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America goes bankrupt

on Sunday, 01 January 2012. Posted in United States

A reportage entitled, L'Amerique en faillite (America in bankruptcy), was presented by reporter Elise de Guevel from television station France 2. The Envoye Special (Special Envoy) program on November 23, 2011 depicts a sight that will shock many. Ghost towns were a common sight during the great Depression of the 1930's but not in the 21st century!

Let us travel through the United States and discover the extreme circumstances in which many citizens are now living.

The reason why many people know nothing about this is because hardly any of the television stations are covering this stage of the crisis; certainly very few newspapers are writing about it. What is the reason for this silence? Perhaps our media is trying to keep us from realizing just how badly the American Dream has gone sour?

Jefferson, Alabama

In Jefferson County, Alabama, the lives of an elderly community is about to change forever.

Commissioner Bowman must tell the residents of the only public home for the aged in this particular county that their place must be sold because the city no longer has the funds to maintain it. Indeed, Jefferson County, which has the largest population in Alabama, declared bankruptcy on November 11, 2011. It was the first bankruptcy of an entire county in the history of the United States.

The elderly are not the only people suffering from the effects of a bad economy; government workers, businessmen, and many others have also fallen prey to the financial crisis. Denise, a government employee of Jefferson County, was certain she would have a job until she retired. She never imagined being without employment. But she was laid off from her position and now tries to make money to pay her bills by searching through people's garbage for metal to sell to the scrap yard. Denise is only one of 600 government employees in Jefferson County who have lost their jobs.

"I would never have expected the entire county to go bankrupt," she says. "Never. I'm trying to hold on, but I don't know if I will be suspended for a year or just a few weeks. The unknown is scary." Denise and her husband can no longer afford to send their son to the university. "What is hard," she says, "is that our son Dylan will not have the same prospects as our other children. It's hard when you are a mother, not to be able to offer the same chances to all of your children."

The government office downtown where Denise used to work clearly shows the effects of bankruptcy. The enterprise is running with a skeleton crew. "Normally every desk is full but now we are at 25% capacity," says Kevin, who works in the informatics part of the business. "They [the employees] were at work two months ago, but we do not know if they will be returning. These people thought that they would have a job forever."

So how did this happen?

At the end of the 90's, Jefferson County borrowed $250 million from the banks in order to renovate their sewer system. In 2008, the recession started and JP Morgan Bank demanded repayment of the loan. But now, because of compound interest, the county owes $3.14 billion. Of course the county cannot repay the loan plus interest because they only borrowed the principle. This is the usual procedure in a usurious banking system, such as we have today.

Prichard, Alabama

Several hundred miles south of Jefferson County, other cities are suffering from crushing debt. In Prichard, Alabama, the city simply stopped paying the retirement of its employees in 2009. Gloria Edward (who is handicapped and has to ride in a wheelchair) lives in an isolated bungalow. The reporter asked Gloria what she used to do. "I used to work as a police dispatcher. I loved my job. I was there for 30 years. When I didn't get my check, I wrote to the mayor telling him I needed my salary so that I could buy groceries. This was in October of 2009. I was really angry because they stole our money."

In the United States, each city is supposed to take care of the retirement pensions of its workers. With less and less revenue coming in, Prichard can no longer afford to do that.

Alfred works as a mall security guard, but for thirty years, he wore the uniform of a firefighter for the city of Prichard. After three years of quiet retirement, the city withdrew his retirement checks and he was forced to return to work. Now, at age 67, Alfred works six days a week for ten dollars per hour. The reporter asked him if this is what he expected and Alfred replied, "No! My wife and I should be cruising somewhere, having a good time. I saved all of my life. At my age, I should be able to do as I like. But now, I have no choice. It drives me crazy but I try to act as if it didn't bother me."

"It makes you sick, you know," says Alfred, "and the worst part is that the government doesn't care. You see, the city of Prichard is a kind of example. If our city has done this, others will see it and also cut their city employees from their retirement."

The fear voiced by Alfred is well founded. Cities in Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, New York, and Philadelphia have their eyes riveted on Prichard because their retirement funds are also dry. These circumstances have, in many cases, turned into tragedy. In Prichard, eighteen retirees have died, some of them committed suicide.

Detroit, Michigan

Further north, over one-thousand five-hundred kilometers away, we come to the city of Detroit, also experiencing a chaotic financial situation. Once proudly named the "motor city," Detroit was prosperous for its automobile factories but is now experiencing the post-industrial crisis. Unemployment is at fifty percent, and the areas of the city that were flourishing now carry an air of being struck by a horrific Apocalypse. In the last fifty years, the city lost more than 50% of its population.

Faced with the inability of local authorities to resolve the problem, some residents have decided to take matters into their own hands. A retired man named Russ Balen has decided to board up or demolish some of the empty homes at his own expense. "These buildings have gone through two generations of crises; first the commercial crisis which led to the closing down of businesses, now people are closing and abandoning their homes. Unfortunate, but it is what it is."

Mr. Balen attended a meeting with the citizens and police and, for the first time in the history of the United States, city officials made the decision to simply abandon sections of Detroit that have become too debilitated.

"What this means," says Mr. Balen, "is that when a building or street is in too much need of repair or when street lights need to be replaced, the city will not repair it. They are going to let it fall apart." Foliage has begun to overrun these sections of the city, and wild animals have moved in. Ralph Goobee, who is the chief of police for the city of Detroit, spoke about the areas of the city that would no longer receive police protection.

They are creating vacant territories so that people will eventually leave; the city has roughly 90,000 abandoned or vacant homes and residential lots, according to Data Driven Detroit, a nonprofit group that tracks demographic data for the city. "Neighborhoods that were considered stable are now at 20% vacancy," said Deborah Younger, a development consultant. The current mayor has promised to pay for the demolition of 10,000 buildings but that is a very small percentage.

Many of the original residents are still living in these abandoned sectors but now they must defend themselves against an increasingly difficult situation. Some people have become squatters. (Squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use, according to the government. Beleaguered citizens living in a welfare state, for example, that cannot provide them with adequate resources, often take action into their own hands and squat as a matter of necessity.) These areas have become a haven for gangs and drug pushers, anyone seeking to escape from the law.

The state of Michigan has a $14 billion debt. So far, their only solution has been to borrow more money from the banks, which, as we know from reading the MICHAEL Journal, will only lead to them into greater debt, with catastrophic results. The citizens of the once-great and prosperous "motor city" of Detroit have seen for themselves what debt can do.

San Francisco, California

In San Francisco, California, there is an area known as "Hunter's Point" that is a complete nightmare.  In Hunter's Point, more than half of the population lives in poverty and more than half of all children live in a home where there is no father present. Down the coast, Los Angeles continues to come apart at the seams.  Approximately forty arson fires were started in Los Angeles in just three days.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4% of children in Philadelphia, 40.1% in Atlanta, 52.6% in Cleveland, and 53.6% in Detroit, are living in poverty.

Camden, New Jersey

In an extraordinary article entitled "City of Ruins", Chris Hedges did an amazing job of documenting the nightmarish decline of Camden, New Jersey.  Today, it is estimated that the actual rate of unemployment in Camden is somewhere around 30 to 40%.  For most young people in Camden, there are very few legitimate opportunities for a better life at this point.  The following is a brief excerpt from "City of Ruins"...

"There are perhaps a hundred open-air drug markets, most run by gangs like the Bloods, the Latin Kings, Los Nietos and MS-13. Knots of young men in black leather jackets and baggy sweatshirts sell weed and crack to clients, many of whom drive in from the suburbs. The drug trade is one of the city's few thriving businesses. A weapon, police say, is never more than a few feet away, usually stashed behind a trash can, in the grass or on a porch."

Will we wait until we are in the same situation to do something?

The American Dream is slowly sinking under the crushing weight of debt. It is our duty, whether we are American or not, to work for a better tomorrow for our children who are the future. The Social Credit philosophy advocated by the Pilgrims of St. Michael works to accomplish a better and more just financial system, to free the populations of the world from the financial tyranny to which they are enslaved.

Henrietta Markdale

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