Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Catastrophic and Reckless: How Bush brought America to the brink of economic ruin!

Just a year ago Bush played guitar while New Orleans drowned. Nothing has been learned. Nothing has changed. New Orleans is morbidly fascinating because Americans, intuitively, have seen in that disaster our nation's future. But Bush, like a fiddling Nero, stays a failed course amid warnings that our nation is falling apart at the seams heading for third world status and catastrophe.

The warnings come amid the valid assessment that Bush's tax cut for the rich failed to make good on two empty promises: it did not trickle down or prime the economic pump and it did not pay for itself as Bush himself had promised it would. In fact, the poor have gotten poorer, the rich exceedingly rich. The nation is bankrupt to boot. The dollar is allowed to slide and we are dependent upon China, Japan, and the EU to keep the anemic dollar propped up. Were it not for that we would have no purchasing power at all.

Ronald Reagan made the same promises in 1982 —but, according to the US Census Bureau, only the upper quintile prospered. Every other income group lost ground even as Reagan's deficit grew exponentially. Unfortunately, Bush is still being assessed. But just one year after Congress bowed to Bush and passed the tax cut of 2001, the Brookings Institution would write:

The official federal budget outlook has deteriorated dramatically since early 2001, due to last year's tax cut, the economic slowdown, and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In addition to the pressures from the long-anticipated increase in entitlement spending as the nation ages, the government now also faces growing spending needs for defense and homeland security. These trends imply that future taxes must rise, future spending outside of defense and the elderly must decline, or obligations to the elderly and to defense be reduced.

—Alan Auerbach, William G. Gale, and Peter R. Orszag
June 2002, The Budget Outlook: Options for Restoring Fiscal Discipline, Brooking Institution

But GOP supply side, trickle down economics also promises more opportunity, a growing economy, more jobs.
Some in Washington say we had to choose between cutting taxes and cutting the deficit….Today’s numbers show it to be a false choice. The economic growth fueled by tax relief has helped send our tax revenues soaring. That’s what has happened.

—George W. Bush

But that's not what happened. Wealth has never trickled down and there is no "higher pie". A Treasury Department analysis refuted Bush directly, confirming in its analysis what many experts and Bush critics had been saying all along: tax cuts do not come remotely close to paying for themselves. [PDF] . In other words, the two promises of "trickle down" theory are dead wrong: wealth does not trickle down and tax revenues do not increase to make up the short fall.

As Dizzy Dean said: it's deja vu all over again! Why does the GOP insist upon repeating failed strategies. Reaganites promised that the stimulated economy would outgrow the deficit and the budget would be balanced "...within three years, maybe even two." It didn't! Reagan tripled the deficit and, on the way, he doubled the size of the federal bureaucracy. Reagan's tax cuts were followed promptly by the longest and worst recession since Herbert Hoover's Great Depression. As Robert Freeman correctly points out: "...Jimmy Carter's last budget deficit was $77 billion. Reagan's first deficit was $128 billion. His second deficit exploded to $208 billion. By the time the "Reagan Revolution" was over, George H.W. Bush was running an annual deficit of $290 billion per year."

How will Bush compare to Reagan? By the year 2002, Citizens for Tax Justice were already writing:

Over the ten-year period, the richest Americans—the best-off one percent—are slated togwb0602a.gif - 10559 Bytes receive tax cuts totaling almost half a trillion dollars. The $477 billion in tax breaks the Bush administration has targeted to this elite group will average $342,000 each over the decade.

By 2010, when (and if) the Bush tax reductions are fully in place, an astonishing 52 percent of the total tax cuts will go to the richest one percent—whose average 2010 income will be $1.5 million. Their tax-cut windfall in that year alone will average $85,000 each. Put another way, of the estimated $234 billion in tax cuts scheduled for the year 2010, $121 billion will go just 1.4 million taxpayers.

Although the rich have already received a hefty down payment on their Bush tax cuts—averaging just under $12,000 each this year—80 percent of their windfall is scheduled to come from tax changes that won’t take effect until after this year, mostly from items that phase in after 2005.

1968 was the year in which measured postwar income was at its most equal for families. The Gini index for households indicates that there has been growing income inequality over the past quarter-century. Inequality grew slowly in the 1970's and rapidly during the early 1980's. ...

Generally, the long-term trend has been toward increasing income inequality. Since 1969, the share of aggregate household income controlled by the lowest income quintile has decreased from 4.1 percent to 3.6 percent in 1997, while the share to the highest quintile increased from 43.0 percent to 49.4 percent. Most noticeably, the share of income controlled by the top 5 percent of households has increased from 16.6 percent to 21.7 percent. Over the same time period, the Gini index rose 17.4 percent to its 1997 level of .459.

Income Inequality, Census Bureau

The trend began then has continued: October 2003 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau make stark reading:
Median household incomes are falling The number of Americans without health insurance rose by 5.7 percent to 43.6 million individuals.

The number of people living below the poverty line ($18,392 for a family of four) climbed to 12.1 percent — 34.6 million people.

Wages make up the majority of income for most American families. As "Downward Mobility," NOW's report on workers and wages illustrates, many American workers are facing corporate efforts to cut pay and benefits, which could lead to more American families struggling to stay out of poverty.

The results in black and white:
  • Twenty percent of the population owns 84% of our private assets, leaving the other 80 percent of the population with 15.6 percent of the assets.
  • In 1960, the wealth gap between the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent of Americans was thirty fold. Four decades later it’s more than seventy-five-fold.
  • Either way -- wealth or income – America is more unequal, economists generally agree, than at any time since the start of the Great Depression…
  • And more unequal than any other developed nation today.
Why are failed strategies repeated? The GOP prescription seems to be: just take another dose of whatever it is that's making you sick.

Unfortunately, there is an entire caste of people who leech off the labors of others. They dare to call it "free enterprise". GOP policies have built our economy around our chief export: death and destruction. It is served up by our biggest industry, the biggest single slice in our budget pie chart —the military! Tax cuts, meanwhile, favored a tiny elite even as purchasing power of the ever poorer American working class depends upon the good graces of China. One is tempted to believe that what normal people perceive as Bush incompetence is, in fact, a deliberate and cynical GOP policy. Bush may have given the game away when he addressed a meeting of the "upper one percent" of the population —the primary beneficiaries of his tax cut. Predictably, he smirked and called them his "base".

Some updates with the very latest Census Bureau info:

Data show one in eight Americans in poverty

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the world's biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty last year, the U.S.
Census Bureau said on Tuesday, both ratios virtually unchanged from 2004.

The survey also showed 15.9 percent of the population, or 46.6 million, had no health insurance, up from 15.6 percent in 2004 and an increase for a fifth consecutive year, even as the economy grew at a 3.2 percent clip. ...

The last time poverty declined was in 2000, the final year of Bill Clinton's presidency, when it fell to 11.3 percent.

The stagnant poverty picture drew attention from Democrats and others who said not enough is being done to help the nation's poor.

"Far too many American families who work hard and play by the rules still wind up living in poverty," said Rep. George Miller (news, bio, voting record) of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Around a quarter of blacks and 21.8 percent of Hispanics were living in poverty. Among whites, the rate edged down to
8.3 percent from 8.7 percent in 2004.

"Among African Americans the problem correlates primarily to the inner-city and single mothers," said Michael Tanner of CATO Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington. He noted that blacks also suffer disproportionately from poor
education and lower quality jobs.

Black median income, at $30,858, was only 61 percent of the median for whites. ...

The Bush Record: More Poverty, More Uninsured

Bush says “the foundation of our economy is solid, and it’s strong.” That’s true, for some: corporate profits have now climbed to their highest share of GDP since the 1960’s.

But new Census Bureau data show the real state of the current economy. The Bush record on combating poverty and insuring more Americans is an undisputed failure.
Poverty, All Races (Millions)

Number of Uninsured (Millions)

More on the new census data HERE.

A great update courtesy Mark:

Devaluing Labor

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, August 30, 2006; Page A19

That America is as dead as the dodo. Ours is the age of the Great Upward Redistribution. The median hourly wage for Americans has declined by 2 percent since 2003, though productivity has been rising handsomely. Last year, according to figures released just yesterday by the Census Bureau, wages for men declined by 1.8 percent and for women by 1.3 percent.

As a remarkable story by Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt in Monday's New York Times makes abundantly clear, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of gross domestic product since 1947, when the government began measuring such things. Corporate profits, by contrast, have risen to their highest share of the GDP since the mid-'60s -- a gain that has come chiefly at the expense of American workers.

Don't take my word for it. According to a report by Goldman Sachs economists, "the most important contributor to higher profit margins over the past five years has been a decline in labor's share of national income."

As the Times story notes, the share of GDP going to profits is also at near-record highs in Western Europe and Japan.

Clearly, globalization has weakened the power of workers and begun to erode the egalitarian policies of the New Deal and social democracy that characterized the advanced industrial world in the second half of the 20th century.

For those who profit from this redistribution, there's something comforting in being able to attribute this shift to the vast, impersonal forces of globalization. The stagnant incomes of most Americans can be depicted as the inevitable outcome of events over which we have no control, like the shifting of tectonic plates.

Problem is, the declining power of the American workforce antedates the integration of China and India into the global labor pool by several decades. Since 1973 productivity gains have outpaced median family income by 3 to 1. Clearly, the war of American employers on unions, which began around that time, is also substantially responsible for the decoupling of increased corporate revenue from employees' paychecks.

Washington Post

Here's a breaking story somewhat off topic, but timely, indeed:

Bashir: CIA used 'micro nuclear' bomb in Bali

Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir claims America's top spy agency was involved in the devastating 2002 Bali bombings.

Bashir, who was convicted and imprisoned for having prior knowledge of the attacks which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, is also appealing for the lives of three convicted bombers to be spared.

Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), was released from prison in June after serving nearly two years.

Amrozi, Ali Ghufron - also known as Mukhlas - and Imam Samudra are awaiting execution for their part in the plot.

In an interview tonight on ABC television's Foreign Correspondent, Bashir claims the device that killed most people in the Bali attack was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) "micro-nuclear" bomb. ...

The Existentialist Cowboy


Mark said...

To those who feel they know Bush better than anybody (although it would be hard to truly know such a cipher, looking in his eyes is like looking into the eyes of a feeding shark; expressionless, passionless) it's a simple explanation - Bush doesn't care about anyone. In truth, he probably doesn't care about the rich, either; he just tends to favour the group to which he belongs. Nobody is ever going to describe anyone in the Bush dynasty as "middle class".

However, the deliberate gutting of the American economy is much more complicated than that. For years Bush, as a speaker, has preyed on American gullibility, simply telling them up is down, black is white, war is peace, poverty is affluence.

Well, here's a snapshot of what's really going on, by people who actually decided to make a career of economics.

When Ronald Reagan asked, rhetorically, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?", give him credit; he had balls of brass. It worked. Could George Bush pull of the same trick now, ahead of the Congressional elections? Let's see;


Obviously, he couldn't, unless the public is even stupider than most believe. How could such a colossal mass hoodwink happen? Well, as explained here -


- " the right seems to think the less we know about problems, the less we'll be tempted to try to do something about them". And in the same vein, "...the capacity of the Federal government to know what's going on in domestic policy is being systematically dismantled as one data-collection effort after another is zero-funded". In short, the government is deliberately hiding what it is doing from those too astute or suspicious to accept its glad-handing lies. That demonstrates a degree of conscious malfeasance worthy of organized crime.

Which is how we end up here -


- where a majority of the public believe they are being deliberately misled by the government. Thank God, they see at last!!! The sheep finally realize the wolf is loose among them, has been for years now.

The question now is what will be done about it. Bush loves to portray every situation as a crossroads, with a clear choice before the people. You're either with us, or you're against us. We can either stay the course, or we can cut and run. Fine.

The choice before America today is: is there to be no consequence attached to lying America into a revolving disaster, which is to say a disaster from every angle you look, or is the entity that deliberately led and misled the American people, using their own good nature and yes, stupidity, going to be smashed off its pedestal and dragged to account like the common criminal it is?

Vierotchka said...

Not only leach off, leech off too. :)

Len Hart said...

Yep! Bush has overplayed his hand and his welcome. I wish he would ask that famous Reagan question. At least 70 percent would answer resoundingly —NO! And Bush could go the way of Joe McCarthy.

Vierotchka said...

Nobody is ever going to describe anyone in the Bush dynasty as "middle class".

Considering their oafish manners and complete lack of class and breeding, I would never considering lifting the Bush dynasty to the comparatively lofty heights of "Middle Class". It is far more like a dynasty of godless thieving inkeepers who kill their guests at night to rob them.

Vierotchka said...

Mark, could you possibly write your urls in one straight line instead of dividing them up in several? Like this:




If you're on a PC and not on a Mac, all you need to do is to copy/paste the urls as they figure in the navigating bar. If you don't get a full-screen page for posting comments but are on the narrow column in the Blogger comments page and the single-line url stretches beyond the right-hand limit of the column, that's okay, because one can highlight and get all of it with the mouse.

Otherwise, if you'd like to learn how to make a clickable link, you might like to consult this website, you copy the text and symbols in the left-hand column (second item from top), and you substitute the url where it is written URL, and put the word or words you want to be clickable in the place of Link. :)

Len Hart said...

BTW — thanks for the proofread. Leach is now leech —as it should be : )

Mark said...

Thanks, Vierotchka; yes, I would like to learn how to make a clickable link - I'll study up on it. Just as you thought, I was cutting it up to make it fit the smaller window, not knowing the superwide length of the link would not cause a problem for the person trying to copy it.

Actually, Len, "leach" as you have used it could be contextually correct. "Leach" means to drain away through capillary action or absorption, as in oil from a punctured underground tank leaching into groundwater. "Leech" as a verb is to suck blood from, actually it isn't a verb at all; it's just one of those country aphorisms that has gained common use as a verb. Either would be correct in this application.

SadButTrue said...

Good work finding these statistics on income and wealth inequality, Len. Some time ago I was doing research for a post I was doing, and found out quickly through Google that Canada, England, New Zealand, and Australia have governmental institutions devoted to social policy, and all major universities have departments doing research in this area. America, deluded by the twin fictions of a classless society and a land of opportunity, prefers to largely ignore the plight of the less fortunate. "In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards." -- Bertrand Russell

Even the less fortunate themselves seem incapable of recognizing that the deck is stacked against them. "It's very hard to drive a wedge between people and business in this country," said Ross K. Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University. "And there's also a belief that wealth for them might be just around the corner, and they don't want the well to be poisoned when they get there." Perhaps this explains why the person making in the lower 5 figures range will vote as often as not for policies that benefit primarily the 7-figures earner.

I may have posted this here before, and if so I apologize, but it is a sad truth that deserves to be catapulted into the faces of those who are destroying America by exploiting its people. From Howard Zinn:

"Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that--not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor--is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power...
...If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there--the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances"--do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.
---Zinn Article in The Progressive Magazine.

Fuzzflash said...

How lucky we all are to have a strict but fair, Mistress V, to prevent us from becoming careless in our blog habits. First cut is the deepest, Mark.

Vierotchka,Ma'am, if I may be so bold as to enquire, did you ever spend time watching a Canadian cartoon series which featured a flying squirrel, a moose and a guy named Boris?

Len, No arguments here about your assessment of the US economy. The tapeworms have outgrown their hosts. Unwilling to "move house", they are preparing to suck the living juice right out of our veins. This anniversary of Katrina highlights, that what BushCo let prevail after the levees "broke", is what's in store for Middle America too, should these psychos prevail.

G'day, Sad, ripper quote from old Bertie. He had such a lovely touche.

Len Hart said...

Welcame back, Sadbuttrue, and thanks for the Russell quote. It is particularly to the point.

Russell has long been one of my favorite writers. I have always thought it interesting that while he and Whitehead will always be remembered for the monumental Principia Mathmatica, it was after Russell became an activist that the disembodied intellect became a firebrand and reformer in the finest British tradition. It was, I believe, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that Russell asked: "If you offer a man the choice between the vote and a bag of grain, how hungry does he have to be before he prefers the grain to the vote?"

But, in America, the feeling is ingrained that we shall all be rich one day. But, the fact of the matter is, the quickest way to wealth in America is to get on TV and sell seminars on how best to get rich in America. I can imagine an economy in which one half of the population gives seminars to the other half and then the roles are reversed. How is any wealth generated? Can a nation make a living giving each other seminars and taking in each other's laundry? I often wonder if our economy is not itself a Ponzi scheme. We are most certaily not the manufacturing giant that we once were.

Often reviled by the right wing, Social Security is, in fact, one of the few programs that has made sense. It is the most successful social program that the US has ever come up with, hence the GOP resentment of it. Mark Twain might as well have been speaking of the GOP when he defined Puritanism: "Puritanism- The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. The GOP will not rest until they've made all those depending upon a measly social security utter paupers destined to starve. The GOP agenda under Bush was pure 19th Century bunkum and Social Darwinism. Now that it is all seen to have failed, the GOP will simply lick its wounds and emerge more radicalized, however difficult that may be to imagine.

And many thanks for the Zinn. Again —Zinn, like Gore Vidal and, of late, Stephen Colbert, is a national treasure. From your link:

Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq? Would we not instinctively rebel against the sacrifice of lives for oil?

I highly recommend his "People's History of the United States". Thanks and keep up the great work!

SadButTrue said...

Len I agree with yours and fuzzflash's assessment of Bertrand Russell, I keep a stock of his quotes handy to further the illusion that I am well-read and a deep thinker. Russell must have read your Twain quote, his apparent response, "If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have paradise in a few years."

Fuzzflash, I assume you meant a lovely touché.

Len, you must recall that I wrote back in June in a Friendly Neighbour post, "Conditions in the US are becoming far worse than those that precipitated the American Revolution." Your response in comments was right on the money, "Thomas Jefferson's list of grievances against King George seems tame compared to the grievances, criminal charges, war crimes and outright treasons that can be leveled and proved beyond any reasonable doubt against Dictator George."

What has happened to the American spirit that these modern crimes fail to elicit the outrage and call to action that existed in the 18th century? Has it succumbed to the happy meal and the video game?

Fuzzflash said...

Yeah, Sad, bang on. My keyboard's got no..........or as Frank Zappa would have said, "Whaddya mean acuties, no acuties on me."

Len, at precisely 8.11 pm Texas time we seem to have shared a moment of synchronicity re Sad and Mr. Russell's quote. Many happy returns.

Vierotchka said...

Mark - Either would be correct in this application.

That's exactly why in my first post I wrote: Not only leach off, leech off too. :)

Fuzzflash - no, I have not even heard of that Canadian cartoon series which featured a flying squirrel, a moose and a guy named Boris! I live bang in the middle of the "Old World", so the only cartoons I ever got to watch (we didn't have a TV until I received one when I was 25 years old) were the classics in a local cinema that featured them along with the classical black-and-white Pathé newsreels in which the speaker spoke with a loud and enthusiastic voice whatever the news. Nowadays, I catch up with what I missed in childhood by watching the cartoons I post in my blog!

Having spent the past five years battling with primitive foul-mouthed right-wing oafs on various boards, I have lost a bit of my good manners - I should have been kinder and more polite to Mark, I do concede, and I humbly apologize for my unintentional lack of courtesy.

Len Hart said...

Great comments, my friends.

Russell lives!

Russell is overdue for an essay here, exploring particularly his metamorphosis from cold logician to courageous political firebrand. He was imprisoned several times for his views. His story is truly a "profile in courage".

Mark said...

Certainly no offense was taken, and I expect I received the assistance in the spirit it was meant - I never knew how to make a clickable link, and always wanted to know (as long as it wasn't too complex, I lose interest rapidly in complex things). I broke up the links to ensure the whole URL was within the window, because I've accidentally sent partial URL's before, for whatever reason. Anyway, I plan on practicing today, and I'll be a linkin' fool by sundown!

I'm familiar with the cartoon fuzzflash spoke of, it was an old black-and-white called, "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Hour". It was a bare-bones simple good versus evil storyline, with Rocky the flying squirrel and Bullwinkle the moose on the side of good (both could talk, of course, as is common in cartoon land), and a Slavic couple (presumably Russian, because the Russians were the shadowy Godless enemy then) named Boris and Natasha decidedly on the side of evil.

That does raise an interesting point, though. They say travel broadens the mind, and truer words were never spoken. My impressions of Russia and its people were shaped at an early age from cartoons like that and other sources, although of course I didn't realize at the time. I joined the navy in 1977, and Russia was still the shadowy enemy, although I had learned a little more about it in school. Consequently, the first time I went there (1998), I expected a dour, colourless people who showed little outward sign of life or passion, if indeed they possessed anything of the sort. I was as surprised to hear them laugh from the bottom of their stomachs as if they had gobbled like turkeys!

The worst part of being ignorant is not knowing you're ignorant. It was a signal lesson in keeping an open mind for me, and now I am as at home in Russia as I would be here; with the impediment that I can't speak the language well enough to get along, although many Russians speak a little English. I always go with my wife anyway; more correctly, I was always going to see her up to this point. Don't ever let anybody tell you Canada's immigration laws are soft and permissive, it's a common conservative talking point. We were married in 2002, and she wasn't permitted to enter Canada until this past December, 2005. In the years before we married, she was never permitted to visit, although we applied several times.

Jen said...

I loved watching Rocky and Bullwinkle growing up as a kid, which were in color at that time (my grandparents had a color TV in the early 70s, but no remote control, yet). The political connotations in that cartoon were very deep. I loved when Bullwinkle would say "Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat...(rips off the sleeve of his shirt)... nothin' up my sleeve... Presto!" Poor Bullwinkle would never produce the rabbit. Kind of like the president never produces anything from his promises. I always liked how Dubya would say things like "I inherited this economy..." or "we could not have foreseen the economic decline due to 9/11 (Katrina or insert another disaster under his watch)" like it wasn't his fault that his plans weren't working. It's like him saying "nothin' up my sleeve" when all along it was probably the other sleeve that held all his deceptive plans sans rabbit.

Len Hart said...

I'll be a linkin' fool by sundown!

Watch out! HTML is addictive.

I have lost a bit of my good manners

Impossible! (to be pronounced en français)

I loved watching Rocky and Bullwinkle growing up as a kid,

I used to do an awesome Bullwinkle impression.

I always liked how Dubya would say things like "I inherited this economy..." or "we could not have foreseen the economic decline due to 9/11 (Katrina or insert another disaster under his watch)" like it wasn't his fault that his plans weren't working.

Good observation and I'm glas I'm not the only one who's noticed it. It's the "no one could have foreseen" defense. They used it when Condo said "No one could have foreseen that they would use airliners..."! Nonsense. It had been "gamed". Another word is scapegoating, as in the Nazis blaming Jews for everything that was wrong in Europe with the exception of how Germany was betrayed at Versailles. It's also a form of McCarthyism, as when McCarthy conveniently blamed "commies and fellow travelers" for everything that was wrong in America. It's not only simplistic, it's "bad faith", a form of habitual dishonesty and self delusion. In some cases, it's a defense mechanism. But, in any case, refusal to accept responsibility at this level and scale is most certainly one of the symptoms and warnings signs of fascism.

Len Hart said...

I found a good example of the "no one could have foreseen" excuse on the Pensito Review:

1) “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” — Bush, on “Good Morning America,” Sept. 1, 2005, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina

I remember seeing his stupid face even as he said that. Fortunately, I didn't have a brick and my TV survived the ordeal.

Mark said...

OK, I've had limited success with this clickable link thing, but I did get it to work once. The trouble is, I still ended up with the same big awkward string I started with. I was trying to turn it to the word "this", but it never changed. I thought maybe you have to transmit it first, so I'll give it a shot. If it works, it should take you to a very timely and topical article in the Washington Post, about devaluation of labour. It goes a good way toward explaining why things are as we see today.

Without further ado, see what you think of this

Mark said...

Well, I'll be dipped!

Sharon said...

Len, don't know if you've seen the New York Times yet today, but there is a story about two very large apartment complexes on the East River that are being put up for sale by MetLife. For decades these apartments had been affordable housing for much of NYC's middle class, but after the sale, probably not so much.

One of the many interested possible buyers is a business concern from Dubai, our old buddies. I think if Americans knew just how much American real estate is owned by foreign interests, and especially by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, they'd be concerned.

But not as long as this pResident is in office. Maybe the Next President (I love those words!) will address this and many other issues.

Mark said...

Many of the large, showy properties that have become Canadian icons to us are no longer Canadian-owned. The Fairmont Hotels chain that symbolized the cities they are located in or near (Fairmont Hotels were originally CN Railroad hotels, and three remain) ; the Empress in Victoria, my hometown, the fabled Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, and the Banff Springs at Lake Louise, are now foreign-owned. I think the grand old lady, the Empress, was the last to fall - bought out early this spring by some Saudi businessman.

It's not like the Arabs pick it up and move it away or anything, and in many cases the staff remains - to outward appearances, nothing's changed. However, now the hotel is working to make money for foreigners. As soon as it passes out of the hands of the original owners, there ends any interest in how its sale or operation affects the staff, the locals or indeed the country. It is the property of others, to do with as they will. as soon as it fails to turn a profit, or at some whim of the owner, it will be sold again, to whomever has the ready to put up.

I can see, though, that it's a different thing when the owner buys something with the express purpose of subsequently pricing it out of another group's reach. That happened here, with a golf course/country club in Vancouver that was bought out by Taiwanese interests. They promptly jacked up the membership fees until only wealthy Chinese could afford them.

I know it's a stretch to compare a country club with low-rental housing, but the principle holds, and I see your point.

Len Hart said...

Sharon, that kind of thing has been going for at least twenty years in Houston. Sure, I wanted to see the "inner city" revitalized. Who wouldn't? But NOT by throwing people out of perfectly good homes and selling it all off to a rich oil baron from Kuwait City or Dubai. Or, in the case of Houston, Houston. Houston is largely owned by Arabs of the crooked kind like Bin Mahfouz, one of Bush's partners from the Iran/Contra era. Mahfouz was a big wig in a terrorist money laundering scheme called BCCI, bankers to the world's real terrorists: the Bush crime family. Mahfouz, I suppose, wanted to be closer to his money. In the 70's, he built one of the more expensive homes ever built anywhere at anytime and he built it in Houston's River Oaks. Fortunately, only billionaires were displaced. Poor babies.

Yep! near Houston's posh Galleria, huge swaths were bought up by oil interests. Not only lower income families but middle income families in three bed room suburban homes were forced out in one manner or another and posh high rises put up in their place.

Even in the 70's good minority neighborhoods were being "gentrified" and long time residents displaced. I have no idea how some of them found homes. Nearer to downtown was another neighborhood that, while not posh, had been home to generations. Now, it is wall to wall townhomes and row houses, giving to Houston a Manhattan appearance that it had never had before. The big deal now are "lofts" made to look vaguely like real lofts but decked out for the gentry. Thousands most certainly had to settle for much less than the modest homes that they had. The entire experience is not a win-win situation. It is clearly a big win for the very, very rich and a tragedy for those barely hanging on to middle class.

Underlying it all is a healthy helping of Southern bigotry, made more palatable with a Latte even if it is brewed with SCORCHED beans.

Len Hart said...

Mark, great link. It's dense with good and lucid information. One of the best explanations I've seen.

I like this part especially:

Problem is, the declining power of the American workforce antedates the integration of China and India into the global labor pool by several decades. Since 1973 productivity gains have outpaced median family income by 3 to 1. Clearly, the war of American employers on unions, which began around that time, is also substantially responsible for the decoupling of increased corporate revenue from employees' paychecks.

That is the very mechanism by which wealth TRICKLES UP...not down. The "powers that be" could not have done a better job of transferring wealth upward if they had deliberately planned it all. I am inclined to believe that that is precisely what they did! "They" are Bush's base and he is their sycophantic lap dog, crony, and stupid kiss ass.

Fuzzflash said...

Vera, re the Rocky and Bullwinkle reference; it was a bit of friendly banter on my part. I love the way you get on our cases when we write and link sloppily. Somehow it reminds me of Natasha's "no nonsense" attitude. How fortunate you are to have lived till 25, sans TV, immersed in a vibrant culture. The thing with TV before "remote" and tivo was that one had to wade through swamps of dross to get to the diamonds. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Hour ,as Jen mentions, was superior TV Cold War satire. The Mr.Peabody vignettes and Edward Everett Horton's "Fractured Fairy Tales" are more than worth the price of admission.

So, no eggshells between us Vierotchka. I live by the quill and am prepared to ...... well not so much die by it, however...... should I spill the ink, anything from a gentle lash to a decent thrashing is OK by me.

Vierotchka said...

Thanks, Fuzzflash - at least you're not treating me as a "spelling nazi"! That's a relief!

Re the buying of housing by Arabs and other hyper-rich so as to transform them into very expensive dwellings for the very rich, there is one "consolation" - the number of very rich people is very limited, so there's a definite limit to how many such takeovers of housing can be done. When they run out of hyper-rich tenants, they will stop doing this. :)