Jul 222013
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Only a worldwide citizens' movement can reverse the rising crisis of inequality.

by Ish Theilheimer

The Marshall Plan was a turning point in modern history, enabling Western Europe to rebuild after World War II.  A dramatic departure from the way victors treated the losers after World War I, the plan had bipartisan support the in the US Congress and bore US Secretary of State George Marshall’s name.

In part, the Marshall plan reflected a widely held belief that the punitive Treaty of Versailles, which required the German people to pay for war damages, led directly to World War II. Certainly, Hitler cited the deprivation and humiliation as pretext for his war.

Besides deflecting future insurrections, the Plan’s purpose was to stop the spread of communism, which it did. It also made Germany the leading force in Europe's economy again. Most importantly, there has been no war in Europe since then. Of course, the United Nations and European Union are part of that story too, but the key effects of the Plan are unprecedented and indisputable: it helped rebuild a war-devastated region, removed trade barriers, modernized industry and helped make Europe prosperous again.

We in the Global North or West – however we think of ourselves in the countries living on the legacy of colonialism — now face an urgent need to save ourselves from the hordes at the gate. Instead of arming ourselves and building fortresses, we should start with a new Marshall Plan.

We need the next Marshall Plan now more than ever. Although communism is a spent force, it has been replaced by threats that may be even more devastating.

While the "root causes" of terrorism may be endlessly debated,  some facts are certain. Inequality is increasing on a global scale in ways that have never been seen before. The trade deals of the 1980s and deregulation of the '90s and early 21st century let capital move anywhere, leaving millions in the West unemployed and billions in the Global South exploited, with governments barely able to function, or protect them.

At the same time, violent Islamicism and demonic dictatorships have taken hold in countries around the world and threaten to spread.  And the environmental crises we've been talking about for decades are taking over, as the news cycle now includes climate change, extreme weather, wildfires, food and water shortages.

Right wingers argue that fossil fuels, massive injustice, accelerating and unprecedented inequality, the legacy of the old colonial system, and the new colonialism known as "globalization" have nothing to do with the rise of violent extremist cults, sects and ideologies. It's mighty coincidental, though, that all these terrible new realities have appeared at just exactly the same time as when globalization took over.

Regardless of blame, we in the Global North or West – however we think of ourselves in the countries living on the legacy of colonialism — now face an urgent need to save ourselves from the hordes at the gate. Instead of arming ourselves and building fortresses, we should start with a new Marshall Plan.

Of course, such a Plan is hugely expensive. After WWII, a split US Congress found the money, mainly in the name of stopping communism. A new Marshall Plan would be based on doing many simple things we've known we should do for a very long time and that we know will pay off if we do them.

Today, the combined threat of widespread unemployment, violent fanaticism among people with nothing to lose, and environmental crisis could produce broad support too. Probably, though, the people will need to lead the politicians on this, demanding that capital be mobilized that will

  • put everyone's young people back to work;

  • build or rebuild infrastructure around the world with green technology — mass transit, conservation, solar, wind, organic farming — and moving away from oil;

  • feed, house and educate a hungry, homeless illiterate world.

Do these things and violent fanaticism will lose its appeal. Very little rocket science is involved.

Politicians will not take these steps unless a massive public movement demands the programs. The money people won't like such programs, because they requires financing, probably paid for by raising taxes the richest corporations and the billionaires -– who will resist with all their might.

Only a ground swell of public passion can force political leaders to make the changes needed to save our children and grandchildren from the hideous threats we all know are facing them.

About Ish Theilheimer

Ish Theilheimer is founder and president of Straight Goods News and has been Publisher of the leading, and oldest, independent Canadian online newsmagazine, StraightGoods.ca, since September 1999. He is also Managing Editor of PublicValues.ca. He lives wth his wife Kathy in Golden Lake, ON, in the Ottawa Valley.

eMail: ish@straightgoods.com

© Copyright 2013 Ish Theilheimer, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca

  One Response to “Time for a new Marshall Plan”

  1. I am pleased that Ish is focusing some attention on the growing inequality in the world. He is using the same argument used by those who oppose measures to save the environment. It will be expensive because it requires taxing the rich. The rich own the politicians, troops and police. His plan will require social action including shutting down the economy. Violence is inevitable. We need the Arab Spring on steroids to achieve his ends. And then in the end we may change the balance for a time but inevitably the cycle will repeat itself.

    There is another way but it requires a better understanding of money. Sadly people won’t study this and understand it. Every hour millions of dollars are created by the same rich folks that Ish refers to so that they have the means to coerce the rest of us to sacrifice the environment and do their bidding. That same money could be created by governments and distributed differently to the people so that the people would make the choices. But nobody will look at this or talk about it meaningfully. The following quote by a Canadian economist is instructive to all of our concerns. The last line is a classic!

    “As every environmentalist knows, over the last few centuries we humans have created an ecologically unsustainable industrial economy. Unless we radically reform our way of doing things and create a sustainable economic system we are doomed to suffer drastic changes.
    “What most environmentalists – and indeed most economists – do not know is that over the last few centuries we humans have also created an economically unsustainable financial system. Unless we radically reform this financial system it will recurringly break down and thwart our efforts to heal this planet.
    “Our current financial system diverts us from our real problems to ask: ‘where is the money going to come from?’ This should be the least of our worries. As long as we have vast unmet human needs and idle human and nonhuman resources … finance should never be allowed to stand in the way of doing what must be done.
    “Could anything be more insane than for the human race to die out because we ‘couldn’t afford’ to save ourselves.”

    Dr. John Hargrove Hotson, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Waterloo and co-founder of COMER. 1993 [25-1-1930 to 21-1qq1996]

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