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Pac Man

I have no degree in economics. Didn’t do well in retrograde analysis of multi-modality geo-economic modeling and changed majors rather than take Statistics.

But even I can figure out that capitalism --- rampant, unchecked, pure capitalism as is practiced in this country --- is not sustainable in the long term.

I remember one of the first video games, Pac Man, which was a round head with a mouth that gobbled up everything in its path. That is capitalism.

We measure our economic success as a country on many factors, but at heart, the key economic indicator on one level or another is consumer spending.

Every industry is devoted to the consumer, thus the economic condition of industry is a function of the rate of consumer spending. Housing, transportation, food, health care, communications, are all fungible quantities supplied to those who can afford them.

Each year, or quarter or month, every strand in the country’s economic tapestry is measured by how much more or less “growth” occurred over the last. When targets are attained, the goal gets higher. But such “growth” is based on the fallacy of endless raw materials to make products, endless places to dump old products and endless room in one’s budget to accommodate purchases of new products.

So now we know that we’re running out natural resources required to make new materials and we’ve already run out of places to unload our trash. But there’s still the hope of cramming more products into the lives of already debt-beleaguered consumers’ households --- so the machine of capitalism chugs on and on.

Ironically, there are only two basic ways to make money if you are an engine of commerce or a cog in its wheels: increase consumption or lower costs. Lowering costs has resulted in a deluge of American corporation outsourcing everything from manufacturing to customer service to countries whose wages are reminiscent of another century.

But outsourcing takes jobs away from consumers who need money to pay for – well, things. So if you outsource, who’s going to be able to afford your products? They’ll worry about that when it happens --- until then, the race is on!

And the capitalist practice of placing a dollar value on every aspect of life has become a reality. Every aspect of every American’s life is determined by one factor – how much money you have. From food, clothing, shelter to health care and education, every single indicator of how you will live --- and even the value of your life after death – depends on currency.

It follows from that fact that as the chasm between the super rich and the barely getting by is widening, more and more people are falling in the gap --- homelessness, lack of medical care due to lack of insurance (or unaffordable deductibles so that even if you have it you can’t afford to use it), calculated ignorance due to the unavailability of quality education, criminalization of poverty --- all of these are symptoms of capitalism unchecked, capitalism at its finest.

These effects of the fundamental framework of our economic system are not hard to discern. Just look at what products have been considered “innovative” in the last couple of decades. Cell phones, cable/ satellite TV, high speed digital computer access, iPods, iPads, iPhones, BluRay, Bluetooth, smaller and smaller computers – none of these things allow the elimination of redundant technology. They just require one more addition to the monthly budget of your average consumer.

The alarms have already been sounded about the staggering amount of personal debt necessary to keep up with these “must have” innovations. But since the concept of a balanced budget has not compelled our political leaders to practice fiscal responsibility, what the hell?

There will be a breaking point, though, when the numbers of consumers who can afford to continue this rampant consumerism dwindles so much that they can no longer support the institutions that comprise our economy.

By that time, we won’t be “two Americas” as decried by the politician du jour – we’ll be four: the super rich power elite (say 1% of the population); their well-paid underlings (say another 3%); those in prison (30%) and the pissed off, displaced masses with nothing left to lose.

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