For a decade now, consumers have become accustomed to free access to music, films and information, via the internet. But with many of the media’s big players – including Rupert Murdoch – thinking of charging for content, is the tide about to turn?
And yet for almost a decade now, quality entertainment and culture, as well as mainstream sources of news, have been freely available on the web. The arrival of the internet has seen musicians, publishers and news organizations all slowly float off together into uncharted waters.
Consumers who have grown up during the past 15 years are completely at home in a world where much of what they want to hear, see or read will cost them nothing. True, in the case of some films and TV shows, the practices involved may skirt around the law a bit. Generally speaking, though, culture has become a happy free-for-all. Now may be the time to pay the bill.
One of the biggest players in the game last week questioned the rationale behind the current give-away culture. Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp, even went so far as to refer to it as a “flawed” business model when he spoke to reporters in New York. The media mogul – who owns the Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World in Britain, as well as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal in America – announced that he was considering charging for more of his internet sites.
It is worth noting, too, that opposing political ideologies are at work here, not simply commercial forces. While the libertarian impulse to “free the web” is claimed by hippy counter-culture, it is also aligned with far-right thought. Pirate Bay, the Swedish bootlegging site at the center of a legal storm this year, receives financial support from right-wing politician Carl Lundström.
This battle is worth watching…will info remain free or will only thoise who can afford it, have it?
Does anyone in the sound of my voice truly understand what all this dancing in Washington is gonna cost you? But you I mean the American people. You have heard that some want to protect the taxpayer and some want the markets to do the adjusting, but what will this package cost the American taxpayer?
Remember when I say you I am talking about the American taxpayer.
.Both parties agree on one fundamental principle: The American people will have no say whatsoever in an arrangement that will compel them to pay for the losses of bankers and speculators who created the financial disaster. That is the content of the demand on all sides that “politics” be kept out of the bailout talks.
If America were a democracy in any meaningful sense of the term, it would be considered obligatory to have a full discussion and debate in the course of an election campaign over plans to raid the federal treasury and mortgage future generations to guarantee the riches of the financial elite.
But if the bailout were on the ballot November 4, the voters would repudiate it overwhelmingly. It is precisely because of this opposition that the conspirators of both parties are seeking to reach an agreement this weekend, preempting the issue and depriving the American public of any say in a decision that will profoundly affect the future course of the country.
The Democratic Party, as the past week’s events have clearly demonstrated, is the servant of Wall Street. Long gone are the days when liberal Democrats postured as opponents of the moneyed interests.
There is virtual unanimity among the Democrats on the need to bail out Wall Street and grant the treasury secretary full authority to deal with the crisis in the credit markets. The Democrats privately welcome the opportunity to implement the plan before the elections, in order to provide an all-purpose excuse for an Obama administration to abandon its campaign promises and implement austerity policies.
The financial crisis has demonstrated the economic failure of the capitalist system and the bankruptcy of its political structure. There is no way for the interests and concerns of working people to find genuine expression through the two big business parties.
YOU, the American taxpayer will be paying for this one way or another. Your pay will only go so far and that distance is getting smaller and smaller. Your children will also be paying for this economic dance. And now even your grandchildren will be paupers because of it. Do you really feel that you are getting your money’s worth out of this damn system? I am sorry, but this system is broken.
The immediate line-up of both parties and the media behind the bailout plan for Wall Street stands in the starkest contrast to their indifference and inaction in regard to the plight of millions of American working people, who face a rising tide of home foreclosures, layoffs and sinking living standards. When it comes to the social needs of the people, the universal cry from corporate America and the two parties is, “There is no money,” but when the fortunes of the financial elite are threatened, the full power of the government and unlimited resources are marshaled virtually at a moment’s notice.
There was no suggestion in the statements of Bush and Paulson of any relief for the working class—nothing to stop home foreclosures or help those who have already lost their homes. Rather, hundreds of billions—and more likely trillions—of dollars in public funds will be used to prop up the banks.
The resulting bankrupting of the government will be used to justify a brutal assault on what remains of social programs, including Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and demand even greater financial “sacrifices” from workers, whether the next administration is headed by Obama or McCain. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate that behind the façade of American democracy there stands a dictatorship of big business.
Everybody is applauding the swift action on this crisis but there will be a price to pay for the putting of corporations before the people.
Millions of people in the US, and not merely those with the lowest incomes, are being hammered by a combination of job losses, rising prices for basic items such as food and gasoline, and the drop in the value of their homes.
Home prices continued to fall last month, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price indexes, a widely followed measurement. In 20 US metropolitan areas home prices declined in April by the most on record, 15.3 percent from a year earlier, following a 14.3 percent decline in March. The drop in prices has erased gains made since 2004.
The figures for selected major metropolitan areas are staggering. Las Vegas and Miami saw annual price declines of 26.8 percent and 26.7 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, now that the warmer weather is upon us, combined with the growing economic distress, private utility companies are cutting off electricity and natural gas at rates 15 percent higher than last year. There are restrictions on the ability of the utilities to halt service to homes during the winter months.
USA Today reported Tuesday that “utilities are disconnecting many more customers who fall behind on their bills, and even moderate-income households are getting zapped…Totals for some utilities have more than doubled.”
Utility disconnects are up 56 percent for Detroit Edison; more than one in five of its customers were behind in their electric bills in May.
All in all, it’s no wonder then, as the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, that “consumer confidence dropped like a stone in June, and expectations hit an all-time low, according to the latest survey from the Conference Board.” Lynn Franco of the Conference Board told the paper, “Perhaps the silver lining to this otherwise dismal report is that consumer confidence may be nearing a bottom.”
June’s confidence figure, based on a survey of 5,000 households, was the fifth lowest reading ever. Only 11.5 percent of those surveyed said business conditions were good.
One of the most telling social realities, and one with considerable implications, is detailed in the section somewhat blandly entitled, “Heightened Housing Challenges.” The Joint Center study notes that in 2006 nearly 40 million households in the US were at least “moderately cost burdened”—paying more than 30 percent of income on housing—and nearly 18 million “were severely cost burdened (paying more 50 percent)”. The number of severely burdened households “surged by almost four million” from 2001 to 2006, or some 20 to 25 percent.
“The weight of high housing costs falls especially heavily on households in the bottom income quartile. Fully 47 percent of low-income households were severely cost burdened in 2006, compared with 11 percent of lower middle-income households and just 4 percent of upper middle-income households. On average, households with children in the bottom quartile of spenders with severe housing cost burdens have just $257 a month left over for food, $29 for clothing, and $9 for healthcare. With food and energy costs climbing, these households will have less to spend on bare necessities.”
While low-income and minority households have been hard hit, “Affordability problems are edging up the income scale,” the study observes. “A rising number of middle-income homeowners also face cost pressures….For homeowners earning more than the median income, the likelihood of being housing cost burdened nearly doubled between 2001 and 2006.”
The conditions for millions of children are a national disgrace. More than one in six children in the US lives in households paying more than half their incomes for housing. The poorest quarter of American households “spent 32 percent less on food, 56 percent less on clothes, and 79 percent less on healthcare than families with low housing outlays.”
Americans are in dire straits–with the high cost of gas, housing and food–these are essentials not luxuries and there seems to be no relief in sight. Will the candidates eventually get around to offering real solutions to these problems or will we continue to hear the stuff that does not make sense, it is said to gain votes not solve problems.
When will the American people learn?