Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion
Author: Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute
The Scrooges of Wall Street were surprised a year ago by visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
The Ghost of Christmas Past took them back to 1973, when the poverty rate was the lowest on record. The Ghost showed them a middle-class family living the American Dream -- with decent wages and health care, a comfortable home, money to send the kids to college, and a pension to supplement Social Security.
"Bah!" said the Scrooges of Wall Street. "Humbug!"
The Ghost showed them an affluent family, with expensive finery, fancy cars, a vacation home and millions of dollars in wealth. The Scrooges were not impressed. They made millions of dollars a year.
"What share of national income goes to the richest 1 percent?" the Scrooges asked. The Ghost told them 9 percent.
The Scrooges of Wall Street said, "Bah Humbug!" and were happy it wasn't 1973.
The Ghost took them to Wall Street on Oct. 9, 2007, when the Dow Jones reached an all-time high, closing at 14,164. The Scrooges were thrilled to be back in that bubble.
The Ghost reminded them that the Dow was way up, but workers' wages were way down compared to 1973, adjusted for inflation -- and poverty was rising. The typical middle-class family worked many more hours than their parents did, but went deeply into debt to keep their home and pay for college, and worried they were a medical crisis away from bankruptcy.
"What share of national income goes to the richest 1 percent?" the Scrooges asked on their visit back to 2007. The Ghost said 23.5 percent -- nearly tying the record set in 1928, just before the Great Depression.
The Scrooges sank into a deep sleep, awaking in 2008 to see the Ghost of Christmas Present. The Ghost showed them once-thriving neighborhoods in Ohio, California, Michigan and Florida where foreclosed homes were left to decay, eroding the value of nearby homes, leading to more foreclosures and despair.
The Scrooges saw family businesses going back three generations who were suddenly treated like credit risks, and newer small businesses denied loans to buy equipment needed to fill orders. The Ghost said these businesses were laying off people they would have kept and not hiring people they would have hired, if only the big banks put more money into real business investment instead of usury and speculation.
The Scrooges said, "Bah Humbug!" and rejoiced in their bailouts and bonuses.
Then the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come previewed 2009, showing the Scrooges boarded up homes and businesses across America. The Ghost said one in seven mortgages was in default. The official unemployment rate topped 10 percent. Millions of Americans needing full-time jobs had part-time and temp jobs with inadequate pay and no benefits. Want was keenly felt.
"Are there no food banks and homeless shelters?" asked the Scrooges. "Are there no prisons?"
The Ghost of Christmas Future took them to Washington. The Scrooges of Wall Street rejoiced to see their friends at the White House, Treasury and Federal Reserve insuring their toxic assets, subsidizing their new speculation, and combining occasional tough talk on financial reform with consistently soft action.
The Scrooges heard Sen. Dick Durbin say, "The banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place."
The Scrooges saw that their banks and investment firms would be even bigger than before. And they did not change.
The bailout-fattened Scrooges of Wall Street rejoiced in their Abundance of cashboxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds and derivatives. They said, "Bah Humbug!" to Main Street and used taxpayer money for record profits and bonuses and refinancing their global casino.
So now, the Ghost of President Roosevelt has come to inspire us to learn from history. Demand the kind of strong action that reversed Scroogism before -- the kind advocated by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute's New Deal 2.0 project, the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, and Americans for Financial Reform.
As Roosevelt's spirit tells us, "If the courses be departed from, the ends will change."
Holly Sklar is author of "A Just Minimum Wage: Good for Workers, Business and Our Future" (http://www.letjusticeroll.org/) and "Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All of Us." She can be reached at email@example.com.
I have posted the National Geographic Magazine 2 page "Carbon Bathtub" article which explains how carbon affects global warming in simple terms, they refuse to read it. Trying to talk to non-science believers is difficult at best and masochistic at worst.
Here is a great article from Brad Johnson at Think Progress on the consequences of global warming from A to Z. What will it take for the know-nothing right to understand?
"As the nations of the world gather in Copenhagen, the Wonk Room has prepared this alphabetical journey of the impacts of climate change around the globe.
A. East Antarctica, long stable, is now losing ice.
B. Bolivia needs $1 billion over the next seven years to build reservoirs, as the glaciers that hold the nation’s water supply are shrinking rapidly.
C. Leatherback sea turtles that spawn on the beaches of Costa Rica are threatened with extinction by warmer temperatures and rising seas.
D. Denmark joined United States, Norway, Canada, and Russia in identifying climate change as “the most important long-term threat” to future existence of polar bears.
E. The rapidly warming highlands of Ethiopia are becoming too hot for its elite athletes, such as local-born Haile Gebrselassie, to train there.
F. Noting the unprecedented floods this year in Fiji, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama recently warned that rising sea levels affect not just the islands’ economies, but put into doubt the very existence of his nation.
H. Global warming-fueled hurricanes, intense poverty, and widespread deforestation combine to form a gathering storm of disasters for Haiti.
I. The deforested peatlands of Indonesia are drying, disintegrating, and burning.
J. The increasingly early arrival of cherry blossoms in Japan reflects rising global temperatures.
L. The incidence of wildfires in the cedar forests of Lebanon has increased tremendously over recent years.
M. “If things go business-as-usual, we will not live, we will die,” Maldives President Mohammad Nasheed told the UN General Assembly. “Our country will not exist.”
N. The ministers of Nepal have held the world’s highest cabinet meeting on Mount Everest, as rapidly rising temperatures have reduced snowfall over the mountains and caused glaciers to melt.
Q. Petroleum-soaked Qatar emits 60 tons of carbon dioxide per person, the most of any nation on earth.
R. Increased floods and malaria outbreaks from global warming, deforestation, and unsanitary conditions have hit Rwanda hard in the past decade.
S. The inhabitants of the Alpine villages of Fieschertal and Fiesch in Switzerland have asked for the Pope to bless their prayers for the restoration of their nation’s glaciers, which shrank by 12 percent over the past decade.
T. Newly discovered, exotic species like the fanged frog of Thailand are especially vulnerable as climate change will further shrink their already restricted habitats.
U. Agriculture in the United States has been ravaged this year by catastrophic droughts in Texas and California, heat waves in Louisiana and Nebraska, storms across the High Plains and the Midwest, floods in North Dakota and Minnesota, and torrential rains in Illinois and Georgia.
V. Speaking from Vatican City on the eve of the Copenhagen conference, Pope Benedict XVI counseled “all people of good will to respect the laws laid down by God in nature and to rediscover the moral dimension of human life.”
X. The nomadic descendents of Kublai Khan in Inner Mongolia, where Xanadu once stood, are being driven from the grasslands as the Chinese government attempts to fight the region’s desertification.
Y. Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, may be the first capital city in the world to run out of water, as drought and overuse diminish its supply.
Z. On the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, the flow of Victoria Falls is far below average, as drought and high temperatures reduce the Zambezi.
Update: The NRA can kiss my ass.