The Coastal Post - June 1999

The Economy Sucks

By Elizabeth Whitney

"Consumers have everything they need to justify spending with gusto and they are devouring everything in sight," said economic Sung Won Sohn of Wells Fargo. "They have jobs income and confidence. What more do they need?" -Business Digest, San Francisco Chronicle, February 5,1999

Pardon my rudeness, but I did want to get your attention. It's hard to get the microphone away from these bankers, brokers, merchants, and thieves who keep telling us that the economy is in such great shape. Here's what they point to as proof of a strong start to 1999: "Surge in factory orders...unexpected dip in applications for jobless benefits...big sales gains at U.S. retailers." What they leave out is engulfing personal debt, entrenched hard-core poverty and zero resiliency in the superstructure.

There is one more fact all the experts whisper in small print: when the stock market goes, everything is going to go with it. As a pal of mine says, when the stock market falls and doesn't get up, it's the end. Not the end of the world, mind you, just the end of the Big Illusion of economy equals money. The good news is this creates the opportunity initiate a new economy built on a brand new foundation.

The Y2K computer crisis is as good a candidate as any for popping the economic hot air balloon. Vast billions are being spent to retrofit the commercial infrastructure, not to mention the pathetic taxpayer-financed attempts of government to cope with the problem. Costs of computer rescue operation will be recovered at the marketplace, taxing the poor to pay for the rich once again. At some point we might even notice that everything costing more equals inflation, an unwelcome word for times like these.

Even more disruptive is Y2K's psychological impact, the joker in the deck of business as usual. The uncertainty of Y2K's effect and the speculation of endless questions without answers is itself a force of volatile instability. we have been conditioned ad nauseam to look for experts to answer our economic questions. Thanks to Y2K, these experts are exposed as actors without a script.

The timing of Y2K as the catalyzing agent for the meltdown of the old world order economy mischievously forges a link to the religious world of prophecy and end times fantasies of every conceivable sort. It's the Y2K virus that causes millennial fear and we are all infected.

No experts, no script, no confidence-not a good formula for perpetuating our current economic shadow play. When the roll back starts for real, look for a tidal wave of deflation in every stock market and everything the stock markets affects.

Robert B. Reich, Secretary of Labor in the first Clinton administration put it this way in the New York Times:

America's economic ebullience rests on a house of cards. It's not "sound" macroeconomics and a "flexible" labor market that have put us in such a good mood. It's a stock market that has soared into the stratosphere combined with plummeting world commodity prices that have made oil and raw material imports so cheap that even the Fed has briefly stopped battling inflation. The Dow Jones could come back to earth with a thud when the frenzy stops. Our

ballooning trade imbalance will pop at some point. When the going gets rough again, we will notice that the gap between rich and poor has widened to a chasm, nobody has job security and there is no safety net.

In nature, which is the model of the real economy, there is no fall without a rise, no death without a birth, no end which is not also a beginning.

And in nature is the only place where all this can be sorted out. As a modern Japanese sage has said, before the panic sets in, it behooves one to look to nature for instruction:

"Do not overlook the truth that is right before you. Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything-even mountains, rivers, plants and trees-should be your teacher." -Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido

Ueshiba also gave interesting definition of economy in his teaching. He said, "Economy is the basis of society. When the economy is stable society develops. The ideal economy combines the spiritual and the material and the best commodities to trade in are sincerity and love."

The best commodities to trade in are sincerity and love. See you at the marketplace.

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