[The economic insanity of “free” market capitalism is only free to those who posses enough resources to dominate those with much less. How this system has ever become the symbol of what it means to be free in the West is mind-boggling. In stark contrast to this, the Bolivarian Revolution is once again sweeping through Latin America with participatory budgeting, cooperative business structures, and relocalization – especially as it relates to agriculture.
In America we are brainwashed to believe this is the antithesis of “freedom.”
But for the poor the key to true freedom is equality. The Bolivarian philosophies are based upon equitable returns to community members participating within their own economy. This is precisely what Catherine Austin Fitts’ Solari economic model is designed to implement by reconstructing – or deconstructing – the tools “free” market capitalism uses to economically enslave us. Call it whatever you want – Revolution or Solari – all that matters is positive change that empowers people at the local level.
That is what Latin America is doing as America continues to be drained by the tapeworm; to compare and contrast the two is quite revealing. – MK]
LATIN AMERICA DECONSTRUCTS THE TAPEWORM:
LESSONS FOR FINANCIALLY-DRAINED AMERICANS
By Carolyn Baker, Ph.D.
© Copyright 2006, From The Wilderness Publications, www.fromthewilderness.com. All Rights Reserved. This story may NOT be posted on any Internet web site without express written permission. Contact email@example.com. May be circulated, distributed or transmitted for non-profit purposes only.
We are here to share in the fight that starts in the communities and barrios….I don't mind being a permanent nightmare for the United States.
Evo Morales, President of Bolivia
Marketwatch, August 23, 2006
August 25th 2006, 2:43PM [PST] - On August 15, Reuters News Service reported that the bankrupt Northwest Airlines Corporation advised workers to “fish in the trash for things they like or take their dates for a walk in the woods [instead of taking them to dinner].1 This was stated in a booklet which encouraged employees to “manage their money better and prepare for financial emergencies.”2 In my last FTW article “Valley Of The Shadow Of Debt”,3 I wrote in depth about the albatross of debt that hangs around many American families, which in a majority of cases, was acquired through medical emergencies, and I provided ample documentation that financial emergencies and competent money management are almost always unrelated.
Many FTW readers are familiar with Catherine Austin Fitts’ Tapeworm economics paradigm and how the Solari model of economics offers viable alternatives. This analysis will explore how Tapeworm Economics is ravaging the American middle class and how Latin American countries are beginning to implement solutions similar to the Solari model to reverse centuries of economic oppression—an oppression which seems unfathomable to most North Americans, even as they are circling the fiscal abyss.
For example, in the past ten days, the housing slump in America has worsened, and this week, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index revealed that builder confidence fell to its lowest in 15 years in what is now the seventh consecutive month of decline. David Seiders, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders said that, “Two big factors are coloring builders’ perception of the market right now, rising cancellations and substantial growth in inventories of both new and existing homes.”4 How is a soft landing for the housing market possible when that market is over-inflated and when borrowers are already over-extended? “With sky-high energy prices, rising interest rates and a cooling housing market, can U.S. households continue pulling rabbits out of their hat?” asked economic analyst, Nesbitt Burns. Consumers are stretched to the breaking point, and mortgage payments are increasingly difficult to make. A similar scenario exists in Australia where the Sydney Morning Herald reported this week in an article entitled “Housing Crash Puts Sellers In Debt Crisis” that increasing energy prices appear to be compounding the impact of repeated interest rate rises on properties in the outlying suburbs by driving prices down.5
MSNBC.com produced a chilling article this week entitled, “Will You Ever Be Able To Retire—Cracked Nest Egg?”6 Not only are most Americans ill-prepared to cope with the task of creating a nest egg to rely on when they’re too old to continue working, but they are woefully unaware of the risks they face in retirement investing, and they’re falling further behind in providing for their long-term financial security. A New Jersey financial planner, Doug Lockwood, stated, “I don’t think we’re going to see another generation that’s going to fully retire. There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to continue to work for the rest of their lives.”
An Employee Benefits Research Institute survey7 in April, 2006 found that more than half of workers 55 and older have saved less than $50,000 toward retirement. Not only have most Americans not saved for retirement, but they are essentially clueless about how much more they will need to support themselves once they are no longer employed. In fact, according to the survey, nearly six in ten workers haven’t even bothered to calculate how much they might need to live on. Add to this looming deficits in Social Security funds, horrendous new Medicare regulations, the billions in shortages devastating pension plans,8 and you have a nightmare scenario for aging baby-boomers and numerous generations of younger Americans who will be forced to work until they die. Set aside money for retirement? Really? Tell it to countless middle-class Americans who are working two or more jobs to simply stay afloat.
We already know that healthcare for Americans over 65 will be a daunting and dismal ordeal, but for those younger Americans in the work force, even those who are insured by their employers, quality healthcare continues to elude them. In fact, with the latest trend in outsourcing healthcare, as reported by the Christian Science Monitor in “Companies Explore Overseas Healthcare,”9 expensive procedures are increasingly being performed in third-world countries and paid for at extraordinary savings to employers of the insured or by the insured themselves. Surgeries which might cost $100,000 in the U.S. may run about $20,000 in India. “Medical tourism,” the article states, “is morphing into ‘global healthcare’.” Obviously, this indicates the severity of America’s healthcare crisis, yet going overseas for expensive procedures deals still another blow to a system in crisis and limits the amount of money available for everyone.
Nor is medical debt limited to the uninsured. According to a Newsweek’s Karen Springen, in her article “Health Hazards’’, twenty percent of working-age adults in the U.S., both insured and uninsured, currently have medical debt which they are attempting to pay off over time. Moreover, Americans are taking out home-equity loans, using credit cards, and cashing out retirement accounts in order to pay medical expenses.
One of the most stunning aspects of “The Power Of Community” DVD which has been available on the FTW website for several months, is the manner in which the filmmakers documented not only Cuba’s astounding success in surviving Peak Oil, but the ways in which its people in the past four decades have reconstituted their nation economically. Within the past decade, several other Latin American nations have begun to move in a similar direction--nations such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, and Brazil, uniting in principle and practice behind the new Bolivarian Revolution.
One of the most impressive feats of this revolution is participatory budgeting which is “a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, in which ordinary city residents decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget.”10 The process developed in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in 1989 and has been extremely successful there. In participatory budgeting, the population, through debate and consult process, determines who defines and decides on amounts of income and expense, as well as where investments will be done, which are the priorities and which are the plans and actions to be developed by the government.11 As a result of its success in Porto Alegre, there are 70 cities throughout Brazil that are establishing the participatory budget system.
UNESCO reports that from 1991 on, “the Participative Budget became a massive and thrilling process which started to mobilize the communities of all regions. In 1994, for instance, more than 11 thousand persons and in 1995, more than 14 thousand persons attended the meetings and the regional assemblies directly coordinated by the City Hall. If we add to this number of people, the huge quantity of local associations and popular organizations, we will end up having over 100 thousand persons linked somehow to the creation of the City Budget. Besides that, circa one thousand entities and associations are registered at the Participative Budget.”12
Over the years, sanitation has dramatically improved, increasing the water supply so that today, 98% of the households are served by a water system. Moreover, the growth in the availability of sewage systems was even more impressive, growing from 46% of the population served to 74%. As a result of participatory budgeting, the quality of education has improved as well as the number of the total number of enrollments.
One need only Google “participatory budgeting” and add a particular country to the search to learn the successes brought about by the process in Latin America. But the South American nation that has most fervently adhered to a participatory economic model, not unlike the Solari model, is Venezuela.
When Hugo Chavez came to power in the late nineties, he instituted something called Bolivarian Circles of which at one point, there were 2.3 million members. Most of the circles are no longer operative, but in their heyday, they were essentially neighborhood groups (Solaris?) committed to reorganizing Venezuelan society from the grassroots. From their inception, they were very independent of the Chavez government, and they did not always agree with it. The circles were charged with such tasks as neighborhood beautification, grassroots organizing and activism, lending support to local businesses, and charity work.13
Following the model of Simon Bolivar, Chavez also instituted an agenda of Bolivarian Missions which are a series of social justice, social welfare, anti-poverty, and educational programs. One of those is Barrio Adentro which seeks to provide comprehensive, publicly-funded healthcare and dental care to poor communities. Unlike Tapeworm healthcare in the United States, Venezuelan healthcare, although still struggling to become available to all of its citizens, is based on the fundamental tenet that healthcare is a human right, guaranteed to all people.
Mission Habitat has its goal the construction of thousands of new housing units for the poor, and it seeks to develop agreeable and integrated housing zones that make available a full range of social services—from education to healthcare, not unlike the vision of New Urbanism. Related in principle to Barrio Adentro is the belief that healthcare and social service providers should be physically accessible to patients and clients, living in their neighborhoods.
Mission Mercal has set up subsidized grocery stores run by a government-run company, Mercal. Some 11 million Venezuelans benefit regularly from Mercal food programs as over 14,000 Mission Mercal food distribution sites are spread throughout the nation, and over 4,000 metric tons of food are distributed each day. Even more stunning is Mercal’s reliance not on imports, but on products from local farmers, small businesses, and cooperatives. Previously, Venezuela’s food production and distribution systems were managed by large national corporations, but upon coming to power, Chavez expressed his outrage at the nation’s lack of food sovereignty and vulnerability to major food corporations, the result of which were closed supermarkets, growing malnutrition, and food shortages. Part of Mercal’s mission is to provide low-priced products in order to compete with private companies and food chains. Mercal’s program offers a balance of meat, dairy, grains, fruits, vegetable oils, and mineral salts. Curiously, one of the major tasks of the Venezuelan armed forces is logistical support for moving, procuring, warehousing, and distributing food, as bases and barracks become storage centers. Frankly, in a time of peace, I can’t think of a better use of any military unit.
Mission Robinson and Mission Sucre are programs for dramatically improving the educational system of Venezuela. Mission Robinson uses volunteers to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic to more than 1.5 adults who were illiterate prior to Chavez’s election to the presidency. In 2005, Venezuela was declared an “illiteracy-free zone”, having raised the rate of literacy, verified by UNESCO to 95%. Mission Sucre has provided free, ongoing higher education (college and graduate level) to two million Venezuelans who had not completed their elementary education. The program is geared specifically to lower-income and marginalized students. And, since Chavez came to power in 1999, five new universities have been founded and four new institutes of technology.14 In fact, Prensa Latina reported on August 23, 2006 that Venezuela is very close to achieving “education for all.”
Working alongside the Bolivarian Missions program is the cooperative movement of Venezuela—108,000 of them formed in the past two years. Cooperatives are essentially collectively-run businesses which are now at the core of the country’s plan for egalitarian economic development, according to Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone in “An Economic Experiment Is The Hidden Story Behind Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution.” Cooperatives exist in four major sectors: Commerce, restaurants and hotels; transport, storage, and communications; agriculture, hunting, and fishing; and industrial manufacture. Bowman and Stone note that,
Capitalism generates unemployment. Neoliberalism aggravated this tendency in Venezuela, producing a large, stable group of over-looked people who were excluded from meaningful work and consumption. If not forgotten altogether, they were blamed for their plight and made to feel superfluous. But the Bolivarian revolution is about demanding recognition. In March of 2004 Chávez called Venezuelans to a new "mission," when MINEP [Ministry of Popular Economy] inaugurated the "Misión Vuelvan Caras" program—Mission About-Face. Acting "from within themselves and by their own powers" to form cooperatives, the people were to "combat unemployment and exclusion" by actually "chang[ing] the relations of production."
The broader goal of the Chavez government is “endogenous development” which means that although foreign investments in Venezuela continue, the government’s intention is to avoid relying on foreign imports which make the nation vulnerable to blackmail. Endogenous development is about producing seeds, food, clothing, and goods and services autonomously rather than becoming a captive of the World Bank or the IMF. Bowman and Stone emphasize that “co-ops can meet needs better than conventional capitalist firms [because] freed of the burdens of supporting costly managers and profit-hungry absentee investors, co-ops have a financial buoyancy that drives labor-saving technological innovation to save labor time.”15
A few days ago, I was visiting with a nurse in a lab where I was having some tests. I had with me Richard Gott’s book Hugo Chavez And The Bolivarian Revolution which has a picture of Chavez on the cover. When the nurse saw the book, she looked shocked and exclaimed, “Why are you reading about him? He kills people!” Such is the insanity that mainstream media peddles about Venezuela and its president. When do we hear about the Mission programs or Venezuelan co-operatives? Yet those place-based movements have been and continue to devour the tapeworm, place by place. Little wonder then, that this week, the International Relations Center’s Globalization News reported, “U.S. Trade Sanctions Seek To Pressure Latin America” in an effort to politically pressure Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela to “participate in the model of regional integration proposed by the United States”16—translation: We intend to force the Tapeworm economy on you through economic slavery to the IMF, the World Bank, and privatization by American corporations.
I do not wish to imply that the Bolivarian Revolution has achieved economic nirvana; it is in for decades-long struggle which could be sabotaged at any time by corrupt politicians, subversion by U.S. intelligence, or direct U.S. military aggression. However, Latin American countries which are on board with the Bolivarian Revolution, particularly Venezuela, are deconstructing the Tapeworm and transforming their societies on an intensely local level. They are not doing this by holding the government’s hand, but are operating—with the moral support of the Chavez government—by, for, and within their own unique places.
In the United States at this moment, a number of relocalization movements are working hard, many with astounding success, to create sustainable communities. As I have written oh so many times, working Americans do not yet comprehend the future ahead of them dictated by Peak Oil, climate chaos, and the Tapeworm. Those who do are preparing by getting out of debt, downsizing and relocalizing their lives. Fortunate are those who can and will read the tea leaves and disconnect from Tapeworm economics, joining with other awake individuals in their local communities to assist each other as the people of the Bolivarian Revolution are doing. Sadly, those who cling to their denial only fatten the Tapeworm and provide it with a more vulnerable, succulent host.
As the economic landscape in the United States continues to deteriorate, there will be much blame, rage, and paranoia. Only under the most calamitous circumstances will some individuals and families awaken to the reality that their only survival lies in combining efforts with their neighbors. Not comfortable societies, but only those in excruciating misery can create a Bolivarian Revolution—not a revolution of bombs and bullets, but the transformation of places.
FTW knows that many of our readers are engaged in a “Bolivarian Revolution” in their own local areas. They are not waiting for collapse but are operating pro-actively. How much anguish will it take before those who dismiss collapse and FTW’s reporting as “doom and gloom” begin deconstructing the Tapeworm in their personal and community economy? We do not have to waste energy envying the kind of government Venezuela is giving its citizens; we can begin applying its lessons now. Whether one is in “Tapeworm trauma” or merely seeking to prevent it, we have some of the greatest teachers on earth—the courageous women and men of Latin America who have drawn their line in the sand, crying, “Ya basta!” (Enough already!)