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English: Caricature of Soviet leader Leonid Br...

English: Caricature of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev wearing a dark suit and two medals. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, nothing so far can match, or is likely to, the epic-historical failure of twentieth century Marxism. The cost of that failure, if not actually beyond measure, surely transcends any measure the mind can really grasp. Other failures, however, cannot be denied just because they do not reach a comparable magnitude. Dionysus was not Zeus, but he held sway enough.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, like Brezhnev after the debacle is done, seek the presidency and its supporting role in the geriatric decrepitude of a conservative idea that over thirty years of sway over American society has proven an abject failure.

“You’re as young as you feel,” they cry, with forced smiles as the flesh droops all around them.

The period of greatest economic growth during those three decades – before the last four post-deluge years – were under the only eight years of Democratic administration, and even Bill Clinton cooperated with the Reaganite deregulatory regime that led to the 2008 Great Recession and failed to halt stagnated middle class income and declining wealth. But like every party apparatchik in a communist cubicle, American conservatives insist their idea is the holy grail, while they drive the lives of ordinary Americans further towards hopeless subsistence and necessary persistence.

In California, the saga of budgetary dysfunction has many plot lines, but here is one. At the start of 2008, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a budget that sought to address a $14 billion dollar deficit. Thirteen months later, after 2008 came down upon us all, that deficit had atomically mushroomed to $40 billion dollars. Today, the world of finance capital is already long recovered from the near disaster that it and its American conservative enablers brought down upon us all. The wealthy are doing fine, even better than ever. But middle class homes are still under water and IRA’s and personal wealth for the vast majority of Americans are decimated. Nonetheless, according to the likes of William J. Bennett and the governing hatchet men like Scott Walker who enact the latest five-year ideological plan, the fault, dear booboisie, lies not in our bankers, but in our working suckers. Now that the party of the moneyed class has tanked the economy, and with it the tax revenue streams of every state in the Union, but recovered itself, let’s blame state and local budget crises on public pensions out of control.

Meanwhile, reports the Los Angeles Times, for the young,

California’s community college system, the nation’s largest, has suffered about $809 million in state funding cuts since 2008. It faces another $338-million hit midyear if voters reject a tax measure on the November ballot supported by Gov. Jerry Brown.

….

“There is no question that the system is shrinking in terms of the number of students we’re serving but not shrinking in terms of demand,” Chancellor Jack Scott said in an interview Tuesday. “The real problem is we don’t have the financial resources to offer the courses that we could fill. In the long run, it’s going to be hurtful to the economy. These are the individuals who are going to make up the future workforce of California.”

These students also tend to be among the neediest: They typically require remedial classes, financial aid, tutoring and counseling. And many are juggling school with jobs.

Yet 70% of colleges in the survey report having reduced hours for such support services, and 87% have reduced staff. In addition, 82% said they planned to offer no winter session this year.

….

The colleges predicted a grim year if further cuts are required in January. Administrators said they would need to further reduce class offerings, lay off full-time faculty, postpone building and classroom maintenance, and borrow to manage cash-flow needs.

Already, budget cuts have had a deep effect. Overall enrollment dropped about 17%, from about 2.9 million in the 2008-09 academic year to 2.4 million in 2011-12, and officials have estimated a further decline this year. The number of class sections decreased 24% from 522,727 in 2008-09 to 399,540 in 2011-12.

The colleges say they are being forced to cut into vital services that for many students can mean the difference between success and failure.

And for older Americans, according to the Huffington Post, especially poorer people:

In 2010, 8.3 million Americans over 60 faced the threat of hunger – up 78 percent from a decade earlier, according to a 2012 report. The proportion of the seniors affected has grown to one in seven in 2010 from one in nine in 2005 — even as the hunger risk for the population as a whole declined slightly, the report found.

The rise in food insecurity is being seen primarily among Americans earning less than $30,000 –- or one to two times the poverty level –- as well as people between the ages of 60 and 69, said Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois, who co-authored the report with James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky.

….

The growth in food insecurity tracks a larger trend in poverty: While the official poverty rate among seniors 65 and older was 9 percent in 2010, a broader poverty measure released by the Census Bureau last year puts the rate at nearly 16 percent –- or roughly one in six seniors.

Many of these Americans are new to poverty, said Sudipto Banerjee, research associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C. He analyzed trends in poverty among people over 50 from 2001 to 2009 and found 6 percent of people age 75 to 84 fell into poverty for the first time in 2009, compared to 3.3 percent in 2005.

The biggest jump in poverty rates was among people 50 to 64 in the period studied, but poverty levels are highest for people 85 and older, Banerjee noted, citing medical expenses as the most significant factor. “In all the other categories –- housing, entertainment, food, clothing –- spending goes down with age,” he said. “But medical expenses are higher, and for these people, it takes about one-fifth of their budget.”

About 70 percent of citizens living below the poverty line have experienced an acute health condition such as cancer, lung disease, heart problems or stroke -– compared to 48 percent of people who are not in poverty, Banerjee added.

….

In terms of demographic trends, senior poverty is most acute among Latino and African-American seniors. In 2009, the poverty rate was 29 percent for Hispanics and about 25 percent for blacks -– more than three times higher than the rate for whites, at around 8 percent, according to Banerjee. Single women are also vulnerable: One in five women over 65 lived in poverty in 2009.

Wahlstrom is one of those women. Her monthly income includes $900 a month in Social Security, $200 from a small annuity and $140 in food stamps. “It’s cutting it close, but it’s still enough,” she said.

Roughly 45 million Americans received assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – commonly referred to as food stamps — in 2011, with an average monthly benefit of $133.85. Recipients typically must earn no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty line – for people over 65, that’s $13,375 annually for a single person and $16,877 for a couple.

After four years of a Romney-Ryan administration, we might get lucky enough to skip Andropov and go right to Chernenko. Then the job would really be done.

AJA

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6 comments

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white collar crime kills September 19, 2012 at 4:52 am

Removing the cyclical overlay, economic history obeys the effects of energy costs.
Begins with energy shocks during the 1970s, then
Cost decline under Reagan Fake Miracle (confirmed by “counter intuitive” economic trouble in energy states).
Flat during Clinton.
Rose again under Bush, and
Costs have stuck there since (despite increasing demand-relief from natural gas).
So, for most Americans, the net reward of 40 years of amoral teanomics classwar is:
Amplification of risk beyond natural levels.
Greater poverty.
Less social mobility.
Disintegrating families and society.
Increased emotional stress.
Sagging rate of GDP increase.
In short, a banana republic, heading rapidly toward authoritarianism.

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Maureen August 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm

It gets scarier and scarier. One need only look to Arizona to understand just how scary it can get; there, the disgrace known as Governor has signed into law a bill under which pregnancy begins two weeks BEFORE conception. And they call it protecting civil rights. If the lawmakers were honest (just imagine!), they’d admit to enacting anti-abortion legislation.

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