When the People Push Back

Not much time for careful cogitations today, Fellow Reckoner. In fact, we barely have time for careless ones. We’re on a bus right now, traveling from Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo to the seaside town known to locals simply as “Punta”.

But wouldn’t you know it…they’ve gone and enabled the bus with a Wi-Fi connection. We’re in the middle of nowhere and somehow, some way, the news still finds us. Day by day, it’s getting harder and harder to avoid. So we recline our chair, flick the reading light on overhead and take a look around the empire from right here on our Uruguayan coach.

The reports are flooding across the wires that Egypt’s dictator of 30 years is to step down. You remember Hosni Mubarak – “good friend” of one Dick Cheney and outpost sentinel for the US over in the MENA region. He’s been the focal point for the rage of a generation of young Egyptians who have been busily protesting up and down the Nile. They want the old coot out, they say. This is a new generation, after all, and they’re wising up to what’s been left to them: poverty, massive unemployment and a generally pitiful existence. Not much, in other words.

When the protests began, the Egyptian government suspended the Internet and disabled texting capabilities for cellular phones. They saw what happened in Iran a year earlier, where angry citizens took to the social media waves to bring news of the electoral fraud there to the world. They published videos of police brutality and tweeted their hearts out for all to see.

“There’s no way we’re having any of that,” Hosni must have thought. “Cut the cables!”

It didn’t matter, of course. The truth has a reliable habit of making its way into the light eventually. In Egypt’s case, Google set to work developing “speak-to-tweet” technology, whereby citizens there could call a specific number and have their recorded voice messages converted into micro-blogs.

And lo!

“The government is spreading rumors of fear and of burglary and of violence,” said/wrote/tweeted one concerned Egyptian. “The only incidence of theft and burglary are done by the police themselves.”

This will come as a shock to almost nobody. It’s just what you’d expect from the crumbling edges of a failing empire. Kings, warlords, gangsters and presidents have for millennia fought to protect their privilege and power. It’s what they do. And, for just as long, “the people” have been pushing back. Like all others, this trend has its ebbs and flows. For generations at a time the state gains ground, encroaching on the rights and lives of those it affects to serve. Then, when the masses have finally had enough, they storm the palace grounds and give their oppressors the boot…only to replace them with a new ruler, one who promises “change.”

Today, while the outposts burn in far off lands, the Antoinettes continue the party closer to home, right there in the US of A. But there’s something very different about the “post-recession” vibe at this shindig. For one thing, the cost of eating cake (and of eating in general) is skyrocketing.

Corn, which is used to feed the cattle, hogs and chickens, has doubled in the past six months. That has a knock-on effect. Fellow Reckoners flooded our inbox last week with stories of price hikes at their grocery stores and gas pumps. Ben Bernanke says this has little to do with his ark-worthy flood of US dollars into the world economy. Right. A trillion here…a trillion there… “What, me worry?”

In other news, foreclosures in the US jumped 12% in January from the previous month. According to a report from real estate data firm RealtyTrac, lenders foreclosed on 78,133 properties for the month.

“The numbers will inevitably go up,” Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, told the papers. “It’s just a question of will it be sooner or will it be later.”

Meanwhile, The US Postal Service is hinting that it may default on some of its financial obligations later this year after reporting yet another quarterly loss. The cumbersome government agency said it suffered a loss of $329 million in the first quarter of federal fiscal year 2011. That was up from a loss of $297 million a year earlier.

Faced with a problem caused by too much spending, the Obama Administration has promised to do just what it ought to avoid; that is, to spend more…more than any other administration in the history of the republic.

More waste…more incompetence…and, incredibly, more intervention.

Joel Bowman
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning