“2013 was a very bleak year” - I began, in my first draft of this blog article, two years ago. I decided not to publish it because it was so bleak. Surely things would soon get better, I thought. Hope was just around the corner, so I held off. I found the draft yesterday and decided it was time to finish it. These are scary and depressing ideas but they need to be confronted.
In just two years many of the unthinkable things I predicted in the early draft came true, and terrifying developments that I never anticipated have come to be.
Let me warn you: this will be bleak. At the end there is a reason for hope - but it won't happen on its own -- we have to work together to make it happen.
The shrinking middle class
For many of my peers, the last few years have been a cruel unraveling of the careers we spent decades building. Lawyers who depend on being hired by the middle class - as I do - are finding that our typical clients no longer have the money to hire us - because their savings and home equity have evaporated.
Times are hard for those of us who have to work for a living. Several years into this recession many middle class professionals are struggling to survive. We thought we would be in our peak earning years or coasting into retirement, but now we’re having to worry about how we will ever retire.
Highly qualified professionals and skilled workers have suffered greatly from this recession: for employees there have been long periods of unemployment and downgrades to lower paying jobs; for business owners and the self-employed, massive cash flow problems forced us to lay off staff and/or dip into savings or borrow money to keep our businesses afloat. Many small businesses have closed or are now closing.
This is a time of catastrophic transition, with the digital revolution overturning the previous industrial revolution, automation replacing unskilled labor who previously handled routine jobs, and many jobs being outsourced to India or China, where workers can be exploited for a fraction of the hourly wages in the U.S. Added to all of this, the wealthiest of the wealthy are using this opportunity to force competition out of business, and buy up competitors, further widening the gap between the .01% and the 99%, while reducing the business competition that could help bring prices down.
The press and t.v. news media
Two years ago I wrote in my draft
“we are losing a huge legacy of great newspapers that are going out of business daily because they can’t compete financially against the information available (often for free) on the internet. What newspaper could afford (politically or financially) to support investigative reporting of the magnitude of the Watergate scandal under these conditions?”
Now the great newspapers are mostly dead. The newspapers that remain in business are no longer great. They have sold out to the 1% and publish propaganda supporting their corporate bosses’ positions on things, suppressing any news that does not agree with the corporate line.
Television news programs publish mostly propaganda, obsessing on Donald Trump and suppressing news of Bernie Sanders.
Bully corporations and income inequality
Two years ago I wrote
“A relatively small number of huge multi-national corporations have obtained control of markets domestic and foreign, and are actively swallowing up smaller businesses or bankrupting the competition. Money is being moved rapidly up the ladder to the richest classes while much of the middle class has moved down to the working class earning level.”
Two years later, the middle class has almost completely evaporated and many of the working class are no longer working. Homelessness is widespread and growing. Meanwhile, the Tea Party Congress is talking about cutting Social Security, disability benefits, and other safety nets for the poor.
Now the top .1% owns almost as much as the bottom 90% of Americans. Citizens United now allows those filthy rich people to use their money to buy Congressmen and presidential candidates. And a recent study shows Congress does not care what the average voter thinks.
Unemployment, education and student debt
Two years ago I wrote
“formerly working people are being pushed into poverty and homelessness without any serious programs for a long term solution to the unemployment crisis. The long term solution clearly will require higher education for most workers. Lower and middle class students are already being priced out of a higher education, and when they borrow money to finance their education, post graduation employment opportunities rarely meet the demands of their accumulated student debt.”
Two years later, I would have to remove the word “serious” before "programs." Currently there are no programs in existence for a long term solution to the unemployment and underemployment crisis.
Global warming, climate change, sea level rise and induced earthquakes
Two years ago I wrote
“meanwhile the environment and global warming could ruin our quality of life, in our life times, wiping out entire coastal communities and causing super-storms like Katrina and Sandy which wipe out the economic value of entire communities.”
Flash forward only two years and I see cataclysmic climate change right here in my own community. Now, during “king tides” the coastal road into my neighborhood - Route 1 - is flooded for several hours a day, several times a month. When the tide is 6 feet above normal, the road along the edge of the Bay is under water. The tide was 6 feet above normal 6 days in October, 7 days in November, 14 days in December, and we’re expecting 15 days this month. The tidal charts put out by the government show we should expect flooding several days per month through April at least. (That's when the tide charts end.) Apparently this is here to stay. This flooding is not caused by rain but by the rise in the ocean level, a product of fossil fuel produced climate change, according to the EPA.
Scientists have apparently known for a while that this was coming. */ Why aren’t politicians treating this as the emergency that it is? Because they are beholden to the corporations that financed their campaigns. The fossil fuel industry denies that climate change exists – that would cut into their profits. Nothing is done, except toothless legislation and treaties, emasculated on purpose to keep the fossil fuel dollars rolling in.
It gets worse. The corporate war on the environment now includes the equivalent of bombing and chemical warfare – fracking! Fracking involves injecting dangerous chemical pollutants into the ground, at high pressure, along a fault line, to fracture the earth along the fault line and allow natural gas to escape. Fracking reduces the cost of extracting natural gas, which serves the Koch Brothers’ profit demands, but it leaves the land and groundwater contaminated. Worst of all, scientists have concluded that fracking is causing earthquakes, particularly in Oklahoma and Kansas where fracking is widespread.
The Great Recession and its threatened return
The Great Recession is every bit as serious as the “Great Depression.” Though pundits say the Recession lasted only from 2008 to 2009 (long enough to bail out the big banks and major corporations with taxpayer money - while leaving ordinary people to sink or swim) the economy never returned to normal for most of us. In fact it feels like it is getting worse. Now because of the 2016 stock market crash, pundits including billionaire George Soros are saying there may be another big recession coming that will be even worse than 2008.
It will take extreme measures to get us out of this mess, nationally and internationally. What has Congress done to address these problems? Nothing at all. All the Tea Party Congress has done is lower taxes on the wealthy and vote to repeal Obamacare.
Rising fascism and right-wing terrorism
To make matters worse, this election has brought out the worst in America. I never expected fascism to be so prevalent in the U.S. in my lifetime. We might be on the verge of turning into Nazi America! Donald Trump has advocated excluding Muslims from the country based on race, and creating a registry of the Muslims who are already here. He has clearly scapegoated Muslims, Mexicans, and women and regularly suggests that they are lesser beings. His rhetoric has energized crazy right wing white men, who are arming themselves to the teeth and shooting up places and taking over places regularly.
Trump encourages his followers to deny the First Amendment rights of blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims, and to violently attack protesters. Trump has his people screen his rallies to keep out people who won’t pledge allegiance to him. Even worse, his racist and inflammatory rhetoric against Planned Parenthood and Mexicans has sparked his followers to violent acts against those groups. This is the way Hitler got started.
There are many other ways in which the US (and the world) are going to hell in a hand basket, but this is enough doom and gloom for one New Year’s resolution!
How can America survive this? How can the world survive? What can we as individuals do to improve our chances and help others survive?
I think all of us have to change our habits in order to stop society as we know it from imploding, destroying our long term quality of life in this country and on this planet. We have to take action. We really don’t have any choice. Things have gotten so bad so quickly that it will soon be too late to take action to bring the country back into balance.
These are my New Years resolutions to save the planet.
I hope you join me in these resolutions for 2016, because everyone has to do this to make it work.
1. Keep an eye on current events and research the issues for yourself. Be skeptical about everything the corporate media tells you. Fact check. Compare multiple sources and form your own opinion.
2. Fight to uphold the Constitution. Candidates spitting out their alternate versions of the Constitution are trying to unilaterally change the way our country operates.
3. Personally and professionally, be ethical and diligent, and try to remain calm.
4. Speak out when you witness or are the victim of crime, or of governmental or corporate misconduct, even if it is scary and intimidating and the wrong people are in power.
5. Be kind and compassionate. Stand up for people who are bold enough to stand up against bullies. Support whistle blowers and fight for their fair treatment against retaliation by corrupt systems and bullies.
6. Conserve, recycle, reuse, and keep a low carbon footprint. Telecommute whenever possible to avoid unnecessary travel.
7. Vote your pocketbook. Support businesses that are ethical and ecologically minded. Favor local and small businesses whenever possible. Find out whether the mega-corporation you do business with pays their fair share of taxes and fair wages, and what their CEO makes. Boycott the scofflaws.
8. Save for the future and watch carefully to make sure your IRA isn’t frittered away on fees and bad investments. Fight to preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Fight for affordable or free college to retrain the adults outsourced by the recession and changes in industry.
9. Choose your friends wisely.
10. “Vote wisely and not merely along party lines” - I said, 2 years ago, and it is even more important today. Change your political party if you have to but vote for a candidate who promises to tackle the serious problems ordinary Americans are facing today.
Only one presidential candidate addresses these problems, in my opinion. That person is Bernie Sanders. His platforms include plans to tackle all of the issues I raised above. His plans are ambitious, but they seem sound. I think they will work. If you are skeptical that he will succeed in implementing the programs he proposes, at least he will try. None of the other candidates are even attempting to solve these problems.
We have a really strenuous journey ahead if we are to get Bernie elected and help him achieve his goals, but this is the time to do it, before our world is further destroyed. Please resolve to join me in these resolutions.
*/ See the January 7, 2016 Christian Science Monitor article "More earthquakes rock Oklahoma. Is fracking to blame?"
The U.S. Geological Survey’s website links to several scholarly articles about earthquake activity ongoing now in Oklahoma and Kansas. One article "Shaking intensity from injection-induced versus tectonic earthquakes in the central-eastern United States" concludes:
"it seems clear that 15 of the 17 [seismic] events analyzed in this study likely were induced, and the two aforementioned earthquakes were tectonic. Almost all these 15 events occurred in regions where induced earthquakes have been documented previously. Notably, a recent study concluded that the M 3.0 Ohio earthquake on 10 March 2014 was induced by hydraulic fracturing (Skoumal et al., 2015). Analysis of additional events believed to have been induced by hydraulic fracturing will be needed to determine whether these events, like injection-induced earthquakes, also have generally low MIE values. I note that the hydraulic-fracturing process per se is believed to induce relatively minor seismicity (e.g., Ellsworth, 2013)."