Explore this blog by clicking on the labels listed along the right-hand sidebar. There are lots of interesting stuff which you won't find on the home page
Seriously curious about me? Click on ' What sort of person am I?'

Saturday, September 17, 2011

America, the beautiful!

There was this front page article in my newspaper (The Telegraph) on September 12 titled ‘Osama gone, hunger gnaws’, discussing how poverty is now rampant in the world’s greatest country. The United States of America, with a population of about 311 million, has 46 million people living on food stamps – government handouts, being the only thing that keeps them from crime and/or beggary. My economist’s instinct assures me that there must be at least another 50 million who are only just somehow managing to hang on above the poverty line; the sort who sweep floors at Wal Mart and man the counters at Macdonald’s, who live in poky rented flats in crumbling inner cities and can never afford holidays, or to go to good hospitals when ill or send their children to college. This, in a country which boasts of the largest number of billionaires and celebrities, and which over the last decade has spent an estimated $2 trillion on the ‘war on terror’, besides at least another three quarters of a trillion in bailing out totally corrupt giant corporations which brought about the recession by recklessly piling up bad investments in a nationwide orgy of greed, and whose directors, proven failures if not also crooks, still continue to draw tens of millions in salaries and perks…

Meanwhile middle class America, used to ease and security for too long, refuses to work hard at downmarket jobs (which is one reason so many of them have been ‘Shanghai-ed’ or ‘Bangalore-ed’), while the rich (about a quarter million earn more than $1 million a year) are paying much less in taxes than they – or their fathers – did twenty years ago, even while the nation’s fiscal debt, now astronomical, is threatening economic catastrophe (or maybe a Chinese takeover). Want to check out these figures? Look up this article written by Warren Buffett, not only one of the richest men in the world, but one of the very few brave and honest billionaires I have ever known.

This nation was the brightest beacon of hope for much of mankind since the end of the 18th century (read the inscription on the Statue of Liberty here),  and great even two generations ago. I personally think the rot began in the late 1960s, though it only started becoming apparent when Dubya Bush took over the reins. Yet she is still big and influential enough to bring about a global disaster if and when she sinks, not merely because much of the rest of the world survives and dreams of progressing by exporting their stuff to her and learning all kinds of technical tricks from her, but because millions of ‘educated’ young people in the rest of the world – India in particular – cannot begin to imagine a world that is not led by the nose by the US of A, in everything from dress codes and ‘music’ to eateries to slang and divorce agreements. God save America – if only because it will still take the rest of the world a long time to grow up!


Debarshi said...

Respected Sir,

Warm regards.America started out to map its course for transformation from a 'financial' economy to a 'knowledge' economy,much earlier than the other countries of the globe.Somewhere down that line,their fame has proved to be their bane...because jobs created for the American people are being taken over by a population,which encompasses people from a diverse set of ethnicity.Skill-sets are not proving enough for the average American to secure a job;and to top it all,S&P's slashed credit rating brought investors to the brink of a selling frenzy...due to which,much money changed hands.Add to that fact another scenario-wherein China,by dint of its sheer perseverance in churning out assembly-line products,at extremely viable prices..is beating the US at its own game.Enron and other big corporations added to America's share of woes...along with its obsession with the fact that a few statesmen,armed with visions of world dominance military-power wise,could stem the rot slowly setting in at the edifices of the home of the free and the land of the brave.Ayn Rand's novel,"Atlas Shrugged" seems to have great relevance to the present context..as she was purported to have devised schematics to bring about a rejuvenation of the American economy.This would involve playing the market game following principles from the Game Theory developed by the eminent mathematician John Forbes Nash,Jr...and playing to one's ability and needs..not overplaying one's hand,or by anticipating the worst move possible by an economic opponent,in the world market.

Yours obediently,

Krishanu Sadhu said...

Better late than never : President Obama plans to increase tax rates for millionaires .


The removal of Bush era tax cuts would add up to $1.5 trillion over ten years , along with $580 billion reduction in medicare programs , and further savings of $1.1 trillion from the gradual end of Iraq and Afganistan war fundings.Mind boggling figures , and hopefully they will help in reducing the fiscal deficit , but by how much ? It's a total debt of ~$14 trillion we are talking about. It seems that the US people now have to pay a heavy price for Dubyaman's warmongering , and also partially for the reckless borrowing tendencies and over-speculation based financial instruments. So finally it does seem that many people in USA have been living beyond their means ,
when we hear of people living on food coupons , and the rise of homeless citizens and foreclosures. It's very ironic that the biggest proponents of capitalism are now facing the ugly side of the same.

Regards ,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Far too many of my readers, I guess, are America-worshippers, so they have been struck dumb. Ho ho ho!

Shilpi said...

Suvro da,

Thank you for writing this, and for the links. It's been something that's been bothering me for a good many years. Never even been able to pen down a short clear essay for even myself.

It has never made sense to me why the US has such a humongous level of poverty. I'm not particularly gifted when it comes to economics but even I know there is something wrong when even the calculation of that official poverty level has stayed pretty much constant since the 1960s (sometime after Johnson announced the 'war on poverty'), and it's based on the 'Thrifty Food plan' which takes count of only the food required for a family.

There are conservatives (the Heritage Foundation, for one) who insist that the US census reports are inflating figures but these conservatives report studies based off surveys which account for a sample size of 4000. They think they're being reasonable too when they say that food stamps and governmental aid must be included in calculating the poverty level.

Even public school education depends ultimately on the locality one lives in. One can sense the desperation even as one walks through some of those half-way decent neighbourhoods. And it's worst for those people who work at two or three jobs, and want to remain human, and just try to keep their heads above water praying that they don't fall ill or sick.

Recently I watched a short BBC clip where Forbes was asking for a tax-cut for the rich and simply got belligerent when the newscaster couldn't help but sardonically titter about his proposal. I've not read anything like Buffet's piece written by a billionaire - so thank you for providing that link.

Just the other day an international economist was trying to tell a crowd that the current US debt was not a bad thing nor was it that huge. The only thing that really mattered was that the US was in good standing ('it's good to be king' - that's what he said)...not one word about how long US would be perceived as 'king', how/why the recession came about or why the US was in this current crisis nor about middle-class spending mania nor about the CEOs being bailed out (such basic things of which even I know about) but some words about how clever China is, how the US is in a far better state as compared to Greece (!), and how governmental debts are normal (just like families when it suited the purpose but not when it didn't). I normally stay for the Q&A section to throw in a question or two in but this time I walked out.

I do think though that saying that Obama made 'compromise' his middle name is being harsh and quite untrue as well (he stuck to his healthcare plan, and pushed it through even when everybody said it was a miserable mistake), although I shouldn't say much because I am self-admittedly biased in his favour (he possesses a natural intelligence, sharpness, thoughtfulness and sensitivity that cannot be faked), and I didn't follow all of what he did and didn't do. But he didn't have it easy when he came in, and what sort of miracles were people expecting in one term when the rot had already come to the surface.

Better end this comment here for now although there is more rumbling in my head, and in the form of questions too. Some other time. And here's a rather interesting link below that I found today or yesterday -

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14978876 - given all that you've been writing here over the weeks. I'll not comment on it for now but I'm wondering about the comment made by Professor Gitlin especially.

'Ho ho ho'?! - That made me send this hibernating comment.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Something tremendous is perhaps about to happen. See this website: http://occupywallst.org/

I rarely say I am excited, but I can honestly say I am excited about the news that is likely to break from Wall Street, New York, USA, tomorrow, October 15. For a long time my kind of talk has been out of sync with the modish crowd, a voice crying in the wilderness. But every tide turns sometimes, even though one may not be fortunate to see it, nor where it will carry us...

Suvro Chatterjee said...

This is a relevant and heart-rending post: http://bit.ly/sr5dyy

Notice that it has been written by an American, and someone wise and elderly, who has seen it all. It just reminded me that history keeps on repeating itself, because we never learn from it.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

... and another one: http://bit.ly/b2TqkE

I know very few people read posts like these (or posts like mine, for that matter), but I shall persevere in supplying inputs, in the hope that some people do.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

and this one: http://bit.ly/rCF3iF

It is delightful to see how history does, sometimes, repeat itself almost exactly!