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Propaganda in the United States comes from both the government and private entities of various kinds. Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to influence opinions and incite action. Propaganda can be disseminated through any medium, including radio, newspaper, posters, books, and anything else that might be sent out to the widespread public.
Neoliberals (and by extension neoconservatives, as neoliberals with the gun) took an important page from Bolsheviks doctrine: organized party should have a core of "professional revolutionaries" which should be supported by research organizations. this is how neoliberal invented the consent of the "think tank"
Later the same trick was used with color revolution, when NGO became organizing center to the uprising against the current regime (if the regime was too timid to suppress them on early stage).
The story behind neoliberal think tanks such as Heritage foundation and AEI is really fascinating (Where Conservative Ideas Come From - The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 26, 2016
These think tanks are very powerful propaganda units, a real "propaganda tanks". Their function is to produce “reports” and “papers” that offer the neoliberal solid justification of the current anti-labor policies and instill in the minds of the US population the necessity of extending and maintaining the global neoliberal empire led by the USA (i.e producing talking points, publishing papers on the subject and giving interview). Neocons engaged in this activity are often called national security parasites. Robert Kagan and Max Boot are nice examples of this specie. They ensure that the propaganda war is being won by the neoliberals.
Stahl’s chief object of inquiry is the American Enterprise Institute, or AEI. Founded in 1938 by a group of businessmen devoted to unwinding the New Deal, its true history began five years later, when its headquarters moved from New York to Washington. Inside the Beltway, AEI staffers portrayed themselves as nonpartisan scholars eager to assist lawmakers from both parties. That stance became increasingly difficult to maintain as the conservative movement grew in strength, and in the 1970s AEI was reborn as a champion of the right in the battle for ideas.
Success bred imitators, and AEI soon found itself outflanked by an upstart known as the Heritage Foundation. More concerned with passing legislation than posing as researchers, Heritage became the dominant think tank in Reagan’s Washington. These nimble practitioners of war-by-briefing-books made AEI seem musty and academic by comparison. AEI revived itself by shifting toward the middle, but it never regained its former centrality. It had changed too much, and so had conservatism.
There is no formal regulation of think tanks. Anyone can set one up. "According to US academic Dr James McCann, who compiles an annual think tank ranking, there are 6,305 such bodies in the world. He lists 285 in the UK, giving it the most after the US and China ... The Adam Smith Institute was a favourite of Margaret Thatcher." BBC News
I think there are too many in the western elites (the ones that actually own the MSM and give it its marching orders, the BBC and CBC public news services then have to goosestep to the same tune or else be shut down for producing too much cognitive dissonance) who think they won the propaganda war against the USSR. Even though they had actual leverage points back then, neoliberal propaganda might still collapse from its own internal rot like happened with Marxist propaganda in the USSR. If the gap with reality became too wide, no amount of efforts can fix that.
But today these elites and their storm troopers have nothing to worry about. they still dominate and even with Trump election comnitue to dominate TV and airwaves.
Think tanks are the most important part of neoliberal propaganda machine. They act like script writers, composing and writing the dialogue that the donors want to be the American public to be brainwashed with. Communist propaganda machine worked the same way and organizations that created untrue ideas, talking points which made their leaders ideas, and plans seem good to the population.
This international ensemble of neoliberal think tanks is essentially a reimplementation of the idea of Comintern ( Communist International - Wikipedia) ;-). Such a Neoliberalism International... Some of them have a world Institute in the name similar to "Institute of Marxism-Leninism" in the USSR. Brookings Institution, CATO, Heritage are just reuse of this idea. Adding the word ‘institute/institution’ or 'foundation' to the name of ‘think-tank’ is a measure devised to give the patina of legitimacy to what is simply a regional headquarters of casino capitalism propaganda machine.
This huge propaganda machine of "professional revolutionaries" is not that distinct from the way Bolshevik Party emerged in the part -- a close circle of people mainly from intelligencia and paid by the party to be able to devote all their time to revolutionary activities. It is instrumental in hiding the truth about the real essence of neoliberalism from "common folk". The ridiculously high levels of money that are pumped into this propaganda machine by financial oligarchy ensure that the so called shmucks never awaken
In general both the Republican party and Democratic Party in the USA are not so much a party as propaganda machines. For example, many European observers consider the US republican party to be a cult in a sense that members of the USA Republican political party, have political, economic, and scientific views that are completly unscientific but were created inside of corporate think tanks and promoted to ensure the success and staying power of neoliberalism as a social system. Media groups like Fox news, MSN NBC, CNN, etc repeat these phrases and ideas on their news broadcasts until they became imprinted is listeners minds.
May 27, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
... ... ...
By Rob Johnson, Institute for New Economic Thinking President,
Senior Fellow and Director, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and Thomas Ferguson, Director of Research, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
...The problem this essay addresses can be framed in terms of two quotations from Alexis de Tocqueville. The first comes from his famous speech in the French Chamber of Deputies just prior to the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848: "We are sleeping on a volcano .do you not see that the earth is beginning to tremble. The wind of revolt rises; the tempest is on the horizon." The second is from Democracy in America : "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness."
In 2018, the darkness is all too palpable: A chain of economic reverses that no prominent economists, central bankers, or policymakers anticipated has combined with other shocks from technology, wars, and migrations to produce the political equivalent of the perfect storm. The world financial meltdown of 2008 set the cyclone spinning. As citizens watched helplessly while their livelihoods, savings, and hopes shriveled, states and central banks stepped in to rescue the big financial institutions most responsible for the disaster. But recovery for average citizens arrived only slowly and in some places barely at all, despite a wide variety of policy experiments, especially from central banks.
The cycle of austerity and policy failure has now reached a critical point. Dramatic changes in public opinion and voting behavior are battering long entrenched political parties in many countries. In many of the world's richest countries, more and more citizens are losing faith in the very ideas of science, expertise, and dispassionate judgment -- even in medicine, as witness the battles over vaccines in Italy, the US, and elsewhere. The failure of widely heralded predictions of immediate economic disaster when the UK voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump became President of the United States has only fanned the skepticism.
Placing entire responsibility for this set of plagues on bad economic theory or deficient policy evaluation does not make sense. Power politics, contending interests, ideologies, and other influences all shaped events. But from the earliest days of the financial collapse, reflective economists and policymakers nourished some of the same suspicions as the general public. Like the Queen of England, they asked plaintively, "Why did no one see it coming?"
Answers were not long in arriving. Critics, including more than a few Nobel laureates in economics, pointed to a series of propositions and attitudes that had crystallized in economic theory in the years before the crisis hit.  Economists had closed ranks as though in a phalanx, but the crisis showed how fragile these tenets were. They included:A resolute unwillingness to recognize that fundamental uncertainty shadows economic life in the real world. Neglect of the roles played by money, credit, and financial systems in actual economies and the inherent potential for instability they create. A fixation on economic models emphasizing full or nearly complete information and tendencies for economies either to be always in equilibrium or heading there, not just in the present but far into the indefinite future. A focus on supply as the key to economic growth and, increasingly after 1980, denials that economies could even in theory suffer from a deficiency of aggregate demand. Supreme confidence in the price system as the critical ordering device in economies and the conviction that getting governments and artificial barriers to their working out of the way was the royal road to economic success both domestically and internationally.
Initially, debates over this interlocking system of beliefs mostly sparked arguments about the usefulness of particular tools and analytical simplifications that embodied the conventional wisdom: Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models; notions of a "representative agent" in macroeconomics and the long run neutrality of money; icy silence about interactions between monetary rates of interest and ruling rates of profit, or the failure of labor markets to clear.
Increasingly, however, skeptics wondered if the real problems with economics did not run deeper than that. They began to ask if something was not radically wrong with the structure of the discipline itself that conduced to the maintenance of a narrow belief system by imposing orthodoxies and throwing up barriers to better arguments and dissenting evidence.
The empirical evidence now seems conclusive: Yes.
"Top 5" Dominance for Promotion and Tenure
Studies by James Heckman demonstrate the critical gatekeeping role of five so-called "top journals" in recruitment and promotions within economics as a field.  Four of the journals -- the American Economic Review , the Journal of Political Economy , the Quarterly Journal of Economics , and the Review of Economic Studies -- are Anglo-American centered and published in the US or the UK as is the fifth, Econometrica , though it is sponsored by the Econometric Society, which has long involved scholars from Scandinavia and other countries.
Heckman's research shows that the number of Top 5 (T5) articles published by candidates plays a crucial role in the evaluation of candidates for promotion and tenure. This is true not only in leading departments but more generally in the field, though the influence of the count weakens in lower ranked institutions.
The Great Disjunction
Heckman compares citations in Top 5 journals with articles frequently cited by leading specialists in various fields and with publication histories of Nobel laureates and winners of the Clark Medal. He is crystal clear that many important articles appear in non-T5 journals -- a finding supported by other studies.  This evidence, he argues, highlights a "fundamental contradiction" within the whole field: "Specialists who themselves publish primarily in field journals defer to generalist journals to screen quality of their colleagues in specialty fields."
Citations as Pernicious Measures of Quality in Economics
Heckman draws attention to the increase in the number of economists over time and the relative stability of the T5. He argues that his findings imply that the discipline's "reluctance to distribute gatekeeping responsibility to high quality non-T5 Journals is inefficient in the face of increasing growth of numbers of people in the profession and the stagnant number of T5 publications."
Other scholars who have scrutinized what citations actually measure underscore this conclusion. Like Heckman, they know that citation indices originated from efforts by libraries to decide what journals to buy. They agree that transforming " journal impact factors" into measures of the quality of individual articles is a grotesque mistake, if only because of quality variation within journals and overlaps in average quality among them. Counts of journal articles also typically miss or undercount books and monographs, with likely serious effects on both individual promotion cases and overall publication trends in the discipline. As Heckman observes, the notion that books are not important vehicles for communication in economics is seriously mistaken.
Analytical efforts to explain who gets cited and why are especially thought provoking. All serious studies converge on the conclusion that raw counts can hardly be taken at face value.  They distort because they are hopelessly affected by the size of fields (articles in bigger fields get more citations) and bounced around by self-citations, varying numbers of co-authors, "halo effects" leading to over-citation of well-known scholars, and simple failures to distinguish between approving and critical references, etc. One inventory of such problems, not surprisingly by accounting professors, tabulates more than thirty such flaws. 
But cleaning up raw counts only scratches the surface. Heckman's study raised pointed questions about editorial control at top journals and related cronyism issues. Editorial control of many journals turns over only very slowly and those sponsored by major university departments accept disproportionately more papers from their own graduates.  Interlocking boards are also fairly common, especially among leading journals.  Carlo D'Ippoliti's study of empirical citation patterns in Italy also indicates that social factors within academia figure importantly: economists are prone to cite other economists who are their colleagues in the same institutions, independently of the contents of their work, but they are even more likely to cite economists closer to their ideological and political positions.  Other research confirms that Italy is not exceptional and that, for example, the same pattern shows up in the debates over macroeconomics in the US and the UK after 1975. 
Other work by Jakob Kapeller, et al., and D'Ippoliti documents how counting citations triggers a broad set of pathologies that produces major distortions.  Investing counts with such weighty significance, for example, affects how both authors and journal editors behave. Something uncomfortably close to the blockbuster syndrome characteristic of Hollywood movies takes root: Rather than writing one major article that would be harder to assimilate, individual authors have strong incentives to slice and dice along fashionable lines. They mostly strive to produce creative variations on familiar themes. Risk-averse gatekeepers know they can safely wave these products through, while the authors run up their counts. Journal editors have equally powerful incentives: They can drive up their impact factors by snapping up guaranteed blockbusters produced by brand names and articles that embellish conventional themes. Kapeller, et al. suggest that this and several other negative feedback loops they discuss lead to a form of crowding out, which has particularly pernicious effects on potential major contributions since those are placed at a disadvantage by comparison with articles employing safer, more familiar tropes.  The result is a strong impetus to conformism, producing a marked convergence of views and methods.
These papers, and George Akerlof in several presentations, also show that counting schemes acutely disadvantage out-of-favor fields, heterodox scholars, and anyone interested in issues and questions that the dominant Anglo-Saxon journals are not.  This holds true even though, as Kapeller et al. observe, articles that reference some contrary viewpoints actually attract more attention, conditioning on appearance in the same journal -- an indication that policing the field, not simply quality control, is an important consideration in editorial judgment. One consequence of this narrowing is its weirdly skewed international impact. Reliance on the current citations system originated in the US and UK, but has now spread to the rest of Europe and even parts of Asia, including China. But T5 journals concentrate on articles that deal with problems that economists in advanced Anglo-Saxon lands perceive to be important; studies of smaller countries or those at different stages of development face higher publication hurdles. The result is a special case of the colonial mind in action: economics departments outside the US and UK that rely on "international" standards advantage scholars who focus their work on issues relevant to other countries rather than their own.
Ed Walker , , May 26, 2018 at 6:20 amThe Rev Kev , May 26, 2018 at 6:42 am
I'm just stunned that this paper doesn't mention the seminal work on the problem, Marion Fourcade's paper The Superiority of Economists. https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.29.1.89
Oh wait, Fourcade and her colleagues are sociologists, not economists, so no reason to consider their research and thinking. Also, and not for nothing, she and they are French, and read Pierre Bourdieu who has done a lot of work on the sociology of academics, focused on France but widely applicable.
And here's something interesting; there is no mention of the funding of economics at universities and colleges. So, no mention of the hundreds of millions the filthy rich have poured into the field. Of course, they heatedly deny that matters. A recent tweet from a Geroge Mason/Mercatus prof was livid at the very suggestion that Koch money influenced hiring decisions.
And that's before we get into the gendered nature of economics, or it's political usage by ideologically-driven politicians looking for "experts" to support their preconceptions.
There is a lot more and someone needs to say it out loud in clear, uncoded language.Steve Ruis , May 26, 2018 at 9:27 am
Just a thought line here. I have heard and read conservatives say that "Politics is downstream from culture" and I get what they are saying. You change the culture and that predetermines the politics that you get. In reading this article, the thought struck me that perhaps the reason that economics as a profession has been corrupted so badly is that maybe conservatives consider government to be downstream of economics. Thus you control what economics theories are permitted to be discussed and that gives them the governments that they want.Andrew Watts , May 26, 2018 at 9:40 am
I support your contention. There is in the US a concerted effort to praise capitalism as some sort of god-given system and to defame all other systems. Venezuela's current problems are due to socialism, not bad management, of course. Of course, since the wealthy are doing oh so well under the status quo, they are bound to favor it, but they are not just favoring it, they are nailing it down onto our culture.Norb , May 26, 2018 at 9:46 am
There is in the US a concerted effort to praise capitalism as some sort of god-given system and to defame all other systems.
The Marxist economist Richard Wolff made the claim that economists are simply cheerleaders for capitalism in an interview on Chapo Trap House, He elaborated and substantiated this claim by saying that business schools had to be founded because economics departments were useless as a method of educating a cohort of business specialists.animalogic , May 27, 2018 at 12:59 am
Very succinct and thoughtful indeed. Remember Ronald Reagan's now infamous, "Government is the Problem" mantra. The real cultural warriors were the neoliberal terrorists who are hell bent on commodifying the entire planet for their own exploitation- masked in the language of "freedom" and "democracy".
This line of thought is also important in that your framing cuts to the core of the cognitive problem attempting to deal with economics, namely, it is a religion. I would define a religion as a system of faith and worship that is driven by a particular interest. All the wordy-ness and arm waiving is just an attempt to obfuscate this simple truth. Persecution of the unfaithful is also a dead giveaway.
This whole notion that the current reigning economics profession is ready, or attempting to "see the light" is somewhat amusing, or in another sense should be insulting considering the social damage they have caused, and are continuing to inflict on the broader citizenry. Burning at the stake is more appropriate, and maybe these slight rumblings of contrition are a sign that some might be getting worried that their "economic" program has gone too far.
When what goes on in the human mind looses connection to events in the real world, changes must be made in order to remain sane. The current orthodoxy is also ultimately doomed to failure in that what is the point of creating and maintaining a deluded and demoralized citizenry? That is a recipe for internal stagnation and external conquest. It would only be a successful strategy if the elite are able to move on after the broader society falters and fails. That thought is almost too cynical to contemplate. But that might explain why the .001% remains the .001%. The current economic priests are starting to feel the pressure because their flocks are beginning to realize that their everyday experience no longer matches the sermons they receive.
Time for a new sermon.mle detroit , May 26, 2018 at 9:52 am
Time to throw out the "priests" and their vicious "gods"John Wright , May 26, 2018 at 9:22 am
Following Rev Kev's point and Ed Walker's third paragraph, have there been any studies of the sources of gifts, underwriting, and other purchases of academic work at the most "influential" economics and business economics departments?Michael C. , May 26, 2018 at 9:41 am
In the academic side of the economics profession, it would seem to be prudent to "go with the flow."
Even the economists who recognized problems in 2008, such as Steve Keen and Dean Baker, are not celebrated.
In our society, it seems more likely that some powerful group or individual wants to do something and then proceeds to find an economist to support that action, via an editorial or media appearance, perhaps it is "free" trade, more immigration, easy money, tight money, quantitative easing, outsourcing, insourcing, charter schools, or austerity.
I suspect there are economists who attempt to accurately anticipate economic events.
But they work for hedge funds and private wealth management firms.
And what is the incentive for a prominent public economist to warn of economic problems that may have been caused by government and well-connected interests?
If someone, such as Alan Greenspan, gave early notice of sub-prime/mortgage backed security issues how would he have been better off?
It suggests a central banker career strategy that, if one observes a large economic problem brewing, retire and publish your book before the SHTF.
If the career central banker actually warned/took actions to circumvent a financial bubble and the bubble popped anyway, they could be tagged as a goat for causing the crisis.
Maybe the economics profession is functioning as one would expect?Norb , May 26, 2018 at 10:15 am
One has to wonder, if the elite economists who have defined the parochial and narrow scope of what capitalism is, how it works, and who wins and loses in the system, and maybe in particular it's late 20th Century form, neroliberalism, had maybe expanded their self-serving views to include a Marxian critique and analysis of they might not had been so stupid?
That's not to say the Marx had all the answers, but is only to say that if you presuppose the outcome you want and buttress it with only the information that supports (no matter how poorly) those outcomes, you end up with crisis and the contradictions within capitalism resulting in the failures described above.
Universities and Econ departments don't allow the wide critical view needed into their schools, and no matter what you think of Marx and his ideas, they should at least be the starting point in the discussion when approaching economic policy. The right wing shift in the governments and the people's of the world is not some unexpected outcome but is directly related to a system that builds in economic disparity, short-term planning (due to emphasis on next quarters profits and stock price), and an emphasis on winner take all rather than human needs.
It's not "the economy, stupid." It"s the stupid system.Ed Walker , May 26, 2018 at 5:53 pm
The problem with the American system is that its founding principles, that all men are created equal, and are endowed with certain, God given, unalienable rights, runs in contradiction to the chosen economic models of building society. Slavery and Capitalism are antithetical to these sentiments. Capitalism might be workable if restrained and heavily regulated, but why bother with that because human corruption will always find a way to undermine such a system; it is inherently weak and guarantees suffering will be born by the masses- Brexit will provide the perfect example as predicted by Yves.
A heavily regulated capitalism is socialism by another name.
The same, self-serving arguments are also made about war. The thought that humans could live in peace is treated as some unrealistic and insane idea. Instead of selecting from the human population for cooporation and peace-loving sensibilities, the minority sociopathic murders are allowed to run wild.
Real human "progress" will be made when the peace faction gains supremacy. But that is impossible as long as the economic system upon which all human subsistence depends remains entrenched in competition and striving to hoard against fears of scarcity.
FDR had it right, although imperfect, society was moving in the right direction. We live in a world of abundance that is being squandered. The only way to avoid ultimate destruction is to embrace this abundance as stewards and conservators instead of fearful exploiters.
Conserve the world by embracing sustainable living. Now that is a powerful political message. So powerful, it will be met with the full force of the sociopathic murders currently in charge of human societies.
What else to say, but prepare yourself.Chris , May 26, 2018 at 12:19 pm
The equality stuff is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. The latter is specifically devoted to protecting the interests of property holders, specifically including slavers. This is not surprising. The Founders were heavily influenced by John Locke. Locke was a slaver himself https://www.jstor.org/stable/2709512?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents . And remember that Lockean ideas are based on protecting private property from the random predation of absolute monarchs.animalogic , May 27, 2018 at 1:20 am
OMG, Michael C.
That's an amazing slip of the keys. It explains a ton too. I love that it combines the term which the people discussed in this article usually deride with the name of the last Roman emperor who is renowned for extravagance and tyranny.
Brilliant!J Sterling , May 27, 2018 at 6:41 am
I agree with your comment whole heartedly.
But:"the name of the last Roman emperor who is renowned for extravagance and tyranny."(& please forgive my quibble) Nero was certainly not the last emperor to have had such characteristics.
(Elagabalus springs to mind)R. BAIRD , May 26, 2018 at 9:58 am
It's been said that you can tell how dominated economics is by a particular minority of society, by the economists' word for phenomena where workers are paid more for their labor being "disease". As in Baumol's Disease for example.Jesper , May 26, 2018 at 10:12 am
Both sides of the political divide often go awry simply because they refuse to acknowledge the role of human nature. We mere mortals know this as we are the full recipients of the "free market," the good, the bad, and the extremely ugly. The likes of Alan Greenspan in the rarified air strata were shocked, shocked, shocked! I bring you a small excerpt from Mr. Greenspan's testimony before the Government Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives. Still clueless, he does acknowledge a flaw:
Pressed by Waxman, Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.
"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," Greenspan said.
Waxman pushed the former Fed chief, who left office in 2006, to clarify his explanation.
"In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Waxman said.
"Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."Ted , May 26, 2018 at 11:25 am
In many of the world's richest countries, more and more citizens are losing faith in the very ideas of science, expertise, and dispassionate judgment – even in medicine, as witness the battles over vaccines in Italy, the US, and elsewhere.
Might be believed by some, others might believe that more and more citizens are sceptical about the practioners ability to provide expertise and dispassionate judgment. From my own perspective I do believe in science, expertise and dispassionate judgment but I don't believe that many professional economists have much expertise (outside of knowledge of basic statistics and statistics software) or that they practice dispassionate judgment.
As far as being sceptical of medicine then I'll post this link again:
Pharmaceutical companies are not in business to heal people, they are in business -> They do whatever they legally can to make money and they even put pressure on the legislative to get more opportunities to legally make more money.
The article contains this link to the Lancet relating to "the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research":
The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.Ed , May 26, 2018 at 10:16 am
The problem is widespread, and now well recognized. Here, for example, from psychology (also a juggernaut of social science influence)
If we looked and any other (social) scientific discipline, we'd get the same result.
The articles from medium and The Lancet you link highlight the problems well enough, the system is corrupt from top to bottom. Another examples of where misguided emphasis on juicing "metrics" (for personal gain) rather than taking one's time to develop expertise and do things correctly is literally killing people, or simply ruining lives (as if that is some consolation).Jim Haygood , May 26, 2018 at 10:26 am
Were really corrupt institutions and professions ever supposed to make good decisions?Summer , May 26, 2018 at 11:40 am
Economies are inherently cyclical. Keynesianism, in its original incarnation, envisaged surpluses during economic expansions to offset the fiscal deficits provoked by recessions. But surpluses are a distant memory -- now it's pedal to the metal all the time, just to keep a becalmed, debt-choked economy treading water.
Credit is also procyclical. It was severely rationed during and after the 2008 meltdown. Now covenant-lite bonds prevail for corporate financing, while individuals can get 3 percent down FHA loans to buy houses at prices that exceed the 2006 peak, with 33 times leverage. Prudent!
What role can academics play in this endless sisyphean tragedy? None, probably. Warning of recession invites career risk for economists, so most of them just won't do it. Like the Hazmat team, economists show up after the train wreck to help with the cleanup. Federal Reserve economists are engineering that crack-up right now, with their fruitcake bond dumping campaign.
By 2020, they'll be tanned, rested and ready for their next exciting outing. :-)JEHR , May 26, 2018 at 11:50 am
As others have stated, there are economists out there who have already seen through the current dogmas.
Michael Hudson is one and another that comes to mind is Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef. A transcript of an interview with him from 2010:
An excerpt to perk interest:
"I worked for about ten years of my life in areas of extreme poverty in the Sierras, in the jungle, in urban areas in different parts of Latin America. And at the beginning of that period, I was one day in an Indian village in the Sierra in Peru. It was an ugly day. It had been raining all the time. And I was standing in the slum. And across me, another guy also standing in the mud -- not in the slum, in the mud. And, well, we looked at each other, and this was a short guy, thin, hungry, jobless, five kids, a wife and a grandmother. And I was the fine economist from Berkeley, teaching in Berkeley, having taught in Berkeley and so on. And we were looking at each other, and then suddenly I realized that I had nothing coherent to say to that man in those circumstances, that my whole language as an economist, you know, was absolutely useless. Should I tell him that he should be happy because the GDP had grown five percent or something? Everything was absurd.
So I discovered that I had no language in that environment and that we had to invent a new language. And that's the origin of the metaphor of barefoot economics, which concretely means that is the economics that an economist who dares to step into the mud must practice. The point is, you know, that economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don't understand poverty. And that's the big problem. And that's the big problem. And that's why poverty is still there. And that changed my life as an economist completely. I invented a language that is coherent with those situations and conditions."
It's a good interview of someone developing an alternate view.
(There are critiques and studies of wealth that I think we need more of as well, only poverty is thought of as pathological – a subject which he tackles.)Summer , May 26, 2018 at 12:25 pm
And just maybe, human goodness and human evil have a cyclical nature too and we are just in the bad part of the cycle right now. However, it may be true also that the time period of 1950 to 1970 was an anomaly that may not recur, and that the true nature of human beings is to lie, to cheat, to steal, to commit fraud and practice multifarious corruptions and violence. When you look at the widest version of history, human nature is not so benign.Summer , May 26, 2018 at 12:10 pm
In a nutshell, the American consumer was highly important from 1950 to 1970 until the rest of the world recovered more from 2 world wars.Scott1 , May 26, 2018 at 1:57 pm
1950 to 1970 the rest of the industrial world was decimated after 2 world wars.
And more countries wanted independence from colonialism (less loot spread around, however thinly, back home – though not totally disappeared).JBird , May 26, 2018 at 3:29 pm
Psychology turns into sociology. Either the system is making everyone prosperous and happy or it is making everyone desperate.
Desperation is the American way. The comfort of misery seen as pathological in the individual is a more general pathology. Too much bile in the system.
"The Sticky Floor." is the phrase my cousin invented. She is a leader in Women's Studies. It may well apply more correctly that "The Glass Ceiling". Overall the turn in the article to the dearth of women economists threw me.
As science enables engineering, economics enables financial engineering. The predominant financial engineer of our times is Meyer Lansky. Organized business, the "real" economy of General Motors and Dow & Dupont & General Dynamics & Raytheon, ITT, Apple, Google, Microsoft all now have adopted Meyer Lansky Financial Engineering.
It was made legal as economic theory and practice under Clinton Unit 1's reign.
The preeminent financial engineer is David Cay Johnston. He called Dean Baker a "real" economist as opposed to Michael Hudson. I prefer Hudson to Dean myself. Nobody knows everything. This is why all you really have to know is the goal. "You cannot go wrong if your goals are correct." is what Einstein said.
The main reason for misery is poverty, which is not having enough to operate the household without debt peonage.
The United States and the EU as run by Central Banks have it so only the selected have infinite access to currency. The States don't have enough money so the System prefers they deny their people things like education and healthcare, and sell bonds.
It is okay for the Federal Government to tax or not tax but the States must tax to fill their treasuries.
Alan Greenspan's philosophy came from Ayn Rand whose world view encouraged the exclusive access and economic security to have and do whatever they, the rich, people like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, envisioned as ideal for them, and them only. (They live in airport land with a pond.)
It came from Russian Dystopian Objectivism and produces Dystopia.
The American Philosophy, that which made America loved is American Eclectic Pragmatism.
The wrong goal is to make only those in Finance rich. The right goal is to make everyone as much a jet setter as the jet setters.
Until the goal of Economists is blatantly aimed at relative equality of life, the discipline is simply on the wrong track and is never going to be worth doing.
Thanks.Sound of the Suburbs , May 26, 2018 at 4:09 pm
Approved economics has nothing to do with actually understanding or solving anything except be a useful smokescreen for wealthy special interests. I have gotten a more accurate and functional understanding of overall economics from classes, and books in anthropology, political science, and history than in any classes labeled as "economics."
That is really sad. It is also very deliberate. Those who say modern economic studies have been stripped of anything but neoliberal/libertarian economic ideas are right. Even then, it seems that it has been either further simplified, or abstracted, to further channel any thoughts away from real life.
Let's put it this way. Philosophy can be used to actual ask and study questions or it can be used to debate how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Guess what what modern mainstream economics does?Sound of the Suburbs , May 26, 2018 at 4:24 pm
There are inherent flaws in neoclassical economics that have already been discovered.
The 1920s roared with debt based consumption and speculation until it all tipped over into the debt deflation of the Great Depression. No one realised the problems that were building up in the economy as they used an economics that doesn't look at private debt, neoclassical economics.
The two elements of neoclassical economics that come together to cause financial crises.
1) It doesn't consider debt
2) It holds a set of beliefs about markets where they represent the rational decisions of market participants; they reach stable equilibriums and the valuations represent real wealth.
Everyone marvels at the wealth creation of rising asset prices, no one looks at the debt that is driving it.
The "black swan" was obvious all along and it was pretty much the same as 1929.
1929 – Inflating US stock prices with debt (margin lending)
2008 – Inflating US real estate prices with debt (mortgage lending)
"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." Irving Fisher 1929.
An earlier neoclassical economist believed in price discovery, stable equilibriums and the rational decisions of market participants, and what the neoclassical economist believes about the markets means they can't even imagine there could be a bubble.
The amount of real wealth stored in the markets becomes apparent once the bubble has burst.
The debt overhang (ref. graph above) is dragging the US economy down and is the cause of Janet Yellen's inflation mystery, but they don't know because they don't consider debt. It's called a balance sheet recession.
The problems that led to 2008 come from private debt in the economy and the problems now come from the overhang of private debt in the economy, but they are using an economics that doesn't consider private debt.
They don't stand a chance.JBird , May 26, 2018 at 10:58 pm
"The problem this essay addresses can be framed in terms of two quotations from Alexis de Tocqueville. The first comes from his famous speech in the French Chamber of Deputies just prior to the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848: "We are sleeping on a volcano .do you not see that the earth is beginning to tremble. The wind of revolt rises; the tempest is on the horizon." The second is from Democracy in America: "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness."
How about this quote ..
"These fools in Wall Street think they can go on forever! They can't!" President Theodore Roosevelt 1909.
The US has just forgotten its own history; this is what it was like at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Capitalism was running wild, but the difference was there used to be a critical press.
Catch up on US history.
"PR! A Social History of Spin" Stuart Ewen
Finding out what the private sector uses PR for also helps you understand their motivations, it's worth reading.Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 5:56 am
Our Esteemed Elites are mostly college educated which hopefully includes American history. But maybe it's become like modern college economics. Stripped of inconvenient information.
I agree that beyond the normal American nation's ultra short memory, there is a regular effort by some to eliminate any inconvenience ones. If history is a career or even a hobby you will likely know much about America history bad (and good too!) that goes zooop into the memory hole. It becomes a boring national hagiography. Sanitized. But that shouldn't be.
But STEM courses are so much more important than fluff like history.ObjectiveFunction , May 27, 2018 at 1:46 am
In history we study what the elites are up to, we don't pay much attention to what is going on with general population.
This does.ObjectiveFunction , May 27, 2018 at 2:07 am
Fantastic piece, Yves.
As with a few other commenters here, the essay puts me in mind of historiography, to wit E.H. Carr whose 'before studying history, study the historians' became the fighting slogan for the radical history movement of the 1960s:
"The facts are really not at all like fish on the fishmonger's slab. They are like fish swimming about in a vast and sometimes inaccessible ocean; and what [facts] the historian catches will depend, partly on chance, but mainly on what part of the ocean he chooses to fish in and what tackle he chooses to use."Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 5:59 am
"Economists had closed ranks as though in a phalanx, but the crisis showed how fragile these tenets were. They included:
1. A resolute unwillingness to recognize that fundamental uncertainty shadows economic life in the real world."
. And for this one, do I even need to requote Upton Sinclair?!
Economists and central bankers are our modern day priest-astrologers. We *need* them to know! to appease Bel-Marduk and Istar, to ensure a fruitful harvest, the birth of worthy sons
.and also, for a small commission, to manage our tax collections/ debts/ alehouses/ brothels [hat tip to Prof Hudson].Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 6:01 am
This is about the UK, but applies equally to the US as we are all doing the same neoliberal things.
Why isn't the economy growing?
We shouldn't get side tracked with productivity as productivity is GDP per hour worked and we need to grow GDP.
What is GDP?
The amount of money spent into the economy by consumers, businesses and the Government plus the income we receive from the trade balance with the rest of the world.
Now we know what GDP is we can immediately see why austerity is contractionary. The cut in Government spending comes straight off GDP (someone tell Macron).
The aim is to increase the amount of goods and services within the economy at the same rate as the demand for those goods and services, whilst increasing the money supply to allow those extra goods and services to be purchased.
Milton Freidman understood the money supply had to rise gradually to grow the economy with his "Monetarism". He thought that central bank reserves controlled the money supply and this is why it didn't work.
The economists focus on supply (neoclassical economics) or demand (Keynesian economics) until the balance of supply and demand gets out of step. The economy stagnates due to either insufficient supply (1970s stagflation) or insufficient demand (today's ultra low inflation).
Money needs to enter the economy to increase the supply of goods and services, while at the same time; the increased money supply enables the demand for those goods and services.
Banks and governments create money and this is now well understood outside the mainstream.
The banks have been creating money to lend into real estate and inflate financial asset prices. This is not what you want; they should be creating money to increase the supply of goods and services by lending into business and industry. Their lending hasn't been increasing GDP.
It all started going wrong when with financial liberalisation and a 1979 policy decision. The UK eliminated corset controls on banking in 1979 and the banks invaded the mortgage market. This is the start of the real estate frenzy.
You can let bankers do what they want, but they have no idea how to grow the economy with bank credit.
Supply had outstripped demand by the 1920s in the US and they used bank credit to maintain demand, but this can never work in the longer term as this money needs to be paid back. Government created money has to fill the gap as it doesn't need to be paid back.
Governments can create money, jobs and wages in the public sector, building the infrastructure for the economy and looking after the health and education of the population to provide the economic framework necessary for the private sector who can't make a profit doing these things.
The magic number is GDP, we need to focus on what increasing that number means.
Our main problem is an ideological Left who think the answer always lies on the demand side and an ideological Right who always think the answer lies on the supply side.
The Left think Government is the answer and the Right think the private sector is the answer.
You need both, due to the increased productivity of the private sector that cannot create the necessary demand for those goods and services through private sector wages alone.Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 9:21 am
Understanding money is critical and this is something central bankers monitor, but they don't appear to know what it means
The flow of funds within the economy.
This helps us understand why Government surpluses precede finical crises and why balanced budgets and Government surpluses push the private sector into debt
Richard Koo shows the graph central bankers use, the flow of funds within the economy, which sums to zero (32-34 mins.).
Government assets + corporate assets + household assets + transfers from/to the rest of the world = zero
They can't all be positive.
The US runs a large trade deficit and this money needs to come from somewhere.
It is the Government that should run the big deficit to fund the other three and if you clamp down on government spending your economy can't grow unless it starts running on bank debt. The corporate sector and households have to get into debt to balance this zero sum equation.
A Government surplus requires an indebted private sector unless you are Germany and run a trade surplus.
This is the US (46.30 mins.)
Clinton was proud of the Government surplus but he didn't realise that this meant the private sector had to go into debt. The last Government surplus occurred in 1927 – 1930, it precedes crises.
Richard Koo's video shows the Japanese Government ran a surplus just before the Japanese economy blew up.impermanence , May 27, 2018 at 12:44 pm
Neoclassical economics doesn't focus on GDP because it predates it. It was put together before they knew how to measure economic activity.
It lets the wealthy accumulate all the money until the economy falls over though a lack of demand.
Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48, passes comment the last time they used neoclassical economics in the US in the 1920s.
"a giant suction pump had by 1929 to 1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing proportion of currently produced wealth. This served then as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied themselves the kind of effective demand for their products which would justify reinvestment of the capital accumulation in new plants. In consequence as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When the credit ran out, the game stopped"
This time it's global.
2014 – "85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world"
2016 – "Richest 62 people as wealthy as half of world's population"
2017 – World's eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%
Lying, cheating, and stealing is what we human beings seem to do best, so when the pot becomes big enough, the elite [those willing to do whatever it takes] do what the elite have done, lie, cheat and steal with reckless abandon.
Those who choose to live a noble life must always be grounded by the notion that the reward for doing such is in achieving good night's sleep, and little more. You truly can not have your cake and eat it too, not then, not now, not ever
Mar 12, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org
In Christopher Nolan's captivating and visually dazzling film Inception, a practitioner of psychic corporate espionage must plant and idea inside a CEO's head. The process is called inception, and it represents the frontier of corporate influence, in which mind spies no longer just "extract" ideas from the dreams of others, but seed useful ideas in a target's subconscious.
Inception is a well-crafted piece of futuristic sci-fi drama, but some of the ideas it imparts are already deeply embedded in the American subconscious.
The notion of inception, of hatching an idea in the mind of a man or woman without his or her knowledge, is the kernel of propaganda, a black art practiced in the States since the First World War. Today we live beneath an invisible cultural hegemony, a set of ideas implanted in the mass mind by the U.S. state and its corporate media over decades. Invisibility seems to happen when something is either obscure or ubiquitous. In a propaganda system, an overarching objective is to render the messaging invisible by universalizing it within the culture. Difference is known by contrast. If there are no contrasting views in your field of vision, it's easier to accept the ubiquitous explanation. The good news is that the ideology is well-known to some who have, for one lucky reason or another, found themselves outside the hegemonic field and are thus able to contrast the dominant worldview with alternative opinions. On the left, the ruling ideology might be described as neoliberalism, a particularly vicious form of imperial capitalism that, as would be expected, is camouflaged in the lineaments of humanitarian aid and succor.
In a short span of time in the 1970s, dozens of think tanks were established across the western world and billions of dollars were spent proselytizing the tenets of the Powell Memo in 1971, which galvanized a counter-revolution to the liberal upswing of the Sixties. The neoliberal economic model of deregulation, downsizing, and privatization was preached by the Reagan-Thatcher junta, liberalized by the Clinton regime, temporarily given a bad name by the unhinged Bush administration, and saved by telegenic restoration of the Obama years.
The ideology that underlay the model saturated academia, notably at the University of Chicago, and the mainstream media, principally at The New York Times. Since then it has trickled down to the general populace, to whom it now feels second nature.
Today think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, Stratfor, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, the Open Society Foundation, and the Atlantic Council, among many others, funnel millions of dollars in donations into cementing neoliberal attitudes in the American mind.
The ideological assumptions, which serve to justify what you could call neocolonial tactics, are relatively clear: the rights of the individual to be free of overreach from monolithic institutions like the state. Activist governments are inherently inefficient and lead directly to totalitarianism. Markets must be free and individuals must be free to act in those markets. People must be free to choose, both politically and commercially, in the voting booth and at the cash register.
This conception of markets and individuals is most often formulated as "free-market democracy," a misleading conceit that conflates individual freedom with the economic freedom of capital to exploit labor. So when it comes to foreign relations, American and western aid would only be given on the condition that the borrowers accepted the tenets of an (highly manipulable) electoral system and vowed to establish the institutions and legal structures required to fully realize a western market economy.
These demands were supplemented with notions of the individual right to be free of oppression, some fine rhetoric about women and minorities, and somewhat more quietly, a judicial understanding that corporations were people, too. Together, an unshackled economy and an unfettered populace, newly equipped with individual rights, would produce the same flourishing and nourishing demos of mid-century America that had been the envy of humanity.
Mar 03, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org
March 2, 2018 Colonizing the Western Mind
by Jason Hirthlerby
Photo by Marco | CC BY 2.0
In Christopher Nolan's captivating and visually dazzling film Inception, a practitioner of psychic corporate espionage must plant and idea inside a CEO's head. The process is called inception, and it represents the frontier of corporate influence, in which mind spies no longer just "extract" ideas from the dreams of others, but seed useful ideas in a target's subconscious. Inception is a well-crafted piece of futuristic sci-fi drama, but some of the ideas it imparts are already deeply embedded in the American subconscious. The notion of inception, of hatching an idea in the mind of a man or woman without his or her knowledge, is the kernel of propaganda, a black art practiced in the States since the First World War. Today we live beneath an invisible cultural hegemony, a set of ideas implanted in the mass mind by the U.S. state and its corporate media over decades. Invisibility seems to happen when something is either obscure or ubiquitous. In a propaganda system, an overarching objective is to render the messaging invisible by universalizing it within the culture. Difference is known by contrast. If there are no contrasting views in your field of vision, it's easier to accept the ubiquitous explanation. The good news is that the ideology is well-known to some who have, for one lucky reason or another, found themselves outside the hegemonic field and are thus able to contrast the dominant worldview with alternative opinions. On the left, the ruling ideology might be described as neoliberalism, a particularly vicious form of imperial capitalism that, as would be expected, is camouflaged in the lineaments of humanitarian aid and succor.
In a short span of time in the 1970s, dozens of think tanks were established across the western world and billions of dollars were spent proselytizing the tenets of the Powell Memo in 1971, which galvanized a counter-revolution to the liberal upswing of the Sixties. The neoliberal economic model of deregulation, downsizing, and privatization was preached by the Reagan-Thatcher junta, liberalized by the Clinton regime, temporarily given a bad name by the unhinged Bush administration, and saved by telegenic restoration of the Obama years. The ideology that underlay the model saturated academia, notably at the University of Chicago, and the mainstream media, principally at The New York Times. Since then it has trickled down to the general populace, to whom it now feels second nature. Today think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, Stratfor, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, the Open Society Foundation, and the Atlantic Council, among many others, funnel millions of dollars in donations into cementing neoliberal attitudes in the American mind.
The ideological assumptions, which serve to justify what you could call neocolonial tactics, are relatively clear: the rights of the individual to be free of overreach from monolithic institutions like the state. Activist governments are inherently inefficient and lead directly to totalitarianism. Markets must be free and individuals must be free to act in those markets. People must be free to choose, both politically and commercially, in the voting booth and at the cash register. This conception of markets and individuals is most often formulated as "free-market democracy," a misleading conceit that conflates individual freedom with the economic freedom of capital to exploit labor. So when it comes to foreign relations, American and western aid would only be given on the condition that the borrowers accepted the tenets of an (highly manipulable) electoral system and vowed to establish the institutions and legal structures required to fully realize a western market economy. These demands were supplemented with notions of the individual right to be free of oppression, some fine rhetoric about women and minorities, and somewhat more quietly, a judicial understanding that corporations were people, too. Together, an unshackled economy and an unfettered populace, newly equipped with individual rights, would produce the same flourishing and nourishing demos of mid-century America that had been the envy of humanity.
A False Promise
This ' Washington Consensus ' is the false promise promoted by the West. The reality is quite different. The crux of neoliberalism is to eliminate democratic government by downsizing, privatizing, and deregulating it. Proponents of neoliberalism recognize that the state is the last bulwark of protection for the common people against the predations of capital. Remove the state and they'll be left defenseless. Think about it. Deregulation eliminates the laws. Downsizing eliminates departments and their funding. Privatizing eliminates the very purpose of the state by having the private sector take over its traditional responsibilities. Ultimately, nation-states would dissolve except perhaps for armies and tax systems. A large, open-border global free market would be left, not subject to popular control but managed by a globally dispersed, transnational one percent. And the whole process of making this happen would be camouflaged beneath the altruistic stylings of a benign humanitarianism.
Globalists, as neoliberal capitalists are often called, also understood that democracy, defined by a smattering of individual rights and a voting booth, was the ideal vehicle to usher neoliberalism into the emerging world. Namely because democracy, as commonly practiced, makes no demands in the economic sphere. Socialism does. Communism does. These models directly address ownership of the means of production. Not so democratic capitalism. This permits the globalists to continue to own the means of production while proclaiming human rights triumphant in nations where interventions are staged. The enduring lie is that there is no democracy without economic democracy.
What matters to the one percent and the media conglomerates that disseminate their worldview is that the official definitions are accepted by the masses. The real effects need never be known. The neoliberal ideology (theory) thus conceals the neoliberal reality (practice). And for the masses to accept it, it must be mass produced. Then it becomes more or less invisible by virtue of its universality.
A Pretext for Pillage
Thanks to this artful disguise, the West can stage interventions in nations reluctant to adopt its platform of exploitation, knowing that on top of the depredations of an exploitative economic model, they will be asked to call it progress and celebrate it.
Washington, the metropolitan heart of neoliberal hegemony, has numerous methods of convincing reluctant developing nations to accept its neighborly advice. To be sure, the goal of modern colonialism is to find a pretext to intervene in a country, to restore by other means the extractive relations that first brought wealth to the colonial north. The most common pretexts for intervention depict the target nation in three distinct fashions.
First, as an economic basket case, a condition often engineered by the West in what is sometimes called, "creating facts on the ground." By sanctioning the target economy, Washington can "make the economy scream," to using war criminal Henry Kissinger's elegant phrasing. Iran, Syria, and Venezuela are relevant examples here. Second, the West funds violent opposition to the government, producing unrest, often violent riots of the kind witnessed in Dara, Kiev, and Caracas. The goal is either to capsize a tottering administration or provoke a violent crackdown, at which point western embassies and institutions will send up simultaneously cries of tyranny and brutality and insist the leader step aside. Libya, Syria, and Venezuela are instructive in this regard. Third, the country will be pressured to accept some sort of military fettering thanks to either a false flag or manufactured hysteria over some domestic program, such as the WMD restrictions on Iraq, chemical weapons restrictions on Syria, or the civilian nuclear energy restrictions on Iran. Given that the U.S. traffics in WMDs, bioweapons, and nuclear energy itself, insisting others forsake all of these is perhaps little more than racially motivated despotry. But significant fear mongering in the international media will provide sufficient moral momentum to ram through sanctions, resolutions, and inspection regimes with little fanfare.
Schooling the Savages
Once the pretext is established, the appropriate intervention is made. There's no lack of latent racism embedded in each intervention. Something of Edward Said's Orientalism is surely at play here; the West is often responding to a crude caricature rather than a living people. One writer, Robert Dale Parker, described western views of Asia as little more than, "a sink of despotism on the margins of the world." Iran is incessantly lensed through a fearful distrust of the 'other', those abyssal Persians. Likewise, North Korea is mythologized as a kingdom of miniature madmen, possessed of a curious psychosis that surely bears no relation to the genocidal cleansing of 20 percent of its population in the Fifties, itself an imperial coda to the madness of Hiroshima.
The interventions, then, are little different than the missionary work of early colonizers, who sought to entrap the minds of men in order to ensnare the soul. Salvation is the order of the day. The mission worker felt the same sense of superiority and exceptionalism that inhabits the mind of the neoliberal. Two zealots of the age peddling different editions of a common book. One must carry the gospel of the invisible hand to the unlettered minions. But the gifts of the enlightened interloper are consistently dubious.
It might be the loan package that effectively transfers economic control out of the hands of political officials and into the hands of loan officers, those mealy-mouthed creditors referred to earlier. It may be the sanctions that prevent the country from engaging in dollar transactions and trade with numberless nations on which it depends for goods and services. Or it might be that controversial UNSC resolution that leads to a comprehensive agreement to ban certain weapons from a country. Stipulations of the agreement will often include a byzantine inspections regime full of consciously-inserted trip wires designed to catch the country out of compliance and leverage that miscue to intensify confrontational rhetoric and implement even more far-reaching inspections.
Cracking the Shell
The benign-sounding structural adjustments of the West have fairly predictable results : cultural and economic chaos, rapid impoverishment, resource extraction with its attendant ecological ruin, transfer of ownership from local hands to foreign entities, and death from a thousand causes . We are currently sanctioning around 30 nations in some fashion; dozens of countries have fallen into ' protracted arrears ' with western creditors; and entire continents are witnessing huge outflows of capital–on the order of $100B annually–to the global north as debt service. The profiteering colonialists of the West make out like bandits. The usual suspects include Washington and its loyal lapdogs, the IMF, World Bank, EU, NATO, and other international institutions, and the energy and defense multinationals whose shareholders and executive class effectively run the show.
So why aren't Americans more aware of this complicated web of neocolonial domination? Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, who pioneered the concept of cultural hegemony, suggested that the ruling ideologies of the bourgeoisie were so deeply embedded in popular consciousness that the working classes often supported leaders and ideas that were antithetical to their own interests. Today, that cultural hegemony is neoliberalism. Few can slip its grasp long enough to see the world from an uncolored vantage point. You'll very rarely encounter arguments like this leafing through the Times or related broadsheets. They don't fit the ruling dogma, the Weltanschauung (worldview) that keeps the public mind in its sleepy repose.
But French-Algerian philosopher Louis Althusser, following Gramsci, believed that, unlike the militarized state, the ideologies of the ruling class were penetrable. He felt that the comparatively fluid zones of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) were contexts of class struggle. Within them, groups might attain a kind of 'relative autonomy', by which they could step outside of the monolithic cultural ideology. The scales would fall. Then, equipped with new knowledge, people might stage an inception of their own, cracking open the cultural hegemony and reshaping its mythos in a more humane direction. This seems like an imperative for modern American culture, buried as it is beneath the hegemonic heft of the neoliberal credo. These articles of false faith, this ideology of deceit, ought to be replaced with new declarations of independence, of the mind if not the mainstream. Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: Jason Hirthler Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: Jason Hirthler
Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism . He lives in New York City and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Feb 17, 2018 | isreview.org
Review of:Democracy in Chains:The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America By Nancy MacLean Viking , 2017 · 334 pages · $28.00
Duke University historian Nancy MacLean counted herself among those who'd never heard of Buchanan when she began researching Jim Crow Virginia's decision to subsidize private school vouchers for "segregation academies" in the wake of the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education outlawing racial segregation in Topeka, Kansas, public schools. References to Buchanan in the writings of the doyen of postwar neoliberal economics Milton Friedman led her to Buchanan's former office at George Mason University. There, among huge piles of papers, she found a confidential letter from Koch describing millions of dollars in contributions to Buchanan's research center on the campus.
From that chance encounter with evidence connecting the unassuming professor with the billionaire ideologue, MacLean has constructed a history of Buchanan's role as an idea merchant for free market ideology. Over the course of nearly five decades Buchanan, his acolytes, and associates have been key participants in a billionaire-funded campaign to promote such policies as school vouchers for private education, privatization of Social Security, anti-union "right to work" laws, and ideological crusades like climate science denial. That many of these policies have been implemented at the state and local level, while perhaps the most plutocratic administration ever inhabits the US government, is testament to the success of the Far Right's long game.
MacLean's Democracy in Chains thus joins Jane Mayer's Dark Money and Kim Phillips-Fein's Invisible Hands as essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the intellectual and organizational roots of the free-market Right that has taken hold of the modern Republican Party and much of US politics today. In contrast to the stories that Mayer and Phillips-Fein tell, MacLean's approach is narrower -- focusing on the career of one influential academic and his patron. But its focus on Buchanan allows MacLean to explore other themes that aren't as central to Mayer's and Phillip-Fein's work, such as the connection of these self-described "defenders of liberty" to an older, antidemocratic tradition rooted in the antebellum South and the Confederacy.
Only a few years from receiving his PhD in the right-wing economics department at the University of Chicago, Buchanan proposed to his employer, the University of Virginia, that it support his plan to set up a research center to "produce a line of new thinkers" promoting libertarian views then largely out of step with the mainstream of the economics profession. He suggested in his proposal to the university president that the center be given an innocuous name to camouflage its "extreme views . . . no matter how relevant they might be to the real purpose of the program." University President Colgate Darden Jr. agreed to raise the money from corporate foundations to create what MacLean rightly characterizes as "in essence a political center at a nonprofit institution of higher learning." It was the first of many such efforts by Buchanan and subsequent imitators to create what one of them, Murray Rothbard, openly described as a "Leninist cadre" of free-market ideologues who could move into positions of influence in government, business, and universities.
In reconstructing Buchanan's role in crafting academic incubators for free-market ideas throughout his long career at UVA, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and finally at the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, MacLean emphasizes two main points that rip the mask off of these ventures' innocuous claims of devotion to "individual liberty." The first is the inconvenient truth that they can't be separated from their origins in the defense of Jim Crow and doctrines such as "states' rights" and "nullification" dating back to the antebellum South. MacLean recalls historian Richard Hofstadter's characterization of John C. Calhoun (proslavery ideologue and US vice president 1825-32) as the "Marx of the master class," and shows how Buchanan echoed Calhoun's ideas. Like Calhoun, Buchanan assumed the supremacy of property rights over all other rights. And like Calhoun, he developed (in The Calculus of Consent , coauthored with Gordon Tullock in 1962) a theory of government that required all members of society -- and most importantly, its wealthiest -- to agree before any government action could be taken.
Buchanan's version of "public choice" posits a world in which government is a corrupt and oppressive enterprise in which individuals and politicians adopt "rent-seeking" behavior to channel private wealth to ends that its original owners may not support. In this world, if the democratically determined majority supports taxation to fund public schools, but a wealthy minority objects to paying those taxes, the wealthy minority should have the ability to veto or opt out of support for public schools. Buchanan tested out this very idea in post- Brown Virginia, when he coauthored a 1959 plan for the full privatization and selling off of all public schools in the state. Although presented in race-neutral language of "economic liberty," it presented an option to the Jim Crow Democratic Party state leadership who urged "massive resistance" to court-ordered integration of public schools. Yet Buchanan's proposal proved even too radical for Virginia's legislature, which narrowly rejected it.
MacLean describes how Buchanan's early failure taught him lessons that stuck with him the rest of his life:
Faced with majority opinion as expressed in votes, politicians could not be counted on to stand by their stated committments. . . . He learned something else, too: constitutions matter. If a constitution enabled what he would call "socialism" (which, in Virginia's case, meant requiring a system of public schools), it would be nearly impossible to achieve his vision of radical transformation without changing the constitution.
Buchanan's comeuppance illustrates the second major point that MacLean draws out: hostility to democracy, collective action, and majority rule is central to this project. Throughout the book, MacLean quotes the principals, like Buchanan and Koch, acknowledging to each other that their ideas are unpopular. They understand that ordinary Americans support public goods like public education and Social Security. As a result, they resort to stealth in advancing their agenda. They look to judicial or constitutional means to change the rules of the game to institutionalize their far-right policies, and to place them outside the control of elected politicians or the popular will. This is what MacLean means by placing "democracy in chains."
So we find Buchanan writing memos and papers in support of the Koch-funded Cato Institute's campaign for Social Security privatization in the 1980s. Knowing that a direct assault on Social Security was political suicide, Buchanan urged a more surreptitious route: raise doubts about the system's viability, pass incremental "reforms" to peel off groups of beneficiaries from the system, and enlist the financial industry to offer alternatives. Anyone who followed the George W. Bush administration's failed effort to privatize Social Security, or House Speaker Paul Ryan's current effort to wreck Medicaid and Medicare, will recognize these tactics.
More dramatically, we find Buchanan playing a role as adviser to that champion of economic liberty, the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Here, where a brutal military coup allowed the most right-wing elements of the Chilean ruling class to remake society, Buchanan found an opportunity to test his theories of placing constitutional "locks" on democracy. The 1980 constitution, passed in a rigged referendum, had Buchanan's fingerprints on it: ridiculous supermajorities required to raise taxes, union leaders barred from political participation, and an electoral system designed to empower conservative minorities. Chile's return to democracy in the 1990s overturned many of these restrictions, but others remain. And the legacy of Pinochet-era privatizations of the country's pension and education systems -- fruit of the policy advice of leading neoliberal ideologues -- still contributes to wide swathes of poverty amid "economic freedom."
Buchanan's final stop was George Mason University, where Charles Koch's millions bankrolled the transformation of a sleepy commuter college into a Beltway powerhouse that has become an idea factory and policy mill for conservatives. Its proximity to Washington, DC, means that politicians, congressional staffers, lobbyists, judges, and other Beltway denizens have direct access to the latest research, talking points, and training in support of their patron's extremist ideology.
If some of the purer libertarians worry, as MacLean quotes one of them, that they "have been seduced by Koch money into providing intellectual ammunition for an autocratic businessman," Buchanan didn't seem to be one of them. But with an avowed school privatizer running the US Department of Education, and with court cases aiming to cripple public sector unions heading to the US Supreme Court, it's hard to argue that they've been inconsequential.
MacLean raises this dystopian prospect: "To value liberty for the wealthy minority above all else and enshrine it in the nation's governing rules, as Calhoun and Buchanan both called for and the Koch network is achieving, play by play, is to consent to an oligarchy in all but the outer husk of representative form." She asks: "Is this the country we want to live in and bequeath to our children and future generations? That is the real public choice."
Feb 10, 2018 | www.unz.com
A couple of decades or more ago when I was still in Washington, otherwise known as the snake pit, I was contacted by a well-financed group that offered me, a Business Week and Scripps Howard News Service columnist with access as a former editor also to the Wall Street Journal, substantial payments to promote agendas that the lobbyists paying the bills wanted promoted.
To the detriment of my net worth, but to the preservation of my reputation, I declined. Shortly thereafter a conservative columnist, a black man if memory serves, was outed for writing newspaper columns for pay for a lobby group.
I often wondered if he was set up in order to get rid of him and whether the enticement I received was intended to shut me down, or whether journalists had become "have pen will travel"? (Have Gun -- Will Travel was a highly successful TV Series 1957-1963).
Having read Bryan MacDonald's article on Information Clearing House, "Anti-Russia Think Tanks in US: Who Funds them?," I see that think tanks are essentially lobby groups for their donors. The policy analyses and reform schemes that they produce are tailored to support the material interests of donors. None of the studies are reliable as objective evidence. They are special pleading.
Think tanks, such as the American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institution, and the Atlantic Council, speak for those who fund them. Increasingly, they speak for the military/security complex, American hegemony, corporate interests, and Israel.
Bryan MacDonald lists those who support the anti-Russian think tanks such as the Atlantic Council, the Center for European Policy Analysis, German Marshall Fund of the US, and Institute for Study of War. The "experts" are mouthpieces funded by the US military security complex. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/48755.htm US government agencies use taxpayer dollars to deceive taxpayers.
In other words insouciant Americans pay taxes in order to be brainwashed. And they tolerate this.
Nov 30, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.comAccording to recent reports the Heritage Foundation, clearly the most established and many would say politically influential conservative think tank in Washington, is considering David Trulio, Lockheed Martin vice president and longtime lobbyist for the defense industry, to be its next president. While Heritage's connection to Washington's sprawling national security industry is already well-established, naming Trulio as its president might be seen as gilding the lily.
If anything, reading this report made me more aware of the degree to which the "conservative policy community" in Washington depends on the whims and interests of particular donors.
And this relationship is apparently no longer something to be concealed or embarrassed by. One can now be open about being in the pocket of the defense industry. Trulio's potential elevation to Heritage president at what we can assume will be an astronomical salary, will no doubt grease the already well-oiled pipeline of funds from major contractors to this "conservative" foundation, which already operates with an annual disclosed budget of almost $100 million.
A 2009 Heritage Foundation report, " Maintaining the Superiority of America's Defense Industrial Base ," called for further government investment in aircraft weaponry for "ensuring a superior fighting force" and "sustaining international stability." In 2011, senior national security fellow James Carafano wrote " Five Steps to Defend America's Industrial Defense Base ," which complained about a "fifty billion dollar under-procurement by the Pentagon" for buying new weaponry. In 2016, Heritage made the case for several years of reinvestment to get the military back on "sound footing," with an increase in fiscal year 2016 described as "an encouraging start."
These special pleas pose a question: which came first, Heritage's heavy dependence on funds from defense giants, or the foundation's belief that unless we steadily increase our military arsenal we'll be endangering "international stability"? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle: someone who is predisposed to go in a certain direction may be more inclined to do so if he is being rewarded in return. Incidentally, the 2009 position paper seems to be directing the government to throw more taxpayer dollars to Boeing than to its competitor Lockheed. But it seems both defense giants have landed a joint contract this year to produce a new submersible for the Navy, so it may no longer be necessary to pick sides on that one at least. No doubt both corporations will continue to look after Heritage, which will predictably call for further increases, whether they be in aerospace or shipbuilding.
Although one needn't reduce everything to dollars and cents, if we're looking at the issues Heritage and other likeminded foundations are likely to push today, it's far more probable they'll be emphasizing the national security state rather than, say, opposition to gay marriage or the defense of traditional gender roles. There's lots more money to be made advocating for the former rather than the latter. In May 2013, Heritage sponsored a formal debate between "two conservatives" and "two liberals" on the issue of defense spending, with Heritage and National Review presenting the "conservative" side. I wondered as I listened to part of this verbal battle why is was considered "conservative" to call for burdening American taxpayers with massive increases in the purchase of Pentagon weaponry and planes that take 17 years to get off the ground.
Like American higher education, Conservatism Inc. is very big business. Whatever else it's about rates a very far second to keeping the money flowing. "Conservative" positions are often simply causes for which foundations and media enterprises that have the word "conservative" attached to them are paid to represent. It is the label carried by an institution or publication, not necessarily the position it takes, that makes what NR or Heritage advocates "conservative."
In any event, Mr. Trulio won't have to travel far if he takes the Heritage helm. He and his corporation are already ensconced only a few miles away from Heritage's Massachusetts Avenue headquarters, if the information provided by Lockheed Martin is correct. It says: "Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 98,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services." A company like that can certainly afford to underwrite a think tank -- if the price is right.
Paul Gottfried is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for twenty-five years. He is a Guggenheim recipient and a Yale PhD. He writes for many websites and scholarly journals and is the author of thirteen books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents . His books have been translated into multiple languages and seem to enjoy special success in Eastern Europe.
September 22, 2012 | stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com
Chris Skidmore, one of the authors of Britannia Unchained, says:
People aren't interested in looking at medians and graphs. We have a duty to try and broaden that message outside of the think tank zone.
I don't know what to make of this. It could be that Skidmore is recommending that politicians use social science in the way Paul Krugman urges economists to use maths - you base your policy upon it, but then find a way of advocating the policy in more populist language.
Sadly, though, it is not at all obvious that Britannia Unchained's authors are using this reasonable approach. They seem instead to have skipped the science and evidence and gone straight to the populism.
This suggests an unkinder interpretation - that Skidmore thinks formal science has no place in politics. What matters is what sells, not what's right.
The problem here is that there is no strong obstacle to this descent into post-modern politics. The anti-scientific culture of our mainstream media means they will not call politicians out on their abuse of facts, unless the abuser is not in their tribe - as Jonathan complained in noting the press's reaction to Britannia Unchained.
But does this matter? In one sense, maybe not. Expert support and empirical evidence does not guarantee that a policy will be a success - though I suspect it improves the odds.
Instead, what worries me is that this threatens to further corrode the standard of political discourse.Fact-free politics need not be the sole preserve of the right; some of my readers will have the name of Richard Murphy in their minds. And if we go down this road, we'll end up with one tribe thinking the poor are all scroungers and the other thinking our economic problem can be solved by a crackdown on tax dodging. And the two tribes will just be throwing insults at each other. And there's a few of us who think this would be dull.
BenSix | September 22, 2012 at 12:09 PMI don't think that's what Skidmore's saying but nor do I think that what he's saying is any less silly. He replies to charges of slipshod research and laziness by saying...
"...it's a 116-page book, there's 433 footnotes to it."
I see this a lot: the implicit claim that the merit of work can be judged by the amount of references that it contains. Yet that says nothing about the quality of its research or interpretation. I could argue that I'm God and add 433 footnotes that reference self-published blogposts in which I proclaim that I'm a deity but it wouldn't make it a work of scholarship.
Chris | September 22, 2012 at 10:05 PM
"Fact-free politics need not be the sole preserve of the right"
They need not be, but they are.
Blissex | September 23, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Continuing my previous comment on voter hypocrisy, yes there are many voters who consider politics a spectator sport, a source of entertainment, just like news.
But my impression is that "fact free" politics is really a cover for an unwillingness to discuss the available facts, because they are unpleasant, as they relate to nasty self interest and distributional issues.
Politics thus may be fact free because the facts cannot be be discussed in a politically correct way, and therefore dog whistling abounds.
It is not a question of tribes, but of interests, even if these interests relate fairly directly to culture and in particular theology (most "culture" is the corrupted legacy of some dead theologian).
Consider this quote:
"When I was at university, a one-time very senior Tory figure put it succinctly at an off-the-record gathering: the Conservative Party, he explained, was a "coalition of privileged interests. Its main purpose is to defend that privilege. And the way it wins elections is by giving just enough to just enough other people"."
Are Richard Murphy's posts really that fact free? A lot of the left seem to rely a lot on his "insights" (especially the PCS trade union).
SR819 | September 24, 2012 at 02:28 PM
But my impression is that "fact free" politics is really a cover for an unwillingness to discuss the available facts, because they are unpleasant, as they relate to nasty self interest and distributional issues.
Think Tank Spectrum, 1998-99
Much like in the global economy, in the world of the think tanks that dominate the mass media, the rich have gotten richer.
There has been little shuffling at the top of the most cited think-tank list, based on references to the group in major papers and broadcast transcripts in the Nexis database. Once again, the Brookings Institution led the way, with close to 3,000 citations among major newspapers and television and radio transcripts.
While the Heritage Foundation once rivaled Brookings in prominence, Washington's premier centrist think tank has separated itself from the rest of the pack, more than doubling the frequency of the next most prominent think tank, the Cato Institute. The Heritage Foundation has fallen to third place.
While this survey reveals that media show a greater reliance on think tanks than at the time of the last survey two years ago, the constituencies representing a center/right debate have further cemented their positions as media-friendly analysts. In the survey of 1997, conservative or right-leaning think tanks received 53 percent of all citations, 32 percent of citations went to centrist think tanks, and only 16 percent of the citations went to progressive or left-leaning think tanks. The percentages for progressive or left-leaning think tanks have declined slightly since then.
These think tanks along with Fox news and Rush radio, have placed 100's of ideas and phrases, into the brains of US republicans. And they are all untrue, unreal, and/ or fantasys.
The following are a few examples of (untrue) phrases, that were created inside of think tanks, and repeated by Fox news and Rush radio, that have become the actual political, economic, and scientific thought processes inside of US republican brains. All of the phrases created by theses think tanks, are designed to lower taxes and increase profits for, Americas rich and large corporations.
The following is one example of a (scientific) untrue belief, that was created inside of a corporate think tank, that has become a thought process of US republicans.
1. Fox news and Rush radio say the following "Global warming is not happening, and global warming is a hoax and a lie, created by the worlds political left."
Even though 97% of climate scientists state "global warming is happening" , these Fox news and Rush radio propaganda group victims still believe "global warming is not happening." The victims of this propaganda group also believe that, the scientists who say "global warming is happening" are lying and involved in a conspiracy plot started by the worlds political left
I have spoken to many members of this propaganda group/ cult, who believe that global warming is not happening. And even though I tell them 10x "97% of climate scientists say "global warming is happening, and I can show you proof", they refuse to believe it. Once these US republicans get into this propaganda group/ cult they only trust information from Fox news and Rush radio.
Note: These think tanks created the lie "global warming is not happening", to increase the profits of large corporations like Exxon Mobile.
2. tax cuts for Americas rich, increase government revenues
(While all respected economists, even US republican economists state, "tax cuts for Americas rich do (not) increase government revenues.")
The above think tank created lie effects the propaganda group/ cult victims, in the same way as the think tank phrase "global warming is not happening."
And I have also told these victims of this propaganda group, that "all respected economists state, tax cuts for the rich do not increase government revenues", and just like with global warming, these propaganda group victims do not believe it. They only believe information from Fox news and Rush radio. They believe any information (not) from Fox news or Rush radio are lies from a conspiracy plot created by the worlds political left.
The following are a few more examples of (economic) think tank phrases, that are lies and untrue, according to respected economists, but still victims of this propaganda group believe them as true.
These are only a few examples there are 100's more.
1.) tax cuts for Americas rich, and large corporations create jobs (economists say this is un-true, b/c small business creates most new US jobs, and also large US corporations are moving many US jobs to China for cheaper labor.)
2.) tax cuts for Americas rich stimulate the economy (economists say this is un-true, and it stimulates Chinas economy, thats were Americas rich create jobs to get cheap labor.)
3.) large US corporations are forced to pay too much money in taxes (While GE corp and many other large US corporations have a -0- % tax rate, and these same corporations get billions in tax refunds, these corporations tax rate is actually (negative) billions of dollars.)
4.) Americas rich are forced to pay too much money in taxes (While Warren Buffet has a 17% tax rate, and Americans who make $60,000 a year have a 30% tax rate, Americas rich have around 1/2 less the tax rate as regular Americans.)
5.) the death tax effects everyone (reality: it only effects the top 2% of richest americans.)
6.) the flat/fair tax is the best idea for all Americans (While the flat tax is actually a huge tax cut for the rich, and a huge tax increase for everyone else. source: Citizens for Tax Justice.)
7.) free trade creates better paying american jobs (reality: in 2001, economists estimated that 3/4 of American workers lost about 12% of their current wages because of free trade deals.)
8.) raising the minimum wage kills jobs and hurts low-income workers (reality: economists say this cant be proven, because states with high min. wages actually create more jobs.)
9.) higher wages mean higher prices (reality: the US department of agriculture did a huge study on this and found this un-true)
10.) low wages are offset by low prices (reality: economists say this does not happen.)
11.) free markets -not regulation- will keep intrest rates low (reality: economists say this is un-true)
12.) "free" trade laws make trade actually free (reality: these laws only give billions of dollars to Americas rich)
13.) we dont need policies that increase wages because wages are already growing (reality: When republicans said this, American workers wages just decreased by 0.6 %.
It seems that any untrue or unreal think tank created phrase, is believed by US republicans.
This US republican (propaganda group) media says, and repeats 10,000's of untrue, false, and untrue fantasy phrases about economics, science, US democrats, liberal organizations, and US democrats laws each year.
And because of the fact, their are millions of US republicans, this propaganda group/ cult, says and repeats millions and millions of lies and untrue things each year in America.
I challenge any forum member to post/ list any group of people, who have said more lies than US republicans, in a 15 year period.
I believe chances are, there has never been a group of people, in the history of all mankind, that has said and repeated as many lies and un-true things as US republicans, said and repeated in the last 15 years. But increased population and better media systems may be the reason for this, but maybe not?
So now you've seen the power of conservative propaganda for setting America's agenda. This week we saw the annihilation of progressive ideas by the most sophisticated, deeply funded, and precisely orchestrated public relations system ever concocted.
And they are preparing to take things up a notch now that they've won. The gears are well greased and the engine is humming. Prospects are slim for President Obama and the remaining progressives in Congress. If we don't act now, 2012 will mark the end of the progressive rise to power in American politics.
Now is the time to respond with force.
We have to rally together and stop the message machine that aligns corporate wealth with the American story. The stakes are too high for us to ignore this threat any longer. Our enemy is not a party. It is a system designed to manipulate public perceptions about what it means to be American. And it is unraveling the tapestry of our culture and destroying our democracy.
I've watched the progressive leadership closely in the last five years as they have repeatedly underestimated this oppositional force and overlooked its fundamental threat to America's future. They have invested nearly all their time and money in candidates and policies, naively thinking that rational discourse would save the day despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Very little has been done to build the 21st Century communication infrastructure we need to counter the vast network of think tanks, media outlets, and cultural myths that preserve the status quo.
To give you a sense of exactly what we're up against, consider how the Tea Party Movement came into being:
- A group of billionaires organized by Koch Industries came together and designed the initiative;
- Spokespeople were planted in the mainstream media to suggest that it was time for a revolution reminiscent of the founding days of our country;
- A massive media platform including Fox News and conservative radio spread the meme to every corner of the country;
- Seed funding was provided to organize the first rallies, all the while painting it as a "grassroots movement";
- Narratives that had been planted by conservative think tanks throughout the last forty years were evoked as "traditional values";
- Real concerns by people suffering under corporate corruption were tapped to evoke strong anger and fear;
- People came out in droves to support Tea Party candidates who were actually in cahoots with their corporate benefactors.
All of the investments have paid off. The Democratic majority in Congress is gone. President Obama has been put on the defensive. And local initiatives across the country have advanced conservative policies into law at the city, county, and state level.
Put simply, we're getting our asses kicked.
Now more than ever, we need effective governance in the various sectors, including both public and private to save our country from collapse. Yet what we have is a deep collusion between wealthy corporatists and a significant cabal in government. Their collusion is profoundly anti-democratic and even anti-market (as demonstrated by the devastating impacts of their policies on financial markets in 2008). So what we're getting is a group of financiers who set up communication systems to manipulate public perception and drive boom-crash cycles in the economy to siphon all forms of wealth into their coffers.
We can't let this happen any longer. Now is the time to act.
Are you concerned about the future of America? Would you like to finally see the American people have a stronger footing than large corporations in our politics? Then you should invest wisely in the infrastructure that is capable of elevating progressive ideas so they dominate public discourse. Stop dumping all your money and time into reactionary campaigns to save progressive policy from the conservative hammer. Break out of the election cycle mold and build for the long haul. And start being strategically proactive by targeting the source of power our opposition holds – the Conservative Worldview.
When I was a fellow of the now defunct Rockridge Institute I saw the potential for decisive strategic action that reframes political debate. It was painful to watch progressive philanthropists turn their backs on this foundational work and pour all their money into the 2008 campaign. What would have happened if they had instead pooled a few million dollars to invest in the design of a communication framework that brings coherence to the progressive vision? How might this year's election have been different if progressives across the country were taught how to deconstruct conservative stories and challenge them in a manner that fundamentally weakens their influence?
It's getting late in the game and our side is way behind. Our only chance for a comeback is to respond directly to the conservative propaganda machine. Right now we don't have adequate capacity for getting our messages out to the public. And we rely too heavily on outdated tactics that repeatedly fail in the face of such a powerful opposition.
We have to be smart. We have to be organized. And we have to be strategic. It's now or never.
Are you with me?
1:29 am in Uncategorized by Barefoot AccountantI just watched Robert Greenwald's film clip, Koch Brothers Exposed, and was blown totally away at the operation of a brilliant propaganda machine, making that of Hitler and Goebbels in comparision appear infantile and primitive. This is a propaganda machine well thought out, organized, and orchestrated.
First, the Koch Brothers and other corporatist interests fund millions of dollars to these right-wing think tanks of economists and political scientists, as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Mercatus Center, Reagan Foundation, et al, to write the script that these donors want to disseminate to the general public. These think tanks are sort of like screenwriters or script writers, composing and writing the dialogue that the donors want published to the American public.
Then attractive economists and political scientists of these organizations make guest appearances on the media, such as Fox Business, or the Kudlow Report, Neil Cavuto's Your World, and Fox News, reading the carefully crafted orchestrated scripts in an effort to get the word out.
The next step then is that the media mouthpieces, such as Lawrence Kudlow, Britt Hume, Gretchen Carlson, et al, start repeating this script as if it's gospel since it emanated out from these so-called think tanks. This is the important segment missing in the Hitler-Goebbels propaganda strategy. These supposed news reporters and journalists add a touch of credibility and veracity and objectivity to the propaganda. Robert Greenwald and Bernie Sanders refer to this phenomenon as the "echo chamber".
Lastly, our politicians then repeat almost word-for-word what has been said over and over by the think tanks and the media personalities on talk shows such as "Hardball" (which in my opinion should now be renamed "Softball"): e.g., last night Kay Bailey Hutchison just repeated their script on raising the Social Security age to Chris Matthews, who then exclaimed in his sycophant manner that she should run for President of the United States. Gosh.
For those of you interested in seeing this excellent clip by the Brave New Foundation on the "Echo Chamber", please see, Counter the Koch Billions. Protect Social Security. Will you help Senator Sanders expose the Koch Echo Chamber? Video Transcript.
For Cenk Uygur's interview of Robert Greenwald, the producer of this very important clip, please see, Social distortion. Does the GOP suffer from social insecurity? Cenk Uygur June 22 2011 video transcript.
Please get involved and organized now; tomorrow may be too late: the rich and multinational corporations are kicking our ass.
CATO was making much hay a few days ago about budget problems in California, New York, and New Jersey, which can be explained, respectively, by the Governor's veto of an Assembly-passed budget a few months ago, the decline in tax revenues from financial services firms and continuing loss of upstate industry, and underfunded pension obligations whose origins date back to Christie's cocaine-inspired budgets of the mid-1990s.
Strangely (via Dr. Black), they missed the crises in a few other states, most especially including the state governed by Republic hero Mitch Daniels:Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has warned residents that most of the state's services -- including its parks, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and state-regulated casinos -- would be shuttered unless a budget is passed today.Closing down the casinos? Now that is extreme.
Mitch Daniels, doing for my old home state
Posted by Ken Houghton at 11:29 AM Comments (12)
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Last modified: February, 19, 2018