Sunday, January 30, 2011
First Tunisia then Egypt who's next?
This is the image that started it all. Sorry if it offends you.
How did all this happen in such a short period of time one might ask and what was the motivation? A symbol of human desperation occurred in Tunisia about two weeks ago in mid January. A 26 year old college graduate Mohamed Bouazizi was selling produce on the street. Police came and checked his permit. When he couldn't produce one they confiscated all of his products. In total desperation he poured gasoline on himself and lit himself on fire. When that story hit the media it started another fire resulting in the downfall of the Tunisian government.
In Cairo on January 17th Abdou Abdel-Monaam Hamadah, a 48-year-old owner of a small restaurant from Qantara wanting to contact his member of parliament was refused access by security. He pulled a bottle of gasoline from his pocket dosed himself and lit himself on fire.
But this is only part of the story for the middle east. We might have known a bit about the U.S. rendering people to Egypt to be tortured and interrogated, but we failed to look at the rest of the conditions in the country. Egypt has an unemployment rate of around 40%. And the nearly half of the population that does work make at or below the poverty level. Some for as little as $2 per day. In the cheapest countries that's not enough to buy food to survive. Is it any wonder they've lost their fear of authority. When all hope is gone what's the worst that could happen to me I'm sure they are thinking.
Aside from years of oppression, torture and no work there are other factors that lead to this. The bulk of Egypts' income had come from agriculture but with a growing population and a shift to internet and telecom. But something happened in 2005 that really changed the landscape. That year the government lowered the corporate tax rate from 40% to 20%. Those at the top saw record profits and bonuses but for most money didn't trickle down to the rest. Does this sound familiar?
That's not all folks. Don't leave now because the story is not over yet.
The desperation is spilling over to other countries:
ALGIERS — A third Algerian has died from self-immolation, the daily al Watan reported, while another tried to set himself alight Sunday, adding to a grim tally of Tunisia-inspired acts.
A 26-year-old jobless and homeless man died at dawn Saturday in a hospital in the eastern city of Constantine.n
There has been in the last month 10 such people to set themselves on fire out of sheer desperation.
If you follow world events here's something to keep a eye on as time goes by that would by PIIGS. Standing for Portugal, Iceland, Ireland, Greece and Spain. These are the countries in financial trouble. And Ireland it's important to note did the same thing as Egypt by lowering its' corporate taxes. Now the U.S. wants to do the same? It's also important to note that Japan was in a similar economic situation in the late 1980s. It took them over ten years to dig their way out. Their real estate had inflated to the point where a two bedroom condo in Tokyo went for $2 million at that time. The government was forced to lower interest rates and hold them there for quite some time. But if you think our debt is bad Japan's debt is 200% of it GDP. By comparison the U.S. debt is around 100%.
What I'm seeing in all this are events repeating themselves. Economies moving from manufacturing bases of producing goods to the service industries that sell paper. With the efficiencies of computers these days it doesn't take an army of workers for a corporation to make massive profits. Even stock trades can be automated with lightning fast speed. Super computers do that in fractions of a second. Have humans become obsolete? Even our production methods require fewer and fewer people. What once took a farmer a whole day to accomplish can now be done in a few minutes with mammoth farm machines. With most of our factories closed (42000 in ten years) and jobs shipped overseas there's been nothing to replace that void. Maybe we'll be seeing some of the same events happening here if things don't turn around soon only for us it will be a gray revolution as most of the unemployed here are 50+.