Sunday, December 30, 2007

US Consumers in a Pickle - Our Needs or Our Feeds?

--by Mike Adams

NY Times Dec. 29th Editorial, “Cash-Strapped Consumers” hits the nail on the head or at least mostly. American’s, including myself have been pulling out the credit card too often over the past several years.

While Mr. Bush has been bragging about this country’s economic growth and expansion, the vast majority of American consumers have not benefited. After considering the inflated costs of living, we have come out behind. We actually have less buying power than we did when Bill Clinton left office.

I know that people were worried about terrorists and about the war in Afghanistan and later Iraq. I know that we have to support our troops. The problem is that we have failed to decipher the needs from the feeds. “Feeds?” you ask, by feeds, I refer to the fatty and sugary diet of feel good misinformation, which we have been fed by our Health care industry, which insists that America has the best health care available and that Americans receive the best care possible and that it is all powered by the free market. In reality, America has a higher infant mortality rate that many other industrialized countries and we are the only western country which doesn’t guarantee health care for all of its citizens. Additionally according to a Harvard University study, fifty percent of all bankruptcies in the United States are the result of medical bills, more surprising is the fact that of those medical bankruptcies, seventy five percent had a good job which provided health insurance. For years, Wal-Mart has been fighting high prices, they tell us to “Save Money.Live Better”, which doesn’t mean that we should put money in the bank and save it, but instead we should spend at Wal-Mart, where we can purchase cheaply made products which presumably improve our lives. Unfortunately, while owning a house full of cheap belongings may seem attractive, the mountain of debt, which middle class Americans are accruing is not life enhancing. More importantly, although Wal-Mart can legally claim to create new jobs each year, the part it leaves out is that in creating those low paid Wal-Mart jobs, they destroyed higher paid jobs available through local small businesses. The Bush Administration told us that if we don’t go to the mall and spend money, the terrorists would win. In contrast, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants suggests that every American should save money and not run up Credit balances.

The following analogy may seem too simple, but think about it…when I see a doctor and he/she says that I need to lose at least seventy pounds; my hope is that I will be able to lose that weight without having to make any real effort. I hope that I can still eat steak and potatoes until I’m full. I hope that I won’t have to do much in the way of exercise. I want the benefits of living a healthy life, without the work. If a doctor or perhaps the President of the United States told me that the terrorists would win if I stopped eating myself silly and that the terrorists would win if I started jogging each day, I would want to believe that doctor or President. I would want to continue with an unhealthy life hoping against hope that one bright day, I would wake up and look like Brad Pitt. Unfortunately, at some point, I would find myself in the hospital fifty pounds heavier having suffered a heart attack.

We middle class Americans are in this situation now with regard to our finances, with regard to our Government and with regard to our health care. We are in dire straights and we have to make some short term sacrifices for the long term good. We have to stop spending money frivolously; we have to pay attention to what political candidates say they will do. More importantly, we must pay attention to what our government is actually doing. It is necessary that we engage in the hard work of taking care of ourselves and of each other. When our leaders claim that one party wants to raise taxes, we really need to find out if the proposed tax increase will negatively affect hard working Americans or if it will mean that the wealthiest Americans simply have to start paying their share too. We need to ask ourselves if socialized medicine and universal health care coverage could possibly be any worse than having inadequate or no health coverage. (in 2004 the US Census reported that there were 45 million American without Insurance.)

Sometimes, I want to be angry with the American People, sometimes I want to be angry with our Government. Often I’m angry with our corporations and sometimes I’m angry with myself for not doing more. Wherever I or anyone pins their anger, makes little difference, we still need to wake up and take charge of our collective destiny. The question is when will we wake up and what we are going to do. I don’t have any suggestions or answers for those questions, but I hope that when we collectively move in that direction we ask ourselves, “What kind of world will we leave our children and our grand children? Are we willing to stop eating crap and start taking care of ourselves?”