Wall Street jittery. The stock market nervous. Prices tumbled for no apparent reason. Wall Street rallied in the morning and plunged in the afternoon.
What kind of culture pins its basics, its economic foundationals, on such flaky behavior? Who cares? Humankind evolved for its entire history without a financial gambling parlor to serve as the nominal barometer of its economy. There have been many economic systems tried and flopped on Earth, many for much longer successful and sensible runs than the stock market.
As a working person who has been on the job from 1966-2010, just like so many other millions, I'm far more interested in the unemployment statistics. I'm listening when they finally get around to talking about foreclosures, to amounts of personal debt, and other indices that have value to me and others who simply work hard and make an average income.
Certainly, say the corporations and their political appointees from the Republican Party--and most of them from the Ds as well. Where do you think jobs come from? Of course we are hard-wired to the way that the stock market is going, since it is the root of our economic power and health.
Let it go. Focus on creating public sector work--we need full employment, a job of some sort for everyone who wants to work. It is quite possible. Government could end unemployment in a few months if there were the political will to simply say, drain the military budget of all capital intensive programs and use the enormous savings to create low-paying, high-benefit government jobs doing the things we need done to stay healthy.
We need millions of workers tightening up our dwellings to make them more energy efficient with low cost materials. We need millions of workers to create and maintain bike paths, bicycles and walking paths. We need millions of workers to grow and distribute food. We need millions trained in nonviolent de-escalation and civil society protection. There should be zero unemployment except for those who choose to live off their savings, live off the land, or otherwise not seek paid work. Zero.
As it is, we devote massive amounts of the fruits of our labor to both bailing out the corporations whose short-sighted greed created our economic recession and to building and deploying the largest and most expensive and expansive war machine in history. Neither of these are ethical nor practical uses for the resources that we earn.
It is true that wealth is generated by predatory capitalism, by which I mean the global search for cheap human and natural resources, which are cheap because we take them at gunpoint. Yes, of course. How do we get cheap oil? We have a pipeline of military aid to Saudi Arabia and that deal was launched during World War II by FDR. We give their royals enough military aid to keep them in power and the average Saudi makes very little, even though what Americans are told is that the royals live fat. It's true, they do, and that is The Deal. Keep the elites living large and keep them in power and they provide the cheap resources. It was the secret of the British Raj and it's the same formula used by multinationals today. China learned it from us and they have less than five percent unemployment. Looking through the list, it is apparent that some patterns exist and that we have some choices.
No, we cannot have full employment and high paying jobs and good benefits. We have to make some serious choices. Cuba, Cambodia, Singapore, Switzerland, Malaysia, Norway--these and other countries have very low unemployment. Even Vietnam has just about everyone working. What can we learn from others?
If we would grow up and settle for far fewer consumer silliness and focus on well made durable goods that last, if we were far more involved in muscle power and human scale transportation, if we draw down our military drastically, if we create far stronger and tighter safety nets instead of high-flying acts without a net--there are so many intelligent choices that we could make that would make the corporate casino less relevant. I don't pretend to be an economist, but I will assert that we take the Dow Jones far too seriously and our people's well being far too lightly. The markets are structural violence when they dictate unemployment and preserve obscenely rich status for a handful.
This is not a call to punish the rich. I've known some remarkable, altruistic rich people (OK, not all that well, since it's never been my world, but some have impressed me quite favorably). Bill Gates and Warren Buffet's recent initiative to garner commitments from dozens of fabulously wealthy people to give away at least half their fortunes is a welcome and real gesture. But if we want to reduce and someday eliminate structural violence we will flatten the economic hierarchy and demilitarize. The two could logically produce a far more stable and mature economy, one in which a young family could feel secure instead of the rampant insecurity we see now, ironically in a land obsessed with security.