Monday, February 25, 2013
End-run the 1 percent and the 'Grand Bargain'
By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times
The great strength of America has always been the immense diversity of our people; which has enabled us to adapt, survive and even prosper in an ever changing environment of challenges and opportunities.
That diversity is still our greatest asset, but it is being choked off in Washington. It can be enabled at the state, county and municipal level.
The key is sustained and affordable credit to stimulate locally directed economic development: new ideas, new technologies, job creation, strong local banks and sound municipal finances.
That is what public banking is all about — enabling an end-run around the callous indifference to the well being of the American people, which the self-absorbed parasites of the federal establishment barely trouble to conceal.
The urgent need for this banking innovation was fully on display in a recent column by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in which he was again beating the drum for the “Grand Bargain.”
That’s the deal that will cut Social Security and Medicare, raise taxes on those who won’t feel it and supposedly cure the nation’s economic woes.
It is the argument for austerity, which has produced more misery for the 99 percent and more wealth for the 1 percent in every nation where it has been tried.
The Grand Bargain is a fraud — lipstick on a pig — and incredibly, Freidman doesn’t get it.
I say incredibly, because Friedman is married to a former billionaire, now millionaire, whose family fortune was in commercial real estate, mostly shopping malls, and was estimated by Forbes at $4.1 billion, back in 2007. But since the market crashed, the family’s fortune has declined to a reported $25 million.
Friedman is unable to make the connection. His wife’s family fortune was in shopping malls. Americans stopped shopping. They have no money. There are no jobs. And it is getting worse.
There was a lot of pre-Christmas hype about what a great shopping season it would be. It never happened.
Now, Bloomberg News reports that February sales at Wall Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, are “off to the worst monthly start in seven years,” according to a Wal-Mart VP who explained in a memo to his colleagues, “February MTD [month to date] sales are a total disaster… The worst start to a month I have seen in my seven years with the company.”
And Friedman thinks reductions in Social Security and Medicare support will send Americans out to the malls, shopping?
This is such easy math.
The population of the United States is something over 300 million. Let’s work with that number. If the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans all purchase new shoes — mom, dad and all the kids — about 3 million pairs of shoes will be purchased.
But if the 53 percent of Americans who have hung on in the middle class all purchase new shoes (I am excluding the 1 percent at the top and the 46 percent who now live officially in poverty) about 159 million pairs of shoes will be sold.
It takes jobs, more investment in the 99 percent and less in the 1 percent. The malls would be full.
I’m surprised Mrs. Friedman isn’t filing for divorce.
Still, Friedman bangs the Grand Bargain-austerity drum and warns that without more cuts, America would be in dire straits. How dire? So dire, he warns, that Americans might stop looking to Washington for solutions to their problems.
They already have.
Friedman cited polling data of the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment, making his argument for reductions in Social Security and Medicare, but let slip this news. According to the poll’s director, historically “people have always turned to Washington in times of economic crisis, but now they’re losing confidence in the government’s ability to reshape the economy… Americans now think they have to take more control themselves.”
We can’t have that! Imagine American states, counties, cities and municipalities solving their own problems. What would become of us?
What would become of us is that America would stop looking to Washington.
And that is Friedman’s worry, and the worry of the governing elite and the 1 percent who have used the federal government for decades to set up the so-called meritocracy of the best and brightest (Mr. Obama is their poster boy), to set up an America in which — surprise! — they do very well, while the living standards of everybody else deteriorate .
I’m rooting for all the gridlock in Washington we can get, because every time the GOP and Democrats come together, the middle class takes it in the neck.
Friedman posed the question, “What to do to get Washington moving again?” The better question is, “What to do to get our states, counties and municipalities moving?”
The former will deliver us to more of Washington’s servitude to the 1 percent and the continued concentration of the vast wealth of the nation in the hands of the few, while the latter will lead to local initiative that will rev up the engine of American ingenuity and broadly shared prosperity.
Public banking at the state, county and municipal level is a declaration of independence from a thoroughly subverted and corrupt federal government, and the first step on the path back to prosperity for all Americans.