Thursday, December 12, 2013

The U.S. A Banana Republic? Believe it!

A section of the Minneapolis Bridge which collapsed several years ago.

Author Barbara Ehrenreich in her must-read book, Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America  has warned of how a cult of positivity permeating the country has blinded citizens to its severe problems in the interest of cultivating delusions. She pulls no punches by also showing how what was once the province of two bit hucksters has now become an accomplice of the American Business model - found in every niche cubicle and team-building exercise. And by god, if you ain't a happy camper, the HR folks will help show you the door. No negative shit wanted here!

But unless the rose-colored glasses come off we can't see how the nation has degenerated to become basically a third world backwater in disguise. A banana republic. How or why, well it probably began from the time Kennedy was assassinated in November, 1963, and more and more resources got diverted to the military, national security state. Kennedy did his best to prevent this but the bastards couldn't tolerate it and offed him in an Executive action I exposed in multiple blog posts over October and November.

Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford of the National Priorities Project write:
Robust public investment had been a key to US prosperity in the previous century. It was then considered a basic part of the social contract as well as of Economics 101. As just about everyone knew in those days, citizens paid taxes to fund worthy initiatives that the private sector wouldn’t adequately or efficiently supply. Roadways and scientific research were examples. In the post–World War II years, the country invested great sums of money in its interstate highways and what were widely considered the best education systems in the world, while research in well-funded government labs led to inventions like the Internet. The resulting world-class infrastructure, educated workforce, and technological revolution fed a robust private sector.”

What would show we aren't a banana republic? Well, significant non-military investment across the board: from development of alternative energy sources - including solar, geothermal, wind, to massive infrastructure repair. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates at least $2.2 trillion needs to be spent to even get most of our bridges, water mains, sewer systems to a passable grade C+ standard.  That requires a massive increase in TAXES.

The alternative is to be left further and further behind the rest of the world. China, already, is developing its alternative energy - especially solar- at a frenetic pace set to put the USA to shame. China has also just launched a Moon bound space craft in preparation for a manned landing. In the meantime, the U.S. has to rely on Russian craft to hitch rides to the International Space Station. We are now so officially poor we can't even afford a government supported manned space program. (And no, I do not believe pitiful little "private" efforts will amount to much more than near Earth commercial tourist ventures.)

How poor are we? Pretty damned poor for the so-called "richest nation on Earth". Richest nation, yeah, for the top one percent or the top 0.01 percent - who control as much wealth as the bottom 150 million.  You can thank over three decades of Neoliberal  trickledown economics and its attendant  monopolization, privatization and deregulation of industry. Add in also the destruction of labor protection that has resulted in 50 million Americans living in abject poverty, while 400 individuals own more than one-half of the nation’s wealth.

This sort of inequality, with faint hope of upward mobility, is the very definition of a banana republic. (Which is also distinguished by its characteristic out of proportion military spending.) Process this: the four Walmart heirs enjoy a higher net worth than the bottom 40 percent. The 0.01 percent, after all,  can afford jaunts to St. Kitts on weekends for  rose wine wraps for their wives, e.g.

While the men take in 18 holes at one of the well -tended golf courses.

 Meanwhile, our nation’s sense of food insecurity is more on par with developing countries like Indonesia and Tanzania than with OECD nations like Australia and Canada. In fact, the percentage of Americans who say they could not afford the food needed to feed their families at some point in the last year is three times that of Germany, more than twice than Italy and Canada.

If anyone believes we're on a par with Germany or Austria I invite them to travel to those nations and look around as we did 6 months ago. Homeless people, soup kitchens? Unheard of! Hungry kids starving for food at night, unable to sleep because a rich bastard ass party wants more and more for the rich and military - no fuckin' way! As our friend Reinhardt put it: "We would be ashamed to have such a situation here in Germany!"

Here's another wake up call for the drooling optimists in our midst and positivity cultists: The destruction of labor has become so comprehensive that first-world nations now offshore their jobs to the U.S. In other words, we’ve become the new India. Foreign companies, such as in Germany,  now see us as the world’s cheap labor force. 

Thank the inroads made by the Neoliberal labor destroyers. Of course, in the bidness-friendly, slavery l-oving, non-unionized South this degradation has reached its apotheosis.  Chuck Thompson, author of Better off Without Em, writes:

 “Like Mexico, the South has spent the past four decades systematically siphoning auto jobs from Michigan and the Midwest by keeping worker’s salaries low and inhibiting their right to organize by rendering their unions toothless.”

 Average wages for autoworkers in the South are up to 30 percent lower than in Michigan. People, alas, can't live on such low wages. Neither can the millions of fast food workers ensnared in a permanent underclass because - due to lack of investment in alternative energy or infrastructure- decent jobs aren't available and the Goops don't want to raise the minimum wage.  In the U.S. the minimum wage is just above $7 per hour and workers can expect no more than 12 days of annual vacation. Fast food workers earning that pittance get  little or no holidays, no sick days so even if they have the flu or a stomach virus they've no choice but to come in - getting the rest of us sick.

By contrast,  in Sweden, the minimum wage is $19 per hour and workers enjoy a minimum of five weeks paid vacation every year. They also are afforded sick days so if they do get a terrible rotavirus they can stay home and not spread it around in all the food they serve.

Poor? Yes we are, for the most part. Thanks to the military-national security state and Wall Street' denizens subverting the country.  Oh, and the bought and paid for political system - which thinks money is "speech" - that has enabled it!

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