AuthorTopic: Who Destroyed the Middle Class  (Read 3081 times)

Offline g

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Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« on: June 20, 2012, 04:06:22 PM »
Sobering and most depressing read.    :icon_study:

“Over the last thirty years, the United States has been taken over by an amoral financial oligarchy, and the American dream of opportunity, education, and upward mobility is now largely confined to the top few percent of the population. Federal policy is increasingly dictated by the wealthy, by the financial sector, and by powerful (though sometimes badly mismanaged) industries such as telecommunications, health care, automobiles, and energy. These policies are implemented and praised by these groups’ willing servants, namely the increasingly bought-and-paid-for leadership of America’s political parties, academia, and lobbying industry.” – Charles Ferguson – Predator Nation                        :'(

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/fso/~3/JkrLKgEjBzw/who-destroyed-the-middle-class-part-one   

Offline agelbert

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2012, 01:19:36 PM »
Charles Hugh Smith shows how the middle class got wiped out by  and how financialization is now causing economic collapse. It appears to be a cyclical phenomenum involving greed overreach that was observed in past empires (English, Spanish, Dutch, Habsburg, etc.) Now, of course we have the environment thrown in but this guy's beat is economics and that's what he is limiting himself to here.


Financialization and Crony Capitalism Have Gutted the Middle Class   (July 13, 2012)

Snippet 1:
Quote
Higher Energy Costs = Lower GDP, Lower Incomes
 
Let’s start with the conventional forces of higher energy costs.  The abundance or scarcity of energy is only one factor in its price.  As the cost of extraction, transport, refining, and taxes rise, so does the final price.  EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) helps illuminate this point. In the good old days, one barrel of oil invested might yield 100 barrels of oil extracted and refined for delivery.  Now it takes one barrel of oil to extract and refine 5 barrels of oil, or perhaps as little as 3 barrels of unconventional oil.

He doesn't realize that, had we switched to renewables when President Carter made the big push, we would have avoided a lot of this pain but that's another subject because, CLEARLY, the oligarchs WANTED us to go through this pain. His point is the Oligarchs are setting THEMSELVES up for eventual failure through a collapsed economy along with the rest of us.

Snippet 2:
Neofeudal financialization and unproductive State/private vested interests have bled the middle class dry.

Don't miss the excellent "Lifecycle of Financialization" chart in his article; it's got COLLAPSE written all over it.
 
http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjuly12/neofeudal-middle-class7-12.html
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Offline Tao Jonesing

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2012, 05:53:24 PM »
Beware of some of Charles Hugh Smith's latest analysis.  He seems to be embracing his inner hack, particularly with economic data.

For example, in today's post http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2012/07/financialization-and-crony-capitalism.html he makes some interesting claims that cannot be supported by the data he cites to.

In particular, he asserts that higher gasoline prices results in lower GDP then divides GDP by the CPI for gasoline to "prove" his point.  That's like dividing apples by oranges and getting a grape.  The charts are meaningless and, worse, stupid.  The fact is that GDP and real GDP have pretty much grown continuously, and they did so right through increasing gas prices.

Another problem is his attempt to calculate corporate profits as a percentage of GDP.  You can't fucking do that because US corporate profits include profits made outside of the US and not subject to taxation, i.e., much if not most US corporate profits are outside of US GDP.  CHS needs to spend some time understanding the sources and nature of his data before he starts making claims about what they mean.

Just plain sloppy.

Offline agelbert

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2012, 06:48:00 PM »
Tao Jonesing,
I agree that CHS has a tendency to equate the warfare state to the welfare state because he is a libertarian and monkeys with the math to make them seem equal in his zeal to destroy medicare and social security. He is full of shit there of course. The warfare state has always been parasitic and most of the social programs (if not all of them) have been paid by we-the-people all along in a very ethical cost benefit ratio. The warfare thing is easily 10 times any social welfare costs and when you add the fed fraud and finacialization boondoggle, it's probably 100 to one.  I also agree that GDP does not have to track energy use as is shown in an energy use video I posted in the Waste Based Society comments recently (part 1). Where I DO agree with him is that we have criminals in charge pushing wars and financial fraud while debasing the currency to pad the stock market. He, because he is a libertarian, wants to throw the baby (social programs that are humane, decent ,civilized and define us as a caring society) out with the bath water. He's definitely wrong there. :(

I brought this article here because I believe he accurately expects a collapse from the "pushing on a string" problem the fed fraudsters have when they run out of leverage increase ability but I agree that his GDP and CPI computations are economist hokum.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2012, 06:57:02 PM by agelbert »
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Offline Tao Jonesing

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2012, 11:44:06 PM »
Tao Jonesing,
I agree that CHS has a tendency to equate the warfare state to the welfare state because he is a libertarian and monkeys with the math to make them seem equal in his zeal to destroy medicare and social security. He is full of shit there of course. The warfare state has always been parasitic and most of the social programs (if not all of them) have been paid by we-the-people all along in a very ethical cost benefit ratio. The warfare thing is easily 10 times any social welfare costs and when you add the fed fraud and finacialization boondoggle, it's probably 100 to one.  I also agree that GDP does not have to track energy use as is shown in an energy use video I posted in the Waste Based Society comments recently (part 1). Where I DO agree with him is that we have criminals in charge pushing wars and financial fraud while debasing the currency to pad the stock market. He, because he is a libertarian, wants to throw the baby (social programs that are humane, decent ,civilized and define us as a caring society) out with the bath water. He's definitely wrong there. :(

I brought this article here because I believe he accurately expects a collapse from the "pushing on a string" problem the fed fraudsters have when they run out of leverage increase ability but I agree that his GDP and CPI computations are economist hokum.

CHS is not a "libertarian" in the modern sense of the word (i.e., Austrian School neoliberal).  He is definitely Austrian-inspired, but he is also a comparatively free thinker.  He does not subscribe to the Austrian cargo cult. 

I've come to understand what he means by his Austrian-inspired pejoratives of the modern state, and I don't have a problem with it.

I also don't disagree with many of his conclusions, including the fact that financialization is driving us towards neofeudalism based on debt serfdom.  But I understood that before I read anything he wrote.  My problem with CHS is that, like true Austrian neoliberals, he believes in the lie of capitalism.  He's just another useful idiot promising us freedom and liberty, if we'd just put on these shiny shackles.  It's easy, if you try.

Steve Keen (another useful idiot that, like CHS, I admire within reasonable limits) does a good job of explaining the problem with the Austrian worldview here: http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/2012/07/14/mish-steve-debate-steve-says-i/.  Specifically, he argues:

Quote
My first observation here is that, even if I believed that Mish were correct, his is not a transition plan: this is a plan for an alternative system. But how do we make the move from where we are now, to an alternative?

Let’s imagine that we do, one day, make the transition from the system Mish describes as “Fractional Reserve Banking” to one that is fully backed by gold. The day before that transition, one individual—say, someone called Jamie perhaps—may have a net claim to $10 billion worth of fiat-backed money. Someone else—say, Ma Kettle—might be effectively bankrupt with $10,000 more mortgage debt than assets. It may be too that Jamie’s immense wealth arose from persuading millions of people like Ma and her relatives to take out a reverse mortgage, or some other form of innovative lending that was popular in the pre-gold days.

How do we make the transition? Do we give Jamie $10 billion worth of gold-backed money, and saddle Ma with $10,000 of gold-based debt? Or what?

This is what my “Modern Debt Jubilee” proposal is about. We currently have a dysfunctional financial system that has imposed unconscionable debt burdens upon some, and created enormous Ponzi-based wealth for others. Do we simply accept that, and move to a new system which allegedly won’t have the flaws of the previous system, but sustain the distribution of wealth that resulted from that flawed system? Or do we reduce that unfairness under the current system before we move to a new one?

Keen rightly notes that the Austrian neoliberal vision locks in the ill-gotten gains of the Chicago neoliberal outcome (which confirms my own analysis that the one-two punch of Chicago and Austrian economics was always intended to clawback and entrench the gains that enabled a middle class in America).  Keen's problem is that he wants to merely tweak what we have instead of scrapping it entirely.  Capitalism as we know it was designed to be dysfunctional, to ensure imbalances that benefit the elites. (So was communism, by the way, so I'm not advocating that, either.)

Offline agelbert

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2012, 12:49:32 AM »
Tao Jonesing,
I agree. As to all those "isms" out there, I tend to look at them all as clever forms of hierarchical power structures that ALWAYS seem to end up with a few bosses telling everybody else what to do. We need a horizontal governmental and economic structure where gaming the system in order to get yourself into the catbird seat is impossible. I once got into a huge argument with a worshipper of our version of capitalism. I told him the corporate structure in the US was nothing but a pack of mini dictatorships with exactly the same chain of command as the Soviet Union had. CEO = premier, board of directors = politburo, communist party members = common stock holders with an alleged "vote" only in theory, masses of the people = "preferred" stock holders that never seemed to get the coupon they were promised.  Man did he go ballistic with his "free market" this and that talk.  I told him, since the industrial revolution took hold here, the free market vanished in a sea of patent laws and monopolistic practices. I also added that, in the USA you CANNOT purchase more than 15% of the stock on any publicly traded corporation unless you get SEC approval. This system is rigged for the top dogs just like most of the others on earth. The problem is the psychos take power and brand their type of oligarchy with some euphemistic title that claims it provides maximum freedom for the people. In practice human relations at the national level always seem to devolve into somebody telling everyone else what to do, or else. There are ways to have a decent government like keeping the rep count at one rep per 30,000 - 60,000 population like the original Constitution required so the corporate psychos couldn't buy the government but I don't see that happening any time soon.
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Faith,
if it has not works, is dead, being alone.

Offline Tao Jonesing

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2012, 09:41:24 AM »
Tao Jonesing,
I agree. As to all those "isms" out there, I tend to look at them all as clever forms of hierarchical power structures that ALWAYS seem to end up with a few bosses telling everybody else what to do. We need a horizontal governmental and economic structure where gaming the system in order to get yourself into the catbird seat is impossible. I once got into a huge argument with a worshipper of our version of capitalism. I told him the corporate structure in the US was nothing but a pack of mini dictatorships with exactly the same chain of command as the Soviet Union had. CEO = premier, board of directors = politburo, communist party members = common stock holders with an alleged "vote" only in theory, masses of the people = "preferred" stock holders that never seemed to get the coupon they were promised.  Man did he go ballistic with his "free market" this and that talk.  I told him, since the industrial revolution took hold here, the free market vanished in a sea of patent laws and monopolistic practices. I also added that, in the USA you CANNOT purchase more than 15% of the stock on any publicly traded corporation unless you get SEC approval. This system is rigged for the top dogs just like most of the others on earth. The problem is the psychos take power and brand their type of oligarchy with some euphemistic title that claims it provides maximum freedom for the people. In practice human relations at the national level always seem to devolve into somebody telling everyone else what to do, or else. There are ways to have a decent government like keeping the rep count at one rep per 30,000 - 60,000 population like the original Constitution required so the corporate psychos couldn't buy the government but I don't see that happening any time soon.

Your experience reminds me of an argument that I had with a friend about a year ago.  I wrote about it then:

"Efficiency" Is Tyranny; Scale Is Violence


These are a couple of thoughts that occurred to me as a result of my discussion with an economist friend on Tuesday. 

My friend's premise, with which I disagreed, was that society prefers a small number of producers that make a particular good because that is the most efficient outcome.  I argued that his conclusion assumed a definition of "efficiency" that simply did not have to be.  If we were to define efficiency differently and construct a different set of rules to enforce that new definition (i.e., reconfigure the accounting rules, tax laws, etc. that enforce the current definition of efficiency), then the outcome could be different; i.e., society would prefer several small producers over one or two.

That didn't set well with him.  He insisted that "this was physics," that economies of scale command industry consolidation into one or two firms.

I had to disagree again, and that's when the fun really began.  Having worked at both monopolists (Intel) and startups, I know that most of the vaunted economies of scale arise from the fact that large firms demand-- and get-- much lower prices from their vendors.  They likewise get much more favorable financing terms from banks and other financial institutions.  Because large firms tend to have much lower input costs, they have a better cost structure than their competition, who falls farther and farther behind.

Desparate to make a point that could not be countered, he trotted out the division of labor and Adam Smith's pin factory, arguing that in many industries there is a minimum capital expense required just to get started, and that the widget maker who made a million widgets a year has a cost per widget that is a lot lower than a widget maker who uses the same size factory to make just one widget.  Again, I disagreed, noting that it is accounting rules and tax laws regarding depreciation and amortization that drive his conclusion, not any law of nature. 

So he called me irrational, at which point I took him a bit deeper into Adam Smith's body of work to identify a major weakness of modern economics, which is that it assumes that humans make economic decisions purely in monetary terms.  Even Adam Smith recognized that was not the case, as his Invisible Hand was the manifestation of society's "moral sentiments," the set of rules that makes every citizen consider how his actions will be perceived by the rest of society.  And behavioral economists, leveraging off of recent advances in cognitive science, have confirmed Smith's fundamental insights.    As a result, I argued that modern economics is complete hogwash.  The saying in corporate America is "if it can't be measured, it doesn't exist." and economists refuse to measure anything other than money.

I then turned his economies of scale argument on its head, noting that the returns to scale a large firm receives can be viewed as a tax on the rest of the industry.  The vendor has its own success metrics, including profit margins that it will have to support by charging the large firm's competitors substantially more.

We quickly agreed to disagree and moved onto friendlier topics, but I have not been able to stop thinking about our conversation. 

One thought is that efficiency, as currently understood, is tyranny.  Economic efficiency is a prerequisite to maintaining the illusion of perpetual exponential growth.  It is always and everywhere the enemy of competition and self-determination.

Another thought is that scale is violence, at least in economic terms.  Too Big To Fail is a clear manifestation of this violence.

Offline agelbert

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2012, 09:45:41 PM »
Tao Jonesing,
Well and truly said. Efficiency is tyranny and scaling processes up breeds societal misery and creates oligarchs. Just like the theory of evolution was seized upon by the psychos to justify their predatory capitalism, Adams' "invisible hand" was taken out of context to justify Laissez faire. Those con artists out there twist everything.
I'm doing some research on an upcoming article here for the Waste Based society series and I ran into a scholarly study of how the earth can go 100% into renewables in 30 years. I was chagrined that the authors would discard any renewable that wasn't scalable. WTF!? These guys have it backwards. The whole idea with renewables is to decentralize. This gives a community jobs locally as well as provide flexibility in the event of disaster. But at least I was able to get some good data on what the total global energy use requirements are. These "scale it up" nuts just don't get it. The article is kind of dry but if you want to look it over, this is it:

http://www.imedea.uib-csic.es/master/cambioglobal/Modulo_1_03/Ballabrera_Diciembre_2011/Articulos/Garcia-Olivares.2011.pdf
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Offline g

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class: Work Till You Drop
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2012, 03:37:08 AM »
Was amazed at this article and how the 1% pulled this con job off. I must confess I missed it myself and got the old "How could I have been asleep at the switch on this grease job."  Great article and well worth reading in it's entirety, great links to related and supportive articles also.     :icon_study: 


Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Work Till You Drop
The 401K may be the greatest scam ever pulled on the working class. Push all the onus to save for retirement onto the backs of workers while eliminating their guaranteed pensions, and then blame the workers themselves for their indigence in their old age. And thanks to American Calvinism, the workers will accept all the blame, even as they lose their homes and wind up on the streets after a lifetime of work.

Oh, and never mind that people are now required to enter the workforce tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt – they need to “save” for retirement. And how are they going to do that when their income is siphoned off paying for bank loans – loans which cannot be discharged and for which social security can be garnished to pay off? And if you’re not heavily in debt, you’ve probably got a low-paying job that has no retirement plan, and that doesn’t pay enough to save for one even if it did.

Oh, and even as Americans are told “you’re on your own” and you need to save for retirement, the amount of money workers have to do so is shrinking rapidly. Incomes are actually back to what they were in the early nineties, even as the stock market has tanked. Costs for everything have gone up, and things like medical debt can ruin people financially for a lifetime.

The purpose of the 401K was to fool Americans into thinking they were part of the investor class, and that they were better off with policies that boosted stock prices, even though those same policies gutted wages and benefits. This article was on of the most popular on The New York Times:

http://hipcrime.blogspot.com/2012/08/work-till-you-drop.html

Offline Surly1

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2012, 10:35:21 AM »
Piling on.
How Our Tax Dollars Subsidize Exorbitant Executive Pay

By Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Scott Klinger and Sam Pizzigati, Institute for Policy Studies
17 August 12


http://www.readersupportednews.org/news-section2/320-80/12969-how-our-tax-dollars-subsidize-exorbitant-executive-pay


 

Nationwide, budget cuts have axed 627,000 public service jobs just since June 2009. Schools, health clinics, fire stations, parks, and recreation facilities-virtually no public service has gone unsqueezed. Tax dollars haven't seemed this scarce in generations.

Yet tens of billions of these scarce tax dollars are getting diverted. These tax dollars are flowing from average Americans who depend on public services to the kingpins of America's private sector. They're subsidizing, directly and indirectly, the mega-million paychecks that go to the top executives at our nation's biggest banks and corporations.

Exorbitant CEO pay packages have, of course, been outraging Americans for quite some time now. Every new annual CEO pay report seems to bring a rash of predictably angry editorials and calls for reform. But little overall has changed. Wages for average Americans continue to stagnate. Pay for top executives continues to soar.

One key reason why: Our nation's tax code has become a powerful enabler of bloated CEO pay. Some tax rules on the books today essentially encourage corporations to compensate their executives at unconscionably higher multiples of what their average workers are paid.

Other rules let executives who run major corporations routinely reduce their corporate tax bills. The fewer dollars these corporations pay in taxes, the more robust their eventual earnings and the higher the "performance-based" pay for the CEOs who produce them.

In effect, we're rewarding corporate executives for gaming the tax system. Our tax code is helping the CEOs of our nation's most prosperous corporations pick Uncle Sam's pocket.

In this latest Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess annual report, our 19th consecutive, we take a close look at the most lucrative tax incentives and subsidies behind bloated CEO pay and highlight those executives who have reaped the highest rewards from tax code provisions that actively encourage outrageously disproportionate executive pay.

We also identify the top executives who have benefited the most from what have become known as "the Bush tax cuts"-the reductions in federal income tax rates on top-bracket, capital gains, and dividend income enacted in 2001 and 2003.

Among our findings:

    * Of last year's 100 highest-paid U.S. corporate chief executives, 26 took home more in CEO pay than their companies paid in federal income taxes, up from the 25 we noted in last year's analysis. Seven firms made the list in both 2011 and 2010.

    * The CEOs of these 26 firms received $20.4 million in average total compensation last year. That's a 23 percent increase over the average for last year's list of 2010's tax dodging executives

    * The four most direct tax subsidies for excessive executive pay cost taxpayers an estimated $14.4 billion per year-$46 for every American man, woman, and child. That amount could also cover the annual cost of hiring 211,732 elementary-school teachers or creating 241,593 clean-energy jobs.

    * CEOs have benefited enormously from the Bush tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers. Last year, 57 CEOs saved more than $1 million on their personal income tax bills, thanks to these Bush-era cuts.

What can be done to end today's incredibly gross pay divide between top executives and average workers? In this year's Executive Excess, we once again survey a wide range of reform notions with a "scorecard" that notes those reforms that have already been enacted, those still pending before Congress, and those proposals not yet before Congress that we believe hold the most CEO pay-deflating promise.
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Offline g

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class: End of US Middle Class as We Know It
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2012, 04:25:44 AM »
The world’s industrialized nations, including America, are on the verge of losing their middle class, the people whose work ethics are the driving force that allows the world’s economies to remain prosperous.

“The American middle class is in trouble. Incomes are stagnant or falling, while the costs of life’s necessities continue to rise, and the risks of falling behind grow. … A strong middle class is essential for a vibrant democracy and a healthy economy—and for our conception of what America is all about,” suggests an August report on the Center for American Progress website.

Young Americans no longer have the same opportunities as their forefathers. Prospects to move up have become scarce and remaining or moving into the middle class is becoming more and more difficult, affecting this country’s economic progress.    www.theepochtimes.com/n2/business/middle-class-america-at-risk-288814.html

Offline ralfy

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2012, 06:50:33 AM »
The phenomenon had been taking place in various parts of the world, including Europe, Japan, the NICs, and now China, i.e., more moving from manufacturing and agriculture to service to receive higher wages, and then using that and borrowing more to pay for a middle class lifestyle. That's why Japan experienced its "lost decade," and China real estate bubbles, inflation, and increased consumer spending. Even Iceland experienced the same, as it borrowed and spent heavily before 2008, to the point that not only did it prosecute bankers but also forgave household debts.

And this is the same global middle class that makes up only around 15 pct of the world's population but is responsible for over 70 pct of personal consumption. In general, only around 25 pct of the world's population control over 75 pct of global resources.

What is destroying the middle class, then, which includes growing numbers of people worldwide joining it? Itself.

Offline g

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2012, 07:04:44 AM »
 Quote Ralfy" What is destroying the middle class, then, which includes growing numbers of people worldwide joining it? Itself."

Perhaps, but please, let's not forget our loving,  trustworthy bankster's role in the process. Remember them handing out FREE credit cards to everyone, and their cheap up front, but pay forever mortgages. Low forms of life indeed.

Offline ralfy

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Re: Who Destroyed the Middle Class
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2012, 07:21:08 AM »
Banks can only continue operating as long as it extends more credit. That's why the same phenomenon of credit cards being offered easily is now taking place in various emerging markets. That's why European and Asian banks began to invest more in Wall Street.

A capitalist system requires increasing money supply to finance increasing production and consumption of goods, with people wanting to earn and borrow more to pay for more goods that will allow for a middle class lifestyle. And as more money is needed, then more people move from manufacturing and agriculture to service, esp. finance, to make more money. That's why many factory workers in Asia have the same goals.

Given that, a credit crunch is inevitable, but that will be a walk in a park compared to a resource crunch coupled with the effects of environmental disaster.

 

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