Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good-Bye: Truth Has Fallen and Taken Liberty With It

Good-Bye: Truth Has Fallen and Taken Liberty With It

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There was a time when the pen was mightier than the sword. That was a time when people believed in truth and regarded truth as an independent power and not as an auxiliary for government, class, race, ideological, personal, or financial interest.

Today Americans are ruled by propaganda. Americans have little regard for truth, little access to it, and little ability to recognize it.

Truth is an unwelcome entity. It is disturbing. It is off limits. Those who speak it run the risk of being branded “anti-American,” “anti-semite” or “conspiracy theorist.”

Truth is an inconvenience for government and for the interest groups whose campaign contributions control government.

Truth is an inconvenience for prosecutors who want convictions, not the discovery of innocence or guilt.

Truth is inconvenient for ideologues.

Today many whose goal once was the discovery of truth are now paid handsomely to hide it. “Free market economists” are paid to sell offshoring to the American people. High-productivity, high value-added American jobs are denigrated as dirty, old industrial jobs. Relicts from long ago, we are best shed of them. Their place has been taken by “the New Economy,” a mythical economy that allegedly consists of high-tech white collar jobs in which Americans innovate and finance activities that occur offshore. All Americans need in order to participate in this “new economy” are finance degrees from Ivy League universities, and then they will work on Wall Street at million dollar jobs.

Economists who were once respectable took money to contribute to this myth of “the New Economy.”

And not only economists sell their souls for filthy lucre. Recently we have had reports of medical doctors who, for money, have published in peer-reviewed journals concocted “studies” that hype this or that new medicine produced by pharmaceutical companies that paid for the “studies.”

The Council of Europe is investigating the drug companies’ role in hyping a false swine flu pandemic in order to gain billions of dollars in sales of the vaccine.

The media helped the US military hype its recent Marja offensive in Afghanistan, describing Marja as a city of 80,000 under Taliban control. It turns out that Marja is not urban but a collection of village farms.

And there is the global warming scandal, in which NGOs. the UN, and the nuclear industry colluded in concocting a doomsday scenario in order to create profit in pollution.

Wherever one looks, truth has fallen to money.

Wherever money is insufficient to bury the truth, ignorance, propaganda, and short memories finish the job.

I remember when, following CIA director William Colby’s testimony before the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan issued executive orders preventing the CIA and U.S. black-op groups from assassinating foreign leaders. In 2010 the US Congress was told by Dennis Blair, head of national intelligence, that the US now assassinates its own citizens in addition to foreign leaders.

When Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that US citizens no longer needed to be arrested, charged, tried, and convicted of a capital crime, just murdered on suspicion alone of being a “threat,” he wasn’t impeached. No investigation pursued. Nothing happened. There was no Church Committee. In the mid-1970s the CIA got into trouble for plots to kill Castro. Today it is American citizens who are on the hit list. Whatever objections there might be don’t carry any weight. No one in government is in any trouble over the assassination of U.S. citizens by the U.S. government.

As an economist, I am astonished that the American economics profession has no awareness whatsoever that the U.S. economy has been destroyed by the offshoring of U.S. GDP to overseas countries. U.S. corporations, in pursuit of absolute advantage or lowest labor costs and maximum CEO “performance bonuses,” have moved the production of goods and services marketed to Americans to China, India, and elsewhere abroad. When I read economists describe offshoring as free trade based on comparative advantage, I realize that there is no intelligence or integrity in the American economics profession.

Intelligence and integrity have been purchased by money. The transnational or global U.S. corporations pay multi-million dollar compensation packages to top managers, who achieve these “performance awards” by replacing U.S. labor with foreign labor. While Washington worries about “the Muslim threat,” Wall Street, U.S. corporations and “free market” shills destroy the U.S. economy and the prospects of tens of millions of Americans.

Americans, or most of them, have proved to be putty in the hands of the police state.

Americans have bought into the government’s claim that security requires the suspension of civil liberties and accountable government. Astonishingly, Americans, or most of them, believe that civil liberties, such as habeas corpus and due process, protect “terrorists,” and not themselves. Many also believe that the Constitution is a tired old document that prevents government from exercising the kind of police state powers necessary to keep Americans safe and free.

Most Americans are unlikely to hear from anyone who would tell them any different.

I was associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I was Business Week’s first outside columnist, a position I held for 15 years. I was columnist for a decade for Scripps Howard News Service, carried in 300 newspapers. I was a columnist for the Washington Times and for newspapers in France and Italy and for a magazine in Germany. I was a contributor to the New York Times and a regular feature in the Los Angeles Times. Today I cannot publish in, or appear on, the American “mainstream media.”

For the last six years I have been banned from the “mainstream media.” My last column in the New York Times appeared in January, 2004, coauthored with Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer representing New York. We addressed the offshoring of U.S. jobs. Our op-ed article produced a conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and live coverage by C-Span. A debate was launched. No such thing could happen today.

For years I was a mainstay at the Washington Times, producing credibility for the Moony newspaper as a Business Week columnist, former Wall Street Journal editor, and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. But when I began criticizing Bush’s wars of aggression, the order came down to Mary Lou Forbes to cancel my column.

The American corporate media does not serve the truth. It serves the government and the interest groups that empower the government.

America’s fate was sealed when the public and the anti-war movement bought the government’s 9/11 conspiracy theory. The government’s account of 9/11 is contradicted by much evidence. Nevertheless, this defining event of our time, which has launched the US on interminable wars of aggression and a domestic police state, is a taboo topic for investigation in the media. It is pointless to complain of war and a police state when one accepts the premise upon which they are based.

These trillion dollar wars have created financing problems for Washington’s deficits and threaten the U.S. dollar’s role as world reserve currency. The wars and the pressure that the budget deficits put on the dollar’s value have put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. Former Goldman Sachs chairman and U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is after these protections for the elderly. Fed chairman Bernanke is also after them. The Republicans are after them as well. These protections are called “entitlements” as if they are some sort of welfare that people have not paid for in payroll taxes all their working lives.

With over 21 per cent unemployment as measured by the methodology of 1980, with American jobs, GDP, and technology having been given to China and India, with war being Washington’s greatest commitment, with the dollar over-burdened with debt, with civil liberty sacrificed to the “war on terror,” the liberty and prosperity of the American people have been thrown into the trash bin of history.

The militarism of the U.S. and Israeli states, and Wall Street and corporate greed, will now run their course. As the pen is censored and its might extinguished, I am signing off.

Israeli tanks roll into Gaza

Israeli tanks roll into Gaza

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Israeli military forces have launched an attack on Gaza as clashes  with militants resulted in the death of two israel soldiers.Israeli tanks and bulldozers rolled into Gaza Friday while navy ships began firing along the Gaza coast.

Tension has been high all week following the deaths of four Palestinian youths. The youths were accused by the Israeli army of throwing stones at them.

The tension reached breaking point on Friday afternoon when militants clashed with Israeli army soldiers resulting in a gun battle which left two Israeli soldiers and two militants dead. Two other Israeli soldiers were wounded, one seriously. The Israeli army confirmed it had entered Gaza and clashed with militants. One of its soldiers killed was the deputy commander of his regiment. The other was in the reserves.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Hamas would be held responsible. He repeatedly blamed Hamas although in an extraordinary admission he conceded Hamas had been trying to calm things down and rein in other military groups.

"We have been used to seeing breakaway Palestinian groups doing the firing, and Hamas trying to calm things down. Possibly it is loosening its grip, for all sorts of reasons," the defense minister told Israel's Channel 2 television.

"Should that indeed prove to be the case, then there will also be ramifications for Hamas," Barak said.

A Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida told Reuters the clash involved members of the al-Qassam Brigades, the miltant wing of the group, but insisted the men fired in self-defense.

The five Israeli tanks and two bulldozers withdrew from Gaza on Saturday afternoon.

The Israeli soldiers deaths' are the first since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January last year. The soldiers killed were identified as Major Eliraz Peretz, 31, of Eli, deputy commander of the Golani Brigade's Battalion 12, and Staff Sergeant Ilan Sviatkovsky of Rishon Lezion.

One of the two wounded soldiers was in intensive care Saturday on life support.

Another Israeli soldier was killed on Monday, as a result of friendly fire. A member of an Israeli tank crew stopped three Palestinians who were unarmed and looking for work. A second Israeli patrol happened on the scene and opened fire on the Palestinians not knowing an Israeli soldier was among them. The soldier was killed instantly. The Israeli army told the BBC it is investigating the incident.

Alan Greenspan and the New York Times Are Gunning for Your Social Security

Alan Greenspan and the New York Times Are Gunning for Your Social Security

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With health care reform finally signed into law, a new policy battle over Social Security is quietly but unquestionably building momentum. Make no mistake -- Wall Street is now doing its best to gut Social Security, and as a front-page article in yesterday's New York Times makes clear, the media is not ready to challenge them on it.

Like every other major institution in the public and private sectors, Social Security has taken a few licks from the current recession. But the problems are simply not very serious -- the entitlement program's trust fund currently stands at a massive $2.5 trillion -- that's trillion with a "t." If the federal government makes absolutely no changes to Social Security whatsoever, the program is currently projected to remain fiscally fit through 2037. The effects of the recession are included in that projection -- prior to the financial crash of 2008, Social Security was projected to remain solvent through 2041.

But pesky facts like that are not the focus of the story from Times reporter Mary Williams Walsh, who instead highlights a fundamentally meaningless statistic to needlessly frighten her readers:

This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016.

That threshold would indeed be important -- if Social Security weren't sitting on an additional $2.5 trillion. Walsh dismisses the trust fund -- putting the term in scare quotes and calling it a mere "accounting device." And, in fact, the trust fund is an accounting device -- just like bank reserves and dozens of other financial metrics used in the business world. What that accounting device shows is that Social Security is fundamentally stable from a fiscal standpoint, to the tune of $2.5 trillion. There's nothing fishy about it.

If that $2.5 trillion ever runs out -- which it won't, because Social Security's revenues will increase in a few years as the economy recovers -- policymakers would still actually have plenty of options available for boosting the program. But according to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, there's only one truly viable course of action -- draconian benefit cuts for seniors. Here's the Maestro, from Walsh's article:

When the level of the trust fund gets to zero, you have to cut benefits . . . . Because of the size of the contraction in economic activity, unless we get an immediate and sharp recovery, the revenues of the trust fund will be tracking lower for a number of years.

Greenspan, lest anyone forget, is one of the people most responsible for moving Social Security's solvency projections from 2041 to 2037. Our current recession was caused by rampant financial excesses that Greenspan actively refused to regulate and a housing bubble that he explicitly refused to act on. To the extent that today's government finances are constrained, the two major culprits can both be laid at Greenspan's feet -- the bank bailouts that were deployed to clean up his mess, and the lost tax revenues from job losses and plunging home values.

So it should come as no surprise that Greenspan is simply wrong about even the hypothetical need for benefit cuts. If -- under a wild, unthinkable set of economic circumstances -- Social Security did one day find itself in a fiscal hole, the government could always simply increase Social Security taxes or tap revenues from other government programs. In fact, when Greenspan himself was part of a commission to fix Social Security in the early 1980s, that commission did not cut benefits -- it raised taxes. Policymakers would not need to cut benefits -- Greenspan simply prefers that they do, because he doesn't like the idea that the government should be providing safety nets for the elderly.

That's a perspective shared by Wall Street billionaires like Peter Peterson, who has pledged a massive fortune to spreading the message: Save the bankers and brokers first -- everyone else, including seniors, is expendable. Peterson and Greenspan have allies in the newspaper business and on cable television that are ready and willing to place this agenda at the forefront of the public debate. The Washington Post now even publishes Social Security hit pieces posing as news articles that are funded by Peterson, parading under the banner of the Fiscal Times. As we move into the midterm elections, and Republicans raise the specter of budget deficits and national debt that have increased thanks to their own predatory economic policies, we can expect more of this Social Security fear-mongering. But we shouldn't take the bait. There is no Social Security crisis.

Globalization Marches On

Globalization Marches On

Growing popular outrage has not challenged corporate power.

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Shifts in global power, ongoing or potential, are a lively topic among policy makers and observers. One question is whether (or when) China will displace the United States as the dominant global player, perhaps along with India.

Such a shift would return the global system to something like it was before the European conquests. Economic growth in China and India has been rapid, and because they rejected the West's policies of financial deregulation, they survived the recession better than most. Nonetheless, questions arise.

One standard measure of social health is the U.N. Human Development Index. As of 2008, India ranks 134th, slightly above Cambodia and below Laos and Tajikistan, about where it has been for many years. China ranks 92nd-tied with Belize, a bit above Jordan, below the Dominican Republic and Iran.

India and China also have very high inequality, so more than a billion of their inhabitants fall far lower on the scale.

Another concern is the U.S. debt. Some fear it places the U.S. in thrall to China. But apart from a brief interlude ending in December, Japan has long been the biggest international holder of U.S. government debt. Creditor leverage, furthermore, is overrated.

In one dimension-military power-the United States stands alone. And Obama is setting new records with his 2011 military budget. Almost half the U.S. deficit is due to military spending, which is untouchable in the political system.

When considering the U.S. economy's other sectors, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and other economists warn that we should beware of "deficit fetishism." A deficit is a stimulus to recovery, and it can be overcome with a growing economy, as after World War II, when the deficit was far worse.

And the deficit is expected to grow, largely because of the hopelessly inefficient privatized health care system-also virtually untouchable, thanks to business's ability to overpower the public will.

However, the framework of these discussions is misleading. The global system is not only an interaction among states, each pursuing some "national interest" abstracted from distribution of domestic power. That has long been understood.

Adam Smith concluded that the "principal architects" of policy in England were "merchants and manufacturers," who ensured that their own interests are "most peculiarly attended to," however "grievous" the effects on others, including the people of England.

Smith's maxim still holds, though today the "principal architects" are multinational corporations and particularly the financial institutions whose share in the economy has exploded since the 1970s.

In the United States we have recently seen a dramatic illustration of the power of the financial institutions. In the last presidential election they provided the core of President Obama's funding.

Naturally they expected to be rewarded. And they were-with the TARP bailouts, and a great deal more. Take Goldman Sachs, the top dog in both the economy and the political system. The firm made a mint by selling mortgage-backed securities and more complex financial instruments.

Aware of the flimsiness of the packages they were peddling, the firm also took out bets with the insurance giant American International Group (AIG) that the offerings would fail. When the financial system collapsed, AIG went down with it.

Goldman's architects of policy not only parlayed a bailout for Goldman itself but also arranged for taxpayers to save AIG from bankruptcy, thus rescuing Goldman.

Now Goldman is making record profits and paying out fat bonuses. It, and a handful of other banks, are bigger and more powerful than ever. The public is furious. People can see that the banks that were primary agents of the crisis are making out like bandits, while the population that rescued them is facing an official unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent, as of February. The rate rises to nearly 17 percent when all Americans who wish to be fully employed are counted.

Bringing Obama to Heel

Popular anger finally evoked a rhetorical shift from the administration, which responded with charges about greedy bankers. "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street," Obama told 60 Minutes in December. This kind of rhetoric was accompanied with some policy suggestions that the financial industry doesn't like (e.g., the Volcker Rule, which would bar banks receiving government support from engaging in speculative activity unrelated to basic bank activities) and proposals to set up an independent regulatory agency to protect consumers.

Since Obama was supposed to be their man in Washington, the principal architects of government policy wasted little time delivering their instructions: Unless Obama fell back into line, they would shift funds to the political opposition. "If the president doesn't become a little more balanced and centrist in his approach, then he will likely lose" the support of Wall Street, Kelly S. King, a board member of the lobbying group Financial Services Roundtable, told the New York Times in early February. Securities and investment businesses gave the Democratic Party a record $89 million during the 2008 campaign.

Three days later, Obama informed the press that bankers are fine "guys," singling out the chairmen of the two biggest players, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs: "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That's part of the free-market system," the president said. (Or at least "free markets" as interpreted by state capitalist doctrine.)

That turnabout is a revealing snapshot of Smith's maxim in action.

The architects of policy are also at work on a real shift of power: from the global work force to transnational capital.

Economist and China specialist Martin Hart-Landsberg explores the dynamic in a recent Monthly Review article. China has become an assembly plant for a regional production system. Japan, Taiwan and other advanced Asian economies export high-tech parts and components to China, which assembles and exports the finished products.

The Spoils of Power

The growing U.S. trade deficit with China has aroused concern. Less noticed is that the U.S. trade deficit with Japan and the rest of Asia has sharply declined as this new regional production system takes shape. U.S. manufacturers are following the same course, providing parts and components for China to assemble and export, mostly back to the United States. For the financial institutions, retail giants, and the owners and managers of manufacturing industries closely related to this nexus of power, these developments are heaven sent.

And well understood. In 2007, Ralph Gomory, head of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, testified before Congress, "In this new era of globalization, the interests of companies and countries have diverged. In contrast with the past, what is good for America's global corporations is no longer necessarily good for the American people."

Consider IBM. According to Business Week, by the end of 2008, more than 70 percent of IBM's work force of 400,000 was abroad. In 2009 IBM reduced its U.S. employment by another 8 percent.

For the work force, the outcome may be "grievous," in accordance with Smith's maxim, but it is fine for the principal architects of policy. Current research indicates that about one-fourth of U.S. jobs will be "offshorable" within two decades, and for those jobs that remain, security and decent pay will decline because of the increased competition from replaced workers.

This pattern follows 30 years of stagnation or decline for the majority as wealth poured into few pockets, leading to what has probably become the greatest inequality between the haves and the have-nots since the end of American slavery.

While China is becoming the world's assembly plant and export platform, Chinese workers are suffering along with the rest of the global work force. This is an unsurprising outcome of a system designed to concentrate wealth and power and to set working people in competition with one another worldwide.

Globally, workers' share in national income has declined in many countries-dramatically so in China, leading to growing unrest in that highly inegalitarian society.

So we have another significant shift in global power: from the general population to the principal architects of the global system, a process aided by the undermining of functioning democracy in the United States and other of the Earth's most powerful states.

The future depends on how much the great majority is willing to endure, and whether that great majority will collectively offer a constructive response to confront the problems at the core of the state capitalist system of domination and control.

If not, the results might be grim, as history more than amply reveals.

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Pentagon wants $33 billion more for war in Afghanistan

Pentagon wants $33 billion more for war in Afghanistan

The Pentagon's request for a $33 billion war supplemental for Afghanistan has Congress concerned about long-term costs. Training Afghan security forces, for instance, could take years.

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The Pentagon wants $33 billion in additional funding to pay for the war in Afghanistan this year and train the Afghan military, but members of Congress want to make sure they’re not writing a blank check.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared before Senate appropriators to defend the war supplemental, which is on top of the $708 billion baseline budget submitted to Congress in February.

Most of the war supplemental – a separate account used to pay for war costs – will pay for Afghanistan operations. Of that, $2.6 billion is to train the Afghan national security force, seen as a long-term endeavor that Congress worries could become a burden over time.

When can US forces leave?

“The question is, how long is that going to have to continue to the point where we can kind of say we’ve done our thing,” asked Sen. George Voinovich (R) of Ohio. “Five years, ten years, 15 years?”

That question is atop many lawmakers minds as they consider what the Obama administration has said from the start will take years to accomplish.

The Iraq security forces, now nearly 665,000 strong, took at least six years to build. But Iraq had more resources, and American trainers were already working within a culture in which a formal military existed under Sadaam Hussein. Afghanistan’s modern history has never had a formal military structure, and there are even fewer resources in Afghanistan to support one.

Despite contributions from NATO countries, that still leaves the US holding much of the bag when it comes to training the Afghan indigenous force.

While President Obama has pledged to begin removing American troops from Afghanistan in 2011, the training mission will likely continue long after that.

“We are in this intense phase that will be several years,” Ms. Clinton said in answer to Mr. Voinovich’s question. “Obviously, I don’t know that either of us could put a timeline on it. What we’re trying to do simultaneously is clear territory from the Taliban, be able to work more closely with the Afghan army, and at the same time create more capacity.”

Although NATO allies contribute to the training effort – Germany, for example, the third largest contributor of forces to Afghanistan, is almost uniquely charged with training operations in the north – the US will shoulder much of the burden for the long-term.

US commanders concerned about Afghan forces

“I know many of you have concerns about the Afghan security forces,” Mr. Gates said in his opening statement. “I share those concerns, as do our military commanders.”

Gates noted that the Afghan army has made “real progress” over the last year, and that many Afghan soldiers are making enormous sacrifices for their country. But Gates emphasized that the US can get out of Afghanistan faster if the training piece of the mission is done right, and that will likely take time. And while much praise goes to the Afghan army, the police force – seen as widely corrupt – will be a much harder fix.

“As you consider this request, I would emphasize that successfully accomplishing the training mission represents both our exit strategy and the key for long-term stability in Afghanistan,” Gates said.

But as a reminder of the cost of training indigenous militaries, the $33 billion funding request includes $1 billion still needed to strengthen Iraqi security forces, a force many consider to be all but fully trained as the US prepares to remove all its combat forces by August.

Gates said the money will help to “ensure that the Iraqis are fully prepared to assume internal security responsibilities.”

Wall Street Fixes Gold Prices

Wall Street Fixes Gold Prices

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A leading precious metals watchdog group says it has compelling proof the prices of gold and silver have been manipulated for years by Wall Street firms, and it is demanding government regulators take action.

The Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA) was formed in January 1999 to expose and oppose the manipulation and suppression of the price of gold. Its frustrated efforts to expose manipulation in the gold market parallel Harry Markopolos’s seven-year quest to expose the Madoff ponzi scheme to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

What it has learned over the past 11 years is of great importance to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) forthcoming hearings regarding position limits in the precious metals futures market.

GATA’s chairman, William Murphy III, says, “GATA has evidence there are enormous physical short positions in the gold and silver markets that cannot be covered.”

In a letter to CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler, a former partner at Goldman Sachs who once supported market deregulation now blamed for the recent financial meltdown, Murphy charged that GATA has collected reams of evidence “that Western central bank gold has long been mobilized and surreptitiously dishoarded to rig the gold market and influence related markets, and that this rigging has drawn upon the U.S. gold reserves.”

He urged the CFTC to report on these markets and take appropriate action.

The CFTC is meeting as this newspaper goes to press on March 25 to establish position limits in the gold, silver and other precious metals markets. However, it could be none other than the CFTC’s core banks and Gensler’s former Goldman bosses that form the very core of the biggest market manipulation collusion syndicate in the history of the commodity markets.

Murphy wrote to Gensler on March 8: “Because of the decades-long interference with the gold market, we estimate the free-market price of gold is multiples of the current price. Growing stress caused by burgeoning physical bullion demand is threatening to lead to a price explosion, which will restore to the market the balance that regulation has failed to maintain. In our view, the Comex [New York Commodities Exchange] paper market will become dysfunctional, with ‘force majeure’ having to be declared as the concentrated shorts are unable to deliver on their obligations.”

If GATA indeed has the evidence of massive physical positions impossible to cover, and should this evidence be made public, the repercussions for the price of gold and silver will be unprecedented.

Dedicated AFP readers will remember it was GATA that two years ago spent $265,000 for a full-page, onetime advertisement in The Wall Street Journal asking in broad headlines: “Anybody Seen Our Gold?” GATA’s ad warned, “This manipulation has been a primary cause of the catastrophic excesses in the markets that . . . threaten the . . . world.”

What GATA had warned against has come to pass, and its investigation has not ceased.

In pursuit of Obama’s “transparency in the federal government,” GATA has made Freedom of Information Act requests to the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department for a candid accounting of their involvement in the gold market, particularly in regard to gold swaps.

In a reply to GATA’s lawyers dated Sept. 17, 2009, Fed Governor Kevin M. Warsh acknowledged that the Federal Reserve has gold swap agreements with foreign banks but insisted that such documents remain secret. As a result, last December, GATA sued the Federal Reserve in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking access to the Fed’s withheld records of gold swaps.

In his lengthy letter, Murphy told Gensler, “Initially we thought the manipulation of the gold market was undertaken as a coordinated profit scheme by certain bullion banks, like JPMorgan, Chase Bank and Goldman Sachs, and that it violated federal and state anti-trust laws. But we soon discerned that the bullion banks were working closely with the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve in a gold cartel, part of a broad scheme of manipulation of the currency, precious metals and bond markets.”

GATA has long implicated the Comex as being a mechanism by which gold and silver price suppression is implemented, and the smoking gun is the excessive concentration of bullion bank positions in the gold and silver futures markets that enables market manipulation.

The CFTC’s own reports of November 2009 show that just two U.S. banks held 43 percent of the commercial net short position in gold and 68 percent of the commercial net short position in silver. In gold, these two banks were short 123,331 contracts but long only 523 contracts, and in silver they were short 41,318 and long only 1,426.

Murphy asks, “How improbable is it that these two banks attract most of the investors who want only to sell short?” He went on to point out that GATA knew that the two banks that hold these large manipulative short positions, JPMorgan Chase and HSBC, held more than 95 percent of the gold and precious metals derivatives of all U.S. banks, with a combined notional value of $120 billion.

This concentration dwarfs the concentration in the gold and silver futures markets and should raise great concern about the lack of position limits on the Comex. Giving CFTC one more hurdle before closing, Murphy wrote, “It is also disturbing to us that HSBC is the custodian for the major gold exchange-traded fund, GLD, and that JPMorgan Chase is the custodian for the major silver exchange-traded fund, SLV. It is a significant material omission to fail to disclose to GLD and SLV investors that the custodian banks of the two exchange-traded funds have an interest in falling prices in the futures and derivatives markets.”

He pointed out that detailed daily monitoring of gold trading reveals the pattern that the gold price consistently falls in the darkness of early dawn New York time when the gold cartel’s traders report to work in London, and again following the evening gold price fix, when physical market pricing has concluded for the day, and in the access market following the Comex close.

Why Democracy Is “The Biggest Scam in the World”

Why Democracy Is “The Biggest Scam in the World”

An Interview With Arundhati Roy

We speak with acclaimed Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy on President Obama, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, India and Kashmir and much more. Roy also talks about her journey deep into the forests of central India to report on the Maoist insurgency.

Democracy Now! Broadcast March 22, 2010


ANJALI KAMAT: We spend the rest of the hour with acclaimed Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy on the dark underbelly of India, a country that prides itself on being known as the world’s largest democracy.

Earlier this month, when Forbes published its annual list of the world’s billionaires, the Indian press reported with some delight that two of their countrymen had made it to the coveted list of the ten richest individuals in the world.

Meanwhile, thousands of Indian paramilitary troops and police are fighting a war against some of its poorest inhabitants living deep in the country’s so-called tribal belt. Indian officials say more than a third of the country, mostly mineral-rich forest land, is partially or completely under the control of Maoist rebels, also known as Naxalites. India’s prime minister has called the Maoists the country’s “gravest internal security threat.” According to official figures, nearly 6,000 people have died in the past seven years of fighting, more than half of them civilians. The government’s new paramilitary offensive against the Maoists has been dubbed Operation Green Hunt.

Well, earlier this month, the leader of the Maoist insurgency, Koteswar Rao, or Kishenji, invited the Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy to mediate in peace talks with the government. Soon after, India’s Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai, criticized Roy and others who have publicly called state violence against Maoists, quote, “genocidal.”

    G.K. PILLAI: If the Maoists are murderers, please call the Maoists murderers. Why is it that if Maoists murders in West Midnapore last year from June to December 159 innocent civilians, I don’t see any criticism of that? I can call it—159, if government have done it, a lot of people would have gone and said it’s genocide. Why is that not genocide by the Maoists?


AMY GOODMAN: Well, Arundhati Roy recently had a rare journalistic encounter with the armed guerrillas in the forests of central India. She spent a few weeks traveling with the insurgency deep in India’s Maoist heartland and wrote about their struggle in a 20,000-word essay published this weekend in the Indian magazine Outlook. It’s called “Walking with the Comrades.”

We’re joined now here in New York by the world-renowned author and global justice activist. She won the Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Prize in 2002 and is the author of a number of books, including the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things. Her latest collection of essays, published by Haymarket, is Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.

Arundhati Roy, welcome to Democracy Now!

ARUNDHATI ROY: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go into the very interesting journey you took, you arrive here on the seventh anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. You were extremely outspoken on the war and have continued to be. I remember seeing you at Riverside Church with the great Howard Zinn, giving a speech against the war. What are your thoughts now, seven years in? And how it’s affected your continent, how it’s affected India?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think the—you know, the saddest thing is that when the American elections happened and you had all the rhetoric of, you know, change you can believe in, and even the most cynical of us watched Obama win the elections and did feel moved, you know, watching how happy people were, especially people who had lived through the civil rights movement and so on, and, you know, in fact what has happened is that he has come in and expanded the war. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and took an opportunity to justify the war. It was as though those tears of the black people who watched, you know, a black man come to power were now cut and paste into the eyes of the world’s elite watching him justify war.

And from where I come from, it’s almost—you know, you think that they probably don’t even understand what they’re doing, the American government. They don’t understand what kind of ground they stand on. When you say things like “We have to wipe out the Taliban,” what does that mean? The Taliban is not a fixed number of people. The Taliban is an ideology that has sprung out of a history that, you know, America created anyway.

Iraq, the war is going on. Afghanistan, obviously, is rising up in revolt. It’s spilled into Pakistan, and from Pakistan into Kashmir and into India. So we’re seeing this superpower, in a way, caught in quicksand with a conceptual inability to understand what it’s doing, how to get out or how to stay in. It’s going to take this country down with it, for sure, you know, and I think it’s a real pity that, in a way, at least George Bush was so almost obscene in his stupidity about it, whereas here it’s smoke and mirrors, and people find it more difficult to decipher what’s going on. But, in fact, the war has expanded.

ANJALI KAMAT: And Arundhati, how would you explain India’s role in the expanding US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan? This is a climate of very good relations between India and the United States.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, India’s role is—India’s role is one of, at the moment, trying to position itself, as it keeps saying, as the natural ally of Israel and the US. And India is trying very hard to maneuver itself into a position of influence in Afghanistan. And personally, I believe that the American government would be very happy to see Indian troops in Afghanistan. It cannot be done openly, because it would just explode, you know, so there are all kinds of ways in which they are trying to create a sphere of influence there. So the Indian government is deep into the great game, you know, there, and of course the result is, you know, attacks in Kashmir and in Mumbai, not directly related to Afghanistan, but of course there’s a whole history of this kind of maneuvering that’s going on.

AMY GOODMAN: For an American audience, and perhaps for an audience just outside of the region, if you could really talk to us about an area you’ve been focusing a great deal on, of course, and that is Kashmir. Most people here know it as a sweater. That’s what they think of when they hear “Kashmir.”

ARUNDHATI ROY: OK, mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: So, starting there, if you can tell us what is going on there—even place it for us geographically.

ARUNDHATI ROY: OK. Well, Kashmir, as they say in India, you know, is the unfinished business in the partition of India and Pakistan. So, as usual, it was a gift of British colonialism. You know, they threw it at us as they walked—I mean, as they withdrew. So Kashmir used to be an independent kingdom with a Muslim majority ruled by a Hindu king. And during—at the time of partition in 1947, as there was—you know, as you know, almost a million people lost their lives, because this line that was drawn between India and Pakistan passed through villages and passed through communities, and as Hindus fled from Pakistan and Muslims fled from India, there was massacre on both sides.

And at that time, oddly enough, Kashmir was peaceful. But then, when all the independent princedoms in India and Pakistan were asked to actually accede either to India or Pakistan, but Kashmir, the king was undecided, and that indecision resulted in, you know, Pakistani troops and non-official combatants coming in. And the king fled to Jamu, and then he acceded to India. But he was—you know, there was already a movement for democracy within Kashmir at that time. Anyway, that’s the history.

But subsequently, there’s always been a struggle for independence or self-determination there, which in 1989 became an armed uprising and was put down militarily by India. And today, the simplest way of explaining the scale of what’s going on is that the US has 165,000 troops in Iraq, but the Indian government has 700,000 troops in the Kashmir valley—I mean, in Kashmir, security forces, you know, holding down a place with military might. And so, it’s a military occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to your travels in Kashmir, Arundhati Roy, award-winning Indian writer, renowned global justice activist. Her new book is a book of essays; it’s called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. She’s here in the United States for just a little while. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: ”Hum Dekhen Ge” by Iqbal Bano. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Anjali Kamat. Our guest for the rest of the hour, Arundhati Roy, the award-winning Indian writer, renowned global justice activist. Her latest book, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.

You recognize that music, Anjali?

ANJALI KAMAT: Yes, “Hum Dekhen Ge” by Iqbal Bano. Arundhati Roy, your latest article in Outlook, “Walking with the Comrades,” you end the piece by talking about this song that so many people rose up in Pakistan listening to this song, and you place it in a completely different context. Start by talking about what’s happening in the forests of India. What is this war that India is waging against some of the poorest people, people known as tribals, indigenous people, Adivasis? Who are the Maoists? What’s happening there? And how did you get there?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, it’s been going on for a while, but basically, you know, I mean, there is a connection. If you look at Afghanistan, Waziristan, you know, the northeast states of India and this whole mineral belt that goes from West Bengal through Jharkhand through Orissa to Chhattisgarh, what’s called the Red Corridor in India, you know, it’s interesting that the entire thing is a tribal uprising. In Afghanistan, obviously, it’s taken the form of a radical Islamist uprising. And here, it’s a radical left uprising. But the attack is the same. It’s a corporate attack, you know, on these people. The resistance has taken different forms.

But in India, this thing known as the Red Corridor, if you look at a map of India, the tribal people, the forests, the minerals and the Maoists are all stacked on top of each other. You know, so—and in the last five years, the governments of these various states have signed MOUs with mining corporations worth billions of dollars.

ANJALI KAMAT: Memoranda of understanding.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Memorandums of understanding. So as we say, it’s equally an MOU-ist corridor as it is a Maoist corridor, you know? And it was interesting that a lot of these MOUs were signed in 2005. And at that time, it was just after this Congress government had come to power, and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, announced that the Maoists are India’s “gravest internal security threat.” And it was very odd that he should have said that then, because the Maoists had actually just been decimated in the state of Andhra Pradesh. I think they had killed something like 1,600 of them. But the minute he said this, the shares in the mining companies went up, because obviously it was a signal that the government was prepared to do something about this, and then started this assault on them, which ended up as Operation Green Hunt, which is where now tens of thousands of paramilitary troops are moving in to these tribal areas.

But before Operation Green Hunt, they tried another thing, which was that they armed a sort of tribal militia and backed by police in a state like Chhattisgarh, where I was traveling recently, they just went into the forest. This militia burned village after village after village, like something like 640 villages were, more or less, emptied. And it was—the plan was what’s known as strategic hamletting, which the Americans tried in Vietnam, which was first devised by the British in Malaya, where you try and force people to move into police wayside camps so that you can control them, and the villages are emptied so that the forests are open for the corporates to go.

And what happened actually was that out of the—in this area, in Chhattisgarh, out of, say, 350,000 people, about 50,000 people moved into the camps. Some were forced, some went voluntarily. And the rest just went off the government radar. Many of them went to other states to work as migrant labor, but many of them just continued to hide in the forests, unable to come back to their homes, but not wanting to leave. But the fact is that in this entire area, the Maoists have been there for thirty years, you know, working with people and so on. So it’s a very—it’s not a resistance that has risen up against mining. It preceded that a long time—you know, by a long time. So it’s very entrenched. And Operation Green Hunt has been announced because this militia, called the Salwa Judum, failed, so now they are upping the ante, because these MOUs are waiting. And the mining corporations are not used to being made to wait. You know, so there’s a lot of money waiting.

And, I mean, what I want to say is that we are not using this word “genocidal war” lightly or rhetorically. But I traveled in that area, and what you see is the poorest people of this country, who have been outside the purview of the state. There’s no hospital. There’s no clinic. There’s no education. There’s nothing, you know? And now, there’s a kind of siege, where people can’t go out of their villages to the market to buy anything, because the markets are full of informers who are pointing out, you know, this person is with the resistance and so on. There’s no doctors. There’s no medical help. People are suffering from extreme hunger, malnutrition. So it’s not just killing. You know, it’s not just going out there and burning and killing, but it’s also laying siege to a very vulnerable population, cutting them off from their resources and putting them under grievous threat. And this is a democracy, you know, so how do you do—how do you clear the land for corporates in a democracy? You can’t actually go and murder people, but you create a situation in which they either have to leave or they starve to death.

ANJALI KAMAT: In your piece, you describe the people you traveled with, the armed guerrillas, as Gandhians with guns. Can you talk about what you mean by that and how—what you think of the violence perpetrated by the Maoists?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, you know, this is a very sharp debate in India about—I mean, you know, even the sort of mainstream left and the liberal intellectuals are very, very suspicious of Maoists. And everybody should be suspicious of Maoists, because, you know, they do—they have had a very—a very difficult past, and there are a lot of things that their ideologues say which do put a chill down your spine.

But when I went there, I have to say, I was shocked at what I saw, you know, because in the last thirty years I think something has radically changed among them. And the one thing is that in India, people try and make this difference. They say there’s the Maoists, and then there’s the tribals. Actually, the Maoists are tribals, you know, and the tribals themselves have had a history of resistance and rebellion that predates Mao by centuries, you know? And so, I think it’s just a name, in a way. It’s just a name. And yet, without that organization, the tribal people could not have put up this resistance. You know, so it is complicated.

But when I went in, I lived with them for, you know, and I walked with them for a long time, and it’s an army that is more Gandhian than any Gandhian, that leaves a lighter footprint than any climate change evangelist. You know, and as I said, even their sabotage techniques are Gandhian. You know, they waste nothing. They live on nothing. And to the outside world—first of all, the media has been lying about them for a long time. A lot of the incidents of violence did not happen, you know, which I figured out. A lot of them did happen, and there was a reason for why they happened.

And what I actually wanted to ask people was, when you talk about nonviolent resistance—I myself have spoken about that. I myself have said that women will be the victims of an armed struggle. And when I went in, I found the opposite to be true. I found that 50 percent of the armed cadre were women. And a lot of the reason they joined was because for thirty years the Maoists had been working with women there. The women’s organization, which has 90,000 members, which is probably the biggest feminist organization in India, now all 90,000 of those women are surely Maoists, and the government has given itself the right to shoot on sight. So, are they going to shoot these 90,000 people?

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, the leader of the Maoists has asked you to be the negotiator, the mediator between them and the Indian government. What is your response?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Look, I wouldn’t be a good mediator. You know, that’s not my—those are not my skills. I think that somebody should do it, but I don’t think that it should be me, because I just have no idea how to mediate, you know? And I don’t think that we should be jumping into things that we don’t know much about. And I certainly—I did say that. You know, I mean, it’s—I don’t know why they mentioned my name, but I think there are people in India who have those skills and who could do it, because it’s very, very urgent that this Operation Green Hunt be called off. Very, very urgent, you know, but it would be silly for someone like me to enter that, because I think I’m too impatient. I’m too much of a maverick. You know, I don’t have those skills.

AMY GOODMAN: I remember, back to Kashmir, when President Obama was running for president, Senator Obama, in an interview, talked about Kashmir, and he talked about it as a kind of flashpoint, said that we have to resolve the situation between India—between India and Pakistan around Kashmir so that Pakistan can focus on the militants. Can you talk about it as being a flashpoint and what you think needs to be done there?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think, you know, unfortunately, the thing about Kashmir is that India and Pakistan act as though Kashmir is a problem. But really for them both, Kashmir is a solution. You know, Kashmir is where they play their dirty games. And they don’t want to solve it, because whenever they have, you know, internal problems, they can always pull up—pull this bunny out of the hat. So it’s really—I really think that these two countries are not going to solve it, you know?

And what is happening is that there is a population of people who have been suffering untold misery for so many years, you know, and once again so many lies have been told about it. The Indian media is just—the falsification that it’s involved with about Kashmir is unbelievable. Like two years ago—or was it last year? Two years ago, there was a massive uprising in Kashmir. I happened to be there at the time. I’ve never seen anything like this. You know, there were millions of people on the street all the time. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And they were rising up for?

ARUNDHATI ROY: They were rising up for independence. You know, they were rising up for independence. And then, that uprising was—you know, when they rose up with arms, that was wrong. When they rose up without arms, that was wrong, too.

And the way it was defused was with an election. An election was called. And then everybody was shocked, because there was a huge turnout at the elections. And all the—you know, we have many election experts in India who spend all their time in television studios analyzing the swing and this and that, but nobody said that all the leaders of the resistance were arrested. Nobody asked, what does it mean to have elections when there are 700,000 soldiers supervising every five meters, all the time, all year round? They don’t have to push people on the end of a bayonet to the voting booth, you know? Nobody talked about the fact that there was a lockdown in every constituency. Nobody wondered what does it mean to people who are under that kind of occupation. The fact that they need somebody to go to, you know, when someone disappears—or, you know, they need some representative.

So now, once again, the violence has started. You know? It’s a permanent sort of cycle where, obviously in the interest of geopolitical jockeying, any sense of morality is missing. And of course it’s very fashionable to say that, you know, there isn’t any morality involved in international diplomacy, but suddenly, when it comes to Maoists killing, morality just comes riding down on your head. You know, so people use it when they want to.

ANJALI KAMAT: And Arundhati, in both India and the United States, as these wars expand, as the military occupations, as you delineated, in Kashmir, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, as they expand, what is your message to antiwar activists, to peace activists around the world, here and in India? What do you think people need to be doing?

ARUNDHATI ROY: See, I think I just want to say one thing more, which is that in Kashmir, you have, as I said, 700,000 soldiers who have been turned into an administrative police force. In India, where they don’t want to openly declare war against the Adivasis, you have a paramilitary police, which is being trained to be an army. So the police are turning into the army. The army is turning into the police. But to push through this growth rate, you know, you have basically this whole country is turning into a police state.

And I just want to say one thing about democracy. You know, in India, the elections—the elections were—they cost more than the American elections. Much more. This poor country costs much more. The most enthusiastic were the corporates. The members of parliament are—a majority of them are millionaires. If you look at the statistics, actually this big majority it has ten percent of the vote. The BBC had a campaign where they had posters of a dollar bill—$500 bill sort of molting into an Indian 500 rupee note with Ben Franklin on one end and Gandhi on the other. And it said, “Kya India ka vote bachayega duniya ka note?” meaning “Will the Indian vote save the market?” You know? So voters become consumers. It’s a kind of scam that’s going on.

So the first message I would have to peace activists is—I don’t know what that means, anyway. What does “peace” mean? You know, we may not need peace in this unjust society, because that’s a way of accepting injustice, you know? So what you need is people who are prepared to resist, but not just on a weekend, not peace but not just on the weekend. In countries like India, now just saying, “OK, we’ll march on Saturday, and maybe they’ll stop the war in Iraq.” But in countries like India, now people are really paying with their lives, with their freedom, with everything. I mean, it’s resistance with consequences now. You know, it cannot be—it cannot be something that has no consequences. You know? It may not have, but you’ve got to understand that in order to change something, you’ve got to take some risks now. You’ve got to come out and lay those dreams on the line now, because things have come to a very, very bad place there.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, we want to thank you very much for being with us. Her latest book is called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. I look forward to being with you and Noam Chomsky in Cambridge in a week.

Social Inequality in America: Widening Income Disparities

Social Inequality in America: Widening Income Disparities.

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"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."
- Brazilian archbishop Dom Helder Camara
"The difference between social service and social justice" is that social service "works to alleviate hardship" while social justice "aims to eradicate the root causes of that hardship."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The "aristocracy of our moneyed incorporations" has never conceded a thing, not even to suppress a revolt. This "opulent minority" does not "give" what it does not intend to begin to claw back with its cold, non-living corporate "hand" before the ink is dry on the signatures on treaties, the Fourteenth Amendment, even the New Deal, perhaps the greatest bowl of gruel ever cooked up by an oligarchy.
Reforms, regulatory agencies and elections themselves are America's Circus Maximus, mere flourishes on the veneer of democracy painted over the naked concentration of power accrued to the few who hold the reins of the corporate mechanism, the most stunningly efficient means ever invented for accumulating and concentrating wealth, which is then translated into political power.
The mid-twentieth century "deal" between the "opulent minority," the government and the people left the "opulent minority" with the lion's share of the country's wealth, but a little bit more of that wealth was shared with the workers who created it. The government was the referee who enforced the rules, and the years between the end of the Second World War and 1970 were America's most prosperous overall, producing the largest, wealthiest middle class in history.
Americans assumed that this was the new normal, that a solid social contract was now standard operating procedure. But this overall prosperity was only a glitch in minority rule, a safety valve to stem the pressure of a popular, revolutionary mood that had been building since the Civil War and had come to a head during the Great Depression. Now the country is returning to its natural state, including the immense chasm between the incomes of the "opulent minority" and the rest of us, as squalor once again stands side by side with splendor.
"According to the United Nations Gini Coefficient, which measures the national distribution of family income, the US had the highest level of inequality of the highly industrialized countries, based on the data available in 2008. It was ranked slightly more unequal than Sri Lanka, and on a par with Ghana and Turkmenistan. (1)
In the 70s, US economic global supremacy was waning, in large part, due to increasing competition from Europe and Japan as they recovered from the devastation of World War II. This made the "opulent minority" rethink the New Deal-bone they'd tossed to the majority of Americans, and they brought in Ronald Reagan to put in force a Raw Deal that began a cascade of deregulation, privatization and consolidation that put America back astride the global economy by putting America's wealth gap on the way back to the Gilded Age. Today the "opulent minority" appropriates everything it can get its hands on - "legally" - while the middle class holds on by its fingernails and the rest of us go over an economic Niagara Falls without a barrel into "Third" World-style poverty. Government is no longer the referee that promotes the general welfare. Government is the facilitator for the "opulent minority," ensuring that they can extract every last penny from the people they impoverish.
Since 1980, the richest Americans have seen their incomes quadruple, while for the "lowest" 90% of us, incomes fell. The average wage is lower today than it was in the 1970s, while productivity has risen almost 50%. (2) In 1983 middle class debt held at 67% of income. In 2007, middle class debt had gone over the falls to 157% of income. (3) In 1950 the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's was about 30 to 1. Since 2000 that average has ranged from 300 to 500 to one. (4)
"As of late 2009, the number of billionaires soared from 793 to 1,011, and their total fortunes from $2.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion. ...Despite the crisis, the list of billionaires has grown by 200 people and their aggregate capital has expanded by 50%. This may seem paradoxical but only at first glance. This result was predictable, if we recall how governments all over the world have dealt with the economic crisis." (5)
This is the result of a deliberate strategy, one Washington has executed many, many times, though usually in "Third" World nations, by using "Free" Trade Agreements (FTAs) and its front groups, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. Purchased politicians plunge their countries into unsustainable debt. Under Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), national industries are sold to transnational corporations and privatized. Social programs are cut to the bone or eliminated altogether. Interest rates are ratcheted up and the economy collapses on itself like the World Trade Center while banks and corporate buzzards fight each other to pick the carcass clean.
Building on such controlled demolitions, the corporate-owned media has discovered a rash of "profligate countries" - much like our own - that have been living beyond their means and must now take their medicine. And the near-universal prescription is SAPs. The discovery of this pandemic of profligacy, as opposed to the pandemic of poverty, was prompted by demands from the same international banksters who plunged the world into a financial "crisis" for their personal profit to the point of bankrupting their own countries in order to bail themselves out.
But the New York Times' Thomas Friedman says “...we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America…" and "...leadership… has largely been about giving things away…" He cites Michael Mandelbaum of John Hopkins University saying "...the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people," and adds that "...to lead now is to trim, to fire or to downsize services, programs or personnel.” He then compares Americans to locusts that have eaten “the prosperity that was bequeathed us.”
But the New York State comptroller's report has outted the real profligates. Wall Street bonuses rose to $20.3 billion in 2009, while New York Stock Exchange broker-dealer firms raked in more than $55 billion in profits, about three times their previous record. And pay packages at the biggest Wall Street banks shot up 31%.
Between 1978 and 2008, almost 35% of America's total income growth went to the top one-tenth of one percent of "us." (6) And according to economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two-thirds of income increases between 2002 and 2007 went to the wealthiest 1% of society, a higher share of income than at any time since 1928.
The average income of the top-earning 400 US families quintupled from $16 million to $87 million between 1992 and 2007. The rest of us averaged a 13% loss before the financial crisis. And since then millions more of us have plunged over the falls into joblessness, poverty, homelessness and hunger. These are the conditions Friedman tells us must be drastically driven down.
And both the White House and Congress concur. In order to balance the budget they tell us, social programs must be cut because this "profligate" safety net created to promote the general welfare of the majority of the American people has bankrupted the federal government.
But in fact, just the opposite is true. The rich, aided and abetted by the two wings of the Money Party, have bankrupted the government. The economic crisis is pulling back the curtain of democratic pretense to expose the brick wall of a callous system that ignores social needs to satisfy the whims of a parasitic "opulent minority."
And while "...Wall Street has extracted $13 trillion in bailouts just since October 2008, the thought of raising taxes on wealth to pay just $1 trillion over an entire decade for Social Security or health insurance is deemed a crisis that would lead Wall Street to shut down the economy." (7) Wall Street is demanding that governments around the world makeup for the profligacy of the financial sector by taking what little they left to their victims through higher taxes and slashing or eliminating social programs. This is the basis of the global financial "crisis."
It's the mechanism of corporate colonization coming home to roost. This time the US is the economic colony du jour. The middle class in America is being crushed and brushed off the economic banquet table like crumbs, while wealth continues to shift to the "opulent minority" waiting at the top of the wealth pyramid, calmly sipping mint juleps as they arrange all the repression they'll need to put down potential unrest. Deja vu. We're right back where we were when King George III and the British East India Company were in charge.
Reagan's crushing of PATCO, the air traffic controllers' union, was the hunter's horn that signaled to the corporate jackal pack that they were now free to hunt down and attack the right to organize, forcing labor, that's us, to be "flexible," e.g. to accept less and less for more and more work that must be done faster and faster with fewer and fewer of us as we create the real wealth of society. We became contingent labor, part time labor, contract labor, temp labor, permatemp labor, at-will workers , and "free" agents to a contract where employers have all the liberty to contract and we have the liberty to accept their terms or become unemployed labor.
And though US output per worker rose at its fastest rate in six years during the second quarter of 2009, businesses wrung more from remaining workers, and this newly "flexible" labor force got only a fraction of their former wages. New hires at what's left of the Big Three auto companies make less than workers made at those same companies in 1948. (8)
"America touts itself as the land of the free, but the number one freedom you and I have is the freedom to enter into a subservient role in the workplace. Once you exercise this freedom, you've lost all control over what you do, what is produced, and how it is produced. And in the end, the product doesn't belong to you. The only way you can avoid bosses and jobs is if you don't care about making a living, which leads to the second freedom: the freedom to starve." - Tom Morella
The people, the "demos" in democracy, have been propagandized 24/7 with sophisticated Public Diplomacy that manufactures "consent" via the corporate ownership of information/media. It works. They wouldn't spend billions on advertising and lobbying if it didn't. In 2009, 495,145 million dollars was spent on advertising alone,(9) and $3.47 billion on lobbying. (10) Last year, "There were 12,553 lobbyists registered in Washington..." But a better count of those engaged in unregistered lobbying "...would be about 90,000..." (11)
And in this way, the "opulent minority" led us to believe we were actually going to get a deal, whether Square, Fair or New, that we were headed out across a New Frontier as part of a Great Society, that it was Morning in America and we were crossing a Bridge to the 21st Century while engaged in Change We Can Believe In - all while running in place. Way back at Morning in America someone should have told us to wake up and smell the coffee. Can you still afford coffee?
Our representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, ignore their constituents and vote the interests of their corporate campaign contributors, the Supreme Court has given our constitutional rights to a business mechanism for generating profit via "corporate personhood," and our president's campaign was named Advertising Age's "Marketer of the Year," 2008.
The people have been punked by all three branches of our corrupt and purchased government - legislative, executive and judicial - which compete to kiss the hems of the lavish purple robes of board room barons and their lobbyist courtiers, who themselves are puppets of plutocratic shareholders ensconced on the throne behind the corporate curtain.
As the people's attention was diverted not only by sports, gossip as news, and competitive consumption while trying to subsist on crumbs from the "opulent minority's" table, government policy changes were crushing unions and jobs were "exported," first to the southern states, then Mexico, then China, then Thailand and Viet Nam, and soon to Africa in a never-ending safari to find the world's most desperate people, and thus the highest profits by squeezing the most work out of those who have the least.
Disney paid Haitian workers 28 cents an hour to make children's pajamas. Wal-Mart pays Nicaraguans $1.50 a day to make blue jeans. In the US the average Wal-Mart worker earns $12,000, making one-half of the total workforce of 720,000 eligible for food stamps. This saves Wal-Mart about $432 million dollars in wages it doesn't have to pay every year.
Do the math. If 360,000 Wal-Mart workers each receive just $100 in food stamps every month, that's $36 million Wal-Mart doesn't have to pay in wages every month, or $432 million each year. The American people make up for these unpaid wages with their taxes to supply Wal-Mart workers with food stamps to feed their families in lieu of wages. That's going on half a billion dollars every year.
Collectively, Walton heirs have $65 billion and own over 1.7 billion shares, or 43% of Wal-Mart stock. They received another $29 billion from the rise in share prices from November 2007 to June, 2008 alone. (12) If you made $50,000 a year, it would take you 20,000 - that's 20,000 - years to make one billion dollars. And as for the trillions in taxpayer dollars transferred no questions asked to the banks, if you made one million dollars a day every day since the birth of Christ, you still wouldn't have even one trillion dollars.
In the meantime, corporations such as these have left the US with no industrial or economic base, while tax policy continues to divert money from workers and their children to the ridiculously wealthy. Jobs have been shipped out of the US to low wage platforms constructed on desperate people by the largest, most "efficient" and profitable corporations, which are now trying to drive US wages down even further by importing "indentured servants" on H1-B visas who will do high tech jobs at much less than the going rate in America.
And as for illegal immigration, successive administrations have never actually wanted to stop it, which may have been the point of NAFTA in the first place. By driving a flood of impoverished workers across the border to take jobs at the very corporations that wouldn't be able to exist without such "illegal" labor, the cost of US wages could be driven down across the board.
"For the first time since the Great Depression, the United States experienced zero job growth in a decade. Zero. And zero is actually worse than it sounds since none of the preceding six decades registered job growth of less than 20%. By comparison, the 1970s, which are often bemoaned as a time of economic stagflation and political malaise, registered a 27% increase in jobs." (13)
The White House Council of Economic Advisors released its Economic Report to the President on Feb. 12, but despite its projection that mass unemployment will continue for years, its "...projections in fact are optimistic. They are based on the assumption that real GDP will grow by 3.0 percent this year (4th quarter to 4th quarter), and 4.3 percent in 2011. This compares to real GDP growth of minus 1.9 percent in 2008 and minus 0.5 percent in 2009." (14)
Spending can't resume until workers are paid enough to be able to consume. Money in workers' hands is spent immediately into the economy. In the US such spending has been responsible for 70% of GDP, but jobless workers can't sustain demand for consumer goods, and thus can no longer generate that 70%. Still this administration has not lifted a finger to put people back to work and restart the demand mechanism.
But "Sen. John Kyle of Arizona, the Republican whip, argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting 'because people are being paid even though they're not working.' Unemployment insurance 'doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.'" (15)
And "Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay...has an explanation for the high rates of unemployment that continue to plague the economy... 'There is an argument that these extensions, the unemployment benefits, keep people from going and finding jobs,' he told CNN's Candy Crowley.. 'In fact, there are some studies that have been done that show people stay on unemployment compensation and they don't look for a job until two or three weeks before they know the benefits are going to run out.' 'People are unemployed because they want to be?' asked Crowley. 'Well, it is the truth. And people in the real world know it.'" (16)
And while Nevada representative Dean Heller says he believes there should be a social safety net, he questions the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits, asking, "Is the government now creating hobos?"
The "official" American jobless count as 2010 began was over 10%, but it's actually closer to one in five, both unemployed and underemployed. There are six of us for every job available. Former auto production center Detroit has the highest official unemployment rate at 27%, but the real figure stands near 50 %. No new jobs have been added since December 2007, while in the same period Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says the private sector lost eight million jobs. Factoring in population growth, we need to add 150,000 jobs a month just to stay even, so the total jobs lost is over 10.5 million. The Fed predicts unemployment will stay at least 7% through 2011, and we're shedding half a million jobs a month on average. (17)
Twenty million of us collected unemployment in 2009 and 25 states borrowed billions of dollars to keep those benefits flowing. (18) First time jobless benefit claims in the third week of February rose to their highest levels since the week ending Nov 14, according to the US Labor Department.
In New York, unemployment benefits are taxed at roughly 40%, even though the people receiving unemployment are getting back money they paid into federal and state unemployment systems when they were still working. This "unemployment tax" goes back to the Reagan Administration. "Under the guise of tax reform, we agreed to raise $2.3 billion from people who don't have jobs." - Rep. Brian Donnelly (D - MA) 1985 And when banks and insurance firms are literally awash in hundreds of billions of taxpayer bailout dollars, it seems supremely hypocritical to tax unemployment checks, which are the only "income" millions of people have - and their only means of survival. (19)
And since 1996 the number of people with no income at all has been rising. Clinton and a Republican Congress ended welfare, the federal relief program instituted in the 30s. Pledging to "end the cycle of dependency," the Democrats joined the Republicans to impose lifetime limits on benefits, drastically reduce cash assistance, and place restrictive "workfare" and other requirements on further aid. And in spite of our current need for relief, the Obama Administration opposes any additional funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), all that's left of the welfare program. (20)
In January 2003 the Washington Post reported, "Citing a shortage of money, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will stop publishing information about factory closings across the country...known as the Mass Layoffs statistics report, (it) detailed where workplaces with more than 50 employees closed and what kinds of workers were affected." (21)
While Congress overturned this move by the Bush Administration, on March 3, 2010 the Post again reported "...The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks globalization's winners and losers... Manufacturing jobs here, for example, have fallen faster since 1979 than in Canada, Germany or Japan. Compensation for these jobs dropped here in 2008, but jumped in South Korea and Australia. Soon, however, Americans may be spared the demoralization of these numbers: the White House wants to shutter the unit that produces them." (22)
How convenient. In his State of the Union Address, the president "called for a massive expansion of the NAFTA trade model into Colombia, South Korea and Panama. So you can bet this announcement by the White House is no accident - it's preemptive." (23) Now you can't know.
In 2009 there were 2.82 billion foreclosures - almost 8,000 every day. (24) Another 2.4 million are expected this year. (25) By year's end, foreclosures will exceed 7 million, possibly going to 10 million. (26) And the Commerce Department reported that new home sales dropped 11.2% in January, the lowest level on record in nearly 50 years.
"Houses on sale for a few dollars are something of an urban legend in the US on the back of the mortgage crisis that drove millions of people from their homes. But in Detroit, it is no myth. One in five houses now stand empty in the city that launched the automobile age, forged America's middle class and blessed the world with Motown. Drive through Detroit neighbourhoods once clogged with the cars that made the city the envy of America and there are homes to be had for a single dollar." (27)
First American CoreLogic data shows 11.3 million houses had underwater mortgages in the fourth quarter of 2009, or 24% of all residential home loans in the US, and that "an additional 2.3 million mortgages were approaching 'negative equity' at the end of last year..." This means that three out of ten American homes "have virtually no value to their owners." (28)
One point four million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in the first nine months of 2009 in spite of the punitive new Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. A study conducted by Harvard Medical School in 2007 found that 62.1% of the bankruptcies in their sample were due to medical expenses, and that three-quarters of those who filed for bankruptcy had health insurance. (Forty-seven million of us have no health insurance at all.)
More and more Americans are filing "for Chapter 7 bankruptcy which - if approved - allows a court to discharge most unsecured consumer debt, including credit card bills." The goal of the 2005 law was to force more people to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which requires those with regular income to pay debts in full, or in part, over several years. (29)
But Chapter 13 filings decreased 3% from January to February (30) because "People generally file for Chapter 13 to try to save a home." - Robert Lawless, University of Illinois Now people are unable to borrow on the equity in their homes to avoid bankruptcy, and many of them no longer have homes to save. (31)
But since the law changed in 2005, the bankruptcy rate has risen every year. "We are already on a faster pace in 2010 than we were a year ago.. Consumer filings will likely surpass 1.5 million filings this year." - Samuel Gerdano, American Bankruptcy Institute Chapter 7 filings were up 41% in 2009, while Chapter 13 filings were up only 12%. (32)
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, in effect, makes the government a collection agency for credit card corporations that make "bad judgments" about credit risks (often on purpose). In a real free market, those who make bad loans risk losing money. This law does away with that risk, charging government with following debtors for decades, and bailing out reckless credit card corporations.
In 2008 the US Census showed 47.4 million of us were living under the official poverty line. For a family of four it's just $22,000, or $4,400 per person per year. Can you live on $4,400 a year? In 2008 the USDA reported that 49.1 million of us had no dependable access to food. Food charities saw demand rise 30% between the summer of 2008 and the summer of 2009. On December 11, 2009, the USDA reported that a record 37.2 million of us were eating thanks to food stamps, or one out of every eight. On January 13, 2010, the New York Times reported that six million of us were living on no income other than $100-$200 in food stamps.
"Over 8.8 million households will have received heating assistance by winter's end, up from 7.7 million last year and 5.7 million in 2008, according to a new report from the National Energy Assistance Director's Association (NEADA). About 4.3 million households had utilities disconnected in 2009..." "In spite of mounting unemployment, Congress this year approved the same amount of money as it did last year for heating assistance, allocating $5.1 billion for the states to administer LIHEAP - a figure substantially less than several Wall Street banks paid their executives in 2009." (33)
Utility shutoffs in July 2009 bit hard as winter settled in on many of us living dangerously without heat or electricity - until we weren't living at all, frozen or else burned to death trying to keep warm with space heaters while "stealing" electricity. More and more people are living in Hooverville-style tent cities, in their cars, and in shacks made of wood, metal and cardboard scraps. They have no running water, plumbing or electricity. And these are the people with "homes." A 2007 study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that approximately 3.5 million of us are likely to experience homelessness in a given year.
Eighty thousand people in Detroit lined up in October 2009 looking for help with their utility bills. Over a three-day period, 10,000 people showed up for 90 jobs making washing machines in Kentucky for $27,000 a year. (34) And remember, even at $50,000 a year it would take 20,000 years to make one of Gates', Buffet's or the Waltons' billions.
But the "opulent minority" of corporate shareholders prefer their workers poor, the poorer the better. Desperately poor people work harder and faster for less, afraid not to take what they're grudgingly offered. And the poorer they are, the less able they are to defend themselves against the abuse doled out by the corporations these shareholders own. "It is easier to control those who are struggling for survival than...those who are striving for improvement." - Dennis Kaiser
And further, we're supposed to be in debt. Consumer debt has been the engine of the American economy since wages leveled off and began to drop in the 70s. Employers paid less in order to raise their profit margins. The financial sector extended credit, aka debt, as a way for workers to continue to consume while receiving less wages. This also had the effect of increasing the financial sector's profit from the interest on that debt. This credit/debt kept the engine going as the employer-corporations and the financial sector profited while American worker-consumers were beginning to drown in that very same debt/credit.
But if no one was in debt and everyone was saving money, the economy wouldn't be performing as well as it should. Alan Greenspan, former Fed Chairman, believes consumer debt is "a very potent and very desirable financial institution" (July 25, 2005) and that pay raises are inflationary. Keeping people poor and using those debt-created income streams, e.g. the monthly interest payments, for collateral allows Wall Street to borrow against that debt in order to take out loans to finance investments/risks/bets and boost the stock market.
"Despite the fact that its charter starts off by directing it to promote full employment and stable prices, the Fed is anti-labor in practice. Alan Greenspan famously bragged that what has caused quiescence among labor union members when it comes to striking for higher wages or even for better working conditions is the fear of being fired and being unable to meet their mortgage and credit card payments. One paycheck away from homelessness, or a downgraded credit rating leading to soaring interest charges has become a formula for labor management." (35)
Our economy is designed to "increase injustice, inequality and exploitation," in order to perpetuate the dominion of the "opulent minority" over us. And the deregulation of every sector of the US market was a deliberate policy decision by these stunningly insane, sociopathic, genocidal maniacs, who kept our economy alive by creating more debt/credit in order to enrich themselves with the interest payments. Now the economy is getting intravenous bailouts of taxpayer money while it languishes on life support.
And how low can they go? Check this out. "The United States is one of the few countries that allow the sale of human blood plasma for profits. Across the country, countless workers are selling the yellowy substance found in their blood to the pharmaceutical giants of Wall Street." (36)
"Cerberus Capital, one of Wall Street's most notoriously ruthless leveraged-buyout firms recently made a $1.8 billion killing in their human plasma investment...by paying peanuts to their impoverished human plasma donors..., jacking up the price of plasma by restricting supply,...then selling the refined products to the most desperately ill..." Despite the billions Wall Street makes off plasma, donors get $30 for an hour spent hooked to a blood-sucking machine. Plasma profiteers set up franchises all along the Texas-Mexico border and plastered the Mexican side with ads promising easy cash. They even have special plasma-farm buses on the American side just waiting to haul their human cattle to their milking stations. (37)
But Fed Chair Ben Bernanke says at least the recession is over. Ben is the mouthpiece for "an offshore banking cartel" that predicts precisely the amount of "I.O.U. paper " it can print and circulate without disrupting the Ponzi scheme of fractional reserve banking. And now that Ben's officially declared the end to the recession, "well, hallelujah! We can quit rolling our own and buy ready mades and run recklessly through the Dollar Store scooping up dented canned goods and cheap Chinese tube socks... It is over for the most important members of a capitalist society, the oligarchs and banksters who have made fortunes off this recession, thanks to our unique economic system, and may now return to their standard garden variety usury." (38)
We have a deficit with every part of the world. We're dependent on imports of food, drink, industrial supplies and materials. We can't even produce our own cars and trucks. We depend more on imports of manufactured consumer goods than on imported oil. We can't make our own clothes, shoes, appliances, machinery, electric generation or telecommunications equipment. We don't even own our own roads. (39) Soon imported goods will be priced out of reach and anything still made or grown here will be exported to wealthier consumers overseas.
On 11/17/09 Robert Parry reported that Bernanke, in an address to the Economic Club of New York, gave "Americans a glimpse of the ugly truth about their future job prospects. Simply put, companies have found that they can shed workers and rely on technological advances and overseas factories to operate with a lot fewer employees." They've "found longer-lasting, efficiency-enhancing changes that allowed them to reduce their workforces..." Also, "employers have reduced hours for the workers they have retained... these data suggest that the excess supply of labor is even greater than indicated by the unemployment rate alone..." Employers have "...been able to retain all the workers they need with minimal wage increase, or even with wage cuts..." (emphasis added)
The Highest Productivity at the Lowest Possible Wage equals Maximum Profit. When the supply of labor (that's us) exceeds demand, the price of labor (wages) falls because too many of us are competing for too few jobs. This is the reason for minimum wages, maximum hours, and the elimination of child labor. The fewer workers there are, the higher the wage. But with the globalization of work, transnational corporations have the entire workforce of the world to choose from, and some of the most desperately poor people on earth to employ/exploit.
In Bangladesh, a garment worker makes 22 cents an hour. The wage in Cambodia is 33 cents an hour; in Pakistan, 37 cents an hour; in Vietnam, 38 cents; in Sri Lanka, 43 cents; Indonesia, 44 cents; India, 55 cents; China, 86 cents; the Philippines, $1.07; and Malaysia, $1.18. This is the marketplace for labor in which we must compete. (40)
Why would a US transnational corporation pay you minimum wage, approximately $7.25 an hour, when they can get the same work for from six to 35 times cheaper, leave the ownership and maintenance of the production facility to an overseas subcontractor, ship the manufactured goods into the US with no tariff imposed, and keep the profits offshore to avoid paying income tax? The only way it would be profitable for that transnational corporation to hire you is if you "agreed" to work for less. Could you live on less than 22 cents an hour? Do I have to ask?
"It is in the interest of a tyrant to keep his people poor, so that they may not be able to afford the cost of protecting themselves by arms and be so occupied with their daily tasks (subsistence) that they have no time for rebellion." - Aristotle
"There are two ways to enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt." - John Adams
Notes
(1) Tom Eley, "America, the land of inequality," wsws, 2/13/10
(2) David Michael Green, "America's Race to the Bottom," The Smirking Chimp, 12/12/09
(3) Too Much, 12/12/09
(4) David Michael Green, ibid.
(5) Vlad Grinkevich, "Forbes: Crisis Hits Only Low Income Earners," RIA Novosti, 3/12/10
(6) Economic Policy Institute
(7) Prof. Michael Hudson, "Wall Street's War against Main Street America," Global Research, 2/17/10
(8) Steve Fraser, "The Great Silence. Our Gilded Age and Theirs," Tom's Dispatch, 4/22/08
(9) Zenithoptimedia
(10) money.cnn.com, 2/12/10
(11) Andrea Shalal-Esa, "FACTBOX - How many lobbyists are there in Washington?" REUTERS, 9/13/09
(12) Emily Spence, "The Widening Gap in America's Two-tiered Society," Smirking Chimp, 8/24/09
(13) Robert Parry, "Lessons from America's Lost Decade," Consortium News, 1/5/10
(14) Joe Kishore, "White House projects long-term mass unemployment," wsws, 2/13/10
(15) Joe Klein, "This Is Getting Good," Time, 3/2/10
(16) Tanya Ganeva, "Compassionate Conservative Tom Delay: People Don't Have Jobs Because They're Too Lazy to Work," Speakeasy, 3/7/10
(17) Statistics, Tom Eley, "A Portrait of Social Misery," wsws, 1/7/10
(18) Olga Pierce, PRO PUBLICA, 1/20/10
(19) Ted Rall, "The Craziest Tax: Lost Your Job? The IRS Thinks You're Loaded," Smirking Chimp, 1/10/10
(20) Jerry White,"Six million in US with no income but food stamps,",wsws,1/7/10
(21) Kristen Downey, "U.S. Drops Report on Mass Layoffs: Data Helped States Track Patterns of Industrial Demise," Washington Post, 11/2/03
(22) Alec MacGillis, "Obama Administration Plans to Close International Labor Comparisons Office Washington Post, 3/3/10
(23) David Sirota, "Obama Adopts Bush Plan to Hide Outsourced Job Data," Open Left, 3/4/10
(24) Realty Trac
(25) Moody's Economy.com
(26) Jack Rasmus, "Economic Crisis and beyond," Z Magazine, Jan 2010
(27) Chris McGreal "Detroit homes sell for $1.00 amid mortgage and car industry crisis," guardian.co.uk, 3/2/10
(28) Douglas McIntyre, "Underwater Mortgages Hit 11.3 Million," 247wallstreet.com, 2/23/10
(29) Christine Douglas, "More consumers file for bankruptcy protection," USA TODAY, 3/2/10
(30) American Bankruptcy Institute
(31) Christine Douglas, ibid.
(32) Christine Douglas, ibid.
(33) Tom Eley, "Record demand for heating assistance in US," wsws 2/24/10
(34) Jerry White, "White House defends inaction on jobs crisis as unemployment grows," wsws, 10/13/09
(35) Prof. Michael Hudson, "Deepening Debt Crisis: The Bernanke Reappointment: Be Afraid, Very Afraid," Center for Global Research, 2/2/10
(36) Caleb T. Maupin, "Working Peoples' Blood for Sale - Prices Lower Than Ever," Workers World 1/19/10
(37) Mark Ames "Cerberus Capital: Literally Blood-Sucking the Poor to Make Their Billions", Smirking Chimp, 1/9/10
(38) Joe Bageant, "To the Hope and Change Crowd - How's It Working Out for You?" JoeBageant.com, 12/9/09
(39) Paul Craig Roberts, "American Economy: R.I.P." Information Clearing House, 9/10/07
(40) Wimal Perera, "Bangladesh: Factory fire kills 21 garment workers," wsws, 3/14/10