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America's middle-class collapse
Robyn Blumner, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
... what makes this coming decline in economic security different from the one visited upon American families in the 1970s, for example, is that we are much less well positioned to withstand the financial buffering. The work of Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren indicates there is a coming collapse of the middle class and she can prove it with a raft of scary statistics and charts.
Warren says we are moving toward a two-class rather than a three-class society, where there is a somewhat larger upper class made up of the financially comfortable and then there is the rest of America, people who are "constantly living on the edge of a cliff." These are families who might appear to earn a decent income but they enjoy none of the financial security that we normally associate with middle-class status.
Warren compares the median American family of 1970 with that of 2003. She unpacks why our savings rate has dropped to zero from a rather healthy 11 percent of take-home pay in 1970, even as the family added Mom as a breadwinner.
Typically, blame for this lands on families themselves. They're spending themselves into penury by buying designer clothes for their kids and indulging in $4 lattes, say social commentators.
Not so, Warren counters. She says that Americans are actually spending far less in inflation-adjusted dollars for things like clothes and food, including eating out, than they did in 1970. What has substantially changed, Warren reports, is the cost of big-ticket, fixed expenses.
(6 July 2008)
I think I saw Tom Paine on the 4th of July
Carolyn Baker, Truth to Power
... And now call me pessimistic because even as I tasted the spirit of liberty on July 4, 2008, I could not help but ask myself what the people who sat in the meadow listening to the symphony while drinking their wine and eating their picnic snacks will be doing a year from now. How many will be able to drive to such an event or afford a ticket?
... I see groups and individuals who are highly conscious of collapse and its ramifications-citizens like those struggling for Vermont Independence, countless communities across this nation who are strategizing to create food security, safeguard clean and accessible water supplies, power down their communities and implement renewable energy technologies, home school their children or create alternative schools, and implement affordable healthcare for everyone. Whether or not their efforts will prevail or be quashed by empire remains to be seen. Undoubtedly, some of those communities will survive collapse and live to tell their children about it. As a result, they will discover firsthand as Thomas Paine said, that "That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly." I know not who will survive collapse or how, but I'm quite certain that if they are capable of doing so, they will know in every cell of their bodies that they "have it in their power to begin the world over again.
(7 July 2008)
Storm over Cape Cod
Leonard Doyle, The Independent
As she put the finishing touch to a watercolour outside the gated community of Oyster Harbours, Nancy Walton wrinkled her nose at the thought of America's first offshore wind farm popping up on the horizon of Nantucket Sound. "I believe in wind power," she said, "but these will be higher than the Statue of Liberty. There are so precious few places on earth as unspoilt as this. Why can't they just put them somewhere else?"
Oyster Harbours is ground zero in a very uncivil war in which some of the wealthiest and most famous people in the country have joined forces with one of America's dirtiest businesses - the coal industry - to block an ambitious clean-energy project...
...So far, the opponents have spent more than $20m trying to kill off the project, which is known as Cape Wind and is planned for a location widely deemed ideal for offshore wind turbines.
(4 July 2008)