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The wealth of a nation continues to drain from middle America into the vaults of Wall Street. It is time for Americans to set aside their 1970s moral values, and stop paying debts on underwater homes and overpriced credit cards, because America needs your money to build a new economy.

The misuse of wealth is not a new subject, and few described it better than President Dwight Eisenhower in a speech on April 16, 1953: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

In the same very final sense, every dollar that is sent to big banks to pay off underwater homes and 29% interest rates is a theft from your family, your community, and the future of America.

It is also a theft from yourself. It means a lot to America if you slide into poverty, because America doesn't need you depressed and dispirited and living in your car. The nation needs human beings confident they can handle the future, and ready to step forward with new ideas and energy, to create new business models that can make profits in a national and global economy -- profits that flow to the 99 Percent, not Wall Street.

The current net "wealth" of we 99 Percenters is generally estimated to be about 62% of the nation's assets. Online there are estimates for the total wealth of the nation ranging from about $54 trillion to $150+ trillion. (I question all the dollar amounts, because there are a lot of ways to add up the assets of a nation. The $54 trillion in particular seems absurdly low.)

Regardless, the approximate 38% owned by the one-percenters is a lot more powerful right now, because most of it is concentrated in the hands of a very small number of decision-makers -- too many of whom are power-mad, well-connected -- and most of whom have a lot of experience taking other people's money away from them.

But the 99 Percenters also have power. We have the power to dictate masses of smaller individual deals, on underwater homes and usurious interest. We can simply reduce the interest to 0% and the principal to $0.00 -- by not sending the big bank any more money.

That money can be put to good and great use. In the hands of the 99 Percent, it can rebuild the human dignity and bind up the financial wounds of a nation.

Despite our current "age of amateurism," in which a lot of Americans sit in front of a computer being not very good at too many things, there is tremendous unleashed creativity wasting away in Brooklyn basements and Kansas City garages. These are the people who invent the ingenious tools and machines which the big companies buy up, and then bury under patents because they can make more money selling feature-bloated products.

Each nationality has its unique talents, unique natural resources, and traditional skills, skills often running back centuries. Let's ignore food and other commodities for a moment. Asia is currently doing to the U.S. what we did to Europe in the Long Recession of 1873 -- Asia is gutting many of our commodity industries. Some will not recover.

That leaves a huge range of products and services that other countries can make better than China or most emerging economies. Those who do a lot of business internationally can instantly point to the nations that are best at gold-smithing, fluidics, printing presses, different types of electronic and machine parts, cutting tools, specialized clothing, swimming pool cleaners, electric appliances, and pianos.

(But I forgot! Asia has taken over the world piano market. Or has it? Steinway's lower-priced Boston and Essex brands are indeed made in Japan and China. On the floor of Carnegie Hall, however, the Steinway model of choice is the Steinway D-274 grand piano -- which are made exclusively in the U.S. and Germany.)

Emerging economies are not taking the lead in these industries anytime soon -- they might not be fully competitive for 50-100 years. In fact, just to build the machines to make competing products, the first stop for an emerging nation is often Haas Automation in California -- because to build quality manufacturing tools, you need the best machining tools available. And Haas is not a Fortune 500 company -- in fact it was only founded in 1983.

And Americans' talent? I'd say they are masters of simple machines that do more with less. I say that despite watching some 30 years of shoddy car manufacture and junky plastic appliances. The quality in many American industries is on a fast rise again. I believe Americans still have the talent to create simple, ingenious, effective tools and machines. It's the will to do so that is in question.

With English now the international business language, and the Internet the international connection, the 99 Percenters can compete globally as well as the Fortune 500. So as the Fortune 500 abandons Americans as their customers and employees -- in favor of emerging markets -- the 99 Percent can begin to abandon the Fortune 500 as their customers and employers -- in favor of emerging markets.

For the last four years the mainstream media, the financial manipulators, the foot-dragging Federal agencies and the moralist next door have been delaying debt walkaway, as they trumpeted 1970s values that no longer mean anything. Now there is not much time left for delay. The remaining wealth of the middle-class is shrinking too fast to be squabbling over individual morality.

The money being sent to big banks needs to be invested in new businesses owned and operated by creators and inventors, the same way Haas began (as did Hewlett-Packard, in a garage in 1939). These new companies need to be doing business beyond Main Street, because we can't build a new economy trading sandwiches for dry cleaning. The 99 Percent economy needs to be both national and global.

This, in 2012, is the overriding civic duty of Americans who want to participate in saving the economy: think locally, nationally, and globally. And then build businesses and organizations that operate on any or all of the three levels. Call it New Street, USA.

Fri Jan 27, 2012 at 8:20 PM PT: Comment from an economic historian who writes about the parallels between the Great Recession and the Long Recession of 1873:

"This is great. Machine tools were the US's most significant industry from the 1870s forward - partly a result of the import of highly-skilled German, Austro-Hungarian, and English machinists who had previously been banned from emigrating to the US by their home countries. Small-scale batch manufactories (not the Carnegie/Rockefeller big firms) were arguably the most dynamic." – Scott Reynolds Nelson, Professor of History, College of William and Mary, author of “The Real Great Depression,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 17 Oct. 2008.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And if debtors don't keep their commitments to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    banks, where will the banks get money to lend to new businesses owned and operated by creators and inventors?

    •  Mmm, small banks? And credit unions? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      S M Tenneshaw, joe shikspack

      That's where a lot of middle class money is already fast flowing, very fast. And the big banks aren't lending much to small business anyway. (Notice I have "Big" bank in the headline.)

      Plus there there is personal investment. People "buy themselves a job" when they invest in higher education; that money could also go to "building a business."

  •  Damn right. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe shikspack, isabelle hayes

    When they own the information, they can bend it all they want. -- John Mayer

    by S M Tenneshaw on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 11:30:47 AM PST

  •  This moral issue is apparently only suffered by (4+ / 0-)

    the middle class.  The rich and corporations walk away from failing enterprises all the time, but we've been brainwashed to honor our debts, and they have the almighty credit score to threaten you with if you start wavering.  

    Another double standard out there clear as a bell.  Debt forgiveness would be a huge boost (and it's been done before), but the greedmongers will say what a huge mistake this would be. They are sitting on piles of money and THEY WANT EVEN MORE.    

    I agree with you that it's time to think out of the box about how to right this sinking, stinking economic boat.

    New products and new tricks were pulled out of Wall Street asses that made them billionaires. Time for the government to save the middle class by pulling some new tricks out of their own.

    His silence says everything we need to know.

    by livjack on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 12:30:18 PM PST

  •  So if the ethos becomes that it's OK to reneg (0+ / 0-)

    on legal contracts, what is protect the inventors and startups?

    You imply such an ethos can be somehow restricted to the "big banks" and others you don't like. Unlikely.

    •  Not sure what ethos I implied where.... (0+ / 0-)

      ... but a lot of goods that would be marketable globally don't need much patent protection, because most of the world just wants simple devices that work well. Quality is something you do in manufacturing, not in the patent process.

      However if I can find my ethos, I'll reply more cogently.

  •  well, it's clear that we need a write down of debt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isabelle hayes, sillia, S M Tenneshaw

    the debt levels that we have now are unsustainable and the value that the big banks are claiming on their balance sheets is illusory. (thanks fasb, for loosening the rules on mark to market, feh!)

    that said, i'm thinking that we need a broader solution than just some portion of homeowners and other debtors defaulting on their debts.  if that happens, we'll just have a big argument about morality and the morality of the banksters who, in an environment of information asymetry, used their superior position to push bad loans at outrageous terms to people they knew could not afford them will go unchallenged.  the banksters need to be forced to acknowledge their corruption and immorality.  

    perhaps a national truth and redemption commission?

    i'm part of the 99% - america's largest minority

    by joe shikspack on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 01:49:43 PM PST

  •  We walked away (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isabelle hayes, S M Tenneshaw

    from our house in Arizona.  We bought it for 235k in 2005 and by 2010 it was worth 120k.  Half the houses in our neighborhood were empty by forclosure or hoping to shortsell.  After visiting with a lawyer to check our options, the best option for us to was to just pack-up, move-out, and don't look back.  Our credit rating took a hit, starting at 780 it went down to 620, but a year+ later it's already back up to 740.  If you're underwater, check with a lawyer and see if walking away is an option for you (but do really check with a lawer first.)

  •  Hell sorta yes (0+ / 0-)

    Your debt is a contractural obligation. There are consequences to walking away from it. You have a legal obligation to pay those consequences, like losing your home. Your moral obligations are to do what is best for your family. IF that involves walking away from baddebt/mortgage, so be it.

    You don't think Romney and the banksters wouldn't do the math and walk away from a debt it was cheaper to do so? You think they'd worry about moral obligations? Dump the loan pay the penalty and move on.

    We're not talking about people, like me, who aren't in bad mortgages under water. But, if you are, dump the debt pay the consequences and move on.

    The banksters created this mess. They refuse to help clean it up. So fuck 'em. The whole credit/mortgage/foreclosure process is fucked up. The sooner we blow it up and start over the better off we all are. IF that takes out a bank or two, so what?

    The shit's gonna hit the fan anyway. Why wait? Why drag this out for more years?

    Blow it up and start over.

    Democrats are not always right, but Republicans are insane.

    by BobBlueMass on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 02:05:46 PM PST

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