Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A dream economy?

From The Seven Laws of Money (1974) by Michael Phillips:

MONEY IS A DREAM: A Fantasy As Alluring As The Pied Piper

Money is very much a state of mind. It's much like the states of consciousness that you see on an acid trip. Maybe it is the animal figure seen in the peyote dream (Mescalito). It is fantasy in itself, purely a dream. People who go after it as though it were real and tangible, say a person who is trying to earn a hundred thousand dollars, orients their life and ends up in such a way as to have been significantly changed simply to reach that goal. They become part of that object and since the object is a dream (a mirage) they become quite different from what they set out to be. ...

I hope you can realize that people who set goals that are related to money, are bound to follow a peculiar road the same way that someone in real life sets out to find the animal he or she saw on their last mescaline trip must inevitably stumble and bump into things and realize in the end that they have become something of a fantasy themselves in the search.

From Corporate America's New Achilles' Heel Business Week 03/18/05 edition.

America is no longer a nation of manufacturers. But it isn't quite a health-care or even a tech economy, either. Instead, America is quietly and quickly becoming a nation of financiers. Finance supplies 30% of all U.S. company profits, as of last Sept. 30, up from 21% a decade ago, according to federal government data. And some of those profits don't come from banks or other financial companies, but from manufacturers and retailers that rely on their financial activities for a big chunk of their earnings. At Deere & Co., the farm-equipment company, finance produces nearly one-fourth of earnings. Retailer Target Corp. usually gets about 15% of its profits from its credit cards. And while General Motors Corp. is having trouble selling cars, its ditech.com mortgage business is going great guns. GM's financing operations earned $2.9 billion last year, while GM lost money on cars. If GM earns any money this year, it will again come from finance. (my emphasis)

This puts a whole new twist on the concept of the American Dream, it seems to me.

In the Michael Phillips excerpt above, "Money is a dream" is the third of the "seven laws of money."

The fourth law?  "Money is a nightmare."


purcellneil said...

The flip side of this phenomena is the growing threat of consumer debt.  Looking at America from 40,000 feet, it should be alarming to all of us that we have built up a large federal debt even as the average American is personally in hock like never before.  People have hollowed out their investments in their homes with equity loans and are carrying incredible amounts of credit card debt.  The statistics are undeniable.  

America is divided into the affluent, the poor, and those who have borrowed heavily to live like the middle class used to.

Money may be a dream, but the dream itself is more like a nightmare for many Americans.  And the nightmare will get worse.  

The so-called "new economy" is structured to dramatically separate Americans into two camps, the rich and the poor.  I saw this begin in the early 80's and I am appalled to note that it accelerates and continues in the new millennium.

We need a government that will seek to restore the economic engines that gave rise to a secure and growing middle class -- now that's a dream worth pursuing!

The course we have been on for 25 years is leading us away from that dream we used to call the American Dream.  It is time for a change in course.


bmiller224 said...

To paraphrase Condi "mushroom cloud" Rice: let's hope that the change in course doesn't come in the form of an economic collapse. - Bruce

fdtate714 said...

Sam Smith, editor of the Progressive Review, has an essay about the Reagan Revolution that I love to point people to when the subject of economic inequities comes up.  Here are just a few of the many statistics listed...

- Between 1973 and 2001, the incomes of the poorest 20% went up 14%, that of the 20% in the middle went up 19%, but the richest 5% went up 87%.

- The real value of the minimum wage peaked in 1969 at over $7 an hour. Its real value is now at $5 an hour.

- Eighty-six percent of stock market gains between 1989 and 1997 flowed to the top ten percent of households while 42 percent went to the most well-to-do one percent.

- In 1998 the top-earning one percent had as much income as the 100 million Americans with the lowest earnings.

- Two-thirds of American households headed by a person between the ages of 47 and 64 in 1998 had the same pension wealth or less in real dollars than they did in 1983. Almost 20% of all near-retiree households could expect to retire in poverty.

- 1973 to 1995 was the only time in American history that real earnings declined.

- By the turn of the century poor black families were working 190 hours more a year - and poor white families 22 hours more -- than in 1979 for roughly the same pay.

- The two richest men in America -- Bill Gates and Warren Buffet -- own more assets than the bottom 45% of the country.


purcellneil said...

fdtate is pointing to something that will form the starting point for the next social upheaval in America -- perhaps a revolution.  FDR averted such a revolution through a web of social programs that were refined and expanded through the following thirty years -- even Republicans like Nixon and Ford supported and expanded the social safety net and broadened its reach.  But Reagan changed the policy of the GOP to one that manipulated the middle class for the economic benefit of the most affluent elites of American society, and the current President is an even more avid and determined follower of that radical class warfare religion.

It is time that Americans fought back.  

If we want to avoid violence in this country, we had better turn things around soon.  We are setting the table for an ugly backlash.  Bush has "starved the beast" and now the safety net is in tatters.  In a few years, most Americans will understand that they have been screwed, and many will have little reason to continue to play along with a system that exploits them and deprives their families of a piece of the pie, or even an occasional crumb.

The Republicans and their wealthy supporters have overreached -- and it is just a matter of time before the whole country will see how deep their hands have plunged into our pockets.  

By their hands, Americans will be deprived of decent jobs, a living wage, a fair tax system, basic health care, and retirement security.

By their hands, our basic liberties will be traded for religious endorsements.

By their hands, our children will be sacrificed in cynical imperialist wars.

When the revolution comes, the blood will be on their hands.


bmiller224 said...

Duane, the results of the Reagan years that you cite are what's known among Republicans as "successful economic policy." - Bruce