Safe and secure don’t work for the warrior activist. Standing on the sidelines watching the bully smack another kid, countless men beat, belittle, humiliate women to no end, or just looking out your window from a 5 story walkup and seeing 6 kids trying to stomp a young cat to death for the fun of it just doesn’t work for some people in life. You don’t get an invite to this way of life, you can’t train for it, you see wrong hurt and automatically step up as life calls upon you from somewhere within your soul and the rough ride stays with you until your last breath feeling that with all you gave it still wasn’t enough to stop the pain and wishing for one more moment to step and say; Hey, What The Fuck Are You Doing, Stop That! You can’t do that to…
Americans must account for the natives here when they came and the blacks they dragged over here kicking and screaming there will be no peace until this is settled…not because these groups will demand it, but you set the game up with your rules; law, accounting, finance: the energy in place once these rules have been implemented will demand it in order for their credence to have merit and continue or they will cease to exist of their own accord…there are no vacuums
© 2014, agentleman.
A GENTLEMAN’S VIEW CHALLENGE TO PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT: A Platform for 2016 Presidential election;
If we continue to do things the same way, they most certainly won’t change…
This is the National Agenda Of The Progressive Party.
- Economic Justice: Prosperity should be accessible to everyone, not merely the few.
- Civil Rights: Every individual’s civil rights must be protected; discrimination and harassment based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or physical and developmental ability should be banned.
- Health Care: Every individual should have affordable, quality health care.
- Education: It is essential that we invest in quality public education for all.
- Environment: We must commit to restoring and protecting our environment.
- Reproductive Freedom: Women and men – not politicians – deserve the right to make personal decisions about their reproductive health in accordance with their own personal and moral beliefs.
These are some specifics that address the issues of today’s reality and the stated Progressive agenda:
1. This country pays American taxpaying dollars subsidizing Fortune Five Hundred Companies during the last year to the tune of 63 Billion dollars. My understanding of the whole purpose of being one of elite prestigious companies on this list besides policies that make Wall Street happy is the ability to a) pay all employees a wage good enough to afford one wager earner per family as to allow real child rearing to take place in America and to do this without having United States subsidizing your employees with food stamps, to pay their fair share of corporate taxes if they have enough money to pay obscene bonuses to their CEO’s, to bring jobs home to America instead of utilizing sub standardly supported employees overseas. Meet those requirements and make them the standard then maybe some relief can be considered but during the last ten years of war in which much profit was made, very little was paid to support the patriotic work of our military much less the support the infrastructure updates needed all around this great nation by those companies making ever so much more profit. These savings will be the foundation funding education discussed below in item #8.
2. Immediate shutdown of all corporate subsides for foreign companies and any American Companies or business entities making profit during this support, manufacturing/operating overseas for avoidance of tax responsibilities (i.e. Apple). This should be about being an American citizen first an recognized American Business entity, proudly willing to participate in forwarding the American cause and Ideals. 50% of this savings should directly be put to education in addition to the savings from item #1 and would not be an added tax on any corporation or individuals to fund.This is simple, show profit, pay huge bonuses you don’t need United States government financial tax payer subsidized support for those benefits to the business or individuals. THIS ARGUMENT WILL NO LONGER BE ACCEPTABLE WITH PROGRESS: ‘Removal of subsidies equals tax increase’.
3. Refinance all outstanding mortgages at 3% and forgive related debt underwater and otherwise to include interest and penalties, give all financial institutions impacted an one time charge off without addition subsides for those outstanding balances. The point here is not to reward those who shouldn’t have taken part in the bad mortgage programs, but give a chance to homeowners who can afford to and not punish them as we did not the bankers. Let us be honest; many people will gain advantage from these saving including some responsible for causing this damage in the first place, so be it.
4. Forgive all student debt to include all interest and penalties, Banks were paid to stay in business while all others suffered, so no charge off for this loss period! The idea is to use avenues of revenue in place today and free up personal household debt. Take the government out of the business of profiting from educating its citizens which America should gladly welcome. See item #8.
5. Mandatory solar on all federal buildings by end of first term (2021). This is a no brainer when it comes to directly setting the tone for Uncle Sam’s responsible and representative behavior and policy about climate. The United States government has a mandate as a national security issue to take any action necessary to reduce this governments carbon footprint production, this and the next item starts us in that direction.
6. Electric government motor pool by 2025 for passenger vehicles, seeking full electronic transportation motor pool by 2040. Again making a statement that Uncle Sugar will take a conscience effort to a much smaller carbon footprint with the government’s motor pool and impact on climate.
7. Single payer modification made to the Affordable Care Act, Complete medical coverage for women’s health that allows for full range and control of choices. This would be the right thing to do to a system stolen from the opposition with the mission of giving to the client (health care patient) as little as possible for their money as put together by the Heritage Foundation in opposition to the Hillary Clinton Health Care plan.
8. Free full academic/vocational college education for all naturalized citizens who desire such education; vocational education and/for advancement can stand in its stead 10 year time limit to completion. See #2 for cost for implementing this educational national push.
9. Minimum wage standard at federal of 22 dollars an hour. $10.10 is not a ‘real living wage’ and an insult that doesn’t address family’s ability to have one parent at home, or childcare costs for single parents. If we claim to be about family we need to invest in the reality of what it takes to have and run a family today.
10. Fully subsidize purchases of electric personal passenger automobiles for 10 years . (Vehicles must meet standard of fully electric operational capability and can not be hybrid) This would be like the homes for vets after world war 2, with the intent of moving as many people as desired to convert to green mobility to be able to do so.
All of this he/she could do by executive order, two for each of Her/His first week in office. These executive orders would directly impact the financial status of the middle and lower strata Americans across a broad spectrum of households in a way that would immediately stimulate economic growth and activity for continued expansion by freeing up money that was being paid to continue to be buried under all this debt. Wall street was taken care of without begging Congress to get off their asses and do what they were elected to do and that is legislate instead of the traitorous behavior this country has witnessed to date. This would adjust the playing field for awhile, there is still much work to achieve a level one. This is where I fail to see the boldness of today’s Progressive Movement…
Pick a point, the economy, make a stand, suggest practical solutions, then put people on the spot, arguing with a fool only proves there are two, we have five years of two parties of fools arguing… Any of my followers who can suggest an even stronger platform, I will post their suggestions, I just thought we should at least attempt to care about and take care of the home front first. These suggestions attempts to address the financial difficulties everyone but the people who cause the catastrophe in the first place are experiencing. If we are not doing anything to give back/restore/build some trust with those who been devastated by the impact of this recession then the rest is straight bullshit! These 10 items address actions that can be taken presently and will positively impact many Americans across the spectrum no matter the party and that would be a good thing for America not just for Wall Streets Billionaires…
A Lesson From Ecuador: “Health is a right guaranteed by the state and whose fulfilment is linked to the exercise of other rights, including the right to water, food, education, sport, work, social security, a healthy environment and everything that promotes well-being. The state shall guarantee this right by implementing economic social, cultural, educational and environmental policies. It shall guarantee permanent, timely and non-exclusive access to programmes, actions and services promoting and providing comprehensive healthcare and reproductive health. The provision of healthcare services shall be governed by the principles of equity, universality, solidarity, interculturalism, quality, efficiency, effectiveness, prevention, and bioethics with a fair gender and generational approach.” President of Ecuador statement about the citizens of his country which we could learn from…A Third World Country like that.
© 2013 – 2014, agentleman.
The Companies Making a Profit by Abusing the Poor
We’re increasingly shifting costs to those least able to afford to pay. Thomas Edsall
In Orange County, Calif., the probation department’s “supervised electronic confinement program,” which monitors the movements of low-risk offenders, has been outsourced to a private company, Sentinel Offender Services. The company, by its own account, oversees case management, including breath alcohol and drug-testing services, “all at no cost to county taxpayers.”
Sentinel makes its money by getting the offenders on probation to pay for the company’s services. Charges can range from $35 to $100 a month.
The company boasts of having contracts with more than 200 government agencies, and it takes pride in the “development of offender funded programs where any of our services can be provided at no cost to the agency.”
Sentinel is a part of the expanding universe of poverty capitalism. In this unique sector of the economy, costs of essential government services are shifted to the poor.
In terms of food, housing and other essentials, the cost of being poor has always been exorbitant. Landlords, grocery stores and other commercial enterprises have all found ways to profit from those at the bottom of the ladder.
The recent drive toward privatization of government functions has turned traditional public services into profit-making enterprises as well.
In addition to probation, municipal court systems are also turning collections over to a national network of companies like Sentinel that profit from service charges imposed on the men and women who are under court order to pay fees and fines, including traffic tickets (with the fees being sums tacked on by the court to fund administrative services).
When they cannot pay these assessed fees and fines – plus collection charges imposed by the private companies — offenders can be sent to jail. There are many documented cases in which courts have imprisoned those who failed to keep up with their combined fines, fees and service charges.
“These companies are bill collectors, but they are given the authority to say to someone that if he doesn’t pay, he is going to jail,” John B. Long, a lawyer in Augusta, Ga. active in defending the poor, told Ethan Bronner of The Times.
A February 2014 report by Human Rights Watch on private offender services found that “more than 1,000 courts in several US states delegate tremendous coercive power to companies that are often subject to little meaningful oversight or regulation. In many cases, the only reason people are put on probation is because they need time to pay off fines and court costs linked to minor crimes. In some of these cases, probation companies act more like abusive debt collectors than probation officers, charging the debtors for their services.”
Human Rights Watch also found that in Georgia in 2012, in “a state of less than 10 million people, 648 courts assigned more than 250,000 cases to private probation companies.” The report notes that “there is virtually no transparency about the revenues of private probation companies” since “practically all of the industry’s firms are privately held and not subject to the disclosure requirements that bind publicly traded companies. No state requires probation companies to report their revenues, or by logical extension the amount of money they collect for themselves from probationers.”
Human Rights Watch goes on to provide an account given by a private probation officer in Georgia: “I always try and negotiate with the families. Once they know you are serious they come up with some money. That’s how you have to be. They have to see that this person is not getting out unless they pay something. I’m just looking for some good faith money, really. I got one guy I let out of jail today and I got three or four more sitting there right now.”
Collection companies and the services they offer appeal to politicians and public officials for a number of reasons: they cut government costs, reducing the need to raise taxes; they shift the burden onto offenders, who have little political influence, in part because many of them have lost the right to vote; and it pleases taxpayers who believe that the enforcement of punishment — however obtained — is a crucial dimension to the administration of justice.
As N.P.R. reported in May, services that “were once free, including those that are constitutionally required,” are now frequently billed to offenders: the cost of a public defender, room and board when jailed, probation and parole supervision, electronic monitoring devices, arrest warrants, drug and alcohol testing, and D.N.A. sampling. This can go to extraordinary lengths: in Washington state, N.P.R. found, offenders even “get charged a fee for a jury trial — with a 12-person jury costing $250, twice the fee for a six-person jury.”
This new system of offender-funded law enforcement creates a vicious circle: The poorer the defendants are, the longer it will take them to pay off the fines, fees and charges; the more debt they accumulate, the longer they will remain on probation or in jail; and the more likely they are to be unemployable and to become recidivists.
And that’s not all. The more commercialized fee collection and probation services get, the more the costs of these services are inflicted on the poor, and the more resentful of the police specifically and of law enforcement generally the poor become. At the same time, judicial systems are themselves in a vise. Judges, who in many locales must run for re-election, are under intense pressure from taxpayers to cut administrative costs while maintaining the efficacy of the judiciary.
The National Center for State Courts recently issued a guidenoting that while the collection of fines and costs is “important for reasons of revenue,” even more important is the maintenance of “the integrity of the courts.”
In dealing with more serious crimes involving substantial sentences, the rising costs of maintaining and building new prison facilities has prompted many state governments, and even the federal government, to turn to the private prison industry.
This industry, which began to grow in the early 1980s, now faces significant problems. As incarceration rates drop, and as some states adopt more lenient sentencing practices, the industry is struggling to find new ways to fill vacant cells.
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Take the Corrections Corporation of America, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and reported revenues of $1.69 billion in 2013. The firm describes itself as “the nation’s largest owner of privatized correctional and detention facilities and one of the largest prison operators in the United States behind only the federal government and three states.”
In its 2013 annual report, C.C.A. was clear about the problems facing the company: “under a per diem rate structure, a decrease in our occupancy rates could cause a decrease in revenue and profitability. For the past three years, occupancy rates have been steadily declining in C.C.A. facilities, from 90 percent in 2011, to 88 percent in 2012 and 85 percent in 2013.”
These numbers reflect the brutal math underlying profit margins in private prisons. The “revenue per compensated man-day” for each inmate rose by 35 cents from $60.22 in 2012 to $60.57 in 2013. But expenses “per compensated man-day” rose by 70 cents from $42.04 to $42.74, for a net decline in operating income for each inmate from $18.18 a day to $17.83.
In combination with declining occupancy rates, the result was a dip in total revenue from $1.72 billion in 2012 to $1.69 billion in 2013.
The founders of C.C.A. include Tom Beasley, a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. One of its early investors was Honey Alexander, who is married to Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee. Alexander, according to the Sunlight Foundation, has received in excess of $63,000 from C.C.A. employees and the company PAC since his election to the Senate in 2002.
Poverty capitalism and government policy are now working on their own and in tandem to shift costs to those least equipped to pay and in particular to the least politically influential segment of the poor: criminal defendants and those delinquent in paying fines.
Last year, Ferguson, Mo., the site of recent protests over the shooting of Michael Brown, used escalating municipal court fines to pay 20.2 percent of the city’s $12.75 million budget. Just two years earlier, municipal court fines had accounted for only 12.3 percent of the city’s revenues.
What should be done to interrupt the dangerous feedback loop between low-level crime and extortionate punishment? First, local governments should bring private sector collection charges, court-imposed administrative fees and the dollar amount of traffic fines (which often double and triple when they go unpaid) into line with the economic resources of poor offenders. But larger reforms are needed and those will not come about unless the poor begin to exercise their latent political power. In many ways, everything is working against them. But the public outpouring spurred by the shooting of Michael Brown provides an indication of a possible path to the future. It was, after all, just 50 years ago — not too distant in historical terms — that collective action and social solidarity produced tangible results.
© 2014, agentleman.
The Guns of August
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Posted on Aug 27, 2014
By Amy Goodman
In her epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Guns of August,” historian Barbara Tuchman detailed how World War I began in 1914, and how the belligerence, vanity and poor policies of powerful leaders led millions to gory deaths in that four-year conflagration. Before people realized world wars had to be numbered, World War I was called “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars,” which it wasn’t. It was the first modern war with massive, mechanized slaughter on land, sea and in the air. We can look at that war in retrospect, now 100 years after it started, as if through a distant mirror. The reflection, where we are today, is grim from within the greatest war-making nation in human history, the United States.
In the early years of the 20th century, the leaders of the nations of Europe had contrived a web of alliances, each treaty binding one country to join in the defense of another in the event of war. When the Austrian emperor’s son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, visited Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, 19-year-old Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated him. As Barbara Tuchman writes in her book, published in 1962, Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia, which set off a chain reaction, involving Russia, France, Belgium and Great Britain in the war against Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire.
After the war plans of the various powers failed, a period of brutal trench warfare began, with millions of lives lost under a relentless barrage of mortars, machine guns, mustard gas and newfangled airplanes outfitted with machine guns and bombs. By the war’s end, an estimated 9,700,000 soldiers would be dead, along with 6,800,000 civilians killed.
What, if anything, have we learned from the disaster of World War I? Look no farther than Gaza, or Ferguson, Mo. After nearly 50 days of the bombardment of Gaza with Israel’s intensely lethal, high-tech, U.S.-funded arsenal, Palestinian health officials put the number of Gazans killed at 2,139, of whom over 490 were children. Israel reported 64 soldiers killed as a result of its ground invasion of Gaza, with six civilians dead. The narrow Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places on Earth, suffering under an Israeli-imposed state of siege, is now a pile of rubble through which people pick, searching for the bodies of loved ones.
In Ferguson, police violence has provoked protests and a national debate after police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed, African-American teenager Michael Brown just days before Brown was to head off to college. The small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson has a fully militarized police force, with body armor, armored personnel carriers, and automatic weapons. If images from Ferguson looked like the streets of Baghdad or Kabul, it was no coincidence: The U.S. military has a program to distribute surplus war-making materiel to municipal police forces. It is less burdensome for a budget-constrained Pentagon to fob off its unwanted heavy armor to local police, rather than maintaining a large inventory. But why do our police need weapons of war?
The United States spent $640 billion on arms in 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, out of a global total of $1.7 trillion. Increased arms expenditures in other nations, notably China and Russia, indicate they aren’t comfortable with the United States being the sole global superpower.
What do those trillions spent on arms get us? In a word: war. Gaza is just one example. Syria’s civil war grinds on through its third year, with more than 200,000 killed. The militant group ISIS has taken control of vast swaths of Syria and Iraq. Libya, “liberated” by NATO airstrikes, is in a state of violent anarchy. Conflicts still rage, virtually unreported, in South Sudan, and in the sites of ongoing “Dirty Wars” waged by the U.S., as reported by Jeremy Scahill in his book of that title, in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. Violence in Ukraine has increased, according to the United Nations, with 1,200 people killed in the past month alone.
The millions killed pointlessly in World War I are mostly forgotten, a century on. Barbara Tuchman closed “The Guns of August,” closer to the 50th anniversary of that war, writing, “The nations were caught in a trap … a trap from which there was, and has been, no exit.” But there is a force more powerful than the governments of all these nations: the power of people everywhere, saying no. War is not the answer to conflict in the 21st century.
© 2014, agentleman.
Jesus Did Not Protect Me From My Abusive Christian Stepfather
I listened for the voice of god and prayed every day, but life did not change.
When I was a little boy, I was taught to love Jesus. Jesus would save me from sin and guarantee my place in heaven.
Early on, my mother’s husband “Bob” gave me a picture of Jesus with a wooden frame. At the time I did not realize it was a cheap bit of laminated crap. I loved my blond Jesus with a beard who was going to save me from suffering.
Except he didn’t.
I don’t remember the first time Bob hit me. My life was suffering. Our entire family suffered. When the abuse was not physical it was verbal, mental and all-consuming.
I learned the commandments and the Lord’s prayer. I went to Sunday school. I went to Lutheran grade school, and always I prayed.
“God please make him stop. Please! I will do anything, I will pray more and go to church every day.”
I believed harder and harder and harder.
In the first grade, I had access to a large library of books and magazines and a teacher I very much liked. I asked Mrs. Johnson why kids were starving all over the world.
She told me that God wanted to take them home to him to live in heaven so they could eat as much as they wanted.
Not satisfied with the answer I asked the pastor.
“If you have faith you can move mountains, you need to pray for them.”
And I prayed.
I shared a bedroom with three brothers and I went into our large closet, sat on the floor and prayed.
I told God how much faith I had and how I believed mountains could move and please, stop the starvation and make Bob love me, and stop.
I listened for the voice of god and prayed every day.
Life did not change.
I was often at the doctor, a slight endocrine disorder was grossly magnified by stress. I was over-treated, over-medicated and as a result often sick. I remember asking Dr. Ulrich if I would die, hoping that I would. I wanted so badly to go to heaven.
It might have been then I was put into therapy. The memories and episodes of abuse tumble all together. I remember in a doctor’s session putting the doll of Bob in the oven. I put my eldest brother in as well. He had chosen to align with the abuser and be abusive to me as well.
If I could not die I wanted them dead.
If Jesus did not want me in heaven, I would pray differently. I began to pray that he would take my brother and Bob. Let them live in heaven and I could live on earth with the remainder of my family.
Life did not change.
That is not to say there were not good times. I loved playing cards with my mother and sister and making them laugh. I would do funny voices and do everything I could to bring the mood up.
I adored my grandparents and the families of several of my friends. I liked food and cooking and cookbooks.
So I changed my prayers.
I prayed that I would be sent to live with Grandma and Grandpa. I had faith that would move mountains.
Life did not change.
I then prayed to go live with my Aunt Phyllis. She loved me and my mother would visit and I could be happy. Phyllis died from a brain aneurysm soon after.
I tried to believe god wanted her in heaven, but could not understand why he hated me so much.
In Minnesota I had hope with Pastor Schweigert. After a particularly bad episode, I called him and begged for his help. He was a pastor and a good Christian.
He called Bob instead, told him that he was head of the house and that he needed to ‘deal with me.’
I was in my basement room. I remember him coming down in a rage and little after that.
My mother would try to intervene. “Bob no, Bob stop, Bob please.”
And on it went.
I began to think maybe Jesus was not the answer. I think I was 12 when I went to the library and started reading other religious books. From Enke to Jehovah, I read them all. I began to wonder if anyone had the answers.
I finally read the Bible, cover to cover.
The god that was revealed was a horrific and evil creature. He ordered rape, murder, unborn babies being cut out of the stomach of their mothers.
They attacked Midian just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed all the men. All five of the Midianite kings – Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba – died in the battle. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. Then the Israelite army captured the Midianite women and children and seized their cattle and flocks and all their wealth as plunder. They burned all the towns and villages where the Midianites had lived. After they had gathered the plunder and captives, both people and animals, they brought them all to Moses and Eleazar the priest, and to the whole community of Israel, which was camped on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River, across from Jericho. (Numbers 31:7-18 NLT)
This is god?
When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)
This is god?
Could the Jews not see they were being deluded into going to war and that leaving cooked meat on the alter meant they were cooking for some guy? I guess being told you are “God’s chosen’ will make you do anything.
And the contradictions were legion.
There is but one God
There is a plurality of gods
Gen 1:26/ Gen 3:22/ Gen 18:1-3/ 1 John 5:7
The Resurrection story had even more contradictions depending on what chapter you read.
Could it be that it was all written by men who could not get their stories straight?
I read more, I read the ‘myths’ Mithras and Orsis etc. I discovered that the bulk of the Jesus story was lifted and that his image came from Mithras, a white European god.
I refused my confirmation in the Lutheran Church, I stopped praying and things got better.
I found friends and mentors in school who helped me. Judith James, Roger Franzen, Bob Kuhlman, they all gave me the parenting I needed, the strength to go on. Roger Franzen was a Lutheran paster (no longer) who came out of the closet late in life and had the ‘Christian’ church he was a part of steal his pension after immediate termination.
My mother filed for divorce.
I was no longer praying and Bob was finally gone.
I went to the judge with my brothers and sister and told him why we wanted NO visitation. It was granted.
Was not praying the answer?
I did have one final prayer. I prayed that I would turn out nothing like Bob. I wanted never to fly into a blind rage and hurt someone. I wanted to learn and travel and be nothing like this evil man.
The prayer was answered.
I answered it myself.
© 2014, agentleman.
Order vs. Disorder, Part 3 By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Egyptians fought for freedom from a dictator in Tahrir Square in 2011. But are they really free today?
THE United States is swamped by refugee children from collapsing Central American countries; efforts to contain the major Ebola outbreak in West Africa are straining governments there; jihadists have carved out a bloodthirsty caliphate inside Iraq and Syria; after having already eaten Crimea, Russia keeps taking more bites out of Ukraine; and the U.N.’s refugee agency just announced that “the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.” If it feels as though the world of disorder is expanding against the world of order, it’s not your imagination. There’s an unfortunate logic to it.
Three big trends are converging. The first is what one of my teachers Dov Seidman calls the growing number of “un-free” people in the world — the millions who “have secured a certain kind of freedom but yet feel un-free because they’re now aware that they don’t have the kind of freedom that matters most.”
Seidman, author of the book “How” and C.E.O. of LRN, which advises global businesses on governance, points out that while there’s been a lot of warranted focus on the destabilizing effects of income inequality, there is another equally destabilizing inequality emerging at the same time: “It is the inequality of freedom, and it is even more disordering.”
That may sound odd. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the toppling of dictators in the Arab awakening, how could more people be feeling “un-free”?
Seidman looks at the world through the framework of “freedom from” and “freedom to.” In recent years, he argues, “more people than ever have secured their ‘freedom from’ different autocrats in different countries.” Ukrainians, Tunisians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Libyans, Yemenis to name a few. “But so few are getting the freedom we truly cherish,” he adds. “And that is not just ‘freedom from.’ It is ‘freedom to.’ ”
“Freedom to” is the freedom to live your life, speak your mind, start your own political party, build your own business, vote for any candidate, pursue happiness, and be yourself, whatever your sexual, religious or political orientation.
“Protecting and enabling all of those freedoms,” says Seidman, “requires the kind of laws, rules, norms, mutual trust and institutions that can only be built upon shared values and by people who believe they are on a journey of progress and prosperity together.”
Such values-based legal systems and institutions are just what so many societies have failed to build after overthrowing their autocrats. That’s why the world today can be divided into three kinds of spaces: countries with what Seidman calls “sustainable order,” or order based on shared values, stable institutions and consensual politics; countries with imposed order — or order based on an iron-fisted, top-down leadership, or propped-up by oil money, or combinations of both, but no real shared values or institutions; and, finally, whole regions of disorder, such as Iraq, Syria, Central America and growing swaths of Central and North Africa, where there is neither an iron fist from above nor shared values from below to hold states together anymore.
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Imposed order, says Seidman, “depends on having power over people and formal authority to coerce allegiance and compel obedience,” but both are much harder to sustain today in an age of increasingly empowered, informed and connected citizens and employees who can easily connect and collaborate to cast off authority they deem illegitimate.
“Exerting formal power over people,” he adds, “is getting more and more elusive and expensive” — either in the number of people you have to kill or jail or the amount of money you have to spend to anesthetize your people into submission or indifference — “and ultimately it is not sustainable.” The only power that will be sustainable in a world where more people have “freedom from,” argues Seidman, “is power based on leading in a two-way conversation with people, power that is built on moral authority that inspires constructive citizenship and creates the context for ‘freedom to.’ ”
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Carol B. Russell Yesterday
The world has always been disorderly….Where o Where is this “world of order”…(utopia…HG Wells)So…what is Friedman writing about….
Joanne Holland Yesterday
The clarity conveyed so well by Mr. Friedman seems elusive to the world’s leaders. It seems that unrest will continue until we reach…
The root of all world disputes resulting from Order / disorder conflicts is nation states with imaginary borders created by the colonialists…
SEE ALL COMMENTS
But because generating such sustainable leadership and institutions is hard and takes time, we have a lot more disorderly vacuums in the world today — where people have won “freedom from” without building “freedom to.”
The biggest challenge for the world of order today is collaborating to contain these vacuums and fill them with order. That is what President Obama is trying to do in Iraq, by demanding Iraqis build a sustainable inclusive government in tandem with any U.S. military action against the jihadists there. Otherwise, there will never be self-sustaining order there, and they will never be truly free.
But containing and shrinking the world of disorder is a huge task, precisely because it involves so much nation-building — beyond the capacity of any one country. Which leads to the second disturbing trend today: how weak or disjointed the whole world of order is. The European Union is mired in an economic/unemployment slump. China behaves like it’s on another planet, content to be a free-rider on the international system. And Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is playing out some paranoid czarist fantasy in Ukraine, while the jihadist world of disorder encroaches from the south.
Now add a third trend, and you can really get worried: America is the tent pole holding up the whole world of order. But our inability to agree on policies that would ensure our long-term economic vitality — an immigration bill that would ease the way for energetic and talented immigrants; a revenue-neutral carbon tax that would replace income and corporate taxes; and government borrowing at these low rates to rebuild our infrastructure and create jobs, while gradually phasing in long-term fiscal rebalancing — is the definition of shortsighted.
“If we can’t do the hard work of building alliances at home,” says David Rothkopf, author of the upcoming book “National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear,” “we are never going to have the strength or ability to build them around the world.”
The Cold War involved two competing visions of order. That is, both sides were in the world of order, and all we in the West needed to do was collaborate enough to contain the East/Communism. Today is different. It is a world of order versus a world of disorder — and that disorder can only be contained by the world of order collaborating with itself and with the people in disorder to build their “freedom to.” But “building” is so much harder than “containing.” It takes so much more energy and resources. We’ve got to stop messing around at home as if this moment is just the same-old, same-old — and our real and tacit allies had better wake up, too. Preserving and expanding the world of sustainable order is the leadership challenge of our time.
© 2014, agentleman.
How the Ultra-Rich .01% Have Sucked Up Even More of America’s Wealth Than You Think
The economy has become systematically corrupt. By David DeGraw
This is an adapted excerpt from the new book, The Economics of Revolution.
John Dewey quote
An extensive analysis of economic conditions and government policy reveals that the need for significant systemic change is now a mathematical fact. Corruption, greed and economic inequality have reached a peak tipping point. Due to the consolidation of wealth, the majority of the population cannot generate enough income to keep up with the cost of living. In the present economy, under current government policy, 70% of the population is now sentenced to an impoverished existence.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the evidence.
I: The Ultra-Rich .01%
To see how corrupt the United States government has become, just follow the money. According to the most recent Federal Reserve Flow of Funds report, US households currently have an all-time high $82 trillion in overall wealth. If that wealth were spread out evenly, every US household would now have $712k. However, as of the end of 2013, the median household only had $56k in wealth. From 2007 – 2013, overall wealth increased 26%, while the median household lost a shocking 43% of their wealth. If median wealth continues to decline at this rate, over 50% of US households will be bankrupt within the next decade.
The fact that the majority of households are losing so much wealth in a time of record-breaking overall wealth demonstrates how systemically corrupt the economy has become. To begin to grasp the scale of corruption, let’s analyze how much wealth has been consolidated within the economic top 1% of the population.
The latest comprehensive look at wealth distribution data reveals that the “ultra-rich” economic top 0.01% of US households now has an all-time high 11.1% of overall wealth. The next tier, the 0.1% – 0.99% has 10.4%, and the top 1% – 0.9% has 18.3%. In total, the top 1% now has an all-time high 39.8% of wealth.
When we correlate wealth distribution percentages with the $82 trillion in overall wealth reported by the Federal Reserve, it reveals that the top .01% has a stunning $9.1 trillion in wealth. In total, the top 1% has a mind-blowing $32.6 trillion.
To begin to comprehend wealth of this magnitude, one trillion is equal to 1000 billion. $32.6 trillion written out is $32,600,000,000,000.00.
Having that much wealth consolidated within a mere 1% of the population, while a record number of people toil in poverty and debt, is a crime against humanity. For example, it would only cost 0.5% of the 1%’s wealth to eliminate poverty nationwide. Also consider that at least 40% of the 1%’s accounted for wealth is sitting idle. That’s an astonishing $13 trillion in wealth hoarded away, unused.
Once you truly understand how much $32.6 trillion is, and realize how just a fraction of that wealth could dramatically evolve society for the benefit of all, the argument for significant systemic change is solid. However, as scandalous as these statistics are, they do not factor in trillions of dollars more in unaccounted for offshore wealth, which makes the overall situation sound significantly better than it actually is and hides the true depth of the crisis from popular consciousness. (We will analyze hidden wealth in section 4.)
Looking toward the future, current trends reveal that the rate in which inequality is growing is increasing rapidly. Overall wealth increased by $1.5 trillion in the first quarter of 2014. If wealth keeps increasing at the current rate, there will be an increase of $6 trillion in 2014. How will this wealth be distributed? If you look at income gains since 2009, 95% of them have gone to the top 1%.
We Are The 99.99%
There are now many people within the top 1% who are much closer in wealth to the middle class than they are the ultra-rich. Greed has grown so extreme that even within the top 1% inequality is soaring. The top 1% of the 1%, the .01%, now has 28% of the 1%’s wealth. When you factor in hidden wealth, they have an estimated 33% of the 1%’s wealth. An individual must have over $100 million in wealth to be in the .01%.
In 1980, the richest .01% was already consolidating wealth at a systemically unhealthy rate. Since then, they have more than quadrupled their share of overall wealth. Meanwhile, households who fall between the top 10% and the top 0.1% have actually been losing their share of overall wealth.
As the ultra-rich .01% amasses unprecedented wealth, they are forcing the overwhelming majority of the population into extreme economic insecurity and ever-increasing debt.
II: The Systematic Impoverishment of Society
Noam Chomsky quote
If you are struggling to get by and running up debt to make ends meet, it is not your fault. It is the intentional outcome of government policy and economic central planning. In the present economy, it is impossible for 70% of the working age population to earn enough income to afford basic necessities, without taking on ever-increasing levels of debt, which they will never be able to pay back because there are not enough jobs that generate the necessary income to keep up with the cost of living.
For every 3.4 working age people, there is only one that can generate an income high enough to cover the cost of living without taking on debt. In total, only 20% of the overall population currently generates enough income to sustain the cost of living. As a result, poverty and declining living standards are much more prevalent throughout US society than the government and corporate media report. Let’s take a look at the reality behind mainstream propaganda…
The US Government & Statistical Fraud
The government engages in outright statistical fraud on the most often cited economic indicators, from the unemployment rate to poverty and inflation rates. Even the use of the Gross Domestic Product measurement as an indicator for overall economic health is incredibly deceptive.
The mainstream media not only incessantly repeats these bogus measurements, they drastically underreport the growing epidemic of poverty. According to a study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “on average, someone affected by poverty appeared on any nightly news show only once every 20 days…. An average of just 2.7 seconds per 22-minute nightly news program was devoted to segments where poverty was mentioned.”
On the rare occasion when poverty is actually mentioned, the government’s Census Bureau poverty rate of 15% may be cited. When it comes to the overall employment situation, you will hear the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ unemployment rate, which is presently hovering around 6%. While these statistics are alarming, they drastically undercount the severity of the present crisis. Those two statistics are pure propaganda and mask the economic suffering of over 222 million US citizens.
Before analyzing the employment situation, let’s look at how the government calculates the poverty rate. The methodology behind the federal poverty rate was designed in 1963. It is incredibly outdated and significantly undercounts how much it costs to live in today’s economy. It uses the extremely flawed Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate to establish the poverty threshold. Many vital economic statistics that the government reports are based on this fraudulent inflation rate.
To give a more positive impression of overall economic health, the government has “revised” the methodology behind the CPI rate over 20 times since 1970. The CPI currently has inflation rising at a 2% annual rate. If inflation was calculated the way it was in 1980, the current rate would be 10%. When you take a deeper look into how this difference impacts vital economic statistics, it reveals a much different picture of the US economy.
Cost of Living
While the government claims a 2% annual inflation rate, the actual cost of living has been skyrocketing. Here’s the reality of the situation…
The US now has the most expensive healthcare system in the world. There has been a 22% increase in out-of-pocket hospital expenses over the past year. In the first quarter of 2014, healthcare spending rose at the fastest pace in 10 years. The cost of giving birth has tripled since 1996, childbirth out-of-pocket expenses increased fourfold from 2004 to 2010. The cost of childcare increased by 70% from 1985 to 2011. From 1994 to May 2014, the cost of childcare has been more than double the CPI inflation rate.
The overall cost of raising a child has risen 40% in the past decade, not counting the cost of college. Since 1986, the cost of college tuition has increased by 498 percent, compared to the 117% CPI inflation rate over that timeframe. Student loan debt has increased threefold over the last decade. The amount of money students are borrowing to pay tuition bills doubled from 2005 to 2012.
Looking at basic food costs, from 2002 to 2012, total CPI inflation was 28%. Consider the following price increases over that timeframe: Eggs 73%, Ground Beef 61%, Turkey 56%, White Bread 39%, Spaghetti & Macaroni 44%, Peanut Butter 40%, Coffee 90%, Orange Juice 46%, Apples 43%, Margarine 143%.
This dramatic rise in the basic cost of living, the amount of money that people need to survive, which is all but ignored by the CPI in the federal poverty threshold calculation, only reveals part of the government’s deception on poverty. Beyond the fraudulent inflation measurement, the Census Bureau does not adequately account for the differences in cost of living based on geographic locations. For instance, the cost of living in large population states like New York and California, as compared to the costs in more rural lower population Southern and Midwestern states.
When you realistically account for real inflation and geographically based cost of living, how much does it cost to cover basic necessities?
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has the most comprehensive look at the costs of living and how much money a family needs to cover basic necessities based on the city they live in. The EPI accounts for the costs of housing, food, healthcare, childcare, transportation and taxes. They do not factor in the costs of a college education or retirement.
Based on EPI calculations, a family of four needs to make $63,364 a year to cover basic necessities. Compare that to the government’s Census Bureau calculation using the CPI inflation rate and non-geographic accounting, which puts this threshold for a family of four at a mere $23,600.
In relation to the government’s poverty rate, the Economic Policy Institute’s numbers sound extremely high. However, they use very modest costs. For example, they use Topeka, Kansas as their median family budget area and calculate the cost of housing for a family of four at only $692 a month. When you analyze geographically based costs, you can see how expensive it is for a family to live in larger population cities:
New York HUD Metro FMR Area: $94,676
Los Angeles-Long Beach: $74,605
Washington, DC: $89,643
San Francisco: $82,639
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos: $71,673
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara: $77,619
To give more context, USA Today recently analyzed how much moderate costs of living for a family of four are today. They calculated that the average family needs to generate an annual income of $130k. Their estimate was more than double the median EPI cost of $63k, primarily because they factored in the costs of owning a home, one car, retirement and education.
Now, consider that the current annual median household income is only $51k per year. While overall wealth and the cost of living have skyrocketed, median household income has declined 8.3% since 2007 and 9% since 1999. To further demonstrate how dramatically the cost of living has truly risen since 2007, while median household income declined 8.3%, their overall wealth declined 43%.
For more historical context and to further demonstrate how corrupt the government and economic system have become; if household income had kept pace with the overall economy since 1970, the current annual median would be $95k, almost double what it presently is. On top of that, it was normal to have only one wage-earner per household in 1970, as compared to two now.
If we look at the government poverty threshold for what it truly is, an indicator of extreme poverty, then it has a little more legitimacy. As the National Center for Children in Poverty reported on the government’s poverty threshold, “Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses.”
When we count the percentage of the population at double the government’s poverty threshold as living in poverty, the poverty rate explodes from 15% of the population to 47%. Now you can see one of the reasons why the government falsifies the inflation rate. The government will not make this long overdue adjustment because that would mean they have to admit that 150 million people are currently living in poverty and simply cannot afford the cost of basic necessities.
According to the Census Bureau, 28% of children are now born into poverty. This marks a dramatic increase from an already alarming 25% in 2008. In total, the Census Bureau reports that 22% of children live in poverty. However, when we make the proper adjustments to the methodology of the poverty rate, an even more horrifying 45% of children live in poverty. That means there are currently 33,389,063 US children living in households that cannot afford basic necessities.
It would take only 0.3% of the 1%’s wealth to lift every one of these children out of poverty.
Overall, from 2000 to 2010 the Census Bureau found that the percentage of people living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods grew from 18.1% to 25.7%. Extrapolating out to today, we can estimate that 82 million people presently live in extreme poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
Extreme poverty-stricken neighborhoods can become a relic of the past with 0.5% of the 1%’s wealth.
For a deeper understanding of why poverty is growing so rapidly while overall wealth is also growing, let’s analyze the government’s fraudulent unemployment statistics.
Unemployment & Underemployment
Other than the deceptive poverty rate, unemployment is much worse than the 6% that the government reports. The 6% rate does not include part-time workers who need full-time work, long-term unemployed people who have not been able to find work for over six months, and “discouraged workers” who do not consistently look for work. When you account for those groups, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did until 1994, the real unemployment rate is currently 23.2%.
For an example of how deceptive government unemployment reporting is, the BLS June 2014 jobs report decreased the unemployment rate and was portrayed in the mainstream media as a very positive result with 288k jobs added. However, in June, 523k full-time jobs were eliminated, and 800k part-time jobs were added, providing the illusion of job growth and a reduction in the government’s unemployment rate. Due to this trend, there are now over 7.5 million underemployed workers who are “part-time for economic reasons” because they have had their hours cut and/or cannot find full-time employment. None of these people are counted in the official government unemployment total.
Since 2007, well-paying paying jobs have become rare and low-paying full-time, part-time and temporary jobs have replaced them. This has also been a downside of the new healthcare law, as companies are cutting back full-time employment so they don’t have to pay for workers’ healthcare. In total, 50% of jobs created over the past three years are “low-paying,” mostly in retail, food service or temporary help. Low-paying jobs pay 80% or less of median wages.
The bottom line, in a nation of 318.6 million people, with a working age population of 213 million people, there are now only 118 million full-time jobs and 28 million part-time jobs, according to the BLS. However, also according to the BLS, there are currently only 106.6 million full-time workers. In other words, it is impossible for half of the working age population to get a full-time job. On top of that, of the current 118 million full-time jobs, 47% of them generate annual salaries below $35k per year.
III: Economic Slavery
Beyond unemployment and underemployment, the percentage of full-time working poor has grown significantly. US workers are presently producing twice as much wealth per work hour than they were in 1980. Instead of median incomes doubling since then, they have stagnated. The gap between wealth production and median income is now at an all-time high.
Based on the latest available individual level income data, 40% of workers make less than full-time minimum wage workers made in 1968, roughly $20k per year according to the suppressed CPI inflation rate. More realistic adjustments for inflation will reveal a much higher total. For example, the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. If minimum wage had kept pace with overall income inflation since 1968, the minimum wage would now be $21.16, which means a full-time minimum wage worker would now be making $44k a year. However, the median annual wage is only $27,519. Based on income inflation, only 22% of the working age population and 15% of the overall population currently have an annual income higher than a full-time minimum wage worker had in 1968.
The average person needs to generate $35k in annual income to cover the cost of basic necessities. Looking at the actual spending habits of the average worker, you need to generate an income of $42k to cover annual expenses. If we use $35k as our threshold for a living wage, only 30% of the working age population and 20% of the overall population generate an annual income over $35k. For every 3.4 working age people, there is one that generates an income high enough to cover the cost of basic necessities without taking on debt.
Keep in mind, that does not factor in the cost of paying off student debt. Average student debt is presently $29,400. If paid off over a 10-year period, at an average 4.6% interest rate, it costs $306 per month, $3672 annually. In this situation, a person needs to make an annual income of $38,672 to cover the cost of living plus their student debt. Only 27% of the working age population and 18% of the overall population generate that much income. For every 3.7 working age people, there is one that can sustain the cost of basic necessities plus the average student loan debt without taking on more debt.
Therefore, in the current economy, 73% of people with student debt will not be able to pay it back while also maintaining the cost of living, without going deeper into debt. The US government has sentenced you to a lifetime of ever-increasing debt and ever-declining living standards.
Mathematically Eliminated from the American Dream
For a worker to cover their own cost of living and the cost of one child, they will need to make roughly $45k a year. Only 22% of the working age population and 15% of the overall population currently generate enough income to support one child. For every one person that can generate enough income to sustain the cost of basic necessities for themselves and one child, there are 4.5 working age people.
Now, think back to the American dream that prevailed from the 1950s – 70s. Each family had one wage-earner supporting three children and one other adult who would care for the children. While this was considered the “American dream,” it is also the basis of a healthy society.
How healthy is our society and how many people can afford to live the American dream in today’s economy?
With today’s cost of living, just to cover basic necessities it will cost $80k per year to pull this off in the median family area, Topeka, Kansas. In the current economy, only 5.8% of the population can currently generate enough income to live the traditional American dream in Topeka. Clearly, we are not in Kansas anymore.
Levittown, New York was the first suburb that gave birth to the American dream. Try pulling off the American dream in its birthplace and it will cost $125k a year. Only 2% of the population can pull that off.
Once again, these baseline costs do not take college or retirement costs into account. With the reduced costs in childcare, due to one person in the family focused on taking care of the children, they can at least put some money away for college, as long as they don’t go away for vacation and none of their children go to a private school.
Beyond these baseline costs, looking at moderate costs for a family of four owning a home in a median family area, with one car, education and retirement costs factored in, it will cost $130k a year. Add a third child and a second car into the mix and it will cost roughly $150k a year. Only 1.46% of the overall population makes over $150k per year. In other words, in the current economy, the average traditional American Dream is only attainable for the 1%. The 99% has been mathematically eliminated from the traditional American Dream. If they want to have a family and own a home, they are now sentenced to a lifetime of economic insecurity and ever-increasing debt.
As for retirement, if you American dreamers think you are going to retire at 65, it’s time to wake up.
There Is No Escaping
According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, “the median amount a family nearing retirement has saved for their post-work lives is $12,000.” As 76 million Baby Boomers are due to retire, the real toll of this economic crisis is going to hit home in a huge way.
Up until now, Social Security has been the savior. Currently 57 million people receive Social Security benefits. In the present economy, that works out to two full-time workers for every one person collecting benefits. Adding 76 million to the 57 million people currently drawing benefits would mean 133 million retirees to 118 full-time jobs. Even factoring in death rates, with new full-time jobs a rarity in today’s economy, having one retired person to one full-time worker will soon be a reality.
In fact, Social Security is already giving out more money than it is taking in. From 2010 – 2012, there was a $150 billion deficit. However, the Social Security trust fund is supposed to have a $2.7 trillion in surplus. In reality, all that money was already spent on wars, bailouts and tax cuts for the rich. As Charles Hugh Smith explains, “when Social Security runs a deficit, the Treasury funds it by selling Treasury bonds, the same way it funds any other deficit spending. If the Treasury can’t sell bonds, the phantom nature of the Trust Fund will be revealed.”
Given the corruption in Washington and the current fiscal debate, the likelihood of Social Security maintaining it promised returns is minimal. On top of that, the dramatic rise in healthcare costs and decline in full-time jobs make the current system inadequate and unsustainable. According to the Census Bureau, 54% of people over age 64 would be living in poverty without Social Security.
The probability that the more fortunate members of the Baby Boom generation will collect full pensions and be able to sell off their assets to cover the cost of basic necessities in this economy is also highly problematic. In “The Happy Story of Boomers Retiring on Their Generational Wealth Is Wrong,” Charles Hugh Smith sums up the situation:
“[Boomers’] wealth will shrivel once they start selling assets en masse. The reality is neither Gen-X nor Gen-Y have the savings, income or desire to buy bubble-level assets from their elders. This reality has been papered over for the past 5 years of super-low interest rates, which have enabled unqualified buyers to buy overpriced assets with modest income. Once the defaults start pouring in (and/or interest rates rise), the reality will become visible: you can’t cash in your wealth if there are no buyers.
There are numerous other fatal flaws with the happy story that 76 million Boomers can retire on full pensions and live off their home equity and stock portfolios…. Pension funds based on annual returns of 7.5% will be unable to fund the promised pensions when annual returns decline to negative 5%. As John Hussman has explained, every asset bubble in effect siphons off all the future return: when the bubble finally pops, average annual returns are subpar or negative for years.”
Another Wave of Foreclosures on the Horizon
Since 2007, over 5.5 million families have lost their homes to foreclosure. The impact of that is horrifying to think about. The decision to bailout the banks to the extent that they were able to give out all-time record salaries and bonuses to the very people who caused the crisis, while millions of American families were thrown out of their homes is the epitome of tyranny and corruption.
Unfortunately, the foreclosure crisis is far from over. Six million families are still underwater on their mortgages, and this number will increase. Their average negative equity is a shocking 33%. As Ellen Brown recently summed it up, “40% of mortgages nationally are either underwater or nearly so, meaning more is owed on the home than it is worth. Seventy percent of homes that are deeply underwater wind up in default. Worse, second mortgages are due for a reset. Over the next several years, principal payments will be added to interest-only payments on second mortgages taken out during the boom years. Many borrowers will be unable to afford the higher payments. The anticipated result is another disastrous wave of foreclosures.”
Looking at the overall picture, mortgage debt-to-wages is more than double the historic average. To make matters even worse, the Federal Reserve has been fraudulently inflating housing prices. As part of their wealth extraction operation they currently own $1.7 trillion in Mortgage-backed securities and $2.4 trillion in Treasury securities. (We will take a close look into how the Federal Reserve has been artificially propping up asset values for the benefit of the top economic .01% and the determent of everyone else in Part 2.)
The Illusion of Prosperity & A Tsunami of Debt
The inevitable insolvency of the overwhelming majority of the population hasn’t hit home yet because they have taken on ever-increasing levels of debt to maintain the illusion of prosperity. Other than the staggering national debt that the corrupted government has run up, US citizens have now taken on $12 trillion in personal debt.
On average, that’s $50k of debt for every US citizen over the age of 17. Again, it cannot be stated enough, in the current economy under present government policy, it is impossible for this debt to be paid off while maintaining the cost of basic necessities. Therefore, overall debt will continue to skyrocket. Even if interest rates on these debts dropped to 0%, as the Federal Reserve has done for a select few of their friends on Wall Street, there is no way for people to earn enough income to keep up with cost of living, let alone pay back their debts. On top of that, the already usurious interest rates on these debts are increasing. In fact, the spark that set off the global financial crisis in the first place is heating up once again:
“During the first quarter [of 2014], 3.7 million credit cards were issued to subprime borrowers, up a head-scratching 39% from a year earlier, and the most since 2008. A third of all cards issued were subprime, also the most since 2008…. In the first quarter, the average [interest] rate was 21.1%, up from 20.2% a year ago, while prime borrowers paid an average of 12.9% on their credit cards, and while banks that are lending them the money paid nearly 0%.”
If current trends continue and current policies remain in place, 90% of the US population is heading for insolvency. That may sound like an exaggeration that is too absurd to be true. However, as the Guardian recently reported in an article headlined, “The Coming Debt Tsunami:”
“So why look down the road – say, to 2017 – and worry? Here’s why: because the debt held by American households is rising ominously. And unless our economic policies change, that debt balloon, powered by radical income inequality, is going to become the next bust….
Falling government deficits are being replaced by rising debts on everyone else’s ledgers…. the majority of Americans – the 90% – will once again do what was done before: borrow, and then borrow more. By early 2017… it should be apparent that we’re reliving an alarming history. Middle- and low-income households have been following a trajectory of an ever-higher ratio of debt to income….
The evidence demonstrates that the de-leveraging of the very rich and the indebtedness of almost everyone else move in tandem; they follow the same trend line. In short, there’s a strong and continuous correlation between the rich getting richer, and the poor – make that the 90% – going deeper into debt…. The more – proportionally – that the top 10% has prospered, saved and invested (naturally, the gains found their way into the financial markets), the more the bottom 90% has borrowed….
Insolvency for the 90% has become… ‘the new normal’. Unsustainable? Of course…. Under the current disastrous economic and tax policies, we can look forward to rapid increases in debt for both corporations and households from at least 2015 to 2017: a tsunami of debt.”
The first wave of the coming tsunami of debt has already begun to wash ashore. For the first time since the depth of the recession, credit card debt is now rising faster than wage growth, yet another ominous indicator of what’s to come.
Crimes Against Humanity
Behind all of the statistics presented in this report is immense physical and psychological trauma. The stress of economic insecurity compounds the problem by leading to health problems, which dramatically increase costs of living. Economic insecurity drives people to expensive healthcare, medications, drug use and crime. Beyond the moral and humanitarian imperative, recent studies prove that the cost of poverty to overall society is far higher than the cost of eliminating poverty.
The shortsighted greed of the .01% is causing the unnecessary suffering of an unprecedented number of people. Their consolidation of wealth has created a system of economic slavery. In a wealthy and technologically advanced society, it is a crime against humanity for a majority of the population to be toiling in extreme debt, poverty, unemployment and low-wage jobs.
© 2014, agentleman.
We Aren’t Trying to End Global Terror: We’re After the Oil
Amid the conflict with ISIS, the bottom line is a reliable supply to the Middle East’s liquid gold.
Thirteen years after the attacks of September 11, and with much said and written about ISIS and the gruesome beheading of James Foley, America continues to misunderstand the roots of Islamic terrorism. We also fail to acknowledge that as long as we remain addicted to cheap oil we will be locked in a war in the Middle East.
You won’t hear Middle East oil mentioned on the cable news airwaves. You will hear “clash of civilizations,”” religiously motivated terrorism,” and any number of similar phrases that are meant to distract and divert us from facing the central dispute between us and the Muslim world: we are addicted to the oil beneath their feet, and we intend to dominate the land they stand on.
The Muslim world isn’t as ignorant as Christian crusaders, the military industrial complex and the vast know-nothing right wing would have you believe. After all, what uncivilized, stupid people could produce algebra, geometry and our concept of the rule of law? The Muslim world is smart enough to figure out that America has invested all of the past 70 years into dominating control of Middle East oil supplies. We have propped despotic regimes and brutal dictators, overthrown democratically elected governments and waged three wars in two decades on Muslim soil. All while we fund and are complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation and theft of Palestinian land.
ISIS is the product of our own imagination and self-serving meddling. After we removed Saddam and his Sunni quasi-government, ISIS was the response by those Sunnis blocked from enjoying economic participation in Iraq.
It’s time to face reality and the monster in the mirror: we are not trying to end global terror, nor are we trying to promote Western secular democracy in the Middle East. Our motivations and desires are no secret. We do everything to ensure that we, and our allies, particularly Japan, have a reliable supply to the region’s liquid gold.
With a total of 44 U.S. military bases in the Middle East and the Central Asia, we have the Muslim world completely surrounded. From Turkey to Saudi Arabia, from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan, our bases serve as a constant reminder to Muslims that we control their economic future and we are here to stay. And with an economic future that looks bleak for Muslims, the embers for Muslim rage are stoked.
“Terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease of life,” writes Robert Pape in Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.
The U.S. State Department has announced that Westerners, mostly British Muslims, are being drawn to ISIS. Media outlets everywhere ask why. The answer is clear. The UK has the greatest concentration of Muslims among Western democracies. Muslims were pulled from former British colonies during the 1940s to provide cheap labor for the reconstruction of Britain in the aftermath of the second world war. The textile and steel mills in the north of England were filled with Muslim migrants from Asia and Africa.
Industrial collapse turned these mills into dust heaps, and today Muslim urban ghettos in the UK now resemble the socio-economic conditions of predominately black urban ghettos in America. For British Muslims, high unemployment is the norm, as is racial discrimination and anti-immigrant violence. For many, economic and social oppression at home looks a whole lot like the social and economic oppression that is occurring in Muslim countries abroad. The collapse of liberal democracies in the face of unfettered capitalism has failed minorities everywhere in the West.
Socio-economic insecurity is at the heart of all self-proclaimed religiously motivated extremism. Where social justice prevails, and the state meets the economic needs of its people, hyper-religious ideologies lack appeal.
French political scholar Oliver Roy argues, “This notion of a globalized Islam is not the product of any specific ‘Islamist’ organization but a broad sociological trend that has developed across Europe as a result of racism, migration, and globalization.” In Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq, Muslims have been oppressed and had war waged upon them. “In principle—all the struggles for Muslims around the world were to be regarded as equally important” in this global ummah, Roy writes. This is why we now find Western Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Afghanistan.
In returning to the Middle East, and its oil, our posture and actions promise to become even more aggressive, as oil reserves inevitably diminish. In an in-depth look into Saudi oil production over the past 40 years, Matthew R. Simmons warns in his book Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy that Saudi oil production is a far cry from the boastful claims long made by the kingdom regarding the robustness of its oilfields. According to Simmons, Saudi oil production peaked at 10 million barrels a day in 1981. Today it is 8 to 9 million barrels and falling. No super giant oil fields have been found in the region since the 1950s.
The very reason U.S. military bases, which are the size of small cities, exist in Saudi Arabia is to ensure our access to this diminishing supply. The oppressive Saudi regime wants us there to ensure neighboring countries don’t eye their oil. The central and founding charter of Al Qaeda was to remove our bases from the Holy Land. It was no coincidence that 17 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.
“We can have peace when we shut down our bases, stay the hand of the Israelis to create a Palestinian state, and go home, or we can have long, costly, and ultimately futile regional war. We cannot have both,” warns Chris Hedges. With our addiction to Middle East oil supplies, we can expect the latter, which means 2001 was the start of our endless war with the Muslim world.
© 2014, agentleman.