Why Relocalization Advocates Should Fear Obama

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It was hoped by many that Obama would come in a solve many of the problems that we are currently facing. I was hoping to wait a year to give time to see what would happen, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Obama administration is just an extensive of the Bush White House, in fact may even be much worse at the end of the day. No doubt there will be some changes in the social arena, but at the end of the day it was always the economic arena that has been most at issue.

I have been actively involved in the local sustainability movement and been an adamant supporter of localization. Like many in this arena I believe that we have distorted the meaning of wealth and placed way too much emphasis on the importance of consumption. Multinational corporations are a powerful influence, much too powerful in fact, in the lives of consumers and government. We continue to be disempowered locally by both the government and multinational corporations. Most critical decisions are now made in board rooms, Olympia or Washington DC.

The problem is the incongruence between Obama’s message and his actions. Obama spent his campaign advocating for local activists and the need to actively engage to solve problems. He criticized multinationals in a wide array of industries. He has been critical of over consumption and talked about many issues important to localization. His current economic plans, however, are completely counter to these previous statements and destined to make matters far worse.

There are two fatal flaws in his policy, which is why we should all be gravely concerned. Our tax system is based on consumption, the more consumption the more taxes collected. 51% of our federal tax revenue (excluding government social insurance) is based on personal income taxes, 34% comes from taxes on production and imports and the remaining 14% comes from corporate income taxes. Whether these taxes rise or fall is based primarily on consumption. The more we consume, the more gets produced, the more gets paid in wages, and the more income taxes are collected. If you dramatically increase spending, you have to increase taxes to cover it (either in the short-term or long-term), in order to cover the increased government spending you have to increase consumptions to make sure you have the taxes to cover it. The more you consume, the more power goes to multinational corporations and the more pressure you put on the environment. The Obama spending plan will make reducing consumption virtually impossible and thereby will increase the pressure on the environment and the economy. In fact, if consumption does not increase dramatically we are in deep trouble because we will have committed to do all of these social programs and have no way to pay for them. It is looking like for the first time that total government controlled spending could amount to over 50% of GDP next year.

The second fatal flaw is that power will continue to consolidate in the Federal and State governments and multinational corporations. More money is flowing into their coffers, giving them control over how and what it is spent on and takes money from local citizens and communities and gives them less control. This is counter to the spirit of localization. So far his spending plan has gone to great lengths to protect multinational corporations, whether it is banks, auto companies, construction and now it appears the insurance industry. I suspect that Obama clearly understands the issues and has decided that power in the Federal government is more important than localization, but it is the wrong trade-offs, and will continue the policies of the last few decades.

The only solution is to put more money back in local communities and businesses. Instead of protecting multinational corporations, local businesses need the benefits of regulations and access to capital. Instead of solving every issue in Washington DC, local communities need the tools and ability to solve their own problems. Instead of increasing the size of the Federal government, we need to reverse the trend and make the Federal government smaller and local governments more financially viable so they can deal with their own problems.

About Craig Mayberry

Closed Account • Member since Jan 17, 2008

While writing his articles from 2008 to 2011, Craig lived near Lynden and taught at both Whatcom Community College and Western Washington University. He was active in politics and ran for public [...]