The current global economic cataclysm is not an anomaly. It is the 11th major financial disaster visited on the poor and working class by U.S. capitalism: Panic of 1785–1788, Panic of 1792, Panic of 1819–1822, Panic of 1837–1843, Panic of 1857–1861, Great Depression or Panic of 1873–1878, Panic of 1893–1897, Panic of 1907, Great Depression 1929–1941, Recession of the mid 1970s and now the Neoliberal Depression of 2008-? On average every 21 years U.S. capitalism provides the people with the gift of personal and financial disaster for many and severe hardship for many more.
Until recently the term ‘Great Recession’ has been used by many, including myself, to describe our current plight. Economic recession is generally defined as at least two consecutive quarters of decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By this measure the recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. That brings us to the old story that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, a depression is when you lose yours. If the recession ended almost two years ago and conditions for the majority of Americans have not improved since then and no one is expecting or predicting substantial improvement for several more years, how can we not use the term depression?
A depression is a severe and prolonged downturn in the economy. Prices may fall, reducing purchasing power. There tends to be high unemployment, lower productivity, shrinking wages, and general economic pessimism.
- The New York Times reported in Nov 2010 that home prices had fallen 28.6 percent nationally since 2006. 
- CNNMoney.com reported in Nov 2009 that 23 percent of home mortgages were underwater (homeowners owed more on their home than it worth). The Feb 2011 figure is now 27 percent of U.S. home mortgages underwater 
- European Union Times reported real unemployment in the U.S. in Feb 2011 at 22.1 percent (compiled by economist John Williams “Shadow Government Statistics” includes long term unemployed and part timers who seek full time work) 
The reason that the recession, by definition, ended and the depression continues is that financial institutions and banks responsible for the economic collapse were given $9 trillion in secret emergency Federal Reserve loans  in addition to the $700 billion bailout voted by Congress to recover and further prosper. Meanwhile, the American people have been left to fend for themselves.
Economists who support U.S. capitalism will give you an unintelligible definition for neoliberal globalization. I have a simple one: free trade, free markets, no regulations and tax cuts for the wealthy. These policies, originally championed by Ronald Reagan in the U.S. and Margaret Thatcher in Britain, have led us to our present situation.
If there was a political debate over these policies, it might be possible to change them. But there is no debate of substance between the Democratic and Republican Parties on these matters. The Democratic Party, with a base of voters opposed to many neoliberal absolutes, must make a show of opposing these policies. That’s all it is though, a pretense. When push comes to shove the Democrats in the White House and Congress vote to support neoliberal policies, while the Republicans in the White House and Congress make no pretense of not eagerly supporting all of the above.
Obama, was elected on the promise of change. Yet, he failed to honor campaign promises to renegotiate NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and other free trade agreements. He is a strong supporter of our free market system that requires infinite growth to continue. Infinite growth on a finite planet is an environmentally unsustainable concept. While giving lip service to regulation, his Financial Reform Law is basically a toothless vehicle that incredibly has not a single provision to regulate the financial derivative market that was largely responsible for the present depression. Again, he was a great champion of letting the Bush tax cuts expire, until capitulating under pressure and enthusiastically signing the bill to continue them.
It’s fair to criticize Obama for supporting neoliberal policies, because he consistently does. But it must be done in the context that almost all members of our two corporate political parties support neoliberal policies. The two notable exceptions are Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) who caucuses with the Democratic Party. That is two votes out of 535 in Congress that can be counted on to steadfastly oppose the transnational corporate dominance of neoliberalism. This demonstrates the futility of attempting to reform neoliberalism from within our corrupt money-driven, two-party monopoly political system.
Neoliberalism is corporate control of politics, regulations, trade policy, environmental policy, tax policy etc: in short corporate control of society. The whole concept of neoliberalism is that it is a world system and the huge transnational corporations will not be satisfied until it has penetrated every corner of the globe. That’s why Castro in Cuba, Chavez in Venezuela and Ahmadinejad in Iran are regularly vilified in the Western press. Because they fail to march to the beat of the neoliberal drum and support social programs for their people instead of bottom line profits for transnational corporations.
Traditional colonialism involved the dominant state setting up colonies in the satellite states; i.e. British colonies in Indian, China and across the globe. The neoliberal model calls for codifying debt in the developing world to transnational financial institutions in return for allowing the satellite states to participate in international trade. It calls for their complete subservience to the World Bank, World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund. It places the huge transnational corporations above the nation states in the pecking order and leaves the people completely defenseless against their oligarchic power and wealth.
The neoliberal model allows transnational wealth to buy up the developing world’s subsistence farmland, displace the peasants to enclave manufacturing zones, while replanting the fields with cash crops for export. The displaced peasants are then put to work in sweatshop conditions, at near slave labor wages, producing goods that just a few years ago resulted in living wage jobs in Western countries. The goods are then exported duty free to the developed world where the working class workers go further and further in debt buying them with ever more minute incomes. While this misery continues for the vast majority of society, the wealthy financial class laughs all the way to the bank. This is the New World Order of Neoliberal Corporate Dominance!
The U.S. monopoly two-party political system is so beholden to money that reform within the system is an impossibility. The American people know that something is drastically wrong, but after a lifetime of propaganda and disinformation from the wealthy elite capitalist class and its corporate media, many are woefully in the dark about the nature of the problem.
What can we do? Boycott corporate political parties and their elections, tune out corporate media, tune in alternative media that focuses on social and economic justice, form and build affinity groups with others of like mind and work to educate your neighbors. Some may to cling to the belief that the system can be reformed through voting. As one who had voted in every election until the 2010 midterm, it would be hypocritical of me to ask that everyone boycott elections just because that is where my reasoning has led me. If you feel that you must continue to vote for the lesser evil, please do so. But also support and be supported by your like-minded friends. Recruit others to your group and stay informed.
1. “Home Prices Falling at a Faster Rate, New Report Shows,” New York Times
2. “30 percent of mortgages underwater“ CNNMoney.com
3. “Real U.S. unemployment rate may be 22.1 percent for February,” EUTimes.com
4. “Federal Reserve made $9 trillion in emergency overnight loans“ CNNMoney.com
Nick Egnatz is a Vietnam veteran. He has been actively protesting our government’s crimes of empire in both person and print for some years now and was named “Citizen of the Year” for Northwest Indiana in 2006 for his peace activism by the National Association of Social Workers. Contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.