Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Attention has now shifted to the real economy."

Those are the words of Masatoshi Sato, a broker at Japan's Mizuho Investors Securities, as reported on Al Jazeera English, in reaction to a worldwide drop in the markets. That same report also provides an explanation for the fall in the United States:

Investors' mood soured after a government report showed that sales at US retailers last month fell by the biggest monthly drop in more than three years.

This brings us back to that fundamental precept that was ignored when bailout was first being debated and continues to be ignored: If Main Street is unhappy (as demonstrated by, among other factors, a drastic decline in sales), then Wall Street cannot help but be unhappy, whatever our Government may be doing to cheer it. Sato-san's "real economy" is the economy where "real people" (rather than the once and future "Masters of the Universe" in the financial sector) have to make basic purchases for food, clothing, and shelter. We need to get behind the problems I examined yesterday and start making serious moves towards an economy that supports sensible consumption of necessary goods and services without relapsing into addictive consumerism. None of the markets around the world can recover until the ability to exchange money for such sensible consumption has been restored. This means that people around the world need to be earning living wages, protected by regulations against efforts to thwart legitimate management of those income resources. It means that those people can once again claim to be part of the economy, rather than exiled from it as victims of the War Against the Poor.

The latest issue of The New York Review has a piece by Max Hastings entitled "The Most Evil Emperor." The basic argument is that, while Hitler was brilliantly ruthless in bring European country after European country into submission, he was utterly incompetent in managing the empire he had accrued. By never being able to get beyond conquer-and-pillage, Hitler basically squandered the resources of each of his conquests, turning each one from an economic asset into a military liability. This may well describe how the American Ruling Class has ended up waging its War Against the Poor. Like Hitler, the American Ruling Class may have been striving to create a new class of slaves; but they have created a social infrastructure that is too incapacitated to contribute to that "real economy," even as slaves. Like Hitler, they may ultimately be undone by their strategic ("Mission Accomplished?") success.

Can the interests of the "real economy" be salvaged? I suppose the question we have to face is that of who is up to the task of salvaging it. John McCain certainly does not come off as having either the ways or the will. Barack Obama has given the matter serious thought and offered a vision in which we shall all work together at the salvaging. However, he will only be able to do this as President if he can assemble an effective staff that he can dispatch across the country to implement that vision of working together effectively. Note that I have not identified anyone in the current Administration. This Administration seems to know more about where all the local churches are (particularly the ones with High Rollers, rather than Holy Rollers) than it does about where that metaphorical Main Street is. I cannot imagine Main Street trusting anyone from the Administration to come in and fix things. They still remember how they fixed things in New Orleans. Listening to the latest statement from President George W. Bush on today's PBS delivery of BBC World Service News, I was struck only by his inability to form coherent, let alone convincing, sentences.

There is one other possibility. People can start working together without someone like Obama leading the way on the national scale. Obama is far from the only one who has been successful as a community organizer. Perhaps we just need a critical mass of like-minded community organizers to start the ball rolling now, as they had started rolling the ball that resulted in Obama's nomination, working with whatever resources can be scrounged up by hook or by crook. The best way to demonstrate that Government is the fundamental problem behind our financial catastrophe is to start climbing out of that catastrophe without expecting any commitment of resources from that same Government. If Obama could get enough people shouting "Yes We Can!" over that objective (and then acting accordingly), he will have demonstrated that he will be the most qualified person next to occupy the Oval Office.

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