January 2006, Volume 13 Nr. 29, Issue 197
Three symbolic harbingers of financial collapse.
Most of us look at symbolism as nothing more than flounce ornamenting an event. 9/11, for example, was an egregious act of terrorism, a deep traumatic moment for Americans, and a wound on the American psyche, but we don’t give more than a passing glance to its symbolism.i But it is at least curious that American flight 11 crashed into the twin towers on September 11, that that the towers looked like the number 11, that construction of the Pentagon began on September 11, 1941 or even that 11 Israeli athletes were executed by terrorists on September 11, 1973. Such coincidences, or synchronicities, involving unlucky 11 we generally shrug off, but many of us at least take note that 9-1-1 is the number one calls in an emergency, and this event clearly represented a genuine national emergency. Beyond that we don’t attach much gravitas to synchronicities beyond an initial “Hmm, isn’t that interesting!”
Two other symbolic events also strafed the landscape of the Bush presidency and, like 9/11, both fell out of the sky.
In February of 2003, just weeks before we invaded Iraq, Americans tragically witnessed the crash of the space shuttle. The name “Columbia” derives from Christopher Columbus and was chosen by NASA to be a symbol of the American nation. The crash occurred on the first day of the Chinese New Year, a foreboding omen in the East. And most CNN live coverage originated from “Palestine,” Texas. Sacrificed in this tragedy w as the first-ever Israeli astronaut whose cachet was that he flew an aircraft that bombed Iraq’s nuclear facilities back in 1981.
Few Americans know that the Israeli lobby in Washington, AIPAC, has been an aggressive advocate of war with Iraq from the very beginning.iii Aided and abetted by insiders Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Pearle, the war in Iraq has claimed between 36-77,000 Iraqi lives─some professorial types allege as many 600,000─and it has blinded, maimed, and wounded upwards of 500,000 Iraqi citizens. Close to 3,000 US soldiers have been killed with 18,000 wounded at this writing.iv This American-initiated carnage, was predicated upon misrepresented, false, perhaps even fraudulent intelligence, and sought to eliminate weapons of mass destruction in a country which did not have any and which never posed any overt threat to the United States.
Some 52 percent of Americans currently feel that the US is in greater danger from terrorism today than before we invaded Iraq. v This causes one to wonder if AIPAC, Wolfowitz, and Pearle agitated so aggressively for this war more to defend American interests or Israeli. Both gentlemen were incessant, even obsessed, with the vaporous Iraqi nuclear threat but doltishly mute on what experts say is Israel’s secret stockpile of over 200 nuclear weapons, including a hydrogen bomb.vi
Recall that the crash of Columbia was caused by a damaged and weakened undercarriage. Down here on earth—and on the other side of this metaphor─ there are numerous fissures in the underbelly of the Bush administration: Kofi Anan called the invasion of Iraq a crime and a violation of the UN Charter. A Belgian international tribunal is considering charging Bush, Rice, Wolfowitz and others as war criminals. The EU is livid over America’s secret prisons and the transport and torture of citizens within its territory, clear violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.xii xiii And revelations about presidential domestic spying on US citizens without court ordersxiv has persuaded legal scholars to announce that Bush has admitted to an “impeachable offense.” xv Bush’s popularity is at an all-time low with 62% disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job, as president, and almost a majority of Republicans feeling the same way (about 47%), while a whopping 75% disapprove of how he is handling the war in Iraq as we near the end of 2006.xvi
The situation on the ground is dire and rapidly devolving into civil war, with over a million Iraqis leaving the country as refugees along with a third of the entire professional class. Over a hundred lecturers at Baghdad University alone have been murdered, mostly for teaching women.xvii But these Iraqi-related issues are mere perforations and pockmarks compared to the gaping hole in the underbelly of the nation caused by the financial bludgeoning it has endured under the Bush administration.
The US has spent over half a trillion dollars on Afghanistan and Iraq alreadyxviii and is hemorrhaging with expenditures of over $2 billion each week in Iraq alonexix. . . which leads us to consider our third symbolic event. . .
A month after Bush’s second term began, a plane painted REELECT BUSH crashed into the Florida everglades. The photograph captures a palpable sense of helplessness, engulfment, and sinking xx. . . our third symbolic omen.
In his private life George Bush presided over numerous failed business ventures xxiand, as president, he may be leading the nation to a level of insolvency which makes all his earlier failures pale by comparison. The ship of state is taking on so much debt, so rapidly, economists from every political hue warn that it cannot handle such a load without sinking.
One out of every three dollars the federal government spent in 2006 was paid for by borrowing, the highest level for any administration since World War II. With characteristic Bush insouciance, the $550 billion President Clinton accumulated was immediately repatriated to the wealthy with a generous $630 billion tax cut going to the richest 1% of America’s wage earners.xxii In the blink of an eye─or should we say “wink”─Clinton’s four-year surplus was transformed into a $1.4 trillion deficit, the largest in American history, which one commentator says “represents the most rapid, predatory looting of public wealth in the history of the world.”xxiii
The United States accounts for half of all military spending on earth. With troops stationed in over 119 countries xxiv─all ostensibly fighting for freedom rather than any whiff of imperial hegemonyxxv─we spend more on defense than Russia, China, Japan, Britain, France, and Germany combined. xxvi If we add onto these enormous outlays America’s list of unfunded liabilities, military and civil service pensions, the prospect of 70 million baby boomers retiring, a third with no retirement savings at all,xxvii we can more fully appreciate Mr. Greenspan’s astringent parting words that Bush’s profligate deficit spending spells potential disaster for the nation.
The United States is going into debt at the rate of some $1.6 billion per day─gasp if you will─but the federal deficit is only half the problem. This deficit has an ugly twin, the trade deficit, which this year will reach 866 billion (amounting to another $2 billion borrowed per day).xxviii Foreign central banks now hold 40% of total U.S. government debt. xxix Japan has a $1 trillion supply of dollars. China recently reached the $1 trillion benchmark itself, and South Korea, Taiwan, Russia, and India together hold close to that as well. Foreigners currently own, or are owed, $10 trillion in U.S. assets. xxx As Pat Buchanan opines, “the most self sufficient nation in history, which produced 96 percent of all that it consumed, now depends on foreigners for a fourth of its steel, half its autos and machine tools, two-thirds of its textiles and apparel, and most of its cameras, bicycles, motorcycles, shoes, TVs videotape machines, (and) radios.xxxi” The United States is awash in debt and gasping for air.
Like the twin towers, the twin deficits intimate that we are living beyond our means to the tune of over a trillion dollars per year! No one knows when the world will say, “enough,” but just the whiff of a “dollar sell-off could create panic in the markets and lead to a global financial meltdown.”xxxii
“If somebody starts selling his dollar reserves, even if it's only a portion of his dollar portfolio, other countries could be forced into panic selling of their huge dollar reserves. The foreign-exchange markets are the biggest and most liquid in the world, but whether they would be able to absorb the amount of selling that could emerge from portfolio adjustments this large is a very open question.” xxxiii
The collapse of the twin towers, the crash of Columbia with Israel’s first astronaut aboard, and the sinking of the Bush reelection plane represent symbolic graffiti scribbled on the walls of our collective consciousness. All three symbolic moments italicize “implosion,” “crash,” “collapse, “sinking,” Do such symbols and synchronicities merely syncopate with modern life, and should we look at them as nothing more than curious filigree garnering our daily lives, or are they more structural than that? Are they oracles or ‘leading indicators’ arising from the collective unconscious which point to a reality yet to unfold? In other words are our deepening involvement in the Middle East, the relentless pressures of the Israeli lobby (to increase troops in Iraq and even bomb Iranxxxiv), plus the inscrutable doctrine of preemptive war sucking the US into a financial black hole? Are these symbolic “crashes,” in other words, the foretaste of a real crash?
As this is written, markets are doing well. The Dow has reached an all-time high. Bullish sentiment outscores bearish by a hefty margin. Panglossian financial commentators reassure us that the stock market outlook for 2007 will be boasting a predicted gain of about 8%,xxxv and we probably ought to fold up our analytic couches and conclude there is no basis for Jungian symbolism to interfere with our investment plans.xxxvi
Unfortunately a phalanx of heavy weights and paragons realism have stepped into the ring on this one. Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Peter Peterson, says we are on a path of ‘economic meltdown.’xxxvii Warren Buffet echoes his sentiments. Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute, warns of financial chaos so severe it would “make the Great Depression of the 1930s look like a walk in the park.” xxxviii Robert Freeman believes we are in the beginning phase of a “deficit death spiral.” Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin forewarns of a day of reckoning, and ex-Fed chairman Paul Volker estimates the odds of a financial crisis at 75%.
So perhaps these symbolic events are not just frivolous symbolic outcroppings which ornament the landscape of our awareness, but harbingers of a reality looming large. With the REELECT BUSH plane crashing in Jeb Bush’s home state of Florida, and the debris from the Columbia falling a hundred and fifty miles from brother George’s home and hearth in Crawford, Texas, these omens from the sky mysteriously co-mingle themselves with the Bush presidency itself. So if “crash” and “collapse” are appropriate words for America’s day of reckoning, we should be placing that 9-1-1 call sometime prior to Jan. 19, 2009, the official endpoint of the ominous Bush presidency.
have a choice, it seems: either to castigate ourselves for
reading symbolic tea leaves capriciously and transforming
ourselves into timorous Cassandras or to see in these symbolic
omens a very real and present danger for the nation. If we choose
the former alternative, investment advisor, Abby Joseph Cohen,
has a few stocks she’d like to tell us about, and if we
choose the latter, we might consider taking refuge in the
precious metals which, even at the bottom of a Florida swamp,
never seem to lose their luster.
Jerry Kroth, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology in California and a member of the International Psychohistorical Association. His most recent work is Conspiracy in Camelot: the complete history of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, New York: Algora Publishers, 2003. Dr. Kroth may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of National Park Service