Archive for October, 2011

On American Society and the Occupy Wall Street Movement

October 18, 2011

It’s been my feeling that North Europe isn’t quite a hotbed of protest because governments aren’t so mismanaged and remote as they are in the US.  I expect the US protests will grow and I may well be there with them, in Albuquerque.

The root causes, not as well expressed by the consensus and not as concentrated as I would like, are that the very rich have simply taken over the machinery of government.  In the process they have nearly wrecked the US economy.  That same economy serves to bolster the European economy, so Europe needs to be concerned as well.

An explanation of this: large banks and financial firms pushed for repeal of control laws that had been established after the Great Depression.  These laws kept them from ‘gambling’ with their own money, investing in hopes of turning huge short term profits.  The gambles were made with other people’s money; the profits would have gone to the managers who initiated the gambles by investing in ‘assets’ that they either knew or should have known were worthless; derivatives, toxic assets, etc.  The idea appears to be that they would invest in these and then sell them on before the bottom dropped out.  Many managers got huge bonuses in this way.  When the bottom did drop out, they sought protection from the US government, claiming that they were ‘too big to fail’, that failure would bring down the world’s economy.  Possibly they were right in this.  I don’t know.

But they got bailed out.  The bailout went to US firms and banks, and also to large European banks.  The US Fed also provided a number of other things, Quantitative Easements and such, and now we are discovering that the Fed also provided massive short term, low interest, loans, again to European banks as well as to US commercial entities.  This appears to have been done with little or no supervision from the US government, either the president or congress.  Geithner, with Bernanke’s help possibly, did it on his own.

It will be up to history and historians who can dispassionately examine all this a century from now to decide how effective it was.

Meantime, politicians found that they could borrow to prop up failing economies.  Economies began shrinking due to greed; manufacturing firms found that they didn’t really need to pay for expensive domestic labor.  They could ‘downsize’ by closing plants and simply buying their products overseas.  Don’t blame the Chinese; it was Western managers that made those decisions, giving the Chinese the advantages they now hold.  The Chinese didn’t take them, CEO’s and such handed them over.  And then collected huge bonuses because they had closed an expensive US plant and started buying and importing the goods those plants had once made from overseas.  Profits went up.  Everyone was happy except for the workers who lost their jobs.  Those workers couldn’t now make house payments (housing markets collapsed) and they couldn’t keep spending (demand collapsed).  The national economies began to unravel.  This process was enabled and continued through a system of Free Trade Agreements, so that governments, which might once have regulated matters, were now powerless.  The multinational corporations got what they wanted; but they also got something not wanted, an aroused populace.

What all this reveals is a shadowy system that exists to protect the monetary system and those who work in it.  The bailout of bankrupt firms might have been cause for firing executives or at least downscaling their salaries; they had failed, clearly.  Instead, they got bonuses, huge ones.

Meantime, the middle class has been squeezed until many are now members of the lower class so far as economic power is concerned.  The various systems of government are clearly broken; but the people at the top, the oligarchs and the government they control by a system of near-bribery, is refusing to listen.  The government is paralyzed, afraid to act in case they might be voted out of office.  They seek ever more money to use in campaigns for election and reelection, and when they gain office they do nothing but try to stay in office.  The system is broken.  More than 70% of voters want taxes raised on the richest 10% or so who have sequestered most of the nation’s income; but politicians refuse to consider this.  This of itself means the system is broken.

And there’s nothing we, the 90%, can do about it.  Government is controlled by two parties, both equally corrupt, both interested first in their own election chances.

Meantime, the education system continues the dominance of the elites.  There ARE good schools; but they aren’t available to poor students, no matter how deserving.  These are not the ordinary public high schools that once allowed those born to the lower class to prosper and rise within society; these schools are too expensive for such.  The public schools, available to all, no loger provide a quality education that allowed upward mobility.  Not a conspiracy; but practically, the oligarch’s couldn’t have designed a better system to keep themselves and their descentants in power if they had deliberately tried to do so.

But the one thing the oligarch’s don’t have is millions of votes.  They do have propaganda, and they’ll bring it out in full force as the election cycle continues.  Countering this, possibly, is the organizational ability of the marchers, with their iPhones and iPads and Facebook and such.  The 70% that the politicians won’t listen to, the 90% that are economically disadvantaged, will be heard at some point.  The longer this is delayed, the more more explosive the final event will become.  Some of the marchers are now using the term ‘revolution’.  They believe they can bring down the government entirely.  Politicians, and the 1% they serve, need to look at all this very carefully.

Just my thoughts.

Advertisements

Bullying

October 7, 2011

With all the discussion of bullying that’s going on now, it seems to me that some of it is establishing the pecking order, to see how far a child can be pushed before he/she will fight back, and to see how determined the bullied child is when they do fight back.

But this doesn’t condone the mass bullying where gangs of children choose to bully one individual and where they continue on past simple aggressive behavior to mass assault. it also doesn’t excuse the behavior of other children who know this is happening and do nothing to prevent it or stop it. Even in childhood, there should be limits to misbehavior and those limits are best imposed by the rest of the children who have knowledge of what’s happening. But it seems to me that there are the active bullies and the passive ‘fellow-travelers’ who also share in the responsibility for what happens. No one appears to be addressing this. The society of children doesn’t appear willing to set limits on behavior. Possibly they don’t know that they need to do this. There’s no person or agency teaching any sort of morality, any sense of self-responsibility, any ideas of ethical behavior.

So some children pass far beyond any limits that we adults consider reasonable. It’s a part of the overall change that has come into being, the idea that children aren’t to be responsible in any way or to be held responsible for their actions.