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America Is Suffering a Power Outage (and the Rest of the World Knows It)
Dilip Hiro, TomDispatch
“Make poverty history!” A catchy slogan, and an admirable aim, it was adopted by world leaders at the United Nations summit in New York on the eve of the New Millennium. A decade later, it is America which has made history -- even if in the opposite direction. The latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that, in 2009, one in seven Americans was living below the poverty line, the highest figure in half a century. Last month’s 95,000-plus home foreclosures broke all records.
These were only two of the recent glaring signs of the sagging might of the globe’s “sole superpower,” now heavily indebted to Beijing. Other recent indicators include its failure to corral China into revaluing its currency, the yuan, against the dollar, and to compel Russia, China, India, or even Pakistan to follow its lead in suppressing the oil and natural gas trade with Iran. With Washington failing to impose its monetary or energy policies on the rest of the world, we have entered a new era in history.
... China Roars Ahead
Just as the Obama administration revised those anemic GDP growth rates downward, China’s economy was passing Japan’s to become the second largest on the planet. While the Chinese GDP is steaming ahead at an annual expansion rate of 10%, Japan’s is crawling at 0.4%.
China’s leaders responded to the 2008-2009 recession in the West that led to a fall in their country’s exports by quickly changing their priorities. They moved decisively to boost domestic demand and infrastructure investment by sinking money into improving public services.
While Western governments tried to overcome the investment slump at the core of the Great Recession indirectly through deficit spending, China raised its public expenditures through its state-controlled banks. They provided easy credit for the purchase of consumer durables like cars and new homes. In addition, the government invested funds in improving public services like health care, which had deteriorated in the wake of the economic liberalization of the previous three decades.
After Empire by Dilip HiroAltogether, these measures boosted the GDP growth rate to 9% in 2009, just when the American economy was shrinking by 2.6%. Such a performance impressed the leaders of many developing countries, who concluded that China’s state-directed model of economic expansion was far more suitable for their citizens than the West’s private-enterprise-driven one.
On the ideological plane, the spectacular failure of the Western banking system on which the private sector rests revived socialist ardor, long on the wane, among China’s policymakers. In response, they decided to bolster state-controlled companies, proving wrong Western analysts who bet that public-sector undertakings would lose out to their private-sector counterparts.
The upsurge in government spending and generous bank lending policies led to increased investments by state-owned companies. Whether engaged in extracting coal and oil, producing steel, or ferrying passengers and cargo, such companies found themselves amply funded to upgrade their industrial and service bases, a process that created more jobs. In addition, they began to enter new fields like real estate.
... An Irreversible Trend
In whole regions of the world, U.S. power is in flux, but on the whole in retreat. The United States remains a powerful nation with a military to match. It still has undeniable heft on the global stage, but its power slippage is no less real for that -- and, by any measure, irreversible. Whatever the twenty-first century may prove to be, it will not be the American century.
Those familiar with stock exchanges know that the share price of a dwindling company does not go over a cliff in a free fall. It declines, attracts new buyers, recovers much of its lost ground, only to fall further the next time around. Such is the case with U.S. “stock” in the world. The peak American moment as the sole superpower is now well past -- and there’s no overall recovery in sight, only a marginal chance of success in areas such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where the United States remains the only major power whose clout counts.
For almost a decade, Washington poured huge amounts of money, blood, military power, and diplomatic capital into self-inflicted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, the U.S. lost ground in South America and all of Africa, even Egypt. ...
© 2010 Dilip Hiro
Dilip Hiro is the author Blood of the Earth: The Battle for the World's Vanishing Oil Resources (Nation Books), and most recently, After Empire: The Rise of a Multipolar World.
(23 September 2010)
15 Shocking Facts Show That the Middle Class is Being Wiped Out
Michael Snyder, AlterNet
As wealth continues to leave the United States and as the U.S. gets even deeper into debt, more Americans are going to become poor.
The "America" that so many of us have taken for granted for so many decades is literally disintegrating right in front of our eyes. Most Americans are still operating under the delusion that the United States will always be "the wealthiest nation" in the world and that our economy will always produce large numbers of high paying jobs and that the U.S. will always have a very large middle class.
But that is not what is happening. The very foundations of the U.S. economy have rotted away and we now find ourselves on the verge of an economic collapse. Already, millions upon millions of Americans are slipping out of the middle class and into the devastating grip of poverty.
Statistic after statistic proves that the middle class in the United States is shrinking month after month after month. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are starting to wake up and are beginning to realize that we have very serious problems on our hands, but they have no idea what is causing our economic distress and they are unaware that most of our politicians have absolutely no idea how to fix the economic disaster that we have created.
On the mainstream news, the American people are treated to endless footage of leaders from both political parties proclaiming that the primary reason that we are in the midst of such an economic mess is because of what the other political party has done.
Republicans proclaim that we are experiencing all of this economic chaos because of the Democrats.
Democrats proclaim that we are experiencing all of this economic chaos because of the Republicans.
(22 September 2010)
In New Orleans, Kindness Trumped Chaos
Rebecca Solnit, Yes! magazine
Lessons of dedication, solidarity, love, and recovery, five years after Katrina.
The taxi driver called me “girlfriend” and “sweetheart” with the familiar sweetness of New Orleanians, so I figured I could ask a few personal questions. He was from the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the neighborhoods inundated by Katrina—a mostly poor, mostly black edge of the city isolated and imperiled by two manmade canals—and it had taken him three and a half years to return to New Orleans. He still wasn’t in his neighborhood, but he was back in the city, and his family was back, and they were determined to come back all the way.
What happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is more remarkable than almost anyone has told. More than a million volunteers came to New Orleans to gut houses, rebuild, and stand in solidarity with the people who endured not just a hurricane but a deluge of Bush Administration incompetence and institutionalized racism at all levels of government, which temporarily turned the drowned city into a prison. Supplies were not allowed in by a panicky government; people were not allowed out, and a wholly unnatural crisis ensued.
Even so, an astounding wave of solidarity and empathy arose. At Hurricanehousing.org more than 200,000 people volunteered to shelter evacuees, often in their own homes. And then there were those legions of volunteers, many of them white, working in a city that had been two-thirds black.
I have again and again met passionate young activists who intended to come for a week or a month and never left.
(27 August 2010)