Economic Meltdown – A Call for Systemic Change

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Whenever I
hold my two-year old grandson, Grant, in my arms I wonder what this
world will look like six decades from now, when he is my age. I
know that if we "stay the course" it will be ugly. The
current economic meltdown is a harbinger.

Panama’s chief
of government, Omar Torrijos, foresaw this meltdown and understood
its implications back in 1978, when I was an economic hit man (EHM).
He and I were standing on the deck of a sailing yacht docked at
Contadora Island, a safe haven where U.S. politicians and corporate
executives enjoyed sex and drugs away from the prying eyes of the
international press. Omar told me that he was not about to be corrupted
by me. He said that his goal was to set his people free from "Yankee
shackles," to make sure his country controlled the canal, and
to help Latin America liberate itself from the very thing I represented
and he referred to as "predatory capitalism."

"You know,"
he added, "what I’m suggesting will ultimately benefit your
children too." He explained that the system I was promoting
where a few exploited the many was doomed. "The same as the
old Spanish Empire – it will implode." He took a drag
off his Cuban cigar and exhaled the smoke slowly, like a man blowing
a kiss. "Unless you and I and all our friends fight the predatory
capitalists," he warned, "the global economy will go into
shock." He glanced across the water and then back at me. "No
permitas que te engañen," he said ("Don’t allow
yourself to be hoodwinked.")

Three decades
later, Omar is dead, likely assassinated because he refused to succumb
to our attempts to bring him around, but his words ring true. For
that reason I chose one of them as the title of my latest book,

We have been
hoodwinked into believing that a mutant form of capitalism espoused
by Milton Friedman and promoted by President Reagan and every president
since – one that has resulted in a world where less than 5% of us
(in the United States) consume more than 25% of the resources and
nearly half the rest live in poverty – is acceptable.

In fact, it
is an abject failure. The only way China, India, Africa and Latin
America can adopt this model is if they find five more planets just
like ours, except without people.

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25, 2009

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