We are held hostage to our own predicament in life and view the world from that limited framework. Although I try to apply an objective lens, I am certain that my views and suggested solutions are certainly skewed and limited by my abilities, knowledge, and circumstances. This blog is really concerned with the human species as a whole, but I don’t deny that there is a very strong western or American bias throughout for I am an American and a westerner. This post focuses on the American economic catastrophe that I define though my filtered lens. I have two primary audiences. One audience consists of Americans that are unemployed, underemployed, or simply struggling to make ends meet. My other audience is those outside the elite or one percent that isn’t struggling but has concerns about their future and that of the generations to follow.
First, as a member of the long-term unemployed that is relatively privileged in education and earnings prior to the economic meltdown in 2008, I want to say something to those that are also struggling. Don’t let the mainstream media, friends, family, or those that have not experienced the pain of the recent economic collapse make you feel worthless. Indeed, some of us may have made decisions or behaved in a manner that led to our demise, but there is also a structural problem in the United States economic and political system that is preventing us from rising above and pushing forward. You have valuable energy to contribute to society and if that society doesn’t find a means to employ that energy it is partly the fault of that society as a whole. You must still believe in yourself and continue to push forward and not give up. You have worth and I encourage you to take long walks away from that society and to breath in the crisp wind, watch the clouds transform, and enjoy a sunset. The universe makes use of all energy and it is only man who casts individuals aside classifying them as worthless.
The official unemployment rate in America as of January 2012 is 8.3 percent. The media and politicians will say that “normal” unemployment is around 5 to 6 percent. The implication is that unemployment is not far off from historical acceptable levels – only a couple of percentage points. But let me clarify a few things. First, that 8.3 percent unemployment rate translates to almost 13 million people. Now, if we add the number of people who haven’t looked for a job in four weeks because they are discouraged or have temporarily thrown in the towel (after applying for probably 1,000 positions I know the feeling), we can add another 3 million individuals to the pool. In addition to this 16 million, we must also consider the under-employed in which people take part-time work because they can’t find full-time work. This number is estimated by the government to be approximately eight million individuals. That puts the number of unemployed and underemployed at 24 million. We could increase this number if we want to add students graduating from college that are submerged in debt, so perhaps the number approaches 30 million. But, these people are in the minority. Approximately 100+ million people are fully employed.
I am now ready to speak to those people who are relatively content and fully employed. You folks probably enjoy an annual salary increase of 2 to 3 percent annually. How is that annual raise keeping up with inflation? Inflation as of January 2012 was 10 percent for gasoline, 5.3% for food consumed at home, 4.7 percent for apparel, and 3.7 percent for medical services. The government reported that inflation on a twelve month basis as of January 2012 was just 2.9 percent. How can this calculation be so low given the above inflation percent break-out? Because shelter or housing represents 40% of the inflation calculation. Shelter inflation grew only 2 percent as of January 2012. Do you see how high-level statistics might not make sense? Many people have had to move into cheaper rental properties and housing prices have plummeted. The inflation number is therefore much worse than we are led to believe. Our Federal Reserve has been increasing the money supply since the financial meltdown which will obviously lead to increasing inflationary pressures. And have you noticed that the packages, jars, and containers in the grocery stores are shrinking to mask price increases? Have you noticed the price rising at the gas pump? Have you noticed increases in insurance premiums and medical expenses? Inflation is eating away at your wealth and quality of life. And I haven’t even begun to discuss the future.
If we consider the future of America we have to consider the mounting debt and what that means to the individual citizen. Our debt is enormous and we don’t hear politicians from either side of the aisle discussing how to reduce that debt. But, you must realize that eventually the only way to reduce that debt is through increased taxes. And the individual citizen pays for approximately 90 percent of federal, state, and local taxes. In short, eventually, our taxes have to rise. If you consider that your salary isn’t going to keep pace with inflation, your interest payments on your debt/credit, and rising taxes, do you think you and your family are going to be better off in the years to come? The interest payment on our national debt is equal to government expenditures which are 3 to 4 trillion. Our national debt including personal, business, and all governments (federal, state, local) is approximately 57 trillion. On a per citizen basis, that means each citizen has $180,000 in debt and an annual interest payment of $12,000. If we add unfunded liabilities to the mix including social security, Medicare, and prescription drugs and add up the country’s total assets, the balance sheet on a per citizen basis is catastrophic. The assets per American citizen are approximately $245,000, but the liabilities are approximately $1,000,000. All these daunting figures can be found here www.usdebtclock.org .
My solution is a scary proposal, but through my filtered lens a necessary course of action. I call it “Hail Caesar”. The premise in ancient times was to temporarily employ a Caesar or dictator in a state of emergency to implement radical changes to save a sinking ship. I don’t know how we could define the state of America (not even taking into account the world) as anything other than a sinking ship or a state of emergency calling for radical solutions.
The Caesar could implement the following through temporary power. First, Caesar could eliminate the lobbyist mechanism that has created a fascist power organization where big business controls our government. Second, Caesar could revamp the political campaign process such that future politicians in charge of the republic would receive tax payer funding from the people to run their campaigns (not businesses, elite rich, or finance institutions). Third, Caesar would create a budget and fiscal plan to get the country’s balance sheet in line with reality. Fourth, Caesar would ensure government is accountable for expenditures sourced from tax payers. Fifth, Caesar would revamp the educational system to give power to local provinces to develop their schooling systems. Sixth, he/she would focus the economic engine within our borders to ensure the country can be self-sufficient before expanding outward to engage in “fair trade” with international countries. Seventh, Caesar would eliminate the currency and create a new one that can’t be printed or funded from selling debt (currency to be tied to key domestic products like food and energy). Eighth, Caesar would withdraw the extended military forces abroad and use them to seal our borders and protect against hostile attacks on our country. Ninth, Caesar would employ engineers, architects, and construction workers to re-build our cities through logic and beauty eliminating suburban sprawl and improving logistics, efficiency, and environmental impacts. And tenth, Caesar would eliminate the concept of debt and credit for individual citizens. Finally, number eleven, restore integrity to our press and media such that they attempt to report in an objective manner and release them from the control of big powerful interests with deep pockets. Feel free to add to Caesar’s list.
Once these major and emergency actions have been implemented, Caesar can return power to the people and the republic. The goal is to ensure that generations that follow have the proper infrastructure, education, and opportunity to pursue life without a fascist construct, mountains of debt, and extreme gaps between those that have all and those that have very little. I realize this is radical and dangerous, but from my limited lens I view the future of America as being in a state of emergency. And our current political system and the power structure aren’t at all interested in fixing the massive problems. The current power structure is only interested in covering up the problems and prolonging the pain for some future generation to absorb.
This post should conclude my series of economic rants and I look forward to getting back in touch with fellow bloggers and visiting your sites.