Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Shape of Things to Come -- a prose poem -- Part One

First, a brief look backward:
As far as the vast majority of US citizens are concerned, the real crisis came into being many years ago, back in the days of "downsizing" (haven't heard that word in a long time), followed by "outsourcing," NAFTA, and the development of a "new world order" based on the dubious benefits of "globalization." Rosy unemployment figures belied the fact that far too many were employed slinging hamburgers, delivering pizza, bagging groceries, etc., for little more than minimum wage. College graduates with Ph.D's were working as part time adjuncts for $2,000 per class or in some cases $18 an hour (I know because I taught such classes); accountants were being hired by H&R Block for $6.00 an hour (believe it or not -- I met one and he told me) and highly educated bookworms were being lured to Barnes & Noble for $7.00 an hour and an employee discount (I know because I briefly held such a job). Hardly any of these jobs came with any benefits whatsoever, and many people were hired as "independent contractors," meaning the company didn't have to pay its share of their Social Security and Medicare deductions, sticking the employee with a whopping 15% payroll tax over and above federal, state, local and sales taxes. Far too many were staying afloat only because they'd figured out how to "manage" their credit cards, by making only the minimum payment each month or "rolling over" from one card to the next when the balance on the first one got too high. What was clearly an unmitigated disaster for so many was hailed by those in power as a thriving, healthy "economy," forging ahead full speed and doing just great.

Now, a brief consideration of our present situation:
What's new, and important, as far as the average underpaid, overworked, overtaxed, unemployed or underemployed worker is concerned, is that the "economy" that did so well for so many of the hugely overpaid and ridiculously undertaxed "Masters of the Universe" for so many years is not simply in crisis, but spiraling out of control and into oblivion. For a great many of the privileged elite this is indeed a disaster, because, unless some dramatic action is taken very soon, they could lose large chunks of the billions they "earned" prior to the current collapse. (Never mind that this money was never really earned, because all such "profits" were based on manipulation if not theft from a system already built upon layer after layer of self-delusion and outright deceit.) But for the rest of us the new situation holds great promise. For the first time our plight is being recognized by the powers that be. For the first time, the high rollers all over the world are realizing that their fate is tied to ours. Not because what's good for Wall St. is also good for Main St., as Henry Paulson has so strenuously argued. But because the working and middle class people so ignored and even despised for so many years are suddenly, lo and behold, being recognized as the all important "consumers" whose financial well being is essential for the consumption of all the many products that absolutely positively MUST be consumed, in mass quantities, Conehead style, if that all important "economy" is to be preserved, so the billionaires can go back to accumulating even more billions, as in the past.

So the powers that be have devised an interesting "plan." Toss the beggars a bone in the form of a handout here and there, a temporary job (indeed the word "temporary" is one of the hallmarks of the plan) and some piddling tax breaks, in the hope that they'll start spending again, at least until the "economy" can get back on its feet, the status quo re-instituted, with the power elite once more "earning" big money based on the same old Ponzi schemes.
The only problem is . . .

Whew. Maybe it's time for another chorus of Guantanamera:

(This version is sung by its original composer, Joseito Fernandez.)

(to be continued)

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