America At A Crossroads

As the official Deficit Commission report awaits release tomorrow America is at a crossroads created by the nation’s rich and super rich to impose an austerity program.  What we need is a jobs program not a job killing program.  The future of the country, whether we move forward and establish economic growth or continue the downward spiral of the past thirty years is under debate.  Forwards or backwards?  

It really is this important.  While the official report does call for some cuts which are sensible the overall policy proposal is bad economics and imposes unneeded austerity which will destroy an economy largely based on consumer spending.  This type of economy is dependent upon people’s discretionary income.  That is what is left after the essentials are funded (food, clothing and shelter).  Without income people cannot spend and 70% of our economy shuts down.

This is what we’ve seen as the financial meltdown caused by unbridled Wall Street greed and a feverish push by radical elements to deregulate crashed the global economy.  It spread to middle class people who thus lost their jobs then their homes.  The mess created by securitization of mortgages, mortgage fraud and other types of illegal activities created a massive job loss nationally.  

Job creation is the number 1 issue facing America, NOT the deficit.  In severe economic times basic economics (anyone taking Econ 101 learns this) demands government deficits to create jobs and kick start a sagging system.  The stimulus bill was designed to do just this and was successful on the small scale attempted to do obstructionism by Republicans and corporate Democrats.  The TARP program under President Bush saved millions more jobs while costing a mere $25 billion.  That is about what it costs to fund unemployment compensation for six months.  Had there been no TARP the long term cost to taxpayers would have been hundreds of billions based on the long term unemployment problems facing Americans.

Social Security adds not one cent to the deficit but the Cat Food Commission would cut those benefits and send millions of American seniors to the pet food aisle for their grocery shopping.  Why?  This isn’t a deficit issue its an issue of morality.  The immoral types bent on impoverishing America for their personal benefit are attempting to impose such austerity that they can achieve complete political control.  Without money even for food how would seniors, the poor, the undereducated ever be able to contribute to candidates who would vouch for them and their interests?

Thus America is at a crossroads.  The Deficit Commission plan which has resulted from hysteria created by the super rich (Koch brothers and others) through the Tea Party will kill millions more jobs.  As much as I’d like to see the bloated Defense budget slashed, for example, that would destroy jobs in the defense industry.  That must be done but not right now.  We can slash welfare for corporate agribusiness however.  Corporate America is enjoying record profits at the expense of workers producing unprecedented productivity.  These riches are nbot being shared with those who are creating them however.  Instead the austerity budget would throw more of them onto the streets.

This entire controversy is manufactured to benefit the rich.  Cutting the deficit by rolling back the Bush tax cuts, all of them, would eliminate $1 trillion of the deficit.  Instead Republicans would eliminate unemployment compensation further killing our consumer economy.  We must create manufacturing jobs which will sustain middle class lifestyles.  We can do so by investing in desperately needed infrastructure, clean energy and education.  The biggest single thing we can do to reduce the deficit is to pass a single payer health care system.  Every other civilized nation does this at half the cost we spend with better outcomes.  Socialized medicine does work.  We are spending ourselves towards national bankruptcy due to health care.  This madness must stop.

Scrapping the cap for Social Security, eliminating agribusiness welfare and establishing sane, rational and effective national health care while allowing the tax cuts for the rich to expire solves most of the deficit issue.  More than that however, we must spend our way to prosperity.  Believe it or not that is the only solution which has ever worked in such hard economic times.  Business doesn’t expand and hire during such times and this is what we’re currently witnessing.  Corporate America is accumulating massive cash reserves yet refusing to hire workers and expand.  In such times it is incumbent upon government to be the job producer.  Don’t believe the myth that government cannot create jobs, they do every day.

You will be bombarded by misinformation over the coming months.  Use your head and ask if any such proposals will create jobs or destroy them.  Cutting the budget instead of passing new, aggressive job expansion programs will set us on the path to poverty for all excepting the richest.  Do we really want to continue this slide towards serfdom?  Establishing growth through job creation is the only path to follow yet one the right wing has purposely sabotaged.  This sabotage of the American economy was strangely rewarded at the polls by idiots this month.  The amount of such activity is going to increase drastically as these economic obstructionists feel they received a mandate.

America is at a crossroads, which direction will we go, up or down?

A Sustainable Calling Plan

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Danielle Nierenberg with Mike Quinn, Mobile Transactions General Manager (photo: Bernard Pollack) In addition to hoes and shovels, more and more farmers in sub-Saharan Africa carry another agricultural “tool”: a cell phone.

Over the last decade, cell-phone use in Africa has increased fivefold, and farmers are using their phones to gain information about everything from markets to weather. For example, farmers can find out prices before they make the long trips from rural areas to urban markets, giving them the option to wait to sell until prices are higher. Agricultural extension agents and development agencies also use mobile phones to communicate with farmers, letting them know about changes in weather that could affect crops.

Farmers and agribusiness agents in Zambia are also using cell phones as bank accounts, to pay for orders, to manage agricultural inputs, to collect and store information about customers, and to build credit. Mobile Transactions, a financial services company for the “unbanked,” allows customers to use their phones like an ATM card, says Mike Quinn, Mobile Transactions General Manager. An estimated 80 percent of Zambians, particularly in rural areas, don’t have bank accounts, making it difficult for them to make financial transactions such as buying seed or fertilizer. But by using Mobile Transactions, farmers are not only able to make purchases and receive payment electronically, they are also building a credit history, which can make getting loans easier.

Mobile Transactions also works with USAID’s PROFIT program to help agribusiness agents make orders for inputs, manage stock flows, and communicate more easily with agribusiness companies and farmers. Perhaps most importantly, the partnership helps agents better understand the farmers they’re working with so that they can provide the tools, inputs, and education each farmer and community needs.

In addition, e-banking and e-commerce systems can help make better use of agricultural subsidies. Mobile Transactions worked with AGRA and CARE to develop an e-voucher system for obtaining conservation farming inputs. Farmers receive a scratch card with funds that they can redeem via their phones to purchase tools or other inputs from local agribusiness agents. Unlike paper vouchers, there’s no delay in moving the money, and farmers can get what they need immediately, such as seed during planting season or fertilizer when it can be used most effectively. And because donors are using Mobile Transactions to distribute the vouchers, they’re acting as a stimulant to the private sector, rather than distorting the market.

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