Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fiscal Cliff or Congressional Black Hole?


So, we're going over the "fiscal cliff" in February or March and Congress is ostensibly "trying" (notice I didn't say "working") to soften the impact. This analogy raises the questions: What type of vehicle were we in as we went over the fiscal cliff -- a car, bus, train, hang glider? Were we using dangerously long bungee cords or sufficiently short ones? How far is the fall? What's at the bottom? And is there a steep slope that we bump along until we hit the bottom or does the precipice protrude at the top, allowing for a free fall? All of this will determine how badly we get hurt -- or worse.

I prefer to think of the debacle called the U.S. Congress (the 535 people and ALL that they do, not just their most recent failed effort) as a "black hole". We pay taxes to them, though not necessarily by choice. Congress then spends most of their time and much of our money on legislation that benefits an elite few of us. Congress is like a black hole that is sucking in (taxing) everything around it that crosses its event horizon (national borders and foreign interests) and condensing that matter into a smaller and smaller space (legislating for the benefit of the wealthy elite -- the capitalists).

But so much for analogies -- for now. I'm appalled by the failure of the general public to see the fiscal cliff fight for what it really is -- a smoke screen. After all, in the summer of 2012 Congress MADE the legislation which they later referred to as the fiscal cliff. In their "defense" (a word they're in love with), I'll say that they had to do something about the burgeoning U.S. deficit. (However, they also have a "deficit of reason".) That said, Congress:

1 -- Developed "Plan A" which included budget sequestration and increased taxes
2 -- Tried to come up with a "Plan B" so as to avoid implementing THEIR OWN "Plan A"
3 -- Labeled "Plan A" the "fiscal cliff", sending the world economy into an uproar
4 -- Came up with a stop-gap measure that will need to be revisited and resolved before March 2013
5 -- Convened the 113th Congress with 150 new members.

(I'm left to wonder if, on some level, causing the world to worry (with the U.S. dollar being the world's reserve currency) isn't just a show of power -- asserting the essential roles of the U.S. Congress and currency in the world.)

While considering the recent "acts" of Congress, let us also remember the inter-generational congressional and presidential trends which got us to this point, namely "Reaganomics", Bush-era tax breaks and the Keynesian Theory (the idea that giving tax dollars to "employers" will, in turn, boost the economy). The government has given tax breaks to corporations, ostensibly so that they would create jobs -- thus increasing the tax base and decreasing the number of people who need government benefits. But this "Trickle-Down Theory", as it's often called, has not had its intended(?) effects. Then again, consider the definitions of a "trickle" and a "theory", not to speak of the fact that the corporations that receive this "corporate welfare" look "down" on the poor and the powerless who need jobs and/or benefits.

While the need for social services for the employed, unemployed and unemployable has increased and governments nationwide are decreasing the amount of money that they spend on social services (including unemployment benefits). This ONLY BEGINS to explain the unfriendly environment that our elected officials have been creating for the under-privileged. But, like a frog in slowly-boiling water, Americans remain in the pot and fail to see their certain death as it approaches.

That aside, I'm reminded of one of the reasons behind the American Civil War of the 1860's. I hate to break it to you (LOL), but the North's decision to combat the slavery of the South wasn't due entirely (if at all) to an attack of conscience. The North had paid labor. The South had unpaid labor. Both were trading with Great Britain. The North couldn't sell for as a low a price as the South and wanted to force the South to raise its prices by paying its labor. (There's an upside to Capitalism after all, huh?)

Today, rather than the paid labor of the north competing with the unpaid labor of the south, we have the poorly-paid American labor force competing with the worse-paid or (virtually) unpaid labor of other nations with their sweat shops and slave camps. (That's not to discount the fact that we have home-grown slave drivers in this country too, many of whom prey on the homeless and on undocumented workers.)

American labor rights have become subject to the austere conditions created by globalization. Rather than paying Americans a "living wage", giving them benefits such as health coverage or employing them at all, corporations can just take their(?) business overseas where they force people to work long ours for very little pay and no benefits and then ship the goods to America so that they can be sold to those whose jobs were taken overseas (or filled by robots).

All things considered, it is virtually impossible for ANY national government -- in and of itself -- or the impotent United Nations to arrest the process whereby the world economy is devolving into total chaos and decadence; because, no single government has the level of authority needed to force corporations or other employers worldwide to pay a living wage. (Trying to get the G-20 nations to "agree" on a solution would likely be even more chaotic than 10 U.S. congressional sessions.) All of this just goes to show that our congressional black hole has been sucked into the even larger and "denser" one created by the globalized economy.

While his power to change the world economy is very limited, President Obama DOES HAVE the power -- if he'll use it -- to turn the black hole of Congress into a "neutron star" (see: Big Bang Theory) that sends its hyper-condensed elements outward in all directions. As a lame-duck president, he is no longer obliged to be a people pleaser and more inclined to state his true intentions. Many Americans have wished Obama would make like Bush 43 and man-handle Congress -- but for the right reasons and with the right agenda. Obama hinted that he had a hidden agenda during a conversation with the Russian president some time ago. Maybe it includes man-handling Congress. One can only hope.

Let's see what he says to the new congress in the coming days and what he discloses during his upcoming inauguration and State of the Union Address. Will he give Congress a hard talk, remind them of their duty to the American people, instill in them a sense of congressional principle and show that he'll be unswerving in his determination to "fix" Congress? Once again, one can only hope.

But, before we leave this topic altogether, it is important to note that Congress is a black hole in yet another way, making this a perfect analogy: They are condensing people's ability to do any critical thinking into the congress, further condensing it into a few key congressional figures and using it in ways that ignore (or hurt) the masses. America is becoming dumber by the day, as the quality of our educational system decreases, less people even have access to (low-quality) higher education, hierarchically-minded people exhibit blind faith in a system that doesn't have their best interests at heart, they are told WHAT to think instead of HOW to think and they are conditioned to obey authority without question. By the time that a critical mass of Americans realizes what we should have been doing all along, it will be too late to do it and America will have advanced too far down the path toward destruction to be saved. Such a time may already be upon us. Let's hope not.

INTERESTING FACTS: Unemployment benefits were created due to the efforts of the Detroit auto industry, with Detroit also being where many freed or escaped slaves went in the 19th century. The city has a history and character of "saving the oppressed laborer". It was also hit hard during the "Great Recession" and has yet to recover.

PEACE (for now). Out.

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Chairman of SHARC
(Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change)
Cell phone: (240) 305-5255
425 2nd St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2003

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