"Bernanke Rides to the Rescue" assures an heroic headline in the Jan. 23 Wild West's "San Francisco Chronicle." Yet all the king's men on all the king's horses with all their band-aids and sugar pills will not be able to prop up the rapidly crashing US economy. "Fed Gallops to the Rescue," the corporate newspaper's sub-headline continues its cowboy deception.
The Federal Reserve cut its short-term interest rate by an unprecedented .75% on Jan. 22. This is its largest single day slash since the central bank started disclosing its policy moves over two decades ago. Ben Bernanke's cut and the Bush-Democrats alliance to give taxpayers a $800 gift so consumers can spend the economy back to growth will fail. Our leaders are driving the Republic to ruin-by their over-extended war-making and by depleting our natural and human resources. Other empires, including the Roman Empire, have gone this route.
Where was the National Guard when it was needed after the Hurricane Katrina hit? This will not be the last "natural disaster" provoked partly by an increasingly chaotic global climate. If Hurricane Katrina taught us anything, it is that we cannot depend on this government in the face of crises. It contributes to making catastrophes by supporting polluting, climate-changing behavior and in other disaster-making ways.
Our domestic scene is unraveling, economically and in other ways. As people get more anxious about their futures, the media's propaganda machine encourages them to rush out and spend, rather than look at the root, systemic causes of the failing economy.
A Chronicle economics columnist reports the following: "A Bloomberg survey of 35 economists published Jan. 9 put the odds of a recession at 40 percent." Dream on. Once again, the public, which is experiencing the recession, is far ahead of the corporate media's economists.
Don't look to our conniving government to get us out of the US's current mess, which is far more than merely economic, and could develop into a major depression. Such futile attempts at quick fixes mask how desperate the false US economy has become. It will probably plunge further down, down, down, and perhaps out.
It's bad enough that some banks are beginning to fall. As someone who has lived in remote Hawai'i when the grocery shelves were almost bare, when that happens to food suppliers on the continent, we will know how bad the situation is. We will feel it in our stomachs.
It's time to return to some traditional, basic American values, such as cooperation, community, sharing, courage, and integrity. We would benefit by moving from understanding ourselves as consumers and investors to seeing ourselves as citizens and producers. Consumers typically respond, whereas citizens can take action and become activists, which is what we need. Producers can grow some of their own food in backyard, rooftop, and community gardens.
"Monetary medicine" the Chronicle article describes the cut. Surgery would be a better response. The bloated military budget needs to be slashed. US military spending exceeds that of all the other nations of the world combined, and we are still losing a war against tiny, weak Iraq. This patient is sick to the bone, not just in the limbs; heroic topical methods are not likely to revive it. A systemic solution will be necessary-one that gets to the heart of the problems.
Attempts to prop up the economy to continue its growth are likely to fail. The US needs to powerdown-militarily, politically, and economically. (See Richard Heinberg's book "Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World.")
"This foolishness is actually a calculated attempt to bait, bribe and placate the American public," comments the depth psychologist Craig Chalquist, Ph.D. "The people who came up with it know full well it isn't going to fix anything. It's just one more example of the ongoing campaign of psychological abuse directed at the public to keep us from waking up."
This fall will be far more than economic. As long as the US continues to batter Iraq and threaten Iran with a pre-emptive nuclear strike, the global economy that the US uses to suck natural resources (like oil) and labor from the lands and peoples of the globe will continue to fall. The worse is yet to come. (See Richard Heinberg's new "Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines.")
If you thought the housing and credit hits were bad, wait until the oil hit arrives more fully. If you thought the brief stint at $100 a barrel for crude oil was bad, wait until it approaches $200 a barrel and gasoline rises above $5 a gallon.
Losing a war should be warning enough, though "heroes" seldom admit that they have lost until they are truly down and out. The US's growth-oriented, exploitive financial system is broken. It is paying the price of years of over-spending and dependence upon outside resources, such as oil. The rich have been getting richer in the US and the poor have been getting poorer.
Bush's "go out and shop" response to Sept. 11, followed by invading both Afghanistan and Iraq, has failed to stabilize the US. The wound was more after Sept. 11; it was self-inflicted when Washington reacted with vengeance, which may prove to be a mortal wound to the now-declining American Empire. Washington's bellicose actions expose the US--as does its predatory financial practices--to be acting as a wounded beast, cowboy style.
Our last recession was provoked by Sept. 11. To continue the attempt to bomb our way out of a recession will bring greater disaster. Yet Washington continues to rattle its high-tech sabers at Iran, an opponent who would be far more formidable than the weak Iraq; Iran has powerful allies.
Washington's Eastern adversaries may be wisely watching and taking their time, as the Russians did when Napoleon sacked Moscow at the beginning of the 19th century and lost most of his army trying to get back to France. Here at the beginning of the 21st century, we seem to have another empire in decline, partly because of its foolish forays into the East.
In recent months I have read hundreds of article in the mainstream media about the US economy. They do not make the essential connection between our losing war efforts and our failing economy. To do so would certainly not fit the US's heroic Western mentality. The resources being employed overseas to occupy another nation need to be brought home and applied to our substantial domestic problems.
In addition to analyzing the current situation of the US economy and attempting to put it in an historical and international context for readers and students, I have also been taking personal steps to enhance my own financial security. Readers often ask what can be done, so I want to briefly share what I have been doing.
After 25 years of teaching college, in the early l990s I bought a small farm, sensing an economic crash might be in process. Not everyone can move to a farm, but those willing to return to the Earth and grow their own food in gardens and with others are more likely to thrive as the US's false economy goes down. Here in semi-rural Sonoma County, Northern California, more community gardens are being planted.
My main teacher in recent years has been a farm with plants and animals. I wanted to study the real economy of nature. "A chicken in every backyard" is one idea that I have been promoting. Not everyone has a backyard, of course, but many suburban dwellers do. They can plant perennials, such as trees and berries, as well as vegetables. Rooftop and sidewalk gardens are growing in many cities.
Though Maine and Vermont are among the coldest places in the US, two of my teachers, Scott and Helen Nearing, lived there and managed to grow 80% of their own food. In their classic book "Living the Good Life" they write about how to do it. If more of us returned to the farming and gardening of our ancestors, we would be better able to weather the coming storms.
We need to return to a real economy based on nature, rather than the current false economy based on financial paper transactions, speculations, and manipulations by ruthless, clever people. Getting from here to there will involve substantial hardships in the coming years. We should not expect the corporate media to be very helpful. The collapse of the false economy could stimulate more people to create real economies.