Realitology

“The Study of Reality”

Warning! This Blog Contains Social Commentary, Brilliant Observations, Dry Wit, and Rampant Sarcasm. Use At Your Own Risk.

 

Living and Dying in the Material World
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Let me preface this by saying Democrats have certainly not always made the best decisions in the past few decades either. I’m not a Democrat and I’m not a Republican. I base my comments on the evidence of the past 25+ years, not on having a partisan ax to grind.

This post probably makes me sould like a sterotypical "bleeding-heart liberal" which I’m not, although the Bush administration has destroyed most of my conservative viewpoints. Now It’s clear to me that the liberal or progressive point of view is sorely needed to save the American Dream.

My interest is in the best interest of the many, not of the best interest of the few.

I’ve been driven to write this post after reading a couple of books lately:
The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America
Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
And the blog post that I quote in this post.

Hopefully people are starting to see that this house of cards that our society and economy have been seduced and forced into is falling apart. The economy has been in the toilet for the common US citizen since the 80’s and the "Reagan Revolution".

Corporations and the rich have done well for themselves over the past 25 years. It’s easier to get ahead and achieve wealth when you climb the ladder of "success" by stepping on the backs of the majority and "financing" tax-cuts and the nation’s economic foundation with a credit card mentality. Just sell more T-bills to China and keep your head buried in the sand.

But now thats it’s hitting Wall Street in the pocketbook and white-collar jobs, suddenly people are paying attention and seemed surprised that the party has come to an end. I’ll grant you that many people have been willing accomplices to this phenomenon and have willingly sold their soul to achieve their ideas of success.

Of course how are we to know what people have done to themselves and what people have been brainwashed into doing? Education has been cut and cut and cut since the Reagan Revolution. So has mental health treatment. So has regulation of industry. So has caring about your fellow human. So has a sense of fairness.

But what has increased? Marketing is incessant. We’re being told to buy, buy, buy, almost every waking moment. People have become television zombies and are bombarded with marketing messages. Almost every website is full of ads. Buses and trains have ads on them now–both inside and out. Stadiums and civic arenas are now named after corporations. Sporting events are named after corporations. The back of your grocery receipt has ads on it. The grocery now sells gift cards to pottery barn and home depot. Now ads are even placed in front of you in urinals at restaurants and other public locations. Seriously, you can’t even take a piss anymore without being bombarded with advertisements. I’m sure that advertisements on toilet paper can’t be far behind.

Then you have television shows which try to make you feel like a loser if you don’t consume. On home and garden shows everyone has to get a new granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. (Even though most people have to work so much they rarely eat at home any more.) Then there are other shows showing the homes of millionaires and their cars and all of their other hideous over-consumption.

There are several shows where people berate other people for the way the look and dress. You’re told that you’re a loser if you don’t wear the latest fashions. Television is full of shows about models which imply that you have to be skinny and buy lots of expensive clothes and $1000 handbags to be a decent human being. Then just throw it away next season and buy more stuff.

Visa and mastercard bombard the airwaves, print, and the internet telling you to buy buy buy what you really can’t afford–just charge it, it’s kind of like getting it for free isn’t it? Meanwhile they sponsor legislation making it more difficult for people to file bankruptcy which they’ve largely fallen into because they have followed the bidding of the credit card commercials. Hmmm I guess you can have your cake and eat it too. If you can buy off the right politicians.

When I put all of this together I really have to seriously ask myself how responsible most people are for the mess they now find themselves in. They’re not getting a good education anymore. Most people can’t afford college anymore. The only financial information people are taught is to buy more stuff. Indeed our president says that to be a good American you’re required to buy more stuff. (If you cancel your macy’s card then the terrorists have won.)

All we’re told anymore is to buy more stuff. Meanwhile the average American’s real wages are lower than they were in the late 1960’s, prices have increased hundreds or thousands of percent, the dollar is collapsing, national and public debt is higher than it’s ever been, energy prices are out of control, healthcare is unaffordable for most, and the distribution of wealth is the most out of balance since the great depression.

The evidence I see for the collapse of the American economy and indeed the American dream lies squarely in the hands of the Reagan and Bush dynasties. In all ways possible they have sold out America and Americans to the highest bidder. And yet, poor and middle-class, hardworking American’s still continue to support them. The very people most screwed by the republicans are their most ardent supporters. Stockholm syndrome at its finest.

And how does this happen? Because republicans have cunningly co-opted "religion" and "morals". By their actions they’re the furthest thing from Christ-like but they’ve managed to somehow convince the religious people of this country that they the republicans are fighting the good fight. They’ve convinced poor and middle class people to oppose the "death tax"  even though it only effects those people with millions of dollars. They’ve equated being a "liberal" with communing with the devil.

In the entire history of the United States (and indeed the world) the only time that there was a real middle class is when the power and ability of the rich to control people, governments, wealth, land, and society were finally reined in. In the US this basically lasted from after WWII until Ronald Reagan. Taxes were high on the very, very wealthy which finally slowed down the endless accumulation of wealth and creation of dynasty which had existed since the beginning of time, education was good, unions were strong, and the common person made a living wage. Reagan killed it. Yes there were lots of millionaires made but there were also lots of homeless people made—a condition which had basically not existed in the US since the great depression.

I could go on and on about this. The facts are there and yet many people do not want to accept reality. We all want to believe in the American Dream. We all want to make money and live a good and comfortable life. The problem is that the ability for all but a few to achieve this has been stripped away.

The modern Republican party since Reagan is nothing like the Republican party of years past.  The Republican party of years past  supported such things as the civil rights movement, the clean air act, and the endangered species act. All things that the modern Republican "Neo-Con" party is squarely against. It is now a party of the powerful, of the corporation, of the cult of money, of Enron, or Worldcom, or the savings and loan collapse, and now of the real estate and financial collapse.  Humans be damned if they get in the way of profit.

And yet still I see that John McCain (not that he’s exactly the same as Reagan or Bush but he still holds many of the same delusions) has a fair chance of winning the presidency. We’ve all been raped and our country sold down the river for the profits of the very few, and yet people still think that trickle-down economics will someday work–even though we have nearly 30 years of evidence to the contrary.

Is this the world we want?
Is this the best we can do?
Is this the American Dream?
I know it’s not.

Look, I’m not against corporations or business—of course that’s where jobs come from. By it’s nature a business is concerned with making profit, no surprise there. The problem lies in the fact that, for many corporations and the people running them, profit is the ONLY consideration. Human welfare, health, the environment be damned if it gets in the way of profit.

That’s why there needs to be limits and controls placed on companies. For the most part, left to their own devices, they’ll destroy the world in the name of profit. We all want to believe that humans are good and that they’ll make the right decisions, but the fact is that humans are not always good and most of the time the decisions that they make are based on their own greed and self-interest. The saying is that "the love of money is the root of all evil". The actions of many corporations bear that out.

 This is the blog post that I referenced at the beginning of my post.

If you hang around the wizards of high finance (investment bankers, bond traders, brokers, and the like) you’ll soon hear the word “monetize.” It’s a synthetic term meaning turning something of value into money. In it’s most practical sense it’s used to describe how a new company like Google can monetize their search engine technology by selling advertising connected to search results. Similarly, we can monetize our golden retriever pet by breeding her and selling the puppies. It’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but when it becomes the only way you look at the world, it transforms you into a scoundrel. Please excuse my shocking example but young girls are being monetized in countries like the Philippines and Thailand by being sold to pimps as young prostitutes by their own parents. You see when we lose sight of the inherent, spiritual dignity of human beings and lose respect for the sacred value of nature we begin to see people and our planet as “things” to be monetized. The reason we need to regulate our financial markets is that the mindset of Wall Street is to turn everything into money. There is no financial language for human, spiritual, or nature’s inherent value.

So now we have a growing economic crisis. Economists hope it’s simply a modest tidal wave. They want it to hit quick and recede so the mess can get cleaned up and they can get back to monetizing things, people, and the planet. Business as usual. But their economic problem is likely to be more like global warming submerging our coastline rather than a single wave. The melting icebergs are the declining values of trillions of dollars of residential real estate. Sure the sub prime mess might be contained at losses of $200 billion or so. But now prime borrowers who used their good credit on bizarre loans that encouraged interest only or even minimum payments that added interest to a loan’s principle every month are in deep yogurt. Eighteen months ago a client of mine was offered a $1.5 million loan to buy an overpriced house in San Diego for $1465 a month! The true 30-year amortization of the loan was over $10,000 a month but not to worry. He was assured he could always sell in 6 months for $2 million. When he asked me what I thought, I told him my mother taught me whenever “my eyes were bigger than my stomach” I would get a bellyache. Yes he could afford $1465 a month; what he couldn’t afford was a $1.5 million house. He passed. Well lots of other people didn’t pass, and they’ve got a looming heartache. Some estimate there are more than $500 billion of over-bloated prime mortgages that are at risk in the next 4 years. If prime borrowers start walking from their homes, the impact on the global economy and our children’s well-being could be staggering.

I, of course, don’t know what‘s going to happen. What I do know is that all this was caused by Wall St. trying to monetize our homes. Yours and mine. The idea was simple. American homeowners on average owned nearly 60% of the equity in their homes in 2002. They represented trillions of dollars of “locked up” value…money. Banks began to offer home equity lines in the 1990’s to get at this value by creating secured, interest-earning loans. But that was chicken feed for Wall St. They got federal regulators to relax oversight of the mortgage market then they trained an army of retail mortgage brokers to sell homeowners on refinancing their old fashion mortgages with a new variable rate, payment option loan to “monetize” the equity in their homes. Free up cash for us to pay for granite countertops, Hummers or just blowout vacations. The financial wizards made billions in fees and we got suckered into thinking there was such a thing as a free lunch. Now we’re paying for it. All of us. Not just those who took out loans, but also our children who are already having a harder time finding jobs in a frightened economy or are paying higher credit card interest for gas they can’t afford.

Could all of this been avoided? Absolutely. The hyper-inflated real estate boom made our whole nation Enron 2. The lack of oversight and regulation of Wall St.’s monetization of our assets is a direct result of a failure of leadership. Leaders of financial institutions and regulators who are supposed to insure our financial markets have integrity completely failed. Meanwhile, today oil speculators have driven the price of oil to at least $20 a barrel higher than real demand says it should be. You see prices of nearly every commodity from wheat and corn to oil is going up faster than demand because financial wizards are now focused on “monetizing” the essentials of our lives. No, it’s not a conspiracy. It’s simply the result of only seeing the value of things as money. When powerful people operate without rules, we all pay more than we should. It would be great if the world could operate on the honor system. But it can’t. We need real leaders who can’t be bought and who aren’t afraid.

And speaking of fear, it doesn’t hurt to look inside. We also have our own inner “Wall Street Banker.” An inner voice calling us to monetize our own lives. To work at jobs we don’t value or to work too long and too hard for money at the expense of our relationships and peace of mind. We need to take care to regulate ourselves lest we become corrupted by our own fears. All of us need to stand for the quality of our lives rather than quantity of what we can produce. We need to own 100% of the equity of our souls.

Original Post
To visit American Dream Project’s home page, click here.

Man, I hope people wake up soon…

 

 

One Response to “Living and Dying in the Material World”

  1. fortmax, on June 4th, 2013 at 7:25 pm, said:

    Além disso, não é factível para os indivíduos para passar o speed em academias e clubes de saúde por causa de seus compromissos profissionais.
    Então, é a sua preferência em à frente lugar para
    obter uma solução simples e conveniente que é bom
    o suficiente para cumprir o seu desígnio sem afetar suas programações.
    Em tais condições, zero poderia ser melhor do que Fort Max Diet.

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