rn: a propos the US economy


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list, 

I want to share this reflection, by author Bill Blum, on the truth behind
the glossy "healthy US economy" image... I've added a few comments at the end.

all the best, Jan
From: •••@••.•••
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 22:12:34 EDT
Subject: Re: rn: the other (economic) war [sent June 12]

Appropos your pieces about the US economy, here's something I recently put 

The Myth of America's Booming Economy

     You cannot escape it.  You read it and hear it everywhere. 
>From every news medium, every politician -- the economy is
booming ... thriving ... soaring ... the leading economic
indicators are looking great ... stock market is going through
the roof ... "economy showed signs of continued strength in
January as American's personal income rose by a robust .6 percent" ... 
prosperity everywhere ... the world's richest country ...
     But ... but what about ... what about ...
*  the working poor, the millions who toil at full-time jobs, yet
remain below the official poverty level (an unrealistically low figure to 
begin with)
*  the husbands and wives each having to work full time so together they 
manage to rise a little above the poverty level
*  the millions who surrender 30 to 70 percent of their paycheck for rent
*  those living in severely substandard housing
*  those on the increasingly long waiting lists for public housing, due to 
the loss of such units
*  the unemployed (the real amount, not the fudged figures announced to the 
*  those who want and need a full-time job, but can only get a part-time job, 
minus benefits
*  those who want and need a permanent job, but can only get a
temporary job, minus benefits
*  the underemployed -- college graduates and those with advanced degrees 
working at relatively menial jobs with no connection to their studies
*  the more than 43 million without any health insurance
*  the even greater number without dental insurance
*  the further millions with inadequate health insurance, including those 
with Medicare and Medicaid
*  the elderly who spend half their income for health care and prescriptions
*  the elderly who have to choose between prescriptions and food
*  the elderly who purchase cat and dog food, but don't own any pets
*  the millions with inadequate sick leave or maternity leave, or none at all
*  those -- the great majority of employees -- who are lucky to get two weeks 
vacation, compared to the European norm of five weeks
*  those forced to choose between heat and sufficient food in the winter
*  those literally dying in the Southwest on hot summer days because they 
can't afford an air conditioner or are concerned about their electricity bill
*  the homeless
*  those one paycheck or one illness or one divorce away from homelessness
*  those living five to ten people in a one-bedroom apartment
*  the millions who go to bed hungry at least part of every month; (the 
largest network of food banks, Second Harvest, reported that 26 million 
people sought help during 1997)
*  those frightened by the welfare reform law of 1996 into not applying for 
food stamps, welfare or Medicaid
*  the 1.8 million souls in prisons and jails
*  those who want to go to college but can't afford to
*  those who go to college at the cost of a huge debt hanging round their 
neck for years
*  the illegal aliens working as semi-slaves in sweatshops
*  those living on their credit cards, making only the minimum payments each 
month, as the exorbitant interest piles up year after year
*  the more than 50,000 businesses which filedfor bankruptcy last year
*  the million and a half individuals who filed for bankruptcy last year
*  the middle-class people who maintain their standard of living by working 
50, 60, 70 hours per week, by their choice or their employer's dictate, plus 
a daily two- or three-hour commute,
returning home totally wiped out and overstressed
*  those hanging on to jobs they hate, jobs making them sick, only because of 
the health insurance and pension
*  those forced by their employers to pay more and more of their insurance 
and pension costs
*  those living only on social security
*  those living only on welfare

Written by William Blum
Author: Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since
World War II
Note from Jan: Especially when I consider the images Bill lists above, I
think of the importance of learning to reduce our needs and wants.

Some religious groups have been exemplary in this regard, such as some
Quakers (or Friends) and some Mennonites. And probably the US' most famous
experts at living the good life were Scott and Helen Nearing. (Helen's
beautiful memoir to their life together, _Loving and Leaving the Good Life_
is one of my favourite books.)

Just now I am honoured to have a couple staying with me who Scott and Helen
would most certainly have been pleased to meet: Derek Bower and Alana (whose
last name I don't know). Derek is the founder of Gandhi Farm, a farm he
bought 2 years ago as his contribution to starting the revolution. All are
welcome to come and live there as long as they abide by some basic rules,
including no fossile fuel consumption, no animal products, no drugs
(including caffeine, alcohol or tobacco), no firearms... Decisions are
generally made by consensus and the nine people living at the farm last fall
were using only $1 per person per week. They have already started to grow
much of the food they consume but also find considerable amounts being
thrown out behind grocery stores.

Derek and Alana are marrying each other on July 3 and will then be
hitch-hiking to the west coast and from there to Belize, where Derek has
started another farm. Derek knows an amazing amount about living
non-violently, with minimal negative impact on the earth and yet optimal
health. Truly inspiring to know such a person (who has done all this at the
tender age of 28!) For those who would like to get in touch with him, here's
his e-mail address: <•••@••.•••>.

all the best, Jan