The social construction of US economic revival and its discontents

According the a select few, the US economy will continue its improvement into 2011...

Livermore, CA

The NY Times and Washington mistake a collection of vague nice-sounding buzz words for leadership. The effectiveness of recent similarly vague policies has consistently evaporated in spite of the power attributed to their awesome dollar amounts. That's because policies that would solve our problems aren't just about money and marketing. The solutions actually have to attack real systemic issues, not merely paint them over.

Has Obama achieved a lot? In name perhaps, but not in reality. DADT? Mostly irrelevant in this time of economic hardship. Financial reform? Formerly big banks are now bigger banks, with about the same level of risk. Health care reform? Well, it's more expensive, anyway. Campaign finance reform? Immediately ejected like the political gambit it apparently was. Housing? Many formerly unaffordable houses are *still* unaffordable, and the best the government can seem to do is throw money at the problem and pray. As far as I can tell, it won't be over until there's no more cash to squeeze from anyone who was trying to be prudent.

This dark joke is getting darker, but not funnier. If I were you NY Times editorial board, I'd drop the dreamy editorials and start pushing your people to dig in the dirt a lot harder. There is a world of corruption to root out in our New Byzantium, and you have yet to admit that to yourselves.


We have reached a point where there is little consensus on what will work to fix the economy. In a big part we are ignoring the reality of what the world is like in 2011 and pretending that it is 1955 and think that we dominate the world almost completely from an economic standpoint.

If you look at the articles about ending the filibuster people think that if we just do things it will fix things. Legislative actions can make things worse. If you look at the bills that the news media hailed as triumphs of bipartisanship, they were filled with dirty deals that are part of our troubles.

The extension of the tax cuts included a deal to extend ethanol subsidies and increase the allowable levels in gasoline to 15%. And this is just after Al Gore admitted his 1998 tie breaking vote in the Senate to continue subsidies back then was a fraud only used to try to promote his 2000 presidential bid among farm voters. Science and economics don't matter when it comes to ideology on either side of the political divide. It only matters to stand for the principle of getting elected or reelected.

We ignore the fact that health care and higher education are getting too expensive for people to afford regardless of how we pay for it. Unlimited insurance mandates from the states sound good until you realize that they price people out of coverage. Providing student loans to pay for tuition that has risen at almost twice the rate of health costs over the last 30 years creates debts too high for many people to ever payback and have a life style even equal to what their parents had.

We pretend that the longer lifespans we now enjoy won't bankrupt us or make the math on social security, medicare, and pension fund solvency faulty.

Building expensive and unreliable wind turbines that help jack up the cost of power hurts manufacturing competitiveness is a phony solution to environmental problems. Just look at how Scotland is importing electricity from France because their big reliance on Wind has proven hugely unreliable.

Fantasy thinking does not work. Part of that is our politicians thinking that 3000 page bills can even create workable rules to run our country. They don't seem to mind since these unworkable bills create plenty of work for their fellow lawyers while they crush the lively-hood opportunities for the rest of us.

Unfortunately we may need a greater collapse to clean out the unrealistic excesses of the last 40 years. I just see a lot of pain before we decide to what is necessary.

Karen Garcia
New Paltz, NY

The inequality in this country is literally killing people, but to hear the politicians and the pundits blather, prosperity is just around the corner. Corporate profits were up 20 percent last quarter, Christmas retail sales spiked by 5 percent and Congress passed a whole bunch of legislation at the last minute to much media fanfare and shameless self-congratulation.

Despite the so-called health care reform legislation passed last year, the number of uninsured Americans has increased to more than 50 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The main factor leading to this major loss of coverage is loss of employer-funded health care. While almost 17 percent of the population at large is now uninsured, it gets worse further down the income scale; Census figures reveal that fully a quarter of people with incomes under $25,000 have no health coverage at all.

When President Obama made his back-room deals with the for-profit insurers and drug companies to get his watered-down bill passed, he traded away universal coverage - right away - for a smooth ride through Congress and future corporate campaign donations. So we are worse off than ever, because widespread benefits won't take effect until 2014. People with pre-existing conditions can't afford to buy into those much-touted high risk pools. Sick people still can't afford to go to the doctor and are getting sicker and dying at higher rates than even before "reform." And all to please some corrupt politicians and their corporate puppet masters - all to worship at the altar of fiscal responsibility by making suffering people wait another three years before getting government subsidies to further enrich the insurance companies - which, by the way, remain immune from anti-trust laws.

But perhaps that's the whole idea - make people wait long enough,and maybe a lot of them will conveniently die. There's a name for what the United States calls its joke of a safety net, and it's Social Darwinism. We should probably just give up the pretense and rename Washington, D.C. : "Wall Street-upon-Potomac."

But there is one ray of hope: the first Boomers are hitting retirement this year, and the vast majority of them think the country is headed down the tubes. They'll have plenty of time on their hands to relive the glory days of anti-government protests. Never underestimate the intelligence and clout of the over-60s to bring about that change we can all believe in. Perhaps the retirees can embark on second careers as civil disobedience mentors to the unemployed Gen Xers. Trusting government is no longer an option. Believing in ourselves and our own power is the only sane choice we have left. There is one percent of them, and 99 percent of us.


I completely agree with these findings ['Want a happy, healthy country? Focus on reducing inequality.'] I've been looking for work for nine months and am feeling more estranged and disconnected from society than I ever thought I could. All of my relationships are strained--family, friends, people I network with, people I used to work with--because they have jobs, money, and an identity, and I do not. They are stable, independent, and happy. I am not. They participate in society. I do not. We previously had plenty enough in common to enjoy one another's company. Now, what on earth do we have to talk about?

The wealthy also have much richer lives than ever before because more is possible today than ever before--wealthy people are enjoying all the unbelievable achievements of modern man, including every wonderful gadget you could ever imagine, age treatments, medical advances, travel anywhere and everywhere, great clothes, great cars, etc. But poor people today are just as poor as poor people ever were. The lifestyles of the working and the non-working are so vastly different, they might as well be living on different planets.

My heart aches every day for the return of jobs in America. This topic should remain in NYT headlines until that happens.

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