Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Economic Truth That Nobody Will Admit: We're Heading Back Toward a Double-Dip

Posted: 03/31/11 09:51 AM ET

Robert Reich Huffington Post

Why aren't Americans being told the truth about the economy? We're heading in the direction of a double dip  but you'd never know it if you listened to the upbeat messages coming out of Wall Street and Washington.

Consumers are 70 percent of the American economy, and consumer confidence is plummeting. It's weaker today on average than at the lowest point of the Great Recession.

The Reuters/University of Michigan survey shows a 10 point decline in March -- the tenth largest drop on record. Part of that drop is attributable to rising fuel and food prices. A separate Conference Board's index of consumer confidence, just released, shows consumer confidence at a five-month low -- and a large part is due to expectations of fewer jobs and lower wages in the months ahead.

Pessimistic consumers buy less. And fewer sales spells economic trouble ahead.

What about the 192,000 jobs added in February? (We'll know more Friday about how many jobs were added in March.) It's peanuts compared to what's needed. Remember, 125,000 new jobs are necessary just to keep up with a growing number of Americans eligible for employment. And the nation has lost so many jobs over the last three years that even at a rate of 200,000 a month we wouldn't get back to 6 percent unemployment until 2016.

But isn't the economy growing again -- by an estimated 2.5 to 2.9 percent this year? Yes, but that's even less than peanuts. The deeper the economic hole, the faster the growth needed to get back on track. By this point in the so-called recovery we'd expect growth of 4 to 6 percent.

Consider that back in 1934, when it was emerging from the deepest hole of the Great Depression, the economy grew 7.7 percent. The next year it grew over 8 percent. In 1936 it grew a whopping 14.1 percent.

Add two other ominous signs: Real hourly wages continue to fall, and housing prices continue to drop. Hourly wages are falling because with unemployment so high, most people have no bargaining power and will take whatever they can get. Housing is dropping because of the ever-larger number of homes people have walked away from because they can't pay their mortgages. But because homes the biggest asset most Americans own, as home prices drop most Americans feel even poorer.

There's no possibility government will make up for the coming shortfall in consumer spending. To the contrary, government is worsening the situation. State and local governments are slashing their budgets by roughly $110 billion this year. The federal stimulus is ending, and the federal government will end up cutting some $30 billion from this year's budget.

In other words: Watch out. We may avoid a double dip but the economy is slowing ominously, and the booster rockets are disappearing.

So why aren't we getting the truth about the economy? For one thing, Wall Street is buoyant -- and most financial news you hear comes from the Street. Wall Street profits soared to $426.5 billion last quarter, according to the Commerce Department. (That gain more than offset a drop in the profits of non-financial domestic companies.) Anyone who believes the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill put a stop to the Street's creativity hasn't been watching.

To the extent non-financial companies are doing well, they're making most of their money abroad. Since 1992, for example, G.E.'s offshore profits have risen $92 billion, from $15 billion (which is one reason it pays no U.S. taxes). In fact, the only group that's optimistic about the future are CEOs of big American companies. The Business Roundtable's economic outlook index, which surveys 142 CEOs, is now at its highest point since it began in 2002.

Washington, meanwhile, doesn't want to sound the economic alarm. The White House and most Democrats want Americans to believe the economy is on an upswing.

Republicans, for their part, worry that if they tell it like it is Americans will want government to do more rather than less. They'd rather not talk about jobs and wages, and put the focus instead on deficit reduction (or spread the lie that by reducing the deficit we'll get more jobs and higher wages).

I'm sorry to have to deliver the bad news, but it's better you know.

Robert Reich is the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, now in bookstores. This post originally appeared at RobertReich

Right To Share Food No.1

First Published April 2011

My name is Michael “Waterman” Hubman of the charity Watercorps and organizer with the Right To Share Food Coalition. Right To Share Food was formed in response to the June 2, 2010 take down by government of the Towne Avenue Soup Line, and continued harassment by government of ongoing efforts to feed the poor and homeless population of Skid Row Los Angeles. Prior to the take down of the soup line, volunteers from the World Agape Drop In Center had been feeding the poor and homeless of Eastern Skid Row Los Angeles six days a week at the same location for over five years.

The Right To Share Food Extravaganza II (The first one happened on September 30, 2010.) was scheduled to take place on Sunday March 20, 2011. The date for this event was selected to coincide with the vernal equinox and first day of spring. We had no way of knowing that mother nature had arranged for a fast moving cold front and rain storm  to sweep through the region that very day. This weather event also managed to drench the runners, staff and spectators of the Los Angeles Marathon.

The players at this Right To Share Food Event were Tanya and her group with Gorilla Food Not Bombs, James and his group from World Share (formally World Agape), General Dogon of LA CAN and myself.

My day started in the morning when I visited three groups who were feeding the homeless and the poor on Gladys Street and Towne Avenue . I invited them to our event, and encouraged them to join our coalition. I said that it was important to organize to defend their right to share food. All of the feeders were glad to hear that they had friends who were sticking up for them and their right to share food. One lady told me; “you mean you are for us and not against us?”

After my visit with the feeders, I spent the rest of the morning with James at World Share puzzling over the Doppler Radar images on line. Would we get a break in the weather? Not likely. It looked like our event was scheduled for the middle of the storm.

At one in the afternoon, I went to the corner of Sixth and Towne to sit in my car and greet anyone who happened to show up for our event. I sat and watched as sheets of rain fell on the empty street. All of the players were prepared to come out and get drenched. Tanya and her group were cooking James and General Dogon were ready to go. I told them to stay dry and hold up until I called. Then it occurred to me that we should move this event indoors to World Share. I called and cleared it with James. I called Tanya and General Dogon with the change of venue.

I drove around and verbally invited anyone who was still out on the street, mostly on San Julian Street and at The Midnight Mission courtyard, to come and enjoy a hot meal and to eat inside.

Tanya arrived with a great vegetarian meal. I told the people who were assembled that today’s meal was special in that we were celebrating our right to share food. Tanya and her group served up rice beans and vegetable soup.

General Dogon spoke about his history as a lifelong resident of Skid Row. He talked about Skid Row Los Angeles being the most heavily policed place in America . He spoke about the human and civil rights work done at LA CAN.

I spoke about the history and development of Right To Share Food. I spoke about the right to share food being a fundamental human right. I said that we believe that our right to share food is protected under the freedom of association clause of the first amendment of the constitution.

 For the first time; I publicly advocated for the recall of Councilmember Perry.  I said I had  been avoiding talking about recall until I could secure some backing for such an effort. I said that the recall concept was not going anywhere unless we started talking about it.

I closed by saying that Councilmember Perry thought she was just dumping on some little people when she caused the shutdown of the Towne Avenue Soup Line. She did not know that by causing the take down of the soup line that she was jump starting the right to share food movement.

James thanked every one for coming. We put away the food. James re started the movie that had been paused for the Right To Share Food event.

All in all; we had a good day.

Photo: Right To Share Food Extravaganza I / September 30, 2010
A good day in the sun; Food Not Bombs activists serve up a hot vegetarian meal to hungry Skid Row Los Angeles residents.

Photo: Dan Blumel / LA Activist 

Please read the article.

Michael “Waterman” Hubman 

e-mail:            (aka)  (Coalition for the Abolition of Safer Cities Initiative)  (This is a link to the 191 Pg. human rights report.)  (Peoples Lobby for Economic Justice)

Please Mail us a check.
Michael Hubman / Watercorps 620 E. First St. Los Angeles CA 90012   PayPal

Please read the following Right To Share Food Position Paper.

First Published September 2011
                                         Right To Share Food
At Right To Share Food, we believe that sharing food with our brothers and sisters is a fundamental human right. We believe that sharing food is a constitutionally protected activity, guaranteed under the freedom of association clause of the first amendment of The Constitution of the United States of America . We believe that sharing food outside and in public is an equally protected activity. Our goal is to promote cooperation among people in order to exercise and defend this right.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Michael "Waterman" Hubman. I am the founder and the facilitator of Right To Share Food and member of Right To Share Food Coalition. Since 2007 I have been lobbying on behalf of the human and civil rights of homeless people. I operate Watercorps, a charity that gives bulk drinking water to the homeless people living on the streets of Skid Row Los Angeles.

You might ask; why do we feel the need to organize and lobby to protect and exercise our right to share food? The answer is, that it is a common occurrence in contemporary society, for those who are morally and spiritually motivated, to want to help others who find themselves in a state of need. This state of need is often manifested by poverty, homelessness and destitution. Those who desire to come to the aid of their less fortunate brothers and sisters, commonly express this aid by sharing food.

Conflict occurs when government, most often municipalities, attempt to effect social engineering by restricting or forbidding the sharing of food on public property, the commons and even private property. I liken this kind of social engineering by cities to wildlife management. The problem is, we are talking about our human brothers and sisters, and not unwanted pigeons or other pesky wild life. Why?

I can’t speak for these municipal wild life managers. I can only guess. My guess as to why the sovereign would act in such a selfish and mean spirited manner is greed. Poverty and homelessness are commonly viewed by some who are not similarly afflicted as messy and unsightly. The sight of homeless and poor people lining up to receive a charitable meal makes it hard to convince oneself and others that all is well in their area of interest. When poverty and homelessness are not sufficiently hidden and dispersed, it tends to raise concerns among some who would worry about depressed commerce and property values.

When homeless people gather in public, especially in numbers, they often generate a response by government to harass them with the goal of dispersing them. The dispersing of the homeless to make them less visible robs them of community and society and denies them their right to associate. Harassing the people who want to share food and aid the homeless and poor is just another tactic to disperse them and deny them the right to associate and assemble.

Michael “Waterman” Hubman 

e-mail:            (aka)  (Coalition for the Abolition of Safer Cities Initiative)  (This is a link to the 191 Pg. human rights report.)  (Peoples Lobby for Economic Justice)

Please Mail us a check.
Michael Hubman / Watercorps 620 E. First St. Los Angeles CA 90012   PayPal

Photo: Right To Share Food Extravaganza I / September 30, 2010
A good day in the sun; Food Not Bombs activists serve up a hot vegetarian meal to hungry Skid Row Los Angeles residents.

Photo: Dan Blumel / LA Activist 

Please read the article.

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