Bill; Reversal of Fortune, Mother Jones magazine, March-April 2007, page 32.
2. Goolsbee, Austan; Economic Scene For the Super-Rich, Too Much Is Never Enough, The New York Times, March 1, 2007, page C-3.REQUIRED READINGS
Johnson, Chalmers; REPUBLIC OR EMPIRE? A National Intelligence Estimate on the United States; Harper's magazine; January, 2007; (not available online for several months, if at all). I love it when heavy hitters validate what I've been saying for years in the tiny Sparks Tribune. AB
Barlett, Donald L. and Steele, James B.; America: What Went Wrong? (1992); America: Who Really Pays the Taxes? (1994); America: Who Stole the Dream? (1996) ; Andrews & McMeel/Universal Press Syndicate. For additional comments on the work of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning team, use the NevadaLabor.com search engine and sweep for "Barlett."
Review of Alex Carey's Taking the Risk Out of Democracy:
Propaganda in the US and Australia
The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey
Excerpted from the book available below
ORDER Taking the Risk Out of Democracy
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press
SEE ALSO: Lapham, Lewis H.; Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, A Brief History; Harper's Magazine cover article; September, 2004, page 32.
By one conservative estimate, the corporate right has spent about $3 billion over the past three decades manufacturing public opinion to suit big business goals. Lapham's number covered the early 1970's to the present day. Alex Carey noted that by 1948, anti- New Deal corporate propaganda expenditures had already reached $100 million per year, not adjusted for inflation, for advertising alone. (Carey, ibid; page 79)
Adjusted for inflation, that 1948 $100 million becomes $801,659,751.04 in 2005 dollars.
Conservatives Help Wal-Mart, and Vice Versa
As Wal-Mart struggles to rebut growing criticism, it has discovered a reliable ally: conservative research groups.
New York Times 9-8-2006; Free registration may be required
BARBWIRE: Labor Day '94: People vs. corporate con job, 9-4-94
Chilling forecasts from Alex Carey
BARBWIRE: The Nevada Republican Party Becomes Communist, 3-30-97
A prescient Plato on the dangers of oligarchy
The sands of time do not cloud the long memories of the sheiks of Araby
Rinfret, Pierre A.; Peace is Bullish; Look magazine, 5-31-1966
Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive
I've been telling you so for more than 10 freakin' years
The Molly Ivins Hall of Flames
Some of Molly Ivins' greatest hits
Reno war protestors march in memory of Molly
February 7, 2007
A group of Reno anti-war activists took the late newspaper columnist Molly Ivins' final words to heart and put them into action Tuesday.
"We're doing this for Molly," said Paula McDonough, who organized the Molly Ivins Pots 'n' Pan Brigade that protested the war in Iraq outside the Bruce Thompson Federal Building in downtown Reno. "We're doing this because Molly asked us to."...
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Copyright © 2007 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org, and a member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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