The Coastal Post - November, 1997

Affluence & Mega-Debt


A short time ago, we heard much talk about the national debt and the deficit. While the deficit has recently gone down, the national debt has gone up. But there is a greater problem for Americans to confront. Government can create new financial paper to pay bills, but individuals don't have that power. It is personal debt that has become a greater menace to stability and security in the USA, if not the world.

U.S. household debt now totals more than five trillion dollars. Servicing that debt takes up 18% of American's disposable income. While a minority are making big bucks in stocks and bonds, a majority survive only by going more deeply into debt. The financial gap between those two groups is greater than it has ever been, and shows signs of becoming an abyss.

Wall Street is indeed experiencing a boom, while Main Street edges ever closer to a massive bust. We are a people living on borrowed forms of material and immaterial Reality. Under the rule of capital, money, space, time, earth, air and water are all reduced to commodities. They are controlled, if not owned, by minorities,and rented, if not sold, to majorities. Many among that majority, along with their society, are verging on bankruptcy. More than one million citizens are expected to go belly-up this year, and corporate government is trying to make it more difficult for them to do so.

The pressure, confusion and anger expressed about material reality has become so great that many are reduced to blaming one another, scapegoating the most helpless, or hoping for royal or divine intervention. Few have any faith left in government, and fewer have ever trusted big business. It

may be understandable that they would look to gods, goddesses or celebrities for help.

For those in finance, real estate or religion, these may be boom times. The investor class is wallowing in paper profits and indulging in new forms of mindless materialism. It spends billions on tourism while learning nothing about foreign people, and induces consumption of useless and wasteful products like sports utility vehicles, cosmetic surgery and other forms of fetishes. Those who are actually picking up the social tab for this affluence are the distressed, confused and often heartbroken working people of the nation. In despair, they are susceptible to political attacks of brainless bigotry, or economic attacks that reduce them to market shares at the spiritual mall.

The working majority is dangerously over-extended and troubled, both spiritually and materially. Its real deity is the bank that issues the plastic with which it sustains its survival, and therein lies a tale.

Without digging themselves into ever deeper debt, Americans could not hope to consume the fruits of their labors. They can't possibly afford to pay cash for their truly gross domestic product. The only way they can consume the enormous glut of everything-from necessities to incredible amounts of garbage-is to charge it on plastic, or some other form of deferred payment plan which soaks them for interest payments.

Nor will they ever be able to afford what they create, as long that product is under the exclusive control of investors who produce nothing. This economic and political minority maintains its profit position on top of the corporate nation in part by throwing more people out of decent paying jobs, in part by clouding minds with nonsense so that material reality is almost invisible.

A social philosopher has said that the three most significant aspects of the 20th century are the growth of democracy, the rise of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power from democracy.

A political-economic order that more equitably distributed social wealth might guarantee survival for all, as well the future of the race and the planet. Corporate rule is doing all it can to keep people from questioning the present arrangement of power relations

Everyone is suspicious of power, but rarely clear as to who really has it and who truly lacks it. Our mind managers have some of us identifying power with single women, blacks, fundamentalists, gays, white men-pick your prejudice. They never speak of their employers, the wealthy minority of corporadoes who control capital and thereby run-or almost run -the world.

Manipulated minorities seek their own piece of the action, seeing no need to change the action, and corporate capital smiles while everyone goes to church, buys flowers for Princess Diana, cat food for Tabby, a ticket for the lottery and gas for the guzzler.

Millions attempt a down payment on an upscale life that will never really be achievable on current income. All of this is done with plastic, or not at all. Citizens pay blood money interest to forces without moral principle. Are we confused? Why shouldn't we be?

As long as religious believers can be made to look down on religious believers of another kind, division will rule and debt will multiply. As long as white skin privilege is so poorly understood that a black homeowner can think a white renter has it, confusion will rise and debt will deepen. As long as investors can set workers battling among themselves, rather than organizing around common interest, chaos is assured. That is, as long as propaganda can get people to experience madness and mega-debt and call it sanity and affluence. A society living on borrowed time and money needs a people to begin asking who it is borrowed from.