As I’ve written and said many times, I see no politically viable solutions to peak oil or global climate change. There is simply no way to tell the masses the truth about economic contraction and then get re-elected. Ditto for declining accessibility to fossil fuels even as the human population continues to grow, with every one of those new bodies wanting the current version of the latest toys. And, of course, there is no telling the citizens of the planet to cut back on emissions because our persistence as a species depends upon it. Admitting either of these predicaments might, after all, cause stock markets to crash. And as we all know by now, the property and money of the rich are more important than the lives of the rest of us. Both parties in our two-party, one-ideology political system agree about that.
On the other hand, I keep getting asked to come up with politically viable solutions to both predicaments. Some people think such an activity is worthwhile, and I’ll give it a shot with this post.
With respect to energy decline, totalitarian socialism worked for Cuba. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba experienced 90% decline in crude oil supply essentially overnight. The Cubans muddled through, shoulders to the wheel, with no measurable loss of human life. Even today, two decades later, their standard of living exceeds ours for every measure that counts (and no, GDP doesn’t count). With respect to emissions that drive climate change, the Cuban model is far superior to the leading economies in the industrialized world. If there is a viable political model to deal with both sides of the fossil-fuel coin, it’s found in Cuba and perhaps other countries characterized by totalitarian socialism.
Here in the United States of Advertising, in sharp contrast to the Cuban model, a 0.5% decline in world oil supply nearly brought the military-industrial complex to its knees. Thanks to heavy doses of Keynesian-style bailouts to corporations, the republic was saved, but it still teeters on the brink. It looks like the federal government will continue to function for a few more years, even with a 3% annual decline in world crude oil supply (cf. Cuba, with its 90% decline). And, lest you think the system isn’t working, think again. The system is working exactly as it was designed to work: capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich. If it’s not working for you, it’s only because you’re not financially wealthy enough to matter.
I seriously doubt we can switch to totalitarian socialism in time to save lives in this country. We’re already too deep into fascism to switch horses. At this point, the sheeple probably would go along, but the corporations would not. Ours is a command economy, and the commands come from the corporations: If they tell legislators to vote for an initial $700 billion bailout package, you can bet how it will turn out: “in no time the taxpayers ended up with more than eighteen times that, $12.8 trillion in loans, spending, and guarantees.”
For those who do not believe we’ve yet reached the point of fascism in the U.S., consider these tidbits:
The federal government has assumed a controlling interest in GMAC, after buying the nation’s largest car company.
The Federal Reserve is seriously considering the purchase of more (toxic) assets from Fannie and Freddie.
Your favorite Treasury Secretary told AIG to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurer’s payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis. Meanwhile, he repeated the administration’s commitment to economic growth at all costs, including runaway climate change: “There is no greater priority for this administration than getting Americans back to work.”
It’s a quick trip to jail for blowing the whistle on the criminals at UBS, which happens to throw big money in the direction of Obama.
The list goes on. These are merely the most recent examples of an essentially endless list.
Will fascism work? Only for the fascists, I’m afraid. After all, you cannot even land a job in the OBusha administration unless you’re willing to kill the right people. Hopefully, this system will work only for a very short time. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario by which it lasts as long as the Cuban solution.
Further evidence the American economic system is working as planned is found in projections for this year. If you think 2009 was punishingly bad for the American middle class, think again: economic black swans will be the least of our problems, according to a dozen mainstream economists. For starters, social security goes bankrupt this year, with no politically viable solution except printing money (the one-size-fits-all plan for the current administration). Meanwhile, bonuses are up — way up — on Wall Street. And although the last decade was characterized by a decline in stock markets and a net loss of jobs, the next 10 years has us headed straight for the post-industrial Stone Age. This likely will bring back a decent sense of community, which marked Stone-Age cultures for the first couple million years of the human experience.
The U.S. economy is still shedding jobs, after setting records for the percentage of Americans out of work for an extended period (and, no, those jobs aren’t coming back). A few criminals continue to profit from the ongoing economic implosion, and the harbinger of hope appears to be among the scoundrels. No wonder his administration changes the rules every time they think nobody’s watching.
Meanwhile, a steady rise in the price of oil, hence gas, threatens to further strangle out-of-breath consumers. And speaking of gas, the public and their politicians seem completely disinterested in the huge methane flux coming from beneath Arctic seas, even though: (1) ongoing global warming threatens to thaw Siberia’s subsea permafrost, (2) the amount of carbon trapped in shelf permafrost is in the range of 1,600 billion tonnes – roughly twice as much carbon as in the atmosphere now, and (3) the release of this once-captive carbon would have catastrophic effect on our climate and life on Earth.
Not to worry. It’s merely life on Earth. It’s not as if the release of methane poses a threat to the vaunted industrial economy of the United States, or causes something as dire as childhood goat trauma.
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