February 17th, 2011 10:27 EST
California, Nevada, Florida devastated by over-building, unemployment, foreclosures
What happens in Egypt ". The Daytona Beach News-Journal Online recently published a story based on an Associated Press Economic Stress Index Report. It listed Florida`s Flagler County as the 20th most stressed county in the nation, the only county east of the Rocky Mountains on the list. Here is an excerpt from the Daytona newspaper`s report: The monthly index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. Flagler County`s score of 20.7 in December reflects a jobless rate of 15.7 percent, 4.14 percent of residential and commercial properties in foreclosure per 1,000 units, and bankruptcy filings of 1.86 percent over a 12-month period per individual income tax returns. The news was no surprise to Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts. " "In retrospect, we should have known the growth we were experiencing was not sustainable,` he said, referring to the county`s housing boom. "We had all our eggs in one big basket and a lot of that basket had to do with speculation and the bottom fell out.` Netts said relying on a housing boom and population growth to fuel the economy has made it difficult for the county to feel much economic recovery. "
The significance of this story is what`s missing from it, a burgeoning aspect of American journalism. How much advertising revenue from speculative developers and predatory lenders bought the silence of the local and regional press? Why wasn`t it evident to Mr. Netts and many other local officials that an economy based on building houses for people who couldn`t afford them was, in his own belated words, unsustainable?
The Daytona newspaper has plenty of company in its selective memory. When do you remember a news organization confessing that it had a role in the housing boom and crash because as long as it was raking in advertising from developers and lenders it was content to refrain from the questions that should have been asked? Use the search term stressed counties " and you`ll see that the web is peppered with versions of AP`s stressed county index, but where was this same press when it could and should have been measuring the home building boom against our shrinking job market and all the other factors that indicate a sickly economy, such as the use of part-time jobs to avoid paying benefits? Where was the press when it could have been helpful? Where was officialdom across the nation when the Bush Administration started peddling an ownership society " without any program for creating more jobs so that we could afford to be owners? Why was this blatant blather so easy to sell to local officialdom? One answer, of course, is that officials were being bribed by developers in many of our more than 89,400 local governments.
The press, too, was bribed into silence by advertising money. Why mince words? It was bribery, and it raises the question of how the Fourth Estate`s silence is bought in other areas of our society, such as the growth of a shadow private military answerable only to investors. The real stories in our society are not being covered because they`re not being framed honestly. The media concept of news is so narrow and manipulated that it hardly knows how to cover the youth revolt in the Muslim world. The press frames the revolt as foreign correspondence, but in fact it foreshadows what will befall the entire world if the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen. It`s not an Egyptian or Arab or Muslim story, it`s a global story of immense significance, but the press is covering it as if it were the Crimean War. Why?
The corporatist press has a vested interest in the status quo. In the Middle East the pundits are asking what about Israel, when the real question is what about the chasm between the privileged few and desperate poor? When the housing boom turned into a bust that continues to spiral out of control the press said with a straight face that the bust took everybody by surprise. Who is everybody? The people it took by surprise were the people who are being screwed by the predators. The press was in on the con from the get-go. That`s how it was paying its bills "with revenues from the scammers. And as for the pundits, who are usually paid by people with an agenda, how big an IQ did they need to figure out that selling McMansions to people who are losing their jobs and benefits isn`t an economy, it`s a tawdry scheme?
We were losing our industry to cheap labor markets overseas, our unions were being busted, higher education and health care were climbing out of reach, and here the press was yakking about a never-ending housing boom. And we`re supposed to believe the press was taken by surprise? Are politicians like Mayor Netts to be believed? If so, thousands of them were as incurious as George W. Bush. They were getting theirs and they didn`t give a damn about the people who trusted them. America is full of Hosni Mubaraks tsk-tsking all the way to their local predator-banks. And the self-righteous press isn`t much better. How on earth could anyone have thought a dynamic, healthy America intent on decent jobs for everyone could depend on building houses with money borrowed from China? You hardly needed to be a Nobel laureate to harbor doubts.
And now we are seeing the same disingenuous gee-whiz journalism from Egypt and Tunisia and Iran. My, my, look at those Arabs, the press tells us, when it should be connecting the dots and asking how long piratical capitalism can go on screwing the masses without this kind of reaction. It`s not for nothing, after all, that Republican governor Scott Walker says he`s willing to call out the Wisconsin National Guard to keep order if there are demonstrations against his plan to eliminate collective bargaining with state employees.
Presumably he`s willing to risk another Kent State incident. You remember when in 1970 four Kent State students were killed by the Ohio National Guard and nine were wounded in anti-war demonstrations? His remarks show how determined bought-and-paid-for political allies of global corporations are to suppress dissent. But the press hasn`t noticed the parallels between his statement and what is happening the Middle East. It hasn`t noticed that millions of Americans are getting increasingly desperate and angry. It hasn`t noticed that Egypt and Tunisia and Iran are domestic stories because we all live on small planet whose corporatist elite is squeezing the life out of us.
Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com