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The Deepening Economic Crisis

The American economy continues its slide to new depths of brokenness and dysfunction. January 2009 was the worst January ever for the benchmark S&P 500 Index. In the last week of that same month, major corporations announced the layoffs of more than 100,000 workers. The state of New York is borrowing funds in order to pay benefits to an ever growing number of unemployed. The state of California can’t pay anyone anything, sending IOUs in lieu of tax refund checks. The other 48 states are in similarly dire straits. The federal government is broke, yet the new president is about to turn over the next round of bailout money to the financial services industry without any demand that working Americans benefit from the continued public largesse.

While Americans focus on nonsense, the worldwide economic crisis strengthens its grip. Fortunately, citizens of other countries are not going quietly into the night. The usually peaceful people of Iceland threw out their government after international banksters destroyed their economy. The French, never shy about protesting, took to the streets to show their government that they wouldn’t be silent as unemployment rises and wages fall. The rest of the world may make demands on their political leadership, but Americans are stuck in a morass of apathy and ignorance brought about by corporate media disinformation.

If the millions of Americans who voted for Barack Obama were to make demands on the system, there might be some hope for the nation. Unfortunately they are singularly unprepared to do anything they should do in order to save themselves. They ought to demand true health care reform. A system guaranteeing access for all would help individuals and also businesses such as the auto industry that are going bankrupt in part because of the cost of health care. Citizens ought to demand drastic cuts in military spending for the nation that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined. Instead they are foolishly impressed when Obama puts on a show and pretends to be concerned about corporate jets and billion dollar bonuses on Wall Street.

Obama could have had an anti bonus provision in the TARP bail out bill if he had wanted one. As his party’s nominee for president, he gave TARP his full blessing. He said nothing that his banker backers didn’t like and now pretends that he is shocked, shocked, to find out that his fund raisers like to make and take as much money as possible.

The much discussed stimulus bill is also a meaningless distraction. The “shovel ready” infrastructure projects do nothing to save homes or jobs or loosen credit. The stimulus bill is instructive only in that it demonstrates how two-faced Barack Obama has turned out to be. He added tax cut provisions to the legislation not because he thought he would get Republican support. He already knew he would not. He added those provisions because he wanted them all along, knowing full well that Democratic House members would look and feel like chumps in the deal making process. Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged as much butdemurred when asked if the tax cuts provisions might be removed. “It’s something that we can live with,” said the House Speaker. Nancy should speak for herself.

Easily fooled Americans were glued to the television watching the Obama inauguration while simultaneous ignoring their own worsening financial situation. Who can bother to look at the fine print on multi-billion dollar deals when HISTORY is being made? Now the same zombified population ignores presidential inaction on bankruptcy “cramdown” legislation that could save their homes, explicit threats to Social Security, and back-tracking on employee free choice for labor unions.

In their delusion and despair, the only reaction left to non class conscious Americans is to turn on themselves. Murders and suicides are too often the reaction to financial disaster instead of righteous indignation directed towards a failed political and economic system. Americans are losing their minds when they might alleviate their depression by taking to the streets or at the very least giving their elected leaders a piece of their minds.

Americans never had the tools to fully understand the system that is failing them so terribly. Now they are enthralled by a man who explicitly instructs them not to confront the people and institutions that have brought them to the brink. The economic meltdown will continue for a long time and so will the individual meltdowns and disasters for millions of people who will literally not know what hit them or where they ought to turn after the crash.

MARGARET KIMBERLEY’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.

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Margaret Kimberley writes the Freedom Rider column for Black Agenda Report, where this essay originally appeared. 

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