Dec 31, 2011
An Open Letter to All Living Authors:
I would like to address some of my favorite people today in this, Part VII of The End of Libraries, and give you my take on what is happening in the eBook lending world, a brave new world that is as significant to the history of the printed page as the invention of movable type.
I read 93 books in 2011—78 in their entirety and at least the first 50 pages of 15 others. Midway through the year, while attending a library conference, I won both a Kindle and an iPad 2! What luck, hey?
Knowing that my public library had eBooks to loan, and being a borrower of books rather than a buyer (I can’t afford to buy 93 books a year!), I spent time and effort (too much!) learning the Overdrive interface and checked out my first eBook, When the Killing’s Done, by T.C. Boyle. The experience of reading that book on my iPad made me a dedicated eBook reader. From then on, I didn’t care if I ever held a “real” book in my hands again.
I quickly realized how fortunate I had been to find a Boyle at my library. A subsequent search for something to check out revealed nothing of interest. I maintain a list of books I want to read; it is six pages long at the moment. I checked the first 50 titles on this list in my library’s eBook collection (which it shares with 150 other libraries in my state) and found exactly none of them in the catalog. And most of the titles that were there had long waiting lists.
Desperate for eBook reading matter, and eager to see if the Kindle experience was as great as the iPad, I broke down and bought Desolation, by Yasmina Reza, one of the books on my six-page list. Though for me the iPad reading experience is superior to the Kindle (except in terms of weight), I would still prefer a Kindle edition over hard copy.
There followed a month or two of a dry spell, during which I continued to read books wastefully printed on processed dead trees and badgered my state library consortium to spend more on eBooks.
Eager to convert my wife to eBooks, I finally again broke down and purchased for the iPad the enhanced version of Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean. Its many pages of color photos and ten embedded videos(!) gave me a taste of the delights coming our way as eBooks mature and take on features we cannot even imagine today.
Then came the first rumblings of KOLL—Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library—and I began to write this series on The End of Libraries. Once KOLL was announced, and since my company has an Amazon Prime membership, I immediately borrowed my first “free” book from the Lending Library, What It Is Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes. Karl will get a piece of a $500,000 pot from Amazon for that loan, as will all the other authors whose books are loaned during December 2011, KOLL’s first month.
KOLL began with 5,000 titles and by the end of December it had almost 70,000, the vast majority apparently coming from authors in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program, in which authors can self-publish their books. In order to be part of KOLL, KDP authors had to commit to a 90-day participation in the lending program and agree to give Amazon exclusive sales rights during that period to the books enrolled in KOLL. Obviously thousands of you thought it was worth the commitment. Why? I think it is because you have become aware of an exciting new fact of literary life that also occurred to me while watching the eBook world and writing this series over the past six weeks: eBooks are for lending, and anyone who can come up with a scheme to adequately compensate authors for those loans will have built the better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to their door.
Amazon is on its way to doing that, all by itself. Monopolies are inherently undesirable, and this one also threatens the continued existence of a vital national resource: our public library network.
You are going to make a lot more money lending AND selling your books in the future than you make just selling them today. You are going to pressure your publishers to get on board with eBook lending and, if they drag their feet, you will do whatever you need to do to find your way to this enhanced revenue generator. As you do, I ask you to read the first six parts of this series (and any future parts: follow us on Twitter for announcements), consider the ill effects of monopoly and the end of public libraries, and get on board with a movement to bring an adequate eBook lending model to public libraries. I suggest one such model—the American Public Library Enterprise, or AmPLE—in Part II. Public libraries serve all 330 million Americans, not the scant few million who may be Amazon Prime customers and eligible for one KOLL checkout in each calendar month. The revenues you stand to gain which today are sitting on the table are enormous, and our public library network stands ready to bring them to you.
How to proceed? Get together with your fellow writers. Get talking. Don’t fret, the way your publisher is fretting (if you have one). A reading renaissance is at hand, knocking on our doors, ready to bring your works to the masses and masses of money to you. Don’t let this take forever, and don’t let Amazon kill libraries by bringing to a few of us what should belong to the whole world.
Dec 15, 2011
On November 2, Amazon introduced the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) for its Amazon Prime customers.1 It initially offered 5,000 titles, most obtained from second-rank publishers under contractual agreements and, under some other fairly hazy arrangement, additional titles one copy of which Amazon apparently agreed to purchase at wholesale for every Prime customer that simultaneously borrowed it.
Then, on December 8, Amazon announced KDP Select, a program to enroll self-published authors in KOLL, and, as I predicted, a week later there were over 52,000 titles available for borrowing in KOLL. I predict that number will again increase tenfold within the next 60-90 days as traditional and first-rank publishers cave in to the enormous pressure from their authors and from the changing nature of the marketplace, and begin listing their titles with Amazon’s KOLL.
Meanwhile, Amazon today claimed it has sold more than a million Kindle devices (including the newest, the Kindle Fire) each week for the past three weeks.2 Those devices are primarily intended for one purpose—reading eBooks.
Amazon has been much more reticent about releasing the numbers of its Prime customers, though I can tell you those numbers increased today by at least one—me. And the book I immediately borrowed, What Is It Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes, must have been provided through that fairly hazy arrangement described above. It is most definitely not self-published, and a quick perusal of Amazon’s first five pages of titles from its publisher, the Atlantic Monthly Press, revealed no other titles that were included in KOLL.
Others have estimated Prime customers at around five million, and that was early in 2011, before KOLL was more than a gleam in Jeff Bezos’s eye.3 If that number was close to accurate almost a year ago, I am probably safe in estimating the number has doubled since then and especially since the introduction of KOLL. Ten million members, all able to check out one book a month, 52,000 books to choose from, and a $500,000 pot to split. I hope after this first trial month Amazon will release some figures relating to KOLL usage; however, whether they do or not, I think things look pretty sunny for many of the authors of those 52,000 books. Not that there isn’t a tremendous amount of controversy around the issue, just now, appropriately enough, among self-published authors.4 Much more is to come, particularly as authors associated with traditional publishing houses begin to understand the unprecedented advantage they are missing out on: payment for books that are loaned as well as those that are sold.
What does this mean for public libraries? I think I have made that pretty clear already in the first five parts of this series.5 More to come, as more develops.
1 The End of Libraries, Part III, from Alltogethernow.org, Nov 6, 2011.
2 Customers Purchasing Kindles at Rate of More Than 1 Million Per Week for Third Straight Week, from MarketWatch.com, Dec 15, 2011, accessed Dec 15, 2011.
3 The promise of Amazon Prime, from Daily Artifacts, Feb 24, 2011, accessed Dec 15, 2011.
4 How Much Do You Want to Get Paid Tomorrow, by David Gaughran, from Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should. This is one of the best sites to read about the concerns of self-published authors. There are many others. Dec 11, 2011, accessed Dec 15, 2011.
5 The End of Libraries, Parts I-VI, from Alltogethernow.org.
Dec 08, 2011
Dec 08, 2011
Today, Amazon announced the KDP (Kindle Direct Publisher) Select program, which enrolls independent authors and publishers in a $6 million sweepstakes and, upon its announcement, immediately added 129 books to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. I predict thousands more will follow very soon.
From the press release:1
The monthly royalty payment for each KDP Select book is based on that book’s share of the total number of borrows of all participating KDP books in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. For example, if total borrows of all participating KDP Select books are 100,000 in December and an author’s book was borrowed 1,500 times, they will earn $7,500 in additional royalties from KDP Select in December. Amazon expects the fund to be at least $6 million for all of 2012, in addition to the $500,000 allocated for December 2011. Enrolled titles will remain available for sale to any customer in the Kindle Store and authors will continue to earn their regular royalties on those sales.So, for the first time in history (correct me if I’m wrong), authors will regularly receive a royalty payment each time a title of theirs is loaned, as well as each time it is sold.
Nov 30, 2011
Nov 13, 2011
We are in a new age now. An age in which the many are subservient to the few. In which the wealth accorded those few outstrip the most magnificent treasuries of medieval monarchies or eastern potentates. In which anxiety, suffering, and want is, increasingly and inexorably, to be the lot of the 99%.
We have 25 million unemployed Americans and no jobs for them, either today or on the horizon. We probably have another 25 million or more working at part-time and/or low-wage jobs which barely—or don’t—allow them to scrape by. We have over 46 million Americans living without an income our government says is necessary to afford the basic necessities of life. And our government’s idea of what those necessities are is cruelly basic, indeed. Can you imagine supporting a spouse and two children on a gross salary of $22,350 a year?
The employment situation is not going to improve because the 1% have figured out how to prosper without the services or consumption of the lion’s share of the 99%. Scarcely anyone is needed to raise our food anymore, now that the “green revolution” and factory farming are well in place. Scarcely anyone is needed to manufacture the goods we consume, now that most manufacturing has been shifted to low-income labor in nations unhindered by environmental, safety, or other annoying considerations. Scarcely anyone is needed to perform a wide spectrum of services, from technology support, medical assistance, and legal research down to flipping burgers and pumping gas, now that the benefits of technology are maturing. Certainly no one is needed to vote any longer, our democratic institutions having been privatized by the corporatocracy.
Webster’s first definition of anarchy is “absence of government.” What we are experiencing is what I would call the New Anarchy, where institutions of public welfare, shared societal goals and responsibilities, and commonly held aspirations and the structures supported to realize those aspirations have been allowed to fade and disappear before our eyes. The “Me Generation” has been succeeded by the “Only Me Generation.”
Without a significant attitude adjustment to halt the runaway and quite literally antisocial train we find ourselves on, a great crash is in all our futures. A dog-eat-dog world can only end in a lonely death for the one dog left standing.
There is a better way, and it has been preached by preachers and sociologists and community organizers and philosophers and politicians since time immemorial. Ben Franklin may have said it best: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
The gibbets are in place, and the bodies are beginning to pile up.
Nov 12, 2011
There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Internet over Amazon’s new Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. A Google search will turn up many more instances than I could hope to footnote here. Be sure to read the reader Comments on the news articles for a full helping of the panic and despair sweeping the world, particularly among writers.
I am not sure they have as much to worry about as they think they do. However, Amazon has been less than forthcoming regarding the details of their financial arrangements with publishers and authors. Let’s look at what we know about those arrangements so far.
In a Wall Street Journal article published the day after the Lending Library was announced,1 the following was revealed regarding the finances of the deal:
Russell Grandinetti, vice president for Kindle content, said “the vast majority” of participating publishers were receiving a flat fee for their titles, while a more limited group is being paid the wholesale price for each title that is borrowed. “For those publishers, we’re treating each book borrowed as a sale,” he said.Let’s look at these two remittance models, starting with the flat fee arrangement which covers “the vast majority” of titles. I at first thought a flat fee arrangement would have to favor one party over another. However, an article from Bloomberg via Gulfnews.com2 reports that Amazon’s flat fee payment for “a group of books” is good only “over a period of time.” This being the case, one assumes the parties would be able to renegotiate terms after that period of time (whatever it may be) had expired.
Nov 06, 2011
It has begun. Last Wednesday, Amazon announced its new book-lending add-on to its Amazon Prime service.1 What it offers is fairly meager and the model, particularly in its remittance to publishers, is, to my mind, seriously flawed:
Oct 22, 2011
The threat facing public libraries is real.1 It has not made itself manifest as yet, because no commercial enterprise has assembled the eBook lending package which is demanded by an eReading public starved for content.
The threat facing traditional publishers on the other hand, is here, today, and it is equally serious. Not only is Amazon publishing authors directly themselves (122 titles are coming out this fall alone2 and many, many more are planned for next year), but authors are increasingly self-publishing on the Internet and many nontraditional publishing entities besides Amazon are springing up to help them.3,4
The authors whom publishers are likely to lose first are the ones who are most secure in their earning power and therefore of greatest value to them. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, for instance, will be selling the eBook versions of that popular series exclusively on her own website,5 Pottermore.6
Public libraries and traditional publishers can save themselves only if they act quickly and boldly. The following is what I think they need to do, and the only alternative to this course of action, as far as I can see, is a not-so-slow but an ever-so-painful death.
Publishers: Convert every title, new and backlist, to eBook formats that support every device out there. Give them all to a nonprofit business entity, which we will here call AmPLE, for American Public Library Enterprise. AmPLE will manage the eBook distribution to public library patrons.
Public Libraries: Determine your eBook budget for the coming 12 months and send a check for it to AmPLE.
AmPLE: Get your site up superquick and start lending to your libraries’ patrons. For every checkout, decrement the eBook account of the borrower’s library by 50 cents, send 45 cents to the publisher, and keep 5 cents for yourself. Patrons can check out up to three titles at a time regardless of whether one or a thousand other borrowers have borrowed them at the same time. And no due date. When a reader wants another book, they will return one.
Do the math. In today’s model, a publisher might sell—let’s be liberal—2000 copies of a blockbuster new title to 50 state library consortia (the standard arrangement today) for $20 each, or $40,000. Period. End of transaction. The consortia then sets about loaning these 2000 copies to their 330 million patrons, 2000 at a time for two-week checkouts. Ridiculous.
Or. Check out that same blockbuster, which the publisher has provided to AmPLE free of charge, to—let’s be conservative—a half a million readers on Day One, at 45 cents a checkout, or $225,000—almost six times the amount the publisher would have received on the old model, and that’s only on Day One. That one title continues to earn money for the publisher throughout its term of copyright—until 70 years after the death of the author.
The 50-cent “charge” for a checkout is a reasonable figure, arrived at by dividing the average library’s annual budget for new acquisitions by the average annual circulation7. This figure ranges from 25 to 75 cents for most libraries.
Today, everybody loses, and this includes the authors. They need the expert services of traditional publishers. They need the nurturing, the editing, the production, and the management of their work, freeing them to do the work itself. We readers need traditional publishers, for their selectivity and the imprimatur of quality which their selectivity exhibits.
And we all need public libraries, one of the last bastions of egalitarian democracy in the U.S. Through public taxation, public libraries provide us all with equal access to knowledge and a wealth of information services which must not be relegated to the sole province of the well-to-do. Study after study8 affirms the huge return to our society on investment in our public libraries.
As eBooks gradually—or perhaps not so gradually—replace the physical book, we need to ensure that our public libraries provide these resources as widely, efficiently, and economically as the technology allows. A system like the one described above does just that. Under this system, public libraries will flourish rather than fade, and everyone else wins as well—authors, publishers, and readers.
1 The End of Libraries, Part I. AllTogetherNow.org, Oct 18, 2011.
2 Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of the Deal, by David Streifield, from the New York Times, Oct 16, 2011, accessed Oct 22, 2011.
5 Harry Potter Ebooks To Be Released in Open Google Ebook Format, by Pamela Parker, Jul 20, 2011, accessed Oct 22, 2011.
7 Data File Documentation, Public Libraries Survey, Fiscal Year 2009 (.pdf), from IMLS, Jul 2011, accessed Oct 22, 2011.
8 The Value of Public Libraries, links assembled by Stephen Abram, accessed Oct 22, 2011.
Oct 18, 2011
I am a library manager, a convert to the eBook format, and very worried. Although speculation regarding the collapse of public libraries has been in the infosphere since the advent of the internet, the public library’s continued existence has never been more uncertain than it is today.
First, consider that in the face of growing demand, libraries around the nation are cutting back on new acquisitions, hours, and staffing. In tough economic times, public libraries, which are almost always primarily funded at the local level, are easy targets for cost cutting, and they are being targeted practically everywhere.
And then consider the advent of eBooks, which are exploding in popularity. Amazon sells more of them than they do hardcovers and paperbacks combined. There are four good reasons why eBooks will marginalize, if not eliminate, the paper-based book within a few years:
Oct 17, 2011
Oct 17, 2011
The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement will fade away and fail unless a political structure is born from this social uprising. Chris Hedges, whose writings I admire as much as I do those of anyone commenting on the American political scene today, says the political process is dead, and street action is the only way to bring about change. He’s wrong.
The OWS movement is being tolerated now by a regime which has nothing at present to lose by its tolerance. The movement has stopped traffic a few times for a few hours. But it hasn’t stopped the momentum toward global hegemony which the corporatocracy has been pursuing for 30 years and which, at this point in time, is all but in the bag.
We will take our country back by ballot or by bullet. I cannot see any third alternative, and bullets are notoriously unpredictable. People are making noises about third parties, but nothing significant has been launched that I know of. The time is now.
A third party needs a platform that sets forth a substantively and substantially new direction for our nation. It must appeal to a broad range of constituents, including fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and Tea Partiers as well as the millions of liberal Americans who have become disaffected by a co-opted Democratic Party.
A third party needs to go after 435 House and 33 Senate seats first. Congress makes the laws, and presidential politics in America has been turned into little more than a smokescreen to keep our attention off the prize.
And a third party must put America back to work, in our factories and schools, on our infrastructure, and in the powerhouse laboratories where the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the American imagination will forge a new age of clean energy, world peace, and global liberty.
Here are ten planks in a platform for a New Century:
1. Assured employment opportunities at a living wage for everyone between the ages of 18 and 65.
2. An educational system second to none, with recognized national standards and public support; enhanced compensation for educators, with escalators for service and merit; and public support for post-secondary technical, occupational, and public university education.
3. Publicly supported universal health care.
4. A balanced federal budget.
5. Energy independence in 25 years via conservation, targeted taxation, and vigorous research and development of renewable energy sources to halt and reverse the damage to the environment caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
6. A capitalist economic structure regulated to serve the interests of the people, the nation, and the world. Globalization? Yes. But not at the expense of hard-won protections for workers and the environment.
7. A simplified tax system that enhances the competitiveness of U.S.-based businesses and reverses the unprecedented income inequality which has burgeoned over the past thirty years.
8. A redirection in our response to global terrorism from military action and occupation to a revitalized international police effort. Future executive branch military action will require a formal declaration of war by Congress.
9. Term limits for elective federal offices and regulations closing the revolving door between government and corporate affiliation.
10. A commitment to personal freedoms for the individual, when those freedoms do not directly and demonstrably impinge on the freedoms of others.
Sep 07, 2011
Aug 30, 2011
Jul 24, 2011
Jun 20, 2011
May 31, 2011
May 18, 2011
Recent reports of bad boy behavior among the high and mighty (Strauss-Kahn, Schwarzenegger) have dovetailed with a couple of other news stories about bad boy behavior in the Ivy League, specifically at Yale and Dartmouth. These elite institutions are, of course, the breeding ground for our future leaders, and I am wondering if we are not seeing a pattern here. More to the point, I am wondering where our leaders get this outsized sense of entitlement, that they can run roughshod over common morality with such impunity. JFK and Eliot Spitzer are two other such egregious abusers of women (their concubines and their wives) who spring to mind. And there have been so many others.
I am beginning to think a significant proportion of the people we elect to high places are sociopaths. Definition: “A person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.” Sociopaths are often oh-so-charming, slick and manipulative, without any capacity for empathy—solipsists to the core, in fact, for whom no one and nothing exists except to serve their own gratification, amusement, and enrichment. How else can one account for the mess we are in today?
Of course, we are all solipsists to an extent. It takes a real effort to imaginatively experience the otherness of another. When we do, it sometimes comes with a euphoric shock of recognition and, for me at any rate, a welcome understanding that I am not alone “in this dark world and wide.” But the Profumos of this world (and he was the earliest manifestation of this sort of thing in my memory) have no such epiphanic moments. They live locked in a world of their own exclusivity, unable to share in the wonder of the other. Which, I guess, would be fine, except sociopathy so often manifests itself in pursuits inimical to a healthy society, from running for office to serial killing.
Is there some way we can identify and filter these people out of our political process? Probably not. Unless we can find a way to identify the right people (rather than allow the wrong ones to self-select themselves for political office), and encourage and support them in their races. Otherwise, we are left with the non-solution proposed by Gore Vidal, that “[a]ny American who is prepared to run for [office] should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.”
Apr 25, 2011
Apr 12, 2011
There has been much debate of late regarding the French ban on the wearing of the Arab niqab (mask) in public. The two sides are well represented in an editorial in Canada’s National Post,1 so I am not going to rehash them here.
However, I will add one comment not mentioned in this editorial or in anything else I have read on this issue. If a government is going to conclude that the wearing of a mask in public is, indeed, a matter for the legal system to deal with, then they should not double down on blaming the victim—which is what the oppressors of these women are doing in the first place—and arrest these hapless females. They should arrest the culpable parties—the husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons of these abused women.
The radical Islamists tell their women, “Get raped and we will stone you to death.” The French tell them, “Wear a burka or naqib and we will put you in a cell and fine you 150 euros.” Does such an attitude not merely represent a milder form of the same injustice and, ever at the root of this sort of thing, misogyny?
1 Don’t ban the burka, an editorial from the National Post, Ontario, Canada, Apr 12, 2011, accessed Apr 12, 2011.
Mar 28, 2011
Mar 10, 2011
The anti-labor activities in Ohio and Wisconsin in recent days are the tip of the iceberg—the tip that the mainstream media has seen fit to cover. Here are some dramatic numbers which are a harbinger of perilous times to come:1
Feb 28, 2011
Feb 26, 2011
The exciting, terrifying, edge-of-our-seats news from the Middle East these days has demonstrated to me something which I hadn't realized before. Governments not only should derive their legitimacy (their "just powers") from the consent of the governed (see the Declaration of Independence), but they can only derive their legitimacy from that consent.
The consent may be granted grudgingly; it may be obtained for a time criminally and fraudulently via a police state system of spies, torture, and murder; but when it is withdrawn, that government is finished.
Who knows what will come of the incredibly brave actions, the sacrifice, the turmoil that is overwhelming the Middle East these days? As Chris Hedges has written1, whatever comes of it will almost certainly not be to the benefit of the United States. We have partnered with these departing tyrants, have supported them, have bankrolled them, have too often set them on their thrones ourselves, in blatant disregard of our own avowed principles.
Whatever outcomes we may dread—civil wars, a resurgent fundamentalist Islam, a disrupted oil industry; other outcomes, just as likely, we may hope to see emerge—a democratic awakening; a flowering of Arab and Muslim culture in the hothouse atmosphere of freedom; a new populism—disappearing in our own culture—which celebrates the common man and woman and understands that 95 percent of us are not put on this earth to enrich the other five.
I find it all incredible and wonderful and worrisome. These departing tyrants are OUR tyrants. We believe that their oil is OUR oil. Iran is playing around with their warships approaching Israel. The spectre of Armageddon is not entirely out of the question.
The Chinese curse, May you live in interesting times,2 has been pronounced upon all our heads, and the Age of Anxiety3 is back.
1 What Corruption and Force Have Wrought in Egypt, by Chris Hedges, from Truthdig.com, Jan 30, 2011, accessed Feb 26, 2011.
2 May You Live in Interesting Times, from Wikipedia, accessed Feb 26, 2011.
3 The Age of Anxiety, from Wikipedia, accessed Feb 26, 2011.
Jan 31, 2011
Jan 09, 2011
The employment report that came out last Friday is a beautiful example of how to lie with statistics. The big number announced was the drop in the unemployment rate from 9.8 to 9.4 percent. The nation added 103,000 jobs in December and it is generally conceded that we need to add 100,000 to 125,000 jobs each month “just to keep up with population growth and keep the unemployment rate from rising.”1
So how did the measly increase of 103,000 jobs in December result in the largest drop in the unemployment rate in months? It is because the unemployment rate is based on a fiction the Department of Labor calls the “labor force,” which consists of the number of people who are employed or who are looking for work. An estimated 260,000 unemployed people gave up their long pursuit of employment in December, and that would seem to be the sole reason the unemployment rate dropped so precipitously.
For better or for worse, that number is the one which people latch onto when assessing the general state of our economy, and now we can see how misleading it is. To not count among the unemployed those who have given up looking for work is not simply a statistical failing, it is a moral failing. It is, however, a particularly canny political strategy, as now the nation is under the impression that unemployment—the single greatest threat we face today—is suddenly on a speedy and healthy mend, when nothing could be further from the truth
Give us an unemployment rate that includes all those who want to work but are unemployed, then include those who are working part time but want to work full time, and the millions of employed who are working for less, sometimes considerably less, than a living wage, and you will see a number that will strike terror into your heart. And in 2011, when many unemployed will begin exhausting their 99 weeks of compensation and will be desperate to take on any work at any pay, that number will begin to skyrocket.
America as the economic powerhouse of the world is history. The only question now is how fast and how far we descend in the coming decade into a second-rate, two-class society consisting of the few super-rich and the rest of us. A paradigm shift in priorities on the order of A New American Vision points a way out of our predicament. This, or something equally radical, is all that can reverse the trends of the past thirty years. And if we don’t get started on this now, it may well be too late.
1 CPBB Statement: January 7, 2011, by Chad Stone, accessed Jan 8, 2011.
Jan 01, 2011
To reverse the dangerous social, political, and economic trends of the last thirty years;
To halt our lemming-like march to extinction via global climatological collapse;
To close the vast gulf between the obscenely super-rich and the billions of our fellow creatures who go to bed hungry every night and whose children die by the thousands every day from disease, infected water, and malnutrition.
I don’t know how we are going to do this. However, the world is full of brilliant, caring, and aware individuals who today are tilling their own plots of ground in pursuit of global justice. If we can coalesce into a cooperative force, we can bring our world back from the brink. This is something we must do and we must do it now. If we don't, all of our causes are lost.
2011 will be a pivotal year. As 99-week unemployment benefits begin to run out, millions of Americans will face destitution to a degree not felt in this country since the depths of the Great Depression. Home foreclosures will continue apace, with millions of those same Americans facing the double whammy of unemployment and homelessness. The new Republican majority in the House will initiate a full court press to bring down Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security with, apparently, the cooperation of the so-called opposition party and the White House. As Robert Reich says in his Dec 30 piece you will find on this month’s Noted with Interest, the rich will get richer, the poor poorer, the stock market will go up, and the misery for the average American will deepen.
In 2011, boomers will begin reaching retirement age in droves. After the hit they took in 2008-09 to their retirement accounts, many of them will be unable to retire, further freezing out young people who are already unemployed in numbers far higher than the national rate of 9.6 percent. Wages will fall as thousands more enter the labor force each month and the unemployed become increasingly desperate for work.
The American people have been abandoned by their representatives and by a suddenly global economy and an international corporatocracy that look elsewhere for both labor and markets. Housing prices—an important indicator of a society’s economic well-being—continue to fall,1 plunging additional hundreds of thousands of homeowners underwater with every drop of a percentage point.
In his piece noted above, Reich hopes that “[p]rogressives, enlightened Tea Partiers, Independents, organized labor, minorities, and the young [will] form a new progressive movement designed to reconnect America.” This is our hope as well, and has been our theme here at All Together Now since 2008. In 2011, we must begin to forge that movement. And we must do it without, at present, an obvious leader around which to assemble our forces. Until one arises, we must gather our forces around the task itself. We have leaders aplenty, as noted above, tilling important patches of soil around the globe. What we need now is followers, committed to the goal of working together. If you are willing to be one of them, send me your name, your email, and your thoughts on how we should proceed. No task is more important to the future of our planet and our species.
1 US house prices fall in October, set to tumble further, by Mark Trumbull, from the Christian Science Monitor, Dec 28, 2010, accessed Jan 1, 2011.
Copyright © 2008 All Together Now.