IT’S STILL THE ECONOMY, STUPID! (AS WELL AS THE ENVIRONMENT)

10 11 2006

I must confess I suffered from a severe buildup of paranoid fantasies coming up on this election. War on Iran, massive vote stealing, riots, martial law—I was feeling downright apocalyptic. Would Bush use his new powers to declare Cindy Sheehan an “enemy combatant”? What about Harry Reid? What about…ME??

What a relief that none of it happened—or hasn’t happened yet, anyway. Too many people were too mad and watching too closely for any major funny business. The day after the election, at his “Ding-dong-the-Rummy-witch-is-dead” press conference, Bush sounded so shrill—was it just a symptom of how desperately he wanted to go on a drunken bender, or did somebody in the CIA have his balls in a vise? Will we ever know?

Then again, maybe they just let it go because they figured it was time to get out while the getting is good. The economy is teetering on the brink; let the Democrats catch the blame when it collapses, while the Bush family shuffles off to Paraguay—did you hear about that? Apparently Poppa Bush is buying a huge tract of land down there. If it was good enough for the original batch of Nazis….

Hey, Kennebunkport’s gonna be under water, but not central South America—and besides, the Paraguayans don’t have much in the way of extradition treaties with the U.S. Maybe Rummie will join them down there—there’s already talk of indicting him for war crimes in Germany now that he’s lost his diplomatic immunity. No, he didn’t commit war crimes in Germany, that we know of, except for maybe an extraordinary rendition or two, but German law allows anyone who’s committed war crimes anywhere in the world to be held accountable in Germany. For some reason, they’re real sensitive about that over there. Something about Nuremberg…..

Meanwhile, America is about to go Weimar, or at least Argentine.

Our trading partners in Asia are starting to think they’ve bought enough dollars and U.S. securities and now it’s time to diversify their holdings. The Chinese, especially, are cooling their eagerness to prop up the U.S. economy, which for a number of years has “grown” via the mechanism that China is loaning us money to buy things from them, and then layering it further by loaning the US money to pay back earlier loans. This economically dysfunctional relationship is drawing to a close, it seems. If the rest of the world expresses its lack of confidence in the U.S. by ceasing to buy our Treasury bills, then all the Democrats’ plans about social security, health care, and college will go in the toilet. That’s the bad news—the good news is that our country’s ability to finance overseas military adventures will also be curtailed. So, the Dems had better push that increase in the minimum wage through soon, because it could become meaningful to a lot more of us sooner than we’d like to think.

There are rumblings coming from a lot closer to home, too. Savings have largely been replaced in this country by ownership of real estate, but the housing boom in America is beginning to cool, and people are finding themselves paying more for their homes than those homes are worth—and, as employment contracts still further, finding themselves unable to pay for their homes at all. The bankruptcy rate, which punitive anti-consumer legislation was supposed to slow down, is approaching the level it was at before the Republicans tilted the field in favor of lenders.

Here we see the unintended consequences of the greed of the medical system, as more than half of all bankruptcy filers cited medical debt as a major reason for their plight. The medical parasite is causing life-threatening damage to the organism. It’s that simple, and that complicated. It affects not only individual Americans, but Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance as well. Will these players gang up on the medical business, now that the Democrats, who are marginally less supportive of endgame capitalism, are in charge? Maybe.

Now, it’s possible that the Democrats’ recapture of the legislative branch of our government will inspire our overseas creditors to cut us some slack, at least for a while—but the Dems will have to at least attempt to reverse the Bush junta’s financial overindulgences—Bush still has the power to veto such reversals, so any real reform will have to wait until after 2008, which is a long time in the life of an economy. Will the Democrats have the spine to do this? Most of them supported the various so-called “free trade agreements” that started destroying America’s economy, and many of them are in thrall enough to big business to still be in denial about that. Bush’s tax cuts were just the icing on the cake.

My advice? Pay off your debts if you can. Grow a garden. Make sure your home is energy-efficient. If you have investments, do like Dick Cheney and move them overseas as much as possible. The recent election may have saved us from fascist weirdness, but the financial weirdness is just beginning.

music:  Steve Earle, “Ashes to Ashes

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