Saturday, March 28, 2009
Ecuador recently imposed trade restrictions that put tariffs on certain imports. The cry has gone out that this is “protectionism” and hinders free trade. Economists around the world have become fearful that such actions may be followed by other nations as a tool to boost sagging national economies. The questions to be asked are what are so bad about some form of protectionism? Is economic globalization really that great? Do such actions really hurt a free market economy?
Ecuador uses the dollar as its currency. With our economy in the dumps, there is little wonder that a nation like Ecuador would have concerns. According to some in Ecuador, the tariffs, while slowing imports and hurting those companies that rely upon foreign goods; the tariffs have been a boon to locally based firms. Is this a bad thing? Is it wrong not to depend on foreign imports to meet local economic demands?
We hear a lot of talk about free trade. But how free are the global markets? In a perfect world, firms producing products should be able to sell their products anywhere without fear of trade restrictions. The theory being that those with the best product for the best price gets the sale. However, the world markets are far from free. While many products in the U.S. come from China, they are not from Chinese companies which are paying their employees decent wages. They are often from American companies who pay the Chinese workers dirt cheap wages. We are all familiar with sweat shops and child labor abuse in foreign nations. Are these the features of a free economy?
In colonial days the economic system was called mercantilism. Mother countries exploited their colonies for their raw materials and then made the colonies buy finished goods from them. Next came imperialism, where powerful nations extended the spheres of economic influence and once again, controlled the businesses and markets of other nations. Now we call it globalization, where mega-corporations exploit the economies of third world nations. In both mercantilism and imperialism, the systems were overtly run by the exploiting country’s governments. In globalization, support for exploitation is more covert and hidden under the mantra of free trade. We are all too familiar with the mass exodus of U.S. manufacturing and service sector jobs to Asia and Mexico. This was done because wages in those nations were pennies a day and business regulations almost non-existent. In the absence of tariffs, the products are then sent back to the base country at prices far below those of local firms. Clearly, the globalized world economy is under the control of the few.
So, back to Ecuador. With trade restrictions, local farmers are doing better. Local manufacturers are doing better and overall, locally based firms are growing. Who is hurt? Those companies that exploit foreign workers and undercut local trade. In a capitalist economic system, trade barriers are touted as an anathema. Nations that tax imports are called the dirty word, ‘protectionists.’ Until such time as there are universal labor laws, fair wages, uniform business regulations and monitoring and equitable access to labor and resources, the so called ‘free market’ system is simply not free at all. If a nation has the capacity and the resources to produce products locally, why should their businesses be undercut by unscrupulous and foreign corporate giants? Certainly, if a product cannot be produced locally, markets to import such products should be free and open. Business and labor, competing freely and on equitable terms is a worthy goal. But, I do not want my clothing produced in child sweat shops. I do not want most of my food imported from foreign nations that have no environmental regulations. I have no issue with bananas from Panama, we can’t grow them here. I have no problem with hand painted dishware that is reflective of a foreign culture. I have no problem with bamboo products from China. The point is, to me, globalization should not be just a new name for imperialism. It should be a system that allows nations to freely exchange products that are best produced by each nation under a truly free set of rules and regulations. Protectionism may not be all that bad after all and it just might bring home jobs that never should have left.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
There are many who are comparing the actions of President Franklin Roosevelt with those of President Obama regarding the handling of our economic depression. I use the word depression because if we are not there, we will be soon. The following is a brief summary of FDR’s actions:
“FDR declared a "banking holiday" to end the runs on the banks and created new federal programs administered by so-called Alphabet Agencies. For example, the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) stabilized farm prices and thus saved farms. The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) provided jobs to unemployed youths while improving the environment. The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) provided jobs and brought electricity to rural areas for the first time. The FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration) and the WPA ( Works Progress Administration) provided jobs to thousands of unemployed Americans in construction and arts projects across the country. The NRA (National Recovery Administration) sought to stabilize consumer goods prices through a series of codes. Through employment and price stabilization and by making the government an active partner with the American people, the New Deal jump-started the economy towards recovery (fdrlibrary.maris.edu).”
Many Republicans argue that FDR’s actions actually prolonged the depression in the 30’s, created a new era of ‘big government’ and stifled the ‘free’ economic market. Many on the right of the political economic spectrum also say that Obama will and even should fail because he is not focusing on the economy. Instead, he is wasting time dealing with such silly issues as healthcare and education reform, stimulating alternative energy production and being concerned with environmental issues.
Our bodies, life, politics, economy and society are holistic. You cannot separate the parts from the whole. If a person is ill, it is necessary to examine not only the immediate symptom, but all factors that contribute to the illness. A heart attack may be the result of a combination of diet and stress in one’s life. While you can ‘treat’ the immediate issue of the heart attack, if the other issues are not resolved, the likelihood is that the heart attack will occur again. Issues in politics and society are holistic. Poverty cannot be solved simply by giving people money. Concerns regarding family values, cultural traditions, employment history, education and even health come into play. Obviously, very few politicians get elected or are effective if they only deal with single issues and not the complete array of problems confronting our society.
One cannot solve our economic crisis simply by focusing on banks. We have already seen that to be true. We cannot solve the crisis by focusing on credit; that has been obvious. Those who say focus on the economy only are the same ones that had no problem with giving money to the banks and who also have big problems with new rules or regulations. After all, we do not want to disrupt the ‘free’ economy. I am not really sure what economy they refer to. If by free they mean let business do as they please, one cannot help but see that this very attitude created our current issues. Do they mean that business should be free to have their products produced in Chinese sweat shops? Do they mean that business should be allowed to produce crap that must be replaced soon after the purchase? Do they mean that business should be free to destroy the basic eco-fabric of the planet in order to keep profits and bonuses high? Do they mean free to charge usurious interest rates? Do they mean free to convince you that you need products that have no lasting value? By focusing on the economy do they mean to simply deal with the issues of huge corporations, at the expense of the small businessman?
In order to deal with our economic crisis, I think president Obama is right. Our economy is not AIG or CitiBank. A truly functioning economy is based upon an educated consumer. People must be healthy to be productive. We cannot continue to destroy the environment else we may have profit, but no world in which to spend it. Some would argue for the quick fix. This will not work. Our issues are to complex and too braid to think we can go back and do things the way they were done in the past. Our economic body must be addressed holistically. FDR saw this in the 1930’s. Was he totally correct? Maybe not. However, he saw that the depression required more than just fixing banks. Yes, we have to deal with energy, the environment, agriculture, education, healthcare and a total review of our economic rules and regulations if we are to have any chance of reviving our economy. If we do not do these things now, there may never be another chance in the future.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
While numbers are not current, total personal bankruptcies rose 29% in 2008 and business bankruptcies rose 41%. Chapter 7 bankruptcies rose 36%. The headlines are replete with job layoffs reaching record highs, downsizing, bailouts, and general economic chaos.
For the consumer facing personal economic collapse, the motto should be, “no harm, no foul.” Look, if the leading corporations and banks in the world cannot make ends meet, why should there be any expectation that consumers can keep their financial ship afloat? We all know that we, the consumer, are wasting billions of dollars by trying to save huge corporations and financial institutions. They are killing us with interest rates, foreclosures, and zero credit. These problems have been generated by corporate greed, ignorance and basic stupidity.
Yes, we must take on the responsibility of our actions. We allowed ourselves to be duped by mass marketing and our own sense of greed. However, fair is fair, at least it should be. The large corporations are taking what little we have and what do we get in return? Layoffs and no credit. Actually, we do not need or even want more credit, we want out of debt. Why should the wealthy few still make their millions while the consumer has a hard time feeding their families? Why should the few take more of our money while we struggle to make ends meet? Why must the corporations get all of the bailout money and the consumer get nothing?
They tell you not to file bankruptcy because it will hurt your credit. What credit? Give money to corporations and there is no problem. Suggest giving money to people and they say, “Oh, that won’t work.” This is all madness. We have forgiven debts of foreign nations, paid corporate debt and given our dollars to banks that use it to buy smaller banks. What would happen if the government said, “We will require that all consumer debt will be reduced by 50%?” What would you do with all of that extra money? That’s how you get the economy moving.
So, for all of you that are worried about going into bankruptcy, don’t. If it is good enough for Wall Street, there is nothing to be ashamed of. The so called brightest economic minds have no clue how to end this crisis. Trust me, clear your debt and watch the credit card offers inundate your mail box. Is this what we want? No. But, feel no shame, there is no foul in taking care of your families.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Divinity Rose is a person that everyone should get to know! Her slant on life is not just down to earth, it is earth itself. You can tell from her writing that she has had some hard knocks. But unlike many, those knocks made her strong and made her grow. She seems to have taken all that life has thrown at her and used them as opportunities to discover who she is, and who she is not. The lessons she offers to her readers are couched in humor that is sometimes raunchy, sometimes humorous, sometimes deadly serious, and always from a point of love and caring. She is an evolved being in the guise of human experience.
In her latest e-book, “They Said I was a boob......Or did they say nice boobs?” she takes a commonly used expression and turns into spiritual life lesson. She says in the e-book, “Being a boob does not really mean you're a screw up. We've just learned to apply the meaning
“screw up” to the phrase “being a boob”. The truth is that we're not screwing up. We're busy
forging ourselves. Sometimes, during exploration of what we want to become, we look like major boobs. We flail about, trying this and that, bouncing up and down, living through highs and lows, and every now and then, we poke someone in the eye.”
Divinity goes on to say, “I took a step back and realized that when people said “nice boobs”, that's what they meant, and that anything else attached to it was my own fears being projected onto the statement. Then I realized that people can only go off of what is visible to them. If you feel there is something more to you than what people see, you have to show it to them.” It takes a unique mind to find spiritual lessons in the everyday. When you get to know Divinity, you come to understand that she really lives the “everyday,” and finds meaning and value in the mundane, the crude and the vicissitudes of daily living. Her writing is an expression of hope and light in a rather “dulling” world. For Divinity, there are no “slings and arrows” that pierce her wit, her charm and her inner understanding of the true nature of being. Read her works, visit her web sites. Divinity definitely will show you a new way to look at the world!
Dreamer with an Ink Fetish, Showgirl of Soul
Check out her blogs:
Divinity Rising - News, Updates, weekly column from/about the universe of Divinity Rose
Diaries of a Godling - Poetry, videos, spiritual writings, updates on comic book and video series
Louisville Speak Easy - Hearts of Art - news, updates, contests, gigs, castings, listings, technology and promotion help/suggestions, and more to empower artists
Crazy World of Social Networking:
The link to purchase her mini e-book is