Tuesday, April 19, 2005

April 18, 2005

Can You Hear Me Now?

There are a couple of subjects on which I accept the charge I have become a broken record; the coup underway by America’s Christian right, and America’s Potemkin village of an economy.

In very real ways almost everything that currently plagues this country can be connected in some way to those two issues. I already slapped religious fundamentalists around in this past weekend edition. (If you missed it you can read it here.)

Last week’s stock market meltdown offers me another opportunity remind everyone that, as a nation and a people, we have been living on borrowed money – and therefore, borrowed time.

Well, time’s up.

From here on natural economic forces will drive all future economic events. Over the past four years those natural forces had been held by Bush’s enormous tax cuts, historically low interest rates and super-easy consumer credit.

Five years ago the national bank account was rolling in dough with projected surpluses approaching $6 trillion. Today I would be happy if I could say we were just flat broke. But it’s worse than that. A lot worse. We are now running half trillion-dollar deficits each year and have been borrowing money at record rates from other countries. We are now $7.8 trillion in the hole.

Your share of this debt is $26,342.28. (Same goes for your spouse and your kids and the horse you rode in on.) And you bill is going up everyday. The National Debt has been increasing by an average $2.08 billion per day since September 30, 2004! http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

So much for "tax and spend liberals," huh? And would it be terribly bad taste to stop here and remind ourselves that under the last Democrat administration the budget was not only in surplus but we were paying down the national debt?

Anyway, as history teaches that, while government spending and easy credit can temporarily hobble the immutable laws of business physics, they will eventually reassert themselves, and with a vengeance.

When Bush took office in 2001 he had a chance to address some of the systemic weaknesses just emerging. NAFTA, a Bill Clinton legacy, was not working the way it was supposed to. Neither were a host of other “fast tracked” trade agreements signed during Clinton’s tenure. As well-meaning as they might have been, these one-sided open trade agreements stripped American manufacturers of competitiveness. Cheap labor, lax worker safety and environmental rules overseas went unaddressed and the giant sucking sound that resulted were American jobs heading overseas.

Right under Bush’s nose US jobs by the millions flowed to those offshore venues. He could have rectified this by insisting that any country that wants to trade with the US had to do so on a level playing field, our field. If spreading democracy is so damn important to this President, why then isn’t it also important to spread the best industrial practices we have learned over the past century as well?

But Bush did nothing like that. Instead of trying to revive the American economy by making it truly competitive again with world trading partners, he reached into the federal checking account and poured $1.36 trillion in tax giveaways onto the smoldering economic embers. And when that money began to burn, he claimed it proof of his wisdom.

Well, that money is now in ashes, the embers are again smoldering, and what now, genius?

Those other nations – particularly China – to whom our trade agreements gave away the farm, no longer want to buy US dollar investments. In other words, the lending window is closing. Domestic rates are going up as the dollar goes down. Homeowners who became serial refinancers have now sucked the last dime of equity out of their homes. Credit card companies are still lending, but have raised their rates and won new legislation that no longer allow their sucker customers to slip their leash by filing bankruptcy. Americans are driving around in giant SUV's, which they still owe a bundle on, and gas prices are heading for $3 a gallon. Soon they won't even be able to give those things away. Then what?

Isn’t it ironic? The US destroyed one Communist giant, the Soviet Union, by forcing it to spend itself into fiscal collapse by provoking a space arms race. Now the last remaining Communist giant, China, has forced the US into near bankruptcy by setting up shop at Wal-Mart and selling us all manner of cheaply manufactured goods, and even lending us the money with which to buy the stuff. (“When we hang the capitalist they will sell us the rope.” Stalin)

I wonder if Chinese leaders still sneak off for a few tokes off the old opium pipe? If so I suspect you can hear more than a few muffled and drossy chuckles in the Beijing night these days.

As for the question "what now?" Stagflation. If you're too young to remember the last time it hit, read all about it.

Bush Family Expand Thier (own) Ownership Society
While his father was President of the United States Neil Bush got caught looting Silverado Savings and Loan. When daddy liberated Kuwait, Neil and Jeb and Marvin Bush jumped on the first jet heading that way and set up for business offers in a Kuwaiti hotel suit. Now the action is Iraq. The Bush kids are once again pulling themselves up by their family bootstraps. Read this grossly under-reported expose for a bellyful of the Bush’s getting another bellyful. (Link to Full Story)
The full rundown on the Bush Boys and their smarmy business deals can be found HERE.

Hypocrite Watch
I have to admit to judging a book by its cover. Every time I see the boyish Christian
right-winger Ralph Reed on TV I see a guy who I know in my gut would have eagerly slipped into an SS uniform had he lived in Germany in the 1930s. I can't help it. It just pops into my head every time I see the guy.

Anyway, Reed has shelved the Elmer Gantry routine to become a declared politician. The former head of the Christian Coalition has been a high-priced communications consultant, a top Bush campaign adviser, chairman of Georgia's Republican Party and now a candidate for lieutenant governor in Atlanta.

But as he morphs from Christian advocate to professional politician, Reed, 43, finds himself carrying some baggage: his ties to an old friend, documented scumbag Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Yes, the same scumbag who is Tom DeLay’s chief Capo who is now in trouble for bilking American Indians out of a bundle while defending their right to build casinos in which to bilk other folks out of money. So much for Christian values.. blah blah, etc. etc. ( Read the FULL STORY here )

Also if you have not read DeLay's Axis of Influence... it's HERE.

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