Our Economy Has Failed -- It's the Reaganomics, Stupid!
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The economy is terrible. There aren't enough jobs. Most of the jobs that are still there are not paying enough for people to keep up, and people are afraid they could lose them tomorrow. So we all have too much debt. We have too little health care. We have too much stress. And in the bigger picture we have too little power to do anything about it.
They say we're reaching a "bottom" and that there are "green shoots." But I am afraid that this isn’t your father’s recession. I'm afraid this economy isn’t a pendulum that has swing too far in one direction, ready to be pulled by natural forces back to the other side. I am afraid that this isn't a "business cycle" pattern with a fall, then a bottom, then a recovery where all the shoppers return to the stores, all the jobs come back and growth picks up where it left off. Even "green shoot" optimists admit there will be few new jobs if there is any recovery.
It may be that we are not in a period of waiting for things to "get back to normal." Many people think that this economic collapse IS the return to normal.
For decades concerned observers have warned about problems with the "sustainability" of our economic paradigm. If you look at charts describing changes in the economy, environment, population - all kinds of things - you see that in recent decades they all change and start to move, often exponentially, in directions that obviously cannot be sustained. They look like this:
A wise man once said that when something is unsustainable it can’t be sustained. And here we are. A very good explanation of the problem of unsustainability of our economic paradigm is The Story Of Stuff. "It's a linear system and we live on a finite planet."
It is not just the economy out of whack. The business practices that brought us here -- overextraction, overextension, overleveraging, overconsumption -- have also whacked the planet’s resources. The fisheries are increasingly depleted. The aquifers are increasingly drained. The forests are increasingly logged. The landfills are increasingly full. And, of course, the planet is increasingly hotter.
Our economic system has also taken a toll on the people. Too many hours at a stressful workplace with too little sleep have burned many of us out. Our thinking and identity are about our jobs, not our spirit and character. Our values are devoted to markets with many of us placing making money over loving and caring for families and others. And there's no time for that stuff anyway. We have become consumers instead of citizens and humans. Decades of falling wages, decreasing savings and increasing debt have tapped us out. Consumption has used us up. And we’re fed up.
So things reached a breaking point and broke down. This has been coming at us for decades. And here we are.
If this economic collapse was the consequence of decades of an unsustainable economic model, then what do we do?
The government, of course, has been working to fix this problem within the context of the current failed economic system. And in that context they have been doing a good job. They lowered interest rates to encourage even more borrowing. The stimulus pumped borrowed money into the economy to cover the loss of demand from people and business. They raised the FDIC protection levels so we're not all wiped out if banks fail. They bailed out overleveraged financial institutions so they could again provide credit.