Friday, March 2, 2012

Green Economics

All life on Earth depends on the ecosystem in which we evolved. What we call the "economy" is what humans have created to provide for our needs. What we call the "financial system" is the way in which we trade goods and services between ourselves and others on this planet.

Is the system working? I don't think that any rational person would conclude that it is. Somehow, humans have been convinced that the bounty of the Earth is owned by a small minority of people, and that the products that millions of working people make are also owned by a small minority.

Many people in the United States, including all the corporate candidates and some in the Occupy movement, demand a return of the so-called "middle class".

What was the "middle class"?

After WW2, when the rest of the industrialized world had been bombed into rubble, the US rode high. After decades of agitation, the ruling class gave some ground to the working class, and vast sections of the working class were paid very well, especially the unionized members. Although the widespread purges of the 50s decimated leftists, especially in the government,unions, education and the media, the idea that workers deserved to be paid a living wage, that the elderly deserved a pension, that the unemployed deserved a pittance, continued to form the basis of our society.

The United States, with 5% of the world's population, consumed 25% of the world's resources, and most people lived large. And the government made sure that this inequality was protected. George Kennan, in 1948, pointed this out explicitly-

"we have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population.…In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.…To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives.…We should cease to talk about vague and… unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

… We should recognize that our influence in the Far Eastern area in the coming period is going to be primarily military and economic. We should make a careful study to see what parts of the Pacific and Far Eastern world are absolutely vital to our security, and we should concentrate our policy on seeing to it that those areas remain in hands which we can control or rely on."

— George Kennan, U.S. State Department Policy Planning, Study #23, February 24, 1948

.Not all of US workers shared in the bounty, though, and in the 60s and 70s, an attempt was made to improve the lives of the poor, with the Great Society. Women and African Americans demanded that they, too, have a chance to be well-paid.

Many of the unionized white men joined with the ruling class in the backlash.

1972 was the year in which working Americans made the best wages. We've been losing ground ever since. Now women are indeed part of the workforce, because it takes two workers to earn a family wage.

1972 was also the year that the US hit peak oil. A century in which the US was the world's leading producer of oil came to an end. The first reaction of the adults in charge at that time was to move away from oil, with alternative energy being pushed, CAFE standards passed, and a general discussion about sustainable living.

The oil companies struck back, and in 1981, they put an actor in the White House, who pulled the solar panels off the roof, fired the striking union air traffic controller workers, cut taxes on the rich, attacked Central American countries struggling to better themselves, as well as progressive Afghans, and fed Americans a line of bull that hasn't stopped throughout the ensuing Presidents.

The so-called middle class, the better paid section of workers, started to shrink. First the industrialized union workers without college degrees. So the mantra began that only those with higher education deserved good wages. Young people were encouraged to go into debt to buy themselves a college degree, and colleges turned into diploma factories.

Now we see that a college degree doesn't guarantee a good paying job. And the remaining unionized workers, those in the public sector, are being targeted for impoverishment, along with doctors and nurses in the so-called private sector, which is really publically-funded by Medicare and Medicaid. The so-called Obamacare bill was designed to take the money from the health care industry and give it to the insurance industry, thus driving down wages for doctors, nurses and other health care employees.

Can we return to the previous state of affairs, where some Americans were paid enough to buy more than their share of the world's resources? Why no, we can't.

Industrial capitalism was built on cheap fossil fuels. As I pointed out, the US hit peak oil in 1972, and the attempt to control the rest of the world's supply is starting to fail. Most likely, the world has also hit peak oil, so even if the US manages to control Iraq's, Libya's, Iran's, the Artctic's and Africa's oil, which is unlikely, we have to face the future without believing in fairy tales of unlimited supply forever and ever. And the idea of burning every last bit of carbon stored over millions of years is a plantetary suicide plan anyway. Are we going to ignore the tornadoes in Joplin and Harrisburg, Katrina in New Orleans, or the inland hurricane we experienced 3 years ago?

How do we have a decent life without destroying our ecosystem in the process? That is why the Green Party was formed.

We advocate putting people to work improving our collective well-being, providing decent food, sustainable transportation, improving our housing stock to be energy-efficient, providing for our children and our elderly, living well on less energy, sustainably and environmentally supplied. We have too many workers for each to work a 40 hour week, so we need to have a shorter workweek, so that all willing and able to work can participate.

Obviously, we can't do this with a private, profit motivated 1% "creating jobs". They won't create jobs that provide for the common welfare unless they can profit from it. Providing for the common welfare is the job of the people, both individually, and united in a democratic government.

Congress is empowered by the Constitution to issue money. There is no reason for 310 million people to be at the mercy of a money system which is privately owned, and debt-based. Clearly, it's not working for us. And the 1% proclaims absurdities, as when they state that the planet can supply resources endlessly, while money, which is a computer-based human creation, is limited. Even when the Federal Reserve created $16 TRILLION dollars for Wall Street in the last 2 years, they straight-facedly claimed that children, the elderly and the sick could not be provided for, due to lack of money.

Richard Nixon, and others in the 70s, were talking about economic citizenship, the idea that every American should have a guaranteed basic income, so that no one would fall into absolute poverty.

The US government can spend money into existence, paying for socially necessary and useful work to be done, and providing retired Americans with a decent standard of living. The US could join most of the rest of the world, and pay maternity leave for at least 18 months. Private banks should be taken out of the business of creating money as debt.

The Green Party advocates that the people, united, should work together to make a better life for us all, and for all other people and species with which we share the planet.


david g said...

Great article, Wage Laborer.

Hopefully your words will resonate in your country and bring back a degree of two of sanity.

For too long the parasites and predators have had a field day at our expense.

It is time for People Power to prevail.

Off with their heads!

wagelaborer said...

Thanks, David.

I'm hoping to make an impact.

Mətušélaḥ said...

Hi Wage,
Haven't heard from you lately at CFN. I hope all is well. I wanted to bring this to your attention:

Origins of an Empire —

The takeaway of the article is pretty much summed up in this paragraph:

"The first mode is the New England industrial model, which spread west to the Great Lakes early on and trickled gradually southward from there. It’s one of the shibboleths of modern thought that industrial systems create wealth, but as Alf Hornborg points out usefully in The Power of the Machine, their main function is actually to concentrate wealth; the wealth that would have gone to a large number of small proprietors and skilled craftspeople in a nonindustrial society goes instead to the very small minority with the money and political connections to build and run factories, control access to raw materials and energy resources, and the like. That’s why every nation on Earth that has ever built an industrial economy within a free market system has ended up polarized between vast fortunes on the one hand and an even vaster number of hopelessly impoverished workers on the other. That’s the New England model—it was also the English model, but that will be relevant a bit later on—and it drives a very specific kind of imperial expansion, in which sources of raw materials, on the one hand, and markets where industrial products can be exported, on the other, are the central targets of empire."

In other words, Capitalism/Corporatism is organized theft.

wagelaborer said...

Hey! Thanks, mika.

I guess you missed the part where I was banished from CFN. I told Prog about it and he posted it.

Thanks for the reminder to check out the archdruid. He's always good for words of wisdom and an interesting slant on things.

Mətušélaḥ said...

I just don't believe Mr. K. intentionally banned you. I think it has more to do with his software. Just log in with a different handle.