In their hair-raising “2010’s world gone wild: Quakes, floods, blizzards” post at physorg.com, authors Seth Borenstein and Julie Reed Bell of the Associated Press note the costliness of 2010’s epic disasters fell far short of what one might expect, considering the string of earthquakes, droughts, blizzards and heat waves battering the planet last year. Many of the deadliest events occurred in impoverished areas where insurance is rare and regulations are lax, resulting in lower dollar costs per event. The authors cite the plight of one man who lost his home to flooding in Pakistan:
Ghulam Ali’s three-bedroom, one-story house in northwestern Pakistan collapsed during the floods. To rebuild, he had to borrow 50,000 rupees ($583) from friends and family. It’s what many Pakistanis earn in half a year.
This diary is not about 2010’s disasters, though. It’s about 2011’s economics. Mr. Ali rebuilt his home for slightly more than a month’s lease on that Lexus you may drive. And he gets to keep the house. You’ve got to return your Lexus at the end of the lease or pay thousands of dollars more than the car is worth to keep it.
The future looks bright for Ghulam Ali, catastrophic floods notwithstanding. If India and Pakistan ever decide cooperation beats mutual annihilation, Ghulam will have all the work he can handle from Indian corporations outsourcing jobs their relatively expensive ($8000/year, give or take) workers currently do.
Our future, in stark contrast with Mr. Ali’s, is scary to contemplate. For us trapped in the now expensive enclaves of North America and western Europe, the same globalism and deregulation that promises a bright future and rising living standards for the Ghulam Alis of this world leaves us in its wake. We can’t compete globally. Our cost of living is so high compared with the billions of low paid, willing workers a hemisphere removed, our workers cannot begin to level the playing field without us systematically devaluing everything we own and the wages we’re paid.
One could argue that ought to include profits, bonuses and executive compensation but that’s a subject for another day.
Once upon a time we’d fight back with tariffs on imported goods, government subsidies for domestic workers and aggressive regulation. Not any more. Now we cut taxes and wave the “good-paying jobs” good-bye while our workers and their families scramble to make ends meet.
That’s deregulated capitalism, baby. That’s globalism. Welcome to the New World Order.
To illustrate our predicament, in his 2005 Gotham Gazette piece, “Who Can Afford to Live in New York City?” author Andrew Beveridge makes the following painful observation.
Slightly less than half of all households in New York City are considered low income (anything $41,700 or below for a family of four), and most of them must pay a large percentage of their total income to obtain housing — whether they are renting their home, or own it. Almost two thirds of these households spend more than 30 percent of their income for housing. Almost two-fifths spend more than 50 percent on housing.
Housing is even less affordable for those with very low (under $26,050) or extremely low (under $15,650) incomes.
The conclusion is inescapable. From a deregulated capitalist’s viewpoint, the poor in America earn far too much to compete internationally, let alone members of our shrinking middle class. Land costs too much here. Housing costs too much. Construction costs too much. Manufacturing costs too much. Even high-tech companies here can’t compete with their Asian counterparts, subcontinental or otherwise.
Products produced here cost too much to sell to anyone but ourselves and we can’t afford to buy them any more. Enter Wal-Mart.
Clearly, in our modern flat world, if you’re going to be a capitalist, it pays to be an owner or a politician. Everyone else is screwed, up until the day the entire economic system collapses upon itself in a rancid, putrid, oozing, steaming pile of puke and we all start over again. According to some, its demise could occur at any moment now.
Which brings me to our dear leader. The bipartisan tax deal he “negotiated” with Republicans gives the wealthy more than their plan did, increasing income disparity, as highlighted in masaccio’s diary, “Professor Cowen Explains Why We Are Helpless Against The Rich.” That’s quite a piece of… negotiation there. The bill ought to be renamed, “The Pennies For The Poor And Billions For Billionaires Act Of 2010,” in the interest of honest advertising. President Judas sold out his base for quite a pocketful of gold.
Americans voted in large numbers for a presumed visionary leader who promised hope and change but so far has delivered neither. Indeed, the entire world saw him as something he daily demonstrates he isn’t – a man of the people. A voice speaking for them. Their hero. As many have described it, the third term of the Bush administration (or as I like to think of it, the second term of the GHWB administration), has provided token returns on the emotional investment of his voting base and the natives are decidedly restless.
Put simply, the man is infuriating.
Nate Silver noted in his NYT blog post of 12/14/2010, “Reader Comments: The Obama Tax Deal,” how attitudes have changed since inauguration day back in January, 2001.
Raymond from Brooklyn voiced a sentiment found in most of the comments: “Obama has betrayed his core constituencies. He should be challenged by a real Democrat in ‘12 primaries.”
As far as Barack Obama’s liberal/progressive base is concerned, he is not just an impotent president. His administration is seen as a complete sell-out to the corporate interests and the international banking cartel that has eagerly plotted for a New World Order for decades on end. Instead of standing up for the little guy, his administration of privilege and wealth has done its utmost to increase the income disparity among Americans. Instead of reining in the “too big to fail” banks, his administration of bankers and would-be bankers has bailed them out with taxpayer dollars, then turned its considerable weight against the interests of the middle class and the poor alike, as evidenced by the chart accompanying masaccio’s post.
But he’s not impotent to bankers. Oh, no. Not in the least. To them he’s Bailout Barack and he delivers. But for the rest of us?