There are places where whole countries collapse or break up. Then there are places where just governments shut down, like here in the U.S. The spite that politicians are able to pursue against each other at the expense of ordinary folks which drove Yugoslavia in oblivion, so far kept America just from issuing few visas and several passports. On the bright side - deportations were halted, too. Still, if those games continue, there will be less and less bright side about it.
Downsizing: the operative word of nineties
When economic growth starts to reflect more the opportune currency relations and the reckless enthusiasm of money-changers, but when the real wages show continuous and consistent decrease over a period of years, and when the numbers of unemployed are on the rise, where the country is heading? Now, when the income rose less than inflation rate last year, is when the fortune is turning. The workers in the morning are consumers in the afternoon. When they as workers receive less, they have less to spend as consumers. If this is combined with the rise of prices (that follows increased inflation rate), the gap becomes widening on both (supply and demand) sides. This means - either austerity measures have to be adopted or money should be brought in from the outside. With a huge national debt, future indebting would be unpopular (not to say unwise). Austerity measures would be hard sell if there are crooks that receive millions of dollars a year, and the U.S. is the country with the greatest differences in income in the Western world. I didn't really study economy, but I lived in Yugoslavia (which was also both heavily indebted and ridden with income injustices) in eighties and went through the hell of that gap constantly widening (which finally lead to the war). The only thing that has constantly raising prices in the later days U.S. seems to be stocks, but you can't eat stocks and only privileged minority buys them.
There are some austerity measures in the works already. The first one is called the downsizing. The big, bloated corporations are doing massive lay-offs. Superficially, this is good for business. But what if economy can't pick up those laid-off people? If there is no way to successfully re-train and re-employ them into something else? If social services (welfare) are "downsized" themselves and not able to catch up with corporate downsizing? Then, we get enlarged lower income bracket and a lot of disgruntled former employees (who already sometimes do not hesitate to use guns assertively).
Also, we already have a crisis among twentysomethings and early thirtysomethings. They are not unemployed. They are underemployed. An unhealthy large number of them do not hold full-time jobs. Ok, technology changes. And full-time jobs are more and more becoming a thing of the past. We are all going to be contractors in the future. However, the infrastructure of society (bureaucracy) is not yet ready for that. Part-timers, temps and self-employed do not have health insurance, unless they carry the cost, which they are largely rather reluctant to do in the time of plunging real-incomes and at their young and relatively healthy age. In ten years this sole event will shatter the picture of a perfect-teethed American. Non-essential surgeries will be seen limping around. I am talking middle-class here. I guess, the immigration from Third World countries will stop at that time.
The Gingrich Revolution calls for even more "downsizing", cutting and trimming. It goes well into lean tissue. Its assumption is that the same territory of the U.S. may contain two worlds: First and Third. The government would be an extension of Securities Exchange Commission, and corporations would have their own privately run little fiefdoms. The rest of us would live in the Interzone. Gingrich, after all, is a science-fiction fan, isn't he?
Ugly things in economy are usually followed by ugly things in politics. There are more and more politicians whose lives are virtually destroyed by the "process". Their exposure makes clear the very ethics of the "process". Those who are not destroyed, they leave. This Congress have a record number of members who decided not to run for re-election. The presidential election is slowly heating up. While campaigning for president was never exactly the cleanest job, it becomes dirtier every new season. Gingrich is bent on incapacitating Clinton's government with debilitating shutdowns (which are felt around the world - since American embassies stop issuing visas..), if Clinton does not agree on Gingrich's austerity measures package. Hmm, not that Clinton so much care about people, but if he gives in to Gingrich, he'd loose crucial votes and might jeopardize his re-election. If the government shutdowns continue, he might loose, too. It's hard to be a president this days. The shutdown culture is not enough: there are also personal attacks, like the Whitewater that D'Amato skillfully keeps looming over Clintons. In the land of lawyers there was nothing more natural than that Gingrich was subpoenaed to appear before the House ethics committee following his book deal.
Consequently people are more and more tired with politics. Congressmen are leaving Congress, and voters are not showing up for elections. If less than 50% of eligible voters show up for presidential elections, will the president-elect be a legitimate representative of the people? The polls are showing that PEOPLE don't approve both what president and what congressional leaders are doing. More and more people are aware that despite Gingrich's New Republicans populist appeal, their proposals mean less bacon for average Joe, The average Joe dislikes that. Gingrich will have to come up with more illusions. Yugoslav politicians dragged out old nationalist symbols from museums and secret archives at that point.
When one defining, unifying concept dies - it is time for another concept. When Communism died, it was swiftly replaced by Nationalism (without much changes in personnel). When Yugoslavia as a concept was slowly and painfully murdered in never-ending extraordinary sessions of Communist Party in 1988, 1989 and 1990, a bright, younger, conservative politician from Serbia rose to power riding on a new concept: Greater Serbia. The American concept is in crisis. The same thing happened: "generation X" will never be able to attain the standard of their parents on their own. That sucks. We weren't told that the great industrial progress will stop in our time. While we were kids, men walked on the moon. And politicians are not coming up with solutions. Instead they are driving themselves deeper and deeper in gridlock, attracting more and more distrust. Gingrich clearly understands the signs of time: so he came up with a plan to "re-invent America". The problem is that his plan looks more and more as the Milosevic's plan to re-invent Yugoslavia looked like: brutal, insensitive and trouble-inviting.
The gridlock is all too familiar, as if it was already filmed in BBC's series The Death of a Country. Slovenes and their amendments to the new concept of running the country proposed by Milosevic's Serbs, were filibustered and then they walked out and away from the Extraordinary Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. At that point CIA publicized its estimate that a civil war would break out in Yugoslavia in 18 months. Betraying their track-record, they were right. Democrats are now walking away from the grinding budget talks with uncompromising Gingrich Republicans. How many months that gives us?
Besides fake sugar, fake beer, fake coffee, fake milk, fake tobacco, now there is also fake fat. Olestra is a fat - it tastes and behaves like a fat - but it can't be digested and absorbed by our system, because it is too tightly packed so our enzymes can't break it down. Hence, it produces no calories. It leaves us untouched. Almost as we cooked in petroleum.
For centuries humans tried to create foods with higher nutritional values. Recently however they tinker to make food with no nutritional values. Or food products that taste like real but do not contain a substance that is disputed as a health hazard. So, we got a beer with no alcohol and tobacco with no nicotine and coffee with no caffeine.
Still, I struggle to find the purpose of such food products. I mean when I drink coffee I drink it precisely because of caffeine. I have absolutely no use for coffee without caffeine or beer without alcohol. Maybe when they legalize pot, they will sell a version of 'safe marijuana' with no THC, too.
Two thirds of the world's population still tries to find a way to consume enough calories to survive and how to provide enough calories to their children so they don't end up malnourished. One third however is at pains to find the way to be able to consume as much as they are used to, but avoid risks of obesity and related diseases. It is like in the time of Roman Empire. Each patrician household had a room called vormitorium where ladies and gentlemen came during the copious dinner to tingle their palates with an ostrich feather to induce vomiting - to free the space in their stomachs for more food. Today, that would be viewed rather primitive. Now we have a more scientific way: we can eat as much as we want, since the food will have no nutritional value, it will be pure taste, and it will pass right through us as if we ate polyester.
The whole point is to indulge in taste anyway. It is a sign of rich. Therefore it signalize status. So, it is tremendously important. Those who can put in their mouths all things that are, they gain more awe in the eyes of others. And that's why human society is so thoroughly screwed up: they would rather eat fake oil than reduce eating fatty foods.
Why nobody ever translated Alan Ford to English?
The most popular comic book in former Yugoslavia among those who would be considered cool by current fashion conscious crowds was Alan Ford. It is still published, but the today's translations in forced new state languages are lame; they kind of lost that eerie wit of Alan Ford main characters. Also today's Alan Fords are re-runs, since the Italian artists (Magnus & Bunker) who drew Alan Ford, today work on some other comic books. Alan Ford is set in New York city, in a small, plain store that pretends to sell flowers. Actually, it is a story about a group of entirely incompatible characters run by an old, sprightly paraplegic, that work like secret agents fighting imaginary crimes. But the real point is the portrait of corrupted officials, stingy store owners, corrupted police officers, incompetent health care, overwhelming importance of money, bad landlords, careless mailmen, cynical administrators... It is hilariously funny. We loved to use pages from Alan Ford and re-make the text to reflect and comment out some current real-life political event. When I finally came to New York, I realized: