Monday, August 15, 2011
U.K. riots: forces too great to understand?
There it was, that disturbing video clip on the web: a gang of street hoodies in London helping a dazed and injured kid to his feet, then riffling through his packsack, stealing the contents. The incident fit with the stern condemnations of the rioters proffered by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron last week.
It’s only a slightly different story this week. In a speech just hours ago Cameron chastised the entire English society for a “slow-motion moral collapse” and pledged to examine policies to tackle a culture of laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness. To be fair, he not only included the young and indigent rioters but also Britain’s privileged: reckless bankers, scandal-prone politicians and the dirt-mongering media itself. The speech was, in Cameron’s own words, “a wake-up call.”
The political reaction has been swift. A couple of hours ago, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband declared that Cameron “has revealed himself to be reaching for shallow and superficial answers,” and pointed out that an economy that required both parents to work 70-hour weeks to raise a family hardly constituted the foundations for a healthy society. And yet Miliband ended up agreeing with Cameron. He too blamed the greedy, immoral, self-serving ruling class in Britain.
Miliband wisely concluded, “Let's not pretend that the crisis of values in our society is confined to a minority only at the bottom when we see the morality of millions of hardworking, decent people under siege from the top as well.”
And it’s true. But where the bottom has only raw, undisciplined street power, the controlling elite have every kind of power, from the powers of law and politics to corporate control to the control of the money supply itself.
But just who are those people and to whom are they responsible?
In July U.S. Representative Alan Grayson tried to find out during an investigation into the disappearance of $9 trillion in off balance sheet transactions at the U.S. Federal Reserve over the previous eight months. How does a bank lose track of $9 trillion? The Fed’s inspector general Elizabeth Coleman didn’t have an answer.
She didn’t really need to have one. Why? Because the U.S. Federal Reserve—unlike the Bank of Canada but similar to the Bank of England and the majority of national central banks in the world—is privately held. And, in special legislative deals with governments, these banks are not required to reveal their owners.
These hidden owners introduce the spectre of great wealth controlling the global economy. Wealth as in people like the Rothschilds. But one doesn’t have to look to the Rothschilds and their great wealth (in some circles estimated to be $500 trillion, or fully half the world’s wealth) to understand the damning effects of economic inequality.
The popular uprisings in the Middle East, the so-called “Arab Spring,” share one thing in common with the British riots: both cultures have a wide disparity between the powerful rich and the disenfranchised poor. The U.K. consistently ranks near the bottom of the European income equity-disparity scale.
This wouldn’t be a problem if there were a public perception of possible upward mobility, which has been a fundamental underpinning of, say, the American Dream, wherein, with talent and hard work and a little bit of luck, you too can become rich. But the financial facts no longer square with the dream. In America and elsewhere in the Western world, the rich are definitely getting richer and the poor poorer, while the middle class plays a desperate game of clinging to its own collapsing rungs on the economic ladder.
Meanwhile the poor are being targeted and punished for their circumstances. In a great piece in the Wall Street Journal, Jessica Silver-Greenberg writes about the return of debtors’ prisons in the U.S. She reports, for example, that a third of all U.S. states allow the jailing borrowers who can’t repay their debts—even if the borrower doesn’t get advance notice through sloppy paperwork, which happened to a young business owner, Jeffrey Sterns, who was arrested by a deputy sheriff, handcuffed in front of his kids, locked up, strip searched, de-loused, and finally released after agreeing to pay $1500 cash to the loan company— even though he’d never been notified he was about to be sued.
This is what happens in stagnating societies when wealth accumulates at the top and ordinary job opportunities disappear.
Meanwhile we’re being constantly chided by the wealthy in the media. Here in Canada there’s David Radler for one. Radler writes a semi-regular column aptly titled “Radler’s Rants” for a chain of western newspapers. In June he bashed the postal union for the recent Canada Post strike. His conclusion: “The best response the government can provide to all of us is to teach them [strikers and union] a lesson.” His solution? To slash the operating budget of Canada Post by 40 percent. One could only conclude that the cuts would come in the form of massive staff reductions. And just how is that going to help the Canadian economy? The only likely way would be through increased dependence on the private courier corporations, which charge up to 10 times more for similar services.
We might take his economic advice with a grain of salt. Radler is a convicted felon, one of Conrad Black’s partners in crime. He’s also, conveniently, a part owner and VP of the western newspaper chain that runs his columns.
But that’s an old story. The elites, such as the Rothchilds, have been buying up the media for over a century, and filling us up with what they want us to hear. As for the real news, it will keep on happening on the streets—until some of the wealth at the top is redistributed back to the bottom—to the people who have actually produced the goods and services, and the real value in the economy.
And the moral crisis to which Prime Minister Cameron refers, is the failure of governments to redistribute the wealth.