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The Expansionist
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Paying for Globalization. The United States almost single-handedly created the monster that has now raised oil prices so high that over 100 million Americans are now experiencing real hardship in merely getting from place to place, and, this coming winter, will be very hard-pressed to stay warm. Because the Republican Party has transferred something like $1 trillion in cash and 14 million jobs, with ongoing paychecks, from Americans to China, and in lesser measure to India and other parts of the Third World, mostly in Asia. That unprecedented transfer of employment and wealth has produced the very demand in China, mainly, and then those other places, that is blamed for raising the price of oil, supposedly permanently! So not only have we lost millions of good jobs, but we now must pay, in perpetuity, extravagantly high prices for oil, or change all our private transportation and heating and many other aspects of our lives in the First World, and, until that is done (and maybe even after it is done) lose the good life we spent centuries building. We won't be able to fly. We won't be able to drive. We will not be able to travel for vacation. We will not feel comfortable taking vacation, for fear that yet more businesses will ship more jobs, including our own, overseas.
Worse, the cheap goods we traded all this for will inescapably become more expensive, as the costs of transporting them 10,000 miles at a time of astronomical oil prices, rises, and so does demand for the same goods in the Third World. And the unsustainable deficits the U.S. continues to roll up are already producing a drop in the dollar on world currency markets. If China lets its currency rise to realistic market levels, everything from China will cost much more than it now does.
What lasting benefit, then, will we have enjoyed from the catastrophe the Republican free-traders have produced, which threatens to become a calamity, a great step higher than catastrophe?
The Chinese we have so richly helped have become not our friends but our enemies. They are using our money to build their military, and turning their youth into rabid nationalists who react with indignation to even the tiniest slite to their national dignity from the U.S. or other countries. China is plainly preparing — and the Pentagon has known this for decades! — for a drive, including actual military war, to push the United States completely out of Asia and become the dominant power at least of that continent, on which more than half the world's population resides, and possibly on planet Earth entire, rendering the United States and every other country, into slaves of the Butchers of Beijing. Paid for by U.S. dollars.
The only silver lining is that extraordinary oil prices might finally throw into high gear the necessary conversion from petroleum to hydrogen and other sustainable energy sources, from solar power (which includes wind, hydroelectric, and wave power), to tidal power, geothermal energy, etc., which might finally bring down the cost of all these technologies once they are very widespread and economies of scale take over.
How long will that take? Five years? 15? 30? And how much of the First World will be ravaged, how badly, in the interim?
How much popular destitution can the First World take before all social orders are shaken to their foundations?
I have observed here on various occasions that in no way but money are the disparities between individuals so immense. Paul Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times, quantified this (how accurately, I cannot say) in December 2006, in a long article in Rolling Stone titled "The Great Wealth Transfer".

Start with 1973. If you assume that a height of six feet represents the average income in that year, the person on the far left side of the line -- representing those Americans living in extreme poverty -- is only sixteen inches tall. By the time you get to the guy at the extreme right, he towers over the line at more than 113 feet.

Now take 2005. The average height has grown from six feet to eight feet, reflecting the modest growth in average incomes over the past generation. And the poorest people on the left side of the line have grown at about the same rate as those near the middle -- the gap between the middle class and the poor, in other words, hasn't changed. But people to the right must have been taking some kind of extreme steroids: The guy at the end of the line is now 560 feet tall, almost five times taller than his 1973 counterpart.
I have also repeatedly said that the United States is on its way to becoming the northermost nation of Latin America, not in speaking Spanish but in having a society of profound socioeconomic-political inequality in which a tiny, tiny proportion of the population controls almost all the wealth and power. Krugman confirms this:

A generation ago the distribution of income in the United States didn't look all that different from that of other advanced countries. ... Today, we're completely out of line with other advanced countries. ... These days, to find societies as unequal as the United States you have to look beyond the advanced world, to Latin America. And if that comparison doesn't frighten you, it should.
Will the United States in particular, with 200 million guns in the hands of a public that could become profoundly impoverished within a decade, experience violent revolution, or only fratricidal mass murder, as the frustrated and desperate lash out promiscuously at people immediately at hand rather than targeting their rage on the monsters in the plutocracy responsible for this mess?
That is, will they kill the Bushes and Cheneys and oil executives (who, in addition to actual price effects of increased demand, are taking advantage of the confused situation to gouge) and executives of all major corporations responsible for ruining our lives? Will they slauter the megamillionaires and billionaires who have made obscene fortunes thru stock manipulation and other economically useless activities? Will they invade the offices of the Radical Right thinktanks and spray machinegun bullets in all directions? That could achieve real change in very short order. But the rich will fite. They are certain that generalized poverty will empower them to hire all the armed guards they need to survive any challenge from a disorganized mob. They are also certain they can start enuf foreign wars to distract people from domestic problems — a proven strategy for blunting disorganized popular revolt. You recruit the most frustrated and send them to die overseas, so they can't come home and kill the ruling class.
But could American Plutocracy survive a revolution that does not lash out in all directions but narrowly and ideologically targets the plutocrats, oligarchs, and obscenely rich?
We have at least one thing to thank China for, the blessing/curse, "May you live in interesting times."
(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,092 — for Israel.)

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