The Coastal Post - June 2000

The End or The Beginning?

By Frank Scott

During what we are constantly told is a period of economic boom, the majority has slipped into deep debt, and often, even deeper mental depression. Were it not for the massive market in legal and illegal drugs in America, our dysfunctional families and even more dysfunctional highways might be the scenes of an even higher death toll. It's all due to a dysfunctional system.

When Clinton took office in 1992, the top one percent of American households controlled 37.4 percent of the nation's wealth. By 1999, their share had gone up to 40.1 percent.

Back in '92, the bottom 40 percent of households had .9 percent of the wealth. By '99, they had slipped to .7 percent. That's right, a negative figure, meaning they were in debt.

Consumer debt has increased by more than 75 percent over those eight years, and it accounts for most of what we are told is the "boom" for average families. In truth, the top is doing better than ever, the bottom has dwindled by a fraction, and the middle is doing worse, since its wages have remained static, while its debt has skyrocketed. Three cheers for the "new" economics?

During this same period, taxes on the average citizen have increased, while they have gone down for major corporations. This more unequal tax system is attributable to our sham democracy, which finds more money poured into politics, with greater representation for wealth, and less for everyone else. The gap between classes in America has never been wider. But of course, we are not a class society.

While ministers of the market lead their parishioners in hymns praising profit, growing numbers of citizens are at a loss to find affordable health care or housing. But they are able to purchase affordable automobiles or guns. They can use these to act out their frustrations over the economic boom, which is busting them, and ruining the environment for even those few who profit. How much longer can this go on?

We are practicing the most socially gross national behavior, in order to create the most socially gross national product.

Our dangerous and stupid nuclear arsenal costs us billions, even after the legendary communist menace has vanished. We spend even more billions on weapons and armed forces that appear almost everywhere on the globe, and are appreciated almost nowhere on earth. We maintain poverty standards for much of our education and health care, while squandering our wealth on prisons and warfare.

The same forces which said It was wrong to put people in death camps back in the 20th century, say that it is right to turn the nation of Iraq into a giant death camp in the 21st century. Makes you wonder?

A system that can practice murder and call it peace, is a system that can impoverish billions and call it a triumph of political economics. It can see itself as the center of progress, while pushing the planet closer to the edge of doom. It can see the majority of the world go hungry while a minority goes on a diet, and interpret this as the triumph of capitalism.

Ecological disasters that are called "natural" are like the mass murders that are called peace keeping. These assaults on logic and language are based on a double standard inspired by our warped interpretations of mythology and legend. The religious teachings that help some to find hope for mankind are interpreted by others in ways that support the perpetuation of despair.

Worship of market forces and the continued reliance on fossil fuels are an indication of the systemic unwillingness to treat resources as anything but things to be exploited for profits. Some industry experts forecast that we've already peaked in production, and that petroleum sources will be in steep decline for the near future. That means prices will go up, even for subsidized Americans. The handwriting is on the wall, but few establishment leaders or their apologists seem able or willing to read.

Thankfully, there is an international movement that seems to want to create a new way of treating the world and its people. It speaks of putting them before the notion of profit, and trying to resolve differences between nations in ways other than war. You'd never know that to listen to corporate capital's information ministry, which heaps ridicule and disrespect at any resistance, while praising the acceptance of madness as a sign of sanity.

But change is in the air. After a generation of attacks on government and the notion of social responsibility, a comeback may be under way. The heavy-handed assault of Thatcher and Reagan, followed by the smiley-faced theft of Clinton and Blair, could be nearing its end.

A sign of this is in the tiny nation of New Zealand. It has elected a woman prime minister on a platform of rejection for the "new" politics of neo-sadism, calling for a progressive return to concepts of worker organizations, human rights, peace and social responsibility.

The UN proclaimed 2000 the "International Year for the Culture of Peace," and though you'd never know it from the behavior of the U.S. and its NATO flunkies, there are indications that the people of the world are responding.

The less powerful and more numerous nations are banded together in the group of 77, which represents the world's developing majority and tries to counter the minority masters of the planet. They often find unity with NGOs from the Euro-American north, whose system is the source of most global problems. That north could also play a major role in solving those problems, if democratic efforts can bring it to its collective senses. The hope of the future may reside in the strength of the democratic impulse in that developed world.

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