By Matthew Rothschild on January 02, 2008

George Bush has been lucky, in one way.

Well, he’s been lucky all his life.

But he’s been especially lucky for the past six years to have presided over an economy that was growing.

Of course, it wasn’t growing very strongly.

And the fruits of that growth were not distributed equally by any means. “The increase in income inequality . . . was greater from 2003 to 2005 than over any other two-year period” in the past 25 years, according to Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute. In 2005, the top 1% hoarded 18.1% of household income, up from 14.3% in 2003. During the same three years, 80% of households saw their share of the nation’s income drop.

But at least we weren’t in a recession.

Now it looks like a recession’s coming.

The crisis in the housing market is spilling over into other sectors of the economy. Meanwhile, consumers, who are up to their necks in debt, didn’t bail out the economy over Christmas with more spending. And gas prices remain high.

As a result, the odds of a recession are increasing by the day.

“A ‘soft landing’ doesn't seem likely,” warns Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“Aside from the problems in the financial system and credit markets - which do not seem to have passed -- there is the problem of falling home prices. Just as the fantasy-based prices of the late 1990s stock market were much broader than a "tech bubble," this is not just a "sub-prime" problem. In fact, foreclosure rates on prime mortgages - borrowers with good credit - are now hitting the level of sub-prime borrowers three years ago. . . . Remember that this current economic recovery, now six years old, has been driven primarily by consumers borrowing on the rising value of their homes, and spending this cash. The big increase in residential construction, as well as the real estate and related sectors, also kicked in. All of these factors - plus the credit crunch - are now working in reverse.”

For Bush, this is more bad news. His approval rating has been below freezing even while the economy was growing.

In a recession, his approval is likely to go into the deep freeze.

And that’s where it belongs.

Unfortunately, lots of Americans will needlessly suffer along the way.

Bush may lose a few percentage points in the polls. The wealthiest Americans might not make much money in the stock market. But millions of other Americans will lose their homes, their jobs, and their health insurance.

Just as the benefits of a growing economy are unequally distributed, so too are the costs.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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