America - 2020
Are we on
the verge of a new world, or just in the grip of a pandemic fever dream?
Continued from the front page...
The Paycheck Protection Program
"You needed 500 or less workers, and some of
these well-heeled businesses met that criteria."
That's what Trump Administration economic advisor
Larry Kudlow told CNBC when asked how it is that so many well-to-do businesses
benefited so greatly from the PPP program. That was loan money given to
businesses to allay the layoffs of employees due to the Coronavirus business
That money went first to businesses with close
relationships with their bankers - meaning those who probably didn't need the
money - while businesses in desperate need of assistance from a government that
ordered their shutdowns went wanting. They are still wanting, but while there
remains $130 billion available, small businesses are not rushing in to get it,
even as they are wondering how they will survive.
Their reluctance is all around the changing
rules, and the "partial forgiveness" of these loans based on the percentage a
business devotes to payroll. The rule (presently) is that business owners have
up to 24 weeks to use their loan proceeds. Initially, owners could receive
partial forgiveness on their loans if 75 percent was used to retain employees
during that 24-week period. Then that was lowered to 60 percent, giving owners
more flexibility to use the loans for expenses other than payroll.
Use this link to see the SBA's list of companies who have taken PPP loans.
Governments at all levels have been spotty about
how they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic, and as a result the U.S. is not
going to be able to return to business as it was for months, maybe years. Many
small businesses will not see a return of the traffic that they need to balance
their books. The PPP loans will run out, and the federal government is loathe to
issue another because many Americans have been paid more to stay home than to go
to their now possibly dangerous minimum wage jobs. The hospitality industry will
not be recovering any time soon, and hospitality industry workers will be losing
their jobs in the near future, if they haven't already. These people did nothing
wrong, and they are going to be frustrated and angry. How will they express that
anger, in an election year, and how will the government respond?
How is it that the government can mandate a
shutdown of businesses, forcing many into catastrophic financial circumstances
that require that they get a bank loan at interest? Loan recipients agree to pay
a "1.00% fixed interest rate; two-year or five-year term depending on the date
of the PPP loan origination...:
Use this link for a further explanation of the PPP program. These are not
businesses who are in the difficult economic situations they are in due to
mismanagement or malfeasance of any kind, but rather due to "an act of God" -
this virus. So why must they enrich the already wealthy, or borrow from a
taxpayer account they have paid into themselves, to ensure their survival?
Unrest in the Streets
Reaction to recorded police violence against
Black citizens has finally become impossible to control, and so for weeks the
streets of America's major cities have been filled with protesters organized
around the Black Lives Matter movement. These have been largely peaceful, with
the exception of brief, violent outbursts of vandalism and property destruction.
The City of Seattle saw blocks of businesses shut down by protesters who
established a police free "autonomous" zone, which was only challenged after
protesters with long assault weapons started showing up among the protest group
and several people were shot.
America's protests have become a difficult
phenomena to analyze because so many interest groups have found leverage and
opportunity within what has become a breakdown in the social order. America's
right-wing groups see the globalist George Soros behind the anti-fascist
movement, which along with the white supremacists groups make up the most
aggressive actors in the drama. Black Lives Matter has violent elements within
its makeup, though the most dangerous aspect among all these groups is
decentralized leadership - or a complete lack thereof. We are seeing a level of
meaningless violence and destruction, with people committing illegal acts
because the time seems right, and little else.
Will the demands of the Black Lives Matter
movement lead to change?
The answer is likely "no" because there is no
consensus on the issue, nor even a clear sense of what the negotiated agreements
For every Black person whose heart has been
broken by the violent acts of bad cops, there is an American voter who notes
that these instances of police brutality are (almost) always the result of a
person resisting the demands of an arresting officer. For whatever reason, the
person being stopped by the police pushes back against demands, offers
resistance, or attempts to flee the scene, and the situation then escalates into
a violent exchange.
A couple things stand out. One is that our police
officers seem not to know how to handle de-escalation of conflict. They seem to
often do the dumb thing, the brutish maneuver, and too often they seem guided by
base emotions that they are expected to be trained to control.
Policing is a vicious cycle. Citizens do awful
things that police, on a daily basis, are responsible for addressing, and over
time they become callous and some become mean. There are all sorts of societal
conditions that create this constant flow of street crime and injustice.
We are probably smart enough as a society to
imagine policing done in a way that avoids escalation of violence. We either are
not smart enough, or simply lack the will, to imagine a society ordered in such
a way that it doesn't crank out criminal perpetrators and violent thug cops,
Legislation helps, but America's problems are stem to our sick heart, which
won't let us seek solutions or even consider our situations honestly. America is
in desperate need of a spiritual revolution, though what we are going to get is
The Coming Civil War
Americans are buying guns at an alarming pace,
and just in the last couple months the homicide rates in our major cities have
soared. Our calls for police reform have already taken a grim toll on our
citizenry, apparently opening a portal to an ungoverned universe in which
innocent children become victims of random violence, while the police pull back
in surrender, afraid to perform duties they are no longer certain of how to do.
One suspects that the BLM call for reparations to
be paid to Black people for the country's history of racist policies and actions
will be the breaking point for many conservative Whites. To them, they have been
paying reparations to Black people since the Emancipation Proclamation. Every
time they turn on their TV news they see police footage of the arrest of another
Black person, confirming their racist suspicions that Blacks are near the root
of all evil in America, though the real root issue is economics. America's brand
of capitalism is predatory and wrong and Blacks are merely the first to be
squeezed out of its support structure. It is next to impossible to squeeze back
in without educational qualifications and a strong sense of how to effectively
manage life in our economic jungle. People un-equipped to survive that pressure
cooker will turn to whatever means they might have to survive, and doing
anything outside of the mainstream in America will attract police. And our
police are rarely the best and the brightest among us. In fact, they are
probably struggling to survive this cruel world themselves, and in their
hyperbolized worlds they act out and make catastrophic errors in judgment.
We decry gun violence and then stock up on guns,
because we are afraid of our neighbors and the strangers in our lives. All that
firepower rarely leads to a happy end. The U.S. Department of Justice reports
that of the 50,000 or so suicides we see in the U.S. each year, about 60% of
them are people shooting themselves. In fact, you are 61% more likely to die of
suicide by firearm than to be killed by some other shooter. Americans don't
protect themselves with firearms so much as they use them to end their own
By the way, we are far from the most suicidal of
all nations. Lithuania holds that distinction, and nobody is better at killing
themselves than Lithuanian men (58 in every 100,000). All of the former Soviet
Union countries have high rates of suicide, as do some under-developed Asian
countries. What do they all have in common? Poverty.
It is easy to imagine that the combination of the
Covid-19 pandemic, police overhaul, calls for reparations to be paid to Blacks,
election politics, and a disintegrating economy will lead to a collision of
interests the likes of which the U.S. has not known since 1860.
I foresee death and destruction and don't see
that anything good can come of it. Our country, through our political
polarization and distrust of government, has boxed itself in to a conflict that
can have no resolution, short of surrender by the other side.
There doesn't seem to be any guiding vision to
any of it. Donald Trump managed to get elected in a broken system by promising
to break the system. Nothing is being built that would somehow manifest some
American promise that cannot exist as long as Americans sense the emptiness at
the heart of our political/economic system.
We have built a house on lies. From our religious
belief systems to our political and economic systems, Americans have attempted
to operate in an environment of corruption that is calibrated to rescind their
gains every certain number of years. We have economic cycles, and those cycles
have been getting closer and closer together, until finally a person struggling
in our economic system can feel guaranteed that whatever they gains they make in
this decade will be assets they give back in the next. We have an entire banking
and mortgage industry built around the constant churn of real estate properties.
About a third of our annual home sales are reselling foreclosed properties.
In our world of fiat currency, money is just a
conceptual tool of exchange "guaranteed by the full faith and authority" of the
government. Otherwise put, it is just the way we quantify our obligations to the
people we had to kowtow to in order to ensure our further survival. This is not
an obligation of material value, but rather one of honor and coercion.
In the U.S., there are just over 800
billionaires, and a whole bunch more millionaires, and then this vast sea of
people who exist further down the economic ladder. People recognize wealth as a
pyramid structure, with the broad base representing the poorest economic class.
At the top of the structure are people who hold
the economic debts of the world. The only reason the pyramid has any power at
all is because those few at the top say it has power, and they have the means
to enforce their rules. And their rules say that the money they loaned must be
repaid in full and with interest. They alone have the power to create that
cudgel and then to use it, and they alone could cancel all debt obligations owed
The key point is that were they to forgive those
obligations, nothing would change.
Nothing would change because nothing that makes
our world - even our economics - work has anything to do with anything tangible
beyond the fungible nature of money. The reality of the world has to do with
natural resources and how they are used, and with the vision and willing sweat
equity of humankind.
So much of what we do in life has no real
meaning, and we would likely stop doing those jobs if we weren't being paid to
do them. On the other hand, some jobs are truly essential. We wouldn't stop
producing power, for instance, if suddenly there was no money in it because some
efforts produce a utility that we would choose not to do without. Those utility
workers would keep going to work because the utility keeps progress moving
ahead. They and their families need to eat, of course, and as essential workers
they should be provided for by other essential workers, like farmers. Farmers,
who must pay for seed, should be able to provide for those essential power
workers without having their own resources diminished, but like everyone in the
pyramid they have no choice.
Money is merely the control device that allows
each individual in the economic pyramid to leverage advantage over the people on
the tiers below.
It is a clever trick, evil as sin. The guy you
owe money to can't simply forgive your debt, and write it off, because he owes
money to someone above him in the pyramid, and that person will not forgive his
debts because they are indebted to the person above them, and they can't forgive
the debt because they are indebted to the person above them.
It is all "fake news", as Donald Trump likes to
say, and he should know as his entire life story has been built on such and has
had little to do with reality. He once claimed in court testimony that his
net worth was dependent upon how he feels from one day to the next.
It is amazing that the whole system of economic
slavery has lasted as long as it has, sustained only through brute force. If you
don't pay up, the Sheriff is going to come kick you out of your home. The
Sheriff isn't acting on moral principle, but rather just doing the job the guy
above him in the pyramid paid him to do - enforce this phony system.
When you think of who the guy at the top of this
pyramid of power must be, is it any wonder that people have imagined something
Satanic or Luciferian? Americans don't know the difference, which no doubt
factors into this entire problem.