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There are so many good things about this country that I dislike harping on what is ailing us. Still, drawing attention to society’s deficiencies is one of a writer’s designated roles, so I had better not let the side down. In that spirit (‘reluctant yet principled’ one might say), and that of the arguments made in my book, Titanic Nation: How To Avoid Icebergs: The Case For Fundamental change In The American Way Of Life, let me make the following observations. For those who are challenged by nuance, let me give fair warning that irony may be in use here:
· Household net worth has decreased from its peak of $65.86 trillion in Q2 of 2007 to $54.56 trillion as of Q1 2010 (and it is still dropping like a plugged plover). That is a drop of $11.3 trillion – over 17 percent - and members of the Middle Class are the principal losers. Why not indeed! They – we – have been losing out since the early Seventies so, after such a long period of such injustice being the accepted norm, one might credibly advance the argument that it’s just the American Way. After all, this is a democracy and the system which tolerates such a norm is voted in by ‘We, the People.’
· The cost of bailing out the banks – who were the primary cause of the Great Recession - to date has been $14 trillion. Source: Nomi Prins’ book It Takes a Pillage The reason that they get bailed out is because Social Welfare for the Rich is part of the American Way too.
· Out of that $14 trillion, Wall Street received $12, 194 trillion, and American citizens received $1,823 trillion. Now, one might think that a little unfair, but that’s the whole point! If it was fair, the Right would call it 'Socialism;' and we certainly can’t have that in a nation of rugged individualists. Besides, we'd be damned because, as everyone knows, fairness is un-Christian.
· Extraordinarily low interest rates resulting from the current policies of the Fed have the effect of subsidizing Wall Street massively, because the banks can borrow at minimal cost and then re-lend at a profit (to the U.S. Government if so inclined), while undermining the return made by the average saver, who cannot borrow at the minimal rates charged by the Fed, but instead can experience the joys of double digit credit card interest rates. In effect, once again they promote a transfer of wealth from the Middle Class to the Rich and Corporate Interests because any other way would be un-American and therefore, by definition, wrong, because everyone knows the American Way is the best way in the world..
· The country’s trade deficit widened 18.8 percent in June 2010 which is what you’d expect if American business had been outsourcing American jobs for decades in the fine tradition of Free Trade.
· In order to find money to give to the States to keep teachers working, funding for the Food Stamps program was cut, which just goes to show that American Capitalism is truly unfettered exactly as the Chamber of Commerce wants.
All of this cannot but force the conclusion that we seem to have created a society of truly impressive inequality where the Rich and their Corporate Interests get ever richer and the rest exist solely to be pillaged; and that impression has to be reinforced by the feeling that if our American culture is prepared to tolerate this for any length of time, perhaps our core problem is cultural. Or such is my view. In short, in the time tested spirit of rugged individualism and personal responsibility, we are getting exactly what we deserve; and we seem exactly on track to get a great deal more of it.
I’m left with one puzzling thought: If the American Business Model, based upon unfettered capitalism, Free Trade and all this rugged individualism, is the best in the world, how come so many other economies are doing so much better than we are? And why don't most Americans know this?
Farewell from your puzzled friend.