Monday, July 9, 2012

Week of 07/09/2012

Wally Streeter and the Drought
– by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time in the hypothetic land of Republica, a group of businessmen led by Sir Wallace Streeter convinced the people of the small but growing community to erect a dam on the Cash River just north of them.

Their concerns, they said, were for the welfare of the community, and nothing more. They believed that by controlling the amount of water that flows from the Cash River into the community, they would prevent those devastating floods that they feared would destroy the area. Granted, such flooding was rare, but whenever it happened it would be of great concern to those in charge.

So the leaders allowed Sir Wallace and his friends in the Banks Family to build that dam, but only with the promise that they would ensure that the community would never be without water.

It wouldn’t take long before the water gathered north of the Capital Dam, turning Cash River into the Cash Lake, and making the surrounding landscape around the lake into the ideal place for Sir Wallace and the Banks Families to build their homes. And what lavish homes they were! Beautiful places where they could go boating and swimming, where they could have fishing tournaments, and even talked about putting in parks so that the rest of the community could enjoy the beauty that was made by their hands and by Mother Nature.

But then, not too long after the dam was built, the people just south of the community began to complain. While the lake was great for fishing and boating and swimming, the people south of the dam that relied on the fish for their food and for their business were quickly cut off. The Cash River was too shallow south of the Dam for people to go boating or swimming. But Sir Wallace and the Banks said not to worry, that they would ensure that there would be a place for people to do all those things in Cash Lake.

A few years later, some more people complained about the dam. The people whose well-waters came from the Cash River began to go dry. That means no fresh water for their homes for cooking or bathing.

By this time Sir Wallace and the Banks had turned things over to their children, and Walter and the new Banks Clan had a ready-made solution to this problem: just put those families on the community’s water and sewer system. This was all part of their long-standing promise to make sure that the community would never be without water. They would simply provide it to the public. And the water would be filtered and purified; safe to drink, cook, and bathe in. Water and sewage, and even some “grey water” for crops and sprinklers.

Of course all of this convenience wouldn’t be for free. There was always some kind of cost associated to this “charity”. But Walter and the Banks always said that it was the best deal that one could ever get for water that used to be free. Besides, you get guaranteed water, clean, fresh, and pure. And there’s always Cash Lake for swimming and fishing and the new water park for the kids to splash around in.

Time moves on, and eventually control of the Cash Dam and Cash Lake falls to the most recent generation of Streeters and Banks, namely Wally Streeter and Dollar “Too Big” Banks. And according to them, things could not be better! Sure, there are some people that are complaining about old pipes and the deteriorating quality of the water purification, but those complainers are dismissed as being attention-seeking troublemakers. The water is flowing, business is booming, and everything is just fine!

Then, one day, tragedy hits Republica.

The land is hit with a terrible drought; one that has not been felt since the Dam was built. Without rain and snow to replenish the lake, the water levels begin to drop.

Then the underground pipes providing water and sewage begin to collapse and rupture, causing thousands upon thousands of gallons of water to shoot out. Homes begin to collapse and streets are shut down when sinkholes begin to form from the collapsing pipes underneath. The complainers, it turns out, were right all along. (But nobody wanted to say that too loudly.)

If that wasn’t bad enough, it then comes out that the water filtration and purification plants that the Streeters and Banks had been using all this time to provide “clean” water for the community has been breaking down for the past few decades. The people have been drinking and bathing and cooking with gradually contaminated water!

To make matters worse, it is also discovered that Streeter and Banks had entered into agreements with nearby communities for that very water from Cash Lake, taking it before it reaches the Dam, never mind before it reaches the community. Crafted back when water was supposedly “plentiful”, these neighboring communities now expect Streeter and Banks to continue to honor their agreements at the expense of any other concern, including the community south of the Dam.

The leaders of Republica declare an emergency. The parks are closed. New water restrictions are imposed. All access to the Capital Dam and to Cash Lake are closed. Boating and fishing are temporarily outlawed. Priority is supposedly given to patching the leaks in the pipelines, stopping the sinkholes, fixing the water filtration, and slowing, if not reversing, the drop in lake levels.

Of course the leadership doesn’t address who would be paying for the repairs. Streeter and Banks say that they’ve talked about bringing in a new water filtration system, but it would cost a lot, and they won’t mention who would pay for it. They give the same response to replacing all the old pipes that handled water and sewage all across Republica. Nothing is said about the homes and streets that are torn up and condemned by sinkholes caused by the ruptured and collapsed pipes. Nothing is also said of the thousands of gallons of water that still gets sucked out of Cash Lake to go to neighboring lands. They also don’t mention that the water and sewer rates are slowly and steadily going up.

Years go by and the restrictions remain in Republica. Water is still rationed, and violators are punished. The costs for those “conveniences” are still going up with no relief in sight, even for those that are on fixed incomes. Access to Capital Dam and Cash Lake are still cut off, so there’s no way to check if the water levels are still low. The people are expected to simply make do with what little they have, and then be willing to give up even more at the proverbial drop of a hat.

Of course, Wally Streeter and “Too Big” Banks and their friends aren’t complaining about being inconvenienced. They’re having pool parties and talk about drinking expensive bottled water. As far as they are concerned, the “crisis” was over and done with a while ago.

The water quality in the community is still poor; the water pipes are still crumbling, and the deteriorating sewer lines are still causing sinkholes. But nothing is done to fix those problems other than to just talk about it. Streeter and “Too Big” Banks both say that it costs money to fix these things that they don’t have “in the budget”. They would rather focus on the “water levels” first. Besides, they’re not too happy with the people in charge over in Republica, so they would much rather wait for “better management” before doing any of that.

Besides, they say, they’re still living up to their agreement. They’re still providing the people of Republica with water. Granted, it’s rationed, polluted, not available to certain groups, and far more expensive than in days gone by, but Wally Streeter and “Two Big” Banks will both proclaim that they are still upholding that promise made by their predecessors all those years ago.

Now let’s get brutally honest here… how long do you think the people of that hypothetic land of Republica would be willing to endure those conditions? Do you really think that they would be willing to endure that for years on in with seemingly no end in sight? Especially if there are rumors of either the lake levels no longer being “low” or if the owners of the dam were treating the whole matter with reckless disregard for the community.

Imagine what things would be like if we treated our economy like we treat our water. Our real-life Streeter and Banks, specifically Wall Street and the “Too Big To Fail” banking institutions, certainly carry on as though they hold the very fate of the land in their greedy hands.

History has shown that such prolonged misery can only fester for so long. When promised relief doesn’t come, when a “temporary crisis” becomes more permanent, when those with very little appear to be the only ones making any significant sacrifices, there eventually comes a breaking point. And believe me when I say that those that feel they’re getting screwed over will take that frustration out on something and on someone. The French aristocracy certainly found out first-hand how inventive the great unwashed can be back in the 18th Century when they reached their breaking point. There is a reason why that time was referred to as la Terreur.

Much like the hypothetical situation, our current economic drought depends entirely on who is holding all of the resources, whose promises take priority, and who is being asked to make the sacrifices. Believe me when I say that those at the bottom of the “Capital Dam” will have no qualms bringing the whole thing down on everyone if they feel they have nothing left to sacrifice.

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