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It is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, a solemn day of fasting and self-reflection, the most important day of the Jewish calendar. This year, it may be that many, if not all of us, could use a day of atonement. It has been hard to know where to start today’s show, with the whirlwind of public news and problems intersecting with daily life as a citizen, parent, and advisor. But I suppose for me it began in the synagogue last night, as the rabbi reminded me of the need to live a life in which I, as he put it, “am where I stand, and stand where I am.” That is to say, that we live with integrity, acting in ways congruent with our beliefs.
One of the things I believe is that KPFT and Pacifica are vital resources, disseminating many truths to a nation that cannot yet fully hear them. And until the nation hears them, we must keep it going. Economic times are hard and getting harder, and it’s especially during those times that we must make sure that the institutions that touch our lives are taken care of. Next week, KPFT will enter its fall fund drive. With the economic crisis deepening, none of us know if the station’s fundraising goals will be met. And so for me to be where I stand, I am hereby kicking off this year’s drive with a 2 year $1000 pledge to the station. I hope that in the week ahead, you too will consider how you can help. This crisis is bringing change, a lot of it painful, but I believe that the world is now fundamentally turning our way, toward peace, justice, and prosperity.
Many continue to grope to understand two things: how we got into the financial crisis, and how we get out. I was struck by the ancient lament recited in the synagogue prayer book last night:
Who among us is righteous
enough to say: ‘I have not sinned?’
Born of love to love,
we grow weary,
heavy with regret,
sorry for ourselves,
and afraid to know
what might have been.
Look now to the cities:
see the broken streets,
poor and decayed
and all afraid.
See them and ask:
What have we done?
On the first question, how this crisis happened, we are in this financial crisis because we have made vast amounts of investment in projects that yield no or negative returns. From the war in Vietnam, to so-called strategic defense missiles, the destruction of our environment, the launching of frivolous missions into space, government subsidies into vast unproductive segments of our economy, a decades-long costly and failed narcotics interdiction attempt, the trillions of dollars of capital in grandiose and excessive homes and all the junk that fills them, the needless and costly invasion of Iraq, to many other wasteful and worthless projects, we have lost huge amounts of investment capital, both our own and capital we've borrowed. Most horribly, we have caused the loss of human capital and goodwill capital, and our military has caused and continues to cause the deaths of civilians, including small innocent children. After this unfortunate festival, lenders want their money back and don't want to lend for more foolishness. Lenders no longer trust the solvency of the borrowers, nor do they have much faith in their skills to invest the money properly, because the borrowers have shown little prior ability to do so. When you hear about derivatives and swaps and securitization as the reasons, I recommend that you ignore it, as those financial devices are proximate, not root causes of the crisis. Had any of these disastrous investments instead brought real returns, we would not be arguing about how they were financed or how their risks were hedged. In short, we would not be in crisis had we been good investors in our own future.
And on the second question, how we get out of this mess, the answer is not complex and beyond anyone’s understanding. We get out of this financial crisis by first stopping doing the foolish things with money, time, and energy that we've been doing, and then invest with intelligence in projects that will earn good returns. It means only investing in projects that guarantee the delivery of a greater benefit later than the amount of inputs invested today. There are many, many such projects that fit this order in America, and the world over. Here are several:
- Energy, including conservation, infrastructure enhancement, and alternative sources
- Public transportation, including intra-urban and inter-urban
- Education, including rebuilt schools, new programs, and better-paid teachers
- Environment, including preservation and restoration
- Agriculture, including chemical elimination and just treatment for animals
- Health, including universal risk management, sickness prevention, nutrition improvement, and education
- Military, including downsizing and conversion to true peacetime status
- Urban restoration, to reverse the suicidal dilapidation of our cities that began in the 1960’s and caused by the systematic withholding of investment stemming from white racism
- Finance, including the re-development of sound capital management and financial education for all Americans
- Population therapy, including the provision of therapeutic social services to the many Americans now thoroughly traumatized by poverty, war, domestic abuse, substance and food abuse, economic trauma, racial and ethnic discrimination, and lastly those millions of vulnerable Americans who now suffer from political ideological abuse and brainwashing at the hands of those hell bent on destroying the American nation, its government, and its people.
This list, and similar additions to it, will occupy trillions of dollars in investment at a time when many people have lost their nerve to spend capital on projects. It will employ and re-assign millions of workers, many of whom are now idle and underpaid, including teachers, environmental scientists and engineers, family and small farmers, battle-fatigued warriors, urban planners and architects, social workers, and yes, even creative and well-meaning financiers and bankers. And it will provide high returns on investment for a century to come. Rather than providing the illusory, flim-flam returns generated by the now-dying former financial economy, wherein people have been paid enormous sums to produce little to no national economic benefit, these projects and others like them provide real returns. These projects will put companies to work selling their products and expertise, and they will cause new companies to be born. They will help banish the fear currently permeating our economy and our people, and they will set us on a course for far brighter days ahead.
I'm Leo Gold. This is the New Capital Show.