Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The USA is being destroyed by the market

I've posted before about how neoliberalism - free market economics - is damaging the US economy in this post, but what I saw on Newsnight last evening truly shocked me, and I have no illusions about the capacity of the market to cause destitution and degradation on a massive scale. Take a look at Paul Mason's report about Gary, a town in Indiana, close to Chicago, which has a population of about 100,000, before it disappears off iPlayer.

The report showed a parade on the main street in the 1950's. A broad main street fringed with shops and public buildings, thousands of happy looking (white) people watching and participating with smiling faces. Clearly Gary was a prosperous town with a thriving economy. It had a theatre which could seat 3,000. Frank Sinatra entertained there.

Contrast that with Gary in 2010. A scene of utter devastation. Buildings, including those on that main street empty, falling down, windowless, and roofless, the theatre a crumbling ruin, houses and factories empty and deserted. The place looked like somewhere after a nuclear attack, like a ghost town, except that it's not because 100,000 people still live there amongst the ruins. Most of the inhabitants are unemployed, 80% are black - because the whites who can have fled. The town is bust. Recently, before some federal aid, it had only five functioning police cars. The criminals are better supplied and armed than the police. Areas of town are in pitch darkness because there are no streetlights.

At the state level the Republicans and the Tea Party acolytes are trying to deprive Gary of further public aid. The people of Gary voted for Obama. A horrific Tea Party demagogue spouted about how tax dollars shouldn't go to Gary and how only the private sector could create jobs and re-build the economy. Really? Wasn't it the 'private sector' that brought Gary to its knees in the first place, with privatisation, de-regulation, downsizing, outsourcing, shareholder value, tax cuts, labour market flexibility and most importantly - globalisation?

What is truly terrifying about this is the total indifference to the suffering of communities like Gary. There are pockets of the USA which are as deprived as the Third World. How can this be allowed to happen in America in the 21st century? Hasn't anything been learn't from the horrors of the Great Depression? Apparently not. How any self respecting civilised country could let this happen is beyond my imagination. But this is free market capitalism at work, and its the failure of the market as an economic system, driven by the class-war greed of the super-rich which has brought this about. The tragedy of Gary is no accident - it was deliberately manufactured.

The story of Gary should act as a stark warning to all of us. Just imagine if this was a town in the UK, like Warrington. How could we live with that? Of course most people can't conceive of something like that happening here. But its already happening - we are getting the same treatment as Gary from the ConDem government. For goodness sake people, wake up and smell the rotten stink of the free market before its too late!

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