Death of a Thousand Cuts

It has been painful watching the USA die a slow death, self-inflicted at that. The latest natural disaster only adds to a growing list of injuries that do not appear recoverable. We have had the 9-11 catastrophe, the loss of parts of New Orleans to Katrina, the tornados this year, flooding, now Irene. And the spectacle of the National Guard and other emergency services trying to do their job having been stripped of vital equipment for the senseless wars abroad. And the layoffs and funding cuts flowing from Washington and the states as they respond to declining revenues and the cost of an ever-growing bureaucracy. The total paralysis of the government to do anything sensible to either stem the senseless wars or help the growing body of unemployed is pathetic. And now that the space shuttle has been shut down there is the prospect of the space station being abandoned because there is no reliable way of supplying it or getting its crew up or down. So the country is slowly collapsing, unable to respond to the issues at hand or work towards a future that is other than bleak.

I read today that the latest trick in Washington is to threaten to block aid to the disaster areas unless unrelated cuts are made elsewhere. Seems the advocate of this approach voted against it when it was suggested for his state but it is ok to do to others. I wonder if the Romans suffered the same sorts of insanity before their civilization broke down? Is the line not ‘those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad’?

But in many areas there is a small group of no doubt well connected people who are getting very rich from servicing the needs of the government. The tales of billions lavished on projects unwanted in the war-ravaged areas where there is little to show except the memory of large expenditures. Where did the money go some naively ask? And yet more and more services are being privatized in the name of reducing costs. But what the public gets is less accountability and higher costs.

And there is no end of agencies being created with even more highly paid managers – Homeland Security (Hopeless Insecurity?) has spent over a trillion dollars since its inception, spending wildly on things to make us all ‘safe’ with no risk analysis or effectiveness measures. Meanwhile travel and commerce becomes increasingly paralyzed and grandmothers get cavity searches at border crossings. Problem with all these watch lists is that until someone does something bad the likelihood of them being on a list is probably nill – think Timothy McVeh or the 9-11 hijackers. We are good at reacting to last threat but probably still blind to the next. And what is even better is that the traditional protections against unwarranted search and seizure or privacy for that matter have been swept away.

Meanwhile outsourcing of jobs continues unabated – an interesting mechanism that. The domestic employees are laid off, the job goes to some third world country where the wages are much smaller. Profits for the company increase due to the lower wage component. The laid off employees go on public assistance if they are not lucky enough to get a service job flipping burgers or washing floors – so their social costs are picked up by society. But since they are making much less, if anything, their ability to consume diminishes over time. We have in one swell foop pushed the society further into poverty and made public the costs while privatizing the profits – take the money and run, tomorrow can take care of itself… Problem is that unless someone actually produced something there is no money available to consume anything, even the low cost goods produced by someone else.

There is much more to be said but I am too depressed to continue for now. I weep for the lost promise of the USA and how short term, short sighted interests living in a fantasy world of their own making are wrecking it.

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