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Death to Money Vampires

Despite attention to the current economic meltdown, including the confidence-building words of President Obama, I keep getting this nagging feeling as I move about in the real world and on the web that many Americans are in a state of denial. I still see the same numbers of peaceful people at the health club where I work out daily, at the concert hall where I go regularly to see world-class artists, at several supermarkets where I shop and at a local mall where I get my discount prescriptions at Target. Bruce Springsteen and other stars are still selling out their concerts, despite outrageously priced tickets.

Of course, consumer spending is way down, unemployment still climbing, and many stores closing. But, still, everyday life seems so normal for the overwhelming majority of Americans despite a finding by a recent Pew Research Center poll that some 40% of Americans have been affected by one or more job problems over the past year, when unemployment, underemployment, layoffs, reductions in pay or hours and job losses by other household members are looked at collectively. And 30 percent think the country already is in a depression, versus 57 percent seeing a recession.

My point is that there are no visible differences in everyday behavior between now and two years ago. Missing are more visible signs of personal outrage, anger, despair, sadness, horror, anxiety or nervousness. Is this a stiff upper lip phenomenon? Is it courage and faith in the new president and congress? Or is it, as I fear, delusional denial and hope? After all, 40 percent of people think the nation's economy will improve over the next year, far more optimistic than what many economists and government officials say. What is much more striking is the still diving stock market.

Using words like crisis, catastrophe and abyss do not seem to jolt American into a state of mind manifested as mass rebellion. You ask: Rebellion against what? Economic oppression, caused by countless political, government, business and financial entities that failed to protect our financial security and prevent this economic collapse. How about politicians now pumping billions of borrowed dollars into banks and companies that deserve to fail?

Americans were royally screwed, trashed, suckered, taken advantage of, treated as expendable, lied to, robbed and slaughtered financially. The smartest, highest paid and most powerful people in government and the private sector flushed us into the economic toilet we find ourselves swirling in: 300 million turds descending into deeper darkness.

Odds are that we really are at the end of prosperity if not forever, certainly for a very, very long time. Unlike the Great Depression, no world war requiring massive domestic manufacturing will save us. Technological innovation and large new industries are a long way off.

You ask: So, even if all this gloom is appropriate, what are people to do, other than continue to go about their lives as best they can to survive? As to what is missing, here are three things.

Why no loud, mass demands for criminally prosecuting and imprisoning or even executing hundreds if not thousands of white collar villains that greedily raped our nation and economy? Not just those that ran giant fraud machines, like Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford, but also the countless Wall Street kingpins, bankers and mortgage brokers that created the housing bubble, and also all the government officials and bureaucrats that never protected us, especially at the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Securities and Exchange Commission. I say death to diabolical money vampires that sucked the life out of our economy. First, they deprived the middle class of their fair share of prosperity. Then they killed the economy, after raising economic inequality to the level of a neutron bomb.

Why no widespread disgust and disapproval that the Obama administration has given power to people who were part of the elite system that drove our economy into the crapper? In his cabinet and White House are former Wall Street and financial sector bigwigs, such as the Treasury Secretary (and tax dodger), that should be viewed as guilty failures, not saviors. Why in the world should we have confidence in them when they did nothing to prevent the crisis they are expected to address? While words never fail President Obama, often his actions do.

Where is screaming demands to sharply tax the ill-gotten gains from some 20 years of capitalistic looting that first made millionaires and then billionaires of people whose greed totally exceeded their contributions? The Justice Department says that to escape paying taxes some 50,000 ultra-rich Americans have stashed over $14.8 billion in secret accounts with Swiss banking giant UBS. Surely there is more money stashed in other foreign banks. The nation should be recovering many, many billions of dollars by taxing the living hell out of the Wall Street crowd and huge number of CEOs and other corporate executives. But the new stimulus package will grant households in the top 0.1 percent, the highest income group, an average tax savings of $39,350, according to the Tax Policy Center .

Forget hope. Face reality. Feel the pain. Express your anger. Already, statistics are beginning to show increased criminal activity clearly resulting from the economic doomsday. In a Maryland county outside Washington , DC , for example, commercial robberies since the beginning of this year are up 67 percent over the same period last year. Sales of guns and ammunition have skyrocketed nationwide. What are most Americans waiting for? The time for rebellion and retribution is now. Denial is delusion.

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Joel S. Hirschhorn has succeeded as: a full professor, University of Wisconsin, Madison; a senior staffer, U.S. Congress (Office of Technology Assessment); head of an environmental consulting company; Director of Environment, Energy and Natural Resources, National Governors Association; now an author and consultant. Recent books are: Sprawl Kills - How Blandburbs Steal Your Time, Health and Money, and Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. He has published hundreds of articles in newspapers, magazines, journals and on many web magazine sites. He has given hundreds of talks at a wide range of conferences worldwide. He focuses on American culture, politics and government, and health issues.