We are all Egyptians now,
or eventually will be. I wonder if we'll respond with similar levels of courage, character and determination as the Egyptians.
The ongoing demonstrations in Egypt are as much, if not more, about the mass deterioration of economic conditions and the harsh result of years of financial deregulation, than the political ideology that some of the media seems more focused on.
That got me thinking about what else has been building up in Egypt under Mubarak's 29-year as President, but more specifically over the past decade, and in particular the years leading up to the world economic crisis catalyzed by the US banking system - and that would be, extreme financial deregulation and the increased influx of foreign banks, capital, and "investment" which tends to be a euphemism for "speculation" when it belies international funds looking for hot prospects, no matter what the costs to the local population.
According to the CIA's World Fact-book depiction of Egypt's economy, "Cairo from 2004 to 2008 aggressively pursued economic reforms to attract foreign investment and facilitate GDP growth." And, while that was happening, "Despite the relatively high levels of economic growth over the past few years, living conditions for the average Egyptian remain poor."
Unemployment in Egypt is hovering just below the 10% mark, like in the US, though similarly, this figure grossly underestimates underemployment, quality of employment, prospects for employment, and the growing youth population with a dismal job future. Nearly 20% of the country live below the poverty line (compared to 14% and growing in the US) and 10% of the population controls 28% of household income (compared to 30% in the US). But, these figures, as in the US, have been accelerating in ways that undermine financial security of the majority of the population, and have been doing so for more than have a decade.
Around 2005, Egypt decided to transform its financial system in order to increase its appeal as a magnet for foreign investment, notably banks and real estate speculators. Egypt reduced cumbersome bureaucracy and regulations around foreign property investment through decree (number 583.) International luxury property firms depicted the country as a mecca (of the tax-haven variety) for property speculation, a country offering no capital gains taxes on real estate transactions, no stamp duty, and no inheritance tax.
When a country, among other shortcomings, relinquishes its financial system and its population's well-being to the pursuit of 'good deals', there is going to be substantial fallout. The citizens protesting in the streets of Greece, England, Tunisia, Egypt and anywhere else, may be revolting on a national basis against individual leaderships that have shafted them, but they have a common bond; they are revolting against a world besotted with benefiting the powerful and the deal-makers at the expense of ordinary people.
If it happens here I suspect it won't be anytime soon due the inertia induced by American exceptionalism (We're Number One!). But if we continue along the present arc of accelerating economic insecurity it's only a matter of time before people start getting up from their couches demanding better from our leaders. Watching one's child go hungry can be a powerful motivator.