The Dogs of Growth

SOURCE: David Ward ( SUBHEAD: We passed where all had access to economic prosperity, in our zero-sum world gains by a few are losses to the many. By Steve Ludlum on 11 September 2011 for Economic Undertow - ( Image above: Hawaiian fern workshoppers pose in front of the CCC Camp at Koke'e State Park, Kauai. From ( Hard to predict the future, harder still to observe directly what is taking place in plain sight. On Thursday night, Americans could watch the sad spectacle of President begging the industrial elite to provide a job or two for some lucky winners.

… so that the management can claim a few months from now to have created millions of new jobs.

Why doesn’t the government simply create the jobs and leave off the begging? The begging does not build confidence in the government’s ability to solve problems which undermines the economy.

When FDR took office, he immediately commenced a massive revitalization of the nation’s economy. In response to the depression that hung over the nation in the early 1930s, President Roosevelt created many programs designed to put Americans back to work.

Roosevelt was not interested in the dole. He was was determined, rather, to preserve the pride of American workers in their own ability to earn a living, so he concentrated on creating jobs.

In his first 100 days in office, President Roosevelt approved several measures as part of his “New Deal,” including the Emergency Conservation Work Act (ECW), better known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). With that action, he brought together the nation’s young men and the land in an effort to save them both. Roosevelt proposed to recruit thousands of unemployed young men, enlist them in a peacetime army, and send them to battle the erosion and destruction of the nation’s natural resources. More than any other New Deal agency, the CCC is considered to be an extension of Roosevelt’s personal philosophy.

The speed with which the plan moved through proposal, authorization, implementation, and operation was certainly a miracle of cooperation among all the agencies and branches of the federal government. From FDR’s inauguration on March 4, 1933, to the induction of the first CCC enrollee, only 37 days had elapsed.

Revitalization and reforestation

The CCC, also known as Roosevelt’s Tree Army, was credited with renewing the nation’s decimated forests by planting an estimated three billion trees from 1933 to 1942. This was crucial, especially in states affected by the Dust Bowl, where reforestation was necessary to break the wind, hold water in the soil, and hold the soil in place. So far reaching was the CCC’s reforestation program that it was responsible for more than half the reforestation, public and private, accomplish in the nation’s history.

Heaven forbid that the leadership would reach back into the past and adopt a strategy that actually worked and was popular! It isn’t necessary to be inventive, only to know how to read.

The establishment suggests more stimulus, more money to be spent on infrastructure, the government gambles at casinos in Las Vegas. The economists insist what matters is final demand, which only government can provide, to ‘prime the pump’ and let slip the dogs of growth.

When the dogs eat the unemployed and nature it is a necessary part of the process …

What the economists purposefully ignore is that we have an energy crisis which translates into a debt and finance crisis. Adding spending presses the price of fuel higher which constrains spending elsewhere. Fixing the infrastructure — which means adding traffic lanes the highways — pushes the fuel price as well. Meanwhile, ‘austerity’ or cutting back on the spending does not work either, as cutting spending or ‘demand destruction’ is the natural outcome of higher fuel prices.

America natural infrastructure desperately needs to be ‘upgraded’. Our fire-scarred, bug-eaten forests, over-fertilized croplands, polluted watersheds, exhausted aquifers, brownfields and mining ‘waste areas’ cry out for remediation. The establishment prefers to leave these areas for the Leprechauns to address and for millions of jobless to rot.

The Gov could start with a million working in the watersheds and forests then ‘hire’ a million new (organic) farmers and give them the tools to succeed. In America, good land is held fallow by speculators waiting for the next wave of tract houses. This wave will never arrive, yet young Americans yearn to become farmers. The barriers to entry are too high, where is the president?

A million farmers means a million farm families and new businesses in farm towns along with new markets for the food produced on these new farms. America would pin losses from failed real estate speculations onto those responsible, the speculators themselves. America would also trade away the costs of destructive industrial agriculture for a more diverse, engaged and energetic farm population using better tools. Multiple problems would be addressed at once: new farmers would be employed giving young Americans a useful and creative future. A secure source of healthy food for the nation would be created free from petroleum dependence and the agricultural heartland’s towns would be brought back to life.

More farmers would require more suppliers of goods needed by farmers as well as more markets for farmers’ goods. The suppliers, the goods and the markets would all represent new jobs. What is wrong with this picture? Skimpy profits to ‘McMultinational Business Inc.’ and the losses to politically connected land speculators, that’s what!

Industrial agriculture replaces human labor — and farm craft — with petroleum, concentrating profits in fewest hands at the same time. Eradicating competition and harvesting subsidies is how commodity farmers become wealthy. During the Depression, twenty percent of Americans lived on farms and worked within agriculture. Money profits were small but ‘food profits’ were high. The large farm sector allowed Americans to endure hard times with some comfort and dignity. As it is currently structured, agriculture cannot absorb large numbers of new workers. Two percent live on farms and earn a living from the soil. The sector is not diverse enough to provide food security in the event of an ‘input failure’ such as a shortage of diesel fuel, a blight or a climate ‘event’.

Organic foodstuffs grown close to markets save energy while allowing for higher quality food. Energy saving by intent or accident is underway yet the establishment is in denial. Industrial dinosaurs are structured around automotive convenience and the constant availability of genetically modified, tasteless ‘food-like chum’ obtained from the lowest bidder. Because this status quo is ‘bankable’ and immediate profits can be leveraged from both the government and finance, alternatives are ignored.

The aggregated trillions in subsidies directed at Soviet-style agribusiness are posted as ‘sunk capital’. This capital is stranded by the ongoing movement toward small-scale agriculture. Too bad, the ‘cost horse’ is already out of the barn: agribusiness does not recognize it is already stranded by $115 crude along with its customers. The status quo feels compelled to throw more good billions after bad: if you don’t succeed, try, try again!

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”| – Albert Einstein

Saving billions: the president and Congress at negligible taxpayer expense could make it illegal for a company to patent living organisms which are the product of nature, not company legal departments. The US also could also join the rest of the world and require labels for gm food and other crops. Taking these kinds of ‘provocative’ steps would upset cartels that profit at the expense of food consumers who cannot determine what sorts of poisons they are buying in the grocery store.

Eliminating subsidies for agribusiness would place costs where they belong: onto the business itself. It would also eliminate some of the cost advantage of the parasitic fast food industry.

Saving billions: the US medical rackets benefit directly from fast food consumed by ill-informed Americans: a fortune is spent every year by taxpayers on elder- and chronic care for millions of unhappy, malnourished Americans.

Saving billions and saving energy at the same time: the president could hire Americans in the tens of thousands to build needed transit across the country. Here is lifetime employment at modest money cost along with a large energy gain. Every watt not used is a nameplate watt gained in new generating capacity. The president wishes to reward layers of corrupt highway contractors who hire machines to do the actual work … and the handful of lottery winners to run the machines. Transit is ignored because it is ‘old fashioned’ and the auto and energy industries have commandeered policy. What real American cares about conserving energy or other resources?

Instead of subsidizing small farmers and putting people to work, the US subsidizes Dead Space Two!

As the establishment bumbles along, there is a sense of dread, of unspeakable forces aligning themselves … to give wasteful and foolish America a well-deserved beating:

"Finally, we’re coming to a consensus about what’s wrong with the economy. It’s us. And our bad attitude." – Gail Collins (NY Times)

Ben Bernanke says we’re too depressed. On Thursday, the Fed chairman suggested that consumers have an irrationally negative worldview.

“Even taking into account the many financial pressures that they face, households seem exceptionally cautious,” he told an audience in Minnesota, where the Twins are in last place, attendance at the state fair was way down and the state’s best-known elected official is Michele Bachmann. Also, star hockey player Dustin Byfuglien was arrested on Lake Minnetonka on suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

Meanwhile overseas, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, expressed concern that “the world is collectively suffering from a crisis of confidence.” Which is not helped by the fact that nobody can hear the words “International Monetary Fund” without thinking sleazy French pol in a hotel room with the maid.

On Friday, President Obama told Americans to “shake off all the naysaying and the anxiety and the hand-wringing.” He is on the road, following up on the big jobs speech he gave before Congress. It got a pretty good reaction, which would probably have been even more positive if the television broadcasts had not been interspersed with reports that Homeland Security was searching for a trio of terrorist truckers.

The establishment is unwilling to face reality, cannot describe our problems accurately, and lies to itself and everyone else about solutions. Even as it refuses to articulate exactly what is wrong and where, the sense of futility on the one hand and frustration with that futility is palpable. The establishment keeps trotting out the same tired restatements of fealty to ‘Business as Usual’ interspersed with the car ads.

Meanwhile, the establishment is compromised by those it stands to regulate: mention ‘IMF’ and what comes to mind isn’t the l’Opera Bouffe of manager and maid but draconian finance regimes imposed on captive ‘clients’ by rapacious bankers. These are the same forces that the establishment seeks to set loose like dogs upon ordinary Americans … media wonders where is the confidence?

Confidence as in game: Americans were confident ‘back in the day’ when everyone had their own ‘equal opportunity’ finance rackets and ponzi schemes. Think ‘housing bubble’: inflated when trailer trash became house flippers by way of subprime mortgages: with these gone what sort of confidence remains? The answer is the thin gruel pimped to the desperate from the Lotto machine at the 7-Eleven … The establishment’s unwillingness to act directly to support workers at honest labor implies a nationwide shortage of pot farmers and meth labs. The establishment convinces itself those booted out of the above-ground economy will simply vanish or find places within the private charity vortex, content with food stamps.

Fat chance of that. The people line up to take their places within the large and growing underground economy. National ruin is at hand when mafias and biker gangs offer more business opportunities than do bankers and politicians.

This is what our energy budget leaves us. The inflection point has been passed where all had access to economic prosperity, in our zero-sum world gains by a few are losses to the many.

… with not enough left over to feed the dogs.


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