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How Bad Things Are

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Posted on May 14, 2012
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

By Paul Krugman

(Page 2)

That’s not to say, however, that economic affairs are unimportant in the true scale of things. For there’s one economics-driven thing that matters enormously to human well-being: having a job. People who want to work but can’t find work suffer greatly, not just from the loss of income but from a diminished sense of self-worth. And that’s a major reason why mass unemployment—which has now been going on in America for four years—is such a tragedy.

How severe is the problem of unemployment? That question calls for a bit of discussion.

Clearly, what we’re interested in is involuntary unemployment. People who aren’t working because they have chosen not to work, or at least not to work in the market economy—retirees who are glad to be retired, or those who have decided to be full-time housewives or househusbands—don’t count. Neither do the disabled, whose inability to work is unfortunate, but not driven by economic issues.

Now, there have always been people claiming that there’s no such thing as involuntary unemployment, that anyone can find a job if he or she is really willing to work and isn’t too finicky about wages or working conditions. There’s Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for the Senate, who declared in 2010 that the unemployed were “spoiled,” choosing to live off unemployment benefits instead of taking jobs. There are the people at the Chicago Board of Trade who, in October 2011, mocked anti-inequality demonstrators by showering them with copies of McDonald’s job application forms. And there are economists like the University of Chicago’s Casey Mulligan, who has written multiple articles for the New York Times website insisting that the sharp drop in employment after the 2008 financial crisis reflected not a lack of employment opportunities but diminished willingness to work.

The classic answer to such people comes from a passage near the beginning of the novel The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (best known for the 1948 film adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston): “Anyone who is willing to work and is serious about it will certainly find a job. Only you must not go to the man who tells you this, for he has no job to offer and doesn’t know anyone who knows of a vacancy. This is exactly the reason why he gives you such generous advice, out of brotherly love, and to demonstrate how little he knows the world.”

Quite. Also, about those McDonald’s applications: in April 2011, as it happens, McDonald’s did announce 50,000 new job openings. Roughly a million people applied.

If you have any familiarity with the world, in short, you know that involuntary unemployment is very real. And it’s currently a very big deal.

Reprinted from “End This Depression Now!” by Paul Krugman. Copyright © 2012 by Paul Krugman. With the permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Co.

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By ReadingJones, May 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment

The right of the people to keep and bear arms has very
little to do with hunting. It is the last bastion
against tyrannical oppresion and is meant to secure the
other rights.

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By Kachtice, May 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm Link to this comment

@ Doubtom

Agreed, the problem lies with a system that continually tells them that the American way is the only way.  What isn’t explained is that Global Terrorism is a two way street, dependant on which side you are standing on and whose views you were taught as a child.  Our continued presence in the Middle East is nothing more then our Governments control over a region that doesn’t want us there. 

We are at the point where a Revolution is the only solution.  You are right to expect it to be a violent affair, the hope for peaceful change died in the late sixties with cops beating people into submission and proving to the American people they are clearly the stooges of the Political elitist.  Change will not happen without sacrifice, the longer it is put off the greater the chance it will fail.

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By Kachtice, May 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

@ oddsox

We are much further apart on the solution then you may recognize. 

I refuse to sell off my rights to a Government whose only agenda is to enslave me to their interests.  I will never believe that compromise for the greater good of people who have been stealing for their personal wealth, compromising my rights under the Constitution and lying about anything that fortifies their grip on this Country to me and my fellow citizens is in the best interest of the American people just because some politically biased Supreme Court Justices say so.  The Constitution was meant to give the people the power and leave corrupt Government out of our personal lives. 

Thomas Jefferson wrote “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the Government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them” and “experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of Government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny” which leads me to his solution to correct the current problems the American people now find themselves in “whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute new Government”.  The power this Government yields will never allow the American people to alter what the Politicians have built for themselves and their Banker financiers, Revolution is the only answer left if the American people ever want to regain their freedoms and our Country from those who believe we are only here to serve them.

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By Doubtom, May 20, 2012 at 11:24 am Link to this comment

It’s odd how a nation that doesn’t lack for people to go and fight and die for the
civil rights of other people in a foreign nation, is so reluctant to fight and yes
perhaps die, to return our own government to its people.
The only thing that will solve the many ills afflicting our nation is a revolution. Like
it or not, that’s the reality.  Whether it will be a bloody one or a peaceful one
(whatever form that might take) is the only decision to make.  Of course with the
police and the military on the side of the war-mongering cowards in charge, one
can fairly well assume that it will eventually get violent.  So be it!  That’s how this
country began, so this speaks volumes as to its necessity.  The king would not
voluntarily give up his dominion over the people and neither will the entrenched
career scum currently at the helm of our nation.  We either have the stomach for
revolution of we can remain as slaves.  It’s one of the few choices we have left.
Kachtite is right on target in this regard and those seeking a safer path, want what
never was and never will be.  How many generations must tolerate their unrealized
dreams before getting the message that this is a class war between the elite and
the cannon fodder that have to fight their illegal wars.

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By oddsox, May 20, 2012 at 9:32 am Link to this comment

Kachtice, Now we’re getting closer to agreement.

you write:
“...but an income tax means that (government) can reach into my pocket and take my personal property just because I have a job.”
Kach, it’s not the Job being taxed, it’s the income.  Remember: capital gains, royalties & interest are taxed as income, too.

But, sadly, we DO also have a “Jobs” tax. 
FICA/Medicare taxes—payroll taxes. 
Employers who hire pay these taxes. 
And so do employees. 
Those are the taxes I want to eliminate. 
For the sake of increased employment, you see?
Replace the lost revenues to fund Social Security and Medicare with consumption taxes over which you can have some control:
“if I don’t want it I am not taxed by it,” as you put it. 
It’s a better way forward.

You conclude: “Change is never achieved without sacrifice and it will take a great sacrifice to return this Government to the people.”
Yes, you’re correct, we agree.
But the needed sacrifice can take many forms; and there are many paths to worthwhile change. 
So your earlier comment: “the only chance the people of this Country have is Revolution,” is mistaken.
That’s the kind of binary thinking offered by many TruthDig bloggers and often displayed by snake-oil salesmen like columnist David Sirota.

Alas, I digress. 
Perhaps we can agree on this much:
Tax Consumption, Not Jobs.

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By Kachtice, May 20, 2012 at 8:41 am Link to this comment

@ oddsox

That’s because an NST (National Sales Tax) is taxing goods, if I don’t want it I am not taxed by it, but an income tax means that they can reach into my pocket and take my personal property just because I have a job, apparently something the Government believes is a privilege that they bestow on me and I should pay for that right.  The income tax was instituted for Government greed and truly is the root of all evil, it will eventually cost all Americans their rights under a Constitution that doesn’t have the same meanings to this generation that it had with the generation the wrote it.

A Government needs to collect some sort of taxes to cover the “reasonable” costs of keeping the people it is supposed to protect safe (I understand this), my problem is the excessive taxes we are expected to pay for their greed and waste.  The fact that prior to 1913 the only time an income tax was instituted was to pay for the Civil War and this country was still financially capable of running without said tax once repealed.  The only reason the Government has now to collect taxes is for the control of the population through a police state (it is expensive having so many different agencies to keep tabs on there own people), supporting unlawful and unjustified “police actions” against Foreign Nationals whose beliefs are different then our own and the enrichment of the American Politician who has gained office through lies and deceit and the Bankers who put them there. 

The current Government will never over turn the Amendment that has profited them so well for so long. The only chance the people of this Country have is Revolution.  Change is never achieved without sacrifice and it will take a great sacrifice to return this Government to the people.

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By oddsox, May 20, 2012 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

Kachtice, I’m enjoying our civil discourse, but I feel you’re weaving all over the map.

When I first mentioned a NST to replace FICA/Medicare taxes you responded:
“Interesting ideas but there is no way the current people running the Government would take a chance on upsetting their masters.”

Now you want to overturn the 16th amendment, as if THAT’s gonna happen anytime soon??

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By Kachtice, May 20, 2012 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

@ oddsox:

Let’s see if I understand this correctly.  You are willing to be a “slave” to the Federal Government as long as they don’t take more then you think is fair?  You have no problem with them taking their “cut” off the top and allowing you to keep what is left?  You do not believe that the “fruits of your labor” should be considered your personal property?  So, if the day comes and you can’t meet your “fair” payment, you will have no problem with the Federal Government coming to you and confiscating whatever items of value you have and auction them off to cover the debt you supposedly owe them?  Sounds more like you consider yourself an indentured servant to the Federal Government then a free Citizen of the United States. 

Not to be too blunt here, even though I sometimes do, but the Country ran just fine before 1913 without the Sixteenth Amendment and has only fed the Political corruption machine ever since.  I will never agree that any kind of income tax is a good thing, it is only instituted for the enrichment of the Political elitists who believe the American people are required to support them.  It has led this Country to enormous debt and proven our leaders are only interested in enriching their own lives at our expense.

Try reading, The Income Tax: Root of all Evil by Frank Chodorov [1954]. 
“The Sixteenth Amendment puts no limit on governmental confiscation. The government can, under the law, take everything the citizen earns, even to the extent of depriving him of all above mere subsistence, which it must allow him in order that he may produce something to be confiscated. Whichever way you turn this amendment, you come up with the fact that it gives the government a prior lien on all the property produced by its subjects.”
“The corruption of freedom is in proportion to the moral deterioration of the people. For a people who have lost their sense of self-respect have no need for freedom. And the income tax, by transferring the property of earners to the State, has disintegrated the moral fiber of Americans to such a degree that they do not even recognize the fact.…”
“Whether a fight for freedom will be crowned with success, is less important than the fight itself, for if nothing comes of it, the improvement in the spirit of the fighters will be a gain, and they cannot help but keep alive the values that will make America a better climate for their offspring to live in.…”

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By oddsox, May 19, 2012 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment

Kachtice & ReadingJones:

IMO, the income tax should stay, and much as it is now—a progressive tax model with a high initial threshhold. 
Nearly 50% of filing households pay no income tax, and the top 10% pay 70% of all revenues. 
Asking them to pay still more is a little greedy.  IMO, asking the top 1% for yet another 10% (from 35% to 39.6%) is reasonable if there are matching budget cuts at the same time.
Either way, though, our income taxes are plenty progressive, and raise much revenue. 
Income taxes have steadily made up between 40%-45% of Federal revenues since 1950.

What I’m proposing is dumping the FICA (payroll)tax.
Payroll taxes are regressive. 
They begin on the first dollar earned, but end after a $106,800 threshhold is reached. 
Excepting the temporary 2% employee reduction last year, they are matched by the employer. 
Medicare taxes are shared by both employee and employer and have no contribution end point.
Together, payroll taxes account for about 40% of federal revenues, but this wasn’t always so. 
In 1950, they made up for only 10%.
Over the past 60 years, we have placed an ever-increasing tax burden on Labor. 
No wonder we have high unemployment.

Of course, we still have to fund Social Security and Medicare, so that’s where the National Sales Tax comes in.  ReadingJones, I favor a point-of-purchase sales tax over the VAT. 
One reason is what you cited—foreign payors.  Only I wouldn’t give them a rebate here.  Let the tourists pay, and if they reciprocate by making us pay “over there,” so be it.  Tourist sales tax revenues would also serve as a slight hedge against our weakening dollar. 
The other reason I like the NST over a VAT is transparency.  If we have a 10% tax, everybody’s going to know if it goes to 11% and who’s responsible for the hike.  With a VAT it’s too easy to hide stealth increases and pet exemptions.

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By ReadingJones, May 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm Link to this comment

Canada uses a VAT with great success. I think it is
better than a sales tax. They exempt visitors from
other countries. You have to save your receipts and
send in an application. I left quite a bit unapplied
for because their universal health care system treated
me so well at no charge,

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By Kachtice, May 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment

@ oddsox

Interesting ideas but there is no way the current people running the Government would take a chance on upsetting their masters.  This current group of Politicians are already bought and paid for.

The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution states “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration”, this Amendment exempted income taxes from the Constitutional requirements regarding direct taxes and it was quickly ratified on February 3, 1913.  Many have argued that it wasn’t properly ratified by the two thirds necessary to pass the amendment and many more have argued that it was still in conflict with Article I of the Constitution.  According to the Congressional Research Service [1989], “the federal income tax is not a tax on income, it is a privilege tax measured by income.  It is an excise tax with respect to certain activities and privileges which is measured by the income they produce”  Hence the Sixteenth Amendment isn’t a violation of the Constitution and the Federal Government can rob the American people since it became law in 1913. 

I do agree that the Income tax should be excised from the Constitution, it is the number one reason unscrupulous people have gone into the career of Politics and the only reason so many within the Government have any desire to supposedly “serve”.  These problems will never be addressed without conflict by the people, until the citizens of this country wake up to what is really happening here things will only continue to become worse.

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By oddsox, May 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment

Kachtice, hard to argue with siding with the people vs. money-hungry corporate powers and power-hungry government.

As for solutions, I do have a few ideas:
Starting with breaking up the gigi-banks.

...and eliminating payroll taxes.  Fund FICA/Medicare with a National Sales Tax instead.
Tax Consumption, Not Labor.

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By Kachtice, May 19, 2012 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

@ oddsox

I don’t profess to have all or even some of the answers this Country needs to step out of the oligarchy we currently find ourselves in.  I know the current system is broken and I am sure many millions of other Americans also recognize this fact.  There are people who are capable of fixing these problems but none of them are in a position to make a change for the good.  What we do have are people who only care about what fattens their bank accounts and what lies they will tell to keep themselves in their current position.  The American Politician is a corrupt business, greed and personal power are the only things on their agenda.

The American people need to question if what was relevant two-hundred and twenty-five years ago is still relevant today.  Some brave people once stood up to tyranny and fought for their rights to be heard.  John Adams wrote “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide” and “Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws”.  Learn from the past because those same people who created the Constitution also realized it was impossible for those who are charged to protect it not to abuse the power it gives them.

It is obvious to me that we are at a tipping point in history, make changes that serve all the people or continue down the current path and find ourselves indentured to people who would gladly sacrifice what rights and freedoms we have left to serve their personal interests and wealth.  John Adams again wrote “but a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever”

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By oddsox, May 19, 2012 at 6:23 am Link to this comment

Kachtice, you write:
“‘s time to revise the (Constitution)to fit the needs of this and hopefully future generations…”

And whom would you trust to do this?

Our Constitution doesn’t need to be re-written.
It needs to be re-read.

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By Doubtom, May 17, 2012 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

It is after all the chairman’s main job to spew propaganda for the masses. 
Whenever things get really dicy, we have either a Bernanke or a Greenspan to
cheer us up with baseless predictions of rosier times ahead. 
As Gerard said, “we can’t buy our way in” and that’s the reason nothing gets done;
money speaks and those with money, like JP’s Dimon, can lose 2 billion dollars
and still collect a salary of 23 million dollars and somehow maintain their
credibility and stature.  He’s a splendid candidate to follow Bernanke as Fed

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By oddsox, May 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm Link to this comment

Krugman uses a movie quote to put down those who would encourage the unemployed to keep striving for work…

but look here.

...and word is even McDonald’s is hiring at $15/hr.

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By Kachtice, May 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment

What the Economists fail to mention is that the Federal Government has grown far beyond the constraints that the Constitution was written to control, hence the Corporation known as the U.S. Federal Government.  The world changed from that our founding fathers lived in even though they tried to protect future generations with their version of a Constitution, it‘s time to revise the document to fit the needs of this and hopefully future generations without the greed and self interest the past one hundred years have left us with. 

Big Government is a corrupt engine that feeds on the people, collusion between those who wield the power and those meant to safeguard our rights as citizens has eroded the foundation this Country was built on.  Nothing short of a few million people who are fed up with the status-quo marching on D.C. to take this Country and our Government back will matter, if the Politicians want war then it should be taken to their door steps.  The power was meant for the many and not the entitled few.

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By Marian Griffith, May 16, 2012 at 6:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

—-What on Earth is an “economy” FOR if it fails to
maximize human well-being?—-

Economy does not have a purpose. It is a result not an independent actor.
Economy starts when people are beginning to specialise. Instead of everybody doing everything they need to to survive (the way most animals do) each does a few things and exchanges the surplus of their efforts with others for the surplus of theirs, so that in the end everybody has everything they need.
The idea behind this is that somebody who specialises is going to produce more than each individual combined would so that the end result is that the group as a whole has more than they would have if they each did everything as needed only for themselves.

Everything else we commonly call economy is either facilitating this process or perverting it.

The ‘whole’ of our society has become so great though that economists and those at the lofty top of the pyramid of wealth have no longer any connection to the people doing the actual work and as a result tend to see everything in abstract terms. Including people and their real needs, which are what this division of labour was supposed to address more effectively.

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By ReadingJones, May 16, 2012 at 1:35 am Link to this comment

I first found out about “happiness research” as a
subset of economics when I moved into an apartment
building largely occupied by Bhutanese. I knew
nothing about Bhutan not even where it was within
1000 miles. The Bhutanese people I met seemed gentle,
very civil, and communitarian sort of like Canadians
but more gentle.

So I looked up Bhutan on Wikipedia. Among many other
things I found out that one of their people had
founded the study of happiness and satisfaction with

I think their culture would be a good model for where
I think most progressives would like our culture to
move toward. By no means do I think they are perfect
but they have gotten some things right.

It should be noted that the Bhutanese that I met were
refugees from strife in their homeland and were a
small isolated community of about 300 people in our

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By Night-Gaunt, May 15, 2012 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment

We are constantly told that the USA is a rich country. Now that is the same amount no matter who has it. And these days it is in 1929 proportions. Now that is scary. Did you know that when the economy falls from a 1s world to a 3rd world like ours one group goes fanatical and bollixes up the govt from functioning like we have now as the Republican party turning into a Know-Nothing Obstructionist Our Way or No Way Party. The problem is that the same forces own the Democratic Party too and only fields the most conservative candidates. If you aren’t you are marginalized and ridiculed like Dennis Kucinich was. And he was the FDR (only better) and not Obama or Hillary Clinton.

One way to win is to take over the economy and smash it up. Then use gobs of money to “fix” it temporarily while talking about cutting Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid as Obama has threatened to more than once.

We are surrounded and we are the Indians. And you know what happened to them. Treaties were mostly ignored, war had them slaughtered, giving up without fighting also got them slaughtered. We have been put into a now way out but their way by them. What to do? Occupy is one only it is a fledgling thing right now. Just got started and they have been given a taste of police brutality. More is on the way. It tends to keep people away.

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By stephan geras, May 15, 2012 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We need to collectivize, take back what’s ours, our
labor. Oh, right, what about the money, the investors
who screech that they endured the suffering, put up
the money so we could have jobs, enjoy the fruits of
our labor. But we know they really don’t care about
making life better for everyone (tho they say they
do) but they really care about…I know you’re saying
Our labor, our working lives, are not their property.
They’re ours. Start collectivizing, start organizing
in your workplace. When you talk to people, you’ll
find they feel and think very close to you. Our work
needs to be owned by us. I know, they call in the
police, and the police do what they’re told…bust
heads. But we still need to fight to get ownership of
our labor! The police can’t stop the swell…in fact
they could join.

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By muguet, May 15, 2012 at 4:26 am Link to this comment

How much poverty, destitution, and despair do we expect
people to endure while awaiting the recovery of this
imaginary thing called the “economy”?

As the ability of human beings to live a decent life,
secure in what sustains us—declines, the stock
market goes up!

What on Earth is an “economy” FOR if it fails to
maximize human well-being?

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By Schlee, May 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm Link to this comment


How bad do things have to get before we stop sugar coating a depression by calling it a recession?




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By grokker, May 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment

Krugman is nothing more than a thinly disguised yes man for the powers that be. He has nothing of value to say concerning fixes for the mess that we’re in. Instead, tune in the people like Michael Hudson, Ravi Batra, Dean Baker and a few others whose names escape me right now.

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By gforce, May 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Listen, AmericanMe—As a white person, I certainly can’t claim to know (though with a little imagination I can certainly guess) how you feel as a the great-great grandchild genocide survivors, as well as being the product of forced assimilation. However—it would be an understatement, I’m sure,to say that your desire for vengeance and keen sense of irony about how we white people are whining about this self-created mess, is quite understandable. Now for the inevitable qualifier: While it’s true that white Europeans (in general) have been global assholes, once we’re gone, surely we will leave a vacuum for some other, new form of global douche bags to rise up to the challenge. At this point I think all like minded citizens of earth regardless of race, color, and creed need to stick together and avoid killing one another—but maybe that’s just me trying to save my

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By gerard, May 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment

So what I want to know is what does Paul Krugman have to say about how to employ millions of people and snatch their homes back out of foreclosure. He’s an economist of some note; he must have some ideas.
What are they?  Furthermore, to whom is he talking? Does he have any “clout” on Wall Street, and if not, why not? It’s a cinch that people like me (and there are millions of us out here) have no clout. Nobody is listening to us, and we can’t buy our way in.
Somebody with both knowledge and a conscience is going to have to pick up the ball, take an elevator to the 57th floor and “speak truth to power” as they say.

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By americanme, May 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment


EVERYBODY stole from My people.

That’s the real bottom line.

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By prisnersdilema, May 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

When your falling from a great height, it may give you some comfort to flap your
arms as fast as you can. That’s what we were told to do, as we fell.

Is there time to realize, you have been conned, once you meet up with the ground? 

Jerzy Kosinski, must have met many men like Mr. Bernake.

Those green shoots aren’t mentioned anymore, they’ve have been replaced by
other sound bites. But the current ones don’t mention that 200,000 American’s
lost their unemployment benefits last weekend.

Their privations, for the most part, will go un noticed by the media, What they
have to do to feed themselves and their families, will not be a concern to those
that caused this crisis, unless the unemployed, happen to deprive them of some

Then like some vast and ancient dragon, that has had its nest of gold pilfered by a
burglar, they will stir to a fiery roar, demanding that the law punish the burglar, to
it’s fullest extent.

Who really stole from who?

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By americanme, May 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

When folks talk about how bad things are, in the US they always mean financially.

How about morally?

How about that ongoing commitment to genocide against all non-whites on the planet?

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By Tom, May 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Economists, the old line goes, know the price of
everything and the value of nothing.”
Oscar Wilde is credited with this quote, but it seems
to have been applied to all sorts of professions. I
first heard it defining antique dealers where it seemed
spot on. But it stretches to fit everyone and
everywhere in some aspect of life.

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