While it remains true that (thanks to the selfish, deluded, idiots in charge) that a wave of austerity might trigger a second, even more devastating financial crisis, I'd like to point out that even then capitalism might survive. It survived the Great Depression after all. And, even in the Great Depression, when official unemployment (which excluded farmers and small business people who were a much greater percentage of the work force than they are today) was 25% at the worst of the crisis, there were large groups of people still working, still going along to get along, demonizing the unemployed and shrieking about the dangers of "big government." Even in the Great Depression then, people could pretend that everything was normal.
Of course, the Great Depression was a world disaster. It produced the rise of fascism and Hitler which meant the Second World War and the Holocaust among other things. And today's economic crisis is really hitting the centre of things, the United States of America, quite harshly:
It's probably also worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month -- with a subheadline warning: "Back to Stone Age" -- which describes how "paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue." Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional. And it was announced this week that "Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free."But, obviously, things are rougher in the periphery, as they usually are:
As revenue from raw material exports and taxation slumped, the crisis created a huge "fiscal hole" in the 56 poorest countries, decimating their budget revenues by $53bn (£33bn) in 2009 – nearly 10% of their pre-crisis revenues. A further $12bn will be lost in 2010, creating a total fiscal hole of $65bn over the two-year period. That hole ensures that the poorest countries will share the rich world's pain of cuts in essential services (while countries in the middle like China, India and Brazil steam on relatively unharmed), even though they missed out on the preceding financial boom. It's like suffering a monumental hangover when you weren't even invited to the party.This crisis is devastating the lives of tens of millions of people and it's limiting the potential of millions more. Finally, the whole thing is distracting us from directing the resources needed to stop us from destroying our eco-system more than we already have:
Try to fit these facts together:
- According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the planet has just come through the warmest decade, the warmest 12 months, the warmest six months, and the warmest April, May, and June on record.
- A "staggering" new study from Canadian researchers has shown that warmer seawater has reduced phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain, by 40 percent since 1950.
- Nine nations have so far set their all-time temperature records in 2010, including Russia (111 degrees F), Niger (118), Sudan (121), Saudi Arabia and Iraq (126 apiece), and Pakistan, which also set the new all-time Asia record in May: a hair under 130. I can turn my oven to 130.
- And then, in late July, the U.S. Senate decided to do exactly nothing about climate change. They didn't do less than they could have -- they did nothing, preserving a perfect two-decade bipartisan record of no action. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) decided not even to schedule a vote on legislation that would have capped carbon emissions.