The US Calamities: There Are Solutions
EDITORIAL, 21 Oct 2013
#296 | Johan Galtung, 21 Oct 2013 - TRANSCEND Media Service
Manassas, VA, USA
Political terrorism failed. The House Republicans used voting in one US chamber to put millions of people inside and outside the US at livelihood risk for their own political goals. And made the mistake of most terrorists, non-state or state: when people suffer they will join us, against our enemy; to find out that people turn against the terrorists instead. And they were not a small group of Tea Party extremists but a clear majority of the House Republicans: 144 voted NO in the end, only 87 YES. Obama has himself to thank for the general House Republican majority; having betrayed most groups voting for him in 2008 he was punished in the 2010 mid-term elections. Like the Republicans will be in 2014 for their political terrorism.
The budget deal postponed the government shutdown to Jan 15, 2014 and the US default to Feb 7; solving nothing. Worse, there was much reporting but few ideas floating in the media. Worse still, there was no massive million “Stop this Nonsense” March on Congress, but widespread apathy. Worst: the most clearly outspoken groups were veterans and reserve officers (1.1 million strong); indicative of a major threat should their Nov 1 paychecks not arrive.
The two blocs hardly talk, but treat each other like they treat the Taliban; holier than thou’ism, against the instruments of Satan. The constitutionalism of the powers that be is legitimate. But terrorists are punished by not being listened to, bad when the Republicans have arguments. The Health Care Act may not be affordable, there may be a coverage gap, etc.; work remains to be done. Deeper still: solidarity with the disadvantaged is a legitimate goal, but there is also value to the idea of everyone fending for himself. Could they be combined?
There are solutions for a country as resourceful as the USA.
The government shutdown is about the federal budget deficit. Do as households do: decrease the expenditure, increase the income.
Three major parts of the federal budget are loan interest, the military, and Social Security-Medicare-Medicaid; all enormous.
How about USA making a deal with the Chinese and the Russians? The three giants are in a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) vs SCO(Shanghai Cooperation Organization) arms race; a joint military terrorism putting humanity at risk. 50 Percent Chinese debt forgiveness against 50 percent US reduction of the most offensive military components– the 800 bases around the world–over 5-10 years? Accompanied by a similar multilateral and balanced reduction in offensive arms in all three, building on the Russian chemical arms momentum? Two huge flies with one huge stroke? Even small signals would have a major impact.
Social Security: let everybody at older age who wants to work do so, no dramatic cut, gradual reduction of work-income and gradual increase of social security. More tax revenue, less expenditure.
Medicare-Medicaid: create a more healthy population. Decrease in smoking, mainly thanks to USA, was a great step forward. Next in line: sodas. Selling and serving sodas should become as illegitimate as smoking in public; much more to gain than from outlawing marijuana. The CDCs (Centers for Disease Control) are good at contagious diseases; are they good at reducing stress as well? Or toxic pollution? Preventing the elderly from falling, at home, and in public space? Enormous savings to be made.
The debt ceiling is a deeper problem, affecting an economy that does not produce a surplus sufficient to run a modern society with acceptable livelihood for all its citizens. A sixth or even a fifth of the population lives in misery, not only in the poverty of the bottom 70 percent. A source of much new income, at the individual, family, local community, state and the federal levels. Politically difficult, but economically simple: lift the bottom up. Identify the poorest local communities; give short term credit to cooperatives for growing and selling cheap, organic food, building affordable housing and simple polyclinics for the common diseases. Employing the neediest.
Make people fend for themselves rather than depend on taxation. Like any small business, they need some initial credit, unlike small businesses they need the protection of cooperative production and consumption. Learn from Spain; Mondragon, Marinaleda. The experience is positive: a small investment in people marginalized by mainstream economy, and they (re-)enter and become consumers and producers. Reduce suffering, decrease inequality, and make the real economy grow; three huge flies with another huge stroke. Is the USA up to it?
The US economy is strong on goods–with decreasing unit costs due to high resource-labor-capital-technical-administration efficiency–but weak on services, with skyrocketing costs in education, health and old age care. Credits are needed, but not from money banks: from time banks with people exchanging services on a one hour = one hour basis.
The US real economy is today weak relative to Wall Street finance economy–and Washington bailouts rather than stimuli–using money to make more money, directly, not via cumbersome investments–in seconds, not in years–at tremendous risk; with more 2008 lining up. Stop it.
Remedy No. 1: The 5, 6 financial behemoths are too big to use. Stop feeding them money is like stop serving alcohol to an alcoholic. Let thousands local saving banks grow for people to put their savings; without the risk that they will be used for betting, but for local investment.
Remedy No. 2: A much overdue 1 percent sales tax on the stock exchange.
Remedy No. 3: Outlaw money-traffic, like drug- and people-traffic.
However, no such items on the table by January-February, only small-scale budget bickering. And the Chinese approach comes up: de-americanize the world economy. A “world reserve currency” from one country only is madness anyhow; from a country with cyclical shutdowns and ceilings is insanity. Strong leadership has to emerge from the White House–by decree?–and the Congress, but above all from people, the local level, local banks and businesses. The future is above all in their hands.
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
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