Economic Crisis = USA Riots
Citizens of the US… Brace for IMPACT!
As the global economy continues its downward spiral, rioting due to this Wall Street led meltdown is spreading through the globe like wildfire. The list of countries experiencing civil unrest is growing by the day, to name some recent hotspots: Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Britain, Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, Egypt, France, Greece, Germany, Haiti, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Ivory Coast, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Yemen.
In an article titled “A Planet at the Brink: Will Economic Brushfires Prove Too Virulent to Contain?” Michael T. Klare explains:
“As people lose confidence in the ability of markets and governments to solve the global crisis, they are likely to erupt into violent protests or to assault others they deem responsible for their plight, including government officials, plant managers, landlords, immigrants, and ethnic minorities. (The list could, in the future, prove long and unnerving.) If the present economic disaster turns into what President Obama has referred to as a ‘lost decade,’ the result could be a global landscape filled with economically-fueled upheavals.”
A UK Guardian news report ran with the headline: “Governments Across Europe Tremble as Angry People Take to the Streets.”
Once stable countries have seen millions of their citizens revolt – taking to the streets, disrupting public services, blocking roadways, participating in nationwide strikes, seizing shopping malls and engaging in many other forms of civil disobedience – as entire governments have fallen. Government offices, public facilities, businesses, homes and cars have been vandalized, looted and burnt to the ground. Death tolls and crime rates due to this crisis are reaching epidemic levels.
However, here in the US, we haven’t seen much unrest yet. With the election of Obama we have had a brief reprieve, as HOPE momentarily shined across the USA. The US presidential election and the rise of Obama came just in time. (Could you imagine what might have happened under another year of Bush-Cheney rule?) The hope-filled Obama is the perfect figurehead casting the perfect illusion. The Obama illusion is one of a new day, one of hope and better times ahead.
As positive an impact as Obama might have on governmental policy and national confidence, we can only escape reality for so long. In the words of Chris Hedges:
“It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.”
Things have obviously been bad for the past year, but things are just beginning to get much worse. As economic forecasters predict another two years of decline, the Associated Press reports: “The economy’s downhill slide at the end of last year was likely much steeper than the government initially thought and it is probably doing just as poorly now — if not worse — as a relentless slew of negative forces feed on each other, pushing the country deeper into recession.” Danny Schechter, a journalist who was one of the first to sound the economic alarm and author of Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity, explains: “It seems endless, and we are not even touching the surface of the real economic time bombs on the horizon from credit default swaps, derivatives and credit cards.” A BBC report states: “There is now $2.2 trillion of toxic bank debt worldwide, the IMF says, $500bn more than it estimated a few months ago.”
It was staggering in January when 655,000 people lost their job in the US, but this pace has continued with no signs of slowing. The US economy is now shedding over 23,000 jobs every day. Since the beginning of the crisis, a little over one year ago, over 4.4 million jobs have been lost, with more than half of the cuts occurring in the past four months. We haven’t seen losses like this since World War II – over 60 years ago. A record (and quickly increasing) five million US citizens now file for unemployment benefits. In the past month, 787,000 people had their work hours cut and now work part-time instead of full-time, bringing the number of underemployed people up to 8.6 million. When you add in unemployed people and jobless workers who have literally given up looking for a job, you get a astounding number of over 22 million unemployed/underemployed people – that’s a 14.8% rate – and climbing fast!
The International Labor Organization predicts there will be over 50 million jobs lost worldwide in 2009. The world’s largest credit insurer reports that 42,000 companies went out of business in 2008, a 45% increase over 2007, and they expect a stunning 62,000 to fail in 2009. Just think of what will happen when all these companies and people are added to the masses that already can’t pay back loans and credit cards, let alone afford to keep theirwarehouses, stores, offices and homes. The US government, which is about to pump another $787.2 billion of tax payer funds into the dying economy, is already over $60 TRILLION in debt – that’s over $500k per US household – owed before the new stimulus bill! On top of that, US consumers are already $14 trillion in debt from credit cars and mortgages.
On the housing front things are in full-blown crisis mode. As Depression-era style tent cities spread throughout the US, Ariana Huffington writes, “we are facing nothing less than a national emergency, with 10,000 Americans going into foreclosure every day and 2.3 million homeowners having faced foreclosure proceedings in 2008. When we put flesh and blood on these numbers, the suffering they represent is enormous and so is the social disintegration they entail.”
Other than a few worker strikes and some significant, but under-reported, incidents on thehome foreclosure front, things have been eerily tame in the US thus far. But with things quickly going from bad to worse, that’s all about to change. For example, ACORN, the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low and moderate-income people, recently stated:
“ACORN’s campaign is working to put the human faces of foreclosure victims front and center while escalating the campaign tactics to include civil disobedience aimed at keeping people from losing their homes. Everything is on the table: disruption of sales, disruption of banking business, even refusing to be evicted or moving families back into their foreclosed homes. The urgency of the crisis demands no less.”
Salon writer Glenn Greenwald recently wrote about a Fox News interview that shows how much of a disconnect there is between large corporate news organizations and the obviously frustrated public:
“This Fox News interview with Virg Bernero — the Mayor of highly unionized Lansing, Michigan and himself the son of a retired GM worker — is, for several reasons, really worth watching…. The glaring discrepancy he notes — between (a) the consensus of our political class that workers must endlessly give up wage, health and other benefits even as (b) we shovel trillions of dollars in government subsidies to Wall Street for ongoing massive executive bonuses and the like for the very people who caused the collapse — is one that… is rarely heard in our mainstream debate with such clarity and passion.
Even more notable is the dripping condescension directed at him by the Fox personality at the end of the interview for having committed the sin of exhibiting genuine passion and anger over something as trivial as the disappearing middle class and the massive and growing rich-poor gap. That’s the crime of Shrillness, one of the prime hallmarks of Unseriousness — failing/refusing to suppress one’s anger towards our political and financial establishment.”
For another recent example of reality bursting through the numbing television set, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski expressed his fears with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough :
JOE SCARBOROUGH: You also talked about the possibility of class conflict.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I was worrying about it because we’re going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits. And we’re going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America….
And you sort of say to yourself: what’s going to happen in this society when these people are without jobs, when their families hurt, when they lose their homes, and so forth?
We have the government trying to repair: repair the banking system, to bail the housing out. But what about the rich guys?… Where is the monied class today? Why aren’t they doing something: the people who made billions, millions…. there’s going to be growing conflict between the classes and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could be even riots!
Things are about to… EXPLODE
As desperate people in the US and throughout the world look to take vengeance on the people responsible for this disaster, the US, and Wall Street in particular, will be their target. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics, recently stated that this economic global crisis has a “ made in the USA label on it.” Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson adds:
“… this is a very unfair crisis. The epicentre is the United States… it’s an unfair world…. Here is the world’s biggest economy, which gave us subprime mortgages, rampant securitization, the collateralized debt obligation, Lehmann Brothers, Merrill Lynch….
There will be blood, in the sense that a crisis of this magnitude is bound to increase political as well as economic [conflict]. It is bound to destabilize some countries. It will cause civil wars to break out, that have been dormant. It will topple governments that were moderate and bring in governments that are extreme. These things are pretty predictable.”
These conflicts are something that the US government has been expecting, and preparing for. Dennis Blair, the new US Director of National Intelligence, recently testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee stating that the greatest threat facing the US is not terrorism, but the current economic crisis:
“The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications. The crisis has been ongoing for over a year…. Of course, all of us recall the dramatic political consequences wrought by the economic turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, the instability, and high levels of violent extremism.” [Let us not forget the lessons of history, in the most extreme case, it was the Wall Street led economic meltdown in the 1930’s that led to Hitler’s rise in Germany.]
So, as Intelligence Committee Vice-Chair Christopher Bond feared, the economic crisis is now “the primary focus of the intelligence community.”
In addition to threats from outside US borders, the US Army has been preparing for expected riots and turmoil from US citizens. Chris Hedges sums it all up:
“The specter of social unrest was raised at the U.S. Army War College in November in a monograph [click on Policypointers’ pdf link to see the report] titled ‘Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development.’ The military must be prepared, the document warned, for a ‘violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States,’ which could be provoked by ‘unforeseen economic collapse,’ ‘purposeful domestic resistance,’ ‘pervasive public health emergencies’ or ‘loss of functioning political and legal order.’ The ‘widespread civil violence,’ the document said, ‘would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.’
‘An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home,’ it went on.
‘Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD [the Department of Defense] would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance,’ the document read.
In plain English, something bureaucrats and the military seem incapable of employing, this translates into the imposition of martial law and a de facto government being run out of the Department of Defense. They are considering it. So should you.
Adm. Blair warned the Senate that ‘roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown.’ He noted that the ‘bulk of anti-state demonstrations’ internationally have been seen in Europe and the former Soviet Union, but this did not mean they could not spread to the United States.”
As Joshua Holland put it: “At least in Western Europe, cries of ‘burn the shit down!’ are being heard in countries with some of the highest standards of living in the world…”
Are you ready for the “Summer of Rage”?
In preparation for what many believe is going to be a tumultuous summer, the Obama administration has recently made $2 billion in aid available to local police departments.
In Europe, Military Intelligence and police are bracing for the worst. They have been preparing to suppress mass civilian disorder, as they fear a “summer of rage.” A recent UK poll revealed, “More than a third of voters believe the Army will have to be brought in to deal with a ’summer of rage’ on British streets as the recession bites…” Police and governments around the world know that it is now much easier to recruit “foot-soldiers” to take part in civil disobedience when you have so many unemployed and struggling to make ends meet.
Now that President Obama is off the campaign trail and settled into the oval office, his “Hope” seems to be fading fast as he sees the tidal wave heading for us. Just listen to the “hopeful” Obama in his first news conference as president:
“And if there’s anyone out there who still doesn’t believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down because they don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from.”
Or, as George W. Bush said about the US economy just before leaving office: “This sucker is going down!”
So, as we sit here in the US, at the epicenter of the economic meltdown – also the country with the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world – it seems to be just a matter of time before all hell breaks lose.
Tick… tick… tick…