Thursday, April 29, 2010

Averting America's Perfect Storm

Written by Jeremiah Bannister
April 29, 2010
Originally on Paleocrat_etc

A recent Pew Research Center study entitled "Distrust, Discontent, Anger and Partisan Rancor" detailed a serious mistrust amongst the people of the United States toward their government. "By almost every conceivable measure Americans are less positive and more critical of the government these days," the report said. The survey found what they believe to be "a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government." According to the survey, this results from "a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials."

While much may be said about each and every one of these, we will here limit ourselves to the economy.

Official unemployment rates provided by the Labor Department hover around 10 percent. Real unemployment rates come closer to 17 percent. Job creation is found primarily in temporary services, health care, and government. Among the sectors most hurt are information and finance. A Federal Reserve study went so far as to insist that 79 percent of jobs lost are in industries where jobs have been lost forever. This is being chalked up as resulting from "structural change." Forester Research has projected that 3.3 million service-sector jobs will be outsourced or offshored by 2015, with analyst John McCarthy predicting that jobs most at risk are those requiring fewer skills, are automated, or are highly portable.

The employment situation has further resulted in a an unprecedented concentration of wealth and resources. A study coming from the University of California-Berkeley concluded that nearly 50 percent of the national wealth is tied up by the country's wealthiest 10 percent. For many this is a very conservative number. The New York Times has gone further by concluding that the top 0.01 percent of earners in this country take home nearly six percent of all the nation's wealth. This in contrast to their taking only five percent during the 1920s and one percent of the wealth during the early 1980s. In the end, conservative estimates indicate that the top 300,000 Americans collectively earn and own almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. And the NYT reported, "Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980."

Add to these tragic conditions the specters of declining real wages, the ever-diminishing strength of the dollar, and a terrifying level of personal and national debt and you really do have a perfect storm, not only in the making but at the ready.

None of this has gone unnoticed by economists and politicians. Every day the public is bombarded with "new and improved" answers that turn out being little more than the same-old same-old, merely reworded and repackaged for consumerist consumption. Capitalists clamor for more deregulation. Socialists cry out for more government intervention. But both are the flip-side of the same coin, really. The answer is always found in Mammon and his priesthood of money-masters.

What has begun to arise is a general mistrust of the status quo. Citizens are generally skeptical of those with unprecedented wealth and power, and they are quickly coming to recognize the fact that an unfortunate majority of economists, politicians and pundits are little more than apologists for the very schools of thought that got America into this mess. Rugged individualism and statist collectivism just don't cut it like they used to. More than that, people are starting to realize that these two schools of thought may have never worked at all.

America is enduring difficult times. Such is an understatement. But extraordinary times require ordinary people considering ordinary things in an extraordinary way. For this reason, it would do people well to reconsider, or possibly consider for the first time, things deemed otherwise basic to human existence. The nation, the political economy, statesmen, citizenship, and culture are of great significance here. As elementary as much of this may sound, many, if not most, have failed to give these matters any serious degree of attention and consideration.

It should here be of consolation that such thoughts and actions are in fact not new to humans or history. One must remember that it was not long ago that the American experiment began. History is packed with times where people were left at the crossroads, being forced to reconsider who they were, where they were going, and how they planned to get there. Such has been done many times, and such should be done again within the here and now. For if the Pew study is correct, and it appears that it is, then it is the American system and the American people that are at stake. As such, dedicating time and effort to all things otherwise elementary may prove to be well worth it. Then again, America may not be able to afford not to.

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