Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Hijacking of National Economies by Neo-Liberalism

Suicide is a key indicator as to how well a nation's economy is doing and where it is distressed, kind of like the proverbial canary in a mine. Suicide has been particularly endemic among farmers worldwide since 1980. In England, 719 farmers died from suicide in England and Wales between 1981 and 1993, a period in which the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher controlled the government. In the United States, a similar pattern was evidenced. The National Farm Medicine Center, conducted a study over a nine year in the 1980's, a particularly stressful time for farmers, with record indebtedness, unstable prices, declining land values and drought, causing thousands of foreclosures and bankruptcies. The study reported that 913 male farmers killed themselves during this period in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, a rate twice the national norm. In a follow-up study for the years 1996-2005, the NFMC failed to delineate suicides among its list of farm fatalities. Wonder why?

Globally, farmer suicides have been worst in India. In November 2008, the Indian government released statistics revealing that 166,304 farmers committed suicide since 1998, to the point that a suicide occurs every 30 minutes each day. Why this is happening is even more interesting. In a country where the vast majority of people live on less than 50 cents a day, journalist Palagummi Sainath says the rise in suicides stems from a system that rewards growth by large corporations over the welfare of the poor. “Governments care about one thing and only one thing: growth. They don’t care about the composition of that growth." Of the 53 Indian billionaires, 10 are in the top 100 billionaries in the world as ranked by Forbes Magazine.

In truth, the concept of growth in global capitalism is not about "real growth" among all segments of the populations, but rather the reallocation of a nation's tax revenues into more narrowly defined economic sectors. In other words, among the wealthy, growth refers to capital accumulation for themselves. This "growth" is leached from the nation's treasury where tax revenues are reallocated for the development of enterprises controlled by private corporations and the economic elite, rather than private citizens, such as farmers, working people, and the poor. This is a worldwide phenomenon related to the expansion of "supply-side economics" or neo-liberalism, where the US government and its proxies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, was used to undermine social stability, beginning with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980's. The scoreboard is managed by Forbes Magazine which started its listing of the world's richest people during this same time period in order to incentivize the hijacking of national economies by political and economic elites in order to get their names on the list, causing economic collapses in Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea, followed by Argentina, and Chile to name just a few.

The hijacking of the US economy, however, is more insidious and premeditated by a conservative agenda that has as its goal a coup d'etat that only the center-right of the population are still disbelieving. The current crisis only underscores the lack of a true democracy in US society. The gross tax cuts created the revenues for the wealthy that were used to hijack the media, the financial services industry, the Supreme Court, Congress, and the military industrial complex, are now deep and malignant and will require a push-back that is greater than the forces they represent. To do this, will require democrats and progressives to develop a more militant coalition.