California has a special place in the American psyche. It is the Golden State: a playground of the rich and famous with perfect weather. It symbolises a lifestyle of sunshine, swimming pools and the Hollywood dream factory. But the state that was once held up as the epitome of the boundless opportunities of America has collapsed. From its politics to its economy to its environment and way of life, California is like a patient on life support. At the start of summer the state government was so deeply in debt that it began to issue IOUs instead of wages. Its unemployment rate has soared to more than 12%, the highest figure in 70 years. Desperate to pay off a crippling budget deficit, California is slashing spending in education and healthcare, laying off vast numbers of workers and forcing others to take unpaid leave. In a state made up of sprawling suburbs the collapse of the housing bubble has impoverished millions and kicked tens of thousands of families out of their homes. Its political system is locked in paralysis and the two-term rule of former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen as a disaster – his approval ratings having sunk to levels that would make George W Bush blush. The crisis is so deep that Professor Kevin Starr, who has written an acclaimed history of the state, recently declared: “California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America.” Outside the Forum in Inglewood, near downtown Los Angeles, California has already failed. The scene is reminiscent of the fallout from Hurricane Katrina, as crowds of impoverished citizens stand or lie aimlessly on the hot tarmac of the centre’s car park. It is 10am, and most have already been here for hours. They have come for free healthcare: a travelling medical and dental clinic has set up shop in the Forum (which usually hosts rock concerts) and thousands of the poor, the uninsured and the down-on-their-luck have driven for miles to be here. The queue began forming at 1am. By 4am, the 1,500 spaces were already full and people were being turned away. On the floor of the Forum, root-canal surgeries are taking place. People are ferried in on cushions, hauled out of decrepit cars. Sitting propped up against a lamp post, waiting for her number to be called, is Debbie Tuua, 33. It is her birthday, but she has taken a day off work to bring her elderly parents to the Forum, and they have driven through the night to get here. They wait in a car as the heat of the day begins to rise. “It is awful for them, but what choice do we have?” Tuua says. “I have no other way to get care to them.” Yet California is currently cutting healthcare, slashing the “Healthy Families” programme that helped an estimated one million of its poorest children. Los Angeles now has a poverty rate of 20%. Other cities across the state, such as Fresno and Modesto, have jobless rates that rival Detroit’s. In order to pass its state budget, California’s government has had to agree to a deal that cuts billions of dollars from education and sacks 60,000 state employees. Some teachers have launched a hunger strike in protest. California’s education system has become so poor so quickly that it is now effectively failing its future workforce. The percentage of 19-year-olds at college in the state dropped from 43% to 30% between 1996 and 2004, one of the highest falls ever recorded for any developed world economy. California’s schools are ranked 47th out of 50 in the nation. Its government-issued bonds have been ranked just above “junk”. MORE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/04/california-failing-state-debt
Archive for October 2009
By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
The U.S. dollar continued its six-month slide Tuesday amid a growing international chorus that wants the dollar replaced — or at least supplemented — as the world’s reserve currency, a move that would end the greenback’s six decades of global dominance.
The dollar has come under attack from abroad as the economic crisis has played out, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s decision to flood a seized-up financial system with liquidity last fall. The central bank’s moves likely staved off deflation, but the massive influx of new dollars has devalued existing ones. Foreign nations are worried that the massive U.S. national debt and rising deficits are not being addressed. And though inflation is not yet a concern in the United States, a prolonged slide in the dollar’s value could lead to higher prices for consumers.
Further, large emerging economies — such as China, Russia, Brazil and India — are tired of kow-towing to the American buck, and sense an opportunity to knock a weakened dollar off its imperial perch.
“The U.S. dollar is headed for also-ran status, and it will continue to lose its value against many other currencies and assets,” Miller Tabak equity strategist Peter Boockvar said. “The rest of the world wants the U.S. dollar to lose influence, but no one wants it to be abrupt, as it’s in no one’s interest. An evolutionary process is what is wanted.”
The question is: When will that happen?
“In the next two to three years, it is highly unlikely to see the dollar replaced,” said Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Over the next decade, though, we would expect to see other currencies play a much more significant role.”
The dollar fell to nearly its lowest point of the year against the yen and euro on Tuesday, which sent the price of gold surging to a record intraday high above $1,045 per ounce, as investors sought a hedge against inflation and foreign nations continued to stockpile the precious metal.
For the American consumer, a falling dollar means U.S. exports sell better overseas, which can lead to more jobs here. But it also means imports costs more, which means higher prices at U.S. stores.
“For the average Joe, the implications of a crisis of confidence in the dollar could end up in higher borrowing costs, lower government expenditures — so that means reduced services — and higher taxes,” Prasad said. “Most likely, some combination of all of the above.”
Stocks, which typically move opposite of the dollar, staged a strong rally on Tuesday, continuing their fast Monday start. The Dow Jones industrial average and the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index both gained 1.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq surged 1.7 percent.
The U.S. dollar has been the world’s reserve currency since World War II. Central banks and financial institutions in other nations hold dollars to pay off foreign obligations, or to influence their currency’s exchange rate. Commodities, such as oil, are priced in dollars, which spreads the dollar’s influence around the world.
But the dollar’s dominance is being challenged, thanks to the crisis.
China was the first major power to attack the greenback, calling in March for the dollar to be replaced as the world’s reserve currency. China holds more U.S. debt than any other country — about $800 billion — and the further the dollar drops, the less the value of the U.S. debt owed to China.
Other nations have followed China’s criticism. In March, Kazakhstan criticized the dollar and called for the creation of a new currency it calls the “acmetal” (a coinage combining “acme” and “capital”). Last month, Iran shifted its reserve currency from the dollar to the euro, a move that is likely more political than economic and a response to harsh U.S. criticism of Iran’s nuclear moves.
But major powers have spoken against the dollar, as well. In September, Russia said it remains satisfied with the dollar as a reserve currency but said others are also needed. At an international investment summit last month, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized the United States — and implicitly, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who controls the money supply — for “uncontrolled issue of dollars.”
Both China and Russia have called for a new “global supercurrency,” similar but larger in scale to the euro, that would replace the dollar.
Even the world’s big financial institutions are piling on.
“The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in a speech last week.
ISNA – Tehran Service: Islamic Parliament 1388/07/15 10-07-2009 News Code :8807-00044
TEHRAN (ISNA) – Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina are willing to expand mutual relations in politics, culture, economy and parliamentary cooperation. Parliamentary friendship group of Iran and Bosnia Herzegovina held meeting with the Muslim member of the Bosnia Herzegovina Presidency, Haris Silajdzic in Sarajevo.
Silajdzic calling for expansion of economic ties between Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina said, “economic relations of the two countries must reach a level that can satisfy both countries.”
Also Iran’s parliamentary delegation asserted, there were many potentialities which should be found to broaden the domains of cooperation between the two countries particularly in industry and economy.
The Iranian delegation also meeting with the Foreign Minister of the European country Sven Alkalaj hoped the two sides would promote cooperation through parliamentary ties.
Iran’s parliamentarian also met Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Representatives Speaker Milorad Zivkovic where both sides hoped the two countries interactions in different political and parliamentary levels would be influential in strengthening friendly relations.