IS THE DOLLAR BUBBLE ABOUT TO POP?

11 09 2009

Well, here it is the eighth anniversary of 9-11, and we find that one of the levers used to push Van Jones out of the government was the fact that he signed a petition calling for a fuller investigation of what happened on that day.  It isn’t just that the Repugs attacked him for this, it’s that the mainstream of the Dimocratic Party dropped him like a hot potato–for expressing a question that, according to one poll, has been seriously considered by nearly a third of all “Democrats.”

I don’t pretend to know what happened, but there certainly are some questions I would like to have good answers for, like, how did a fire started by igniting kerosene, which burns at a temperature too low to melt or even weaken steel, how did a fire in a largely inflammable structure, get hot enough so that molten metal was observed pouring out of the impact zone and discovered still hot days later in the ruins, and why did the steel girders holding up the impacted floors shatter?  and, once those girders shattered, why did they collapse like a house of cards?  Shouldn’t they have been built  strong enough so the tops would have just fallen off and left the bottoms shaken, but standing?  And why, if this was not a controlled demolition, did the building fall so neatly into its own footprint?  And why did Building 7, which housed offices for the Secret Service and the CIA, and reportedly housed surveillance records for the main buildings, catch fire and collapse?  On the other hand, of course, I have to wonder, if the towers were demoed, how such a huge amount of explosives could have been placed in the them without anybody noticing–or telling?

But I want to use the rest of this show to talk about an even bigger hijacking and collapse–no, not the ecology, that’s REALLY the big one, but a the collapse of a structure we are all more or less trapped in, just the same–the collapse of the dollar.

So far, it’s just been rumblings and minor quakes, but the stage has been set for a change, and to my mind the only question is how fast and vast that change will be.

OK, some basics.  The U.S. dollar has been a  de facto world currency for the last sixty or seventy years, ever since the U.S. was the only large industrial country not devastated by the Second World War.  American financing rebuilt most of the planet, except for the Soviet bloc, and it was the rest of the world’s indebtedness to the U.S. that enabled this country to “lead the free world,” as so many politicians love to say….only, they weren’t the free world, they were in debt slavery  to us.

This started to change in the 1970’s, when U.S. oil production peaked, along with our manufacturing economy and the high-paying middle-class jobs it created.  Imported oil was just the beginning of the slide.  As companies took increasing advantage of the poverty of other countries to move manufacturing out of the U.S. and into first Mexico and Central America and then China, the U.S. manufacturing base eroded, and for some years this country’s chief export has been…money.

Now, there’s something very important to understand about the U.S. dollar, as well as many other world currencies: the only thing backing it up is the world’s belief that it is valuable.  It’s no longer backed by gold, the bills are no longer called “silver certificates.”  It’s what referred to as “fiat currency.”  “Fiat” is a Latin world meaning “let it be done,” as in, “because I say so.”

And so the U.S. went from being everybody’s rich Uncle Sam to being the country that owed money to the rest of the world–not just because we have been sending our money overseas and not getting it back, but because we have obtained the money we sent overseas by borrowing it from people overseas–at compound interest.

Compound interest is a very dangerous game to play.  First of all, it assumes that the borrower is going to be wealthier in the future than he is now.He has to be, or he cannot repay the loan–and compound interest insures that the amount owed will snowball if it is not repaid.  Meanwhile, here in the real world, we are coming up against serious warning signs, telling us we are not likely to be wealthier in the future.  We have gotten rich by looting the planet’s storehouse of fossil fuel, metals, and “renewable resources” such as its forests, topsoil, water,and ocean life.  We have seriously depleted all of these and show few signs of slowing down.  We will probably use up the last of the cheap fossil fuel fighting over the last water, somewhere.  But, I digress…

So, the U.S. already owed about 9 trillion dollars to the rest of the world, in 2007, before the financial crisis began.  Then, gosh, oops , suddenly the government needed about two or three trillion more to bail out those poor people in the Hamptons, swamped by an economic tsunami  (never mind that they helped set it off), and gosh, they are having to shell out more trillions for the delayed costs of the invasion of Iraq and the ongoing expenses of subduing those pesky ingrates in Afghanistan, and how are they going to get all these trillions?  Why, they’ll just print ’em up of course–never mind how that decreases the value of what we owe to all those other countries, who are starting to get upset.  Hey, it’s the Christian Bible that says, “thou shalt not commit adultery,” and here we are watering down what we owe them–it’s as if you promised five people you would bake them a pie, only made enough ingredients for three, but spread the crust and filling out over five pies…kinda.  Or you blew the ingredients full of air so it looked like five big pies,but they were mostly air…which is why they call what I think is about to happen in this country “Inflation.”  People do not like it when what looked like a nice pie turns out to be full of hot air.  George Bush’s “higher pie,” I guess…Nor did other countries like it when they noticed that, after using the International Monetary Fund to impose severe austerity measures when other countries’ economies went haywire, the U.S. applied quite different standards to its own financial crisis.  Can you say “coddle the perps,” boys and girls?

So now the rest of the world is starting to figure out how to quit lending to their woozy, pill-addicted, overweight Uncle, and what to do about all the money he owes them already–which, they are beginning to realize, is far more than he can ever repay.  What do you do when you discover you’ve been pinning your hopes on worthless IOUs?

Well, as they say, “people are starting to talk.”  A couple of different UN committees have suggested starting an international currency.  The Russians say, “hey, let’s just use Chinese currency.” The Chinese, who hold about two trillion in US IOUs, are saying they will start investing in other currencies–and that in order to get their economy going now that the U.S. can’t buy everything they make any more, they will have to stimulate domestic demand–which is where we run head-on into peak everything.

Even without being abandoned as a world currency, printing more dollars in response to the Wall Street holdup is going to make everything we import–which is just about everything but food, these days–much more expensive, from three different directions.  The first is that simple internal inflation will drive prices to higher numbers as the dollar becomes worth less..on its way to being worthless…..  The second is that this inflation, at an international level, will make things outside the U.S. more expensive to people inside the U.S.   (Been to Europe lately?) And the third is that, as raw materials grow scare, demand and speculation will drive prices up.  And, if the dollar don’t get no respect in the international marketplace any more, then other countries will be able to outbid us for those scarce materials, and we just won’t get none.  I think it’s this knowledge that makes all those corporate executives demand such high pay.  They know the end is nigh, but they believe they CAN take it with them.  So far, they are right.

It’s easy to talk about what would have been different if only, somehow, the Green Party had been calling the shots.  Where do you want to start in the game of “what if”?  A sane government would never have allowed an unregulated derivatives market, would never have allowed the kind of crazy growth in real estate development and prices that blew the bubble that allowed Americans to hock their homes and keep buying useless crap from China, would never have allowed corporate America to indoctrinate people into senseless consumption…but sane government, apparently, is not an option in America.  It’s all about influence and money.  I’m free to say what I believe as loud as I can, but corporate America is free to use a megaphone big enough to drown out me and the millions of people who  share my vision.

On 9-11-01,  four airliners full of people were hijacked.  On 9-11-09, we find that the whole country has been hijacked, and that all last year’s election did was change the chief hijacker.  He’s  more charming (to some of us, anyway), slicker than the last head hijacker–but I don’t think I want to go where I think he’s taking us.  The only good news is, most of us are likely to survive this crash–in some condition, for a while.  Let’s make the best of it, eh?

music:  Don Henley, “Everybody Knows

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One response

8 10 2009
Fred

Yep.

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