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Keep in mind "austerity" hasn't even begun.

10 Ways America Has Come to Resemble a Banana Republic

In the post-New Deal America of the 1950s and '60s, the idea of the United States becoming a banana republic would have seemed absurd to most Americans. Problems and all, the U.S. had a lot going for it: a robust middle-class, an abundance of jobs that paid a living wage, a strong manufacturing base, a heavily unionized work force, and upward mobility for both white-collar workers with college degrees and blue-collar workers who attended trade school. To a large degree, the nation worked well for cardiologists, accountants, attorneys and computer programmers as well as electricians, machinists, plumbers and construction workers.

In contrast, developing countries that were considered banana republics—the Dominican Republic under the brutal Rafael Trujillo regime, Nicaragua under the Somoza dynasty—lacked upward mobility for most of the population and were plagued by blatant income equality, a corrupt alliance of government and corporate interests, rampant human rights abuses, police corruption and extensive use of torture on political dissidents.

The piece at Alternet goes on to describe the author's breakdown of 10 different issues that bespeak to the 'fact', including, 'rising income inequality and a shrinking middle class', police state dynamics and corruption, torture, our record prison population and efforts to keep it that way, the unholy alliance of big business and our government, our vast unemployment, vastly lacking access to adequate healthcare, 'gaps' in life expectancy, hunger, and a high infant mortality rate. Because I insist on sticking to an old idea of 'fair use' (4 paragraphs) YOU have to go read the article. It's not my fault if you don't.

So, instead of wholly regurgitating the article (you can go read it), going on about things we already know and lament (go read WaPo: Obama had NSA limits reversed for some additional info about state over reach and a teaser about a Greenwald article to come purported to detail use of spying to aid big business), I want to focus on the author's prescription for reversing all this heinous and needless nonsense, but first, an anecdote.

I went to run a simple errand yesterday:I was laid off at the end of May from yet another healthcare job, a program that was historically supported by Medicare but which began to come under fire back in 2010. This resulted in the company losing enough money that they elected to shut down, leaving me without proper employment for the 7th time since 1993.

Because of the war on drugs and the need to pee for a job once you win the interview, I had to stop smoking the Evil Weed so my pee is pure. I haven't smoked since July 4th. But, here and there, I have picked up a little so that if and when the day comes that I get my next healthcare-related job that I will get to keep for 1-4 years before getting laid off again, I can enjoy a little freedom to smoke said Evil Weed in the evening or on the weekend, after passing the whizz-quiz.

Because of the war on drugs, I have no outstanding, safe connections but this dude I can give a little money to. He then goes and gets my little sack of crumbs and I go back in a day or two and pick it up. He's a major slacker but he's a nice guy.

Yesterday I thought I'd be clever and try a potentially easier route to where I meet him at his crappy job. But I wasn't as clever as I thought and ended up on a wrong turn and then faced with a traffic jam. An evasive move took me down to Buckhead, an epicenter of concentrated wealth here in Atlanta.

I have always been flabbergasted with the amount of money here and yesterday's little tour was no exception. With the seeming majority of people suffering job losses and declining incomes, the road through that area is lined - crammed - with huge, swanky buildings, many of them new, packed tighter and tighter. It is a serious exercise in having one's nose rubbed in how poorly one has done in life, at least that's the way I take it. I'm 53. I have a college education, a graduate degree, I have hardcore clinical training and experience as well as a license to do psychotherapy. I have and will work 10 and 12 and 14 hour days. Yet I still don't own a swanky building  in the swanky part of town. I don't have a 6-figure income. I would seem to be an utter failure, at least on that road. It is absolutely dizzying.

I jest somewhat - if you lose your sense of humor, you're really screwed, but maybe I am just too hard on myself. Basically I THINK....I BELIEVE I should be doing at least a little better than I am: I often wonder where I went wrong and recurrently surmise I wasted my life helping poor people instead of selling crap to wealthy folks.

I have driven that road many times in the past and it was almost unrecognizable even from the last time I drove it, maybe 5 years ago or so. So many new buildings and I saw signs of other buildings going up. The economy is being very, very good to somebody. It sure ain't me.

I found my escape route down to where I needed to be and zoomed back to what is a somewhat less swanky area, still well-out of my reach, but it's not someplace I want to live anyway. I have the luxury of  actually being happy with my home in a semi-rural, relatively low-income area just outside the Atlanta perimeter. I hooked up with my guy and zoomed back home.

Now....I have managed to get a part-time position in a small agency that is struggling to establish itself in the ashes of my last job, a scant 24 hours per week that will just allow me to pay all my bills, mortgage and car payment (I bought a car and THEN got the news I was being laid off.) At 53 years of age, I THINK I should be doing a little better. I am still not enjoying my crumbs because I am still seeking better employment.

As of this writing I have yet to hear back from a part-time position doing groups with children (yes, I have excellent experience with that), a fairly decent opportunity to be clinical director at a small mental health agency (what I should be doing at this point) and I just badgered this guy at a professional recruitment agency about a program supervisor/director position with some large hospital. There are tiny glimmers of hope but I have to remain pure.

The truth seems to be that my experience is very similar to million in this country. My education and experience are paying off in the slightest of terms by at least giving me hope that I can continually get some form of re-employment as the economy gets pushed off the cliff for most folks. In other words, however much it seems like I am whining, I have no real reason to whine: millions of others are being totally ruined. Suicides are up specifically because of this.

The author of the AlterNet article makes, as I said, a couple suggestions for turning this debacle around:

What will it take for the United States to reverse its dramatic decline? Robert Reich, in a video released on Labor Day 2013, called for six things: 1) a living wage for more American workers; 2) an earned income tax credit; 3) better childcare for working parents; 4) easier access to good schools and a quality education; 5) universal health insurance; and 6) union rights.
Those are things that will help a LOT of people. My wife and I are buying healthcare access (I refuse to call it insurance) out of our pockets with post-tax dollars: it's that or nothing right now. (We're in Georgia and I have no clue what Obamacare will do for people like us - just an aside)

Furthermore:

The U.S. also should replace the war on drugs with a sane drug policy (something Attorney General Eric Holder recently addressed), abolish the prison industrial complex,

rebuild the U.S.’ decaying infrastructure,

abolish the Patriot Act and the NDAA,

restore the Glass-Steagall Act and

break up too-big-to-fail banks.

Obviously, accomplishing even a third of these would be an uphill climb. But unless most or all of those steps are taken, the U.S. can look forward to a grim future as a banana republic.

I think all of those things are absolutely essential in order to turn this country around and bring it back from the edge of the cliff.

I would add re-shoring jobs as much as possible.

It seems to me, though, as the author observes, this will be an uphill challenge as the Powers That Be are quite interested in suffocating the America most of us live in and have been quite successful in doing so.

And, remember, austerity has not even begun.

Have a nice day.

Originally posted to Toking Points Memo on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 07:13 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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