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Return to
March 2011

front page

 

Steve HaysIs this a Mid-East Revolution?
Or a World-Wide One?

While the world continues to look chaotic and we don’t know how the governments in the Middle East will evolve, one thing to notice is the roots of the events. In Egypt, for instance, the change there did not come from one faction arming itself and forcing out the exiting powers that be. The hope is that the military was handed the reigns of power only temporarily.

The change came from people wanting more say and recognition—more self-expression, more freedom, more of a share in the benefits that the leadership enjoyed, and simply more equality and opportunities to expand. It was about people and a demand for more equality.

Just as important is noting what it was not. It was not a philosophical or partisan political movement. Instead it was a movement that defined Egypt as the people of Egypt—not as those with special privilege or with power.

While it was interesting that it was not the work of one group, it was also important that the young played a big role. Because of the number of young people involved, they are not as likely to look to the past at more authoritarian models of government. They have a World-Wide-Web view of the world and are connected to it. Their views are literally worlds apart from the many dictators still around with more tribal-like mindsets. They want to be in the world.

I don’t say this thinking all the governments in the Middle East are about to be thrown out. Different countries are reacting differently, but what happened in Egypt gives us much to be hopeful about. It’s the direction of expanding the human spirit.

What was amazingly significant in Egypt was how the use of force played out. And obviously it’s too early to predict the same everywhere. In Libya, Gadhafi is using force. However, rather than solidifying his leadership his actions may be just as effective in rendering him ineffective. It’s ongoing, but it’s beginning to appear that using weapons may really be a hindrance to seeking change.

There is also the world’s perception to consider. Did you notice how upset the Egyptians were when they pointed at the “Made in U.S.A.” on the tear gas canisters being thrown at them? I was surprised at that myself. When was the last time anyone has seen a “made in U.S.A.” label? And where were the more predictable “made in China” labels when you really wanted to find one? Do we want to be linked to the status quo in the Middle East? Is it time to reconsider armed force?

A big part of their cry for equality is economic. To their credit, some in the media have even said that the disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots” is the biggest issue there.

Not too many are pointing out that the disparity here, in the U.S.A., is greater that the disparity in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Pakistan. See the figures at ampedstatus.com and look for “Analysis of the Global Insurrection.”

Looking at the actions of Congress and partisan groups strictly looking out for their special interests, aren’t we evolving toward a similar debate?

The media just gets distracted and loses focus—or puts the focus on distractions.

When the new Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, decided to strip Unions of their negotiating rights the issue became whether it was ethical for Wisconsin doctors to write “sick notes” for union protestors.

The question could have been was it ethical for the Governor to exempt the richest union from these changes, the police union, since they backed him when he ran for office? Or does stripping the union’s negotiating rights bring the state any money? Or was it ethical to give the budget surplus to big business and create the deficit in the first place?

We will hear more about the debate currently going on in Wisconsin. It’s our hope that it focuses on the issues—and are not simply on the comfortable thinking that it’s the union or business that is always right or always wrong. Although it does seem that the unions are the ones getting the blame for State budgets not working, doesn’t it?

We’ll hear that more as this anti-union trend continues to move to other states. And it will, but not because it’s a grass roots movement, as in Egypt, but because it’s funded by Charles and David Koch, the very conservative and very rich gas and oil businessmen who are also very anti-union. Gov. Walker’s political career has been funded by Koch’s, as is the Tea Party movement. They plan to make their anti-union movement nation-wide. Isn’t this the opposite of grass roots—a consolidation of economic power and the status quo?

We’ve been told that the idea is to cut taxes so big businesses will do well and thus have the excess capitol to create jobs. And right now they have that excess capital—and record profits—but few jobs are being created. In California, corporate tax revenue is far less than the revenue from personal income taxes, or sales/use taxes.

It’s amazing that schools such as the Harvard Business School taught that it was good for business to cut labor costs and outsource jobs overseas—not thinking that if everyone did it, fewer people would have jobs and the ability to buy their products, here or in the country they are made. Maybe that’s what’s changing: the idea about what’s good for business is good for everyone.

Part of that continues. In the SD Union-Tribune in February there was an article about how it was good policy for small businesses to outsource!

To their “credit,” the article did mention that if that were done by “industry,” it would hurt the economy. Nothing about any horses having left the barn, however. So, let’s see, small business should now outsource and send away the jobs haven’t been?

The hope is that small business might bring some jobs back. Let’s hope they don’t follow the same path as big business. Small business, after all, includes many individuals who have left big business and are creating their own economy. It’s our largest area of job growth.

Yes, we should look at labor costs—at all costs—but there are other directions to look as well. General Electric made $408 million profits in the U.S. in 2010 and paid no Federal taxes, but instead gained $1.1 billion in future tax credits. Why? Which companies actually pay? Which don’t?

Contrary to what many seem to believe, maybe business isn’t any better at being a savior than Uncle Sam. Should either one be? Isn’t the hope that government will level the playing field, not play favorites? Isn’t that what the Egyptians want? Isn’t that where our roots are, too?

There’s a lot going on these days, but overall it gives me hope for people—the freedom the desire and the spirit they are expressing. We live in interesting times.

Have a great month,

 

Steve Hays signature