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Recalling the Start of America's Fiscal Eclipse

By Ben Tanosborn

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 16, 2013


As 2012 was coming to an end, Americans became concerned with what was referred to as the “fiscal cliff”… while the unrecognized problem all along has been what might be more appropriately called the “fiscal eclipse.”

Once again, political and popular aversion to face economic reality won the day, and the illusory fiscal cliff was replaced by other financial peaks that soon must be climbed, each of them offering at the very top not a view of economic prosperity but yet another precipice inviting Americans to jump. 

As much as we in the US blame our politicians for the lack of compromise and resolve, combined with a short term approach to the nation’s ills, these politicians are but our reflection in the mirror.  These politicians we elect and reelect, and claim to profoundly dislike in poll after poll, are really us.  And the two supposedly contradictory versions, or visions, of sociopolitical America, the two ruling political parties, are not really that far apart… both operating on a chimeric economic understanding which is far, far removed from reality:  an America with extraordinary natural and human resources – which it does not have; nor the capability of acquiring them in the foreseeable future.

A quarter of a century ago we witnessed the Soviets’ abdication of their half-share in the ideological-military hegemony of much of the world.  Tired and bankrupt, the forces of stalwart socialism were being issued new dress uniforms, fashionable Perestroika (restructuring) and Glasnost (openness), to replace the combat fatigues they had been wearing since the end of World War II; thus allowing Russian-brand Marxist communism to surrender honorably, without battle, to American-brand of capitalism. 

For a while (1990-1) many in the US were speaking of the upcoming “peace dividend,” a plethora of resources to be used for the improvement in the wellbeing of the American people… courtesy of a military budget likely to shrink 50 percent or more in constant dollars.  Yet, a score later, military spending (2010) was comparable to that in World War II, which should speak clearly of Americans’ choice between true desire for peace and hawkishness.  But it should come as no surprise, for Americans went along with renaming in 1947 the Department of War, a name which it held since 1789, as the Department of Defense, kidding themselves into believing the euphemism ever since.

It’s my belief, if not yet firm conviction that, coincidentally or not, it was the fall of the Soviets, and America’s adherence to capitalist globalization, that gave the start of the US fiscal eclipse: the dimming or obstruction of financial rationality in America.  In less than a decade, much of America’s middle-class became subservient to global capital and technology, outside of US borders, in the hands of an elite-class of American billionaires flying their own corporate flags… who could care less about their countrymen wrapped in a deceitful, make-believe American flag.  Let the jingoes wear the stars and stripes.

This last minute resolution of the fiscal cliff a week ago became continuing proof that the United States does not have a government of the people, by the people and for the people but by groups of special interests who hold all but a handful of politicians in their pockets.  End result: the annual increase in revenue from the super-rich was doled back to the super-rich via “porkish” extensions of tax breaks to Wall Street and others in the corporate world (nearing $70 billion). 

And just like the compromise on the fiscal cliff has turned out to be the proverbial farce, one intended to give the American citizenry the perception of an existing advocacy from politicians representing the Tweedledum and Tweedledee parties, present and upcoming financial problems remained unaddressed.  We are gifting our children a host of financial problems that our inept, self-serving leaders – Democrats and Republicans similarly if not equally at fault – won’t confront or lie to us about… knowing how gullible Americans are to the idea of that mythic American exceptionalism they have been fed since that 19th century Manifest Destiny.

There are myriad problems relative to past and present which need to be addressed; but the financial implications do not stop with past and present, but also the future.  Is there a single political leader sounding off the alarm that the United States, given its geography in the global climatological map, will be more susceptible to natural disasters than much of the planet?  That the disaster costs, added to the diminishing agricultural resources, may escalate five or ten-fold from those we now face?          

Yes, we have been experiencing a partial fiscal eclipse, but it’s getting darker and darker at an accelerating pace… until the eclipse is total, and complete financial darkness sets in.  It all started just a quarter of a century ago with Perestroika and Glasnot, and our inability to recognize we were entering a new global financial era where America would no longer rule the seas.  No, it isn’t just fiscal cliffs we’ll be facing in the coming months and years… but the inevitable path we’ve chosen to reach a total fiscal eclipse.

Ben Tanosborn                




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