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Syndi Holmes

The Economy: We Only Have Ourselves to Blame
By Syndi Holmes
Mar 14, 2009 - 9:00:02 PM

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It is easy to condemn the blatant criminality of Bernie Madoff and the excessive bonuses of Wall Street because it makes us feel so self righteous and indignant. But we are all guilty of the same crime of greed, if to a lesser extent.

It is easy to criticise the bailouts and/or stimulus ,or sit passively by to see if the programmes  work-or not -then blame whomever but the blame for our predicament lies in our long standing apathy- we sat in front of our TV's and allowed the destruction of our economy to go on, as long as our lives were not disturbed.

We went to Walmart to buy a $2.99 T-shirt made in China; it did not matter that it put our neighbours out of work when the local textile mill closed because we did not work there and still had our jobs.

Though our neighbours were laid off and our communities have been economically decimated, we have continued to purchase the same name brand shoes and furniture from former US manufacturers who moved their operations overseas to maximise their profits as they exploit poorer peoples' situations because we have said that is the nature of capitalism.

We have placed capitalism before us as a god and have looked to the market as the answer to all problems. Traditional capitalism that has been practiced by small businesses is the truest form of capitalism; they invest their own efforts into building their businesses and maintain loyalties to the local communities. Yet citizens have allowed major corporations and chains to come into their communities and have been party to plowing under their entrepreneur neighbors who had long provided economic stability to their towns and cities.

Unprincipled and deregulated capitalism lead to unmitigated greed. Corporations' loyalty to a certain community or country lasts only as long as the contract they have signed with the local government - where they have negotiated for massive tax breaks and concessions at the taxpayers' expense  and agree to place a certain number of  jobs there for a specific number of years. Then these same corporations begin to trawl for cheaper job markets so that will have a new factory to move their operations to when the aforementioned contract expires.

The social contract and mutual dependency that was the hallmark of success for both communities and the businesses within those communities, where the community provided capable workers and the business provided economic continuity, provided stability for both. The destruction of that social contract has lead to the communities' demise.  These communities have been left with diminished tax bases on which to operate, empty buildings that become liabilities, increased social services for unemployed workers and the job of placing and/or retraining for those same unemployed workers. Meanwhile, the corporation has merrily moved on, less encumbered by obligations and gaining more profit for their bottom line.

The long standing relationship between a community and a local company is analogous of a marriage. Society does not allow that a marriage can be dissolved without a financial settlement; neither should the government have ever allowed any business to skip out of a community without a financial settlement. Why should the community have to deal with severe financial hardship just so their previous partner can become more prosperous in another, cheaper market?

To adequately protect their communities from ruination by corporate abandonment, the people should demand that laws and legislation be enacted to provide for continuing taxes to be paid on a reducing scale over a period of several years to help the community adjust to the revenue loss and have time to look for replacement jobs. The corporation should have to help pay for the retraining of its former employees.  The corporations should have to leave their properties in a suitable condition where they can be put on the market for sale or lease without the need for expensive clean-up and renovation.

We, the people, have been a part of the problem but we can also be the solution.

First, at every level - town, state and federal - the people must see themselves as a community united in the struggle for survival.

Politically, we must stop party affiliations and rhetorics that serve only the parties and their grabs for power. We need to stop the mindless habit of re-voting in the same politicians-both Democrats and Republicans- who are in the pay of corporate lobbyists; as long as they are in these lobbyists' pay they have little need to serve us.

We need to look to ourselves to redefine community, responsibility and success-we should expect reasonable pay, profit and compensation but not excess. We need to look to ourselves to rebuild our economies. We need to look at new ways to facilitate business partnerships-combining new talent with older, established businesses that are now struggling- rather than having everyone start a business when funds are not available. We need to stop recycling old solutions and think of innovative ways to create solutions-and them listen to those ideas rather than dismissing them out of hand.

[To paraphrase Shakespeare's speech by Cassius, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves.."],  "the solution to our current problems is not in the stars ,but is within ourselves." Turn off the TV's and let's get to work. It's still called Yankee ingenuity.

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