Friday, July 18, 2008

Squeezing Out Consumers While Roping Them In..

Our current government acts as if a "consumer" and "citizen" are one in the same. That's what they would like us to believe, anyway. President Bush can't heap enough praise on those who dare to purchase, despite their economic circumstances. Even after 9/11, the President made only one request, "Consume!" He assured us that his administration would take care of the rest.

A little less than seven years later, our nation and its people are swimming in debt with only, as it appears now, more debt to come as the Iraq war, occupancy, or whatever you want to call it, continues and our economy recesses. Yet, even now, the Bush Administration is encouraging consumerism and little else. Encouraging excess consumerism in America at this point is the equivalent of encouraging chocolate covered cake and ice cream with a marathon of movies to follow at the local fat farm.

At President Bush's last press conference he was asked by one of the reporters why he doesn't encourage conservation and savings. His response was, "Why? Americans are smart enough to figure out what to do..." and he continued with the "intelligence of the market" jargon, that has been shoved down our throats since the time of the Reagan presidency.

While it is true that, all things being equal, individuals do have the intelligence to figure out their financial situations, all things are not equal. President Bush and our current corpocracy are counting on American "we-are-what-we-own", instant gratification, consumer culture -- which has incorporated consumer excess; a dependency on oil, credit and automobiles and living beyond our means -- to prevail.

We're lead to believe our standard of living has gone up in America. Has it? Or does it only appear that way? Well, it has for some, that's for sure but considering the growth of our economy in the last few decades, we shouldn't have a negative savings rate, an unprecedented amount of consumer and national debt and 50 million people without health insurance. Many like to blame the average "consumer/citizen" for their financial plight, however our educational system leaves most of us in the dark regarding consumer issues, personal money management, and the workings of our economy.

In addition, the credit industry has increasingly become deregulated to the point of legalizing corruption and usury. Increases in productivity no longer translate to the worker in the form of compensation, (wages or benefits). Downsizing and mergers have become so much a part of the economy that loyalty is non-existent -- all starting with Reagan , and jobs are disappearing overseas.

As Barbara Ehrenreich, author of This Land is Their Land, says, "Easy credit became a substitute for decent wages". We're not better off, we're living as if we are better off. The separation of the major economic indicators from the people's economic status has discouraged policy making that might just make Americans truly better off.

Currently, our economy serves the needs and desires of the wealthiest individuals, while depending on and draining the resources of the average consumer/citizen...in other words, our economy has become *parasitic.

* This, of course, is nothing new as our nation was built on the backs of African Americans and the displacement and annihilation of Native Americans.

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