By Richard C. Cook
The incident was horrifying. As reported in the Washington Post:
“CANCUN, Mexico — The general didn’t get much time. After a long, controversial career, Brig. Gen. Mauro Enrique Tello Quiñones retired from active duty last month and moved to this Caribbean playground to work for the Cancun mayor and fight the drug cartels that have penetrated much of Mexican society. He lasted a week. Tello, 63, along with his bodyguard and a driver, were kidnapped in downtown Cancun last Monday evening, taken to a hidden location, methodically tortured, then driven out to the jungle and shot in the head. Their bodies were found Tuesday in the cab of a pickup truck on the side of a highway leading out of town. An autopsy revealed that both the general’s arms and legs had been broken.” (“Warrior in Drug Fight Soon Becomes a Victim: Mexican General Seized, Slain in Cancun” by William Booth, Washington Post, February 9, 2009)
But who is it that really murdered the general and his companions?
Sure, the dirty work was done by a gang of grisly hoodlums, one of many that are gradually taking over Mexico as a base for drug-related operations. But don’t these people have anything better to do? Why is it they cannot make a living except by transporting and selling drugs to customers in the U.S.?
The question is almost laughable. There is a dearth of decent jobs in Mexico. The economy has been ravaged by global capitalism. NAFTA and U.S. agribusiness have destroyed family farming. Manufacturing jobs are scarce, because the cheap labor market by which Mexico undercut the living of U.S. workers in the 1990s has itself been done in by even poorer workers in China and elsewhere in Asia.
Let’s be very clear: when people have economic opportunity they do not turn to crime. We saw that in the U.S. in the 1970s, when the Community Services Administration and other federal anti-poverty programs began to transform American inner cities into centers of burgeoning enterprise. But in the 1980s, after the Federal Reserve under Chairman Paul Volcker raised interest rates above 20 percent, it wrecked the U.S. manufacturing economy. The disaster turned whole areas in places like Baltimore, Detroit, and L.A. into “death zones.” Poverty, despair, and crime made a comeback and hover over those areas today like dark clouds.
Then too the prohibition on drug use in the U.S. has had the same effect as prohibition of alcohol during the 1920s. The only ones to benefit were the Mafia. If the government makes it difficult to get drugs and drives up the cost through stringent and punitive law enforcement, it’s the organized gangs who will become rich and powerful. Everyone else in society will pay the price, including higher taxes for more and bigger prisons. Meanwhile, drug havens, secured by official corruption, will flourish.
With the world falling into near-depression conditions, things can only get worse. A few months ago I helped some friends, Marshall and Rebecca, move from an apartment to a house they had purchased. A couple of young men had driven from Kalamazoo, Michigan, friends of Marshall where he used to live. I asked them what people did for a living now that Michigan’s manufacturing industries were in such a decline. They said the young people there now make and sell methamphetamine.
There are two huge economic problems facing the U.S. and the world today. One is the enormous amount of debt owed by people, businesses, and governments to banks and other financial institutions. The second is the collapse of consumer purchasing power due to the stagnation of worker incomes compared to constantly rising productivity resulting from automation. These afflictions are worldwide, and they go back to a) the growth of global capitalism that benefits owners but leaves workers out, and b) the debt-based monetary system where all the money that enters into circulation is created by bank lending and speculation.
All this needs to change. Monetary systems should be run by governments on behalf of the nation’s entire population, not just the rich. And we need to move to a system of income security similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund, where all residents share in the wealth of the economy whether they are employed or not. It means a basic income guarantee for all people.
The economic stimulus plan put forth by President Barack Obama would help, but not enough. What I am calling the “Cook Plan” would provide a per capita payment in vouchers of $1,000 per month for the necessities of life that would be deposited in a new series of community savings banks. The banks would then lend at low rates of interest to revitalize local economies. It’s the essence of what can be called “dividend economics.”
Measures such as these which promote economic democracy are the only way to combat the drug epidemic, whether in consuming nations like the U.S. or producing nations like Mexico, both victims of the global economy and deregulated bank finance.
© 2009 by Richard C. Cook
Richard C. Cook is a former U.S. federal government analyst. His book on monetary reform, We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform, is now available at www.amazon.com. He is also the author of Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age. He can be contacted through his new website at www.richardccook.com.