Under the ruling thumb of economic charlatans

Whether to pay the price for our “exceptionalism,” or just a malediction, we in the United States seem to be condemned by our own government to live under a constant lie.

In 2002, it was Charlatan Bush with his political lie, the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which allowed him to instigate fear and get his way, in restricting freedoms, waging wars, and raiding the poor peoples’ pockets. Now it is Charlatan Obama with his economic lie that the economy is improving, that there’s no need to worry; that there are no loose ends. And that brings me to a few general questions that I feel we in America should be asking . . . about ourselves.

Why must we pretend to be what we are not? Why are we claiming to have a government of the people via elected representatives (republicanism) when we clearly know that it is a mirage at best, and a lie at worst? Why are we so apathetic to the problems that we have created for ourselves, burying our head in the sand, instead of trying to solve them? Is it because we are ignorant and lazy, conforming to the rule of the charlatans, made possible by our ever growing obesity in ignorance?

Politics and economics—as they interlock in the US—aren’t just siblings, or twins, or even identical twins; they are a duality in one body, an incestuous, un-aborted creature with two heads. Politics and economics symbiotically serve each other so that the creature can exist and be kept alive.

Washington, no matter whether run by Democrats or Republicans, keeps lying to the American people; “for their own good” is probably our leaders’ rationalization, while the reason is simply the survival of the creature: capitalism; or a free enterprise system which many of us would argue is neither free nor enterprising but a constant invitation to greed and fraud. Things are slowly getting better, we are being told, and they use the mild-mannered Chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, just as they did in the past with his predecessor, the august un-wizard, Alan Greenspan.

No, the economy has not been fixed. All that has been done by the advocates of predatory capitalism is to postpone the cataclysm for another year or two. The problems remain unresolved. In the past, problems of this nature—but definitely not of this magnitude—were swept under the rug to slowly go away via overall economic growth. But mature economies, such as the United States, can only grow at a fraction of what would be required to erase the trillions of dollars “unaccounted for” as very real liabilities in the phony system we have, an amount that could double, even triple, the existing $14 trillion national debt. We, in the US, have too many “too big to fail” institutions, not just Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. There are trillions of dollars of worthless (or, worth-much-less) paper created—derivatives and their siblings—which still need to land in the runway of devaluation. There are too many banks which are too big to be properly analyzed, their huge concentration of assets questionable as to their worth. There are too many government guarantees—Federal, State and Local—that represent nothing but an obscene specter ready to impoverish future generations. There are too many inadequately financed pension plans.

Yet, we continue to place our trust in a Fed which marches the economy from one bubble to the next: from the Internet bubble, to the housing bubble, to what is likely to be the commodities bubble . . . now waiting in the wings.

The super-easy monetary policy, one which has kept the interest rate at zero or close to zero for way, way too long, hurting for the most part those who least deserve to be hurt, the modest savers, is paving the way for this next, and probably last, bubble intended to keep the patient alive until the very last second in which rigor mortis sets in. .

Meantime, we are being told the biggest lie of them all: that inflation is small to non-existent. During the last 33 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been “made” to change the “basket of goods and services” from which inflation is measured 24 (24!!!) times . . . not to improve accuracy in the results, but to yield results found to be “politically necessary.” Our needs and purchasing preferences vary from household to household, but in general we can peg two-thirds of the population having little or no discretionary income; for them inflation is probably running at an annual rate of between 12 and 15 percent (my rough calculations for the past 16 months). Government and businesses, by not providing promised “accurate and fair” cost of living adjustments are saving upwards of $200 billion a year (my own estimate) much of which is nothing but a tax on those with the smallest incomes, mostly retirees.

A month ago, an acquaintance that is in line management at one of the local stores of a major regional department store chain in the Pacific Northwest, told me of an impending overhaul in prices in the food department that very night. That evening I priced what I viewed as 20 significant staple food products at the store. To my amazement, the next day I found the price increase in those items ranging from 5 to 35 percent, with 11 percent probably close to the average. In several cases, reflecting the predatory way in which we do business in America, huge price increases were disguised by juggling numbers, such as in bread (3 French-rolls for $1 were re-priced as 2 for 88 cents, a 32 percent increase). For most Americans, many of the things that are in the basket of goods and services have little significance in their consumption habits, and if their prices stay the same, or even decrease . . . it is totally irrelevant. Computers, iPads, electronic games . . . cannot be eaten, nor do they keep us warm or help us fill the gas tank to go to work. Americans are being insulted when told that a rampant 12–15 percent rate of inflation is measuring as less than 2 percent. A great way to finance wars . . . on the backs of the retired!

For a long, long time Americans have been governed by charlatans, and nothing is changing in this land where instead of democracy (rule by the people) we practice agurtecracy (rule by the charlatans); Barack Obama as our current Charlatan-In-Chief.

© 2011 Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm. Contact him at ben@tanosborn.com.

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