Saturday, April 02, 2011

The unbearable weight of being

It's been a heavy week, both on the home front and in the world. And since I don't really want to get into my personal woes, I'll focus on the news.

After reading about the U.N. workers who were killed in response to a Florida Koran burning, I felt such an urge to succumb to isolationism: bring all the troops home, forget globalization, and erect a 30' wall at the U.S. border.

But, alas, things aren't so great in North America either. Earlier in the week I wrote this email to a couple of friends:
In my sociology class in Las Vegas, we discussed how ridiculously low the official poverty line is in America. A single person is considered to be living below the poverty line if they are making less than roughly $10,000/year.

This [New York Times] article looks at how much people really need to make in order to have a minimum level of economic survey (their figure is closer to $30,000/year for a single person).

Now consider the fact that the most recent statistics show that about 14% of Americans live below the "official" poverty line. Meanwhile, the top one percent hold forty percent of the country's wealth.
And I don't know how President Obama can justify it when General Electric pays no taxes, but I find it scandalous that GE's CEO Jeff Immelt heads Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

(On the other hand, look at the Oval Office alternatives. What has our nation come to when the likes of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann get air time as potential GOP presidential candidates?)

I HAD BEGUN TO THINK that we weren't really capable of dealing with climate change, but maybe we could at least lessen the problem with better nuclear technology. But watching the Fukushima mess in Japan is a reminder that we humans are mostly incapable of escaping the blinders we wear. We just have a really hard time dealing with the unknown unknowns as Andrew Revkin discusses here.

AND FINALLY: on the way to work earlier this week, I tuned in to Morning Edition midway through an interview about the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Listening to the guest speak, I made the assumption that he fit into a particular pigeon hole, namely the "liberal commentator." I took what he was saying with a hefty grain of salt until I learned that he was actually Neil Barofsky, the Inspector General for TARP.

So while news this week that the government actually made money on its TARP loans to the banks is good, we can't forget all of the other ways that the program failed to meet its objectives (for example, the utter failure to reduce the scale of the foreclosure debacle).

You can read Mr. Barofsky's op-ed piece in the Times here or listen to his NPR interview here.

It all circles back around... in a time of financial crisis, we took the best care of the people who needed the least assistance. Instead of simply stabilizing the banking system, we sent the perpetrators home with 100 cents on the dollar and big bonuses. The Republicans want to cut-cut-cut the spending that affects most folks but keep the huge tax breaks for GE and the rich.

And the world is so small now that when an idiot in Florida burns a book, people on the other side of the globe die for it. Go figure.

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Blogger TomS said...

Americans remain willfully misinformed, and it it is not in any rich politician's best interests that its electorate become educated.

6:08 AM  

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