Sunday, February 11, 2007

When Prosperity Attacks!!
Filed under: Constructive Criticism — MrBogle @ 7:04 pm
After six years, clear-headed Americans know to rely on a rule of thumb when it comes to BushCo. If Bush says something exists, it doesn’t. If he treats something as non-existent, not only is it real but it’s right behind you and closing fast.

So, it was with great trepidation that I heard Bush declare, two weeks ago: “As we begin this New Year, America’s businesses and entrepreneurs are creating new jobs every day. Workers are making more money — their paychecks are going further. Consumers are confident, investors are optimistic.”

Uh-oh. Better break out the tin cups and pencils, gang. It’s guerilla entrepreneur time!

In a surreal way, Bush’s dazzling American economy does exist. It just doesn’t exist for ordinary Americans.

For instance, if my name was “fast” Eddie Exxon, I’d be dancing in the streets right now. Exxon Mobil, last week, revealed that it racked up record earnings in ’06, $39.5 billion bucks – the biggest profit an American company has ever made. (The previous record holder was…Exxon Mobil in ’05 with $36.13 billion.) Exxon’s ’06 profit averaged out to about $4.5 million an hour. (Why, some of us have to work, uh, 9.5 million lifetimes to earn that hourly amount before we croak! And that’s only if we use public transportation!)

Also rolling in dough with best-ever profits were Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Marathon Oil Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. Suprisingly, Jed Clampett didn’t make the cut.

The same week that Exxon revealed its “Happy Days Are Here Again” figures, The Commerce Department reported that the savings rate of Americans for all of ‘06 was negative 1 percent. Translation? Not only didn’t any of us save but we also spent more than we earned. On the plus side, we didn’t top the existing negative savings record, 1.5 percent, set in 1933 during The Great Depression.

Our savings went south both in ‘05 and ‘06, making them the first two consecutive negative years since 1933 and 1932.

(Definition of irony. Republican Senators are STILL trying to scuttle an increase of the Federal Minimum Wage, with some even talking about eliminating it all together! Bitter grapes of wrath, eh?)

Also basking in Bush’s eternal sunshine of a besotted mind, American workers who have…argh!…families. A study of 173 high-income countries by Harvard and McGill researchers revealed that the U.S. is only one of five that doesn’t guarantee some form of paid maternity leave to its workers. The other four countries are Swaziland, Liberia, Lesotho and Papua New Guinea. (Skull Island wasn’t factored in because the whole King Kong fiasco pretty much tanked their thatched hut construction-driven economy.)

65 countries offer paid paternity leave. The U.S., on the other hand, says to proud papas: blow it out your kazoo, girly-men.

107 countries protect a working woman’s right to breast-feed. 73 countries pay them during feeding breaks. The U.S.? Have you tried powdered milk, Mom?

145 countries provide paid sick days, 127 granting a week or more. The U.S. allows unpaid leave to some workers, but not all. (”Oh, come on, Leo. You only lost ONE leg! Tough it out!”)

134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week. The U.S., uh, you get the idea.

“More countries are providing the workplace protections that millions of Americans can only dream of,” said the study’s lead author, Jody Heymann, founder of the Harvard-based Project on Global Working Families and director of McGill’s Institute for Health and Social Policy.

Is she a whiner or what?!

While on his extended stay in Fiscal Fantasyland, Bush also revealed his new budget: a nifty $2.9 trillion ditty with $245 billion set aside for whatever wars we’re fighting the rest of the year.

Bush praised his economic albatross as “protecting the homeland and fighting terrorism, keeping the economy strong with low taxes and keeping spending under control.” After meeting with his Cabinet, he paused warbling “When You Wish Upon A Star” long enough to add: “Congress needs to listen to a budget which says no tax increase, and a budget, because of fiscal discipline, that can be balanced in five years.”

(Note: I guess our astronauts are going to have to “brown bag it” on their manned mission to Mars.)

Bush’s budget either eliminates or sharply reduces 141 federal programs to the tune of $12 billion. Among the proposed hits are low-income housing subsidies, Head Start for preschool children, rural health programs and Public Broadcasting.

Some folks are not amused.

“The president has simply offered more of the same, proposing a budget that cuts … from Medicare and Medicaid, while sending $240 billion more in American taxpayer dollars to Iraq,” said Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, D-Ill. “This is not a tradeoff the American people want.”

Like anyone at BushCo. cares what the American people want?

Adding to the ordinary citizens’ fiscal well being: A research report based on investor surveys by real estate brokerage company Marcus & Millichap advised that apartment rents are expected to rise for a third-straight year in 2007, about 5 percent.

Brother, can you spare a van?

House foreclosures are up, too, largely spurred by the subprime adjustable-rate mortgage scams that seemingly allowed struggling families the chance to ease their financial burdens and spend wildly on wacky things like food and clothing. The problem is: after the first two years or so of paying off interest, the real mortgage payments kick in. These payments can be two or three times the original amount proffered. Not only are working people getting hit hard but even the greedy lenders are.

Countrywide, the No. 1 U.S. mortgage lender, said foreclosures have hit their highest numbers since 2002, while delinquencies are hovering near a five-year high, fanning concern over the erosion of the U.S. housing market. Two of the top three U.S. subprime mortgage lenders warned, last week, about the impact of bad loans on their bottom line.

Britain’s HSBC Holdings, who gobbled up a lot of these low-quality mortgages envisioning a big payday, now finds itself facing up to a 20% hit this year alone.

According to figures gathered by the U.S. Senate, last year saw a 40% spike in foreclosures. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) called it a “crisis.”

“Subprime foreclosures threaten to displace more African-American families than (Hurricane) Katrina did, but it will be a silent and invisible storm,” said Martin Eakes, CEO of the North Carolina non-profit Center for Responsible Lending.

Eakes’ organization has predicted 2.2 million families could lose their homes, calling the loans “the greatest threat to minority family wealth that we’ve ever had.”

(And this coming on the heels of American credit card companies writing a law allowing them to demand more in terms of minimum payments and interest penalties last year and, the year before, banks writing a law making declaring personal bankruptcy as easy to file as making $4.5 million an hour.)

Truly, it’s getting harder and harder to put food on your family. And, by the smell of things, it’s going to get worse.

January’s unemployment rate rose to 4.6%. Some analysts are forecasting that the jobless rate could hit 4.9 percent by mid-year and, as we know, that percentage doesn’t take into account “the invisibles;” the folks who have just dropped out of the system and have given up any hope of future employment.

Last year, Ford and GM announced a combined 60,000 layoffs as well as plant closures. Last week, Kodak announced 3,000. In spite of the six tons of lipstick Bush is spray-painting on his porked-out pig, many Democrats (and monetarily conservative Republicans) are not buying into this beauty contest.

“The reality of America’s economy is that on his watch we have lost 3 million manufacturing jobs,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said of Bush’s cents-less sow. “Some of them have been replaced with jobs in convenience stores. But we all know the harsh reality. A person working for a minimum wage in a convenience store is not going to be able to take care of their family like someone in a manufacturing job…

“If you want to know the real state of the economy, don’t sit down and talk to the economists. Talk to the real working families of Illinois and across America who are struggling each day to make ends meet, going deeper in debt on their credit cards bills and wondering if their kids will have as good a chance in the America to come.”

Noting a Bush stop in Peoria, Illinois to tout his monetary Midas touch, Illinois Dem. Rep. Phil Hare invited Bush to visit nearby Galesburg which recently lost 1,600 manufacturing jobs when Maytag moved to Mexico.

“Districts like mine in western Illinois have been disproportionately affected by the president’s ill-advised economic agenda,” said Hare, adding that recent Labor Department statistics showed that Illinois ranked 49th in the nation in terms of job growth and economic recovery since 2003.

Meanwhile, health care, energy and education have become harder for average families to afford, Hare declared.

“Instead of working to ease the burden on people in need, the president and his allies in Congress have pushed through enormous tax cuts for the wealthy, leaving our children and grandchildren with a projected $2 trillion deficit.

“If the president wants to truly gauge the strength of the economy, I invite him to visit Galesburg and cities like it to see this ‘middle-class squeeze’ first-hand,” Hare said.

Freshman Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) assessed Bush’s dollar-dazed disconnect. “It’s almost as if we are living in two different countries.

Indeed, the experts say that is just the case.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy. Com. offered to Associated Press: “The president is right. The economy in aggregate is performing very well. So he’s right to claim that the economy, looking from above, looks very good. Democrats are also right. The fruits of this strong economy have largely accrued to higher income wealthier households.”

Standard and Poor’s chief economist David Wyss added to A.P.: “We’ve got a couple of big problems out there, and some long-term imbalances. The top 20 percent is doing fairly well and the bottom 20 percent is doing better. If there’s a hole, it’s in the middle, which frankly are those old blue-collar jobs that the Democrats say are leaving the country. And they’re right.”

Here’s Bush’s take on the situation from one of his fiscal flights of fancy. “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the United States. There is one undisputed leader in the world in terms of economy, and that’s the United States of America.”


Here’s Bush on Fox, touting the lack of response by the American populace to his unfounded economic utterances. “I’m not surprised that some of the good economic news is overshadowed by the difficult news out of Iraq.”

You recollect Iraq, doncha? The cakewalk? The joint where we were going to be strewn with flowers and hailed as liberators? Where oil revenues were going to pay for the whole invasion? Where democracy was going to bloom like a friggin’ garden?

Remember: if Bush says there’s a monster under your bed, you can sleep easy.

If he says you can sleep easy because no monsters are under there…HEAD FOR THE HILLS!

Grab your tin cups and pencils and flee!

Prosperity is over your shoulder and gaining fast! It has you in its cross-hairs!


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