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Here’s Hoping for a Chili Palmer for America

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Let’s play make believe:

Close your eyes…and envisage the most depraved depictions of debtors and gambling addicts you see paraded around in movies and on television. Or maybe just picture people you know like such from everyday life. Imagine what their lenders, or bookies, or loan sharks are like. Realize that this new group is usually as depraved and desperate as their counterparts….

2008 marked a significant year in the history of American finances. These Baby-boomers that my generation always hears about – the generation that’s responsible for a large majority of the people consuming these words – have begun to collect what every worker loathes to pay: Social Security. My contemporaries especially loathe the payment of Social Security because of the fact that the overall fund is depleting faster than a gambler’s cash at a casino.

If you’re like me, you immediately think of a lockbox when the topic of Social Security’s mentioned. You follow me…Al Gore, and his zany idea to keep the Social-Security money that America spends faster than it collects in a lockbox, which would in turn be used strictly for Social Security. Of course this didn’t happen, but it made for great late-night comedy fodder.

Now, before you accuse me of jumping on the Old Gore Wagon, it should be noted that the habit of using Social Security monies to provide for other government spending started with another Democrat, Lyndon Johnson. LBJ started the insidious trend of withdrawing money from Social Security and replacing it with ignored IOU’s. Ironically, LBJ did this to prevent the increase of taxes to pay for another unpopular-American war, the Vietnam War.

But why do I mention these depressing subjects? Well, I mention them for a depressing reason: America iss flat broke and is buried in debt. There’s not really a way to deny it. The media’s spokespeople have begun to cluster around the carcass like the vultures they are, but they largely fail to present the ramifications of the issue. Instead, it’s treated as another facile problem that’s fit in between commercials.

We hear that America is something like $9 trillion in debt, which is an incomprehensible number for anyone. It’s difficult enough to navigate through the fine-print and obligations that come with credit-card purchases, let alone the percentage of interest that’s involved with that ungodly sum. And, now, we have to somehow prepare to provide for 78 million people that’ll be retiring over the next 35 years. Meanwhile, oil’s over $100 a barrel, people are having their homes foreclosed on across the country, the country owns a $6 trillion trade deficit, and the dreaded ‘R’ word’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

Has anyone else reached the conclusion that no amount of tape can fix the economic conundrum we face? Does anyone want to place wagers on when America will reach third-world status?

Please, believe me…I don’t wish for this to come true. I can’t understand why anyone would root for this country to fail. And I absolutely don’t wish for it to do so. But facts tend to have a compelling way of tilting arguments.

The government has literally manifested the compulsions of the typical American consumer. It keeps spending and spending, placing all the purchases on credit, and believing that everything will work itself out painlessly in the end. Debt, and the knowledge of owing so-much amount of money, is inconsequential, because it lacks the immediate sting that’s found in the rest of life’s plunders and mistakes.

So now then, let’s switch from playing make believe to performing latent observations. The beast that is Iraq costs billions of dollars every month, and who knows when the conflict will stop. Some analysts predict that the war will eventually cost the American people well over a trillion dollars. Looking beyond the indeterminable cost of lost lives and the fighting, the war in Iraq does nothing else for America except to add further debt, pecuniary commitment, and dead Americans. (My oldest brother’s about to embark on his third tour to Iraq; the war is a little personal.)

Sticking to situations that involve the current administration, reports about Bush’s visit to Saudi Arabia on network news have been snuck in between campaign happenings. He’s encouraged the Saudis to increase oil production, thus eventually decreasing the cost of oil. The president openly expressed his support for the U.S.’s reliance on oil to spur the economy.

I know what you’re thinking: Bush’s reign ends in almost one year. Our reliance on oil will cease to be very soon. But once again, facts cast a large ominous shadow on the argument. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest investors in the American economy (ranking along with the other titans, Israel and China), as well as the largest provider of oil to the world. America is not going to make a drastic reversal on its energy policy anytime soon. I hate to break the news to people. If it were to happen, the steps would’ve been taken long ago. The data and information that is available to the public today has always been accessible to the government, which means that it has willfully ignored it. This isn’t a partisan issue but rather a money issue. The bottom line is that the trend of further bankrupting this country with idiotic policies looks to continue.

Such policies, which rely on sucking the money out the working and middle classes, are clearly responsible for the state of our nation’s finances. Take the mortgage crisis for example. The largest banks in America placed the same bet that has made the fortune of every credit card company in the country, only they did it in grander fashion. They accepted massive amounts of debt from people that never had any money, and, in all likelihood, never would. Is it that big of a surprise then that these people were unable to pay their exorbitant house notes? I mention this because these banks (Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, UBS) have to rely on investors from Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait and Korea etc., to keep their ships afloat.

Does anyone really think that the American government is going to make drastic reversals of policy and turn its back on its investors and financial allies?

Look at one of America’s closest economic allies and investors: China. China is a respectable ally, putting aside the fact that it’s a Communist country that once instituted a law on how many children were permissible per family. (Also, the country will mysteriously not release its poverty statistics.) Speaking strictly economically though, the country is another commodity to which America is uncomfortably handcuffed. The American trade deficit in 2007 for Chinese imports was over $237 billion, up $5 billion from 2006. This all healthily adds to the overall trade deficit that America enjoys with its assorted investors.

The mouthpieces of the trade industries swear that these policies benefit the nation. They provide American jobs from foreign investors in the country, never mind the innumerable American jobs that are sent to these nations. Why? Because it’s cheaper to import their goods then manufacture them here in America. This is why the country’s become complacent with upholding a service economy. We can barely produce any of the sustainable items which are absolutely necessary for America. But we can sure tell you the balance of your last credit card statement…as long as another country won’t do it cheaper.

Luckily, 2008 is an even year, which means elections. Even luckier, it means presidential elections. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, each candidate enthusiastically presents their platform for whatever issue is reported most in the media for the week. This week the economy has gotten a lot of lip-service, and, in return, the candidates have responded by offering economic stimulus packages for the country that throw around numbers like used-cars salesmen.

Each candidate offers so many billions of dollars in support, and, if I’m not mistaken, I believe Obama’s plan is the most forgiving. It offers an immediate $90 billion buyout for the workers and senior citizens of America, with another $30 billion allotted to repairing the budget. The actual details of the plan involve each American worker and senior citizen receiving a $250 check, with another $250 check to follow, if the economy worsens.

Something about this sounds familiar…oh, I know: Bush’s 2001 tax cuts that gave middle-class families a $500 rebate.

Not one that likes to be shown up, Bush has unveiled his plan for the economy, which calls for taxpayers to receive anywhere from $300-$800 rebates and more tax breaks for corporations. The plan that is meant to be “a shot in the arm” for the economy is worth $145 billion. Of course, the idea is for Americans to spend cash and put money into the economy. I think people will be more apt to save any extra money they get their hands on right, not spend it frivolously.

Candidates like Hill, John Boy, Jack, Barack, and Mikey have no problem with shifting more costs over to the government and American people in the forms of universal-health care and persistent war. Most of the candidates have actually adopted a Robin Hood caricature, vowing to rob from the rich and give to the poor (in the form of tax cuts). They valiantly wish for us to forget that they have in fact been stealing from the poor and giving to the rich during their entire tenures as politicians. How disconcerting is the knowledge that Clinton and Edwards supported the policies that led to America’s current bankruptcy law?

The worse thing about this situation is that the American people are being treated like children. We’re offered superficial solutions like immediate cash-in-hand and free all-encompassing care from the government (which is completely unrealistic), and we’re expected to accept them as bona fide panaceas; it seems similar to the current practice of paying Sunnis and Shiites $10 a day in Iraq to not kill American soldiers. The people responsible for the mess are terrified to tell us the truth, because they fear Americans might want another 1776.

One last thing. Say you owed $12,000 on a credit card, which you only pay the premium on every month. Now, would it make sense if someone were to tell you they were going to give you $1,000 in cash, but eventually a $1,000 would be added to your overall debt?

The presidential candidates and most people in the government believe this makes sense. They don’t believe in raising taxes, unless you’re extremely rich (which will only happen when hell freezes over). They want to give out more money that is simply not there. They don’t want to realistically tackle the problems inherent the nation’s finances and the policies that cause them. Instead, they smile, nod their heads and emptily assure the future solvency of America.

So, how do you picture America’s bookies now?

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About Zack Williams