Friday, October 01, 2010

America Is Bleeding And The World Is Watching…


…and that isn’t a joke, folks. For those of you who may not know it, not all of the rest of the world is third-world. In fact, when it come to healthcare and a somewhat better standard of living, America is rapidly slipping into the third-world category. America should be ashamed of itself, The wealthy and the larger corporations especially. Oh. then there is Wall Street.

   From  Belgium via Watching America:

De Standaard, Belgium
America Is Bleeding —
Not Only in the Movies

By Bjorn Soenens
Translated By Niek Hendrix
24 September 2010

Edited by Gheanna Emelia

Belgium - De Standaard - Original Article (Dutch)
Twenty-three years after the first "Wall Street," director Oliver Stone paints a portrait of a superpower in decline. Bjorn Soenens thinks that this fiction gets close to reality.
"I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal!"
It's the perfect summary of the era that began in 1981. Ronald Reagan and the magic of the market: no rules, free enterprise, fanatic privatization and, above all, a lot of speculation. The system collapsed 30 years later. Hordes in Middle America descended into misery. The number of Americans that are officially below the poverty line stands at 44 million. That's one in seven.
“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”
Gordon Gekko leaves nothing to the imagination: Getting rich is the message. The numbers do not lie. In 1970, 8 percent of American wealth was in the hands of the richest 1 percent of the population. A quarter of all wealth is in the hands of the same 1 percent 40 years later. The consequences are devastating: Ordinary people have seen their expenditure budget melt away. American sons and daughters, for the first time in 100 years, are poorer than their fathers and mothers. While the Gordon Gekkos were speculating and letting their wealth grow, the American middle class tried everything to maintain its standard of living. The average citizen suffered more debts — by credit card, by mortgages and by student loans. He stopped saving, took a second job, and a third, but eventually drowned when the fraud of Wall Street came to light. And in the meantime nobody noticed that the bridges and roads were deteriorating for 30 years, that schools were no longer up-to-date, and that social safety nets were weakened.
Nearly 15 million Americans are officially unemployed. America is bleeding. People over [age] 55 who, after 30 years had lost their jobs and their benefits after two years, have nightmares about how they will reach retirement. As a wanderer? A bag lady? More and more Americans of different generations are living under one roof: back to mom or dad on the couch to avoid homelessness. The alternative? Sleep on subway grates, in the park or in the restrooms of the Wal-Mart.
“Someone reminded me I once said, ‘greed is good.’ Now it seems it's legal."
Gordon Gekko, just released from prison, sees his grabbing techniques have now become law. The Republican agenda since [the] Reagan [era] is devoted to tax, reducing of regulations, dismantling of public services and even more tax cuts. The Ownership Society. The model of Milton Friedman, the laissez-faire model. A strong reduction — in some cases, the elimination — of taxes on income, dividends and real estate would lead to more investment and more economic growth. The belief that government regulations inhibit the free market, and that benefits for the weakest [citizens] breed dependence and kill all initiatives. As Reagan put it succinctly: "The government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
Obama has turned away from this view because the economy had a cardiac arrest in 2008. Keynes made his re-entry: To deal with a recession, you have to put more disposable income into the pockets of the people. Put more in to save the free democracy. Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1944: “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” That's why Obama is a Keynesian; he thinks that only decent wages and working conditions can create a middle class that stabilizes the U.S. economy and is the engine of new growth.
Yes, there is growth again. But the companies grab their profits, and no new jobs are created. At the current rate, eight years are needed to make up for the number of lost jobs since the recession (8 million!). The Americans were very shocked about the meltdown of 2008. They save more now, because they are terrified of the future. But that's bad for the economy also: Saving more means consuming less, making the economy jam again. Gordon Gekko notes that his way of life actually killed America.
“More? I would say, enough!”*
Americans are furious about what Wall Street has done to them, angry with their president, who plunders the public treasury to save the banks and the auto industry with large holes in the budget. Public opinion is also further incited by the tea party and the Republicans who act like they are stung by a wasp when it comes to government intervention in the free market or impeding their right to bear arms. But many of those same conservatives care very little if the government eavesdrops on people without authorization or tries to conduct war on terror in foreign countries. In a country as diverse as the U.S., there is always a strong debate about where the influence of the government must cease.
As Gordon Gekko thinks he can make the laws, so do those who are right. But those who are right don’t always get their way, while those who persistently make the loudest arguments do. President Obama has no answer and responds to emotionless calm, making him lose touch with the land and its people. As Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” says: “If you need a friend, get a dog.”

*Editor's Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.