PAUL GLOVER ESSAYS: community control of food, fuel, housing, health care, planning, education, finance.

Strength of Ithaca HOUR Grows While Value of Dollar Declines
       January 1992

The number of businesses and people accepting Ithaca HOURS has nearly tripled in our first three months of operation, from 90 to 230. These participants provide 400 different products and services, and make 100 different requests. The Ithaca HOUR is backed by real goods and skills, while the U.S. dollar is backed by government waste, bank failure and debt.

Worst of all, though, the dollar is declining because America's natural resource base shrinks. The natural wealth that fed American factories and filled our stores has been dumped into landfills. Most of the USA's prime fuels, metals, forests and fields have been largely used up, requiring us to import more food, oil and industrial ores.

About 80% of original U.S. oil reserves are gone, and oil imports cause half the trade deficit. Nearly all steelmaking and aluminum depends on imported manganese and bauxite. Nearly all the basics of industry, like chromium and nickel are imported. Nearly all uranium and even one third our natural gas is imported.

Most coal is now stripmined, and these raw cuts have begun devouring good cropland. The best soil has already been ruined, especially by corporate farms. The U.S. Midwest, our nation's breadbasket, is drying up as the underground water is pumped out.

At the same time, many U.S. corporations globalize, becoming no longer American. They use American resources and labor to enrich themselves, then send jobs overseas. New York state lost 200,000 jobs last year.

This destruction and dependency signals conversion of the United States into a Third World nation. There are fewer U.S. jobs per person and fewer hours per job, paid with weaker dollars. One seventh of us are impoverished, one tenth use food stamps. The Tompkins County paycheck, for trades workers, has 8 percent less spending power today than in 1980.

Although this process is happening worldwide and all nations are at risk, we may see surprising changes. Russia has fabulous wealth in metals, forest, oil and natural gas, and so might become one of the world's great entrepreneurial powers. And we may see Japan's sun set, when agressive nations change the rules of commerce, seizing Japan's assets.

None of the above are good changes. To avoid cycles of gluttony, war and collapse, all nations could develop environmentally efficient locally-controlled economies

When you use Ithaca HOURS you are part of a healthy transition. Our Action Ideas column shows other U.S. communities making similar changes.

Business-as-usual: Elements of an Unhealthy Economy

  1. Bland overpackaged chemically-damaged food of inferior nutritional value, whose harvest depends on destruction of soil and harsh use of domestic and foreign labor.
  2. Deteriorating, poorly-insulated housing at high rents, luxury housing sprawling across agricultural land or displacing low-income mid-city residents.
  3. Poorly-made imported clothing. sewn by virtual slave labor.
  4. Energy-wasteful household goods designed to be thrown away.
  5. Dependence on automobiles and token funding for bus, rail and bikeway systems.
  6. Carcinogenic air and water, especially damaging to children and elderly, from industrial waste, pesticides and automobiles. World heat shock from combustion. Destruction of ozone layer.
  7. Worst health care protection in the industrialized world. Most cancers caused by pollution of air and water.
  8. State-imposed schooling which teaches obedience rather than thinking.
  9. Use of TV channels for commercial propaganda rather than free exchange of ideas.
  10. Ill-paid jobs which increase the waste of forests, metals, soil, water and air, and/or which endanger world peace and worker safety. Loss of jobs overseas and increase of poorly-paid service jobs.
  11. Military power so huge and corrupt that most of our nation's wealth is lost supporting war preparation and inspiring fear in half the world.
  12. Federal policy which rewards dangerous and wasteful dependence on imported petroleum and uranium while cutting subsidies for solar and wind power, transit and railroads.

Democrats and Republicans both promote false beliefs about our economy:

Government must allow corporations to pollute, to keep jobs here.

However, there are businesses which produce clean goods without polluting.

America must produce, sell and buy huge quantities of useless playthings to keep people employed. But local production and purchase with net export is sufficient to keep money moving.

Business must create goods of low quality so that they must be soon replaced so that profits and jobs are renewed. Yet, the more careful crafting and manufacture of durable goods will employ far more people more profitably.

Workers are too dumb to run businesses. On the contrary, wherever cooperative shop-floor management has been tried, productivity and profits have risen.

GNP measures economic strength. Instead, GNP measures contraction of the economy, by depletion of essential raw materials.