Near the end of Independent People, Olafur of Yztadale says, “I’ve come to the conclusion that a fellow has no more chance of becoming an independent man these days than he had in the old days, if he goes and builds himself a house. Never in the whole history of the country…has an ordinary working man managed to build himself a house worthy of the name.”
The main character, Bjartur, encouraged by the money to be made selling wool and mutton to Europe during WWI has made good money, builds a house, the market falls with the end of WWI and Bjartur and many others lose everything for which they’ve spent a lifetime working.
The one percent are fine. They’ve used their connections and their capital to make large profits, to insure themselves against any downturn, even to profit from it. The person who holds the mortgage on Bjartur’s land takes it back for what is owed.
Bjartur and his family end up being dispossessed. Sound familiar? Just like today, just like the ordinary people who thought they would be able to own a house in Florida or Ariizona, or in any of the other states. The people who are now dispossessed, living in tent cities or, if they’re lucky, in a trailer of one sort or other, on a parking lot.
No one came and said, we’ll help you pay your mortgage. However, the government did come and help the banks. It’s good to have friends in important places.
There’s an old saying about borrowing money. If you borrow a little and can’t pay it, it’s your problem. If you borrow a lot and you can’t pay it, it’s the bank’s problem. The 99%, that’s us, aren’t in a position to borrow lots so when we can’t pay our mortgage, it’s our problem.
Of course, if you are Lee Raymond, Exxon chairman, and are given a retirement package that is nearly $400,000,000 (yes, that’s the right number of zeros), you don’t have to worry about having your mortgage foreclosed. He’s part of the 1%.
Then there’s Edward Whitacre, AT&T CEO. He got 158.5 million.
Jack Welch seems like a shrinking violet. He was at General Electric. He only took a retirement package of 9 million. It turned out, he was taking 9 million a year.
None of these people are going to end up living in their car, or in a trailer on a Walmart parking lot, or in a tent somewhere while they search for a job. They’re not going to line up for food at a food bank or at a soup kitchen.
Judith Lavoie, in today’s Times Colonist, said “Seniors, children and the working poor are turning up in increasing numbers at Greater Victoria food banks.”
Food Banks Canada says that 700,000 Canadians, that’s two percent of the population, depend on food banks.
Seniors are on a fixed income but there is nothing fixed about the price of groceries. I went to the grocery store the other day and one bag of groceries came to $52.00. When I go shopping, I see people standing in front of the meat section, picking up a package of meat, looking closely at the price, then putting down the package. The government figures on inflation are an outright lie. It doesn’t matter what televisions cost, or cars, or the many things that the government uses to determine the rate of inflation. What matters are food, shelter, clothes and medications. The price of meat, the cost of rent, or clothes or medications won’t matter to Robert Nardelli. When he retired from Home Depot, he took $210 million in cash and stocks.
One of the social disgraces of Canada is that we have a whole class of people called “the working poor”. They work full time, they maybe have to hold two part time jobs to do it, but there isn’t a lazy bone in their body. They work full time but the job doesn’t pay enough to cover their living expenses. They aren’t going to have any savings and there won’t be any pension except OAS and CPP. Their lives are going to get worse.
CIBC reveals that jobs being lost are being replaced by lower paying ones. How about losing a good job, the kind of job that will let you feed your family, pay the motgage, pay for the things that kids need as they’re growing up, save some money for rainy day and replacing it with working at a gasoline station, the front desk at a hotel, or as a cleaner at a hospital?
Where did those jobs go? Well, if you’ve got the price of a ticket, take a trip to China and check out the factories. Or, if you can’t afford an airline ticket, go to IKEA or just about any other major store in Canada. Check the lables. They probably say “Made in China.” Have you bought one of those products lately?
China’s trade surplus in June was $26.9 billion dollars. That’s twice as much as it was last year. That’s because you and I and a lot of other people bought goods made in China. They were cheaper, after all.
The Chinese have so much of our money , and Europe’s money, and the USA’s money, that Europe is going cap in hand to beg the Chinese government to buy European bonds.
It’s all very strange isn’t it? There was a time when the USA and its allies went to war in Korea and Vietnam to keep China from expanding. Now, China owns more American bonds than any country in the world. China could drive the USA (and us) into a major economic depression bigger than the Great Depression simply by no longer buying American government bonds. China has so much money that the EU is prepared to grovel to get whatever the Chinese will give them.
Some fool of an economist thought you could give away good jobs for poor ones, could maximize profits for the one percent, could beggar the working class and then the middle class, the ninety-nine percent, and still have a functioning society. You can’t. You get that outcome that terrifies the one percent. Social unrest. You get the Occupy Movement. You get riots in Greece. There’ll be more occupations. There’ll be more riots. There will be social revolution.
Do your part. Look for products that say “Made in Canada or made in the USA.” If enough of us do that, it’ll create a job. If more of us do it, it’ll create more jobs. We might have to pay a bit more for the product but if you’ve got a good job, it doesn’t hurt to pay a bit more. Having no job means not being able to pay anything.
If Laxness were still alive, he’d say, I told you so. You just had to read and understand my novels. Why didn’t you listen? It’s all there.