Plan for the Next Depression

Some economists are warning that we may have a depression within a few years; they say this is possible mainly because the profit margin available from fossil fuels is shrinking inexorably. [See, for example, For the Common Good, by Herman E. Daly and John B. Cobb Jr., Beacon Press, 1994]. What if they're right? Are any Populists thinking about what to do if that happens? Right now, like novice hunters, we're aiming at where the duck is, rather than at where it's going to be. The trajectory is not hard to trace.

Over the past several decades, the standard of living of most of us has been declining and levels of pollution have been rising. These trends may be reversible as we shift to energy sources that are less expensive and less noxious than coal and oil. But at the present pace, the transition may take many years.

Meanwhile, the social fabric is being ripped by business leaders on the verge of panic because it's become harder to make money in this country. Over the past half-century, the average after-tax profits of the "Fortune 500" companies tumbled from 10% of revenue in the '50s to 9% in the '60s, 8% in the '70s, and 5% throughout the '90s.

Reactions of corporate leaders to this trend have included laying off people, busting unions, increasing workloads, eliminating benefits, moving plants to slave-labor countries, cutting corners on maintenance and services, trying to increase their power through mergers, and buying control of legislative bodies. These actions have been accelerated by pressures from stockholders to report increasing profits, producing a forced-draft economy driven by blasts from the media exhorting all to "Buy, Buy, Sell, Sell, More, More, Faster, Faster."

At the same time, it's become harder for most householders to make ends meet. While salaries of top executives were being boosted to obscene levels, rates of wage and salary increases for most employees began declining steadily in the middle '70s. Also, the Social Security tax rate has more than doubled since 1980, and an increasing number of working people must now pay for their own health insurance and other benefits no longer provided by employers. Families have reacted to the resulting squeeze by struggling to cut expenses and increase income, with each spouse holding one or more jobs, and borrowing to their limits, generating record levels of credit-card debt. [See especially The Indebted Society: Anatomy of an ongoing Disaster, by James Medoff and Andrew Harlans, Little Brown, 1996.]

If the potential profit margin continues to shrink as predicted, and if slave-labor sources become harder to find, corporations will then try to preserve profitability by cutting wages and salaries of workers in this country. Before long. the purchasing power of the majority will no longer be great enough to keep things going and the wheels will grind to a halt, much as in the 1930s.

Maybe this will happen, maybe it won't. But the chances, that it might appear great enough to justify an effort to prepare an emergency plan for what to do to get the country going again this time. If anybody's working on one, I'd sure like to read about it.


Apex N.C.

Double Standards

I read that Congress is coming down hard on non-violent methamphetamine users, and excepting (meth-based) Ecstasy users -- the former, mostly black; the latter, mostly white (11/1/00 PP).

I read that two "anti-drug" Republican senators saved their own kids from jail time for illegal drug possession. Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne notes the edifying effect of jail time for illegal drug use, and recommends the same for (former) users, George W. and Al G.

I read that character and responsibility-mongering Bush also, illegally skipped a year of his Air National Guard service, without negative consequences (PP, 11/00).

It seems that (mostly white) "law and order" zealots, generally, have a gift for imposing extreme and degrading punishments on others, while exempting themselves.

Other injurious double-standards include: disparate cocaine sentencing; legal, and lethal, drug promotion; corporate privilege, welfare, and exemption from prosecution; healthcare subsidies for some; public condemnation of marital infidelity and military service avoidance.

What would Jesus do? Excoriate the practitioners, for their corrupt hypocrisies. Call for compassionate and equal justice.

That's why they killed Him.


Duluth, Ga.

Leave Yugoslavia alone

Your columnist Joel D. Joseph complains that both presidential candidates would limit themselves to diplomatic initiatives in Yugoslavia (11/1/00 PP). He maintains that "we should use our superb military force to arrest Milosevic" and "send in a select team of Army Rangers ... to bring him to the court of justice to stand trial." This fire eater seems not to care that such an action would spell aid and comfort for our military-industrial complex and to the neo-imperialists in the State Department, neither of which are beloved by most readers of The Progressive Populist.

Far better and more to the point is the column by Norman Solomon in the same issue, in which he describes American financing and support of anti-Milosevic forces in that unfortunate US bullied country.

Lewes, Del.

Dunce Denial

Perhaps you can help me. I've read Mr. [Frosty] Troy's frosty essay on school reformers ["Dunces of Public Education Reform," 11/15/00 PP], but I can't seem to figure out which category of Dunce the following school choice advocates fall into:

Columnist William Raspberry

Senator Joseph Lieberman

Journalist Mikel Holt

Scholar and former public school superintendent Howard Fuller and myself (author of Market Education, and more socially liberal than most of the above).

I can't decide what shocks me more: The fact that Mr. Troy would claim school choice proponents are all self-interested and/or ultra-right-wing, or the fact that he probably believes it.

It's difficult to see how this sort of denial of reality can help to further your cause.


Senior Research Associate
The Social Philosophy and Policy Center
Seattle, Washington

The Times' Wayward Reporter

The 10/15/00 issue was the best yet. Nothing here in the East, except The Nation, matches your newspaper for progressive journalism. Especially noteworthy in the 10/15 issue is Alexander Cockburn's piece, "The Disgrace of the New York Times." But has no one but me noticed that the Jeff Gerth who co-authored the story on Wen Ho Lee is the same person who "broke" the Whitewater story? We, as a country, spent over $50 million in Alphonse D'Amato's senatorial witchhunt and another $50 million on Kenneth Starr's star chamber proceedings on the basis of this same fool's rotten reporting. How can the "newspaper of record" continue to allow Mr. Gerth access to its front page?

New York, N.Y.

Selective Indignation

Wasn't there a big stink about some missing documents and maybe altered records at the White House just a short time ago? Something to do with the First Lady while she was a lawyer at the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas years back. Seems like a lot of time and money was spent on FBI investigations and House/Senate hearings etc. Wonder why W's military records are not as important?

Monticello, Ark.

Compassion and Death Taxes in Pennsylvania

"Compassionate Republicans" maintain (1) Washington should not tax death (2) "State controls are best." In Pennsylvania "Compassionate Republicans" control both the governorship and legislature. They can easily demonstrate "compassion" and "state controls are best" by eliminating the Pa. death tax they now impose on the 98% of estates exempted from federal death taxes.

Pa. can make death taxes "fair" by collecting death taxes the same as Washington (1) collect death taxes on estates over $1,350,000 -- soon to be $2,000,000. Set death taxes on the size of the estate, not the relationship of the beneficiary! For the 98% of Pennsylvanians not subject to federal death taxes this would eliminate the considerable cost of filing and paying death taxes and still allow the 2% paying federal taxes to continue recovering the cost of their Pa. death taxes from Washington. How about some "compassion" for the middle class in Pennsylvania?

Very truly yours,

Jenkintown, Pa.

Keep Agitating

My first vote was for Henry Wallace despite of all the warning that it was a Vote for Dewey. "Liberal Truman" won and we learned from Truman himself that that the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was on a "military base," 100,000 killed in Hiroshima were almost all civilians ...

We all know about Joe McCarthy, the. Republican "red hunter" but Truman had his own Loyalty Oath that all must sign before working in Defense. My family was all over the list but not one of us even thought of overthrowing the country by force and violence.

E.V. Debs said "it is better to vote for the man you want and not get him then vote the man you don't want and get him."

Since I write many letters all over I could use lists of how congressmen and senators voted on issues that are not talked about on TV or the commercial press. I tried SOS Watch. they sent back a letter thanking me for my small contribution. This is an important issue -- using taxpayers' money to teach the art of killing! Can anyone tell me how to get lists of votes for School Of Assassins; continued bombing of Iraq; Cuban policy etc.? Thank you.

3916 Orinda Dr
San Mateo CA 94403

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