Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Dollar Ain’t What It Used To Be

Since the midterm elections have provided some much needed breathing room for those of us that felt as if the world was crashing down around us, and that a roundup of dissidents in this country was imminent, we now have the luxury of looking at the bigger picture.  The problem is, the big picture still looks pretty bleak.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very concerned about our economy and more specifically, the fairy tales that are being spun around it that seem more like a means for containing panic than an accurate picture of how “healthy” our economy is.  I’m not an economist, but common sense tells me that an economy based on spending and debt cannot remain stable forever and that the fall from the clouds will be painful indeed.  The dollar has hit a 15 year low now and I can’t see how that gets fixed without artificial enhancements that, in the end, are only fingers in the damn, holding off the inevitable.  There is a reason that working Americans have a very different opinion of the economy than the investor class, because we are already feeling the negative effects of a consumer based economy (fewer jobs, lower pay and perhaps most importantly, dwindling hope), but that pain will flow upward at some point.  Our futures are intertwined whether those at the top care to acknowledge it or not.

I really hope that the Democrats start talking about our two-tiered economy and the growing division between the haves and the have-nots, and I hope they talk about it loudly and often.  There are certainly signs that this will be a big issue in the ’08 Presidential election, at least on the Democratic side.  John Edwards was alone in his attention to what he describes as the “two Americas” in ’04, but he was clearly ahead of the curve.  

I’ve heard Jim Webb say that addressing the gap between rich and poor is one of his main priorities once he takes his seat in the Senate, Barak Obama touches on it regularly and it is still the center of a John Edwards bid for President.  I hope this is an indication that the Democrats on the whole may finally be ready to go back to basics and champion the American worker and push a populist agenda.  The disparity of wealth in this country is sickening (and widening at an alarming rate under the Bush administration) and that is no longer just a liberal point of view.  Discussing the economy frankly and openly is not only the right thing to do, it also may prove to be politically advantageous to anyone willing to offer up a realistic picture of where we are, combined with a vision of where we ought to be.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's ask the 600 employees of the coal mine in Lewis County how "healthy" they think the economy is....

I wonder how many of them voted GOP?


2:28 PM  
Blogger jae said...

I've had this page bookmarked forever:

When the dollar went from $1.23 to $1.28 against the Euro in a matter of 10 or so days, I was like "Oh s**t, here it comes!"

The average Merrikan is more worried about K-Fed and Bimolini than the state of the USD.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Our supposed saving grace over the last couple of years has been the housing market, but most of that has been largely sub-prime lending so that’s smoke and mirrors too.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

I'm with Michael -- the housing market is what was propping this whole thing up, and it's going south fast. So much American complacency is predicated on the perceived value of their homes.

So many people cashed in their equity and spent the money like drunken sailors. And now, values are dropping while the adjustable rate loans are inching upwards. It's going to get ugly.

Bush made a laughable attempt to invoke the "healthy" economy in the run-up to the election, but that went nowhere due to the reasons you cited. The Dems should absolutely seize on this issue in '08. And start addressing it now.

4:29 AM  
Anonymous david said...

Well, life goes on. Look at Japan. It is possible to have a good standard of living without growth. But it requires more emphasis on "quality" rather than "quantity". And that's hard in a Consumer Society.

50 years ago, Peg Bracken wrote a book for the transitional woman titled "I Hate to Housekeep". The book is instructional about what life was really like back then. One apparently kept a close watch on electrical bills and how to do without.

Japan has prided itself on being an egalitarian society, but pressure to conform to the American Way has put a strain on that. But the only way to avoid class warfare is to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

And one needs to come to terms with the idea that Free Trade is as much ideology as Protectionism. Politicians can make illegal immigrants an exciting issue; it appeals to people's xenophobia. But how do you get people excited about an all US dollar neighbourhood being broken up by Yen, Yuan, Rupee, and Euro.

Globalization, an euphemism for 'Americanization', is DEAD. Nations want to retain their cultural identity. The New Trade reality will have to resolve issues of saving arable land, outlawing sweatshops and slavery, preventing environmental degredation, and retaining quality of life for all citizens.

Japan survived the stagnant years because of its egalitarianism and its social outlook that concerns all from cradle to grave. Unfortunately, the USA has done away with its social safety nets and it will likely not survive a series of deep recession --which are most assuredly coming.

A healthy economy --and the word 'economy' comes from the Greek for housekeeping-- requires more than just a return on investment. What's good for General Motors isn't necessarily what's good for the people. America needs to provide good jobs where the top are not paid outrageous salaries and the bottom get enough to save. And egalitarianism requires access to quality healthcare and education for all.

8:46 AM  

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