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Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower
3 Feb 2016
What Really Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan

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21 Jan 2016
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When I crossed paths with a Democratic Party campaign consultant in Austin last March, I suggested he come … Read More.

America's Economic "Spread-ession"


Times are hard.

How hard, you ask? Well, you'll be glad to know that professional economists have now reached a conclusion: America is technically in a recession. Of course, millions of Americans have known this for months, since they've lost jobs, businesses, homes — and faith in economists.

While the professors pored over their reams of data, plenty of real-life indicators were shouting that, yes indeedy, the economy sure enough is in a heap of hurt. Start with this indicator: abandoned boats.

Thousands of vessels have been turning up in harbors, on beaches and on other waterfronts around the country — minus any owners. They've been ditched. These are not junkers. They are fully functioning pleasure boats that have become money-sucking burdens to would-be mariners who find themselves sinking in today's economic whirlpool. They are also commercial craft (trawlers, shrimp boats and such) that can no longer earn their keep because of the disastrous decline in America's fishing market.

Why not just sell them? No market. As one marina owner notes: "You can just forget trying to sell a power boat right now. No one is buying."

Most boats also have very little scrap value, and it's expensive to haul them to a proper dump. So many owners are slipping their rigs into a marina or river, removing the ID numbers, maybe even sinking them and scooting away.

For another sign of the times, look to the world of pro sports. Even Tiger Woods just got dumped by Buick, which cancelled a $7.5 million sponsorship deal for 2009. The carmaker, which is in line for a Washington bailout, explained that bailing out on Tiger "sure frees up a lot of money for us."

OK, it's hard to feel the pain of a gabillionaire golfer, but canceling on Woods is a clue that this is no ordinary recession. It's a "spread-ession," reaching far beyond the working class that usually bears the full blow of downturns.

Then there's NASCAR, the racing competition that literally wears corporate wealth on its sleeve.

Drivers in this high-octane sport are covered from helmet to boots in the assorted logos of corporate sponsors, and their stock cars are similarly plastered with brand names, ranging from GM to M&Ms.

Corporate dollars are the fuel line for NASCAR, accounting for 80 percent of the typical racing team's total budget. These days, however, many of the usual sponsors are rolling over into the financial ditch and cutting out of the racing game. This has left even some of the top NASCAR teams, once flush with money, scrambling for cash.

Ironically, to stay on the track, seven-time champion Richard Petty has "gone Wall Street," selling a controlling interest in his family's team to venture capital speculators.

Tracking on up to the tippy top of America's financial pyramid, the haute culture social scene in Manhattan got a jolt in November when Marc Jacobs signaled that the party is over. For the last 18 years, this flashy fashion designer has thrown a lavish holiday bash for several hundred of his closest friends.

His annual party is a celebration of excess. Last year, he had an "Arabian Nights" theme, and 800 swells came in costume to the gala, held in the posh Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center. It was beyond fab, featuring bare-breasted women adorned with gold necklaces, a group of contortionists to amuse delighted attendees, five open bars, bare-chested men balancing candelabras atop their heads and, at a climatic moment, a shower of gold glitter falling from the ceiling.

Those were the days. This year, however, instead of an invitation, the guest list received a terse email reading, "Due to the financial climate, I had to make the decision to cancel the 2008 holiday party." The glitter is gone from our modern Gilded Age.

Folks at the bottom are used to hearing hard times knock on their doors, but when the gates of opulence also get a knock, you know that this downturn is something different. As one marketer of luxury goods observed: We're just seeing the beginning of this."

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at



1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... Capitalism has been on life supports for a long time... It is not that there is no wealth here, or no markets, but in letting capital follow its own course it has been exported, and goods have been imported until the wealth of the society has been sucked up, and the people empoverished in a reverse mercantilism... It is great if you are trying to develop a world economy, but the same situation maintains there, so that people across the globe are losing their wealth as well.. If I were in charge, I would be pushing America to a war time economy, so that if the whole economy falls, that basic goods and services would be provided for... Letting the situation go on unmanaged only means that we will suffer more, and face war, and possibly a violent revolution... Now, I have been a revolutionary forever... I should look forward revolution... I do not; but have been terrified by the very thing I think essential... When societies fall, and when economies fall they fall on people... I live in the wasteland of Michigan, and we have been in depression for seven years...I have some money in the bank, a government insured pension, and my wife works for the PO...I can't count on any of it, nor of the value of my house holding...The government and the economy are no more than a row of dominos or a house of cards... Those people who have lived high squeezing every last cent out of the government and the people are not going to easily give up their wealth to support us now, but the profit has been drained, and many of us have been pushed to the margin of existence...If government cannot protect us from poverty or from insecurity or from the enemies capital has made abroad; then why keep it??? If the economy does not serve all of us; why keep it??? We need to find a way of reforming our government and society so it works for people, and does not waste lives... We cannot do that without a re-evaluation of all values... We have to remember that these forms: government, religion, the economy, even rights, and words, and all forms really, are forms of relationship... We have to be able to relate, and the system, however it is concieved has got to work for all people...That ain't what we got... And, reforming society is a dangerous occupation that is only done because it is unavoidable... Revolution is not a lark, and you see it now, people talking about seccession or a violent defense of values... We have been led thus far into disunion, and it will take a gigantic effort to keep us together, and I hope, for good... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Dec 3, 2008 8:26 AM
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