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Neoliberals has amazingly elaborate set of myths. Successfully competing with Marxism and Trotskyism in this respect. It also creates its special "neoliberal-speak" a language for indoctrinated, much like "Marxism-speak" in the USSR. Among them
|Our work will be guided by a shared belief that market principles,
open trade and investment regimes, and effectively regulated financial markets
foster the dynamism, innovation, and entrepreneurship that are essential
for economic growth, employment, and poverty reduction. […]
We recognize that these reforms will only be successful if grounded in a commitment to free market principles, including the rule of law, respect for private property, open trade and investment, competitive markets, and efficient, effectively regulated financial systems. These principles are essential to economic growth and prosperity and have lifted millions out of poverty, and have significantly raised the global standard of living.
Recognizing the necessity to improve financial sector regulation, we must avoid over-regulation that would hamper economic growth and exacerbate the contraction of capital flows, including to developing countries. We underscore the critical importance of rejecting protectionism and not turning inward in times of financial uncertainty.
-Declaration from the G-20 Washington Summit 2008
Amid the burgeoning financial crisis, the Group of Twenty (G-20) met in 2008 for the Washington Summit, attended by then President Rodríguez Zapatero of the ruling Socialist party (PSOE), where the world’s wealthiest nations called for concerted international cooperation to reform the financial sector, favorable to reviving global flows of capital.
The many points identified in the declaration (the need to strengthen transparency and accountability, enhance regulation, promote integrity in the financial markets, reform international financial institutions, and foster prudential oversight and risk management), may have been a legible indicator that the world’s leading economic powers were coming to terms with the responsibility of unethical business practices and systemic flaws, among other factors, in the successive tumbling of international markets in a domino effect ( Declaration of the Summit ).
Yet, despite the different nuances of policy positions in the European Union at large, political and financial powers have upheld structural reform as the basis from which to pursue deeper austerity measures and labor reforms that favor precarity, thereby dismantling the welfare state and social rights in Spain under the aegis of neoliberal reform. In the neoliberal policies of the EU, reducing the deficit by cutting public expenditures on social measures (on public healthcare, education, pensions, social programs, and so on) while leaving others untouched (investments in private enterprise, the military, national security programs, and so on) has been expressed, and indeed imposed, as part of the only solution to the crisis in Spain, as elsewhere. According to this logic, as the G-20 declaration asserts, greater competition, private investments, and the surveillance and tempered regulation of the free market. In sum, free market activity with minimal state intervention, as deemed necessary equate directly to greater opportunity, entrepreneurship, and prosperity that deliver poverty reduction and a higher standard of living on a global scale. And yet, in extensive literature on the effects of neoliberal policies in general and of austerity in particular, nothing could be farther from the social reality experienced by world populations, as these reforms have correlated to greater inequality, unrest, disease, and mortality.In the forging of its myth, neoliberal policies are asserted by the G-20 as providing a better quality of life for all. On what bases is the claim made that a higher standard of living follows naturally from austerity and the "flexibilization" of labor, among other neoliberal reforms? Myth, writes Roland Barthes, bears an ideological mechanics that ‘naturalizes’ its constructed character in order to assert and legitimize itself as truth. Exemplified in
Barthes’ reading of a magazine photograph in which a soldier of African descent salutes the French flag, myth produces a sleight of hand here, forged from an image of colonial subservience to the French Empire that collapses the signified into a signifier
These reforms have proved historically “damaging [to] the welfare of the common people in those countries, causing enormous suffering,” writes Vicenç Navarro. “[T]hese policies had consequences for the welfare and quality of life of ordinary people, creating death, disease, and social unrest” (“The IMF’s Mea Culpa?”).
Also see Basu and Stuckler; Blyth; Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism ; and Lustig and her contributors, to name a few. by reducing its connotative meaning into a self-evident truth: “that France is a great Empire, that all her sons, without any color discrimination, faithfully serve under her flag, and that there is no better answer to the detractors of an alleged colonialism than the zeal shown by this Negro [ sic] in serving his so-called oppressors” ( Mythologies 116). By attributing the constructed character of presumptions to nature, myth may become an accomplice to legitimize power relations by forging an alibi. Here, to the ‘natural order’ of the cultural (and ethnic) ‘ superiority ’ of the metropolis and its right to (military) rule over the colonial subject, demonstrated in the subordinate’s allegiance to the empire. In this sense, as in Barthes’ s reading, myth may adopt or invert the arguments of its opposition, despite the lack of veracity in its production of meanings or claims. “Myth is a value, truth is no guarantee for it; nothing prevents it from being a perpetual alibi: it is enough that its signifier has two sides for it always to have an ‘elsewhere’ at its disposal”— an elsewhere which Barthes locates in the empire’s benevolent intentions as its alibi to implicit racial subordination and colonial oppression (123). Thereby myth becomes indisputable material if its alibi is taken literally, at once passing itself off as a natural order that has always been and that bears a malleable disposition to be appropriated in further myth-making, say, in Barthes’ s reading, at the service of imperial power and its legitimacy of rule. Let us return then to the assertion that neoliberal governmentality delivers greater good on a global scale.The myth that neoliberalism produces poverty reduction and social wellbeing for all has become an alibi for the dismantling of the welfare state in Spain and with it, an accomplice to the dismantling of social rights, on the one hand, and to the channeling of state coffers into private interests to the benefit of banks, financial institutions, and private business, on the other. Such a polemic has been flagged by economist Vicenç Navarro, who argues that Spain’s ‘ oft’ multi-billion euro bailout from the European Central Bank (ECB) does not alleviate the crisis of credit-lending in Spain, as this capital is destined for Spanish banks to pay off interest on loans from European financial institutions abroad, while the Spanish state incurs this burden of debt, on the one hand, and must also adopt austerity policies to dismantle social welfare programs, on the other (“The Euro Is Not in Trouble”). Public funds, in other words, are redirected to private interests in neoliberal practice at the expense of labor
“If I focus on a full signifier, in which I clearly distinguish the meaning and the form, and consequently the distortion which the one imposes on the other, I undo the signification of the myth, and I receive the latter as an imposture” (128). See Roland Barthes,
As Navarro notes, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have placed conditions on Spain’s eligibility to receive financial assistance by urging the government to pursue measures that would increase the flexibility of labor, reduce public expenditures on pensions, and privatize the welfare state — in sum, to deepen neoliberal reforms (“The Euro Is Not in Trouble”).
One form of what David Harvey calls the “accumulation by dispossession” of capital, these measures entail the “reversion to the private domain of common property rights won through past class struggles (the right to a state pension, to welfare, or to national health care),” which often, if not exclusively, benefit the greatest fortunes at the expense of social programs (“The ‘New’ Imperialism” 75).
That is, where the private accumulation of capital reaches its limits of projected growth, the sustainability of a given enterprise must be secured through dispossession, through takeovers, expropriation, the payment of private debts from public funds, and so on. However, one should not presume that these reforms are adopted coercively alone, as government officials in Spain’s predominant left and right parties (PSOE and PP, respectively) have welcomed likeminded policies, historically, in order to meet the accords for Spain’s adhesion to the European Union after the Maastricht Treaty of 1992.
Amid neoliberal governance, contemporary times have witnessed the rise of new transnational actors and financial players. The state, in other words, experiences a crisis of sovereignty for its accentuated lack of autonomous decision-making on fiscal and labor matters, in which government officials and policy-makers often succumb to corporate, banking, and financial interests beyond the state, and sometimes do so voluntarily. This circumstance is not new, however, nor is it unique to Spain. In the 1970s, foreign credit lending from financial institutions in the United States would wield powerful leverage to reshape strategically the economic policies of indebted countries.
As David Harvey notes, after Mexico was pushed into default on its debt to New York financial institutions in 1982-84, this circumstance provided the test case for the IMF and United States government to work in concert to demand neoliberal reforms of Mexico towards greater labor flexibility (the deregulation of labor protections for workers), free market laws, and privatization (, 28-31). Echoing the test case of Mexico, today the European Commission (EC), the IMF, and the ECB, known popularly as the Troika, have urged the European member states of intervened economies to pursue further neoliberal “structural adjustments”
May 17, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the corresponding end of the Soviet Empire gave the fullest impetus imaginable to the forces of globalized capitalism, and correspondingly unfettered access to the world's cheapest labor. What was not to like about that? It afforded multinational corporations vastly expanded opportunities to fatten their profit margins and increase the bottom line with seemingly no risk posed to their business model.
Or so it appeared. In 2000, aerospace engineer L.J. Hart-Smith's remarkable paper, sardonically titled "Out-Sourced Profits – The Cornerstone of Successful Subcontracting," laid out the case against several business practices of Hart-Smith's previous employer, McDonnell Douglas, which had incautiously ridden the wave of outsourcing when it merged with the author's new employer, Boeing. Hart-Smith's intention in telling his story was a cautionary one for the newly combined Boeing, lest it follow its then recent acquisition down the same disastrous path.
Of the manifold points and issues identified by Hart-Smith, there is one that stands out as the most compelling in terms of understanding the current crisis enveloping Boeing: The embrace of the metric "Return on Net Assets" (RONA). When combined with the relentless pursuit of cost reduction (via offshoring), RONA taken to the extreme can undermine overall safety standards.
Related to this problem is the intentional and unnecessary use of complexity as an instrument of propaganda. Like many of its Wall Street counterparts, Boeing also used complexity as a mechanism to obfuscate and conceal activity that is incompetent, nefarious and/or harmful to not only the corporation itself but to society as a whole (instead of complexity being a benign byproduct of a move up the technology curve).
All of these pernicious concepts are branches of the same poisoned tree: " shareholder capitalism ":
[A] notion best epitomized by Milton Friedman that the only social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, laying the groundwork for the idea that shareholders, being the owners and the main risk-bearing participants, ought therefore to receive the biggest rewards. Profits therefore should be generated first and foremost with a view toward maximizing the interests of shareholders, not the executives or managers who (according to the theory) were spending too much of their time, and the shareholders' money, worrying about employees, customers, and the community at large. The economists who built on Friedman's work, along with increasingly aggressive institutional investors, devised solutions to ensure the primacy of enhancing shareholder value, via the advocacy of hostile takeovers, the promotion of massive stock buybacks or repurchases (which increased the stock value), higher dividend payouts and, most importantly, the introduction of stock-based pay for top executives in order to align their interests to those of the shareholders. These ideas were influenced by the idea that corporate efficiency and profitability were impinged upon by archaic regulation and unionization, which, according to the theory, precluded the ability to compete globally.
"Return on Net Assets" (RONA) forms a key part of the shareholder capitalism doctrine. In essence, it means maximizing the returns of those dollars deployed in the operation of the business. Applied to a corporation, it comes down to this: If the choice is between putting a million bucks into new factory machinery or returning it to shareholders, say, via dividend payments, the latter is the optimal way to go because in theory it means higher net returns accruing to the shareholders (as the "owners" of the company), implicitly assuming that they can make better use of that money than the company itself can.
It is an absurd conceit to believe that a dilettante portfolio manager is in a better position than an aviation engineer to gauge whether corporate investment in fixed assets will generate productivity gains well north of the expected return for the cash distributed to the shareholders. But such is the perverse fantasy embedded in the myth of shareholder capitalism.
Engineering reality, however, is far more complicated than what is outlined in university MBA textbooks. For corporations like McDonnell Douglas, for example, RONA was used not as a way to prioritize new investment in the corporation but rather to justify disinvestment in the corporation. This disinvestment ultimately degraded the company's underlying profitability and the quality of its planes (which is one of the reasons the Pentagon helped to broker the merger with Boeing; in another perverse echo of the 2008 financial disaster, it was a politically engineered bailout).
RONA in Practice
When real engineering clashes with financial engineering, the damage takes the form of a geographically disparate and demoralized workforce: The factory-floor denominator goes down. Workers' wages are depressed, testing and quality assurance are curtailed. Productivity is diminished, even as labor-saving technologies are introduced. Precision machinery is sold off and replaced by inferior, but cheaper, machines. Engineering quality deteriorates. And the upshot is that a reliable plane like Boeing's 737, which had been a tried and true money-spinner with an impressive safety record since 1967, becomes a high-tech death trap.
The drive toward efficiency is translated into a drive to do more with less. Get more out of workers while paying them less. Make more parts with fewer machines. Outsourcing is viewed as a way to release capital by transferring investment from skilled domestic human capital to offshore entities not imbued with the same talents, corporate culture and dedication to quality. The benefits to the bottom line are temporary; the long-term pathologies become embedded as the company's market share begins to shrink, as the airlines search for less shoddy alternatives.
You must do one more thing if you are a Boeing director: you must erect barriers to bad news, because there is nothing that bursts a magic bubble faster than reality, particularly if it's bad reality.
The illusion that Boeing sought to perpetuate was that it continued to produce the same thing it had produced for decades: namely, a safe, reliable, quality airplane. But it was doing so with a production apparatus that was stripped, for cost reasons, of many of the means necessary to make good aircraft. So while the wine still came in a bottle signifying Premier Cru quality, and still carried the same price, someone had poured out the contents and replaced them with cheap plonk.
And that has become remarkably easy to do in aviation. Because Boeing is no longer subject to proper independent regulatory scrutiny. This is what happens when you're allowed to " self-certify" your own airplane , as the Washington Post described: "One Boeing engineer would conduct a test of a particular system on the Max 8, while another Boeing engineer would act as the FAA's representative, signing on behalf of the U.S. government that the technology complied with federal safety regulations."
This is a recipe for disaster. Boeing relentlessly cut costs, it outsourced across the globe to workforces that knew nothing about aviation or aviation's safety culture. It sent things everywhere on one criteria and one criteria only: lower the denominator. Make it the same, but cheaper. And then self-certify the plane, so that nobody, including the FAA, was ever the wiser.
Boeing also greased the wheels in Washington to ensure the continuation of this convenient state of regulatory affairs for the company. According to OpenSecrets.org , Boeing and its affiliates spent $15,120,000 in lobbying expenses in 2018, after spending, $16,740,000 in 2017 (along with a further $4,551,078 in 2018 political contributions, which placed the company 82nd out of a total of 19,087 contributors). Looking back at these figures over the past four elections (congressional and presidential) since 2012, these numbers represent fairly typical spending sums for the company.
But clever financial engineering, extensive political lobbying and self-certification can't perpetually hold back the effects of shoddy engineering. One of the sad byproducts of the FAA's acquiescence to "self-certification" is how many things fall through the cracks so easily.
May 14, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com
Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review,
As his limo carried him to work at the White House Monday, Larry Kudlow could not have been pleased with the headline in The Washington Post: "Kudlow Contradicts Trump on Tariffs."
The story began: "National Economic Council Director Lawrence Kudlow acknowledged Sunday that American consumers end up paying for the administration's tariffs on Chinese imports, contradicting President Trump's repeated inaccurate claim that the Chinese foot the bill."
A free trade evangelical, Kudlow had conceded on Fox News that consumers pay the tariffs on products made abroad that they purchase here in the U.S. Yet that is by no means the whole story.
A tariff may be described as a sales or consumption tax the consumer pays, but tariffs are also a discretionary and an optional tax.
If you choose not to purchase Chinese goods and instead buy comparable goods made in other nations or the USA, then you do not pay the tariff.China loses the sale. This is why Beijing, which runs $350 billion to $400 billion in annual trade surpluses at our expense is howling loudest. Should Donald Trump impose that 25% tariff on all $500 billion in Chinese exports to the USA, it would cripple China's economy. Factories seeking assured access to the U.S. market would flee in panic from the Middle Kingdom.
Tariffs were the taxes that made America great. They were the taxes relied upon by the first and greatest of our early statesmen, before the coming of the globalists Woodrow Wilson and FDR.
Tariffs, to protect manufacturers and jobs, were the Republican Party's path to power and prosperity in the 19th and 20th centuries , before the rise of the Rockefeller Eastern liberal establishment and its embrace of the British-bred heresy of unfettered free trade.
The Tariff Act of 1789 was enacted with the declared purpose, "the encouragement and protection of manufactures." It was the second act passed by the first Congress led by Speaker James Madison. It was crafted by Alexander Hamilton and signed by President Washington.
After the War of 1812, President Madison, backed by Henry Clay and John Calhoun and ex-Presidents Jefferson and Adams, enacted the Tariff of 1816 to price British textiles out of competition, so Americans would build the new factories and capture the booming U.S. market. It worked.
Tariffs financed Mr. Lincoln's War. The Tariff of 1890 bears the name of Ohio Congressman and future President William McKinley, who said that a foreign manufacturer "has no right or claim to equality with our own. He pays no taxes. He performs no civil duties."
That is economic patriotism, putting America and Americans first.
The Fordney-McCumber Tariff gave Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge the revenue to offset the slashing of Wilson's income taxes, igniting that most dynamic of decades -- the Roaring '20s.
That the Smoot-Hawley Tariff caused the Depression of the 1930s is a New Deal myth in which America's schoolchildren have been indoctrinated for decades.
The Depression began with the crash of the stock market in 1929, nine months before Smoot-Hawley became law. The real villain: The Federal Reserve, which failed to replenish that third of the money supply that had been wiped out by thousands of bank failures. Milton Friedman taught us that.
A tariff is a tax, but its purpose is not just to raise revenue but to make a nation economically independent of others, and to bring its citizens to rely upon each other rather than foreign entities.
The principle involved in a tariff is the same as that used by U.S. colleges and universities that charge foreign students higher tuition than their American counterparts.
What patriot would consign the economic independence of his country to the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith in a system crafted by intellectuals whose allegiance is to an ideology, not a people?
What great nation did free traders ever build?
Free trade is the policy of fading and failing powers, past their prime. In the half-century following passage of the Corn Laws, the British showed the folly of free trade.
They began the second half of the 19th century with an economy twice that of the USA and ended it with an economy half of ours, and equaled by a Germany, which had, under Bismarck, adopted what was known as the American System.
Of the nations that have risen to economic preeminence in recent centuries -- the British before 1850, the United States between 1789 and 1914, post-war Japan, China in recent decades -- how many did so through free trade? None. All practiced economic nationalism.
The problem for President Trump?
Once a nation is hooked on the cheap goods that are the narcotic free trade provides, it is rarely able to break free. The loss of its economic independence is followed by the loss of its political independence, the loss of its greatness and, ultimately, the loss of its national identity.
Brexit was the strangled cry of a British people that had lost its independence and desperately wanted it back.
May 07, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com
How the Medal of Freedom Became a Fraud Before we pass out any more of these devalued trophies, we need to figure out what "freedom" means. By Andrew J. Bacevich • May 7, 2019
As headlines go, the one appearing in The New York Times on November 16, 2018 does not qualify as a showstopper. "Trump Awards Medals of Freedom to Elvis, Babe Ruth and Miriam Adelson," the Times reported. Most readers taking note of this ceremony, which presidents have been hosting annually for over a half-century now, probably shrugged and poured themselves another cup of coffee. Yet here, in this accolade conferred on the King, the Bambino, and the wife of a casino mogul, we get a glimpse of how far down the road to perdition our beloved country has traveled.
For a century and a half after declaring its independence, the United States managed to survive -- nicely, in fact -- without any such means of conferring presidential favor. Only in the 1960s did John F. Kennedy discover this void in American civic life and set out to fill it. His decision to do so cannot be understood except in the context of the then-ongoing and frosty Cold War.
Kennedy's predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had made much ado about America's close association with the divine, inserting "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance and signing legislation making "In God We Trust" the national motto. Here, according to Ike, was the essence of what distinguished us from our adversaries. We believed; they did not.
Under Kennedy, God suffered a demotion of sorts, supplanted by freedom in the hierarchy of objects deemed worthy of worship. In his famous inaugural address, Kennedy not only anointed freedom as the supreme value but also declared that it was in imminent peril. Simultaneously celebrating freedom -- implicitly defined as opposing communism -- while warning of its impending demise emerged as an abiding theme of JFK's abbreviated and largely undistinguished presidency.Advertisement
Considered in that context, the Medal of Freedom forms part of a larger effort to package in a single word America's mission, history's purpose, and the aspirations of all humanity, with Kennedy himself their foremost champion. According to the directive establishing the award, its aim was to honor individuals making an especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
The criteria are worth noting. The first and second qualify as straightforward and unobjectionable, if perhaps not mutually consistent. The third criterion, by comparison, is broad and vague -- sufficiently elastic to include just about anyone doing anything that happens to catch a president's fancy.
Almost from the outset, recipients of the Medal of Freedom have tended to fall into one of three categories. In the first are individuals who testify to the incumbent president's preferred self-image. For Kennedy that meant sophistication and class. So the first tranche of those selected to receive the Medal of Freedom featured such notables as singer Marian Anderson, cellist Pablo Casals, photographer Edward Steichen, and literary critic Edmund Wilson.
The second category is all about virtue signaling, as exemplified by Richard Nixon's choices of labor leader David Dubinsky and composer Duke Ellington to receive the Medal of Freedom. Evidence suggesting that Nixon was particularly fond of left-leaning labor organizers or African Americans is sparse. Yet by honoring Dubinsky and Ellington, Nixon could strike an appearance of being broad-minded, tolerant, and even hip, at virtually no cost to himself.
In the third category are individuals chosen to make a political statement, more often than not catering to a particular constituency. Ronald Reagan's selection of Louis L'Amour, author of potboiler cowboy novels, pleased his Western fan base. Similarly, his choices of Milton Friedman, Clare Boothe Luce, and Albert Wohlstetter found favor with free marketeers, devout anti-communists, and neoconservatives, respectively.
Little of this mattered. The Medal of Freedom's substantive impact was on a par with the presidential pardon granted to a couple of lucky turkeys just prior to Thanksgiving each year. It amounted to little more than a photo-op. In the larger scheme of things, the Medal of Freedom did nothing to hasten the downfall of the Evil Empire. The best we can say is that it did not retard the eventual outcome of the long twilight struggle.
With the end of the Cold War, however, and especially after 9/11, the Medal of Freedom went from being irrelevant to somewhere between whimsical and fraudulent. Any correlation with freedom as such, never more than tenuous in the first place, dissolved altogether. For evidence, we need look no further than the current crop of awardees.
That the Sultan of Swat and Elvis each left an indelible mark on American life is no doubt the case. Yet Babe Ruth died in 1948 while Presley "left the building" in 1977. Awarding them the Medal of Freedom at this point adds nothing to their stature and smacks of presumption, more or less akin to the Congress promoting George Washington to the rank of General of the Armies back in 1976. Besides, if Ruth, why not Lou Gehrig? Why not the entire 1927 Yankees starting lineup? If Presley, why not Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper? Why not every member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
As for Ms. Adelson, while her philanthropic activities are admirable, they fall well short of being unique. In fact, her selection to receive this presidential bauble stems less from Adelson's charitable giving than from her marriage to a billionaire who donated $25 million to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign while kicking in another $113 million to support the Republican Party two years later. The Adelson Medal of Freedom was bought and paid for many times over.
I do not mean to imply that Trump deserves principal blame for trivializing and degrading the Medal of Freedom. On that score, primary credit goes to George W. Bush, who conferred this ostensibly great distinction on three individuals who figured prominently in engineering the debacle of the Iraq war: former CIA director George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and failed American viceroy L. Paul Bremer. Passing out laurels to mediocrities who screw up: for evidence of the sense of entitlement that has come to pervade the American establishment, one need look no further.
President Barack Obama's contribution to the Medal of Freedom's decline in status was of a different order: he gave out medals like pieces of Halloween candy, his 123 being the most ever awarded by any president. As any list of honorees becomes longer, it necessarily becomes less selective. So Ellen DeGeneres got one from Obama, as did Ernie Banks, Michael Jordan, and basketball coach Dean Smith. All estimable individuals no doubt, but arguably not what JFK had in mind when he instituted the Medal of Freedom in the first place.
Whatever modest value JFK's initiative may once have possessed has long since dissipated. In the present moment, with Americans disagreeing vehemently as to what freedom requires, permits, or prohibits, it just might be time to give the Medal of Freedom a rest. Let's figure out what freedom means. Then it may once more become appropriate to honor those who exemplify it.
Andrew J. Bacevich is TAC 's writer at large. His new book Twilight of the American Century has just been published.
Apr 27, 2019 | angrybearblog.com
My reading is that the core psychological principle of neoliberalism, that life is an accumulation of moments of utility and disutility, is alive and well within certain sectors of the "left". A speech (or email or comment at a meeting) should be evaluated by how it makes us feel, and no one should have the right to make us feel bad.
Not sure about this "utility/disutility" dichotomy (probably you mean market fundamentalism -- belief that market ( and market mechanisms) is a self regulating, supernaturally predictive force that will guide human beings to the neoliberal Heavens), but, yes, neoliberalism infected the "left" and, especially, Democratic Party which was converted by Clinton into greedy and corrupt "DemoRats' subservient to Wall Street and antagonistic to the trade unions. And into the second War Party, which in certain areas is even more jingoistic and aggressive then Republicans (Obama color revolution in Ukraine is one example; Hillary Libya destruction is another; both were instrumental in unleashing the civil war on Syria and importing and arming Muslim fundamentalists to fight it).
It might make sense to view neoliberalism as a new secular religion which displaced Marxism on the world arena (and collapse of the USSR was in part the result of the collapse of Marxism as an ideology under onslaught of neoliberalism; although bribes of USSR functionaries and mismanagement of the economy due to over centralization -- country as a single gigantic corporation -- also greatly helped) .
Neoliberalism demonstrates the same level of intolerance (and actually series of wars somewhat similar to Crusades) as any monotheistic religion in early stages of its development. Because at this stage any adept knows the truth and to believe in this truth is to be saved; everything else is eternal damnation (aka living under "authoritarian regime" ;-) .
And so far there is nothing that will force the neoliberal/neocon Torquemadas to abandon their loaded with bombs jets as the tool of enlightenment of pagan states ;-)
Simplifying, neoliberalism can be viewed an a masterfully crafted, internally consistent amalgam of myths and pseudo theories (partially borrowed from Trotskyism) that justifies the rule of financial oligarchy and high level inequality in the society (redistribution of the wealth up). Kind of Trotskyism for the rich with the same idea of Permanent Revolution until global victory of neoliberalism.
That's why neoliberals charlatans like Hayek and Friedman were dusted off, given Nobel Prizes and promoted to the top in economics: they were very helpful and pretty skillful in forging neoliberal myths. Especially Hayek. A second rate economist who proved to be the first class theologian .
Promoting "neoliberal salvation" was critical for the achieving the political victory of neoliberalism in late 1979th and discrediting and destroying the remnants of the New Deal capitalism (already undermined at this time by the oil crisis)
Neoliberalism has led to the rise of corporate (especially financial oligarchy) power and an open war on labor. New Deal policies aimed at full employment and job security have been replaced with ones that aim at flexibility in the form of unstable employment, job loss and rising inequality.
This hypotheses helps to explain why neoliberalism as a social system survived after its ideology collapsed in 2008 -- it just entered zombie stage like Bolshevism after WWII when it became clear that it can't achieve higher standard of living for the population then capitalism.
Latest mutation of classic neoliberalism into "national neoliberalism" under Trump shows that it has great ability to adapt to the changing conditions. And neoliberalism survived in Russia under Putin and Medvedev as well, despite economic rape that Western neoliberals performed on Russia under Yeltsin with the help of Harvard mafia.
That's why despite widespread criticism, neoliberalism remains the dominant politico-economic theory amongst policy-makers both in the USA and internationally. All key global neoliberal global institutions, such as the G20, European Union, IMF, World bank, and WTO still survived intact and subscribe to neoliberalism. .
Neoliberalism has led to the rise of corporate (especially financial oligarchy) power and an open war on labor. New Deal policies aimed at full employment and job security have been replaced with ones that aim at flexibility in the form of unstable employment, job loss and rising inequality.
This hypotheses helps to explain why neoliberalism as a social system survived after its ideology collapsed in 2008 -- it just entered zombie stage like Bolshevism after WWII when it became clear that it can't achieve higher standard of living for the population then capitalism.
Latest mutation of classic neoliberalism into "national neoliberalism" under Trump shows that it has great ability to adapt to the changing conditions.
that's why despite widespread criticism, neoliberalism remains the dominant politico-economic theory amongst policy-makers both in the USA and internationally. All key global neoliberal global institutions, such as the G20, European Union, IMF, World bank, and WTO still survived intact and subscribe to neoliberalism. .
Apr 16, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com
...you may have missed weeks of debate on the Right over a reasonable comment made by the popular Fox News host.
"Market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster," Carlson said. "Any economic system that weakens and destroys families isn't worth having." Does this observation make Tucker a socialist? Hardly. As is often the case, TAC founding editor Patrick J. Buchanan was more than a decade ahead of the curve.
"To me, the country comes before the economy; and the economy exists for the people," Buchanan said in a 1998 speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. "I believe in free markets, but I do not worship them. In the proper hierarchy of things, it is the market that must be harnessed to work for man -- and not the other way around."
Kouros, says: April 16, 2019 at 2:05 pmMaybe someone should read a bit of Amartya Sen?John Roche, says: April 16, 2019 at 2:18 pm
https://aeon.co/ideas/why-amartya-sen-remains-the-centurys-great-critic-of-capitalismThe free market thinks these questions of culture, family and social cohesiveness are cute but ultimately irrelevant. Conservatives need to come to terms that global capital has no mercy or care for its concerns and ultimate ends. You cant tax credit your way out of that confrontation. City of God vs the city of man is still the battle.ked_x, says: April 16, 2019 at 2:53 pmIt would have been nice if the Conservative Movement had started this "search for answers" after the failure of the 2012 election where the Republican Party picked a vulture capitalist as a Presidential nominee.
Apr 05, 2019 | www.commondreams.org
Why "free" why not "fair". Neoliberals are as dangerious as Big brother in 1994. Actually neoliberal state is as close to Big Brother regine described in 1994. We have total surveillance, with technological capabiltiies which probably exceed anything rulers of 1984 world possessed, Russiagate as "hour of anger", permanent war for permanent people (and total victory of "democracy") , and of course "[neoliberal] freedom is [debt[ slavery..." in neoliberal MSM.Fast forward from one Gilded Age to another. Citizens United, granting unions and corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against political candidates, is often regarded as a singularly dangerous challenge to our democratic norms, especially with its infamous assertion that money is speech. Less attention, however, is pad to the context in which this decision occurred, including corporate consolidation in most sectors of the economy, obscene levels of economic inequality, and near religious reverence for deregulated markets.
Media consolidation itself has played an enormous role in driving up the cost of political campaigns. How did we get to this second Gilded Age and what lessons can we infer regarding our democratic prospects?
The post World War II decades saw white working class gains in income made possible by unionization, the GI bill, and a federal commitment to full employment. Positive as these gains were, they carried with them unintended consequences. Workers and employers, having less fear of depression, periodically drove wages and prices up.
Bursts of inflation and an unprecedented profit squeeze led to unemployment even in the midst of inflation, an unprecedented and unexpected circumstance. Blacks had been left out of the full benefits of the New Deal welfare state and raised demands not only for political equality but also for economic opportunity, one of Reconstruction's forgotten promises.
These events provided an opening for a group of academics who had long despised the New Deal welfare state. Notre Dame University 's Philip Mirowski Never Let a Serious Crisis G to Waste has provided a careful and detailed analysis of this neoliberal movement in American politics.
These neoliberals shared with their nineteenth- century predecessors a faith in markets, but with an important difference. Adam Smith and JS Mill saw markets as non-coercive means to allocate resources and produce goods and services. Neoliberals regarded markets as perfect information processing machines that could provide optimal solutions to all social problems. Hence a commitment not only to lift rent control on housing but also to privatize prisons, water and sewer systems, and to deregulate all aspects of personal finance and treat education and health care as commodities to be pursued on unregulated markets. An essential part of this faith in markets is the post Reagan view of corporate consolidation. Combinations are to be judged only on the basis of cheap products to the consumer.
Older antitrust concerns about worker welfare or threat to democracy itself are put aside. Corporate mergers and the emergence of monopoly are seen as reflections of the omniscient market. In practice, however as we shall see, such a tolerant attitude is not applied to worker associations.
Neoliberals differ from their classical predecessors in a second important way. Market is miraculous and a boon to many, but paradoxically only a strong state can assure its arrival and maintenance. Sometimes it may appear that the market is yielding iniquitous or unsustainable outcomes, which my lead to premature or disastrous rejection of its wisdom. The answer to this anger is more markets, but that requires a strong state staffed by neoliberals. They would have the capacity and authority to enact and impose these markets and distract the electorate and divert them into more harmless pursuits. Recognition of the need for a powerful state stands in partial contradiction to the neoliberal's professed deification of pure markets and was seldom presented to public gatherings. As Mirowski put it, neoliberals operated on the basis of a dual truth, an esoteric truth for its top scholars and theorists and an exoteric version for then public. Celebration of the spontaneous market was good enough for Fox News, whereas top neoliberal scholars discussed how to reengineer government in order to recast society.
The signs of neoliberalism are all around us. Worried about student debt? There is a widely advertised financial institution that will refinance your loan. Trapped in prison with no money for bail. There are corporations and products that will take care of that. Cancer cures, money for funerals and burial expenses can all be obtained via the market. Any problem the market creates the market can solve. The implications of this view have been ominous for democracy and social justice.
The neoliberal deification of markets has many parents. This mindset encouraged and was encouraged by a revolt against democracy. The wealthy had always been concerned that a propertyless working class might vote to expropriate them, but neoliberalism gave them further reason to bypass democracy. Markets were seen as better indicators of truth than democratic elections, though that point was seldom expressed as directly.
Here is FA Hayek's oblique expression of this concern: "if we proceed on the assumption that only the exercises of freedom that the majority will practice are important, we would be certain to create a stagnant society with all the characteristics of unfreedom."
The revolt against democracy has occurred on several different levels of the political process. The question of who can vote is just as contested as during Reconstruction, and not just in the South. As during Reconstruction, it does not take the form of explicit racial appeals. The strategy includes further limiting the time polls are open, reduction in the number of polling places, voter identification cards that take time and money to obtain. Who can vote is also a function of the racist legacy of our history, with prohibitions on voting by felons serving to exclude large numbers of potential voters, disproportionately minorities. It should be mentioned more than it is that these techniques also work to the disadvantage of poor whites. Political scientists Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson point out: "In Georgia in 1942, for example, turnout topped out at 3.4 percent (that's right, 3.4 percent; no misprint). Why is no mystery: the Jim Crow system pushed virtually all African-Americans out of the system, while the network of poll taxes, registration requirements, literacy tests and other obstacles that was part of that locked out most poor whites from voting, too. Since the civil rights revolution, turnouts in the South have risen fitfully to national levels, amid much pushback, such as the raft of new voter ID requirements (though these are not limited to the South)."
Minorities, poor, and even substantial segments of the working class are further disadvantaged by efforts to defund the labor opposition. Unions have been the one big money source that Democrats had available, but as the party from Bill Clinton on increasingly became a kind of neoliberalism light, embracing corporate trade agreements with a little bit of job training assistance thrown in, unions lost members, many corporations forced decertification elections. Democrats lost not only financial resources but also the ground troops that had mobilized their voters.
One result of and partial driving force behind these changes is that both parties become big money parties. Burnham and Ferguson-( December 2014)- The President and the Democratic Party are almost as dependent on big money – defined, for example, in terms of the percentage of contributions (over $500 or $1000) from the 1 percent as the Republicans. To expect top down money-driven political parties to make strong economic appeals to voters is idle. Instead the Golden Rule dominates: Money-driven parties emphasize appeals to particular interest groups instead of the broad interests of working Americans that would lead their donors to shut their wallets.
As David Stockman, President Reagan's Budget Director once all but confessed,
"in the modern era the party has never really pretended to have much of a mass constituency. It wins elections by rolling up huge percentages of votes in the most affluent classes while seeking to divide middle and working class voters with various special appeals and striving to hold down voting by minorities and the poor."
Challenging this bipartisan money driven establishment becomes even more difficult as state level ballot access laws are notoriously hostile to third parties. Add to this the private, deceptively named Presidential Debate Commission, which specializes in depriving even candidates about whom large segment s of the population are curious access to the widely watched debates. Unfortunately the celebrated voting reform proposal, HR1, though containing some democratic initiatives such as early voting and automatic voter registration, makes it own contribution to economic and political consolidation.
Bruce Dixon, editor of Black Agenda Report, maintains that only two provisions of this bill are likely to become law and both are destructive: "by raising the qualifying amount from its current level of $5,000 in each of 20 states to $25,000 in 20 states. HR 1 would cut funding for a Green presidential candidate in half, and by making ballot access for a Green presidential candidate impossible in several states it would also guarantee loss of the party's ability to run for local offices." Dixon also predicts that some Democrats "will cheerfully cross the aisle to institutionalize the Pentagon, spies and cops to produce an annual report on the threat to electoral security.
"Democrats are a capitalist party, they are a government party, and this is how they govern. HR 1 reaches back a hundred years into the Democrat playbook politicians created a foreign menace to herd the population into World War 1, which ended in the Red Scare and a couple of red summers, waves of official and unofficial violence and deportations against US leftists and against black people. The Red Scare led to the founding of the FBI, the core of the nation's permanent political police . Fifty years ago these were the same civil servants who gave us the assassinations, the disinformation and illegality of COINTELPRO, and much, much more before that and since then. HR 1 says let's go to the Pentagon and the cops, let's order them to discover threats to the electoral system posed by Americans working to save themselves and the planet."
Dixon is surely right that both parties are capitalist parties, but capitalism itself has taken different forms. New Deal and neoliberal capitalism had far different implications for working class Americans. The New Deal itself was heavily influenced by Norman Thomas and the socialist tradition. In this regard, if what Paul Wellstone used to call the democratic wing of the Democratic Party wishes to see its ideals translated into practice, it must resist efforts to exclude third parties or to deny primary opponents an even playing field.
I am not claiming that there has been a carefully coordinated conspiracy among the individuals and groups that supported these policies, but leaders did act out of a general animus toward popular movements that further reinforced their reverence for corporate markets, and the faith in markets drove the worries about popular movements.
One positive conclusion to be drawn is that if this attack on democracy exists on several levels, activism might be fruitful in many domains and may have a spillover effect. Unions are still not dead, and there is a fight now for the soul of the Democratic Party and that fight might stimulate voter access and eligibility reforms. These in turn could reshape the party's orientation and ideology. Even at the Federal level Dark money is worrisome to many voters and could be an incentive to mobilize for better disclosure laws. There are ample fronts on which to fight and good reason to keep up the struggle.
Mar 20, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Yves here. This post focuses on an important slice of history in what "freedom" has meant in political discourse in the US. But I wish it had at least mentioned how a well-funded, then extreme right wing effort launched an open-ended campaign to render US values more friendly to business. They explicitly sought to undo New Deal programs and weaken or end other social safety nets. Nixon Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell codified the strategy for this initiative in the so-called Powell Memo of 1971.
One of the most effective spokesmen for this libertarian program was Milton Friedman, whose bestseller Free to Choose became the foundation for a ten-part TV series.
By Thom Hartman, a talk-show host and author of more than 25 books in print . He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute . Produced by the Independent Media Institute
America is having a heated debate about the meaning of the word socialism . We'd be better served if, instead, we were debating the meaning of freedom .
The Oregonian reported last week that fully 156,000 families are on the edge of homelessness in our small-population state. Every one of those households is now paying more than 50 percent of its monthly income on rent, and none of them has any savings; one medical bill, major car repair or job loss, and they're on the streets.
While socialism may or may not solve their problem, the more pressing issue we have is an entire political party and a huge sector of the billionaire class who see homelessness not as a problem, but as a symptom of a "free" society.
The words freedom and liberty are iconic in American culture -- probably more so than with any other nation because they're so intrinsic to the literature, declarations and slogans of our nation's founding.
The irony -- of the nation founded on the world's greatest known genocide (the systematic state murder of tens of millions of Native Americans) and over three centuries of legalized slavery and a century and a half of oppression and exploitation of the descendants of those slaves -- is extraordinary. It presses us all to bring true freedom and liberty to all Americans.
But what do those words mean?
If you ask the Koch brothers and their buddies -- who slap those words on pretty much everything they do -- you'd get a definition that largely has to do with being "free" from taxation and regulation. And, truth be told, if you're morbidly rich, that makes a certain amount of sense, particularly if your main goal is to get richer and richer, regardless of your behavior's impact on working-class people, the environment, or the ability of government to function.
On the other hand, the definition of freedom and liberty that's been embraced by so-called "democratic socialist" countries -- from Canada to almost all of Europe to Japan and Australia -- you'd hear a definition that's closer to that articulated by Franklin D. Roosevelt when he proposed, in January 1944, a " second Bill of Rights " to be added to our Constitution.
FDR's proposed amendments included the right to a job, and the right to be paid enough to live comfortably; the right to "adequate food and clothing and recreation"; the right to start a business and run it without worrying about "unfair competition and domination by monopolies"; the right "of every family to a decent home"; the right to "adequate medical care to achieve and enjoy good health"; the right to government-based "protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment"; and the right "to a good education."
Roosevelt pointed out that, "All of these rights spell security." He added, "America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world."
The other nations mentioned earlier took President Roosevelt's advice to heart. Progressive "social democracy" has kept Europe, Canada, and the developed nations of the East and South Pacific free of war for almost a century -- a mind-boggling feat when considering the history of the developed world since the 1500s.
Just prior to FDR winning the White House in the election of 1932, the nation had been treated to 12 years of a bizarre Republican administration that was the model for today's GOP. In 1920, Warren Harding won the presidency on a campaign of "more industry in government, less government in industry" -- privatize and deregulate -- and a promise to drop the top tax rate of 91 percent down to 25 percent.
He kept both promises, putting the nation into a sugar-high spin called the Roaring '20s, where the rich got fabulously rich and working-class people were being beaten and murdered by industrialists when they tried to unionize. Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (the three Republican presidents from 1920 to 1932) all cheered on the assaults, using phrases like "the right to work" to describe a union-free nation.
In the end, the result of the " horses and sparrows " economics advocated by Harding ("feed more oats to the horses and there'll be more oats in the horse poop to fatten the sparrows" -- that generation's version of trickle-down economics) was the Republican Great Depression (yes, they called it that until after World War II).
Even though Roosevelt was fabulously popular -- the only president to be elected four times -- the right-wingers of his day were loud and outspoken in their protests of what they called "socialist" programs like Social Security, the right to unionize, and government-guaranteed job programs including the WPA, REA, CCC, and others.
The Klan and American Nazis were assembling by the hundreds of thousands nationwide -- nearly 30,000 in Madison Square Garden alone -- encouraged by wealthy and powerful "economic royalists" preaching "freedom" and " liberty ." Like the Kochs' Freedomworks , that generation's huge and well-funded (principally by the DuPonts' chemical fortune) organization was the Liberty League .
Roosevelt's generation had seen the results of this kind of hard-right "freedom" rhetoric in Italy, Spain, Japan and Germany, the very nations with which we were then at war.
Speaking of "the grave dangers of 'rightist reaction' in this Nation," Roosevelt told America in that same speech that: "[I]f history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called 'normalcy' of the 1920s -- then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home."
Although right-wingers are still working hard to disassemble FDR's New Deal -- the GOP budget for 2019 contains massive cuts to Social Security, as well as to Medicare and Medicaid -- we got halfway toward his notion of freedom and liberty here in the United States:You're not free if you're old and deep in poverty, so we have Social Security (although the GOP wants to gut it). You're not free if you're hungry, so we have food stamps/SNAP (although the GOP wants to gut them). You're not free if you're homeless, so we have housing assistance and homeless shelters (although the GOP fights every effort to help homeless people). You're not free if you're sick and can't get medical care, so we have Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare (although the GOP wants to gut them all). You're not free if you're working more than 40 hours a week and still can't meet basic expenses, so we have minimum wage laws and the right to unionize (although the GOP wants to gut both). You're not free if you can't read, so we have free public schools (although the GOP is actively working to gut them). You're not free if you can't vote, so we've passed numerous laws to guarantee the right to vote (although the GOP is doing everything it can to keep tens of millions of Americans from voting).
The billionaire class and their wholly owned Republican politicians keep trying to tell us that "freedom" means the government doesn't provide any of the things listed above.
Instead, they tell us (as Ron Paul famously did in a GOP primary debate years ago) that, if we're broke and sick, we're "free" to die like a feral dog in the gutter.
Freedom is homelessness, in the minds of the billionaires who own the GOP.
Poverty, lack of education, no access to health care, poor-paying jobs, and barriers to voting are all proof of a free society, they tell us, which is why America's lowest life expectancy, highest maternal and childhood death rates, lowest levels of education, and lowest pay are almost all in GOP-controlled states .
America -- particularly the Democratic Party -- is engaged in a debate right now about the meaning of socialism . It would be a big help for all of us if we were, instead, to have an honest debate about the meaning of the words freedom and liberty .
cuibono , , March 20, 2019 at 2:53 am
Know Your Rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lfInFVPkQs
WheresOurTeddy , , March 20, 2019 at 12:28 pm
I have been informed by Fox that knowing your rights is un-American
everydayjoe , , March 20, 2019 at 4:26 am
Let us not forget the other propaganda arm of Republican party and big money- Fox news. They spew the freedom nonsense while not adhering to any definition of the word.
I worked in the midwest as an Engineer in the 90s to early 2000s and saw plants being gutted/shifted overseas, Union influence curtailed and mid level and bottom pay stay flat for decades; all in the name of free market.
Sadly the same families that are the worst affected vote Republican! But we know all this and have known it for a while. What will change?
lyman alpha blob , , March 20, 2019 at 8:00 am
They want freedom -- for the wolves to eat the sheep.
PKMKII , , March 20, 2019 at 1:08 pm
And then act like it's fair because they don't have laws against the sheep eating the wolves.
Norb , , March 20, 2019 at 8:39 am
The intro to this post is spot on. The Powell memo outlined a strategy for a corporate coup d'eta. Is was completely successful. Now that the business class rules America, their only vision is to continue the quest and cannibalize the country and enslave its people by any means possible. What tools do they use to achieve these ends? -- debt, fear, violence and pandering to human vanity as a motivator. Again, very successful.
Instead of honest public debate- which is impossible when undertaken with liars and thieves, a good old manifesto or pamphlet like Common Sense is in order. Something calling out concrete action that can be taken by commoners to regain their social respect and power. That should scare the living daylights out of the complacent and smug elite.
Its that, or a lot of public infrastructure is gong to be broken up by the mob- which doesn't work out in the long run. The nations that learn to work with and inspire their populations will prosper- the rest will have a hard time of it. Look no further than America's fall.
Carla , , March 20, 2019 at 12:00 pm
Thank you, Norb. You've inspired me to start by reading Common Sense.
Jamie S , , March 20, 2019 at 9:13 am
This piece raises some important points, but aims too narrowly at one political party, when the D-party has also been complicit in sharing the framing of "freedom" as less government/regulation/taxation. After all, it was the Clinton administration that did welfare "reform", deregulation of finance, and declared the end of the era of "big government", and both Clinton and Obama showed willingness to cut Social Security and Medicare in a "grand bargain".
WJ , , March 20, 2019 at 12:10 pm
If in place of "the GOP," the author had written, "The national Democratic and Republican parties over the past fifty years," his claim would be much more accurate. To believe what he says about "the GOP," you have to pretend that Clinton, and Obama, and Pelosi, and Schumer, and Feinstein simply don't exist and never did. The author's implicit valorization of Obamacare is even more disheartening.
But perhaps this is the *point* of the piece after all? If I were a consultant to the DNC (and I make less than $100,000/yr so I am clearly not), I would advocate that they commission, underscore, and reward pieces exactly like this one. For the smartest ones surely grasp that the rightist oligarchic policy takeover has in fact happened, and that it has left in its wake millions of disaffected, indebted, uneducated, uninsured Americans.
(Suggesting that it hadn't was the worst idiocy of Clinton's 2016 campaign. It would have been much better had she admitted it and blamed it on the Republican Senate while holding dear old Obama up as a hamstrung martyr for the cause. I mean, this is what everybody at DailyKos already believes, and the masses -- being poor and uneducated and desperate -- can be brought around to believe anything, or anyway, enough of them can be.)
I would advocate that the DNC double down on its rightful claims to Roosevelt's inheritance, embrace phrases like "social democracy" and "freedom from economic insecurity," and shift leftward in all its official rhetoric. Admit the evisceration of the Roosevelt tradition, but blame it all on the GOP. Maybe *maybe* even acknowledge that past Democratic leaders were a little naive and idealistic in their pursuit of bipartisanship, and did not understand the truly horrible intentions of the GOP. But today's Democrats are committed to wresting back the rights of the people from the evil clutches of the Koch Republicans. This sort of thing.
Would my advice be followed? Or would the *really* smart ones in the room demure? If so, why do you think they would?
In short, I read this piece as one stage in an ongoing dialectic in the Democratic Party in the run-up to the 2020 election wherein party leaders try to determine how leftward its "official" rhetoric is able to sway before becoming *so* unbelievable (in light of historical facts) that it cannot serve as effective propaganda -- even among Americans!
NotTimothyGeithner , , March 20, 2019 at 1:34 pm
Team Blue elites are the children of Bill Clinton and the Third Way, so the echo chamber was probably terrible. Was Bill Clinton a bad President? He was the greatest Republican President! The perception of this answer is a key. Who rose and joined Team Blue through this run? Many Democrats don't recognize this, or they don't want to rock the boat. This is the structural problem with Team Blue. The "generic Democrat" is AOC, Omar, Sanders, Warren, and a handful of others.
Can the Team Blue elites embrace a Roosevelt identity? The answer is no. Their ideology is so wildly divergent they can't adjust without a whole sale conversion.
More succinctly, the Third Way isn't about helping Democrats win by accepting not every battle can be won. Its about advancing right wing politics and pretending this isn't what its about. If they are too clear about good policy, they will be accused of betrayal.
jefemt , , March 20, 2019 at 9:18 am
Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose Kris Kristofferson
shinola , , March 20, 2019 at 1:06 pm
"nothin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free"
Trick Shroade , , March 20, 2019 at 9:46 am
The modern GOP has a very brutalist interpretation of Christianity, one where the money changers bring much needed liquidity to the market.
where , , March 20, 2019 at 12:30 pm
it's been 2 generations, but we assure you, the wealth will eventually trickle down
Dwight , , March 20, 2019 at 1:51 pm
Be patient, the horse has to digest your oat.
The Rev Kev , , March 20, 2019 at 10:13 am
This article makes me wonder if the GOP is still a political party anymore. I know, I know, they have the party structure, the candidates, the budget and all the rest of it but when you look at their policies and what they are trying to do, the question does arise. Are they doing it because this is what they believe is their identity as a party or is it that they are simply a vehicle with the billionaires doing the real driving and recruiting? An obvious point is that among billionaires, they see no need to form their own political party which should be telling clue. Certainly the Democrats are no better.
Maybe the question that American should ask themselves is just what does it mean to be an American in the year 2020? People like Norman Rockwell and his Four Freedoms could have said a lot of what it meant some 60 years ago and his work has been updated to reflect the modern era ( https://www.galeriemagazine.com/norman-rockwell-four-freedoms-modern/ ) but the long and the short of it is that things are no longer working for most people anymore -- and not just in America. But a powerful spring can only be pushed back and held in place for so long before there is a rebound effect and I believe that I am seeing signs of this the past few years.
GF , , March 20, 2019 at 11:06 am
And don't forget FRD's Second Bill of Rights:
" a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all -- regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security."
Frank Little , , March 20, 2019 at 10:20 am
America is having a heated debate about the meaning of the word socialism. We'd be better served if, instead, we were debating the meaning of freedom.
I agree, and we should also be having a debate about capitalism as it actually exists. In the US capitalism is always talked about in rosy non-specific terms (e.g. a preference for markets or support for entrepreneurship) while anybody who says they don't necessarily support capitalism has to answer for Stalin's gulag's or the Khmer Rouge. All the inequalities and injustices that have helped people like Howard Schultz or Jeff Bezos become billionaire capitalists somehow aren't part of capitalism, just different problems to be solved somehow but definitely not by questioning capitalism.
Last night I watched the HBO documentary on Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos and I couldn't help but laugh at all these powerful politicians, investors, and legal giants going along with someone who never once demonstrated or even explained how her groundbreaking innovation actually worked. $900 million was poured into that company before people realized something that a Stanford professor interviewed in the documentary saw when she first met Holmes. Fracking companies have been able to consistently raise funding despite consistently losing money and destroying the environment in the process. Bank balance sheets were protected while working people lost everything in the name of preserving American capitalism. I think it's good to debate socialism and capitalism, but there's not really any point if we aren't going to be talking about Actually Existing Capitalism rather than the hypothetical version that's trotted out anytime someone suggests an alternative.
Trick Shroade , , March 20, 2019 at 10:53 am
There was a great comment here on NC a little while ago, something to the effect of "capitalism has the logic of a cancer cell. It's a pile of money whose only goal is to become a bigger pile of money." Of course good things can happen as a side effect of it becoming a bigger pile of money: innovation, efficiencies, improved standard of living, etc. but we need government (not industry) regulation to keep the bad side effects of capitalism in check (like the cancer eventually killing its host).
Carey , , March 20, 2019 at 12:21 pm
"efficiency" is very often not good for the Commons, in the long term.
Frank Little , , March 20, 2019 at 12:31 pm
Shoot, must have missed that comment but it's a good metaphor. Reminds me of Capital vol. 1, which Marx starts with a long and dense treatment of the nature of commodities and commodification in order to capture this process whereby capitalists produce things people really do want or need in order to get at what they really want: return on their investment.
Jack Gavin , , March 20, 2019 at 12:36 pm
I also agree but I think we need to have a the same heated debate over what capitalism means. Over the years I have been subjected to (exposed) to more flavors of socialism than I can count. Yet, other than an introductory economics class way back when, no debatable words about what 'capitalism' is seems to get attention. Maybe it's time to do that and hope that some agreeable definition of 'freedom' falls out.
jrs , , March 20, 2019 at 12:42 pm
of course maybe socialism is the only thing that ever really could solve homelessness, given that it seems to be at this point a worldwide problem, although better some places than others (like the U.S. and UK).
Stratos , , March 20, 2019 at 11:11 am
This article lets the Dems off the hook. They have actively supported the Billionaire Agenda for decades now; sometimes actively (like when they helped gut welfare) and sometimes by enabling Repubs objectives (like voter suppression).
At this point in time, the Dem leadership is working to deep six Medicare for All.
With 'friends' like the Dems, who needs the Repubs?
WheresOurTeddy , , March 20, 2019 at 12:30 pm
our last democratic president was Carter
thump , , March 20, 2019 at 12:38 pm
1) In the history, a mention of the attempted coup against FDR would be good. See The Plot to Seize the White House by Jules Archer. ( Amazon link )
2) For the contemporary intellectual history, I really appreciated Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains . ( Amazon link ) Look her up on youtube or Democracy Now . Her book got a bit of press and she interviews well.
Bob of Newton , , March 20, 2019 at 1:58 pm
Please refer to these folks as 'rightwingers'. There are Democratic as well as Republicans who believe in this type of 'freedom'.
Jerry B , , March 20, 2019 at 2:38 pm
This post seems heavily slanted against the GOP and does not take into account how pro-business the Democrats have become. I tenuously agree with Yves intro that much of the current pro business value system campaign in the US was started with the political far right and the Lewis Powell Memo. And that campaign kicked into high gear during the Reagan Presidency.
But as that "pro business campaign" gained steam, the Democratic Party, IMO, realized that they could partake in the "riches" as well and sold their political soul for a piece of the action. Hartman's quote about the billionaire class should include their "wholly owned Republicans and Democrat politicians".
As Lambert mentions (paraphrasing), "The left puts the working class first. Both liberals and conservatives put markets first, liberals with many more layers of indirection (e.g., complex eligibility requirements, credentialing) because that creates niches from which their professional base benefits".
As an aside, while the pro-business/capitalism on steroids people have sought more "freedom", they have made the US and the world less free for the rest of us.
Also the over focusing on freedom is not uniquely GOP. As Hartman mentions, "the words freedom and liberty are iconic in American culture -- probably more so than with any other nation because they're so intrinsic to the literature, declarations and slogans of our nation's founding." US culture has taken the concept of freedom to an extreme version of individualism.
That is not surprising given our history.
The DRD4 gene is a dopamine receptor gene. One stretch of the gene is repeated a variable number of times, and the version with seven repeats (the "7R" form) produces a receptor protein that is relatively unresponsive to dopamine. Being unresponsive to dopamine means that people who have this gene have a host of related traits -- sensation and novelty seeking, risk taking, impulsivity, and, probably most consistently, ADHD. -- -- Seems like the type of people that would value extreme (i.e. non-collective) forms of freedom
The United States is the individualism poster child for at least two reasons. First there's immigration. Currently, 12 percent of Americans are immigrants, another 12 percent are children of immigrants, and everyone else except for the 0.9 percent pure Native Americans descend from people who emigrated within the last five hundred years.
And who were the immigrants?' Those in the settled world who were cranks, malcontents, restless, heretical, black sheep, hyperactive, hypomanic, misanthropic, itchy, unconventional, yearning to be free, yearning to be rich, yearning to be out of their, damn boring repressive little hamlet, yearning. -- -- Again seems like the type of people that would value freedom in all aspects of life and not be interested in collectivism
Couple that with the second reason -- for the majority of its colonial and independent history, America has had a moving frontier luring those whose extreme prickly optimism made merely booking passage to the New World insufficiently, novel -- and you've got America the individualistic.
The 7R variant mentioned above occurs in about 23 percent of Europeans and European Americans. And in East Asians? 1 percent. When East Asians domesticated rice and invented collectivist society, there was massive selection against the 7R variant. Regardless of the cause, East Asian cultural collectivism coevolved with selection against the 7R variant.
So which came first, 7R frequency or cultural style? The 4R and 7R variants, along with the 2R, occur worldwide, implying they already existed when humans radiated out of Africa 60,000 to 130,000 years ago. A high incidence of 7R, associated with impulsivity and novelty seeking, is the legacy of humans who made the greatest migrations in human history.
So it seems that many of the people who immigrated to the US were impulsive, novelty seeking, risk takers. As a counterpoint, many people that migrated to the US did not do so by choice but were forced from their homes and their countries by wars.
The point of this long comment is that for some people the concept of freedom can be taken to extreme -- a lack of gun control laws, financial regulation, extremes of wealth, etc. After a brief period in the 1940's, 1950's, and early 1960's when the US was more collective, we became greedy, consumerist, and consumption oriented, aided by the political and business elites as mentioned in the post.
If we want the US to be a more collective society we have to initially do so in our behaviors i.e. laws and regulations that rein in the people who would take the concept of freedom to an extreme. Then maybe over an evolutionary time period some of the move impulsive, sensation seeking, ADHDness, genes can be altered to a more balance mix of what makes the US great with more of the collective genes.
IMO, if we do not begin to work on becoming a collective culture now, then climate change, water scarcity, food scarcity, and resource scarcity will do it for us the hard way.
In these days of short attention spans I apologize for the long comment. The rest of my day is busy and I do not have more time to shorten the comment. I wanted to develop an argument for how the evolutionary and dysfunctional forms of freedom have gotten us to this point. And what we need to do to still have some freedom but also "play nice and share in the future sandbox of climate change and post fossil fuel society.
Aug 21, 2017 | www.globalresearch.caRegion: USA Theme: Media Disinformation , Police State & Civil Rights
More people are becoming alienated, cynical, resentful or resigned, while too much of mass and social media reinforces less-than-helpful narratives and tendencies. The frog's in the frying pan and the heat is rising.
On the big screens above us beautiful young people demonstrated their prowess. We were sitting in the communications center, waiting for print outs to tell us what they'd done before organizing the material for mass consumption. Outside, people were freezing in the snow as they waited for buses. Their only choice was to attend another event or attempt to get home.
The area was known as the Competition Zone, a corporate state created for the sole purpose of showcasing these gorgeous competitors. Freedom was a foreign idea here; no one was more free than the laminated identification card hanging around your neck allowed.
Visitors were more restricted than anyone. They saw only what they paid for, and had to wait in long lines for food, transport, or tickets to more events. They were often uncomfortable, yet they felt privileged to be admitted to the Zone. Citizens were categorized by their function within the Organizing Committee's bureaucracy. Those who merely served -- in jobs like cooking, driving and cleaning -- wore green and brown tags. They could travel between their homes and work, but were rarely permitted into events. Their contact with visitors was also limited. To visit them from outside the Zone, their friends and family had to be screened.
Most citizens knew little about how the Zone was actually run, about the "inner community" of diplomats, competitors and corporate officials they served. Yet each night they watched the exploits of this same elite on television.
The Zone, a closed and classified place where most bad news went unreported and a tiny elite called the shots through mass media and computers, was no futuristic fantasy. It was Lake Placid for several weeks in early 1980 -- a full four years before 1984.
In a once sleepy little community covered with artificial snow, the Olympics had brought a temporary society into being. Two thousand athletes and their entourage were its royalty, role models for the throngs of spectators, townspeople and journalists. This convergence resulted in an ad hoc police state, managed by public and private forces and a political elite that combined local business honchos with an international governing committee. They dominated a population all too willing to submit to arbitrary authority.
Even back then, Lake Placid's Olympic "village" felt like a preview of things to come. Not quite George Orwell's dark vision, but uncomfortably close.
In Orwell's imagination, society was ruled in the future by Big Brother. It wasn't a computer, but rather the collective expression of the Party. But not like the Republicans; this Party was an autonomous bureaucracy and advanced surveillance state interested only in perpetuating itself as a hierarchy. In this dystopia, "the people" had become insignificant, without the power of "grasping that the world could be other than it is."
Concepts like freedom were perverted by a ruthless Newspeakperpetuated by the Party through the media. A Goodthinker was someone who followed orders without thinking. Crimestop was the instinctual avoidance of any dangerous thought, and Doublethink was the constant distortion of reality to maintain the Party's image of infallibility.
Writing in 1948, Orwell was projecting what could happen in just a few decades. By most measures, even 70 years later we're not quite there yet. But we do face the real danger that freedom and equality will be seriously distorted by a new form of Newspeak, a Trumpian version promoted by the administration and its allies through their media. We already have Trumpian Goodthinkers -- the sychophantic surrogates who follow his lead without thinking, along with Crimestop -- the instinctual avoidance of "disloyal" thought, and Doublethink -- the constant distortion of reality to maintain Trump's insatiable ego and image of infallibility. Orwellian ideas are simply resurfacing in a post-modern/reality TV form.
Our fast food culture is also taking a long-term toll. More and more people are becoming alienated, cynical, resentful or resigned, while too much of mass and social media reinforces less-than-helpful narratives and tendencies. The frog's in the frying pan and the heat is rising.
Much of what penetrates and goes viral further fragments culture and thought, promoting a cynicism that reinforces both rage and inaction. Rather than true diversity, we have the mass illusion that a choice between polarized opinions, shaped and curated by editors and networks, is the essence of free speech and democracy. In reality, original ideas are so constrained and self-censored that what's left is usually as diverse as brands of peppermint toothpaste.
When the Bill of Rights was ratified, the notion that freedom of speech and the press should be protected meant that the personal right of self-expression should not be repressed by the government. James Madison, author of the First Amendment, warned that the greatest danger to liberty was that a majority would use its power to repress everyone else. Yet the evolution of mass media and the corporate domination of economic life have made these "choicest privileges" almost obsolete.
As community life unravels and more institutions fall into disrepute, media have become among of the few remaining that can potentially facilitate some social cohesion. Yet instead they fuel conflict and crisis. It's not quite Crimestop, but does often appeal to some of the basest instincts and produce even more alienation and division.
In general terms, what most mass media bring the public is a series of images and anecdotes that cumulatively define a way of life. Both news and entertainment contribute to the illusion that competing, consuming and accumulating are at the core of our aspirations. Each day we are repeatedly shown and told that culture and politics are corrupt, that war is imminent or escalating somewhere, that violence is random and pervasive, and yet also that the latest "experts" have the answers. Countless programs meanwhile celebrate youth, violence, frustrated sexuality, and the lives of celebrities.
Between the official program content are a series of intensely packaged sales pitches. These commercial messages wash over us, as if we are wandering in an endless virtual mall, searching in vain for fulfillment as society crumbles.
In 1980, Ralph Nader called the race for president at that time -- between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan -- a choice between mediocrity and menace. It was funny then, but now we can see what real menace looks like. Is Trump-ism what Orwell warned us about? Not quite, though there are similarities. Like Trump, you can't talk to Big Brother. And he rarely gives you the truth, only doublespeak. But Trump is no Big Brother. More like a Drunk Uncle with nukes.
So, is it too late for a rescue? Will menace win this time? Or can we still save the environment, reclaim self-government, restore communities and protect human rights? What does the future hold?
It could be summer in Los Angeles in 2024, the end of Donald Trump's second term. The freeways are slow-moving parking lots for the Olympics. Millions of people hike around in the heat, or use bikes and cycles to get to work. It's difficult with all the checkpoints, not to mention the extra-high security at the airports. Thousands of police, not to mention the military, are on the lookout for terrorists, smugglers, protesters, cultists, gangs, thieves, and anyone who doesn't have money to burn or a ticket to the Games.
Cash isn't much good, and gas has become so expensive that suburban highways are almost empty.
Security is tight and hard to avoid, on or offline. There are cameras everywhere, and every purchase and move most people make is tracked by the state. Still, there are four bombings in the first week of the Games. There is also another kind of human tragedy. Four runners collapse during preliminary rounds as a result of a toxic mix -- heat and pollution.
... ... ...
Greg Guma is the Vermont-based author of Dons of Time, Uneasy Empire, Spirits of Desire, Big Lies, and The People's Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution.
This article was originally published by Greg Guma: For Preservation & Change .
Feb 26, 2019 | www.unz.com
densa , says: February 26, 2019 at 11:04 pm GMT@Mike from Jersey This:
Don't the people pulling the strings behind the media understand what they have done? They have convinced a large part of the nation that everything that they were taught from childhood is a fraud.
Civilizations are only held together by the "glue" of shared beliefs. The deep-state-media-complex has just applied a solvent to the very glue that holds the entire culture together.
And Hopkins says a disillusioned people might realize
in reality they are living in a neo-feudalist, de facto global capitalist empire administrated by omnicidal money-worshipping human parasites that won't be satisfied until they've remade the whole of creation in their nihilistic image.
There has been a longstanding bipartisan attack against the nation, and I use that term as defined as "a stable, historically developed community of people with a territory, economic life, distinctive culture, and language in common."
But I don't think the "deep-state-media-complex" is concerned by this. Again, feature not bug.
Feb 26, 2019 | www.unz.com
obwandiyag , says: February 26, 2019 at 6:34 pm GMT@Digital Samizdat Excellent intelligence. As opposed to the "high IQ" idiocy promulgated on here.
You may like the way an acquaintance, a PhD from Chicago School of Business, who had just finished working on a project for Big Pharma, observed when I brought up the concept of "free market."
"'Free market?!'" he exclaimed. "No such thing. Because it's all crooked."
Jan 20, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com
Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,
Following what the Washington Post has described as "the highest-profile misstep yet for a news organization during a period of heightened and intense scrutiny of the press," mass media representatives are now flailing desperately for an argument as to why people should continue to place their trust in mainstream news outlets.
On Thursday Buzzfeed News delivered the latest "bombshell" Russiagate report to fizzle within 24 hours of its publication, a pattern that is now so consistent that I've personally made a practice of declining to comment on such stories until a day or two after their release. "BOOM!" tweets were issued by #Resistance pundits on Twitter, "If true this means X, Y and Z" bloviations were made on mass media punditry panels, and for about 20 hours Russiagaters everywhere were riding the high of their lives, giddy with the news that President Trump had committed an impeachable felony by ordering Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump office tower in Moscow, a proposal which died within weeks and the Kremlin never touched .
There was reason enough already for any reasonable person to refrain from frenzied celebration, including the fact that the story's two authors, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, were giving the press two very different accounts of the information they'd based it on, with Cormier telling CNN that he had not personally seen the evidence underlying his report and Leopold telling MSNBC that he had. Both Leopold and Cormier, for the record, have already previously suffered a Russiagate faceplant with the clickbait viral story that Russia had financed the 2016 election, burying the fact that it was a Russian election .
Then the entire story came crashing down when Mueller's office took the extremely rare step of issuing an unequivocal statement that the Buzzfeed story was wrong , writing simply, "BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the special counsel's office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen's congressional testimony are not accurate."
According to journalist and economic analyst Doug Henwood, the print New York Times covered the Buzzfeed report on its front page when the story broke, but the report on Mueller's correction the next day was shoved back to page 11 . This appalling journalistic malpractice makes it very funny that NYT's Wajahat Ali had the gall to tweet , "Unlike the Trump administration, journalists are fact checking and willing to correct the record if the Buzzfeed story is found inaccurate. Not really the actions of a deep state and enemy of the people, right?"
This is the behavior of a media class that is interested in selling narratives, not reporting truth. And yet the mass media talking heads are all telling us today that we must continue to trust them.
"Those trying to tar all media today aren't interested in improving journalism but protecting themselves," tweeted NBC's Chuck Todd.
"There's a lot more accountability in media these days than in our politics. We know we live in a glass house, we hope the folks we cover are as self aware."
More accountability in media than in politics, Chuck? Really? Accountability to whom? Your advertisers? Your plutocratic owners? Certainly not to the people whose minds you are paid exorbitant sums to influence; there are no public elections for the leadership of the mass media.
"Mueller didn't do the media any favors tonight, and he did do the president one," griped the odious Chris Cuomo on CNN. "Because as you saw with Rudy Giuliani and as I'm sure you'll see with the president himself, this allows them to say 'You can't believe it! You can't believe what you read, you can't believe what you hear! You can only believe us. Even the Special Counsel says that the media doesn't get it right.'"
"The larger message that a lot of people are going to take from this story is that the news media are a bunch of leftist liars who are dying to get the president, and they're willing to lie to do it, and I don't think that's true" said Jeffrey Toobin on a CNN panel , adding "I just think this is a bad day for us."
"It does reinforce bad stereotypes about the news media," said Brian Stelter on the same CNN panel.
"I am desperate as a media reporter to always say to the audience, judge folks individually and judge brands individually. Don't fall for what these politicians out there want you to do. They want you to think we're all crooked. We're not. But Buzzfeed now, now the onus is on Buzzfeed. "
CNN, for the record, has been guilty of an arguably even more embarrassing Russiagate flub than Buzzfeed 's when they wrongly reported that Donald Trump Jr had had access to WikiLeaks' DNC email archives prior to their 2016 publication, an error that was hilariously due to to the simple misreading of an email date by multiple people.
The mass media, including pro-Trump mass media like Fox News, absolutely deserves to be distrusted. It has earned that distrust. It had earned that distrust already with its constant promotion of imperialist wars and an oligarch-friendly status quo, and it has earned it even more with its frenzied promotion of a narrative engineered to manufacture consent for a preexisting agenda to shove Russia off the world stage.
The mainstream media absolutely is the enemy of the people; just because Trump says it doesn't mean it's not true. The only reason people don't rise up and use the power of their numbers to force the much-needed changes that need to happen in our world is because they are being propagandized to accept the status quo day in and day out by the mass media's endless cultural engineering project .
They are the reason why wars go unopposed, why third parties never gain traction, why people consent to money hemorrhaging upward to the wealthiest of the wealthy while everyone else struggles to survive. The sooner people wake up from the perverse narrative matrix of the plutocratic media, the better.
* * *
The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website , which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My articles are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook , following my antics on Twitter , throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal , purchasing some of my sweet new merchandise , buying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone , or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers .
Feb 12, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org
For more than two years U.S. politicians, the media and some bloggers hyped a conspiracy theory. They claimed that Russia had somehow colluded with the Trump campaign to get him elected.
An obviously fake 'Dirty Dossier' about Trump, commissioned by the Clinton campaign, was presented as evidence. Regular business contacts between Trump flunkies and people in Ukraine or Russia were claimed to be proof for nefarious deals. A Russian click-bait company was accused of manipulating the U.S. electorate by posting puppy pictures and crazy memes on social media. Huge investigations were launched. Every rumor or irrelevant detail coming from them was declared to be - finally - the evidence that would put Trump into the slammer. Every month the walls were closing in on Trump.
At the same time the very real Trump actions that hurt Russia were ignored.
Finally the conspiracy theory has run out of steam. Russiagate is finished :After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.
Democrats and other Trump opponents have long believed that special counsel Robert Mueller and Congressional investigators would unearth new and more explosive evidence of Trump campaign coordination with Russians. Mueller may yet do so, although Justice Department and Congressional sources say they believe that he, too, is close to wrapping up his investigation.
Nothing, zero, nada was found to support the conspiracy theory. The Trump campaign did not collude with Russia. A few flunkies were indicted for unrelated tax issues and for lying to the investigators about some minor details. But nothing at all supports the dramatic claims of collusion made since the beginning of the affair.
In a recent statement House leader Nancy Pelosi was reduced to accuse Trump campaign officials of doing their job:"The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people. ...
No one called her out for spouting such nonsense.
Russiagate created a lot of damage.
The alleged Russian influence campaign that never happened was used to install censorship on social media. It was used to undermine the election of progressive Democrats. The weapon salesmen used it to push for more NATO aggression against Russia. Maria Butina, an innocent Russian woman interested in good relation with the United States, was held in solitary confinement (recommended) until she signed a paper which claims that she was involved in a conspiracy.
In a just world the people who for more then two years hyped the conspiracy theory and caused so much damage would be pushed out of their public positions. Unfortunately that is not going to happen. They will jump onto the next conspiracy train continue from there.
Posted by b on February 12, 2019 at 01:38 PM | Permalink
Comments next page " Legally, Maria Butina was suborned into signing a false declaration. If there were the rule of law, such party or parties that suborned her would be in gaol. Considering Mueller's involvement with Lockerbie, I am not holding my breath. FWIW the Swiss company that made the timers allegedly involved in Lockerbie have some comments of its own .
james , Feb 12, 2019 2:00:14 PM | linkthanks b..Zanon , Feb 12, 2019 2:03:26 PM | link
I will be really glad when this 'get Russia' craziness is over, but I suspect even if the Mueller investigation has nothing, all the same creeps will be pulling out the stops to generate something... Skripal, Integrity Initiative, and etc. etc. stuff like this just doesn't go away overnight or with the end of this 'investigation'... folks are looking for red meat i tell ya!
as for Maria Butina - i look forward to reading the article.. that was a travesty of justice but the machine moves on, mowing down anyone in it's way... she was on the receiving end of all the paranoia that i have come to associate with the western msm at this point...Considering Mueller hasn't produced its report nor the House dito, its way to early to say Russia gate is "finished".Jackrabbit , Feb 12, 2019 2:11:44 PM | linkAnd Russiagate was used ...Rob , Feb 12, 2019 2:28:50 PM | link... by Hillary to justify her loss to Trump
Hillary's loss is actually best explained as her throwing the election to Trump . The Deep State wanted a nationalist to win as that would best help meet the challenge from Russia and China - a challenge that they had been slow to recognize.
... to smear Wikileaks as a Russian agent
The DNC leak is best explained as a CIA false flag.
... to remove and smear Michael Flynn
Trump said that he fired Flynn for lying to VP Pence but Flynn's conversations with the Russian Ambassador after Obama threw them out for "meddling" in the US election was an embarrassment to the Administration as Putin's Putin's decision not to respond was portrayed as favoritism toward the Trump Administration.You can take this to the bank. Hardcore Russiagaters will never give up their belief in collusion and Russian influence in the 2016 campaign -- never. Congress and Mueller will be accused of engaging in a coverup. This is typical behavior for conspiracy theorists.bj , Feb 12, 2019 2:30:41 PM | linkJimmy Dore on same: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgBxfHdb4OU Enjoy!Ort , Feb 12, 2019 2:34:14 PM | linkI hope that Russiagate is indeed "finished", but I think it needs to be draped with garlic-clove necklaces, shot up with silver bullets, sprinkled with holy water, and a wooden stake driven through its black heart just to make sure.worldblee , Feb 12, 2019 2:38:17 PM | link
I don't dispute the logical argument B. presents, but it may be too dispassionately rational. I know that the Russiagate proponents and enthralled supporters of the concept are too invested psychologically in this surrealistic fantasy to let go, even if the official outcome reluctantly admits that there's no "there" there.
The Democratic Party, one of the major partners mounting the Russophobic psy-op, has already resolved to turn Democratic committee chairmen loose to dog the Trump administration with hearings aggressively flogging any and all matters that discredit and undermine Trump-- his business connections, social liaisons, etc.
They may hope to find the Holy Grail: the elusive "bombshell" that "demands" impeachment, i.e., some crime or illicit conduct so heinous that the public will stand for another farcical impeachment proceeding. But I reckon that the Dems prefer the "soft" impeachment of harassing Trump with hostile hearings in hopes of destroying his 2020 electability with the death of a thousand innuendoes and guilt-by-association.
Thus, even if the Mueller report is underwhelming, I think that the Democrats and TDS-saturated Trump opponents will attempt to rehabilitate it by pretending that it contains important loose ends that need to be pursued. In other words, to perpetuate the Mueller-driven political Russophobia by all other available means.
Put more succinctly, I fear that Russiagate won't be finished until Rachel Maddow says it's finished. ;)Once a hypothesis is fixed in people's minds, whether true or not, it's hard to get them to let go of it. And let's not forget how many times the narrative changed (and this is true in the Skripal case as well), with all past facts vanishing to accommodate a new narrative.karlof1 , Feb 12, 2019 2:43:34 PM | link
So I, like others, expect the fake scandal to continue while many, many other real crimes (the US attempted coup in Venezuela and the genocidal war in Yemen, for instance) continue unabated.Putin solicits public input for essential national policy goals . If ever there was a template to follow for an actual MAGAgenda, Putin's Russia provides one. While US politicos argue over what is essentially Bantha Pudu, Russians are hard at work improving their nation which includes restructuring their economy.BlunderOn , Feb 12, 2019 2:48:51 PM | link
Russiagate has exposed the great degree of corruption within the Justice Department bureaucracy, particularly within FBI, and within the entire Democrat Party.mmm...james , Feb 12, 2019 2:52:33 PM | link
I very much doubt it it is over. Trump is corrupt and has links to corrupt Russians. Collusion, maybe not, but several stinking individuals are in the frame for, guess what - ...bring it on... The fact that Hilary was arguably even worse (a point made ad-nauseum on here) is frankly irrelevant. The vilification of Trump will not affect the warmongers efforts. He is a useful idiotfor a take on the alternative reality some are living in emptywheel has an article up on the nbc link b provides and the article on butina is discussed in the comments section... as i said - they are looking for red meat and will not be happy until they get some... they are completely zonkers...Blooming Barricade , Feb 12, 2019 2:55:18 PM | linkNow that this racket has been admitted as such, I expect all of the media outlets that devoted banner headlines, hundreds of thousands of hours of cable TV time, thousands of trees, and free speech online to immediately fire all of their journalists and appoint Glenn Greenwald as the publisher of the New York Times, Michael Tracey at the Post, Aaron Matte at the Guardian, and Max Blumenthal at the Daily Beast.jayc , Feb 12, 2019 3:03:51 PM | link
Since this is obviously not going to be allowed to happen, and since these people get away with everything, expect this to never end, despite all evidence to the contrary. It doesn't matter if they've been exposed as CIA propagandists or Integrity Initiative stooges, the game goes on...and on.... the job security of these disgraced columnists is the greatest in the Western world.Stephen Cohen discusses how rational viewpoints are banned from the mainstream media, and how several features of US life today resemble some of the worst features of the Soviet system. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/12/stephen-cohen-on-war-with-russia-and-soviet-style-censorship-in-the-us/Heath , Feb 12, 2019 3:18:29 PM | linkIt turned out getting rid of the Clintons has been a long term project.Harry Law , Feb 12, 2019 3:21:58 PM | linkThe US needs an enemy, how else can they ask NATO members to cough up 2% of GDP [just for one example Germany's GDP is nearly 4 Trillion dollars  for defence spending, what a crazy sum all NATO members must fork out to please the US, but then most of that money must be spent on the US MIC 'interoperability' of course.folktruther , Feb 12, 2019 3:27:32 PM | link
Then of course Russia has to be surrounded by NATO should they try and take over Europe by surging through the Fulda gap./s
Then of course there are the professional pundits who have built careers on anti Russian propaganda, Rachel Maddow for instance who earns 30,000$ per day to spew anti Russian nonsense.Another great damage of Russiagate was the instigating of a nuclear arms race directed primarily at Russia, and ideologically justified by its diabolical policies.frances , Feb 12, 2019 3:31:11 PM | link
I'm sorry b is so down on Conspiracy Theories, since they reveal quite real staged homicidal false flag operations of US power. Feeding into the stigmatizing of the truth about reality is not in the interests of the earth's people.somehow I see this "revelation: tied to Barr's approaching tenure. I think they (FBI/DOJ) didn't want his involvement in their noodle soup of an investigation and the best way to accomplish that was to end it themselves. I also suspect that a deal has been made with Trump, possibly in exchange for leaving his family alone.Ash , Feb 12, 2019 3:35:06 PM | link
So we will see no investigation of Hillary, her 650,000 emails or the many crimes they detailed (according to NYPD investigation of Weiner's laptop) and the US will continue to be at war all day, every day. Team Swamp rules.Meanwhile, MSM is prepping its readers for the possibility that the Mueller report will never be released to us proles. If that's the case, I'm sure nobody will try to use innuendo to suggest it actually contains explosive revelations after all...Heath , Feb 12, 2019 3:38:37 PM | link@16Anne Jaclard , Feb 12, 2019 3:54:47 PM | link
Harry, its vitally important as the US desperately wants to keep Europe under its thumb and to stop this European army which means Europe lead by Paris and Berlin becomes a world power. Trump's attempts to make nice with Russia is to keep it out of the EU bloc.Well, the liberal conspiracy car crash ensured downmarket Mussolini a second term, it appears...Hard Brexit Tories also look likely to win thanks to centrist sabatoge of the left. You reap what you sow, corporate presstitutes!wagelaborer , Feb 12, 2019 4:05:25 PM | linkSane people have predicted the end of Russiagate almost as many times as insane people have predicted that the "smoking gun that will get rid of Trump" has been found. And yet the Mighty Wurlitzer grinds on, while social media is more and more censored.Jen , Feb 12, 2019 4:15:57 PM | link
I expect it all to continue until the 2020 election circus winds up into full-throated mode, and no one talks about anything but the next puppet to be appointed. Oops, I mean "elected".Ort @ 7:Jackrabbit , Feb 12, 2019 4:16:59 PM | link
You also need to behead the corpse, stuff the mouth with a lemon and then place the head down in the coffin with the body in supine (facing up) position. Weight the coffin with stones and wild roses and toss it into a fast-flowing river.
Russiagate won't be finished until a wall is built around Capitol Hill and all its inhabitants and worker bees declared insane by a properly functioning court of law.frances @18:Jackrabbit , Feb 12, 2019 4:33:16 PM | linkI also suspect that a deal has been made with Trump, possibly in exchange for leaving his family alone. So we will see no investigation of Hillary ...Underlying your perspective is the assumption that USA is a democracy where a populist "outsider" could be elected President, Yet you also believe that Hillary and the Deep State have the power to manipulate government and the intelligence agencies and propose a "conspiracy theory" based on that power.
Isn't it more likely that Trump made it clear (behind closed doors, of course) that he was amenable to the goals of the Deep State and that the bogus investigation was merely done to: 1) cover their own election meddling; 2) eliminate threats like Flynn and Assange/Wikileaks; 3) anti-Russian propaganda?JenMichael McNulty , Feb 12, 2019 4:49:32 PM | link
Steven Cohen once lamented that there were no "wise men" left in foreign policy. All the independent realists were shut out.US anti-Russian hysteria is moving into that grey area beyond McCarthyism approaching Nazism.Circe , Feb 12, 2019 4:58:40 PM | linkDowd, Trump's former lawyer on Russiagate stated there may not even be a report. If this is the case then the Zionist rulers have gotten to Mueller who no doubt figured out that the election collusion breadcrumbs don't lead to Putin, they lead to Netanyahu and Zionist billionaire friends! So Mueller may have to come up with a nothing burger to hide the truth.Danny , Feb 12, 2019 5:02:34 PM | linkB is the only alternative media blogger I've followed for a significant amount of time without becoming disenfranchised. Not because he has no blind spot - his is just one I can deal with... optimism.
hopehely , Feb 12, 2019 5:14:49 PM | linkI will believe Russiagate is finished when expelled Russian staff gets back, when the US returns the seized Russian properties, when the consulate is Seattle reopens and when USA issues formal apology to Russia.bevin , Feb 12, 2019 5:16:18 PM | link
Posted by: hopehely | Feb 12, 2019 5:14:49 PM | linkNobody has ever advanced the tiniest shred of credible evidence that 'Russia' or its government at any level was in any way implicated either in Wikileaks' acquisition of the DNC and Podesta emails or in any form of interference with the Presidential election.Baron , Feb 12, 2019 5:16:49 PM | link
This has been going on for three years and not once has anything like evidence surfaced.
On the other hand there has been an abundance of evidence that those alleging Russian involvement consistently refused to listen to explore the facts.
Incredibly, the DNC computers were never examined by the FBI or any other agency resembling an official police agency. Instead the notorious Crowdstrike professionally russophobic and caught red handed faking data for the Ukrainians against Russia were commissioned to produce a 'report.'
Nobody with any sense would have credited anything about Russiagate after that happened.
Thgen there was the proof, from VIPS and Bill Binney (?) that the computers were not hacked at all but that the information was taken by thumbdrive. A theory which not only Wikileaks but several witnesses have offered to prove.
Not one of them has been contacted by the FBI, Mueller or anyone else "investigating."
In reality the charges from the first were ludicrous on their face. There is, as b has proved and every new day's news attests, not the slightest reason why anyone in the Russian government should have preferred Trump over Clinton. And that is saying something because they are pretty well indistinguishable. And neither has the morals or brains of an adolescent groundhog.
Russiagate is over, alright, The Nothingburger is empty. But that means nothing in this 'civilisation': it will be recorded in the history books, still to be written, by historians still in diapers, that "The 2016 Presidential election, which ended in the controversial defeat of Hillary Clinton, was heavily influenced by Russian agents who hacked ..etc etc"
What will not be remembered is that every single email released was authentic. And that within those troves of correspondence there was enough evidence of criminality by Clinton and her campaign to fill a prison camp.
Another thing that will not be recalled is that there was once a young enthusiastic man, working for the DNC, who was mugged one evening after work and killed.The 'no collusion' result will only spur the 'beginning of the end' baboons to shout even more, they'll never stop until they die in their beds or the plebs of the Republic made them adore the street lamp posts, you'll see. The former is by far more likely, the unwashed of American have never had a penchant for foreign affairs except for the few spasms like Vietnam.Circe , Feb 12, 2019 5:20:11 PM | linkThere was collusion alright but the only Russians who helped Trump get elected and were in on the collusion are citizens of ISRAEL FIRST, likewise for the American billionaires who put Trump in the power perch. ISRAEL FIRST.Les , Feb 12, 2019 5:24:36 PM | link
That's why Trump is on giant billboards in Israel shaking hands with the Yahoo. Trump is higher in the polls in Israel than in the U.S. If it weren't that the Zionist upper crust need Trump doing their dirty work in America, like trying today get rid of Rep. Omar Ilhan, then Trump would win the elections in Ziolandia or Ziostan by a landslide cause he's been better for the Joowish state than all preceding Presidents put together. Mazel tov to them bullshet for the rest of us servile mass in the vassal West and Palestinians the most shafted class ever. Down with Venezuela and Iran, up with oil and gas. The billionare shysters' and Trump's payola is getting closer. Onward AZ Empire!He proved himself so easy to troll during the election. It wouldn't surprise me if aim of the domestic intelligence agencies all along was to get him elected and have a candidate they could manipulate.Zachary Smith , Feb 12, 2019 5:38:03 PM | link@ Harry Law #16Zachary Smith , Feb 12, 2019 5:43:19 PM | link
At least Germany has the good sense not to throw taxpayer money at the F-35. German F-35 decision sacrifices NATO capability for Franco-German industrial cooperation I don't know what they have in mind with a proposed airplane purchase. If they need fighters, buy or lease Sweden's Gripen. If attack airplanes are what they're after, go to Boeing and get some brand new F-15X models. If the prickly French are agreeable to build a 6th generation aircraft, that would be worth a try.
Regarding Rachel Maddow, I recently had an encounter with a relative who told me 1) I visited too many oddball sites and 2) he considered Rachel M. to be the most reliable news person in existence. I think we're talking "true believer" here. :)@ Les @42Pft , Feb 12, 2019 5:44:54 PM | linkIt wouldn't surprise me if aim of the domestic intelligence agencies all along was to get him elected and have a candidate they could manipulate.
Considering how those "intelligence agencies" are hard pressed to find their own tails, even if you allow them to use both hands, it would surprise me.
That Trump would turn out to be a tub of jello in more than just a physical way has been a surprise to an awful lot of us.Jackrabbit , Feb 12, 2019 6:29:51 PM | link
Russiagate was very successful. You just have to understand the objectives. It was a great distraction. Diverting peoples attention from the continued fleecing of the "real people" which are the bottom 90% by the "Corporate People" and their Government Lackeys.
It provided an excuse for the acting CEO (a figurehead) of the Corporate Empire to go back on many of the promises made that got him elected, and to fill the swamp with Neocon and Koch Brother creatures with the excuse the Deep State made him do it. More proof that there is no deception that is too ridiculous to be believed so long as you have enough pundits claiming it to be so
Allowed the bipartisan support for the clamp down on alt media with censorship by social media (Deep State Tools) and funded by the Ministry of Truth set up by Obama in his last days in office to under the false pretense of protecting us from foreign governments interference in elections (except Israel of course) . Similar agencies have been set up or planned to be in other countries followig the US example such as UK, France, Russia, etc.
Did anyone really expect Mr "Cover It Up " Mueller to find anything? Mueller is Deep State all the way and Trump is as well, not withstanding the "Fake Wrestling " drama that they are bitter enemies. All the surveillance done over the past 2-3 decades would have so much dirt on the Trumpet they could silence him forever . Trump knew that going in and I sometimes wonder if he was pressured to run as a condition to avoid prosecution. Pretty sure every President since Carter has been "Kompromat"james, bevinstevelaudig , Feb 12, 2019 6:34:12 PM | link
If you've done just a cursory look into Seth Rich, you'd be very suspicious about the story of his life and death. IMO Assange/Wikilleaks were set up. And Flynn was set up too. What they are doing is Orwellian: White Helmets, election manipulation, propaganda, McCarthism, etc. If you're not angry, you're not paying attention.Russians and likely at the behest of the Russian state interfered and it was fair payback for Yeltsin's election. It is time to move on but not in feigned ignorance of what was done. Was it "outcome" affecting, possibly, but not clearly and if the US electoral college and electoral system generally is so decrepit that a second level power in the world can influence then its the US's fault.spudski , Feb 12, 2019 6:52:50 PM | link
It's not like the 2000 election wasn't a warning shot about the rottenness of system and a system that doesn't understand a warning shot deserves pretty much what it gets. But there's enough non-hype evidence of acts and intent to say yes, the Russians tried and may have succeeded. They certainly are acting guilty enough. but still close the book move and move on to Trump's 'real' crimes which were done without a Russian assist.@38 bevin @47 jamesJohan Meyer , Feb 12, 2019 6:55:54 PM | link
I seem to recall former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray saying that it was not a hack and that he had been handed a thumb drive in a field near American University by a disgruntled Democrat whistleblower. Further, I seem to recall William Binney, former NSA Technical Leader for intelligence, conducting an experiment to show that internet speeds at the time would not allow the information to be hacked - they knew the size of the files and the period over which they were downloaded. Plus, Seth Rich. So why does anyone even believe it was a hack, @32 THN?Just another comment re Mueller. There is a great documentary by (Dutch, not Israeli---different person) Gideon Levy, Lockerbie Revisited. The narration is in Dutch, but the interviews are in English, and there is a small segment of a German broadcast. The documentary ends abruptly where one set of FBI personnel contradict statements by another set of FBI personnel. See also this primer on Mueller's MO.frances , Feb 12, 2019 7:11:07 PM | linkreply to Les 42AriusArmenian , Feb 12, 2019 8:44:27 PM | link
"It wouldn't surprise me if aim of the domestic intelligence agencies all along was to get him elected and have a candidate they could manipulate."
Not the intelligence agencies, the Military IMO. They knew HC for what she was; horrifically corrupt and,again IMO,they know she is insane.
They saw and I think still see Trump as someone they could work with, remember Rogers (Navy) of the NSA going to him immediately once he was elected? That was the Military protecting him as best they could.
They IMO have kept him alive and as long as he doesn't send any troops into "real" wars, they will keep on keeping him alive.
This doesn't mean Trump hasn't gone over to the Dark Side, just that no military action will take place that the military command doesn't fully support.
Again, I could be wrong, he could be backed by fiends from Patagonia for all I really know:)The button pushers behind the Trump collusion and Russia election hacking false narratives got what they wanted: to walk the democrats and republicans straight into Cold War v2; to start their campaign to suppress alternative voices on the internet; to increase military spending; and more, more, more war.james , Feb 12, 2019 9:34:59 PM | linkot - further to @65 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK5YFos56ZU and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK5YFos56ZUben , Feb 12, 2019 10:11:05 PM | link
as jr says - welcome to the rabbit hole..Hope you're right b. Maybe now we can get on with some real truths.Circe , Feb 12, 2019 10:52:22 PM | link
- That there is really only one party with real influence, the party of $.
- That most of the Dems belong to that club, and virtually all the Repubs.
- That the U$A is not a real democracy, but an Oligarchy.
- That the corporate empire is the greatest purveyor of evil the world has ever known.
And these are just a few truths. Thanks for the therapy b, hope you feel better...Boy, I hope Jackrabbit sees this. Everyone knows I believe Trump is the anointed chosen of the Zionist 1%. There was no Russia collusion; it was Zionist collusion with a Russian twist...Circe , Feb 12, 2019 11:11:17 PM | linkOh yeah! Forgot to mention the latest. Trump is asking Kim to provide a list of his nuclear scientists! Before Kim acts on this request, he should call up the Iranian government for advise 'cause they have lots of experience and can warn Kim of what will happen to each of those scientists. They'll be put on a kill-list and will be extrajudicially wacked as in executed. Can you believe the chutzpah? Trump must think Kim is really stupid to fall for that one!PHC , Feb 13, 2019 2:25:44 AM | link
Aye! The thought of six more years of Zionist pandering Trump. Barf-inducing prospect is too tame.V , Feb 13, 2019 2:25:48 AM | link
Russiagate is finished. So, now is the time to create Chinagate. But how ??The view from the hermitage is, we are in the age of distractions. Russiagate will be replaced with one of a litany of distractions, purely designed to keep us off target. The target being, corruption, vote rigging, illegal wars, war crimes, overthrowing sovereign governments, and political assasinations, both at home and abroad. Those so distracted, will focus on sillyness; not the genuine danger afoot around the planet. Get used to it; it's become the new normal.Circe , Feb 13, 2019 3:53:19 AM | link@76HwCirce , Feb 13, 2019 4:15:37 AM | link
I have yet to read anything more delusional, nay, utterly preposterous. Methinks you over-project too much. Even Trump would have a belly-ache laugh reading that sheeple spiel. You're the type that sees the giant billboard of Zionist Trump and Yahoo shaking hands and drones on and on that our lying eyes deceive us and it's really Trump playing 4-D chess. I suppose when he tried to pressure Omar Ilhan into resigning her seat in Congress yesterday, that too was reverse psychology?
Trump instagramed the billboard pic, he tweeted it, he probably pasted it on his wall; maybe with your kind of wacky, Trump infatuation, you should too!
Starring roleRussiagate is finished because Mueller discovered an embarrassing fact: The collusion was and always will be with Israel. Here's Trump professing his endless love for Zionism: Trump Resignsnake , Feb 13, 2019 5:13:14 AM | linksnake , Feb 13, 2019 6:08:16 AM | link
Russiagate was very successful <=pls read, re-read Pft @ 46.. he listed many things. divide and conquer accomplished.
a nation state is defined as an armed rule making structure, designed by those who control a territory, and constructed by the lawyers, military, and wealthy and run by the persons the designers appoint, for the appointed are called politicians.
Most designs of armed nation states provide the designers with information feedback and the designers use that information to appoint more obedient politicians and generals to run things, and to improve the design to better serve the designers. The armed rule making structure is designed to give the designers complete control over those targeted to be the governed. Why so stupid the governed? ; always they allow themselves to be manipulated like sheep.
When 10 angry folks approach you with two pieces of ropes: one to throw over the tree branch under which your horse will be supporting you while they tie the noose around your neck and the other shorter piece of rope to tie your hands behind ..your back you need at that point to make your words count , if five of the people are black and five are white. all you need do is say how smart the blacks are, and how stupid the whites are, as the two groups fight each other you manage your escape. democrat vs republican= divide to conquer. gun, no gun = divide to conquer, HRC vs DJT = divide to conquer, abortion, no abortion = divide to conquer, Trump is a Russian planted in a high level USA position of power = divide to conquer, They were all in on it together,, Muller was in the white house to keep the media supplied with XXX, to keep the law enforcement agencies in the loop, and to advise trump so things would not get out of hand ( its called Manipulation and the adherents to the economic system called Zionism
For the record, Zionism is not related to race, religion or intelligence. Zionism is a system of economics that take's no captives, its adherents must own everything, must destroy and decimate all actual or imaginary competition, for Zionist are the owners and masters of everything? Zionism is about power, absolute power, monopoly ownership and using governments everywhere to abuse the governed. Zionism has many adherents, whites, blacks, browns, Christians, Jews, Islamist, Indians, you name it among each class of person and walk of life can be found persons who subscribe to the idea that they, and only they, should own everything, and when those of us, that are content to be the governed let them, before the kill and murder us, they usually end up owning everything.Here might the subject matter that Russia Gate sought to camouflage https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/13/588433/US-Saudi-Arabia-nuclear-deal-nuclear-weapons 'This comes as US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been holding secret talks with Saudi officials on sharing US nuclear technology.'Kiza , Feb 13, 2019 8:26:29 AM | link
Finally, a hypothesis to explain
1. why the Joint non nuclear agreement with Iran and the other nuclear power nations, that prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons, was trashed? Someone needs to be able to say Iran is developing ..., at the right time.
2. Why Netanyohu made public a video that claimed Iran was developing nuclear stuff in violation of the Iran non nuclear agreement, and everybody laughed,
3. Why the nuclear non proliferation agreement with Russia, that terminated the costly useless arms race a decade ago, has been recently terminated, to reestablish the nuclear arms race, no apparent reason was given the implication might be Russia could be a target, but
4. why it might make sense to give nukes to Saudi Arabia or some other rogue nation, and
5. why no one is allowed to have nuclear weapons except the Zionist owned and controlled nation states.
Statement: Zionism is an economic system that requires the elimination of all competition of whatever kind. It is a winner get's all, takes no prisoners, targets all who would threaten or be a challenge or a threat; does not matter if the threat is in in oil and gas, technology or weapons as soon as a possibility exist, the principles of Zionism would require that it be taken out, decimated, and destroyed and made where never again it could even remotely be a threat to the Empire, that Zionism demands..
Hypothesis: A claim that another is developing nuclear weapon capabilities is sufficient to take that other out?I am glad that most commenters understand that Russiagate will not go away. But the majority appear to miss the real reason. Russiagate is not an accusation, it is the state of mind.NemesisCalling , Feb 13, 2019 8:46:48 AM | link
At the beginnng of Russiagate, I wrote on Robert Parry's Consirtium News that Russiagate is Idiocracy piggy-backing on decades and literally billions of dollars of anti-Soviet and anti-Russian propaganda. How hard would it be to brainwash an already brainwashed population?
The purveyors of Russiagate will re-compose themselves, brush off all reports and continue on. One just cannot get away from one's nature, even when that nature is pure idiocy. Of course, the most ironic in the affair is that it is the so called US "intellectuals", academics and other assorted cretins who are the most fervent proponents. If you were wondering how Russia can make such amazing defensive weapons that US can only deny exist and wet dream of having, there is your answer. It is the state of mind. The whole of US establishment are legends in their on lunch time and totally delusional about the reality surrounding them - both Russiagate and MAGA cretins, no report can help the Russiagate nation.
Finally, I am thinking of that crazy and ugly professor bitch from the British Cambridge University who gives her lectures naked to protest something or other. I am so lucky that I do not have to go to a Western university ever again. What a catastrophic decline! No Brexit can help the Skripal nation.Russiagate is finished, but is DJT also among the rubble?morongobill , Feb 13, 2019 9:52:25 AM | link
Hardly any money for the border wall and still lingering in the ME?
If Hoarsewhisperer proves to be correct above re: DJT, he will really have to knock our socks off before election 2020. To do this he will have to unequivocally and unceremoniously withdraw from the MENA and Afghanistan and possibly declare a National Emergency for more money for the wall.
The problem is, when he does this, he will look impulsively dangerous and this may harm his mystique to the lemmings who need a president to be more "presidential."
My money is on status quo all the way to 2020 and the rethugz hoping the Dems will eat their own in an orgy of warring identities.
I would love to be proven wrong.Rush Limbaugh has been on a roll with his analysis of Russiagate, in fact, his analysis is in line with the writer/editor here at MOA.Bart Hansen , Feb 13, 2019 10:52:12 AM | linkThe collusion story may be faltering, but the blame for Russia poisoning the Skripals lives on. The other night on The News Hour, "Judy" led off the program with this: "It has been almost a year since Kremlin intelligence officers attempted to kill a Russian defector in the British city of Salisbury by poisoning him with a nerve agent. That attack, and the subsequent death of a British woman, scared away tourists and shoppers, but authorities and residents are working to get the town's economy back on track. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports."Erelis , Feb 13, 2019 12:15:48 PM | link
Russiagate will not go away unfortunately because it has evolved in the "Russiagate Industry". As mentioned by others, the Russiagate Industry has been very profitable for many industries and people. Russiagate has generated an entire cottage industry of companies around censorship and "find us a Russian". Dow Jones should have an index on the Russiagate Industry.
Here is one recent example. You know the measles outbreak in the US Pacific Northwest. Yup, the Russians. How do we know. A government funded research grant. The study found that 899 tweets caused people to doubt vaccines. Looks like money is to be had even by academics for the right results.
Measles outbreak: Anti-vaccination misinformation fueled by Russian propagandists, study finds
Feb 11, 2019 | www.unz.com
sentido kumon , says: February 3, 2019 at 10:17 am GMT'Liber' in Latin means:
1) free (man)
2) free from tribute
3) independent, outspoken/frank
5) void of
The author needs to recheck his definitions. Voluntary exchange, consent, free markets, free will, etc are just some of the concepts at the heart of the true libertarian thought. The ruling class has successfully ruled out any concept of consent. Keep bringing consent up and their philosophies will be shown to be the same as gang rapists.
"The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau. What an alluring utopia! What a noble cause to fight!" – Ludwig Von Mises
Jan 31, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
The Rev Kev , , January 31, 2019 at 8:08 am
Do you think that the Guardian will shortly report that Iraq's WMD were snuck out of Iraq and hidden in Venezuela all those years ago?
Colonel Smithers , , January 31, 2019 at 8:36 am
Thank you, Kev.
Please don't give the scoundrels at King's Place any ideas.
Jan 19, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org
Jackrabbit , Jan 15, 2019 9:31:08 PM | lin kkarlof1
According to Wolin, domestic and foreign affairs goals are each important and on parallel tracks, as summarized at Wikipedia, the United States has two main totalizing dynamics:The first, directed outward, finds its expression in the global War on Terror and in the Bush Doctrine that the United States has the right to launch preemptive wars. This amounts to the United States seeing as illegitimate the attempt by any state to resist its domination.
The second dynamic, directed inward, involves the subjection of the mass of the populace to economic "rationalization", with continual "downsizing" and "outsourcing" of jobs abroad and dismantling of what remains of the welfare state created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. Neoliberalism is an integral component of inverted totalitarianism. The state of insecurity in which this places the public serves the useful function of making people feel helpless, therefore making it less likely they will become politically active and thus helping maintain the first dynamic.
<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>
Wolin's Inverted Totalitarianism provides the ground work for my suspicions regarding faux populists Obama and Trump:By using managerial methods and developing management of elections, the democracy of the United States has become sanitized of political participation, therefore managed democracy is "a political form in which governments are legitimated by elections that they have learned to control".
Under managed democracy, the electorate is prevented from having a significant impact on policies adopted by the state because of the opinion construction and manipulation carried out by means of technology, social science, contracts and corporate subsidies.
Jan 13, 2019 | www.unz.com
obwandiyag , says: January 13, 2019 at 6:37 am GMTIdiots on here are always going on about how we don't got capitalism, if we only had capitalism, we don't got free markets, if only we had free markets, then everything would be hunky-dory. Without any proof, of course, because there never was and never will be a "free" "market." The US has plenty capitalism. And everything sucks. And they want more. Confused, stupid, disingenuous liars.obwandiyag , says: January 13, 2019 at 6:42 am GMTLook, what you call "capitalism" and "free markets" just means scams to make rich people richer. You read some simple-minded description of some pie-in-the-sky theory of some perfect world where rational actors make the best possible decisions in their own interest without any outside interference, and you actually think you are reading a description of something real.
I'll tell you what's real. Crookedness. Free markets are crookedness factories. As a PhD from Chicago Business School told me, "Free markets?! What free markets?! There is no free market! It's all crooked!"
Jan 13, 2019 | www.nytimes.com
That said, the truth is that libertarian ideology isn't a real force within the G.O.P.; it's more of a cover story for the party's actual agenda.
In the case of the party establishment, that agenda is about redistributing income up the scale, and in particular helping important donor interests. Republican politicians may invoke the rhetoric of free markets to justify cutting taxes for the rich and benefits for the poor, or removing environmental regulations that hurt polluters' profits, but they don't really care about free markets per se. After all, the party had little problem lining up behind Trump's embrace of tariffs.
Meanwhile, the philosophy of the party's base is, in essence, big government for me but not for thee. Stick it to the bums on welfare, but don't touch those farm subsidies. Tellingly, the centerpiece of the long G.O.P. jihad against Obamacare was the false claim that it would hurt Medicare.
And as it happens, many of the spending cuts being forced by the shutdown fall heavily and obviously on base voters. Small business owners are much more conservative than the nation as a whole, but they really miss those government loans. Rural voters went Republican during a Democratic midterm blowout, but they want those checks. McConnell may have trash-talked food stamps in the past, but a sudden cutoff would have a catastrophic effect on the most Republican parts of his home state.
C Wolfe Bloomington IN Jan. 10AndyE Berkley MI Jan. 10
I had an idiot,er, libertarian friend once who actually believed the market would take care of food safety, because people wouldn't buy food from a source if that source was known to have sold tainted food. "What about the people who die in the meantime?" I asked. "Well, it's up to people to decide what to eat. The government shouldn't tell people what to eat." "But how are you supposed to know? How much tainted food has to be sold and eaten before people even know to avoid it? People get sick or die.
What about people's lives?" "Argh, 'people's lives.'" (Eye roll.) "Liberals are always talking about 'people's lives.'" I swear this is an actual conversation that I repeated so many times I have it memorized.DB NC Jan. 11 Times Pick
Ironically, the likelihood of chronic dependency on federal dollars is directly proportional to the redness of the state.Socrates Downtown Verona. NJ Jan. 10
One of the big obstacles I've observed is that conservatives, in general, have to experience negative consequences directly to understand the link between cause and effect. Liberals, in general, are better at imagining negative consequences and taking preventive action before they directly experience it. It has to do with empathy and solidarity, I think. Liberals see someone suffering, and they think, "We should find out what caused that and fix it so it doesn't happen to the rest of us." Conservatives see someone suffering, and they think, "That guy must be a terrible person. He totally deserves what happened to him. It can never happen to me because I'm a good guy." It is only when the negative thing does directly happen to the conservative that he may reconsider. That's when it is important to find a scapegoat- illegal immigrants, minorities, Jews- to blame in order to obscure the causal link.Larry St. Paul, MN Jan. 11 Times Pick
Libertarianism attracts the finest stunted teenaged and hypocritical minds that are either disconnected from reality or that suffer from cognitive dissonance that allows hypocrisy and selfishness to flourish like mutant bacteria. Taxes and good government are the price of any decent civilization...and both of these concepts are completely demonized by Republicans even though Republicans are some of the greatest welfare queens in the nation. Productive, modern, blue Democratic state federal tax dollars have long subsidized rural, religious Republican states that hate the federal government....they curse they horse that feeds them and then they curse even more when the federal teat is turned off. America's 0.1% Robber Barons and crony vulture capitalists curse 'high tax rates' that aren't particularly high compared to the rest of the world while using America's infrastructure, legal system, government-funded research and technology, and corrupted electoral system to make parasitic profits that dwarf those of foreign corporations who pay their fair share of taxes to countries with increasingly better infrastructure and educational systems. The libertarian theology followed to fruition is Somalia-like; an unregulated anarchy of human misery. Decent human beings understand that healthy taxes produce healthy civilization. Today's version of libertarian Republicanism is a demented form of arrested emotional development that's been destroying the USA since 1980. Nice GOPeople.Wilbray Thiffault Ottawa. Canada Jan. 10
Those who believe, like Ronald Reagan, that government is the problem, are about to discover that the absence of government is an even worse problem.Eric Bremen Jan. 11 Times Pick
Senator Mitch McConnel said that the food stamp program is "making it excessively easy to be non productive." Well, Mitch McConnel is not on the food stamp program and he manages to be one of the most "non productive" senator in the history of the US Senate. Congratulation Senator!jrinsc South Carolina Jan. 11 Times Pick
Almost unfailingly, the stoutest Republican supporters seem to be the biggest beneficiaries of government: the military, farmers, pensioners or small business owners. Growing up in a military family, I remember subsidized gas, medical treatment for free and school trips paid by the DoD. Yet anytime there was a Democratic president, it sounded like there would be a coup when our military parents met at picnicks and had a few beers. If anything, Trump and the GOP have finally shown common decent folk what the democratic experiment in America has become: a system that looks alot like feudal systems of the past. Including walls!TM Muskegon, MI Jan. 10
There is no such thing as a free market. Let me repeat it again for effect: there is NO such thing as a free market. Whether one calls it libertarianism or neoliberalism, the idea is pretty much the same: if we just unleash the power of human greed, the market will equal everything out, and we'll all be freer because of it. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. Our government gives huge incentives to large corporations with the idea that wealth will trickle down into middle class jobs and prosperity. But guess what? Those corporations keep most of the incentives and profits for themselves and their shareholders. The comparatively minuscule recent tax cuts for the middle class pale in comparison to the huge corporate cuts that added $2 trillion to our national deficit. The only thing stopping corporate excess and monopolies is government. Many libertarians cry "starve the beast." Well, they shouldn't complain if they get food poisoning because their food wasn't properly inspected by a government they loath. And neither should President Trump complain, if, like most Americans, his next Big Mac doesn't agree with him.Lex DC Jan. 10
For those who despise government regulations, I offer 3 observations: 1. I lived near Muskegon, MI, prior to the EPA, when 3 foundries were constantly belching smoke and foundry dust into the air. Breathing the air was equivalent to smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day.
2. I lived in Cairo, Egypt for 3 years. I purchased 4 pairs of prescription eyeglasses before finally giving up. None of them were right - and no regulations meant that I had no recourse.
3. I lived in Accra, Ghana for 3 years. No construction codes meant that the brand new luxury apartment building I moved into suffered numerous problems with plumbing, resulting in mold, flooded floors and sudden loss of water pressure.
In Cairo and in Accra, there was no social safety net. Beggars were a constant. Often they would be horribly disfigured and with no family what were they to do? I am happily retired now, back in Western Michigan, thoroughly enjoying the clean air, safe food, and clean parks. Obama said it best - it's not the size of government, it's the effectiveness of it. And if it's not working, that's on us - we're the ones who put those people in office. 2020 can't arrive soon enough.Michael W. Espy Flint, MI Jan. 11 Times Pick
The Trump voter in my family was a libertarian before switching to the Party of Trump and still believes that government is an interference. One conversation we had was about electricians needing to be licensed. He said electricians did not need to be licensed because if their work led to customers being injured or killed due to a fire, that information would circulate and those electricians would be forced out of the market. I asked him if he cared about the people injured or killed, he shrugged his shoulders and said that's just the way things are. I then asked him what if he was one the customers injured or killed. He looked rather shocked at that question and immediately dropped the subject. That is all that I ever needed to know about libertarianism.Pat Somewhere Jan. 10
I like to pay taxes, I get civilization in return.Goodglud Flagstaff, AZ Jan. 10
"Libertarianism" according to the GOP means that YOU need the discipline of the "free market," but I deserve all the protections and support of the nanny state (financed with your tax dollars, thank you very much.)Michael McLemore Athens, Georgia Jan. 11 Times Pick
As George Lakoff reminded us, what the anti-government folks call "regulations" are, for the most part, "protections." We shouldn't let the Kochs, Trumps, McConnells, and Ryans frame the discussion. "The term "regulation" is framed from the viewpoint of corporations and other businesses. From their viewpoint, "regulations" are limitations on their freedom to do whatever they want no matter who it harms. But from the public's viewpoint, a regulation is a protection against harm done by unscrupulous corporations seeking to maximize profit at the cost of harm to the public." https://georgelakoff.com/2017/01/28/the-publics-viewpoint-regulations-are-protectionsFunkyIrishman member of the resistance Jan. 11 Times Pick
At some point the American people need to realize that conservative/libertarian pundits are just on-air hucksters selling a product. Instead of selling Vegematics, Ginsu knives or non-stick cookware, they are peddling right-wing bile for a profit. And the profits derived from their corporate advertisers are huge. Forget truth or journalism, Rush Linbaugh openly proclaims himself to be an "entertainer" and not a "journalist" (mainly to make it more difficult to sue him for falsehood). Ann Coulter similarly declares herself a "polemicist". Forget for a moment the subversive influence of Russian money and hacking on American politics. Our own homegrown corporate advertisers are eagerly subverting America by underwriting glib purveyors of corrosive right-wing propaganda, who will slyly proclaim the gospel of unbridled greed and not of social responsibility. Of course drug companies don't want the FDA. Why would they want oversight to keep the public safe, when safety costs them money? Why would banks want regulation to safeguard the financial system and consumers, when regulation interferes with short-term profits? The Koch brothers don't want pesky interference from the EPA in regulating their mega-refinery in Minnesota. Their family homes are in Aspen, Palm Beach and Manhattan, so why should it concern them if effluent rolls through St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans? Don't dare call this something so plain as "greed". Wrap it in a bow and call it "libertarianism".earlyman Portland Jan. 10
Republican mantra (even Libertarian) is to be left alone, so long as THEIR way of life is left alone, and they are subsidized by you for living that way. That may mean a MASSIVE military to be a deterrent, or to go invade some other country to keep the oil flowing. That may mean subsidizing all sorts of industries, businesses and the like, because they cannot compete at all on a truly free open market. That might mean support for all sorts of social programs, health programs, education programs and the like as well, because bootstraps only take you so far. I would use the word hypocrisy, but that would entail that many know what they speak of when describing what Libertarian, or Socialist. or another ''ist'' form of government actually means. We are all in this together or we are not. There is no in between, but many would have you believe it is possible. It is not.Linda Sausalito, CA Jan. 10
@Bill Once you our you loved one eats salmonella contaminated lettuce and nearly dies, good luck going after, or even finding, the agra-business across the country who caused it.Will Schmidt perlboy on a ranch 6 miles from Ola, AR Jan. 10
European food is heavily regulated, uh, by governments. Much tastier and doesn't contain known carcinogens. Watching the train wreck of the United States.Michael Kelly Bellevue, Nebraska Jan. 10
@C Wolfe This rings so true for me too. I majored in economics at UICC in the early seventies. My favorite prof was a PhD candidate at U of Chicago, and one of his advisors was Milton Friedman. Being at UICC, I did not study under the great man, but I did under one of his acolytes, who was close to tenure (ABD, if I remember correctly), and I thought, a very intelligent one. One of his two areas of doctoral specialty (you had to have two; his other was labor) was macro, and I took him for among other things, money & banking. In fact, I took M&B twice, because the first time (I got an A) was from a Keynesian, and I wanted to get it from a Quantity Theory guy; another A.) Because my prof was a diciple of M.F., I got to attend several special lectures at UC, and partake of the kool-aid. Well, I heard directly from the horse's mouth how consumers would boycotte inferior suppliers and only the best would survive. The free market would favor the best and punish the worst. Of course, this required perfect information. Unfortunately, no good case was made how a perfect information economy could be achieved nor how consumers could afford to acquire perfect information. The price of discovering bad suppliers of tainted food would surely include the deaths of some number of consumers before that information became generally available. We debated perfect markets and perfect information but never did get a convincing case for abandoning government inspection of food products.LT Chicago Jan. 10
The famous Republican philosopher Grover Norquist once said that he's want to have government so small that one could drown it in the bathtub. Right now, nearly one million government workers are facing the prospect of drowning in debt. Trump suggests that they could make do like he always used to, namely declare bankruptcy or go to daddy for a loan. All this while court jester Pence 'handles' the negotiations. His idea is to make more requests while staying firm on a wall.Norm Weaver Buffalo NY Jan. 10
Perhaps the GOP base will finally learn just how dependent they really are on the government they profess to hate. Trump loving farmers and small town business owners are in for a particularly nasty surprise. It's not just farm subsidies. As described by Michael Lewis in "The Fifth Risk": "As the U.S.D.A.'s loans were usually made through local banks, the people on the receiving end of them were often unaware of where the money was coming from. There were many stories very like the one Tom Vilsack told, about a loan they had made, in Minnesota, to a government-shade-throwing, Fox News-watching, small-town businessman. The bank held a ceremony and the guy wound up being interviewed by the local paper. "He's telling the reporter how proud he is to have done it on his own," said Vilsack. "The U.S.D.A. person goes to introduce herself, and he says, 'So who are you?' She says, 'I'm the U.S.D.A. person.' He asks, 'What are you doing here?' She says, 'Well, sir, we supplied the money you are announcing.' He was white as a sheet." There are rural counties in this country that are only viable with government money. Trump counties. It's going to be an expensive and painful education. Trump University lives.George Chicago Jan. 10
If ever there was a group that lives in a fantasy world, it's the libertarians. In another article in another newspaper that dealt with "intrusive" government, I submitted a comment saying that I wouldn't be surprised if Libertarians would be opposed to STOP signs and traffic lights because these would constitute an unnecessary infringement on their freedom. Wouldn't you know that a person of that persuasion actually replied to my comment and confirmed my suspicion. Working in an IT position for three decades I dealt with this type daily. Many were 30-something white males, often both cognitively and physically well above average, who had learned to program computers. They were blessed with being raised in two-parent families. I acknowledge the hard work they did to learn to wrestle with computers, but they lacked the perspective to realize that they had not hit a home run but rather had been born on second or third base due to the intellectual and physical gifts they possess that many others don't.They could not understand why others in society could not emulate their success. In one conversation about affirmative action, one such person asked "Why do we need that anymore? There are laws against discrimination.". Many of this type get bit in the behind when some government regulation is repealed then it turns out that THEY are the ones adversely affected by the repeal. But don't waste your breath trying to pierce the fantasy balloon. They hold tight to those fantasies.Red Sox, '04, '07, '13, '18, Boston Jan. 10
I'm waiting for Grover Norquist and the other small government proponents to relocate to Somalia, home of no real government. Why it's not thriving without the yoke of onerous regulations is surprising.Dominic Holland San Diego Jan. 10
"...making it excessively easy to be non-productive." -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The irony is too rich here. While he and his president and the "non-productive" Republican Senators draw a paycheck for soaking up the public dime, kids will go hungry; start-up hopefuls will lose loans; farmers will feel the bite; food will become contaminated and people will fill hospital ER's and strain their health insurance. For openers. The Right is getting its own back on FDR's New Deal. All because "government is the problem." Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.Paul K Michigan USA Jan. 11 Times Pick
A relatively minor point: "Maybe you believe that private companies could take over the F.D.A.'s role in keeping food safe, but such companies don't exist now and can't be conjured up in a matter of weeks." Such inspection companies could only exist if they were funded by the food companies they were inspecting. Competition among inspection companies would then obviously lead to grade inflation: hire some other company that is more likely to give you a passing grade, who in turn will be happy to lower standards to attract more customers. This is not an avenue for effective replacement of the FDA. Libertarianism is for chumps and fanatics, no one else.Tom B New York Jan. 11 Times Pick
We lived in a small West African nation for 25 years. There were no collectable taxes because the tax collectors kept what they could extort from poor people, no safety nets such as social security or medicaid/medicare, no fire fighters, no functional road departments, no regulation of pharmaceuticals, an unprepared and unarmed military, no paid federal, regional of local police forces, no judges who were not bought by the highest bidder, no standards for the public hospitals, no communication systems, no running water in major cities, no electric power that functioned more than 4-6 hours a day, and not a single government official who was not on the take.
What we did have were cholera epidemics that killed 5000 people, annual measle epidemics that killed children under 5 years old , villages burned to the ground by wildfire, a school system which did not pay its teachers and finally a 12 year civil war which killed over 200,000 people and a [post war ebola epidemic which killed 12,000 more.
The proper use of taxes was not even a dream. Now in the USA, the "leadership" under its current president and his sycophants are playing personal and infantile grade school games with your and my tax dollars and the congress is helping them do it. Amazing! I feel like I am back home in my 3rd world village .Kinsale Charlottesville, VA Jan. 10
Anarchy is oligarchy. The rule of law -- law crafted by dedicated public servants, who are elected by sober and informed citizens -- is the closest we can come to freedom. Governance that provides basic order and rules and a safety net for when people fail (either from behavior that is unwise or from ill fortune) is part of the rule of law. There are also necessary things that the government can provide (without a profit motive) better than either charity of for profit organizations. Roads and basic science are good examples. Other things are best left alone by government -- things like sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. These should be principles that we all can live by, but it seems like the so-called conservatives believe quite the opposite. They believe in unregulated guns, flows of money to unregulated trusts, defunded public goods, and violent repression of sex, drugs, and free expression.James Wallis Martin Christchurch, New Zealand Jan. 10
@earlyman correct. The first thing those large corporations responsible will do is use their lobbying power to legislate liability caps on what they have to pay in settlement costs. That's the way the real world works. We're not living in some libertarian utopia.John Moran Tennessee Jan. 11
Problems with the food industry in the US isn't just a new issue since the Trump administration, it has been an issue for decades. The problems of Big Ag and Food Manufacturers lobbying has been so bad, that whenever I see doctors in Germany and New Zealand, the first question they ask is have I been and eaten food in the US in the last six months, when they are trying to ascertain health issues". When the medical community around the world asks about US food intake, you know corporate libertarianism has run afoul and at the cost of the health of America. The fact that foods that can't be sold in Europe for health reasons are dumped in the US just highlights how it is no longer the United States of America, but rather the Corporate States of America. When will the people demand for Separation of Corporation and State?Pete Victoria, BC Jan. 10
I had serious Libertarian leanings up until a few years ago when my family and I moved to Bangalore, India to work for three years. It was an eye opening experience to see what actually happens when you don't have a strong central government regulating things like the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the food you eat.
Bangalore was once known as the Garden City and is considered the Silicon Valley of India, but corporate greed, unchecked expansion, and government corruption, along with no meaningful environmental laws that are actually enforced, has turned it into a nightmare-- or maybe into what Libertarianism looks like in the real world, outside of Ayn Rand novels.
The river beside our street was so polluted it had layers of chemical foam that would reach ten feet in height and blow across the road, stopping traffic.
The nearby lake would literally catch on fire, burning for days. Open sewers ran into nearby water sources. Forget tap water, it would make Flint, Michigan's water crisis seem desirable by comparison. Food safety? Roll the dice and take your chances.
Within a year any trace of Libertarian beliefs were wiped clean from my mind and I longed for strong government regulations to protect me and my family. This U.S. shutdown isn't even a minor taste of what it truly means to live without powerful and enforceable government regulations and protections.Thomas Zaslavsky Binghamton, N.Y. Jan. 10
@Bill it is important to keep in mind that contaminated food can kill you before you even have a chance to pursue remedies. The critical elements for us now leaving much longer than our ancestors involve personal and public hygiene (e.g. safe food, sewer systems), medicine and healthy environments (e.g. pollution controls). I recommend watching the Trashopolis series, its quite informative.Karen Garcia New York Jan. 10
@C Wolfe Decades ago I had a very similar conversation with a doctrinaire libertarian, though it was about a less essential question. I also repeated it many times. The incredulity factor is large. I mean, I couldn't believe the degree to which rationality disappeared.Chris Hunter WA State Jan. 10
On the bright side, a federal judge just ruled Iowa's so-called Ag-Gag law to be unconstitutional, making it easier to expose the filthy and inhumane conditions on factory farms. So agribusiness will be smacked with the double whammy of losing their corporate welfare checks and bribery payments, and having their own cruelty exposed at the same time.
It's obvious that Trump's tantrum of a shutdown is the latest episode of disaster capitalism, or what Naomi Klein has dubbed the Shock Doctrine. Create a crisis, like neglecting New Orleans levees, or most recently, the criminally negligent homicides of Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico, and you allow the vulture capitalists to swoop in and cash in. The entire school system of N.O. is now privatized, and libertarian billionaires are buying up huge chunks of Puerto Rico at bargain basement prices to create palaces. With walls, of course. The trash and overflowing toilets at our national parks are just the ticket for corporations to take them over and charge exorbitant admissions... before selling out to ranchers and drillers to further speed up the Anthropocene. The other semi-bright upshot of this disaster capitalism is that rich conservatives will get just as sick from eating tainted food as the poor. Trump probably figures he is immune, because he likes the polluting cow flesh he consumes to be well-done to burnt. But without getting paid, how long will the White House chefs continue to serve him? : -)hen3ry Westchester, NY Jan. 10
Exactly so. It has been my experience that my libertarian friends are only able to be libertarian because they have been protected all their lives (at great expense, they would argue) by the very government they deride.Mark McHenry Jan. 10
What's fascinating about all of this is how the Gutless Obnoxious Popinjays refuse to take any responsibility at all for the problems. It's always the Democrats fault. I'm surprised that none of them have pointed a finger at Obama. After all, he didn't try to build a wall so it must be his fault that Trump is demanding money for a beautiful wall that will protect all Americans from the outside world. It's fascinating to realize that McConnell, Pence, Trump, and the rest of the obnoxious crowd are getting paid by the government they want to drown. They are contributing to the very cycles of misfortune that they blame people for. Are they going to write letters for every federal employee who loses a home, falls farther behind on loan payments than they should, who can't afford to pay for medical care or the premium? No. The GOP has no plans to share the misery it's causing. Trump doesn't understand or care. This is what happens when a complete incompetent is elected to run a country: chaos, uncertainty, and worse. The party that abhorred communism and the Russians now has a president who may be owned by the Russians. Even if he's not, the entire debacle that is Trump's presidency must warming the hearts of Putin and his "friends" each day it continues. As Obama said, elections have consequences. This is one of them. I don't know about the GOP and the libertarians but I prefer to eat, drink, and breathe safely. It's why I like a functioning government.Lake trash Lake ozarks Jan. 10
The libertarian philosophy is this: while you're young and healthy and productive, you can help make money for your boss. However, once you are old and no longer capable of making a contribution to someone else, it is your obligation to simply die.
If you look at all the proposals of the Republicans, this seems to be the guiding force. Privatizing Social Security so that investment firms can get a piece of the action, privatizing Medicare so that insurance companies can get a piece of the action, and privatizing the military, so that private paramilitary companies can get more than their fair share of the action. It's theft in plain sight. We can't believe it, because it's so obvious.Cowsrule SF CA Jan. 11
It's the chaos this president keeps thrusting on all of us. We can't keep up day to day of his lack of self control, his lack of understanding how government works, the principles of the constitution, the rule of law that has sustained us through the years. He seems to believe that he has the support to destroy everything that keeps us safe. The foundation that made this a great country is at risk. I'm old now and can not believe what I see every day from this American President.Aram Hollman Arlington, MA Jan. 10
@Zhou "I'll sue the company producing it". How will you do that in the absence of any governmental mechanism to enforce compliance with a law suit? And how will you prove contamination in the absence of any recognized standard to show it is present?Otis-T Los Osos, CA Jan. 10
@Bill So, you prefer the pound of cure known as a lawsuit to a regulatory ounce of prevention. Personally, I'd prefer to avoid both the discomfort of food poisoning and the expense of a lawsuit. Besides, do you really think you'd win? None of the many people poisoned by contaminated vegetables at Taco Bell stores a few years ago had any chance of even bringing a lawsuit, much less winning one and gettting compensation. It took regulatory agencies, public health departments, and the national Center for Disease Control simply to track down the offending vegetables and force Taco Belll to clean up its act. As for your checks and balances, most of the checks go from lobbyists to congressmen, and that throws any balances way out of whack. Your annual deficit figure of $1 trillion is out of date. The latest Trump tax cuts raised it to $1.5 trillion. So, start worrying real fast. But, I'd start worrying more not merely about the deficit, but about how money is being spent. You seem to worry more about the comparative peanuts spent on the FDA (which, by the way, also regulates drugs and medical devices) or the USDA (which also helps regulate food safety). than on the far larger amounts spent on the military (e.g. latest technology F-35 jets that can't fly in the rain), US taxpayer funding of arms sales to foreign countries that neither share our values nor help keep us safe (e.g. Saudi Arabia).JaneF Denver Jan. 10
I work with alot of big Ag companies -- they're constantly raging about government regs and the red tape, etc, etc., but they have HUGE lobby and political power. On an average year, they get an amazing amount of subsidies coming in all kinds of forms, from direct compensation packages to float an industry a la corn, or from electric rates that are lower for them at the expense of the other rate classes. And when any hint of hardship comes, nevermind true hardship, they're front and center for the hand-outs. And they get plenty. All this before we even address immigrant labor! Ha! Libertarian Ag would look WAY different out in the fields. And one thing that would surely be needed: Cheap immigrant (sometimes illigal) labor. You get what you vote for.John Quixote NY Jan. 10
@michjas Except the Republicans could reopen the government if they chose to. They could pass the same bill they passed in December, and then override the President's veto. Their conspiracy is that they won't do that.Cathy NJ Jan. 10
So the party of fiscal responsibility which is already running up the deficit insists on building a wall over 2000 miles of border, seizing private property along the way . When we stopped teaching Geography and Citizenship and dismissed literature as irrelevant to getting a good job, we created an electorate that could be gulled by such propaganda and conned into thinking that fear is our avatar: fear of otherness, fear of government, fear of taxes, fear of liberals, fear of fear itself.Jake Reeves Atlanta Jan. 10
@Aoy when food is contaminated, the FDA is able to locate "ground zero" with utmost efficiency--Food Science 101. Without the FDA--which was established under T. Roosevelt's administration--there is no coordination between the food chain and the population. You can wash your lettuce to your heart's content, but if it was grown in contaminated soil, the cells within are contaminated. So, yes, the FDA is extremely necessary.keith San Miguel de Allende Jan. 11 Times Pick
"Government," declared Ronald Reagan in his first Inaugural Address, "is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem." Yup, Republicans say government is the problem and then they get in power and prove it. The Party of Problem Government.Castor Troy D.C. Jan. 10
Anyone who thinks enforced food safety is unnecessary should go to India and eat in a restaurant anywhere but a first-tier hotel for foreigners. Your odds of getting sick are very high. Ditto in Alexandria, Egypt, and other places I've experienced where profit is important and product is, well, less so. Remedies? Seriously? How will you prove anything? Especially when all the restaurants have the same cavalier attitude toward washing food and hands. You ate the salad? More fool you.alank Wescosville, PA Jan. 11 Times Pick
I wish that shutdowns were actually that-- shut things down. That means no air traffic controllers, no TSA, no border agents. Wonder how quickly the politicians would solve their differences if they couldn't rely on slave labor from unpaid federal employees forced to work?Ecce Homo Jackson Heights Jan. 10
Paraphrasing Marie Antoinette "Let them eat contaminated cake"Ben Chicago Jan. 10
Funny how libertarians never argue for privatizing the military, or law enforcement. When they think it's really important, even libertarians come running back to government. The facts are that markets are only free if they are transparent, and in all of history nobody has come up with a better way than government regulation to make markets transparent. We tried unregulated markets in food production, and it was a disaster - which is why we have federal regulation of food production today. We tried unregulated labor markets and it was also a disaster - which is why we have child labor laws, minimum wage laws, and the full range of other labor regulations we have today. politicsbyeccehomo.wordpress.comCal Prof Berkeley, USA Jan. 10
People forget that government workers are themselves participants in the economy. They buy cars and houses. They go to the grocery and the hardware store. When they don't get paid, the businesses they patronize -- private businesses -- also go without. Yesterday, I had lunch at a famous old restaurant right near the federal plaza in Chicago's Loop. One of the workers there told me that because of the shutdown the place's business had fallen way off. (And that's with the federal courthouse still open. Just wait until the courts shut, too.) It's a closed system, folks.Tom B New York Jan. 10
Spot on. Naïveté about libertarianism runs deep. It was brought home to me when I worked with programmers in Silicon Valley in the 1980s. A fair number espoused libertarian ideas. Yet they had all had their computer science degrees paid for by the Defense Department, many at state universities. I was not too sophisticated myself but even I could see the disconnect between the ideas they were pushing and the real world implications.Rich Davidson Lake Forest, IL Jan. 10
Have you ever actually tried a personal injury case? For a food borne illness? I ask those questions rhetorically because I can tell from your comment that you haven't. As a lawyer, who doesn't often get involved in personal injury cases, I can tell you that people often think they aren't hurting anyone by cutting corners, and are only restrained from doing things like serving contaminated food or doing illegal gas line plumbing by the threat of fines if caught cutting those corners. It's not the lawsuit that makes them take care.Linda Oklahoma Jan. 10
The gilded age of the 1890's seem like a wonderful time for libertarians. The productivity of the nation was high and gaining. But, it came with dirty air and water, bad food and medicine, quackery and robber barons. It was followed by the Roaring 20's where stocks grew without limits and borrowed money paid for it. That did not end well, either. Finally, in FDR's first 100 days, government stepped in and wrote the rules that made life good for most of us. The GOP does not know history and forgot what happened when there was a libertarian society. They are getting an education, finally.Yuri Asian Bay Area Jan. 10
One of the things that might end is the Indian Health Services. The government made contracts with tribes that in exchange for their land, the federal government would provide education and healthcare. It's not a welfare program. It is payment for millions of acres of land. If Indian Health Services ends, that's the same as reneging on a contract. Trump may see tribes going to court to get what was promised to them in exchange for land and lifestyle. If the shutdown continues, lots of people may be taking Trump to court.OUTsider deep south Jan. 10
Do you believe in magic? Religious extremists do. So do Libertarians. And so do Republicans though what they believe is a variant of magic that might be called delusion or magic mixed with whisky and soda, which we call cynicism. What they all have in common is a collective inability to see the forest from the trees: central to their emptiness is the absence of humanity and all the messy ambiguity that entails, instead substituting a bogus certainty that's nothing more than a palliative for existential panic at the absence of self identity grounded in community. Bertrand Russell called it cosmic anxiety. It drives the compulsion for religion, ideology, in fact all systems of coping that avoid the crushing weight of freedom that comes without compass or owner's manual. Whether the god of the invisible hand that directs the market, or the god of clubs with exclusive membership and status, or the god of ancient fables told and retold for a millennium of successive generations, all are rationales for the irrational aversion of responsibility to do the work necessary to make freedom meaningful without making it meaningless for others. The two bargain bins in the basement of modern life are religion and ideology. Libertarianism can be found on the clearance rack for one size fits all.Elizabeth Moore Pennsylvania Jan. 11
Paul, you included this quote from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader... When talking about Food Stamps he has denounced the program for "making it excessively easy to be nonproductive." He has no business being so judgmental. Being productive implies a positive result for society. When it comes to being productive, his entire career is in question.Sherry Washington Jan. 10
@ebmem You don't know anything. For one thing, you are DEAD WRONG. Medicare DOES NOT PAY FOR NURSING HOME CARE AT ALL! MEDICAID DOES, but only for the poor. It is WEALTHY REPUBLICANS who "Medicaid Plan" their assets so the government will cover their living expenses so they can preserve wealth for their heirs. How do I know this to be the truth? I spend 23 years as a government regulator for Medicaid (Medical Assistance) in the state of Pennsylvania.
I cannot enumerate the number of rich Republicans who tried to get the government to support their elderly while the children of those elderly got the money. I could tell you stories, including one about a certain Republican Governor of Pennsylvania who tried to put his adult, but mentally handicapped child on Medicaid.Will Hogan USA Jan. 11
It is remarkable how farmers, who are particularly reliant on federal government programs to buy seed, equipment, get loans, get crop subsidies, and market their food, still support Trump, even though these programs are shut down and he's started a trade war. One farmer in today's issue supports Trump, saying "we need some border security", even though it means he might lose his farm. What kind of politics is this where people support a President who intentionally ruins their prospects and their way of life? It reminds me how dictators keep power through propaganda, rewriting history and painting its leadership as heroic. Fox News is like North Korean TV rewiring Republican brains to believe that Republicans, no matter how bone-headed, are always good, and Democrats are always bad, so much so they are willing to lose the farm, like North Koreans are willing to starve.ridgeguy No. CA Jan. 10
@Mark Nuckols all the government programs that help business mean that the wealthy owe some money back. when 5000 workers of a large corporation all drive the company trucks on free public roads built with tax dollars, when those roads need repair, it sure should be taxes on the company that helps pay, along with the gas tax we all pay. Your mistake is in thinking that the income of the company owner was earned by him and him alone, but in reality, the taxpayers helped him plenty every step of the way. You just did not see it all.Chris DC Jan. 10
The article focuses on food inspections, but what about drug inspections? Is the FDA inspecting pharma manufacturing houses? Are they inspecting precursor chemicals commonly imported from, say, China? Libertarians (along with the rest of us) may be in for much more consequential disappointments than bad lettuce.Areader Huntsville Jan. 10
Well, at this point it certainly comes as no surprise that the narrowly tailored ideological conceit republicans like to think of as - laughably - 'Libertarianism' was little more than an economic grubsteak to the plutocratic interests. Indeed, it makes my head spin to think how quickly the so-called libertarians of the republican party would support rollbacks on women's reproductive liberties, not to mention the liberties of minorities and the LGBTQ community, not to mention how they would import the Christian Right's version of theology into the public domain. (Ah yes, get government off our backs, but shove God into every home.) The issue that looms broadly over all this, however, is the republican's intent to liquidate this nation's status as technologically advanced, industrialized liberal democracy. Apparently the maintenance/perpetuation of modernity is not compatible with right wing notions of 'liberty,' let alone libertarianism.Peter CT Jan. 10
The first libertarian I knew was a slum landlord who did not want the Government regulations concerning maintenance of apartments and the like. This seems like a common trait among the political group as I think libertarians are more interested in profit.Sophia chicago Jan. 11
No one complains more loudly and more often about attempts to curtail his first amendment rights "guaranteed by the constitution," than my libertarian friend, who refuses to pay taxes, then expects the government he won't support to protect his freedoms. If you really miss those debate club arguments from jr. high school, go try to talk sense to some libertarians. For the rest of us, plain old Republicans are a perfectly adequate source of flawed reasoning.sapere aude Maryland Jan. 10
@Mark Nuckols Wrong! Cutting tax rates on the wealthy are stealing from the rest of us. We make contributions every hour of every day which are hoovered up by the wealthy and the powerful. Meanwhile we cannot afford the cost of living, which has skyrocketed vs wages and benefits. The cost of an apartment is exorbitant. The cost of health care is exorbitant. Meanwhile the commons suffer. Infrastructure suffers. Sidewalks are a menace. There is lead in the water. Rich people who do not pay their fair share of taxes are stealing from the people in so many ways it's impossible to count them. But count them in years lost, in lives cut short, in lives blighted.Helena Princeton New Jersey Jan. 10
Republicans aren't against government, it has grown more under every Republican president including Reagan himself. They simply have their preferences as to who benefits from it.YoursTruly Pakistan Jan. 11 Times Pick
I'm surprised that the air traffic controllers haven't all called in sick. They have the collective power to bring air travel to a standstill. I've long felt that a general nationwide strike would finally get the attention of our corporate overlords. After all, all they care about is money--just like Trump and the GOP.dpaqcluck Cerritos, CA Jan. 10
When two elephants fight, its the grass that gets uprooted. In this show of arrogance and egos its the lives of many ordinary Americans that is adversely affected. I only wish that this crisis comes to an end soon to the relief of many.PB USA Jan. 10
@jrinsc, exactly right with an academic exception. Adam Smith and his ideas of free market competition assumed that there would be large number of companies competing with each other with their sole means of competition being consumer satisfaction, price and employee efficiency. Anyone who couldn't compete went out of business, hence "free market". The government's only role is to enforce anti-trust laws to keep businesses small and competitive, and assure that the competitive triangle of business, labor, and consumer are kept in balance. Fundamentally big business is bad, always! What real "free markets" DO NOT include is the idea that a small number of huge companies pay the government to create a competition free environment. The term "free market" has been stolen to mean that companies can do anything they want to succeed, including creating laws with profitable loopholes, laws to inhibit labor participation in the competition, and laws that inhibit consumers from using fraud laws to suppress shoddy products. In reality there is no "free market", as @jrinsc said, except to mean that big companies are free to do whatever they want to be profitable.White Buffalo SE PA Jan. 11
My first lecture in economics dealt with free. The professor, then the Chief Economist at the Cleveland Fed, made the point that nothing was free: no free lunch; no free air; no free love. The point that he made was that somebody always pays. For everything; maybe not you, not now; but somebody does. So every time that I hear this Republican rant about free markets, I begin to laugh.J. Benedict Bridgeport, Ct Jan. 10
@dpaqcluck Adam Smith believed corporate entities needed to be regulated. something always left out.John California California Jan. 11
I am wondering if Mitch McConnell and his close Republican allies have been living off food stamps because it seems to me they all have been incredibly unproductive for years which he sights as a consequence of anyone using food stamps.James Lee Arlington, Texas Jan. 11
@Joel Sanders This is completely specious reasoning. There are any number of non-state food groups that compete to set, e.g., organic, standards for food... for their participants. And they can restrict anyone from using their seal of approval without meeting their requirements. What they can't do, and the State can, is to require tainted products to be removed from distribution. Having the power of the State depends on law that transcends private agreement. And in the case of food, drugs, highways, airlines, and a number of other avenues of social life, that strikes me as a valuable thing. Why is this SO difficult for you, Mr. Sanders?Aubrey Alabama Jan. 10
I once heard a conservative economist give a speech in which he denounced the FDA for its suppression of competition in the pharmaceutical industry. I asked him what would protect the consumer if the market replaced the Feds as regulator of new drugs. He responded that, if my wife died from the effects of a toxic drug, I could always sue the firm that produced it. I found this notion deeply comforting. I might lose my wife, but the drug company would have to compensate me with a pile of dollars, assuming I could prove its negligence. For this libertarian, a life and money weighed equally in the scales of justice.Stan Sutton Westchester County, NY Jan. 10
The people who support libertarianism are like those who support biblical literalism (fundamentalism). The libertarians want to get rid of some laws and regulations but not all of them. Just the ones they don't like. Usually these are laws which make corporations and businesses sell clean and safe food, treat employees fairly, pay taxes, etc. The libertarians don't want to get rid of laws which help business, corporations, and the well-to-do. They want to be sure that Boeing, Lockheed, and others get cushy defense contracts, the petroleum companies get subsidies, Big Pharma gets to charge a lot for drugs, etc. It is just a new name for the same old playbook -- make things tough on the weak and poor -- those with dark skins, immigrants, etc. All the while being solicitous for the well-off and powerful. Religious literalist do the same -- pick out the Bible verses which support the desired message. Ignore those which don't. So many things don't change. We get give them a new name.RLiss Fleming Island, Florida Jan. 11
Actually, Krugman didn't confuse Libertarians and Republicans. He said that Republicans used Libertarian rhetoric but weren't true Libertarians, and he didn't accuse Libertarians of favoring Republican policies across the board.DB NC Jan. 10
@Bill: See Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9, which covers the Flint water crisis in depth. These people didn't even know they were drinking contaminated water until a health worker broke ranks and made it public. THEN nothing was done.....(Oh, the state provided bottled water for a while, to drink).... The children of Flint were suffering IRREVERSIBLE brain damage due to lead in the water.....would suing 20 years later fix that? AND why did this happen at all? The Republican governor of the state wanted to help his buddies make a lot of money....Red Sox, '04, '07, '13, '18, Boston Jan. 10
@Goodglud Excellent link! We need to call it what it is. No more reduce "regulations" which people hear as reducing red tape. Make them advocate to "reduce protections."Buck Santa Fe, NM Jan. 10
@AndyE, Berkley, MI: Nice turn on Jennings' corollary to Murphy's Law (the chances of the toast falling buttered side down on the carpet is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet).NM NY Jan. 10
@Mamawalrus72 We are living Government by the Kochs now. We have been living Government by corporations for some time.Chris Toronto Jan. 10
Money talks louder than reason. So long as moneyed libertarians like the Koch Brothers buy political influence, they will purchase an agenda to benefit themselves at our expense.Richard NM Jan. 10
"In the case of the party establishment, that agenda is about redistributing income up the scale, and in particular helping important donor interests. Republican politicians may invoke the rhetoric of free markets to justify cutting taxes for the rich and benefits for the poor, or removing environmental regulations that hurt polluters' profits, but they don't really care about free markets per se." Head of nail, meet hammer. The US used to be the world's beacon of democratic values. No longer. The political system has been severely corrupted by PACs, Super PACs, self-funding billionaire politicians, skewed campaign funding rules, cynical electoral manipulation, self-interest and a lack of statesmanship amongst the political classes. You'd think a credible third political party would be able to drive a bus straight through the middle of this division. Two choices, left or right, just can't be enough to sustain a democracy.Audrey Germany Jan. 11
@Will Schmidt perlboy "We debated perfect markets ..." Like in engineering somebody would design a car without engine because there is no friction and you just have to give it a push to get around. I am so happy I am an engineer, forces me into reality.Mike Albany, New York Jan. 10
"Knowing that the food you're eating is now more likely than before to be contaminated, does that potential contamination smell to you like freedom?" Exactly. One of the most thing I appreciated of being in the EU is a strong consumer protection and safety regulations. But I guess, it's to "socialist" for some. Let's wait and see how the UK consumers will enjoy post-Brexit "freedom".JRM Melbourne Jan. 11
In answer to to Bill from Michigan, the problem with food and water contamination is that it may take years to find out that the food or water is actually contaminated, and then additional time for the public to be informed. After all this time passes, the damage is already done and lives are irreversibly damaged. As an example, the FDA has very strict limits on the amount of mycotoxin and bacterial contamination in our food supply. While E. coli contamination may be detected due to severe acute health effects, the carcinogenic effects of mycotoxin contamination may not be detected in years. The Flint Michigan lead contamination occurred in 2014 and wasn't declared an emergency until two years later, when public health officials alerted the public in 2016. Although this was largely a local issue, the H.R. 4470, the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act, mandates that consumers be informed. So, personally I'd rather have the Federal Government be on the side of the public and not rely on greedy lawyers.SandraH. California Jan. 11
@ebmem Republicans get in office and go to work to prove that Government doesn't work and is the problem. Government works fine as long as Republicans are not in charge. The sabotage any effort to resolve or solve a problem. They complain about the debt and deficit until they are in office and then they blow the budget to smithereens with invented reasons for war so they can enrich themselves. They are the problem, not Government.ben220 brooklyn Jan. 10
@Bill, good luck with that. If you survive long enough to sue--and if you can prove the source of your cancer or other illness--you'll find that personal injury lawsuits get you nowhere. The big boys always win. Your best remedy is prevention. Don't let yourself or your loved ones ingest or breathe toxins. Don't let toxins into your groundwater or soil. How do you do that without government regulation?Robert David South Watertown NY Jan. 11
Today, medical expenses are stratospheric. Meanwhile, the conservative movement strangles the welfare state so that nearly everyone in the middle class (regardless of political affiliation) who wants to live on more than $900 a month must go through legalized fiscal contortions to be able to pay for adequate care.Socrates Downtown Verona. NJ Jan. 10
@TM Exactly the correct response to libertarians. They like to talk about what "would" happen, as though lack of government were a theoretical that can be calculated. There are plenty of real world examples of what "would" happen. There are historical examples too, but they "would" be different, of course.Buttons Cornell Toronto, Canada Jan. 11
@Aubrey Excellent analogy, although we can also use a good old-fashioned term to describe these 'libertarians', 'conservatives' and religious types -- -- hypocrites ..... of the highest despicable order.george Iowa Jan. 11
What courts? Courts are set up, run by and paid for by government. No government means no court system. You, the little, dying from tainted food, up against a huge agricultural corporation with deep pockets. Libertarianism is a bully system. Those with the money win and the rest die. That's it.HN Philadelphia, PA Jan. 10
@jrinsc How quickly we forget, of course sometimes it isn`t that we forget but rather our memory is clouded by the smoke from the fires set by vulture capitalism. Upton Sinclair The Jungle should be required reading for all congress critters and all incoming Presidents. The Jungle is a mirror to where todays American Nobility, the 21st century Robber Barons, would like to take us. A disposable population for profit.Independent the South Jan. 11
Where you see Libertarians, I see people who are so self-unaware and entitled that they believe the only apt government subsidies are the ones that benefit them. Remember the ACA debate line - "keep government out of my medicare?" Most people have no idea of what the government does! What about the staunch GOP voters who nonetheless complain when the government doesn't provide immediate aid to them after a disaster, but hesitate when the aid is going to others? And do they comprehend that all disasters - even those claimed to be "natural" - are actually man made? And do those that value privacy and their right to do what they want - do they really think that corporations and businesses will keep their products fair and safe? No, because corporations and businesses take the short view, while fairness and safety - both of which contribute to the health of the nation and its people - take the long view. Libertarians and their ilk are self-entitled peoples who only think about the immediate impact on themselves and their wallets. They change their tunes quickly when government is needed to help their bottom line.Son Of Liberty nyc Jan. 10
@Bill The idea is not to sue after you get sick but to prevent you from getting sick. And if you want to reduce deficits, vote for Democrats.Elizabeth Moore Pennsylvania Jan. 11
What people with GOP/libertarian leanings should realize is that government regulations were ONLY put into place in response to the horrifying abuses of laissez faire capitalism.Nova yos Galan California Jan. 10
@Bill You keep right on believing. THE FACTS ARE that people who would sell you contaminated food have ways of covering up all the evidence. Besides, they could always hide behind the fact that the USDA and FDA inspectors weren't working and "they didn't know" because of that. You would lose any lawsuit because the inspectors didn't reveal any problems and the business owner "did not know to the best of his/her knowledge." EVERYTHING would be blamed on the shutdown, and you would LOSE>Mark Rubin Tucson, AZ Jan. 10
@Goodglud Yes, regulations are limitations on their freedom to pollute.gbb Boston, MA Jan. 10
Boy howdy, but it's easy to spout the libertarian line when the FDA, FTC, SEC, EPA, etc. do what they do, day in and day out. Government succeeds quietly! Many post smack about what seem like excesses, while they enjoy safe food and drugs, modest limits on fraudsters, clean air and water, etc.: Now, maybe, we'll see what happens when those who mouth off get the freedom they have demanded for decades. With a months' long shutdown lives will be lost, but those who disparage the regulatory state might get their come-uppance. The coming months, if they involve a partial shutdown, will highlight the value government offers. Opportunities like this one don't appear often. This writer, for one, hopes it represents a crisis which won't be wasted.JS Boston Ma Jan. 11
Government in this country seems to me to be run pretty well. I wish that more businesses were run as well as the US Postal Service.Lawyermama Buffalo Jan. 10
@C Wolfe I made friends with Libertarian from Texas in college my freshman year. He got me to read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. My first take was that Ayn Rand was a pretty weak writer and clearly had serious empathy issues to the point of being a bit creepy. My friend insisted that everyone should be self reliant and was responsible for their own destiny until the day he flunked out because his academically weak high school left him unprepared to survive in our highly selective college. I really felt sorry for him but he was so far behind I could not help him. I have no idea where he ended up.Jim Brokaw California Jan. 10
As the saying goes, you never miss your water until your well runs dry. A very big part of me says this is the only way red states will learn how to stop biting the hand that feeds them: they've been blindly following a party that made no secret that it wished to "starve the beast". This is what it looks like. This new perspective has delighted me even as I worry for my friends, family and colleagues who are feeling the effects. I hope our nation survives this president and learns from the mistakes.Pat Stonington, CT Jan. 11
The problem I have with libertarian utopias is that 'the market' isn't going to work to address all conflicts. So you need to hire enforcement, since government isn't doing it... or are we keeping the courts? And if the courts rule for you, and the other party just refuses to pay, now you have to go get your payment. Good luck with that. It all seems likely to devolve into a 'might makes right' series of standoffs, until people band together into unified groups to collectively agree to a set of rules, and work together with those rules. Sounds a lot like government. Or you can just hire some soldiers and go take what you want. Dare the other guys to take it back. Sounds a lot like anarchy. Libertarians always seems to me like trying to cherry-pick what they like about government, what benefits them, and then dump the rest, the stuff that costs them but they can't see the benefit for. Maybe they'll understand better if they get some contaminated lettuce next time they go grocery shopping...Steve Nirvana Jan. 10
@Bill Who exactly administers said courts that you would turn to for justice? Oh that's right, the government. I hope the irony is not lost on you. Libertarians seem to forgot that no man is an island to himself.Spiro Jetti Jan. 11
The people I have met who (loudly) espouse libertarian ideas tend to be of three types - all of whom benefit from this philosophy at the expense of others: 1) wealthy heirs like tRump who don't want to pay their taxes since it reduces their ability to live large AND pass on a dynasty to their heirs. 2) those with the luck to obtain the particular skills and education that provide a secure job with high remuneration. (Yes, it is usually a lot of luck) 3) good looking women who are confident that they can latch on to one of those described in 1) or in a pinch, 2) 2) will complain bitterly when the job market shifts - as it did for many in computer science after the glory years of the 80s. 3) will complain if their lawyer doesn't get them a big enough divorce settlement and their looks will no longer give them a second chance. A good economic system works equally for all people, not just those benefiting as members of the lucky gene club.SunnyG Kentucky Jan. 10
@Socrates Amen. Something also came to mind in reading your comment: Productive modern blue states subsidize receiving red states, who then, thanks to their outsize representation via the electoral college, bludgeon the blue states with red policies like deregulation and taking of health care etc. Like I am paying someone to punch me. "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."Rick Cedar Hill, TX Jan. 10
We don't see the few inspectors who quietly keep our food safe, the EPA folks testing our air and rivers. The impact will be felt much later, and with no one to do the forensics, the story won't be told until well after the shutdown ends. I'm wondering how long the shutdown will last when visible folks start to go on strike. Will the federal employees who will perform the promised IRS, Food Stamp and farm distributions go to work, or ally themselves with their less visible brethren? With transportation, chaos will be most evident. After no paycheck on Friday, what if TSA doesn't shows or they picket Atlanta, OHare, JFK, SFO, IAD and DFW? Ditto for their compatriots in the Control Towers. Chaos. Who benefits? Perhaps we'll learn from Michael Cohen.Rima Regas Southern California Jan. 10
We as a nation are in this condition because the American character is one of greed, selfishness, one who does not think for himself/herself, and one that is controlled through fear. Maybe once our empire crumbles it will be divided into smaller countries that are easier to manage like the western European countries. I will move to one of the new countries that support a balanced budget, hates the concept of Citizens United and K Street lobbyists, wants to educate their masses, and provides healthcare for everyone rich and not so rich. An ignorant populous is easier to control and manhandle. The US is a good example.javierg Miami, Florida Jan. 10
@hen3ry "It's fascinating to realize that McConnell, Pence, Trump, and the rest of the obnoxious crowd are getting paid by the government they want to drown." When you go the rest of the way you finally get a true sense of how perverted these people are.Ron Silverlake WA Jan. 11
Thank you Dr. Krugman for a great perspective. It reminds me of the saying "be careful of what you wish for" ... for it may actually come true. Save for the sacrifice of many good Americans who depend on jobs and government benefits and the public in general, this may be the medicine those Republicans need to cure themselves of their hands off philosophy.Jody Quincy, IL Jan. 10
@Bill I don't believe for a nano-second you would be willing to expose your family to contaminated or adulterated food on the chance you might be able sue someone after the fact. It could take you years and many thousands of dollars to get justice that way. There is a good reason we have agencies like the FDA. Many years before you were born, we in fact had the very situation you say you would be fine with. It was buyer beware for all foodstuffs. You could not trust food producers to put on the label what was actually in the can or bottle. Meat packers were packing and sending out absolute filth. If you want a hint of what it would be like here without these protective agencies, do a little research on food safety in China. It will make you sick when you see what the Chinese are exposed to.Thomas Zaslavsky Binghamton, N.Y. Jan. 10
@C Wolfe Libertarian or not, in this country money is always more valued than human life. Again, it took Western Europe more than 2,000 years to become somewhat civilized and it will take this continent at least that long.Anne CA Jan. 10
@Eleanor How will you get around this? Reagan said, 'The nine most terrifying words in the English language are "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."'Teresa MN Jan. 11
Does the shutdown mean that government will stop collecting tax money while services are suspended? Does it work both ways?James K. Lowden Camden, Maine Jan. 11
@ebmem I am an employee of Medicaid who sees countless fellow workers toil long after quitting time to cover the most people, with the least potential harm or burden to them, to get the best services and quality of life possible, AND doing all that earning maybe half the compensation of a comparable private sector position. It saddens me that even the program ensuring our loved ones - or ourselves! - have care at the end of life is not safe from this kind of bitter, distorted partisan anger.Joe Glendale, Arizona Jan. 11
@Bill Two words for you: Blue Milk. Look it up. Food contamination is an old story, as old as tort law. The FDA was created because tort law was unequal to the task. If you think the modern day is different, how is that romaine lettuce lawsuit going for you? As far as I know, no one knows where the contamination came from, much less who to sue. The romaine situation illustrates another flaw in your libertarian fantasy. The individual harm is collectively huge but individually small. Any action -- preventive or retributive -- requires collective action. Which, actually, is what democracy is, and why democracy created the FDA.Blue Moon Old Pueblo Jan. 11
@Linda You said it, Linda. I just returned from Europe. And I could not believe again how much tastier the meat and produce was - not only in restaurants but in humble meals in the country. Commercial food produced in the United States is terrible, tasteless, and full of pernicious additives. Ma and Pa Kettle have become inured to it, and don't know any better.Sunny NYC Jan. 10
@Wilbray Thiffault "Well, Mitch McConnell is not on the food stamp program, and he manages to be one of the most 'non productive' senators in the history of the US Senate." Correction: Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans are indeed on the food stamp program, the best one ever, and the government shutdown is not preventing them all from being paid. They will never give it up willingly.
Prof. Krugman says, "Meanwhile, the philosophy of the party's base is, in essence, big government for me but not for thee." I totally agree. It is indeed Trump and the Republican party who is disrupting the free market. The free market can be sustained only when it is run by smart and fair-minded people including top-notched economists and politicians. Otherwise, the socialism-monster would threaten and collapse the free market anytime. What I mean by 'the socialism-monster' is not the economies of Northern European countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, etc. Some Americans call their economies 'socialism', but that's very wrong; their economies are indeed one of the most advanced capitalistic systems. How can't they be? Capitalism in a sense started from there, i.e., the business markets of the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, etc. Only when capitalism is truly advanced can well-rounded safety nets exist. In any case, genuinely socialist countries such as North-Korea and China do not protect human rights and thus prohibit freedom. The real problem with Trump and his allies is that they offer the strongest momentum for socialism by killing the chance for developing truly healthy free market. Trump, with Putin, is turning the whole world back into the days of nationalism, ideologism, and colonialism. They all champion big , huge, monstrous government. If there is any American crisis, it is not border security but gun violence. But Trump underwrites the NRA.
Jan 10, 2019 | www.vox.com
"All I'm saying is don't act like the way things are is somehow ordained by God."
Last Wednesday, the conservative talk show host Tucker Carlson started a fire on the right after airing a prolonged monologue on his show that was, in essence, an indictment of American capitalism.
America's "ruling class," Carlson says, are the "mercenaries" behind the failures of the middle class -- including sinking marriage rates -- and "the ugliest parts of our financial system." He went on: "Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society."
He concluded with a demand for "a fair country. A decent country. A cohesive country. A country whose leaders don't accelerate the forces of change purely for their own profit and amusement."
The monologue was stunning in itself, an incredible moment in which a Fox News host stated that for generations, "Republicans have considered it their duty to make the world safe for banking, while simultaneously prosecuting ever more foreign wars." More broadly, though, Carlson's position and the ensuing controversy reveals an ongoing and nearly unsolvable tension in conservative politics about the meaning of populism, a political ideology that Trump campaigned on but Carlson argues he may not truly understand.
Moreover, in Carlson's words: "At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone too. The country will remain. What kind of country will be it be then?"
The monologue and its sweeping anti-elitism drove a wedge between conservative writers. The American Conservative's Rod Dreher wrote of Carlson's monologue, "A man or woman who can talk like that with conviction could become president. Voting for a conservative candidate like that would be the first affirmative vote I've ever cast for president." Other conservative commentators scoffed. Ben Shapiro wrote in National Review that Carlson's monologue sounded far more like Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren than, say, Ronald Reagan.
I spoke with Carlson by phone this week to discuss his monologue and its economic -- and cultural -- meaning. He agreed that his monologue was reminiscent of Warren, referencing her 2003 book The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are Growing Broke . "There were parts of the book that I disagree with, of course," he told me. "But there are parts of it that are really important and true. And nobody wanted to have that conversation."
Carlson wanted to be clear: He's just asking questions. "I'm not an economic adviser or a politician. I'm not a think tank fellow. I'm just a talk show host," he said, telling me that all he wants is to ask "the basic questions you would ask about any policy." But he wants to ask those questions about what he calls the "religious faith" of market capitalism, one he believes elites -- "mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule" -- have put ahead of "normal people."
But whether or not he likes it, Carlson is an important voice in conservative politics. His show is among the most-watched television programs in America. And his raising questions about market capitalism and the free market matters.
"What does [free market capitalism] get us?" he said in our call. "What kind of country do you want to live in? If you put these policies into effect, what will you have in 10 years?"Populism on the right is gaining, again
Carlson is hardly the first right-leaning figure to make a pitch for populism, even tangentially, in the third year of Donald Trump, whose populist-lite presidential candidacy and presidency Carlson told me he views as "the smoke alarm ... telling you the building is on fire, and unless you figure out how to put the flames out, it will consume it."
Populism is a rhetorical approach that separates "the people" from elites. In the words of Cas Mudde, a professor at the University of Georgia, it divides the country into "two homogenous and antagonistic groups: the pure people on the one end and the corrupt elite on the other." Populist rhetoric has a long history in American politics, serving as the focal point of numerous presidential campaigns and powering William Jennings Bryan to the Democratic nomination for president in 1896. Trump borrowed some of that approach for his 2016 campaign but in office has governed as a fairly orthodox economic conservative, thus demonstrating the demand for populism on the right without really providing the supply and creating conditions for further ferment.
When right-leaning pundit Ann Coulter spoke with Breitbart Radio about Trump's Tuesday evening Oval Office address to the nation regarding border wall funding, she said she wanted to hear him say something like, "You know, you say a lot of wild things on the campaign trail. I'm speaking to big rallies. But I want to talk to America about a serious problem that is affecting the least among us, the working-class blue-collar workers":
Coulter urged Trump to bring up overdose deaths from heroin in order to speak to the "working class" and to blame the fact that working-class wages have stalled, if not fallen, in the last 20 years on immigration. She encouraged Trump to declare, "This is a national emergency for the people who don't have lobbyists in Washington."
Ocasio-Cortez wants a 70-80% income tax on the rich. I agree! Start with the Koch Bros. -- and also make it WEALTH tax.-- Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 4, 2019
These sentiments have even pitted popular Fox News hosts against each other.
Sean Hannity warned his audience that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's economic policies would mean that "the rich people won't be buying boats that they like recreationally, they're not going to be taking expensive vacations anymore." But Carlson agreed when I said his monologue was somewhat reminiscent of Ocasio-Cortez's past comments on the economy , and how even a strong economy was still leaving working-class Americans behind.
"I'm just saying as a matter of fact," he told me, "a country where a shrinking percentage of the population is taking home an ever-expanding proportion of the money is not a recipe for a stable society. It's not."
Carlson told me he wanted to be clear: He is not a populist. But he believes some version of populism is necessary to prevent a full-scale political revolt or the onset of socialism. Using Theodore Roosevelt as an example of a president who recognized that labor needs economic power, he told me, "Unless you want something really extreme to happen, you need to take this seriously and figure out how to protect average people from these remarkably powerful forces that have been unleashed."
"I think populism is potentially really disruptive. What I'm saying is that populism is a symptom of something being wrong," he told me. "Again, populism is a smoke alarm; do not ignore it."
But Carlson's brand of populism, and the populist sentiments sweeping the American right, aren't just focused on the current state of income inequality in America. Carlson tackled a bigger idea: that market capitalism and the "elites" whom he argues are its major drivers aren't working. The free market isn't working for families, or individuals, or kids. In his monologue, Carlson railed against libertarian economics and even payday loans, saying, "If you care about America, you ought to oppose the exploitation of Americans, whether it's happening in the inner city or on Wall Street" -- sounding very much like Sanders or Warren on the left.
Carlson's argument that "market capitalism is not a religion" is of course old hat on the left, but it's also been bubbling on the right for years now. When National Review writer Kevin Williamson wrote a 2016 op-ed about how rural whites "failed themselves," he faced a massive backlash in the Trumpier quarters of the right. And these sentiments are becoming increasingly potent at a time when Americans can see both a booming stock market and perhaps their own family members struggling to get by.
Capitalism/liberalism destroys the extended family by requiring people to move apart for work and destroying any sense of unchosen obligations one might have towards one's kin.-- Jeremy McLallan (@JeremyMcLellan) January 8, 2019
At the Federalist, writer Kirk Jing wrote of Carlson's monologue, and a response to it by National Review columnist David French:
Our society is less French's America, the idea, and more Frantz Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth" (involving a very different French). The lowest are stripped of even social dignity and deemed unworthy of life . In Real America, wages are stagnant, life expectancy is crashing, people are fleeing the workforce, families are crumbling, and trust in the institutions on top are at all-time lows. To French, holding any leaders of those institutions responsible for their errors is "victimhood populism" ... The Right must do better if it seeks to govern a real America that exists outside of its fantasies.
J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy , wrote that the [neoliberal] economy's victories -- and praise for those wins from conservatives -- were largely meaningless to white working-class Americans living in Ohio and Kentucky: "Yes, they live in a country with a higher GDP than a generation ago, and they're undoubtedly able to buy cheaper consumer goods, but to paraphrase Reagan: Are they better off than they were 20 years ago? Many would say, unequivocally, 'no.'"
Carlson's populism holds, in his view, bipartisan possibilities. In a follow-up email, I asked him why his monologue was aimed at Republicans when many Democrats had long espoused the same criticisms of free market economics. "Fair question," he responded. "I hope it's not just Republicans. But any response to the country's systemic problems will have to give priority to the concerns of American citizens over the concerns of everyone else, just as you'd protect your own kids before the neighbor's kids."Who is "they"?
And that's the point where Carlson and a host of others on the right who have begun to challenge the conservative movement's orthodoxy on free markets -- people ranging from occasionally mendacious bomb-throwers like Coulter to writers like Michael Brendan Dougherty -- separate themselves from many of those making those exact same arguments on the left.
When Carlson talks about the "normal people" he wants to save from nefarious elites, he is talking, usually, about a specific group of "normal people" -- white working-class Americans who are the "real" victims of capitalism, or marijuana legalization, or immigration policies.
In this telling, white working-class Americans who once relied on a manufacturing economy that doesn't look the way it did in 1955 are the unwilling pawns of elites. It's not their fault that, in Carlson's view, marriage is inaccessible to them, or that marijuana legalization means more teens are smoking weed ( this probably isn't true ). Someone, or something, did this to them. In Carlson's view, it's the responsibility of politicians: Our economic situation, and the plight of the white working class, is "the product of a series of conscious decisions that the Congress made."
The criticism of Carlson's monologue has largely focused on how he deviates from the free market capitalism that conservatives believe is the solution to poverty, not the creator of poverty. To orthodox conservatives, poverty is the result of poor decision making or a lack of virtue that can't be solved by government programs or an anti-elite political platform -- and they say Carlson's argument that elites are in some way responsible for dwindling marriage rates doesn't make sense .
But in French's response to Carlson, he goes deeper, writing that to embrace Carlson's brand of populism is to support "victimhood populism," one that makes white working-class Americans into the victims of an undefined "they:
Carlson is advancing a form of victim-politics populism that takes a series of tectonic cultural changes -- civil rights, women's rights, a technological revolution as significant as the industrial revolution, the mass-scale loss of religious faith, the sexual revolution, etc. -- and turns the negative or challenging aspects of those changes into an angry tale of what they are doing to you .
And that was my biggest question about Carlson's monologue, and the flurry of responses to it, and support for it: When other groups (say, black Americans) have pointed to systemic inequities within the economic system that have resulted in poverty and family dysfunction, the response from many on the right has been, shall we say, less than enthusiastic .
Really, it comes down to when black people have problems, it's personal responsibility, but when white people have the same problems, the system is messed up. Funny how that works!!-- Judah Maccabeets (@AdamSerwer) January 9, 2019
Yet white working-class poverty receives, from Carlson and others, far more sympathy. And conservatives are far more likely to identify with a criticism of "elites" when they believe those elites are responsible for the expansion of trans rights or creeping secularism than the wealthy and powerful people who are investing in private prisons or an expansion of the militarization of police . Carlson's network, Fox News, and Carlson himself have frequently blasted leftist critics of market capitalism and efforts to fight inequality .
I asked Carlson about this, as his show is frequently centered on the turmoils caused by " demographic change ." He said that for decades, "conservatives just wrote [black economic struggles] off as a culture of poverty," a line he includes in his monologue .
He added that regarding black poverty, "it's pretty easy when you've got 12 percent of the population going through something to feel like, 'Well, there must be ... there's something wrong with that culture.' Which is actually a tricky thing to say because it's in part true, but what you're missing, what I missed, what I think a lot of people missed, was that the economic system you're living under affects your culture."
Carlson said that growing up in Washington, DC, and spending time in rural Maine, he didn't realize until recently that the same poverty and decay he observed in the Washington of the 1980s was also taking place in rural (and majority-white) Maine. "I was thinking, 'Wait a second ... maybe when the jobs go away the culture changes,'" he told me, "And the reason I didn't think of it before was because I was so blinded by this libertarian economic propaganda that I couldn't get past my own assumptions about economics." (For the record, libertarians have critiqued Carlson's monologue as well.)
Carlson told me that beyond changing our tax code, he has no major policies in mind. "I'm not even making the case for an economic system in particular," he told me. "All I'm saying is don't act like the way things are is somehow ordained by God or a function or raw nature."
And clearly, our market economy isn't driven by God or nature, as the stock market soars and unemployment dips and yet even those on the right are noticing lengthy periods of wage stagnation and dying little towns across the country. But what to do about those dying little towns, and which dying towns we care about and which we don't, and, most importantly, whose fault it is that those towns are dying in the first place -- those are all questions Carlson leaves to the viewer to answer.
Jan 08, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Stephen Gardner , , January 8, 2019 at 2:23 pm
Human capital. This word as well as any other captures the dehumanizing nature of capitalism. Just a factor of production. We don't have blood and bone and families. We have exploitable skills. Screw that.
Leave not one stone upon another when you rise up and destroy the dystopian economy these swine have created.
cnchal , , January 8, 2019 at 8:47 am
"Human capital" is a deceptive way of saying "buy low, sell high". As an employee, you are bought for as little as possible, and sold for as much as possible, with Davos Man collecting that difference, making him filthy rich off the sweat of your brow. When you can no longer sweat for Davos Man, you are no longer human capital, and Davos Man would prefer you die quietly, so he can enjoy his jets and yachts without looking at the wreckage left behind.
Jan 04, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
flora , January 4, 2019 at 3:13 pm
re: Tucker Carlson on FoxNews
Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets.
Wait, you mean the old 'Twilight Zone' episode about Martians landing and handing out booklets titled "To Serve Man" weren't Martians at all? They were neoliberals?!? /s
Great rant. Fox is a bellwether of sorts, knowing where the public is going, and following for the ratings, imo.
Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg , January 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm
Re: Tucker Carlson's epiphany: Well it'd be nice if the Republicans ascendancy from the 80s to Bush II marked the high water tide of the Libertarian Future. I always hope they'd figure out that Free Market worship is idolatry and it's not a god that gets you any results. Unless you have 'grace' (being born into a connected lineage, like the Vanderbilt or deVos noble houses.
Harold , January 4, 2019 at 6:42 pm
The " fetish of capitalism" as Karl Marx aptly termed it. Fetish = idol.
Craig H. , January 4, 2019 at 5:01 pm
Class Warfare section missing Drouet arrest?
French police arrest "yellow vest" spokesman Eric Drouet
By Anthony Torres
4 January 2019
( World Socialist Web Site)
More than 70 percent of French people support the "yellow vests," who have evoked broad sympathy from workers around the world. But the established political parties and the union bureaucracies, totally integrated into the state and already furious that the "yellow vests" have outflanked them, are violently hostile.
Does anybody know where a good poll can be seen?
Oregoncharles , January 4, 2019 at 5:52 pm
Oh boy, now they're creating a martyr. Good strategy, Macron.
Oregoncharles , January 4, 2019 at 6:01 pm
So Macron actually WANTS an insurrection. If the Yellow Vests still control the roads, he may be sorry.
ChiGal in Carolina , January 4, 2019 at 5:24 pm
Re Medium piece on mental health care: none of that is new. I and my colleagues have been fighting those battles as psychotherapists in community mental health since the 90s.
Everything to be concrete and measurable so once your goals are "operationalized" the treatment plan sounds more like marching orders, not to mention being nonsensical:
"Client will achieve 25% reduction in depression as evidenced by daily crying spells reduced to 2x/wk and social interactions increased from 0x/wk to 2x/wk"
Believe me, therapists for the elite don't take insurance because they know the paperwork requirements are bullshit.
Not to mention the records insurance require totally blows confidentiality. It took me several years to accept that there was no way around making dual sets of notes, one in the official chart for purposes of compliance, and another handwritten one for purposes of actual treatment. Sad!
HIPPAA btw is about portability, not privacy. Don't let 'em fool ya.
Dec 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
Jas636 -> Friarbird , 4 Jun 2018 01:38Why would I refute points that I agree with?internationalist07 07 -> Jas636 , 4 Jun 2018 01:34
I'm not the one who has a problem with neo-liberalism, it's provided for me more than adequately. Having spent a lot of time living overseas, it's provided ALL Australians with a far better deal than a few billion others.
If you are too naive to see this, then maybe you need to try an alternative for a while. It's quite ok, i'll be waiting for when the alternative fails (they always do) and I can come back and pick off the assets from the carcus of that little experiment for less than a cent in the dollar.
The dog eat dog economy simply represents our nature, it's who we are, we thrive under libertarianism.I think you mean Neo liberal utopiaFriarbird -> GoronwyPrice , 4 Jun 2018 01:31Po-faced, Libertarian BOLLOCKS.GreyBags -> Shiner01 , 4 Jun 2018 01:29
Privatisation is sucker-farming.
Milking the punters, like ants milk aphids.
Farming them, like bellbirds do with leaf-bugs.
And even THAT is only part of the equation.
The fondest goal, the one which gives the management class hard-ons ?
Privatisation de-unionises their workforces.It is quite strange that the biggest supporters of neo-liberal economics with its belief that giving money to the rich will solve all our problems call themselves 'Christians'.Friarbird -> RobertJREYNOLDS , 4 Jun 2018 01:20
I can't remember when Jesus preached trickle down. I don't remember the bit where Jesus said to treat those seeking asylum and fleeing violence like they are the scum of the earth. I don't remember when Jesus said the poor needed a good kick in the guts while they are down to motivate them to work harder. I don't remember when Jesus said we should cut funds from the sick to balance the budget. I don't remember Jesus saying that if you bear false witness often enough then you will fool enough of the people enough to keep power so you can look after your corporate buddy buddies.
In fact, almost all of the politicians in the Coalition who proclaim to be 'Christian' must have their own secret bible because nothing I have heard from the New Testament justifies their actions.
Me, I'm an atheist and I have more care, consideration, ethics and compassion than the entire collection of right wing bible bashers sitting in parliament today."......the scam that is neo-liberalism."Ozponerised , 4 Jun 2018 01:19
No throwaway line.
A 'farming the suckers' scam is all it ever was.
With a view to massive wealth transfer.
Hasn't it worked well ?Thanks for this. We need more of these articles pointing out the bullshit behind this story that the Coalition has been feeding the gullible peasantry with for over 30 years, sneering, smirking and sniggering as truckloads of public money goes to private corporations. The money received from selling off public assets has been shoved into private businesses who then feel very free to charge like bulls.Mal_Function , 4 Jun 2018 01:16
It's a shame so many folk still fall for this bullshit meaning that their own families, work colleagues and community get shafted through diminishing public services.Brother Can You Spare a Dimeprettygoody -> GoronwyPrice , 4 Jun 2018 01:11
They used to tell me I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow or guns to bear
I was always there right on the job
They used to tell me I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?
Once I built a railroad, I made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it's done
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower up to the sun
Brick and rivet and lime
Once I built a tower, now it's done
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell
Full of that yankee doodle de dum
Half a million boots went sloggin' through hell
And I was the kid with the drum
Say, don't you remember, they called me Al
It was Al all the time
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal
Buddy, can you spare a dime?
Songwriters: E. Y. Harburg / Jay Gorney
Brother Can You Spare a Dime lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Next Decade Entertainment, Inc, Shapiro Bernstein & Co. Inc.'This is more or less the definition of increased productivity and it is what ultimately leads to improved living standards for everyone'Friarbird -> ADamnSmith2016 , 4 Jun 2018 01:05
Lazy, neoliberal, supply-side economic guff. Neoliberals undermine government and democracy and then scavenge on the wreckage. When does 'ultimately' begin for 'everyone'? Never.
'Private companies provide the same service with much less labour'
Firing people is the answer? What a hardened realist you are. Must be great to be so certain in your neoliberal convictions. Are you really telling us that every privatisation has been a success?
These pieces of infrastructure have been built through generations of work and wise investment - they are not any one government's to sell. It's just easier for a corrupt, rudderless, feckless neoliberal shill to sell it than it is for them to to run it.Can't even begin to address the characteristic Libertarian slyness in all that.Tasmanian Cryptik -> 20thCenturyFox , 4 Jun 2018 00:58
But I'll try.
"What you call neoliberalism was a set of responses to the failure of socialism or as Tony Blair said 'what matters is what works'."
What I--what the world--calls "Neoliberalism', is the corpse of Classical economics, resurrected post-WW2 by Friedman and Hayek's 'Mont Pelerin Society. '
Why was it buried ?
Because during the Great Depression, its dogmatic insistence on continued austerity and wage cuts only made things worse.
After all, in an economic slump, whats the worst thing you can do ?
Deprive people of whatever little purchasing power they have.
So, goodbye Classical economics.
After which, govts SPENT their societies out of slump, putting people to work.
(O, the horror ! O, the heresy !)
The public works of that era include Germany's autobahns and the US New Deal projects, including the Tennessee Valley system and similar in Western States.
( O the horror ! O the heresy !)
Friedman, Hayek and the gang looked at those and post-WW2 programs of public benefit, such as the UK's NHS and shat themselves. Typical fear-driven conservatives, they were convinced such programs represented the thin end of the wedge which MUST end in imposition of Soviet-style conditions.
What utter paranoid crap.
Their resurrected corpse of Classical economics ?.
THAT is what is 'Neoliberalism'.
Whether or not I call it so is immaterial.
Then, this lofty bit of finger-wagging assertion;
"This process of economic evolution is necessarily imperfect and incomplete...."
Your Lordship's overview is appreciated...
"....but currently leaves you free to own a computer, read news on-line, communicate using the internet (maybe using NBN?) and express your views freely. "
Sez who ?
Besides, the only one talking about that old bogey, "socialism" is you.
Because its a conveniently perjorative label, eh ?
Pretty infantile, though.
"Anybody who doesn't agree with EVERYTHING I say, must be a 'socialist.' And they can't play with my toys."
PS 'Adam', why do LIbertarians always project a Superiority Complex ?
Why are the buggers always so PLEASED WITH THEMSELVES ?Socialise the losses, privatise the gains.RatioDecidend -> Elizabeth Connor , 4 Jun 2018 00:55intelligent comment. Due to corporate media indoctrinating propaganda it will take sometime for others to understand where the problem lies.20thCenturyFox , 4 Jun 2018 00:41Neoliberalism = Socialism for the Rich - Capitalism for the Poor.grumpyom -> Fred1 , 4 Jun 2018 00:28
Politics needs reform, plain & simple. Fed ICAC and Integrity Commission is a good start but it's not enough. The rules have to change too. Major decisions like privatising services or tax handouts to the rich, shouldn't by law be allowed to get through parliament or the senate unless the claims being made to justify them are quantifiable & demonstrated to be in the National Interest. Currently politicians have no obligation to do either.
e.g. claiming that jobs will be created if Penalty rates are cut = there's no way to quantify such a BS claim and Doug Cameron got them to admit that in Senate Estimates. Even so they were allowed to lie through their teeth and impose it anyway with no requirement to prove their BS claims. This corporate tax handout = once again they claim it will lead to more wealth to average Australians and more jobs but it can't be quantified or guaranteed via regulation so it's all bullshit. The rich will hoard the wealth & kick Australians in the guts as usual. That's what they've always done and always will do. Privatisation of electricity..what a crock of shit. They claimed it would create competition and drive down prices. What's happened? The complete opposite but politicians KNOW they're not accountable and therein 'lies' the problem. The shortsheeting of the original NBN, = yet another lie. They've totally crippled Australia's ability to compete in a digital age and completely screwed regional 2nd tier cities and towns in terms of growth. As far as the National interest is concerned the shortsheeting of the NBN is the complete opposite. Even so they were allowed to bastardise that too without any accountability whatsoever. Australians need to start demanding political reform so these bastards are accountable to the people.Neoliberalism is just the academic name for the political ideology of greed, corruption, self interest, self entitlement, corporate welfare, inequality, user pays, and poverty is your fault.grumpyom , 4 Jun 2018 00:18
George Monbiot does it well too.
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiotDo you see any contradiction between privatised electricity and socialised stadiums?Elizabeth Connor , 4 Jun 2018 00:10
Neoliberalism explains it all. Corruption in politics means that only profitable assets are privatised. Stadiums lose money, so are kept in private hands as corporate welfare for the various billionaire team owners and TV networks.I love Richard Denniss! What a brilliantly concise and yet well supported argument. Now we just need someone who can say it in terms that will persuade unwilling voters to think carefully about their vote. If they do think carefully they simply cannot return this government to power, now that they're all revealed as nothing but crony capitalists.sierrasierra -> telbraithwaite , 4 Jun 2018 00:04
I must admit that like many people I also thought neoliberalism was an ideology, but then I couldn't understand why they were so inconsistent in their spending of 'tax-payers' funds'.
From now on I'll be pointing out those inconsistencies with more confidence - armed with Richard's incontrovertible points, and also by a closer reading of Canadian Kean Birch's article:
Here's Birch's definition of neoliberalism:
[The term neoliberalism ] is used to refer to an economic system in which the "free" market is extended to every part of our public and personal worlds.
And here's wikipedia's definition of crony capitalism:
Crony capitalism is an economy in which businesses thrive not as a result of risks they take, but rather as a return on money amassed through a nexus between a business class and the political class.
NB But there's a more explicit definition here, which I like much better:
Crony capitalism is a term describing an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, or other forms of state interventionism.
And from where I sit, crony capitalism cannot be defended by anyone with any kind of integrity.Yes, we have a spot of bother, and I think that their name - Institute of Public Affairs - is quite a misnomer.Billyswagg , 4 Jun 2018 00:03
The way these people operate is more akin to Opus Dei and many other 'secret societies' that have another public face altogether.
Given that IPA's agenda is a private members wish list which has a huge impact on matters of a broad public nature, it's rather akin to incest, and we know where the confusion between Church and State takes us regarding separation of powers, exactly where we are right now .two Royal Commissions that are joined at the hip, Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2013 – 2017) and our current horror show Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation, and Financial Services Industry which could for all intents and purposes be as long as aforementioned.
Stay with me, as these are issues that relate to other 'energy' systems, namely money, sex and power, and if we have any doubts as to how far this cancer has spread, a quick purview of the following members ought to resolve it for you:
For the 70th Birthday big bash, we know that guests to the party were:
• Gina Rinehart
• Rupert Murdoch
• Tony Abbott
• George Pell - Australian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church
• Michael Kroger - President of the Victorian division of the Liberal Party of Australia and former director of the IPA
• Mitch Fifield - Communications Minister
Think horizontal and vertical industries/associations and you begin to get the picture, and that's before thinking about BCA and VECCI.First, elect the other mob next time around. They're in the pockets of the multinationals and the US alliance as well, but they're not quite as bad, yet. The next thing is a full-on assault on mainstream media. The frontline of the revolution, if there is to be one, is the media. No more guns or territorial claims, it's a battle for the mind. Education is the key. The "Neolibs" attack education at every opportunity - teachers, curriculum, funding etc. etc. but there's nothing wrong with education - the real problem is that the mainstream media relentlessly, all day every day works to an agenda of dis-education, deliberately undermining and destroying the work of our schools. They preach doubt and mistrust - of learning, facts, truth, intelligence, pure science, art, music, culture, thoughtfulness, forbearance, empathy and altruism. They teach us to monetise and gamble on everything. Their aim is to dumb everyone down to the point where not only can't they read an analog clock or drive their own car but become entirely dependent on the word of authority (of which they are the mouthpiece) for a continued existence. Today, with our vast social platforms we can target their lies and threats, one by one. Pick each one, attack it, viciously, loudly, risibly, with facts, comedy, derision and invitations to dance. Spread it wide. Call them out at every opportunity. Sneer them into oblivion. Mainstream media is the primary problem. That's what must be destroyed.Dunkey2830 -> Dave Bradley , 3 Jun 2018 23:53BiggerPictureCait -> Stopthelibs , 3 Jun 2018 23:53
Maybe the ALP have learnt from their mistakes
No, regrettably they have not.
The neoliberalist 'mistake' has been going on for around 40 yrs now - it has proved a relentless descent into inequality and austerity.
Chris Bowen at the National Press Club :
"...Labor will go to the next election:
Achieving budget balance in the same year as the government;
Delivering bigger cumulative budget surpluses over forward estimates as well as substantially bigger surpluses over the ten year medium term; and
That the majority of savings raised from our revenue measures over the medium term will go towards budget repair and paying down debt...."
Pure neoliberal economic poison that will create further hardship for our citizens, worsen inequality and recess the economy yet further.
People have got to come to understand that the bigger surpluses Bowen speaks of are federal tax collection surpluses; i.e. he intends to withdraw further spending capacity from the private sector, all while the current account deficit already draws 3.5% GDP (~$30bn) a yr from that same heavily indebted private sector.
This Bowen statement report from the SMH :
"The whiff of a surplus, not reaching at least 1 per cent of GDP until 2026-27, does not adequately protect Australia against the potential roiling seas of international uncertainty," he will say.
"Australia needs bigger surpluses, sooner than the government is scheduling.
"We can't afford to let the next four years go to waste in the efforts for a healthier, safer budget surplus."
Absolute macroeconomic stupidity, arrogant, vandalous ideological madness.
When will the people come to their senses and stop supporting such socially destructive errant neoliberal economic alchemy?Just look at the Citizens Assembly overseeing the law change in the recent Irish referendum. Worked a treat, cause those involved wanted to find the bvest alternative, rather than feather their own nest.
Dec 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
jclucas , 3 Jun 2018 23:25It is indeed important to make the distinction between the ideology of neoliberalism - the ideology of private enterprise is good, and public spending is bad - and the operational system of crony capitalism - the game of mates played by government and the special interests.
And it is certainly equally important to call out the monumental hypocrisy involved in the government's application of the ideology's set of rules to the powerless and public and the government's application of corrupt practice rules to the special interests.
The system is destroying the egalitarian character of Australia and fanning the flames of nativist authoritarianism here.
But what's even more dangerous is the fundamental dishonesty that the system necessitates, and the alienating influence it has - on top of the growing economic inequality.
The system has destroyed the economic and environmental viability and sustainability of the planet on which human civilization depends.
What is becoming increasingly clear to more and more of the public is that - simple put- the system cannot be allowed to go on as it has been proceeding because it threatens the future of civilization on earth.
Change is imperative now. However, how that will unfold is unclear, as well as, the toll the destruc5turing system will take.
What is clear is that a great restructuring must happen - and soon.
Dec 21, 2018 | www.wsws.org
... In the introduction to the second volume in his series, The State and the Opposition , Rogovin noted:In this work, Rogovin argued that the fundamental problem facing the USSR was "a deepening of socially unjustified differentiation of incomes and the comforts of life." "Workers regularly encounter instances of unearned enrichment through the deceit and the ripping-off of the state and the people. [ ] Certain groups of the population have the means to meet their needs at a scale beyond any reasonable norms and outside of their relationship to social production. [ ] There does not exist any systematic control of sources of income and the acquisition of valuable goods," he wrote.
A peculiarity of the counter-revolution realized by Stalin and his accomplices was that it took place under the ideological cover of Marxist phraseology and never-ending attestations of loyalty to the October Revolution Naturally, such a counter-revolution demanded historically unprecedented conglomerations of lies and falsifications, the fabrication of ever-newer myths
Similar to the Stalinists, modern anti-communists use two kinds of myths: namely, ideological and historical. Under ideological myths we have in mind false ideas, oriented to the future -- that is, illusory prognoses and promises. These sorts of products of false consciousness reveal their mythological character by way of their practical realization.
Myths that appeal not to the future but to the past are another matter.
In principle, it is easier to expose these myths than anti-scientific prognoses and reactionary projects.
Like ideological ones, historical myths are a product of immediate class interests products of historical ignorance or deliberate falsification -- that is, the concealment of some historical facts, the tendentious exaggeration, and the distorted interpretation of others.
Refuting these myths is only possible by rehabilitating historical truth -- the honest portrayal of actual facts and tendencies of the past.
In a remarkable statement, inequality, he insisted, not wage-leveling, expressed "in essence, the social structure of [Soviet] society."
Rogovin called for the implementation of income declarations, whereby people would be required to report the size of their total income, not just their official wages, so that the government and researchers might actually know the real distribution of earnings. He advocated for the establishment of a "socially-guaranteed maximum income" to combat "unjustified inequality."Vadim Rogovin and Nina Naumova's 1984 Social Development and Societal Morals
Elsewhere, Rogovin further argued that inequality lay at the center of the USSR's falling labor productivity. In a work co-authored with Nina Naumova, Social Development and Societal Morals , he maintained that the socio-economic crisis facing the USSR stemmed from the fact that inequality was growing in Soviet society; people worked poorly in the Soviet Union not because their work was inadequately remunerated relative to others, but because their commitment to social production had been eroded by intensifying social stratification that was unrecorded in official statistics.
In 1983, the very same year that Rogovin authored his critical report on the state of inequality in the USSR that ended up in the hands of the Moscow authorities, another sociologist, Tatyana Zaslavskaya, would issue a report, kept secret at first but later leaked to the Western press, advocating a transition to "economic methods of management," -- in other words, market-based reforms. A central aspect of this was policy centered around increasing inequality in workers' compensation in order to stimulate production. Zaslavskaya noted at the time that such reforms would be opposed by what she described as "the more apathetic, the more elderly, and the less qualified groups of workers."
In a few years, Zaslavskaya would become a leading advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev and one of the main architects of the pro-market, perestroika reforms. In 1986, she was appointed the head of the Soviet Sociological Association. Her positions were widely embraced by the discipline.Tatiana Zaslavskaya and Mikhail Gorbachev 1989 at Congress of People's Deputies. [Copyright RIA Novosti]
In contrast, Rogovin's views were frequently, and ever more so, the object of sharp criticism. In 1985, a discussion occurred at the Institute of Sociology regarding a report produced by Rogovin and his research team about Soviet lifestyles. In it, Rogovin made openly critical comments about the anti-egalitarian impact of the shadow economy and the transfer of wealth through inheritance. It was sharply criticized by some of the Institute's top scholars, who both disagreed with its content and were nervous about the response it might get from the authorities. At the discussion, one such individual remarked:
The report by the author presented here has two basic failings: 1) it is inadequately self-critical; 2) the authors, and in particular, Rogovin himself, aren't appropriately thinking of the addressee to whom this report is directed. The report is going to the highest levels [of the Communist Party] and superfluous emotion is not necessary. The next criticism [I have] is about "unjustified inequality." In principle, there can be no such thing.
[ ] in the note to the TsK KPSS [Central Committee of the Communist Party] [ ] the recommendations [that you make] demand the utmost care in how you approach them, particularly those that relate to the "third economy" and taxes on inheritance. [There should be] a minimum of categoricalness and a maximum of conciliatoriness.
As the decade wore on, Rogovin began to adopt an ever more critical stance on perestroika , whose devastating economic consequences were increasingly showing themselves. Rather than bringing prosperity to the masses, Gorbachev's reforms created a total crisis in the state sector of the economy, exacerbating widespread shortages in food, clothing and other basic necessities. Economic growth declined from 1986 onwards. In 1989, inflation reached 19 percent, eroding the gains the population had made in income over the preceding years. As the scholar John Elliot noted, "When account is taken of additional costs, real per capita income and real wages probably decreased, particularly for the bottom half of the population. These costs included: deteriorating quality and unavailability of goods; proliferation of special distribution channels; longer and more time-consuming lines; extended rationing; higher prices and higher inflation-rates in non-state stores (e.g., collective farm market prices were nearly three times those in state stores in 1989); virtual stagnation in the provision of health and education; and the growth of barter, regional autarky, and local protectionism."
Newly established private enterprises had great leeway to set prices because they faced little to no competition from the state sector. They charged whatever the market would bear, which led to substantial increases in income inequality and poverty, with the most vulnerable layers of the population hardest hit. The changes were so severe that Elliot insists that "income inequalities had actually become greater in the USSR than in the USA." In the late 1980s, fully two-thirds of the Soviet population had an income that fell below the officially-recommended "decent level" of 100 to 150 rubles a month. At the same time, the shadow economy alone is estimated to have produced 100,000–150,000 millionaires in the late 1980s. By the early 1990s, one-quarter of the population or 70 million people were destitute according to official Soviet estimates. Miners' strikes and other signs of social discontent erupted across the country.
Sociologists were intimately aware of the growing popular discontent. The Communist Party bureaucracy called upon them to help manage the situation. In 1989, the director of the Institute of Sociology received a request from the highest layers of the Communist Party. He was asked to respond to a letter from a rank-and-file party member that expressed extreme hostility towards the country's "elites." The letter writer described the party as dominated by an "opportunist nucleus" and called for the waging of a "class war" by the working masses against their policies. The ideology division of the Central Committee of the Communist Party wanted the Institute's director to respond to the letter because the sentiments expressed in it were "widespread (representative) [sic] among the working class."Soviet economist and sociologist Genady Lisichkin
In the midst of these circumstances, Rogovin came under fire in one of the country's media outlets for articles he was writing against the promotion of social inequality. Since the mid-1980s, he had been championing the implementation of income declarations that would require people to report their full earnings, progressive taxes, and a socially-declared maximum income. Based on the amount of positive correspondence he was receiving from readers, it was clear that his views resonated with the population, a fact noted by Western scholars at the time. In a public press debate with the economist Gennady Lisichkin, the latter accused Rogovin of wanting to strengthen the hand of the bureaucracy and implied that he was a Stalinist. He was allegedly guilty of "Luddism," religious-like preaching, misquoting Marx to find support for his arguments, wanting the state to have the power to move people around "like cattle," defending a deficit-system of distribution based on "ration cards," suffering from "left-wing" infantilism, and being a "demagogue" and a "war communist." He attempted to link Rogovin to the very force to which he was most hostile -- Stalinism. The head of the Soviet Sociological Association, Tatiana Zaslavskaya, openly endorsed Lisichkin's positions.
The disagreements between Rogovin and other scholars over perestroika evolved into a fierce dispute about Soviet history and the nature of Stalinism. Rogovin identified a relationship between cheerleading for pro-market reforms and historical falsification. There was an increasingly widespread effort to link egalitarianism with Stalinism, the struggle for equality with political repression. In Was There an Alternative? , Rogovin frequently talked about the fact that the move towards a market economy was accompanied by the propagation of myths about Soviet history. This was one of those myths.
In 1991, Zaslavskaya co-authored a book that claimed that the Soviet Union's problems lay in the fact that in the late 1920s it abandoned the New Economic Policy (NEP), during which the government had loosened state control of the economy and restored market relations to an extent, in an effort to revitalize the economy under conditions of isolation, backwardness, and near economic collapse due to years of war. A one-sided and historically dishonest account of the NEP, this work did not contain any discussion of the political struggle that occurred during the NEP between Stalin and the Left Opposition over the malignant growth of inequality, the bureaucratization of the state and economy, and the crushing of inner-party democracy. The book skipped over this history because it would have cut across one of the central arguments made at the time in favor of perestroika -- that market relations were inherently at odds with the interests of the Communist Party bureaucracy. The book's account of labor policy under Stalin was also false. It insisted that during the 1930s revolutionary enthusiasm was the primary method used to stimulate people to work, ignoring the fact that income inequality rose substantially at this time. As the scholar Murray Yanowitch has pointed out, under Stalin "equality mongering" was labeled the brainchild of "Trotskyites, Zinovievites, Bukharinites and other enemies of the people."
In the 1980s, sociologists and other scholars promoting perestroika sought to imbue these policies with a humanitarian mission, insisting that market reforms would allow "the human factor," which had been crushed under the weight of bureaucratic stagnation, to rise again. The "human factor" was defined as man's desire for personal recognition through differentiated, material reward. It was supposedly the primary driver of human activity. To the degree that official wage policy in the USSR led to a relatively egalitarian distribution of social resources with wages leveled-out between skilled and unskilled labor, it flew in the face of man's desire for recognition of his own individual contribution. Rising inequality in income -- necessitated by the demands of socio-economic development -- was part of the process of "humanizing socialism." The argument was made that increasing social stratification would ultimately provide real "socialist justice."
As Tatiana Zaslavskaya claimed in 1990, "Despite all its limitations, the 'classical' market is, in fact, a democratic (and therefore anti-bureaucratic) economic institution. Within the framework of its exchange relationships, all participants are at least formally equal; no-one is subordinated to anyone else. Buyers and sellers act in their own interests and nobody can make them conclude deals they do not want to conclude. The buyers are free to select sellers who will let them have goods on the most advantageous terms, but the sellers too can chose buyers offering the best price."
In making this argument, scholars relied upon the official Soviet definition of socialism -- "from each according to his ability, to each according to his labor" -- that was enshrined in the country's 1936 constitution. This was also known as the Stalin constitution.
In 1988, Rogovin used the concept of the "human factor" to make a very different argument. In a piece entitled, "The Human Factor and the Lessons of the Past," he insisted that the defense of social inequality by the Soviet elite was one of the key reasons why the "human factor" had degenerated in the USSR. The very best elements of "the human factor" had been crushed by Stalin during the Terror. Corruption, disillusionment, parasitism, careerism and individual self-promotion -- the most distinctive features of the Brezhnev era -- were the "human factor" created by Stalinism. In promoting inequality and the market, Rogovin insisted, perestroika did not mark a break with Stalinism or the legacy of the Brezhnev era, as was so often claimed, but rather their further realization.
One year later he wrote, "The adherents of the new elitist conceptions want to see Soviet society with such a level of social differentiation that existed under Stalin but having gotten rid of Stalinist repression. It is forgotten that the debauched character of these repressions [ ] flowed from the effort to not simply restrain, but rather physically annihilate above all those forces in the party and in the country that, though silenced, rejected the social foundations of Stalinism."
After years of studying these questions in near-total isolation, Rogovin was finally able to write openly about this subject. He tested the waters by first publishing "L.D. Trotsky on Art" in August 1989 in the journal Theater . It was followed shortly thereafter by an article entitled "The Internal Party Struggles of the 1920s: Reasons and Lessons," also published in a journal outside of his discipline, Political Education . Moving closer to a forum likely to be followed by his colleagues in sociology, in early 1990 Rogovin published "L.D. Trotsky on NEP" in Economic Sciences . And finally, a few months later, "L.D. Trotsky on Social Relations in the USSR" came out in the flagship journal of his discipline, Sociological Research .
Rogovin's first article on the subject within his discipline reviewed Trotsky's role in Soviet history during the 1920s and summarized his seminal work, The Revolution Betrayed . It made clear to whom Rogovin fundamentally owed the views he had been advancing over the course of the previous decade.
Trotsky, however, continued to be vilified by Soviet officialdom. In 1987, on the 70th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Gorbachev described Trotsky as "the arch-heretic of Soviet history, an 'excessively self-assured politician who always vacillated and cheated."
As a result of Rogovin's profound sympathies for Trotskyism and efforts to place his work in the tradition of the Left Opposition's critique of Stalinism, he was increasingly isolated from his colleagues, several of whom entered the Yeltsin administration and helped facilitate the eventual implementation of shock therapy, a key component of capitalist restoration in Russia. His discipline never forgave him for his intransigence and principles. One will find almost no mention of Rogovin or his contributions in the numerous monographs and other publications that have come out over the last 20 years about sociology in the USSR.
But Rogovin's isolation from Soviet sociology did not undermine his capacity to work. Rather, it coincided with the start of the publication of Was There an Alternative? In 1992, Rogovin met the International Committee of the Fourth International, and established a close political and intellectual relationship with the world Trotskyist movement that would intensify over the course of the next several years. This relationship was the basis upon which Rogovin made his immense contribution to the fight to defend Trotsky and historical truth. Two recently republished tributes to Rogovin by David North review this history.
Despite his death twenty years ago, through his work Rogovin continues his struggle to arm the working class with historical consciousness.
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Themiddlegound -> Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:42The American Chamber of Commerce subsequently expanded its base from around 60,000 firms in 1972 to over a quarter of a million ten years later. Jointly with the National Association of Manufacturers (which moved to Washington in 1972) it amassed an immense campaign chest to lobby Congress and engage in research. The Business Roundtable, an organization of CEOs 'committed to the aggressive pursuit of political power for the corporation', was founded in 1972 and thereafter became the centrepiece of collective pro-business action.
The corporations involved accounted for 'about one half of the GNP of the United States' during the 1970s, and they spent close to $900 million annually (a huge amount at that time) on political matters. Think-tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the Center for the Study of American Business, and the American Enterprise Institute, were formed with corporate backing both to polemicize and, when necessary, as in the case of the National Bureau of Economic Research, to construct serious technical and empirical studies and political-philosophical arguments broadly in support of neoliberal policies.
Nearly half the financing for the highly respected NBER came from the leading companies in the Fortune 500 list. Closely integrated with the academic community, the NBER was to have a very significant impact on thinking in the economics departments and business schools of the major research universities. With abundant finance furnished by wealthy individuals (such as the brewer Joseph Coors, who later became a member of Reagan's 'kitchen cabinet') and their foundations (for example Olin, Scaife, Smith Richardson, Pew Charitable Trust), a ﬂood of tracts and books, with Nozick's Anarchy State and Utopia perhaps the most widely read and appreciated, emerged espousing neoliberal values. A TV version of Milton Friedman's Free to Choose was funded with a grant from Scaife in 1977. 'Business was', Blyth concludes, 'learning to spend as a class.
In singling out the universities for particular attention, Powell pointed up an opportunity as well as an issue, for these were indeed centers of anti-corporate and anti-state sentiment (the students at Santa Barbara had burned down the Bank of America building there and ceremonially buried a car in the sands). But many students were (and still are) affluent and privileged, or at least middle class, and in the US the values of individual freedom have long been celebrated (in music and popular culture) as primary. Neoliberal themes could here find fertile ground for propagation. Powell did not argue for extending state power. But business should 'assiduously cultivate' the state and when necessary use it 'aggressively and with determination'
In order to realize this goal, businesses needed a political class instrument and a popular base. They therefore actively sought to capture the Republican Party as their own instrument. The formation of powerful political action committees to procure, as the old adage had it, 'the best government that money could buy' was an important step. The supposedly 'progressive' campaign finance laws of 1971 in effect legalized the financial corruption of politics.
A crucial set of Supreme Court decisions began in 1976 when it was first established that the right of a corporation to make unlimited money contributions to political parties and political action committees was protected under the First Amendment guaranteeing the rights of individuals (in this instance corporations) to freedom of speech.15 Political action committees could thereafter ensure the financial domination of both political parties by corporate, moneyed, and professional association interests. Corporate PACs, which numbered eighty-nine in 1974, had burgeoned to 1,467 by 1982.
The Republican Party needed, however, a solid electoral base if it was to colonize power effectively. It was around this time that Republicans sought an alliance with the Christian right. The latter had not been politically active in the past, but the foundation of Jerry Falwell's 'moral majority' as a political movement in 1978 changed all of that. The Republican Party now had its Christian base.
It also appealed to the cultural nationalism of the white working classes and their besieged sense of moral righteousness. This political base could be mobilized through the positives of religion and cultural nationalism and negatively through coded, if not blatant, racism, homophobia, and anti feminism.
The alliance between big business and conservative Christians backed by the neoconservatives consolidated, not for the first time has a social group been persuaded to vote against its material, economic, and class interests the evangelical Christians eagerly embraced the alliance with big business and the Republican Party as a means to further promote their evangelical and moral agenda.
Themiddlegound -> Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:23Any political movement that holds individual freedoms to be sacrosanct is vulnerable to incorporation into the neoliberal fold.
The worldwide political upheavals of 1968, for example, were strongly inﬂected with the desire for greater personal freedoms. This was certainly true for students, such as those animated by the Berkeley 'free speech' movement of the 1960s or who took to the streets in Paris, Berlin, and Bangkok and were so mercilessly shot down in Mexico City shortly before the 1968 Olympic Games. They demanded freedom from parental, educational, corporate, bureaucratic, and state constraints. But the '68 movement also had social justice as a primary political objective.
Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multiculturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the the Construction of Consent desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities. Neoliberalism did not create these distinctions, but it could easily exploit, if not foment, them.
In the early 1970s those seeking individual freedoms and social justice could make common cause in the face of what many saw as a common enemy. Powerful corporations in alliance with an interventionist state were seen to be running the world in individually oppressive and socially unjust ways. The Vietnam War was the most obvious catalyst for discontent, but the destructive activities of corporations and the state in relation to the environment, the push towards mindless consumerism, the failure to address social issues and respond adequately to diversity, as well as intense restrictions on individual possibilities and personal behaviors by state-mandated and 'traditional' controls were also widely resented. Civil rights were an issue, and questions of sexuality and of reproductive rights were very much in play.
For almost everyone involved in the movement of '68, the intrusive state was the enemy and it had to be reformed. And on that, the neoliberals could easily agree. But capitalist corporations, business, and the market system were also seen as primary enemies requiring redress if not revolutionary transformation: hence the threat to capitalist class power.
By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interests could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. But it had to be backed up by a practical strategy that emphasized the liberty of consumer choice, not only with respect to particular products but also with respect to lifestyles, modes of expression, and a wide range of cultural practices. Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than a little compatible with that cultural impulse called 'postmodernism' which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s.
In the US case a confidential memo sent by Lewis Powell to the US Chamber of Commerce in August 1971. Powell, about to be elevated to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon, argued that criticism of and opposition to the US free enterprise system had gone too far and that 'the time had come––indeed it is long overdue––for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshaled against those who would destroy it'.
Powell argued that individual action was insufficient. 'Strength', he wrote, 'lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations'. The National Chamber of Commerce, he argued, should lead an assault upon the major institutions––universities, schools, the media, publishing, the courts––in order to change how individuals think 'about the corporation, the law, culture, and the individual'. US businesses did not lack resources for such an effort, particularly when they pooled their resources together.
Nov 14, 2017 | www.theguardian.comAs even its harshest critics concede, neoliberalism is hard to pin down. In broad terms, it denotes a preference for markets over government, economic incentives over cultural norms, and private entrepreneurship over collective action. It has been used to describe a wide range of phenomena – from Augusto Pinochet to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, from the Clinton Democrats and the UK's New Labour to the economic opening in China and the reform of the welfare state in Sweden.
The term is used as a catchall for anything that smacks of deregulation, liberalisation, privatisation or fiscal austerity. Today it is routinely reviled as a shorthand for the ideas and practices that have produced growing economic insecurity and inequality, led to the loss of our political values and ideals, and even precipitated our current populist backlash .
We live in the age of neoliberalism, apparently. But who are neoliberalism's adherents and disseminators – the neoliberals themselves? Oddly, you have to go back a long time to find anyone explicitly embracing neoliberalism. In 1982, Charles Peters, the longtime editor of the political magazine Washington Monthly, published an essay titled A Neo-Liberal's Manifesto . It makes for interesting reading 35 years later, since the neoliberalism it describes bears little resemblance to today's target of derision. The politicians Peters names as exemplifying the movement are not the likes of Thatcher and Reagan, but rather liberals – in the US sense of the word – who have become disillusioned with unions and big government and dropped their prejudices against markets and the military.
The use of the term "neoliberal" exploded in the 1990s, when it became closely associated with two developments, neither of which Peters's article had mentioned. One of these was financial deregulation, which would culminate in the 2008 financial crash and in the still-lingering euro debacle . The second was economic globalisation, which accelerated thanks to free flows of finance and to a new, more ambitious type of trade agreement. Financialisation and globalisation have become the most overt manifestations of neoliberalism in today's world.
That neoliberalism is a slippery, shifting concept, with no explicit lobby of defenders, does not mean that it is irrelevant or unreal. Who can deny that the world has experienced a decisive shift toward markets from the 1980s on? Or that centre-left politicians – Democrats in the US, socialists and social democrats in Europe – enthusiastically adopted some of the central creeds of Thatcherism and Reaganism, such as deregulation, privatisation, financial liberalisation and individual enterprise? Much of our contemporary policy discussion remains infused with principles supposedly grounded in the concept of homo economicus , the perfectly rational human being, found in many economic theories, who always pursues his own self-interest.
But the looseness of the term neoliberalism also means that criticism of it often misses the mark. There is nothing wrong with markets, private entrepreneurship or incentives – when deployed appropriately. Their creative use lies behind the most significant economic achievements of our time. As we heap scorn on neoliberalism, we risk throwing out some of neoliberalism's useful ideas.
The real trouble is that mainstream economics shades too easily into ideology, constraining the choices that we appear to have and providing cookie-cutter solutions. A proper understanding of the economics that lie behind neoliberalism would allow us to identify – and to reject – ideology when it masquerades as economic science. Most importantly, it would help us to develop the institutional imagination we badly need to redesign capitalism for the 21st century.
N eoliberalism is typically understood as being based on key tenets of mainstream economic science. To see those tenets without the ideology, consider this thought experiment. A well-known and highly regarded economist lands in a country he has never visited and knows nothing about. He is brought to a meeting with the country's leading policymakers. "Our country is in trouble," they tell him. "The economy is stagnant, investment is low, and there is no growth in sight." They turn to him expectantly: "Please tell us what we should do to make our economy grow."
The economist pleads ignorance and explains that he knows too little about the country to make any recommendations. He would need to study the history of the economy, to analyse the statistics, and to travel around the country before he could say anything.Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tony Blair and Bill Clinton: centre-left politicians who enthusiastically adopted some of the central creeds of Thatcherism and Reaganism. Photograph: Reuters
But his hosts are insistent. "We understand your reticence, and we wish you had the time for all that," they tell him. "But isn't economics a science, and aren't you one of its most distinguished practitioners? Even though you do not know much about our economy, surely there are some general theories and prescriptions you can share with us to guide our economic policies and reforms."
The economist is now in a bind. He does not want to emulate those economic gurus he has long criticised for peddling their favourite policy advice. But he feels challenged by the question. Are there universal truths in economics? Can he say anything valid or useful?
So he begins. The efficiency with which an economy's resources are allocated is a critical determinant of the economy's performance, he says. Efficiency, in turn, requires aligning the incentives of households and businesses with social costs and benefits. The incentives faced by entrepreneurs, investors and producers are particularly important when it comes to economic growth. Growth needs a system of property rights and contract enforcement that will ensure those who invest can retain the returns on their investments. And the economy must be open to ideas and innovations from the rest of the world.
But economies can be derailed by macroeconomic instability, he goes on. Governments must therefore pursue a sound monetary policy , which means restricting the growth of liquidity to the increase in nominal money demand at reasonable inflation. They must ensure fiscal sustainability, so that the increase in public debt does not outpace national income. And they must carry out prudential regulation of banks and other financial institutions to prevent the financial system from taking excessive risk.
Now he is warming to his task. Economics is not just about efficiency and growth, he adds. Economic principles also carry over to equity and social policy. Economics has little to say about how much redistribution a society should seek. But it does tell us that the tax base should be as broad as possible, and that social programmes should be designed in a way that does not encourage workers to drop out of the labour market.
By the time the economist stops, it appears as if he has laid out a fully fledged neoliberal agenda. A critic in the audience will have heard all the code words: efficiency, incentives, property rights, sound money, fiscal prudence. And yet the universal principles that the economist describes are in fact quite open-ended. They presume a capitalist economy – one in which investment decisions are made by private individuals and firms – but not much beyond that. They allow for – indeed, they require – a surprising variety of institutional arrangements.
So has the economist just delivered a neoliberal screed? We would be mistaken to think so, and our mistake would consist of associating each abstract term – incentives, property rights, sound money – with a particular institutional counterpart. And therein lies the central conceit, and the fatal flaw, of neoliberalism: the belief that first-order economic principles map on to a unique set of policies, approximated by a Thatcher/Reagan-style agenda.
Consider property rights. They matter insofar as they allocate returns on investments. An optimal system would distribute property rights to those who would make the best use of an asset, and afford protection against those most likely to expropriate the returns. Property rights are good when they protect innovators from free riders, but they are bad when they protect them from competition. Depending on the context, a legal regime that provides the appropriate incentives can look quite different from the standard US-style regime of private property rights.
This may seem like a semantic point with little practical import; but China's phenomenal economic success is largely due to its orthodoxy-defying institutional tinkering. China turned to markets, but did not copy western practices in property rights. Its reforms produced market-based incentives through a series of unusual institutional arrangements that were better adapted to the local context. Rather than move directly from state to private ownership, for example, which would have been stymied by the weakness of the prevailing legal structures, the country relied on mixed forms of ownership that provided more effective property rights for entrepreneurs in practice. Township and Village Enterprises (TVEs), which spearheaded Chinese economic growth during the 1980s, were collectives owned and controlled by local governments. Even though TVEs were publicly owned, entrepreneurs received the protection they needed against expropriation. Local governments had a direct stake in the profits of the firms, and hence did not want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
China relied on a range of such innovations, each delivering the economist's higher-order economic principles in unfamiliar institutional arrangements. For instance, it shielded its large state sector from global competition, establishing special economic zones where foreign firms could operate with different rules than in the rest of the economy. In view of such departures from orthodox blueprints, describing China's economic reforms as neoliberal – as critics are inclined to do – distorts more than it reveals. If we are to call this neoliberalism, we must surely look more kindly on the ideas behind the most dramatic poverty reduction in history.
One might protest that China's institutional innovations were purely transitional. Perhaps it will have to converge on western-style institutions to sustain its economic progress. But this common line of thinking overlooks the diversity of capitalist arrangements that still prevails among advanced economies, despite the considerable homogenisation of our policy discourse.
What, after all, are western institutions? The size of the public sector in OECD countries varies, from a third of the economy in Korea to nearly 60% in Finland. In Iceland, 86% of workers are members of a trade union; the comparable number in Switzerland is just 16%. In the US, firms can fire workers almost at will; French labour laws have historically required employers to jump through many hoops first. Stock markets have grown to a total value of nearly one-and-a-half times GDP in the US; in Germany, they are only a third as large, equivalent to just 50% of GDP.Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'China turned to markets, but did not copy western practices ... ' Photograph: AFP/Getty
The idea that any one of these models of taxation, labour relations or financial organisation is inherently superior to the others is belied by the varying economic fortunes that each of these economies have experienced over recent decades. The US has gone through successive periods of angst in which its economic institutions were judged inferior to those in Germany, Japan, China, and now possibly Germany again. Certainly, comparable levels of wealth and productivity can be produced under very different models of capitalism. We might even go a step further: today's prevailing models probably come nowhere near exhausting the range of what might be possible, and desirable, in the future.
The visiting economist in our thought experiment knows all this, and recognises that the principles he has enunciated need to be filled in with institutional detail before they become operational. Property rights? Yes, but how? Sound money? Of course, but how? It would perhaps be easier to criticise his list of principles for being vacuous than to denounce it as a neoliberal screed.
Still, these principles are not entirely content-free. China, and indeed all countries that managed to develop rapidly, demonstrate the utility of those principles once they are properly adapted to local context. Conversely, too many economies have been driven to ruin courtesy of political leaders who chose to violate them. We need look no further than Latin American populists or eastern European communist regimes to appreciate the practical significance of sound money, fiscal sustainability and private incentives.
O f course, economics goes beyond a list of abstract, largely common-sense principles. Much of the work of economists consists of developing stylised models of how economies work and then confronting those models with evidence. Economists tend to think of what they do as progressively refining their understanding of the world: their models are supposed to get better and better as they are tested and revised over time. But progress in economics happens differently.
Economists study a social reality that is unlike the physical universe. It is completely manmade, highly malleable and operates according to different rules across time and space. Economics advances not by settling on the right model or theory to answer such questions, but by improving our understanding of the diversity of causal relationships. Neoliberalism and its customary remedies – always more markets, always less government – are in fact a perversion of mainstream economics. Good economists know that the correct answer to any question in economics is: it depends.
Does an increase in the minimum wage depress employment? Yes, if the labour market is really competitive and employers have no control over the wage they must pay to attract workers; but not necessarily otherwise. Does trade liberalisation increase economic growth? Yes, if it increases the profitability of industries where the bulk of investment and innovation takes place; but not otherwise. Does more government spending increase employment? Yes, if there is slack in the economy and wages do not rise; but not otherwise. Does monopoly harm innovation? Yes and no, depending on a whole host of market circumstances.Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'Today [neoliberalism] is routinely reviled as a shorthand for the ideas that have produced growing economic inequality and precipitated our current populist backlash' Trump signing an order to take the US out of the TPP trade pact. Photograph: AFP/Getty
In economics, new models rarely supplant older models. The basic competitive-markets model dating back to Adam Smith has been modified over time by the inclusion, in rough historical order, of monopoly, externalities, scale economies, incomplete and asymmetric information, irrational behaviour and many other real-world features. But the older models remain as useful as ever. Understanding how real markets operate necessitates using different lenses at different times.
Perhaps maps offer the best analogy. Just like economic models, maps are highly stylised representations of reality . They are useful precisely because they abstract from many real-world details that would get in the way. But abstraction also implies that we need a different map depending on the nature of our journey. If we are travelling by bike, we need a map of bike trails. If we are to go on foot, we need a map of footpaths. If a new subway is constructed, we will need a subway map – but we wouldn't throw out the older maps.
Economists tend to be very good at making maps, but not good enough at choosing the one most suited to the task at hand. When confronted with policy questions of the type our visiting economist faces, too many of them resort to "benchmark" models that favour the laissez-faire approach. Kneejerk solutions and hubris replace the richness and humility of the discussion in the seminar room. John Maynard Keynes once defined economics as the "science of thinking in terms of models, joined to the art of choosing models which are relevant". Economists typically have trouble with the "art" part.
This, too, can be illustrated with a parable. A journalist calls an economics professor for his view on whether free trade is a good idea. The professor responds enthusiastically in the affirmative. The journalist then goes undercover as a student in the professor's advanced graduate seminar on international trade. He poses the same question: is free trade good? This time the professor is stymied. "What do you mean by 'good'?" he responds. "And good for whom?" The professor then launches into an extensive exegesis that will ultimately culminate in a heavily hedged statement: "So if the long list of conditions I have just described are satisfied, and assuming we can tax the beneficiaries to compensate the losers, freer trade has the potential to increase everyone's wellbeing." If he is in an expansive mood, the professor might add that the effect of free trade on an economy's longterm growth rate is not clear either, and would depend on an altogether different set of requirements.
This professor is rather different from the one the journalist encountered previously. On the record, he exudes self-confidence, not reticence, about the appropriate policy. There is one and only one model, at least as far as the public conversation is concerned, and there is a single correct answer, regardless of context. Strangely, the professor deems the knowledge that he imparts to his advanced students to be inappropriate (or dangerous) for the general public. Why?
The roots of such behaviour lie deep in the culture of the economics profession. But one important motive is the zeal to display the profession's crown jewels – market efficiency, the invisible hand, comparative advantage – in untarnished form, and to shield them from attack by self-interested barbarians, namely the protectionists . Unfortunately, these economists typically ignore the barbarians on the other side of the issue – financiers and multinational corporations whose motives are no purer and who are all too ready to hijack these ideas for their own benefit.
As a result, economists' contributions to public debate are often biased in one direction, in favour of more trade, more finance and less government. That is why economists have developed a reputation as cheerleaders for neoliberalism, even if mainstream economics is very far from a paean to laissez-faire. The economists who let their enthusiasm for free markets run wild are in fact not being true to their own discipline.
H ow then should we think about globalisation in order to liberate it from the grip of neoliberal practices? We must begin by understanding the positive potential of global markets. Access to world markets in goods, technologies and capital has played an important role in virtually all of the economic miracles of our time. China is the most recent and powerful reminder of this historical truth, but it is not the only case. Before China, similar miracles were performed by South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and a few non-Asian countries such as Mauritius . All of these countries embraced globalisation rather than turn their backs on it, and they benefited handsomely.
Defenders of the existing economic order will quickly point to these examples when globalisation comes into question. What they will fail to say is that almost all of these countries joined the world economy by violating neoliberal strictures. South Korea and Taiwan, for instance, heavily subsidised their exporters, the former through the financial system and the latter through tax incentives. All of them eventually removed most of their import restrictions, long after economic growth had taken off.
But none, with the sole exception of Chile in the 1980s under Pinochet, followed the neoliberal recommendation of a rapid opening-up to imports. Chile's neoliberal experiment eventually produced the worst economic crisis in all of Latin America. While the details differ across countries, in all cases governments played an active role in restructuring the economy and buffering it against a volatile external environment. Industrial policies, restrictions on capital flows and currency controls – all prohibited in the neoliberal playbook – were rampant.Facebook Twitter Pinterest Protest against Nafta in Mexico City in 2008: since the reforms of the mid-90s, the country's economy has underperformed. Photograph: EPA
By contrast, countries that stuck closest to the neoliberal model of globalisation were sorely disappointed. Mexico provides a particularly sad example. Following a series of macroeconomic crises in the mid-1990s, Mexico embraced macroeconomic orthodoxy, extensively liberalised its economy, freed up the financial system, sharply reduced import restrictions and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). These policies did produce macroeconomic stability and a significant rise in foreign trade and internal investment. But where it counts – in overall productivity and economic growth – the experiment failed . Since undertaking the reforms, overall productivity in Mexico has stagnated, and the economy has underperformed even by the undemanding standards of Latin America.
These outcomes are not a surprise from the perspective of sound economics. They are yet another manifestation of the need for economic policies to be attuned to the failures to which markets are prone, and to be tailored to the specific circumstances of each country. No single blueprint fits all.
A s Peters's 1982 manifesto attests, the meaning of neoliberalism has changed considerably over time as the label has acquired harder-line connotations with respect to deregulation, financialisation and globalisation. But there is one thread that connects all versions of neoliberalism, and that is the emphasis on economic growth . Peters wrote in 1982 that the emphasis was warranted because growth is essential to all our social and political ends – community, democracy, prosperity. Entrepreneurship, private investment and removing obstacles that stand in the way (such as excessive regulation) were all instruments for achieving economic growth. If a similar neoliberal manifesto were penned today, it would no doubt make the same point.
ss="rich-link"> Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world Read more
Critics often point out that this emphasis on economics debases and sacrifices other important values such as equality, social inclusion, democratic deliberation and justice. Those political and social objectives obviously matter enormously, and in some contexts they matter the most. They cannot always, or even often, be achieved by means of technocratic economic policies; politics must play a central role.
Still, neoliberals are not wrong when they argue that our most cherished ideals are more likely to be attained when our economy is vibrant, strong and growing. Where they are wrong is in believing that there is a unique and universal recipe for improving economic performance, to which they have access. The fatal flaw of neoliberalism is that it does not even get the economics right. It must be rejected on its own terms for the simple reason that it is bad economics.
A version of this article first appeared in Boston Review
Main illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare
Dec 09, 2018 | en.wikipedia.org
[Video] Interview with Kate Bowler on Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel , March 18, 2014 , C-SPAN
According to historian Kate Bowler , the prosperity gospel was formed from the intersection of three different ideologies: Pentecostalism , New Thought , and "an American gospel of pragmatism, individualism, and upward mobility".  This "American gospel" was best exemplified by Andrew Carnegie 's Gospel of Wealth and Russell Conwell 's famous sermon "Acres of Diamonds", in which Conwell equated poverty with sin and asserted that anyone could become rich through hard work. This gospel of wealth, however, was an expression of Muscular Christianity and understood success to be the result of personal effort rather than divine intervention. 
... ... ...
In 2005, Matthew Ashimolowo , the founder of the largely African Kingsway International Christian Centre in southern England, which preaches a "health and wealth" gospel and collects regular tithes, was ordered by the Charity Commission to repay money he had appropriated for his personal use. In 2017, the organisation was under criminal investigation after a leading member was found by a court in 2015 to have operated a Ponzi scheme between 2007 and 2011, losing or spending £8 million of investors' money. 
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The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States featured prayers from two preachers known for advocating prosperity theology.  Paula White , one of Trump's spiritual advisers, gave the invocation. 
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36] Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic argues that prosperity theology contributed to the housing bubble that caused the late-2000s financial crisis . She maintains that home ownership was heavily emphasized in prosperity churches, based on reliance on divine financial intervention that led to unwise choices based on actual financial ability. 
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Historian Carter Lindberg of Boston University has drawn parallels between contemporary prosperity theology and the medieval indulgence trade .  Coleman notes that several pre–20th century Christian movements in the United States taught that a holy lifestyle was a path to prosperity and that God-ordained hard work would bring blessing. 
... ... ...In April 2015, LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks stated that people who believe in "the theology of prosperity" are deceived by riches. He continued by saying that the "possession of wealth or significant income is not a mark of heavenly favor, and their absence is not evidence of heavenly disfavor". He also cited how Jesus differentiated the attitudes towards money held by the young rich man in Mark 10:17–24, the good Samaritan, and Judas Iscariot in his betrayal. Oaks concluded this portion of his sermon by highlighting that the "root of all evil is not money but the love of money". 
In 2015, well known pastor and prosperity gospel advocate Creflo Dollar launched a fundraising campaign to replace a previous private jet with a $65 million Gulfstream G650.  On the August 16, 2015 episode of his HBO weekly series Last Week Tonight , John Oliver satirized prosperity theology by announcing that he had established his own tax-exempt church, called Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption . In a lengthy segment, Oliver focused on what he characterized as the predatory conduct of televangelists who appeal for repeated gifts from people in financial distress or personal crises, and he criticized the very loose requirements for entities to obtain tax exempt status as churches under U.S. tax law. Oliver said that he would ultimately donate any money collected by the church to Doctors Without Borders . 
In July 2018, Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, in the Jesuit journal La Civilità Cattolica , examined the origins of the prosperity gospel in the United States and described it as a reductive version of the American Dream which had offered opportunities of success and prosperity unreachable in the Old World . The authors distinguished the prosperity gospel from Max Weber 's Protestant ethic , noting that the protestant ethic related prosperity to religiously inspired austerity while the prosperity gospel saw prosperity as the simple result of personal faith. They criticized many aspects of the prosperity gospel, noting particularly the tendency of believers to lack compassion for the poor, since their poverty was seen as a sign that they had not followed the rules and therefore are not loved by God .  
Dec 09, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
Moron_Strictos_freed , 31 Oct 2018 00:00Neo- liberalism is not dead its only just started. We are not in an era of democracy and freedom but of Oligarchy and governmental servitude.Bewareofnazihippies -> Fred1 , 30 Oct 2018 23:58
Less restrictions doesn't mean freedom it mean free booters, privateers , and plunderers are given government support and handouts the only thing free is their right to take.
The pirates who plunder the most are given Hero status and those plundered are laughed at as losers.
Looks around you governments are becoming agents of theft find ways to channel money to those who don't need it . They say its right wing fascism but its not for all their evil the fascists were determined to improve the lot of the people, however perversely they went about it.
What we have today is legalised privateering.
None of the political parties today have the least intention to change a system that works for them.Fred, I can't remember who said it, but an observer of human systems and institutions made the observation that unless the prevalent social, economic or political structures of the day was not either changed or renewed, then those within the system would 'game' it; corrupting it from within for personal benefit to the detriment of society as a whole.Bluetwo , 30 Oct 2018 23:54
This perfectly sums up neo-liberalism.
Whatever positive virtues were extolled when this ideology was adopted wholesale by so many governments and societies (and please spare me the '-we delivered billions out of poverty!' line, that was a positive byproduct, never the objective of neo-liberalism), it has since become thoroughly corrupted, serving an ever shrinking percentage of society - entrenching a super-wealthy 'ruling class' that makes a mockery of the idea of democracy.
It's time to ditch this 21st Century feudalistic construct, and replace it with something that serves the whole of society with more justice than this current gravy train for the one percenters.Fully agree with the things being said here. The privatisation of essential services has been a bloody disaster. Telecommunications, health, education energy production/distribution. Look at what the NSW conservatives are doing the the public transport or the feds have done to our communications, including Telstra the ABC and SBS.FelixKruell , 30 Oct 2018 23:50
But the issue is that this will just turn into an ongoing political football with each successive conservative government trying to sell off the farm again.
These critical public services and infrastructure must be protected in law needing a referendum to make major changes. Also their funding must be guaranteed and they must be run at arms length from the government to reduce political interference and ensure they are delivering the best possible service and are competitive with the huge private sector operators.
There charter of operation and obligation to the public must be extremely robust and clearly outline their duties of care to operate in a transparent and open fashion putting the public interest as a priority.
The opposite of a neoliberal economic agenda isn't a progressive economic agenda, but democratic re-engagement.
You can have democratic engagement voting for a 'neo-liberal economic agenda'. In fact we've had it for decades.
But of course not even the Coalition believes that any more. These days they proudly subsidise their friends and regulate their enemies in order to reshape Australia in their preferred form.
They're politicians - they've never applied their ideological views in a pure way. This is nothing new.
Ironically, one of the major objections to proportional representation in Australia has been that it tends to deliver minority government, a situation that the major parties prefer to avoid.
There's a big difference between minority government by a major party + a handful of votes, versus a minority government by a handful of minority parties, or a major party + a minor party. They tend to lead to the kind of instability we'd prefer to avoid.
The death of neoliberalism means
I think you've called it a bit prematurely. Both major parties here are still peddling neo-liberalism, with policies which only differ on the margins.
Jun 08, 2013 | www.theguardian.com
The crash was a write-off, not a repair job. The response should be a wholesale reevaluation of the way in which wealth is created and distributed around the globe
he IMF's limited admission of guilt over the Greek bailout is a start, but they still can't see the global financial system's fundamental flaws, writes Deborah Orr.
The International Monetary Fund has admitted that some of the decisions it made in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis were wrong, and that the €130bn first bailout of Greece was "bungled". Well, yes. If it hadn't been a mistake, then it would have been the only bailout and everyone in Greece would have lived happily ever after.
Actually, the IMF hasn't quite admitted that it messed things up. It has said instead that it went along with its partners in "the Troika" – the European Commission and the European Central Bank – when it shouldn't have. The EC and the ECB, says the IMF, put the interests of the Eurozone before the interests of Greece. The EC and the ECB, in turn, clutch their pearls and splutter with horror that they could be accused of something so petty as self-preservation.
The IMF also admits that it "underestimated" the effect austerity would have on Greece. Obviously, the rest of the Troika takes no issue with that. Even those who substitute "kick up the arse to all the lazy scroungers" whenever they encounter the word "austerity", have cottoned on to the fact that the word can only be intoned with facial features locked into a suitably tragic mask.
Yet, mealy-mouthed and hotly contested as this minor mea culpa is, it's still a sign that financial institutions may slowly be coming round to the idea that they are the problem. They know the crash was a debt-bubble that burst. What they don't seem to acknowledge is that the merry days of reckless lending are never going to return; even if they do, the same thing will happen again, but more quickly and more savagely. The thing is this: the crash was a write-off, not a repair job. The response from the start should have been a wholesale reevaluation of the way in which wealth is created and distributed around the globe, a "structural adjustment", as the philosopher John Gray has said all along.
The IMF exists to lend money to governments, so it's comic that it wags its finger at governments that run up debt. And, of course, its loans famously come with strings attached: adopt a free-market economy, or strengthen the one you have, kissing goodbye to the Big State.
Yet, the irony is painful. Neoliberal ideology insists that states are too big and cumbersome, too centralized and faceless, to be efficient and responsive. I agree.
The problem is that the ruthless sentimentalists of neoliberalism like to tell themselves – and anyone else who will listen – that removing the dead hand of state control frees the individual citizen to be entrepreneurial and productive. Instead, it places the financially powerful beyond any state, in an international elite that makes its own rules, and holds governments to ransom. That's what the financial crisis was all about. The ransom was paid, and as a result, governments have been obliged to limit their activities yet further – some setting about the task with greater relish than others. Now the task, supposedly, is to get the free market up and running again.
But the basic problem is this: it costs a lot of money to cultivate a market – a group of consumers – and the more sophisticated the market is, the more expensive it is to cultivate them. A developed market needs to be populated with educated, healthy, cultured, law-abiding and financially secure people – people who expect to be well paid themselves, having been brought up believing in material aspiration, as consumers need to be.
So why, exactly, given the huge amount of investment needed to create such a market, should access to it then be "free"? The neoliberal idea is that the cultivation itself should be conducted privately as well. They see "austerity" as a way of forcing that agenda. But how can the privatization of societal welfare possibly happen when unemployment is already high, working people are turning to food banks to survive and the debt industry, far from being sorry that it brought the global economy to its knees, is snapping up bargains in the form of busted high-street businesses to establish shops with nothing to sell but high-interest debt? Why, you have to ask yourself, is this vast implausibility, this sheer un-sustainability, not blindingly obvious to all?
Markets cannot be free. Markets have to be nurtured. They have to be invested in. Markets have to be grown. Google, Amazon and Apple haven't taught anyone in this country to read. But even though an illiterate market wouldn't be so great for them, they avoid their taxes, because they can, because they are more powerful than governments.
And further, those who invest in these companies, and insist that taxes should be low to encourage private profit and shareholder value, then lend governments the money they need to create these populations of sophisticated producers and consumers, berating them for their profligacy as they do so. It's all utterly, completely, crazy.
The other day a health minister, Anna Soubry , suggested that female GPs who worked part-time so that they could bring up families were putting the NHS under strain. The compartmentalised thinking is quite breathtaking. What on earth does she imagine? That it would be better for the economy if they all left school at 16? On the contrary, the more people who are earning good money while working part-time – thus having the leisure to consume – the better. No doubt these female GPs are sustaining both the pharmaceutical industry and the arts and media, both sectors that Britain does well in.
As for their prioritising of family life over career – that's just another of the myriad ways in which Conservative neoliberalism is entirely without logic. Its prophets and its disciples will happily – ecstatically – tell you that there's nothing more important than family, unless you're a family doctor spending some of your time caring for your own. You couldn't make these characters up. It is certainly true that women with children find it more easy to find part-time employment in the public sector. But that's a prima facie example of how unresponsive the private sector is to human and societal need, not – as it is so often presented – evidence that the public sector is congenitally disabled.
Much of the healthy economic growth – as opposed to the smoke and mirrors of many aspects of financial services – that Britain enjoyed during the second half of the 20th century was due to women swelling the educated workforce. Soubry and her ilk, above all else, forget that people have multiple roles, as consumers, as producers, as citizens and as family members. All of those things have to be nurtured and invested in to make a market.
The neoliberalism that the IMF still preaches pays no account to any of this. It insists that the provision of work alone is enough of an invisible hand to sustain a market. Yet even Adam Smith, the economist who came up with that theory , did not agree that economic activity alone was enough to keep humans decent and civilised.
Governments are left with the bill when neoliberals demand access to markets that they refuse to invest in making. Their refusal allows them to rail against the Big State while producing the conditions that make it necessary. And even as the results of their folly become ever more plain to see, they are grudging in their admittance of the slightest blame, bickering with their allies instead of waking up, smelling the coffee and realising that far too much of it is sold through Starbucks.
Dec 03, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
OneCommentator -> ATrueFinn , 8 Jun 2013 12:21@ATrueFinn -OneCommentator , 8 Jun 2013 12:04No, it was as recently as WW2 more or less. After that it followed a confusing period where social and political freedoms darted ahead up to the '80s when the economic freedoms started being championed by the right: Thatcher, Reagan, etc.
Indeed. That was in the time of feudalism and mercantilism.
That saw a liberalisation of trade and an explosive growth in international trade with huge benefits for the whole world: developing countries like the Asian dragons have seen their standards of living skyrocket and practically they can't get up with the developed countries in one generation. China, and India to an extent, is following on that path with pretty good results.
As the same time the developed countries saw a huge improvement in their standard of living with products and services available at incredible prices. Even the countries that did not get on this yet are benefiting and the fact that starvation in the world is less of a problem is the proof of that for example.ATrueFinn -> OneCommentator , 8 Jun 2013 12:00But we know already how that is done: voluntary transactions among free agents. That's called a free market and it is by far the most efficient way to produce wealth humanity has ever known. Sure, we tried other methods (slavery, forced labour, communal entities, government controlled economies, tribal economies, etc.) but nothing worked as well as free markets.
The response should be a wholesale reevaluation of the way in which wealth is created and distributed around the globe
The calls for governments' intervention in the economy is misguided and counterproductive. They already extract about 50% of all wealth created in this country. That's way too much since most of the money taken by governments is money diverted from productive use.@ OneCommentator 08 June 2013 4:46pmSpinningHugo -> jazzdrum , 8 Jun 2013 05:59
Wrong. Traditional liberalism supported both social and economic freedoms. That included support for most of the civil rights and freedoms we enjoy today AND free trade and free investments.
Indeed. That was in the time of feudalism and mercantilism.
I take this opportunity to draw everyone's attention to a Finnish theorist and proponent of liberal economical and political thinking, whose treatise on liberal national economy preceded Adam Smith by 11 years: Anders Chydenius (1729-1803).
I have the feeling that he and Smith are rolling in their graves seeing what is done under the auspices of "liberalism".@ jazzdrum 08 June 2013 10:51am . Get cifFix for Chrome .
Margaret Thatcher left office 23 years ago. The de-regulation of the City occurred in 1986, 27 years ago. Since then UK GDP has more than doubled, inflation and unemployment are far lower, and the numbers living in extreme poverty have fallen dramatically.
And yet in CiF world it is all Thatcher's fault.
Dec 03, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
OneCommentator -> dmckm , 8 Jun 2013 13:03@dmckm - Nobody is owed a good living in this world. That's what freedom means: one is free to chose the best way to make a living. Are you saying that by forcing people to pay you something they don't want to is freedom?
Dec 03, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
Stonk , 8 Jun 2013 08:18No market is 'Free'. Free markets do not exist. Markets are there for those with a vested interest. i.e. the banksters. Note the growth of Hedge funds or slush funds for the rich.
Dec 03, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
LiberteEgalite1 -> taxhaven , 8 Jun 2013 13:31@taxhaven - I love this "free markets" expression, but can we really have free markets please then? This means that no taxpayer money is to be spent to bail out the capitalist bankers when things so sour.PointOfYou , 8 Jun 2013 13:37
It also means that there is completely free movement of labor so I as an employer should be able to hire anyone I like for your job and pay the wage that the replacement is willing to take i.e. tough luck to you if the person is more qualified and is willing to work for less but does not have the work visa because in free markets there will be no such things as work permits.TedSmithAndSon -> taxhaven , 8 Jun 2013 13:25
Neoliberalism has spawned a financial elite who hold governments to ransom
Neoliberalism? This is not just a financial agenda. This a highly organized multi armed counterculture operation to force us, including Ms Orr [unless she has...connections] into what Terence McKenna [who was in on it] termed the `Archaic Revival'. That is - you and me [and Ms Orr] - our - return to the medieval dark ages, if we indeed survive that far.
The same names come up time and time again. One of them being, father of propaganda, Edward Bernays.
Bernays wrote what can be seen as a virtual Mission Statement for anyone wishing to bring about a "counterculture." In the opening paragraph of his book Propaganda he wrote:
".. The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.
This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organised. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses.
It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind..."
Bernays' family background made him well suited to "control the public mind." He was the double nephew of psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud. His mother was Freud's sister Anna, and his father was Ely Bernays, brother of Freud's wife Martha Bernays.@taxhaven -And if we ever had that, would it make the ideal society?
about being permitted to engage in voluntary exchange of goods and services with others, unmolested.
A free market larger than a boot fair has never existed. A market can never have power, it's just a market after all. It's the people in the market that have power... or some of them... the few... have it disproportionately compared to others, and straight away the market isn't free.
It's only even approximately free when properly regulated, but that's anathema to market fundamentalists so they end up with a market run for the benefit of vested interests that they will claim is "free" until their dying breath.
Power belongs with democratically elected governments, not people in markets responsible only to themselves. Amazing that people still think as you do after all that's happened.
Nov 28, 2018 | turcopolier.typepad.com
TTG Divadab Newton • 6 hours ago Being a rational actor does not mean caring only about one's own skin. Soldiers jump on grenades knowing they will die to save their comrades. Some soldiers willingly run into a dark cellar with a hatchet and empty weapon to confront armed murderers in order to save innocent women and children.
There is a story in Robert Ardrey's "African Genesis" describing how a baboon troop protected itself from the predations of leopards. An alfa male baboon attacked a leopard one-on-one. The result of these encounters was the death of the baboon along with the severe wounding and death of the leopard. This altruistic behavior has evolutionary value. I have the calculus equations in my old ecology textbook explaining this value. As a species we've inherited this altruistic trait. Parents willingly sacrifice themselves for the sake of their children. We've gone beyond kith and kin and can also be willing to sacrifice all for the sake of complete strangers and abstract societal goals.
Now if another trait would take better hold within our species, we would be much better off... mercy. I have no mathematical formulas to explain that trait.
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
maxfisher , 11 Jun 2013 05:42Quite. Language is the first victim of any hegemonic project. Examples abound in communism, fascism and neoliberalism. There's nothing to argue with in this article yet, unsurprisingly, the usual swivel-eyed brigade seem to have popped up. Perhaps your discussion of work strays a little too close to philosophy for the unthinking. I don't know why I'm disheartened by some of the responses, as the same voices appear btl in almost ever CIF article, but I am somehow. Perhaps because the point of the article - the hijacking of language - is so obviously true as to be uncontroversial to any but the ideologically purblind, yet still....ABasu -> thesingingdetective , 11 Jun 2013 05:28@thesingingdetective - what is an insurance policy other than a financial product where in return for payments over a period of time a claim can be made in certain circumstances?OberynMartell , 11 Jun 2013 05:22
If anything, particularly given that the link between contributions and claims is now nugatory, describing welfare as welfare is much more honest and much less "neoliberal". It is a set of payments and entitlements society has agreed upon to ensure a level of welfare for all rather than an insurance policy which each individual may claim against if they've kept up their payments.
If an anti-neo-liberal, supportive of the article can get this so back to front, perhaps the "debate" being posited is an empty one about language.If you changed a few words from the Communist Manifesto, it could easily be about neo-liberalism and leftist attitudes towards it.Sidfishes , 11 Jun 2013 05:19
"A spectre is haunting Europe; the spectre of neo-liberalism. All the leftists of old Europe have entered into a Holy Alliance to exorcise this spectre; Toynbee and Loach; Redgrave and Harris.
Where is the party in power that has not been decried as neo-liberalistic by its leftist opponents on the sidelines?"Take FE as a case study on how the coin counters have taken over the world.Damntheral -> roachclip , 11 Jun 2013 05:18
Back in the dark ages of the 1980s, the maths department had 7 lecturers (2 part time) and two people to look after the admin - there was also the Department Head (who was a lecturer) and a Head of School. They had targets, loosely defined, but it was a rare year when there wasn't a smattering of A grades at A level...
Then along came the coin counters, the target setters, with their management degrees and swivel eyed certainty that 'greed is good... competition! competition! competition!' and with them came the new professionals into the department... the 'Quality Manager'... the 'Curriculum Manager' the 'Exams Manager' the 'Deputy Exams Manager'... and the paperwork increased to feed the beast that counts everything but knows nothing... and targets were set.... 'Targets! Targets! Targets!... and we were all sent in search of excellence... 'teach to the exam' 'We must meet our targets'... 'we won't use exam board 'A' because they're tough' and the exam boards reacted to their own target culture by all simplifying. The universities began to notice the standard of 'A' grade students (who increased) was equivelant to a C grade of 5 years ago. However, targets were being met (on paper) quality was maintained (on paper) we were improving year on year (on paper). However, what was going on in the real world is that our students were being sold a pup - their level of competence and of knowledge was very much inferior to their same grade fore bearers of just 5 years previous
Eventually, the department became 1 full time lecturer and 4 on 'zero hour contracts' and the Head of School became 'Chief Executive' the 'Head of Department' became 'Department Manager' and a gap developed between those who taught and those who 'managed'... not just a culture gap... a bloody big pay gap...
Who benefited from all this marketisation?
Not the lecturers... not the students... not the universities... not industry...not the economy...
Who benefited? Work it out for yourselves (as I used to tell my students)@roachclip - I am familiar with the numerous wiki sites including Wikipedia, thank you very much. If you read the article yourself you would see it supports my point of view here.retro77 , 11 Jun 2013 05:17Mark Taylor , 11 Jun 2013 05:11
There are loads of other examples of rarely scrutinised terms in our economic vocabulary, for instance that bundle of terms clustered around investment and expenditure – terms that carry with them implicit moral connotations. Investment implies an action, even a sacrifice, undertaken for a better future. It evokes a future positive outcome. Expenditure, on the other hand, seems merely an outgoing, a cost, a burden.
This is absolute nonsense...the terms "investment" and "expenditure" carry no moral connotations that I can determine. Does the author accept that we need to have terms to express each of these concepts? Perhaps she would like to come up with some alternative suggestions for the notions of "contributing money" and "spending money"?Seconded, its uses and abuses of the English Language second only that of the Church. A fitting comparison in my book because they both have much in common. Both are well aware that it is through language and the control of which that true cultural change is achieved.Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:11
Both know that this new language must be propagated as far and as wide as possible, with saturation coverage. Control of information is a a must, people must see and they must know only things of your choosing.
For example, back in the 4th Century AD (which is incidentally an abbreviation of the Latin 'Anno Domini', which means 'in the year of our Lord'), the church became centralised and established under the patronage of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Part of this centralising mission was the creation of a uniform belief system. Those that 'chose' to believe something else were branded 'heretics'. The word 'heresy' coming from the Greek 'αἵρεσις' for 'choice'. Thus to choose to have your own opinions was therefore deemed to be a bad thing.
As a quick aside, 'Pagan' comes from the Latin 'paganus' which means 'rural dweller'. I.e. those beyond the remit of the urban Christian elites. 'Heathen' on the other hand is Old English (hæðen). It simply means 'not Christian or Jewish.
When you have complete control over the flow of information, as the Church did by the 5th Century, then you can write practically anything. This doesn't mean just writing good things about yourself and bad things about your enemies. Rather it means that you can frame the debate anyway you wish.
In modern times, I would argue that you can see similar things happen here. As the author suggests, terms like 'Wealth Creator', 'Scrounger', 'Sponger', 'living on welfare', 'Growth', 'progress' and my personal favourite, 'reform', take on a whole new meaning.
Their definition of the word 'reform' and what we would see it to mean are two totally different things, Yet since it is they that has access to the wider world and not us, then it is their definition that gets heard. The same could be said for all the other words and their latter day connotations.
Thus when you hear the news and you hear what passes for debate, you hear things on their terms. Using their language with their meanings. A very sad state of affairs indeed.Neoliberalism is in the ﬁrst instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.Wastoid , 11 Jun 2013 05:05
You'll notice I've highlighted the word freedoms. Freedom is a word they hijacked right from the start of the process and how they hijacked the Republican party in the USA.
For any way of thought to become dominant, a conceptual apparatus has to be advanced that appeals to our intuitions and instincts, to our values and our desires, as well as to the possibilities inherent in the social world we inhabit. If successful, this conceptual apparatus becomes so embedded in common sense as to be taken for granted and not open to question. The founding ﬁgures of neoliberal thought took political ideals of human dignity and individual freedom as fundamental.
Concepts of dignity and individual freedom are powerful and appealing in their own right. Such ideals empowered the dissident movements in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union before the end of the Cold War as well as the students in Tiananmen Square. The student movements that swept the world in 1968––from Paris and Chicago to Bangkok and Mexico City––were in part animated by the quest for greater freedoms of speech and of personal choice.
More generally, these ideals appeal to anyone who values the ability to make decisions for themselves.
The idea of freedom, long embedded in the US tradition, has played a conspicuous role in the US in recent years. '9/11' was immediately interpreted by many as an attack on it. 'A peaceful world of growing freedom', wrote President Bush on the ﬁrst anniversary of that awful day, 'serves American long-term interests, reﬂects enduring American ideals and unites America's allies.' 'Humanity', he concluded, 'holds in its hands the opportunity to
oﬀer freedom's triumph over all its age-old foes', and 'the United States welcomes its responsibilities to lead in this great mission'. This language was incorporated into the US National Defense Strategy document issued shortly thereafter. 'Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world', he later said, adding that 'as the greatest power on earth we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom'.
When all of the other reasons for engaging in a pre-emptive war against Iraq were proven wanting, the president appealed to the idea that the freedom conferred on Iraq was in and of itself an adequate justiﬁcation for the war. The Iraqis were free, and that was all that really mattered. But what sort of 'freedom' is envisaged here, since, as the cultural critic Matthew Arnold long ago thoughtfully observed, 'freedom is a very good horse to ride, but to
ride somewhere'.To what destination, then, are the Iraqi people expected to ride the horse of freedom donated to them by force of arms?
As Hayek quoted....
Planning and control are being attacked as a denial of freedom. Free
enterprise and private ownership are declared to be essentials of freedom.
No society built on other foundations is said to deserve to be called free.
The freedom that regulation creates is denounced as unfreedom; the justice, liberty and welfare it oﬀers are decried as a camouﬂage of slavery.
The Neoliberal idea of freedom 'thus degenerates into a mere advocacy of free
enterprise. It helps explain why neoliberalism has turned so authoritarian, forceful, and anti-democratic at the very moment when 'humanity holds in its hands the opportunity to oﬀer freedom's triumph over all its age-old foes'. It makes us focus on how so many corporations have proﬁteered from withholding the beneﬁts of their technologies, famine, and environmental disaster. It raises the worry as to whether or not many of these calamities or
near calamities (arms races and the need to confront both real and
imagined enemies) have been secretly engineered for corporate advantage.
Political slogans can be invoked that mask speciﬁc strategies beneath vague rhetorical devices. The word 'freedom' resonates so widely within the common-sense understanding of Americans that it becomes 'a button that elites can press to open the door to the masses' to justify almost anything.
Appeals to traditions and cultural values bulked large in all of this. An open project around the restoration of economic power to a small elite would probably not gain much popular support. But a programmatic attempt to advance the cause of individual freedoms could appeal to a mass base and so disguise the drive to restore class power.Fascinating article, thanks for publishing. It goes some way to explaining, not only the tenacity of neo-liberalism, but also its ability to consolidate its power, even at the moment when it seemed weakest. Its ability to rearticulate language and to present as natural law what is socially constructed, shows the depth of its hold on society, economics, politics, culture and even science.
There is a neat cross-over here between neo-liberal discourses and the use of language by the military. Not only does this extend to the general diffusion of certain key phrases, but I think it also runs deeper. Just as the elision of meaning in the language of war facilitates the perpetuation of abuses and war crimes, so the neo-lib discourse permits the perpetuation of questionable economic activity, even as this presents itself in the unquestionable guise of "common sense".
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.commaxfisher -> finnkn , 11 Jun 2013 07:45@finnkn - Apologies. I was, of course, referring to the families of the disappeared in Chile. They are, of course, relevant and should not be excluded from any arguments about neoliberalism and its effects. Nor should the families of the disappeared in Argentina, though it is less well known, the junta was entrusted with the introduction of neoliberal policies in Argentina.maxfisher -> finnkn , 11 Jun 2013 07:04
The Argentinian military coup, like those in Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and Nicaragua, was sponsored by the US to protect and further its interests during the Cold War. By the 1970s neoliberalism was very much part of the menu; paramilitary governments were actively encouraged to practice neoliberal politics; neoliberalism was at this stage, what communism was to the Soviet Union; the ideological wing of the Cold War. You may be familiar with Operation Condor?
To be clear: I am arguing that the direct effects of 'actually existing neoliberalism' are very far from benign. I do not argue that the militarisation of Central and South America are the direct consequence neoliberal theory.@finnkn - Well I think many would. It has been pretty firmly established that the Allende regime was victim of US sponsored military coup and that said coup was sponsored to protect US interests. The Chicago boys then flew into Chile to use the nation as a laboratory for the more outlandish (at the time) neoliberal policies they were unable to practice at home.
Neoliberalism was first practiced in authoritarian states; the states in which neoliberalism is most deeply embedded are (surprise, surprise) increasingly authoritarian, and neoliberalism solutions are regularly imposed on client/vulnerable states by suprastructures such as the IMF, the EU, and the World Bank. Friedrich Hayek and Adam Smith were very clear that the potential for degeneracy existed. We have now reached that potential; increasingly centralised authority, states within states, the denuding of democratic institutions and crony capitalism. Neoliberalism in practice is very different to neoliberalism in practice. Rather like 'really existing socialism' and Marxism.
works best in authoritarian states because (in practice, if not in theory
finnkn -> BaronessHawHaw , 11 Jun 2013 07:41@BaronessHawHaw - Simply untrue.retro77 -> anonid , 11 Jun 2013 07:10
As the statistics on that link show, there are certain countries (notably Russia and the Ukraine) where the +65 age group disapprove of the change to democracy and capitalism. In the majority, however, people of all ages remain in favour.@anonid -BobJanova , 11 Jun 2013 07:09
For 'job' read 'bribe' (keep your mouth shut or lose it), for 'management' read 'take most of the interest out of the job for everybody else and put them on a lower scale', etc. I guess you get my drift.
It's sad that you have such a negative, self-hating attitude towards your work.retarius , 11 Jun 2013 07:07Spoken like a true champagne socialist in a creative industry. How do you find meaning and fulfillment, or creative values, in emptying bins, cleaning offices, sweeping the streets and a whole load of other work which needs doing but which is repetitive, menial and not particularly pleasant?
Work is usually – and certainly should be – a central source of meaning and fulfilment in human lives. And it has – or could have – moral and creative (or aesthetic) values at its core
There are two ways to get people to do work that needs doing but wouldn't be done voluntarily: coercion or payment. I think the second is a more healthy way to run a society.I've thought pretty much the same myself. Democracies can be good or bad (as the Greeks knew well)...but in our politic-speak it is used to denounce and make good; as in "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East"...it is intended to make us feel something good about Israel, as it humiliates the Palestinians and steals their land.Antiquarian , 11 Jun 2013 07:06
In ancient Greece....'tyrant' simply meant 'usurper' without any neccessary negative association....simply someone who had usurped political power...they recognized that tyrannies could be good, bad or indifferent.
In Rome, dictator simply meant the cahp that took over fpr periods of six months at a time, during times of crisis.
I used to vacation in Yugoslavia in Marshall Tito's time....it was a wonderful place, beautiful, inexpensive and safe...very very safe. What came into the power vacuum after he died in 1980...what happened to the country? I'd argue that his was a good dictatorship or tyranny....
I'm also not too sure what the 90% of people unaffected by and uninterested in power politics in any given country feel about the 'liberation' of Libya and Iraq from their prior dictatorships...I'm sure that plenty of people whose previously steady lives have been wrecked, are all that thrilled.I have recently been exercised by the right's adoption of "Social Justice". In the past it was the left and churches who talked of social justice as a phenomenon to empower the poor and dispossessed, whether in this country or the developing world. Social Justice was a touchstone of Faith in the City, for example, but it seems now to be the smoke screen behind which benefits are stipped from the "undeserving poor".BaronessHawHaw , 11 Jun 2013 06:59Most of this crap comes from America. Crappy middle-management bureaucrats spouting "free-market" bollocks.BlankReg -> joseph1832 , 11 Jun 2013 06:56
The efficiency of the private sector - some nob with a name badge timing how long you've been on the toilet.
Freedommm!!!!@ joseph1832 11 June 2013 9:24am . Get cifFix for Firefox .Arabica Robusta -> Obelisk1 , 11 Jun 2013 06:55
It is not just neoliberalism. Everyone is at it - sucking the meaning out of words. Corporate bullshit, public sector bullshit. Being customers of your own government is a crime that everyone is guilty of. This is what Orwell railed against decades ago, and it has got worse.
Case in point; just look at the way in which the Cameron set about co-opting words and phrases justifiably applied to his own regime and repurposed them against his detractors.
For example, people who took a stand against the stealth privatisation of the NHS were branded as "vested interests", quite unlike the wholesome MPs who voted for the NHS bill who, despite the huge sums of money they received from the private healthcare lobby, we are encouraged to believe were acting in our best interests by selling our health service to their corporate paymasters. Or the farcical attempt to rebrand female Tory MPs as "feminists" despite their anti-social mobility, anti-equality, anti-human rights and anti-abortion views.
The political class, with the aid of their subservient corporate media quislings, have taken our language apart and used it against us. We have been backed into a corner, we are told, by both Labour and Tories, that there is no choice, either rabid profiteering or penury and we have, to our everlasting shame, lapped up every word of it.@Obelisk1 - You have single-handedly proven Massey's argument. We have become so embedded in the language of individuals, choice, contracts and competition that we cannot see any alternative. Even Adam Smith understood the difference between "economy" and "society" when he argued that labor is directly connected to public interest while business is connected to self-interest. If business took over the public sphere, Smith argued, this would be quite destructive.Snapshackle , 11 Jun 2013 06:50
Our whole conversation seemed somehow reduced, my experience of it belittled into one of commercial transaction. My relation to the gallery and to this engaging person had become one of instrumental market exchange.
But in the eyes of the economic right, that is precisely the case. Adjectives like altruistic, caring, selfless, empathy and sympathy are simply not in their vocabulary. They are only ever any of those things provided they can see some sort of beneficial payback at the end.
maxfisher -> Venebles 11 Jun 2013 06:20Liquidity Jones, 11 Jun 2013 06:04
@Venebles - I was simply joining many commentators in the mire. Those that dispute the neoliberal worldview are routinely dismissed as marxists. I thought I'd save you all the energy, duck.
I'm not sure that the families of the disappeared of Chile and Argentina would concur with you benign view of neoliberalism and its effects.Might as well define it.
Neoliberalism framework vs Full employment framework
Full employment. The 3 pillars
- Economic pillar.
- Commitment to full employment.
- Fiscal & Monetary demand management. Public sector employment. Employer of last resort. Government mediates the class struggle.
- Intervention to ameliorate market outcomes
- Transfer payments. Redistributive taxation. Services to enable participation.
- Regulation, conciliation & arbitration via specialist tribunals.
- Rights of citizenship
- Uniform services. Pursuit of collective will. Professional administration.
- Services delivered by the State. Rights embodied in legislation.
Neo-liberalism. The 3 pillars
- Primacy of market based outcomes
- Inflation targeting. Fiscal drag. Full employability and compliance programmes.
- Government as agent for business.
- Intervention to stimulate market outcomes
- Compliance tests and penalties mediating welfare payments.
- Taxation advantages for high incomes.
- Policies to force participation.
- Deregulation. Welfare to work.
- No intrinsic right of citizenship
- Non-uniform services. Individuals responsible for their own outcomes.
- Mutual reciprocal obligation.
- Outsourcing of public services.
- Privatised service delivery.
Nov 25, 2018 | caucus99percent.com
What else is amazing about her emails @leveymg
is how no one really talked about their content, eh? We learned that she rigged the primary against Bernie and then everyone started talking about Russia ! Just as she and Podesta wanted.
up 8 users have voted. --
Amazing how elusive they are (scrubbed from the State Dept website) and how they have never been picked up on by most of the corporate media.
Disclaimer: No Russian, living or dead, had anything to do with the posting of this proudly home-grown comment
Nov 21, 2018 | www.youtube.com
Market fundamentalism's ideological tyranny is metastasizing, afflicting the young, silencing politicians and hoodwinking the media. Too few progressives have a handle on the powerful arguments that can be made to counter market fundamentalism. It's time to confront the myths with compelling empirical reality that deconstructs and destroys the plutocratic hoax. A roundtable recorded at the Carnegie Institution of Washington DC, on October 19, 2018
Market fundamentalism's ideological tyranny is metastasizing, afflicting the young, silencing politicians and hoodwinking the media. Too few progressives have a handle on the powerful arguments that can be made to counter market fundamentalism. It's time to confront the myths with compelling empirical reality that deconstructs and destroys the plutocratic hoax. A roundtable recorded at the Carnegie Institution of Washington DC, on October 19, 2018
Visit https://therealnews.com for more stories and help support our work by donating at https://therealnews.com/donate .
Charles Kesner , 16 hours ago (edited)Matt Erbst , 22 hours ago
Ralph is a National treasure. US has adopted another false religion. Thanks for this.Ma'Halious Walker , 22 hours ago
I am so delighted to see this terminology catching on, because I see great parallels between the extremism of Market Fundamentalism and Religious Fundamentalism. The cult of American Economics is just as hostile to outside ideas, such as Marxist Economics as any religious cult is. The fact is that talking about the social good was so taboo due to the red scare from the time of the Russian revolutions, that no US University or Business school taught a single course covering Marxist Economic Theory until at least 2010.Mike Burns , 20 hours ago
Ralph Nader 2020!!!! I prefer this man over Bernie SandersPJ Max , 21 hours ago
The invisible guiding hand of enlightened self interest has become the guiding fist of dark self interest.James , 11 hours ago
Market fundamentalism should have disappeared with the Great Recession. What's remarkable is that it has lasted to the present day.Trotskisty , 15 hours ago
Neoliberalism is the epitome of market fundamentalism and it has failed spectacularly worldwide.James Murphy , 17 hours ago
The business ideologs go into the schools, the exact same way the 'Officer Friendly' Pigs go into the schools -- to sell the various lies and crimes of the exploitative capitalist order.Tim Bradley , 21 hours ago
Right now the Amazon Market is the emerging ImperiumSpinky L , 9 hours ago
People need to watch all the speakers at that event - it was great.Pat Hacker , 19 hours ago
only 22 minutes? Can we see the rest of the conference somewhere?MathUDX , 5 hours ago
Even if you pay for software before you can use it you have to agree to the Eula. It's assumed the consumer will agree to any terms.
What happened to the older ~8 hr video? Once again I'd like to point out that Ralph's idolization of "Mom and Pop" businesses is its own form of unempirical ideology. Small businesses in reality tend to pay lower wages, have less benefits, and can get away with less worker protections. For example there are all sorts of statutes that do not need to be enforced until a business has 15-20 workers. There never has been and never will be such thing as exploitation-free capitalism.
Nov 20, 2018 | finance.yahoo.com
3 hours ago At one company I interviewed nine times. Figured if they have this difficult of a time making a decision I'll lose my mind working there and accepted a position elsewhere.
J 3 hours ago Google wasn't the only company with excessive reliance on the school and GPA for new hires. It was and might still be very common for technology companies to use this on the assumption that a high GPA in school means high performance in the real world. My former company had a 3.7 minimum GPA on a four point scale just to be considered for an interview. I would frequently get candidates from my manager to interview and evaluate. I found many of the high performers lacked the ability to generalize concepts and skills that could be used across a wide breadth of technologies. Instead they tended to apply a concept to a specific subject and learn/create skills that would only work in that one area. When it came time to move to development of newer technologies the skills they had learned would not transfer and they would start the learning process all over. After talking to a comp sci professor friend it made sense why this was happening. It has a lot to do with how schools compartmentalize their teaching. The tend to be lessons and labs teaching a single concept and nothing is done to teach the kids how to take that as a generalization that can be applied across many areas. Due to this I found I ended up with better coworkers with somewhat lower performing students as they appeared to be better at applying concepts in a broad manner and more.
F 3 hours ago An interview is not just about a company interviewing a prospective employee, but the employee interviewing the company. If you interview me more the 3 times, you're done. As a company you need to get your stuff together.
p 3 hours ago If some company needs more than 3 interviews to hire someone, then they are too indecisive, tedious and flaky to bother with.
Nov 03, 2018 | www.rako.com
In an advanced research or development project, success or failure is largely determined when the goals or objectives are set and before a manager is chosen. While a hard-working and diligent manager can increase the chances of success, the outcome of the project is most strongly affected by preexisting but unknown technological factors over which the project manager has no control. The success or failure of the project should not, therefore, be used as the sole measure or even the primary measure of the manager's competence.
Putt's Law Is promulgated
Without an adequate competence criterion for technical managers, there is no way to determine when a person has reached his level of incompetence. Thus a clever and ambitious individual may be promoted from one level of incompetence to another. He will ultimately perform incompetently in the highest level of the hierarchy just as he did in numerous lower levels. The lack of an adequate competence criterion combined with the frequent practice of creative incompetence in technical hierarchies results in a competence inversion, with the most competent people remaining near the bottom while persons of lesser talent rise to the top. It also provides the basis for Putt's Law, which can be stated in an intuitive and nonmathematical form as follows:Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.
As in any other hierarchy, the majority of persons in technology neither understand nor manage much of anything. This, however, does not create an exception to Putt's Law, because such persons clearly do not dominate the hierarchy. While this was not previously stated as a basic law, it is clear that the success of every technocrat depends on his ability to deal with and benefit from the consequences of Putt's Law.
Oct 30, 2018 | features.propublica.orgxn0 , Monday, April 2, 2018 1:44 PMThese practices are "interesting". And people still wonder why there are so many deadly amok runs at US companies? What do they expect when they replace old and experienced workers with inexperienced millenials, who often lack basic knowledge about their job? Better performance?nottigerwoods , Friday, March 30, 2018 1:39 PM
This will run US tech companies into the ground. This sort of "American" HR management is gaining ground here in Germany as well, its troubling. And on top they have to compete against foreign tech immigrants from middle eastern and asian companies. Sure fire recipe for social unrest and people voting for right-wing parties.I too was a victim of IBM's underhanded trickery to get rid of people...39 years with IBM, a top performer. I never got a letter telling me to move to Raleigh. All i got was a phone call asking me if i wanted to take the 6 month exception to consider it. Yet, after taking the 6 month exception, I was told I could no longer move, the colocation was closed. Either I find another job, not in Marketing support (not even Marketing) or leave the company. I received no letter from Ginni, nothing. I was under the impression I could show up in Raleigh after the exception period. Not so. It was never explained....After 3 months I will begin contracting with IBM. Not because I like them, because I need the money...thanks for the article.doncanard , Friday, March 30, 2018 1:33 PMdropped in 2013 after 22 years. IBM stopped leading in the late 1980's, afterwards it implemented "market driven quality" which meant listen for the latest trends, see what other people were doing, and then buy the competition or drive them out of business. "Innovation that matters": it's only interesting if an IBM manager can see a way to monetize it.
That's a low standard. It's OK, there are other places that are doing better. In fact, the best of the old experienced people went to work there. Newsflash: quality doesn't change with generations, you either create it or you don't.
Sounds like IBM is building its product portfolio to match its desired workforce. And of course, on every round of layoffs, the clear criterion was people who were compliant and pliable - who's ready to follow orders ? Best of luck.
Oct 30, 2018 | features.propublica.org
HiJinks , Sunday, March 25, 2018 3:07 AMI agree with many who state the report is well done. However, this crap started in the early 1990s. In the late 1980s, IBM offered decent packages to retirement eligible employees. For those close to retirement age, it was a great deal - 2 weeks pay for every year of service (capped at 26 years) plus being kept on to perform their old job for 6 months (while collecting retirement, until the government stepped in an put a halt to it). Nobody eligible was forced to take the package (at least not to general knowledge). The last decent package was in 1991 - similar, but not able to come back for 6 months.Chris S. HiJinks
However, in 1991, those offered the package were basically told take it or else. Anyone with 30 years of service or 15 years and 55 was eligible and anyone within 5 years of eligibility could "bridge" the difference.
They also had to sign a form stating they would not sue IBM in order to get up to a years pay - not taxable per IRS documents back then (but IBM took out the taxes anyway and the IRS refused to return - an employee group had hired lawyers to get the taxes back, a failed attempt which only enriched the lawyers).
After that, things went downhill and accelerated when Gerstner took over. After 1991, there were still a some workers who could get 30 years or more, but that was more the exception. I suspect the way the company has been run the past 25 years or so has the Watsons spinning in their graves. Gone are the 3 core beliefs - "Respect for the individual", "Service to the customer" and "Excellence must be a way of life".ArnieTracey , Saturday, March 24, 2018 7:15 PM
could be true... but i thought Watson was the IBM data analytics computer thingy... beat two human players at Jeopardy on live tv a year or two or so back.. featured on 60 Minutes just around last year.... :IBM's policy reminds me of the "If a citizen = 30 y.o., then mass execute such, else if they run then hunt and kill them one by one" social policy in the Michael York movie "Logan's Run."Jr Jr , Saturday, March 24, 2018 4:37 PM
From Wiki, in case you don't know: "It depicts a utopian future society on the surface, revealed as a dystopia where the population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by killing everyone who reaches the age of 30. The story follows the actions of Logan 5, a "Sandman" who has terminated others who have attempted to escape death, and is now faced with termination himself."Corporate loyalty has been gone for 25 years. This isnt surprising. But this age discrimination is blatantly illegal.
Oct 24, 2018 | www.unz.com
Bankers, agro-business elites, commercial mega owners, manufacturing, real estate and insurance bosses and their financial advisers, elite members of the 'ruling class', have launched a full-scale attack on private and public wage and salary workers, and small and medium size entrepreneurs (the members of the 'popular classes'). The attack has targeted income ,pensions, medical plans, workplace conditions, job security, rents, mortgages, educational costs, taxation,undermining family and household cohesion.
Big business has weakened or abolished political and social organizations which challenge the distribution of income and profits and influence the rates of workplace output. In brief the ruling classes have intensified exploitation and oppression through the 'class struggle' from above.
We will proceed by identifying the means, methods and socio-political conditions which have advanced the class struggle from above and, conversely, reversed and weakened the class struggle from below.
The class struggle is the major determinant of the advances and regression of the interests of the capitalist class. Following the Second World War, the popular classes experienced steady advances in income, living standards, and work place representation. However by the last decade of the 20 th century the balance of power between the ruling and popular classes began to shift, as a new 'neo-liberal' development paradigm became prevalent.
First and foremost, the state ceased to negotiate and conciliate relations between rulers and the working class: the [neoliberal] state concentrated on de-regulating the economy, reducing corporate taxes, and eliminating labor's role in politics and the division of profits and income.
The concentration of state power and income was not uncontested and was not uniform in all regions and countries. Moreover, counter-cyclical trends, reflecting shifts in the balance of the class struggle precluded a linear process. In Europe, the Nordic and Western European countries' ruling classes advanced privatization of public enterprises, reduced social welfare costs and benefits, and pillaged overseas resources but were unable to break the state funded welfare system. In Latin America the advance and regression of the power, income and welfare of the popular class, correlated with the outcome of the class and state struggle.
The United States witnessed the ruling class take full control of the state, the workplace and distribution of social expenditures.
In brief, by the end of the 20 th century, the ruling class advanced in assuming a dominant role in the class struggle.
Nevertheless, the class struggle from below retained its presence, and in some places, namely in Latin America, the popular classes were able to secure a share of state power – at least temporarily.
Popular Power: Contesting the Class Struggle from Above
Latin America is a prime example of the uneven trajectory of the class struggle.
Between the end of World War Two and the late 1940's, the popular classes were able to secure democratic rights, populist reforms and social organization. Guatemala, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela were among the leading examples. By the early 1950's with the onset of the US imperialist 'cold war', in collaboration with the regional ruling classes launched a violent class war from above, which took the form of military coups in Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil. The populist class struggle was defeated by the US backed military- business rulers who, temporarily imposed US agro-mineral export economies.
The 1950's were the 'golden epoch' for the advance of US multi-nationals and Pentagon designed regional military alliances. But the class struggle from below rose again and found expression in the growth of a progressive national populist industrializing coalition, and the successful Cuban socialist regime and its followers in revolutionary social movements in the rest of Latin America throughout the 1960's.
The revolutionary popular class insurgency of the early 1960's was countered by the ruling class seizure of power backed by military-US led coups between 1964-1976 which demolished the regimes and institutions of the popular classes in Brazil (1964), Bolivia (1970), Chile (1973), Argentina (1976) , Peru (1973) and elsewhere.
Economic crises of the early 1980s reduced the role of the military and led to a 'negotiated transition' in which the ruling class advanced a neo-liberal agenda in exchange for electoral participation under military and US tutelage.
Lacking direct military rule, the ruling class struggle succeeded in muting the popular class struggle by co-opting the center-left political elites. The ruling class did not or could not establish hegemony over the popular classes even as they proceeded with their neo-liberal agenda.
With the advent of the 21 st century a new cycle in the class struggle from below burst forth. Three events intersected: the global crises of 2000 triggered regional financial crashes, which in turn led to a collapse of industries and mass unemployment, which intensified mass direct action and the ouster of the neo-liberal regimes. Throughout the first decade of the 21 st century, neo-liberalism was in retreat. The popular class struggle and the rise of social movements displaced the neo-liberal regimes but was incapable of replacing the ruling classes. Instead hybrid center-left electoral regimes took power.
The new power configuration incorporated popular social movements, center-left parties and neo-liberal business elites. Over the next decade the cross-class alliance advanced largely because of the commodity boom which financed welfare programs, increased employment, implemented poverty reduction programs and expanded investments in infrastructure. Post-neoliberal regimes co-opted the leaders of the popular classes, replaced ruling class political elites but did not displace the strategic structural positions of the business ruling class..
The upsurge of the popular class struggle was contained and confined by the center-left political elite, while the ruling class marked time, making business deals to secure lucrative state contracts via bribes to the ruling center-left allied with the conservative political elite .
The end of the commodity boom, forced the center-left to curtail its social welfare and infrastructure programs and fractured the alliance between big business leaders and center-left political elites. The ensuing economic recession facilitated the return of the neo-liberal political elite to power.
The big business ruling class learned their lessons from their previous experience with weak and conciliating neo-liberal regimes. They sought authoritarian and, if possible rabble rousing political leaders, who could dismantle the popular organizations, and gutted popular welfare programs and democratic institutions, which previously blocked the consolidation of the neo-liberal New Order.
... ... ...
Renoman , says: October 26, 2018 at 6:38 pm GMTThe strait up truth!A Bit Sandy , says: October 26, 2018 at 10:25 pm GMTTimeTraveller , says: October 27, 2018 at 6:02 am GMT"The rightist rhetoric turns against itself as its followers engage in invidious distinctions ."
Interesting. You don't see Veblen's "invidious distinction" trotted out very often these days which is a pity. More the pity that it is misused in quote above. It's probably uncharitable to take cheap shots at the article, which is a beautiful, anti-fa inspired, fairytale history of the modern age. I just wish more care would be used for Marxist and non-marxist socialist phrases such as "class struggle" and "invidious distinction" because it impossible to detest them adequately when they are improperly deployed.
The term "invidious distinction" was coined by Thornstein Veblen in his seminal "The Theory of the Leisure Class", in which Veblen argues that one of the primary human motivations is to evoke envy in our fellows. Veblen thought that because all value is subjective/arbitrary, it's quite reasonable to assume that the most efficient value signal is that which creates the most envy in other men. A man's social standing is therefore efficiently established by status symbols that invoke envy such as a Rolex or a Mercedes. The peculiar consequence of this is that often, men desire a thing like a Rolex because other men want one, even up to the point when the object lacks any utility whatsoever other than signaling wealth, which itself is defined as having things that others want. Invidious distinction is therefore best evidenced through conspicuous consumption, however nearly all actions that do not have subsistence as their aim are undertaken to gain social standing or signal social standing by invoking envy.
Thus the quote above could be rewritten to be "The rightist rhetoric turns against itself as its followers engage in non-subsistence activities" which is kind of dumb. If the author is prognosticating that the authoritarian new order will turn on itself, it'd be nice to know have a more substantive explanation than "non-subsistence activities". Moreover, if the authoritarian new order is to shed it's "shock troops" in exchange for "meritocrats" it'd be nice to know why. That's my 2 cents, but I'm curious to know what others think of this curious tale!jilles dykstra , says: October 27, 2018 at 6:41 am GMT
The corruption of upwardly mobile middle-class rabble rousers will disillusion their voluntary followers. Arbitrary police and military repression usually extends to extortion and intimidation beyond the drug slums to the middle and working-class neighborhoods.
Also, the rise of AI, data mining, and complex algorithms, as well as the proliferation of electronic devices that record and analyze our private spaces is a pillar of the new order. Essentially, we are being watched by machines.
People need to reject the material order. Spiritual awakening is the key.
Revolutionaries will find new ways to defeat these technology-based tactics. Dogwhistling, communication on a personal level (rather than by mass media or the internet), and old-fashioned tribalism should help. Also, leaderless resistance can play a role. Weaknesses will be found in the crumbling edifice, and many hands can chisel separately.
Infiltration and sabotage can also be applied.
Possibly unrelated, but maybe thought-provoking:
Consider the man they just arrested for the mail bomb scare. Reportedly, this person was a career criminal with drug dealing and grand theft on his record and he was caught in possession of a white van with decals on it depicting his targets. This man is a caricature of a Trump supporter, ready-made for the cable news broadcast. Does anyone else see the absurdity of it? Can this guy be for real?
The authoritarian New Order usually begins to decline through 'internal rot' – uber- profiteering and flagrant abuse of work.anon  Disclaimer , says: October 27, 2018 at 8:35 am GMT" However sustaining their advance is conditional on dynamic economic growth "
You cannot fool all people all the time. Our Dutch Rutte governments now for some ten years have told us that the economy is growing, alas the average Dutchman by now knows that 'there are lies, big lies, and statistics', in other words, it may well be that the economy is growing, but the average Dutchman does not see his buying power increased.
On the contrary, those that work have a more or less constant buying power, those that do not work, for whatever reason: cannot find a job, permanent illness, retired, see quite well how their material position deteriorates steadily.a better title for this article might have been " what's wrong with everything for dummies" ?Anon  Disclaimer , says: October 27, 2018 at 9:12 am GMTThe alliance of big globalized business and big Governments is an unbearable burden for most of the populations. Since the 70`s you have to work more and more and to study more and more for less and lessjim jones , says: October 27, 2018 at 10:42 am GMT
I foresee that if this continue in the next 20 years millions and millions of people will die of marginalization, of hunger , misery and grief .The Fake Left (clinton neoliberals) have abandoned the Working Class and embraced identity politics.Ilyana_Rozumova , says: October 27, 2018 at 11:06 am GMTThis is the most important problem governments, and in the wider sense humanity is encountering. The pendulum is incessantly swinging from center to right and than reverses from right to left.Jeff Stryker , says: October 27, 2018 at 11:07 am GMT
Marx theories are totally one sided and do not solve anything. Extreme swing to the left brought at start enthusiasm of the working classes and for certain time progress of the humanity was phenomenal. But in time the progress did stop and population become lethargic and progress become stagnation leading to depression. Similar thing happens when pendulum is swinging to the right.
Eventually the purchasing power of the population diminishes to the size when crisis of the system is inevitable. Most important task of the governments is to control the economy that the extent of the swings are small as possible.@Anon Things seem to have improved in Asia since I first went abroad in 2000. In the US, on the other hand, life seems to have gotten more and more difficult.Jeff Stryker , says: October 27, 2018 at 11:09 am GMT
If you had told me in 1993 when I left home that Gen Y of age 30 would live at home and that entire families of white people would be homeless or that MBA's would have to work in Bistros at age 25 I would have said you're crazed.
The odd thing in the US is that it is the middle-class seems to have gotten hit the worst. The white underclass and blacks have always had it hard and poor. Much of the time they deserve it because they have babies at 19 and don't go to college. But the destruction of the middle-class whites is quite phenomenal.@Anon UNBEARABLEjacques sheete , says: October 27, 2018 at 12:32 pm GMT
It is unbearable for the middle-class. The underclass does not care. Big governments tend to be corrupt, so money talks. If you live in the ghetto or the trailer park you have no expectations anyhow. You were not going to be a great citizen anyhow. But for the middle-class things will be shocking.@Anonjacques sheete , says: October 27, 2018 at 12:44 pm GMT
but will a new popular class struggle emerge?
I doubt that such a thing ever occurred to any substantial degree. "Popular" class struggles need to be seen for what they are; temporary expedients whereby one set of rulers uses the populace for their own ends and against their competitors.
Too many people get suckered into supporting "popular" movements and sometimes do gain temporary benefits, but when their handlers get what they want, the fun and games are over. The author noted the concept, saying,
Between the end of World War Two and the late 1940's, the popular classes were able to secure democratic rights, populist reforms and social organization. [but then began] bullying of traditional allies
... ... ...@Jeff StrykerRespect , says: October 27, 2018 at 12:45 pm GMT
But for the middle-class things will be shocking.
No "will be" about it. You noted it in your comment #10 and my observations agree,
But the destruction of the middle-class whites is quite phenomenal.
The assault on the middle class has been taking place for decades and many people have been feeling it although most apparently still hope for some Messiah, and many of them apparently think either Hillaryena or the Trumpster was it. Where they get their faith I'll never know.@jilles dykstra Same thing in Spain, and in most of western Europe I would say . The macroeconomy is going well for the chosen ones , and the microeconomy is going very bad for most of the population .jacques sheete , says: October 27, 2018 at 12:58 pm GMT@Jeff StrykerJackOH , says: October 27, 2018 at 1:09 pm GMT
Much of the time they deserve it because they don't go to college.
Schooling in the USA for some time been nothing more than babysitting and brainwashing and that's by design. Completing college nowadays is mainly for immature, dependent losers especially since many of them will be burdened with a non-marketable degree and debt for decades and in any case, the majority will wind up as wage slaves anyway. The way to go now is to learn a trade, especially one that a person can practice independently and with low capital, and get to work, but the window for even that seems to be fast closing too.
If one has the talent (rare) sales can still be a good road to relative independence with no "collitch" needed.@Jeff Stryker "If you live in the ghetto or the trailer park you have no expectations anyhow. You were not going to be a great citizen anyhow."Jeff Stryker , says: October 27, 2018 at 1:17 pm GMT
"But for the middle-class things will be shocking."
Spot on, Jeff. I see remnants of the onetime middle class around me. People with a degree or advanced degree, people with identifiable special skills (accountancy, engineering) who guard their expertise as would a 15th century guild worker, people with decent table manners...
Then their Fortune 500 company kicks them out of their corporate featherbed, they spend a year or two or more discovering their specialized skills are worth half of what they'd thought, and when they land a job, they're expected to cook the books or sign off on dodgy products, acting as designated corporate fall guys in the event of an investigation.@jacques sheeteWizard of Oz , says: October 27, 2018 at 1:24 pm GMT
When I was in university there was no Leftist programming. People were there to become engineers, IT specialists, doctors, nurses, businessmen, accounting. You maybe had to take an "African-American studies" course but that was just to get enough credits to graduate. Also, by the time most people went to college (when I did from 93-98) they were adults with opinions. Sales is a diminishing field now with the internet.@jim jones A shrewd observation is my immediate reaction. Most likely true of the organised institutional left which, when it's old product no longer sells doesn't want to declare bankruptcy and shut up shop.Anon  Disclaimer , says: October 27, 2018 at 2:47 pm GMT"Government exists to spend. The purpose of government is to serve the general welfare of the citizens, not just the military-industrial complex and the financial class. Didn't we have a stimulus, oh, eight years ago? It was tiny and has not been entirely spent. As Yellen implied, we need more spending of the non-military kind (what Barney Frank memorably called "weaponized Keynesianism" doesn't stimulate)."jacques sheete , says: October 27, 2018 at 3:05 pm GMT
This is what has been missing for over 40 years in the US, government's role in the economy. When any politician brings up the fact that it's time we used fiscal policy as it was designed, neoliberals have a socialism meltdown. Both parties have been taken over by the Kochtopus, The libertarian fascist ideology that hides behind the term "neoliberalism". The ultimate goal of this zombie ideology that was thoroughly discredited in 2008 but continues to roam the earth is to replace nations with privately owned cities. This experiment was going on in Honduras, following the 2009 coup, until it was finally ended by a SC ruling that it was unconstitutional.
"In a libertarian society, there is no commons or public space. There are property lines, not borders. When it comes to real property and physical movement across such real property, there are owners, guests, licensees, business invitees and trespassers – not legal and illegal immigrants." ~ Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute
This is the struggle – the struggle to maintain public space on a planet that was never meant to be owned in the first place.@Respect
The macroeconomy is going well for the chosen ones , and the microeconomy is going very bad for most of the population .
As always. Whenever someone makes a broad comment about "the" economy, I begin to yawn. The distinction you make is a critical one.
Sep 22, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
bevin , Sep 22, 2018 7:08:38 PM | link
"All the leading economic indicators are great to healthy ... Homelessness is worse than I have ever seen but I do not see any Latino or Asian homeless people. It is nearly 100% white or African Americans. Most appear to be drugged out losers."
A perfect example of what b meant when he said that the only people suffering are the poor. Meaning that nobody cares about them and, often because they are prevented from doing so, they rarely vote. And when they do vote there aren't any candidates to vote for.
The last sentence just about sums neo-liberals up: most of the homeless are informed, are 'drugged out losers.'
So that's OK is it? Ever wonder why they are drugged out? Or what the rules were in the game they lost?
Aug 18, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org
Consistent with its possession as a leading and money-making asset of the nation's wealthy elite, the United States corporate and commercial mass media is a bastion of power-serving propaganda and deadening twaddle designed to keep the U.S. citizenry subordinated to capital and the imperial U.S. state. It regularly portrays the United States as a great model of democracy and equality. It sells a false image of the U.S. as a society where the rich enjoy opulence because of hard and honest work and where the poor are poor because of their laziness and irresponsibility. The nightly television news broadcasts and television police and law and order dramas are obsessed with violent crime in the nation's Black ghettoes and Latino barrios, but they never talk about the extreme poverty, the absence of opportunity imposed on those neighborhoods by the interrelated forces of institutional racism, capital flight, mass structural unemployment, under-funded schools, and mass incarceration. The nightly television weather reports tells U.S. citizens of ever new record high temperatures and related forms of extreme weather but never relate these remarkable meteorological developments to anthropogenic climate change.
The dominant corporate U.S. media routinely exaggerates the degree of difference and choice between the candidates run by the nation's two corporate-dominated political organizations, the Democrats and the Republicans. It never notes that the two reigning parties agree about far more than they differ on, particularly when it comes to fundamental and related matters of business class power and American Empire. It shows U.S. protestors engaged in angry confrontations with police and highlights isolated examples of protestor violence but it downplays peaceful protest and never pays serious attention to the important societal and policy issues that have sparked protest or to the demands and recommendations advanced by protest movements.
As the prolific U.S. Marxist commentator Michael Parenti once remarked, US "Newscasters who want to keep their careers afloat learn the fine art of evasion with great skill they skirt around the most important parts of a story. With much finesse, they say a lot about very little, serving up heaps of junk news filled with so many empty calories and so few nutrients. Thus do they avoid offending those who wield politico-economic power while giving every appearance of judicious moderation and balance. It is enough to take your breath away." 
U.S. newscasters and their print media counterparts routinely parrot and disseminate the false foreign policy claims of the nation's imperial elite. Earlier this year, U.S. news broadcasters dutiful relayed to U.S. citizens the Obama administration's preposterous assertion that social-democratic Venezuela is a repressive, corrupt, and authoritarian danger to its own people and the U.S. No leading national U.S. news outlet dared to note the special absurdity of this charge in the wake of Obama and other top U.S. officials' visit to Riyadh to guarantee U.S. support for the new king of Saudi Arabia, the absolute ruler of a leading U.S. client state that happens to be the most brutally oppressive and reactionary government on Earth.
In U.S. "mainstream" media, Washington's aims are always benevolent and democratic. Its clients and allies are progressive, its enemies are nefarious, and its victims are invisible and incidental. The U.S. can occasionally make "mistakes" and "strategic blunders" on the global stage, but its foreign policies are never immoral, criminal, or imperialist in nature as far as that media is concerned. This is consistent with the doctrine of "American Exceptionalism," according to which the U.S., alone among great powers in history, seeks no selfish or imperial gain abroad. It is consistent also with "mainstream" U.S. media's heavy reliance on "official government sources" (the White House, the Defense Department, and the State Department) and leading business public relations and press offices for basic information on current events.
As the leading Left U.S. intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman showed in their classic text Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), Orwellian double standards are rife in the dominant U.S. media's coverage and interpretation of global affairs. Elections won in other countries by politicians that Washington approves because those politicians can be counted on to serve the interests of U.S. corporations and the military are portrayed in U.S. media as good and clean contests. But when elections put in power people who can't be counted on to serve "U.S. interests," (Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro for example), then U.S. corporate media portrays the contests as "rigged" and "corrupt." When Americans or people allied with Washington are killed or injured abroad, they are "worthy victims" and receive great attention and sympathy in that media. People killed, maimed, displaced and otherwise harmed by the U.S. and U.S. clients and allies are anonymous and "unworthy victims" whose experience elicits little mention or concern.
U.S. citizens regularly see images of people who are angry at the U.S. around the world. The dominant mass media never gives them any serious discussion of the US policies and actions that create that anger. Millions of Americans are left to ask in childlike ignorance "Why do they hate us? What have we done?"
In February of 2015, an extraordinary event occurred in U.S. news media – the firing of a leading national news broadcaster, Brian Williams of NBC News. Williams lost his position because of some lies he told in connection with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. A naïve outsider might think that Williams was fired because he repeated the George W. Bush administration's transparent fabrications about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's supposed connection to 9/11. Sadly but predictably enough, that wasn't his problem. Williams lost his job because he falsely boasted that he had ridden on a helicopter that was forced down by grenade fire during the initial U.S. invasion. If transmitting Washington's lies about Iraq were something to be fired about, then U.S. corporate media authorities would have to get rid of pretty much of all their top broadcasters.
More than Entertainment
The U.S. corporate media's propagandistic service to the nation's reigning and interrelated structures of Empire and inequality is hardly limited to its news and public affairs wings. Equally if not more significant in that regard is that media's vast "entertainment" sector, which is loaded with political and ideological content but was completely ignored in Herman and Chomsky's groundbreaking Manufacturing Consent.  One example is the Hollywood movie "Zero Dark Thirty," a 2012 "action thriller" that dramatized the United States' search for Osama bin-Laden after the September 11, 2001 jetliner attacks. The film received critical acclaim and was a box office-smash. It was also a masterpiece of pro-military, pro-CIA propaganda, skillfully portraying U.S. torture practices "as a dirty, ugly business that is necessary to protect America" (Glenn Greenwald) and deleting the moral debate that erupted over the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques." Under the guise of a neutral, documentary-like façade, Zero Dark Thirty normalized and endorsed torture in ways that were all the more effective because of its understated, detached, and "objective" veneer. The film also marked a distressing new frontier in U.S. military-"embedded" filmmaking whereby the movie-makers receive technical and logistical support from the Pentagon in return for producing elaborate public relations on the military's behalf.
The 2014-15 Hollywood blockbuster American Sniper is another example. The film's audiences is supposed to marvel at the supposedly noble feats, sacrifice, and heroism of Chris Kyle, a rugged, militantly patriotic, and Christian-fundamentalist Navy SEALS sniper who participated in the U.S. invasion of Iraq to fight "evil" and to avenge the al Qaeda jetliner attacks of September 11, 2001. Kyle killed 160 Iraqis over four tours of "duty" in "Operational Iraqi Freedom." Viewers are never told that the Iraqi government had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks or al Qaeda or that the U.S. invasion was one of the most egregiously criminal and brazenly imperial and mass-murderous acts in the history of international violence. Like Zero Dark Thirty's apologists, American Sniper's defenders claim that the film takes a neutral perspective of "pure storytelling," with no ideological bias. In reality, the movie is filled with racist and imperial distortions, functioning as flat-out war propaganda.
These are just two among many examples that could be cited of U.S. "entertainment" media's regular service to the American Empire. Hollywood and other parts of the nation's vast corporate entertainment complex plays the same power-serving role in relation to domestic ("homeland") American inequality and oppression structures of class and race. 
Seen broadly in its many-sided and multiply delivered reality, U.S. corporate media's dark, power-serving mission actually goes further than the manufacture of consent. A deeper goal is the manufacture of mass idiocy, with "idiocy" understood in the original Greek and Athenian sense not of stupidity but of childish selfishness and willful indifference to public affairs and concerns. (An "idiot" in Athenian democracy was characterized by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private instead of public affairs.). As the U.S. Latin Americanist Cathy Schneider noted, the U.S.-backed military coup and dictatorship headed by Augusto Pinochet "transformed Chile, both culturally and politically, from a country of active participatory grassroots communities, to a land of disconnected, apolitical individuals" – into a nation of "idiots" understood in this classic Athenian sense.
In the U.S., where violence is not as readily available to elites as in 1970s Latin America, corporate America seeks the same terrible outcome through its ideological institutions, including above all its mass media. In U.S. movies, television sit-coms, television dramas, television reality-shows, commercials, state Lottery advertisements, and video games, the ideal-type U.S. citizen is an idiot in this classic sense: a person who cares about little more than his or her own well-being, consumption, and status. This noble American idiot is blissfully indifferent to the terrible prices paid by others for the maintenance of reigning and interrelated oppressions structures at home and abroad.
A pervasive theme in this media culture is the notion that people at the bottom of the nation's steep and interrelated socioeconomic and racial pyramids are the "personally irresponsible" and culturally flawed makers of their own fate. The mass U.S. media's version of Athenian idiocy "can imagine," in the words of the prolific Left U.S. cultural theorist Henry Giroux "public issues only as private concerns." It works to "erase the social from the language of public life so as to reduce" questions of racial and socioeconomic disparity to "private issues of individual character and cultural depravity. Consistent with "the central neoliberal tenet that all problems are private rather than social in nature," it portrays the only barriers to equality and meaningful democratic participation as "a lack of principled self-help and moral responsibility" and bad personal choices by the oppressed. Government efforts to meaningfully address and ameliorate (not to mention abolish) societal disparities of race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality and the like are portrayed as futile, counterproductive, naïve, and dangerous.
To be sure, a narrow and reactionary sort of public concern and engagement does appear and take on a favorable light in this corporate media culture. It takes the form of a cruel, often even sadistically violent response to unworthy and Evil Others who are perceived as failing to obey prevalent national and neoliberal cultural codes. Like the U.S. ruling class that owns it, the purportedly anti-government corporate media isn't really opposed to government as such. It's opposed to what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called "the left hand of the state" – the parts of the public sector that serve the social and democratic needs of the non-affluent majority. It celebrates and otherwise advances the "right hand of the state": the portions of government that serve the opulent minority, dole out punishment for the poor, and attacks those perceived as nefariously resisting the corporate and imperial order at home and abroad. Police officers, prosecutors, military personnel, and other government authorities who represent the "right hand of the state" are heroes and role models in this media. Public defenders, other defense attorneys, civil libertarians, racial justice activists, union leaders, antiwar protesters and the like are presented at best as naïve and irritating "do-gooders" and at worst as coddlers and even agents of evil.
The generation of mass idiocy in the more commonly understood sense of sheer stupidity is also a central part of U.S. "mainstream" media's mission. Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in the constant barrage of rapid-fire advertisements that floods U.S. corporate media. As the American cultural critic Neil Postman noted thirty years ago, the modern U.S. television commercial is the antithesis of the rational economic consideration that early Western champions of the profits system claimed to be the enlightened essence of capitalism. "Its principal theorists, even its most prominent practitioners," Postman noted, "believed capitalism to be based on the idea that both buyer and seller are sufficiently mature, well-informed, and reasonable to engage in transactions of mutual self-interest." Commercials make "hash" out of this idea. They are dedicated to persuading consumers with wholly irrational claims. They rely not on the reasoned presentation of evidence and logical argument but on suggestive emotionalism, infantilizing manipulation, and evocative, rapid-fire imagery.
The same techniques poison U.S. electoral politics. Investment in deceptive and manipulative campaign commercials commonly determines success or failure in mass-marketed election contests between business-beholden candidates that are sold to the audience/electorate like brands of toothpaste and deodorant. Fittingly enough, the stupendous cost of these political advertisements is a major factor driving U.S. campaign expenses so high (the 2016 U.S. presidential election will cost at least $5 billion) as to make candidates ever more dependent on big money corporate and Wall Street donors.
Along the way, mass cognitive competence is assaulted by the numbing, high-speed ubiquity of U.S. television and radio advertisements. These commercials assault citizens' capacity for sustained mental focus and rational deliberation nearly sixteen minutes of every hour on cable television, with 44 percent of the individual ads now running for just 15 seconds. This is a factor in the United States' long-bemoaned epidemic of "Attention Deficit Disorder."
Seventy years ago, the brilliant Dutch left Marxist Anton Pannekoek offered some chilling reflections on the corporate print and broadcast media's destructive impact on mass cognitive and related social resistance capacities in the United States after World War II:
"The press is of course entirely in hands of big capital [and it] dominates the spiritual life of the American people. The most important thing is not even the hiding of all truth about the reign of big finance. Its aim still more is the education to thoughtlessness. All attention is directed to coarse sensations, everything is avoided that could arouse thinking. Papers are not meant to be read – the small print is already a hindrance – but in a rapid survey of the fat headlines to inform the public on unimportant news items, on family triflings of the rich, on sexual scandals, on crimes of the underworld, on boxing matches. The aim of the capitalist press all over the world, the diverting of the attention of the masses from the reality of social development, nowhere succeed with such thoroughness as in America."
"Still more than by the papers the masses are influenced by broadcasting and film. These products of most perfect science, destined at one time to the finest educational instruments of mankind, now in the hands of capitalism have been turned into the strongest means to uphold its rule by stupefying the mind. Because after nerve-straining fatigue the movie offers relaxation and distraction by means of simple visual impressions that make no demand on the intellect, the masses get used to accepting thoughtlessly all its cunning and shrewd propaganda. It reflects the ugliest sides of middle-class society. It turns all attention either to sexual life, in this society – by the absence of community feelings and fight for freedom – the only source of strong passions, or to brute violence; masses educated to rough violence instead of to social knowledge are not dangerous to capitalism "
Pannekoek clearly saw an ideological dimension (beyond just diversion and stupefaction) in U.S. mass media's "education to thoughtlessness" through movies as well as print sensationalism. He would certainly be impressed and perhaps depressed by the remarkably numerous, potent, and many-sided means of mass distraction and indoctrination that are available to the U.S. and global capitalist media in the present digital and Internet era.
The "entertainment" wing of its vast corporate media complex is critical to the considerable "soft" ideological "power" the U.S. exercises around the world even as its economic hegemony wanes in an ever more multipolar global system (and as its "hard" military reveals significant limits within and beyond the Middle East). Relatively few people beneath the global capitalist elite consume U.S. news and public affairs media beyond the U.S., but "American" (U.S.) movies, television shows, video games, communication devices, and advertising culture are ubiquitous across the planet.
Explaining "Mainstream" Media Corporate Ownership
There's nothing surprising about the fact that the United States' supposedly "free" and "independent" media functions as a means of mass indoctrination for the nation's economic and imperial elite. The first and most important explanation for this harsh reality is concentrated private ownership – the fundamental fact that that media is owned primarily by giant corporations representing wealthy interests who are deeply invested in U.S. capitalism and Empire. Visitors to the U.S. should not be fooled by the large number and types of channels and stations on a typical U.S. car radio or television set or by the large number and types of magazines and books on display at a typical Barnes & Noble bookstore. Currently in the U.S., just six massive and global corporations – Comcast, Viacom, Time Warner, CBS, The News Corporation and Disney – together control more than 90 percent of the nation's print and electronic media, including cable television, airwaves television, radio, newspapers, movies, video games, book publishing, comic books, and more. Three decades ago, 50 corporations controlled the same amount of U.S. media.
Each of the reigning six companies is a giant and diversified multi-media conglomerate with investments beyond media, including "defense" (the military). Asking reporters and commentators at one of those giant corporations to tell the unvarnished truth about what's happening in the U.S. and the world is like asking the company magazine published by the United Fruit Company to the tell the truth about working conditions in its Caribbean and Central American plantations in the 1950s. It's like asking the General Motors company newspaper to tell the truth about wages and working conditions in GM's auto assembly plants around the world.
As the nation's media becomes concentrated into fewer corporate hands, media personnel become ever more insecure in their jobs because they have fewer firms to whom to sell their skills. That makes them even less willing than they might have been before to go outside official sources, to question the official line, and to tell the truth about current events and the context in which they occur.
A second explanation is the power of advertisers. U.S. media managers are naturally reluctant to publish or broadcast material that might offend the large corporations that pay for broadcasting by purchasing advertisements. As Chomsky has noted in a recent interview, large corporations are not only the major producers of the United States' mass and commercial media. They are also that media's top market, something that deepens the captivity of nation's supposedly democratic and independent media to big capital:
"The reliance of a journal on advertisers shapes and controls and substantially determines what is presented to the public the very idea of advertiser reliance radically distorts the concept of free media. If you think about what the commercial media are, no matter what, they are businesses. And a business produces something for a market. The producers in this case, almost without exception, are major corporations. The market is other businesses – advertisers. The product that is presented to the market is readers (or viewers), so these are basically major corporations providing audiences to other businesses, and that significantly shapes the nature of the institution."
At the same time, both U.S. corporate media managers and the advertisers who supply revenue for their salaries are hesitant to produce content that might alienate the affluent people who count for an ever rising share of consumer purchases in the U.S. It is naturally those with the most purchasing power who are naturally most targeted by advertisers.
A third great factor is U.S. government media policy and regulation on behalf of oligopolistic hyper-concentration. The U.S. corporate media is hardly a "natural" outcome of a "free market." It's the result of government protections and subsidies that grant enormous "competitive" advantages to the biggest and most politically/plutocratically influential media firms. Under the terms of the 1934 Communications Act and the 1996 Telecommunications Act, commercial, for-profit broadcasters have almost completely free rein over the nation's airwaves and cable lines. There is no substantive segment of the broadcast spectrum set aside for truly public interest and genuinely democratic, popular not-for profit media and the official "public" broadcasting networks are thoroughly captive to corporate interests and to right-wing politicians who take giant campaign contributions from corporate interests. Much of the 1996 bill was written by lobbyists working for the nations' leading media firms. 
A different form of state policy deserves mention. Under the Obama administration, we have seen the most aggressive pursuit and prosecution in recent memory of U.S. journalists who step outside the narrow parameters of pro-U.S. coverage and commentary – and of the whistleblowers who provide them with leaked information. That is why Edward Snowden lives in Russia, Glenn Greenwald lives in Brazil, Chelsea Manning is serving life in a U.S. military prison, and Julian Assange is trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. A leading New York Times reporter and author, James Risen, has been threatened with imprisonment by the White House for years because of his refusal to divulge sources.
Treetops v. Grassroots Audiences
In this writer's experience, the critical Left analysis of the U.S. "mainstream" media as a tool for "manufacturing consent" and idiocy developed above meets four objections from defenders of the U.S. media system, A first objection notes that the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times (FT), the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and other major U.S. corporate media outlets produce a significant amount of, informative, high-quality and often candid reporting and commentary that Left thinkers and activists commonly cite to support their cases for radical and democratic change. Left U.S. media critics like Chomsky and Herman are said to be hypocrites because they obviously find much that is of use as Left thinkers in the very media that they criticize for distorting reality in accord with capitalist and imperial dictates.
The observation that Leftists commonly use and cite information from the corporate media they harshly criticize is correct but it is easy to account for the apparent anomaly within the critical Left framework by noting that that media crafts two very different versions of U.S. policy, politics, society, "life," and current events for two different audiences. Following the work of the brilliant Australian propaganda critic Alex Carey, we can call the first audience the "grassroots." It comprises the general mass of working and lower-class citizens. As far as the business elites who own and manage the U.S. mass media and the corporations that pay for that media with advertising purchases are concerned, this "rabble" cannot be trusted with serious, candid, and forthright information. Its essential role in society is to keep quiet, work hard, be entertained (in richly propagandistic and ideological ways, we should remember), buy things, and generally do what they're told. They are to leave key societal decisions to those that the leading 20th century U.S. public intellectual and media-as-propaganda enthusiast Walter Lippman called "the responsible men." That "intelligent," benevolent, "expert," and "responsible" elite (responsible, indeed, for such glorious accomplishments as the Great Depression, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Iraq, the Great Recession, global warming, and the rise of the Islamic State) needed, in Lippman's view, to be protected from what he called "the trampling and roar of the bewildered herd." The deluded mob, the sub-citizenry, the dangerous working class majority is not the audience for elite organs like the Times, the Post, and the Journal.
The second target group comprises the relevant political class of U.S. citizens from at most the upper fifth of society. This is who reads the Times, the Post, WSJ, and FT, for the most part. Call this audience (again following Carey) the "treetops": the "people who matter" and who deserve and can be trusted with something more closely approximating the real story because their minds have been properly disciplined and flattered by superior salaries, significant on-the-job labor autonomy, and "advanced" and specialized educational and professional certification. This elite includes such heavily indoctrinated persons as corporate managers, lawyers, public administrators, and (most) tenured university professors. Since these elites carry out key top-down societal tasks of supervision, discipline, training, demoralization, co-optation, and indoctrination – all essential to the rule of the real economic elite and the imperial system – they cannot be too thoroughly misled about current events and policy without deleterious consequences for the smooth functioning of the dominant social and political order. They require adequate information and must not be overly influenced by the brutal and foolish propaganda generated for the "bewildered herd." At the same time, information and commentary for the relevant and respectable business and political classes and their "coordinator class" servants and allies often contains a measure of reasoned and sincere intra-elite political and policy debate – debate that is always careful not to stray beyond narrow U.S. ideological parameters. That is why a radical Left U.S. thinker and activist can find much that is of use in U.S. "treetops" media. Such a thinker or activist would, indeed, be foolish not to consult these sources.
"P"BS and N"P"R
A second objection to the Left critique of U.S. "mainstream" media claims that the U.S. public enjoys a meaningful alternative to the corporate media in the form of the nation's Public Broadcasting Service (television) and National Public Radio (NPR). This claim should not be taken seriously. Thanks to U.S. "public" media's pathetically weak governmental funding, its heavy reliance on corporate sponsors, and its constant harassment by right wing critics inside and beyond the U.S. Congress, N"P"R and "P"BS are extremely reluctant to question dominant U.S. ideologies and power structures.
The tepid, power-serving conservatism of U.S. "public" broadcasting is by longstanding political and policy design. The federal government allowed the formation of the "public" networks only on the condition that they pose no competitive market or ideological challenge to private commercial media, the profits system, and U.S. global foreign policy. "P"BS and N"P"R are "public" in a very limited sense. They not function for the public over and against corporate, financial, and imperial power to any significant degree.
"The Internet Will Save Us"
A third objection claims that the rise of the Internet creates a "Wild West" environment in which the power of corporate media is eviscerated and citizens can find and even produce all the "alternative media" they require. This claim is misleading but it should not be reflexively or completely dismissed. In the U.S. as elsewhere, those with access to the Internet and the time and energy to use it meaningfully can find a remarkable breadth and depth of information and trenchant Left analysis at various online sites. The Internet also broadens U.S. citizens and activists' access to media networks beyond the U.S. – to elite sources that are much less beholden of course to U.S. propaganda and ideology. At the same time, the Internet and digital telephony networks have at times shown themselves to be effective grassroots organizing tools for progressive U.S. activists.
Still, the democratic and progressive impact of the Internet in the U.S. is easily exaggerated. Left and other progressive online outlets lack anything close to the financial, technical, and organizational and human resources of the corporate news media, which has its own sophisticated Internet. There is nothing in Left other citizen online outlets that can begin to remotely challenge the "soft" ideological and propagandistic power of corporate "entertainment" media. The Internet's technical infrastructure is increasingly dominated by an "ISP cartel" led by a small number of giant corporations. As the leading left U.S. media analyst Robert McChesney notes:
"By 2014, there are only a half-dozen or so major players that dominate provision of broadband Internet access and wireless Internet access. Three of them – Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast – dominate the field of telephony and Internet access, and have set up what is in effect a cartel. They no longer compete with each other in any meaningful sense. As a result, Americans pay far more for cellphone and broadband Internet access than most other advanced nations and get much lousier service These are not 'free market' companies in any sense of the term. Their business model, going back to pre-Internet days, has always been capturing government monopoly licenses for telephone and cable TV services. Their 'comparative advantage' has never been customer service; it has been world-class lobbying.' 
Along the way, the notion of a great "democratizing," Wild West" and "free market" Internet has proved politically useful for the corporate media giants. The regularly trumpet the great Internet myth to claim that the U.S. public and regulators don't need to worry about corporate media power and to justify their demands for more government subsidy and protection. At the same time, finally, we know from the revelations of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and others that the nation's leading digital and Internet-based e-mail (Google and Yahoo), telephony (e.g. Verizon), and "social network" (Facebook above all) corporations have collaborated with the National Security Agency and with the nation's local, state, and federal police in the surveillance of U.S. citizens' and activists' private communications.
The fourth objection accuses Left media critics of being overly negative, "carping" critics who offer no serious alternatives to the nation's current corporate-owned corporate-managed commercial and for-profit media system. This is a transparently false and mean-spirited charge. Left U.S. media criticism is strongly linked to a smart and impressive U.S. media reform movement that advances numerous and interrelated proposals for the creation of a genuinely public and democratically run non-commercial and nonprofit U.S. media system. Some of the demand and proposals of this movement include public ownership and operation of the Internet as a public utility; the break-up of the leading media oligopolies; full public funding of public broadcasting; limits on advertising in commercial media; the abolition of political advertisements; the expansion of airwave and broadband access for alternative media outlets; publicly-funded nonprofit and non-commercial print journalism; the abolition of government and corporate surveillance, monitoring, and commercial data-mining of private communication and "social networks." With regard to the media as with numerous other areas, we should recall Chomsky's sardonic response to the standard conservative claim that the Left offers criticisms but no solutions: "There is an accurate translation for that charge: 'they present solutions and I don't like them.'"
A False Paradox
The propagandistic and power-serving mission and nature of dominant U.S, corporate mass media might seem ironic and even paradoxical in light of the United States' strong free speech and democratic traditions. In fact, as Carey and Chomsky have noted, the former makes perfect sense in light of the latter. In nations where popular expression and dissent is routinely crushed with violent repression, elites have little incentive to shape popular perceptions in accord with elite interests. The population is controlled primarily through physical coercion. In societies where it is not generally considered legitimate to put down popular expression with the iron heel of armed force and where dissenting opinion is granted a significant measure of freedom of expression, elites are heavily and dangerously incentivized to seek to manufacture mass popular consent and idiocy. The danger is deepened by the United States' status as the pioneer in the development of mass consumer capitalism, advertising, film, and television. Thanks to that history, corporate America has long stood in the global vanguard when it comes to developing the technologies, methods, art, and science of mass persuasion and thought control.
It is appropriate to place quotation marks around the phrase "mainstream media" when writing about dominant U.S. corporate media. During the Cold War era, U.S. officials and media never referred to the Soviet Union's state television and radio or its main state newspapers as "mainstream Russian media." American authorities referred to these Russian media outlets as "Soviet state media" and treated that media as means for the dissemination of Soviet "propaganda" and ideology. There is no reason to consider the United States' corporate and commercial media as any more "mainstream" than the leading Soviet media organs were back in their day. It is just as dedicated as the onetime Soviet state media to advancing the doctrinal perspectives of its host nation's reigning elite -- and far more effective.
Its success is easily exaggerated, however. To everyday Americans' credit, corporate media has never been fully successful in stamping out popular resistance and winning over the hearts and minds of the U.S. populace. A recent Pew Research poll showed that U.S. "millennials" (young adults 18-29 years old) have a more favorable response to the word "socialism" than to "capitalism" – a remarkable finding on the limits of corporate media and other forms of elite ideological power in the U.S. The immigrant worker uprising of May 2006, the Chicago Republic Door and Window plant occupation of 2008, the University of California student uprisings of 2009 and 2010, the Wisconsin public worker rebellion in early 2011, the Occupy Movement of late 2011, and Fight for Fifteen (for a $15 an hour minimum wage) and Black Lives Matter movements of 2014 and 2015 show that U.S. corporate and imperial establishment has not manufactured anything like comprehensive and across the board mass consent and idiocy in the U,S. today. The U.S. elite is no more successful in its utopian (or dystopian) quest to control every American heart and mind than it is in its equally impossible ambition of managing events across a complex planet from the banks of the Potomac River in Washington D.C. The struggle for popular self-determination, democracy, justice, and equality lives on despite the influence of corporate media.
Aug 09, 2018 | www.goodreads.com
"As these contrasts show, capitalism has undergone enormous changes in the last two and a half centuries. While some of Smith's basic principles remain valid, they do so only at very general levels.
For example, competition among profit-seeking firms may still be the key driving force of capitalism, as in Smith's scheme.
But it is not between small, anonymous firms which, accepting consumer tastes, fight it out by increasing the efficiency in the use of given technology.
Today, competition is among huge multinational companies, with the ability not only to influence prices but to redefine technologies in a short span of time (think about the battle between Apple and Samsung) and to manipulate consumer tastes through brand-image building and advertising."
Aug 07, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org
Being run by business, American culture suffers from an overwhelming preponderance of stupidity . When a set of institutions as reactionary as big business has a virtual monopoly over government and the media, the kinds of information, entertainment, commentary, ideologies, and educational policies on offer will not conduce to rationality or social understanding. What you'll end up with is, for instance, an electorate 25 percent of whose members are inclined to libertarianism . And the number is even higher among young people. That is to say, huge numbers of people will be exposed to and persuaded by the propaganda of the Cato Institute, the magazine Reason , Ayn Rand's novels, and Milton Friedman's ideological hackery to express their rebellious and anti-authoritarian impulses by becoming "extreme advocates of total tyranny," to quote Chomsky . They'll believe, as he translates, that "power ought to be given into the hands of private, unaccountable tyrannies," namely corporations. They'll think that if you just get government out of the picture and let capitalism operate freely, unencumbered by regulations or oversight or labor unionism, all will be for the best in this best of all possible worlds. And they'll genuinely believe they're being subversive and anarchistic by proposing such a program.
The spectacle of millions adhering to such a breathtakingly stupid ideology would be comical if it weren't so tragic. I'm an atheist, but Christianity strikes me as a more rational -- and moral -- religion than this "libertarian" (really totalitarian) one of absolute faith in universal privatization, marketization, corporatization, and commoditization. To be a so-called libertarian is to be deplorably ignorant of modern history , economics , commonsense sociology , human psychology , and morality itself . (Regarding morality: if the Golden Rule is an essential maxim, then the communist slogan "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," which is basically a derivative of the Golden Rule, is fundamental to any humane social organization. Greed and Social Darwinism -- every man for himself -- are hardly morally luminous principles.) Given this reactionary philosophy's intellectual sterility and the fact that it's been refuted countless times, it's tempting to simply ignore it. And most leftists do ignore it. But that's a mistake, as the frightening figure quoted a moment ago (25 percent of the electorate) indicates. It's necessary to challenge "free market" worship whenever and wherever it appears.
The economist Rob Larson has performed an important service, therefore, in publishing his new book Capitalism vs. Freedom: The Toll Road to Serfdom , the more so because the book's lucidity and brevity should win for it a wide readership. In five chapters, Larson systematically demolishes the glib nostrums of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek (in the process also dispatching those other patron saints of the right wing, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard). Even the book's title is highly effective: the message " capitalism vs. freedom " should be trumpeted from the hills, since it challenges one of the reigning dogmas of our society. Liberals and leftists themselves sometimes buy into the view that capitalism promotes freedom, arguing only that socialist equality and justice are more important than capitalist freedom. But this is a false framing of the issue. The fact is that socialism, which is to say workers' democratic control of the economy, not only means greater equality and justice than capitalism but also greater freedom, at least for the 99 percent. It is freedom, after all, that has inspired anarchists and even Marxists, including Marx himself .
Larson begins with a brief discussion of two concepts of freedom, negative and positive (a distinction that goes back, as he notes, at least to Isaiah Berlin). Crudely speaking, negative freedom means the absence of external constraint, of a power that can force you to act in particular ways. Positive freedom is the ability or opportunity actually to realize purposes and wishes, to "control your destiny," so to speak. It involves having the means to satisfy desires, as when you have the means to assuage hunger, be adequately clothed and sheltered, and have adequate sanitation. Positive freedom can be thought of as "freedom to," whereas negative freedom is "freedom from." Classical liberals like John Stuart Mill and modern conservatives like Friedman and Hayek are more concerned with negative freedom, which explains their desire for a minimal state; socialists are concerned also with positive freedom, sometimes believing that a stronger state (e.g., a social democracy) can help ensure such freedom for the majority of people.
Friedman and Hayek argued that free-market capitalism, with minimal intervention by the state, is the surest guarantee of negative liberty. Larson's book is devoted mainly to refuting this belief, which is widely held across the political spectrum; but it also defends the less controversial claim that capitalism is incompatible with widespread positive liberty too. "Capitalism," Larson writes, "withholds opportunities to enjoy freedom (required by the positive view of freedom) and also encourages the growth of economic power (the adversary of liberty in the negative view of freedom)." That concentrations of economic power in themselves threaten negative liberty might be challenged, but this is a weak argument, among other reasons because it's clear that centers of (economic) power will tend to dominate and manipulate the state in their own interest. They'll construct coercive apparatuses to subordinate others to their power, which will itself enable further accumulations of power, etc., until finally the society is ruled by an oligarchy. Thus, from "pure" capitalism you get an oligarchy with the power to coerce.
However obvious this point may seem to those possessed of common sense, it's far from obvious to libertarians and most conservatives. According to Friedman, "the kind of economic organization that provides economic freedom directly, namely, competitive capitalism, also promotes political freedom because it separates economic power from political power and in this way enables the one to offset the other." Here we encounter the typical naïve idealism of conservatives (and, indeed, of centrists and liberals), which I've discussed at length here . Rather than analyzing the real conditions of real social structures, conservatives traffic in airy abstractions about "freedom," "the separation of political and economic power," the lofty virtues of "competitive capitalism," and so on. Evidently it doesn't occur to Friedman that economic power will tend to confer political power, and therefore that, far from offsetting each other, the two will be approximately fused. The economically powerful might not directly hold political office, but because of the resources they possess, they'll have inordinate power and influence over political leaders. This is intuitively obvious, but it's also borne out by empirical research .
It's worth pointing out, too, something that Larson doesn't really focus on: within corporations, freedom, even negative freedom, is severely curtailed. In the absence of a union, the employee has hardly any rights. There's no freedom of expression, for example, and the boss can threaten you, manipulate you however he wants, verbally abuse you, behave horrendously towards you with probably no repercussions for himself. Capitalism in fact is a kind of fragmented totalitarianism, as privately totalitarian corporate entities proliferate all over society and constitute its essential infrastructure, its foundation . The more oligopolistic they become, to some degree even fused with the state, the less "fragmented" and more dangerous the totalitarianism is. Eventually the "libertarian" millennium might be achieved in which all countervailing forces, such as unions, are eradicated and the population is left wholly at the mercy of corporations, reveling in its sublime freedom to be totally dominated.
Anyway, to resume the thread: Larson is right that "in portraying [the] concentration of money in society as a reasonable development" -- e.g., as a reward for successfully competing against other capitalists -- "the libertarian tradition completely dismisses the power of concentrated money." Hayek, for example, claims that in a "competitive society" (a meaningless abstraction: different kinds of societies can be "competitive") nobody possesses excessive power. "So long as property is divided among many owners, none of them acting independently has exclusive power to determine the income and position of particular people." Okay, fine, maybe not exclusive power, but to the degree that property is divided among fewer and fewer owners, these people can achieve overwhelming power to determine the income and position of others. Such as by acquiring greater "positive freedom" to dominate the state in their interests and against the interests of others, who thus proportionately lose positive freedom and possibly (again) even negative freedom, e.g. if the wealthy can get laws passed that restrict dissidents' right to free speech or free assembly.
More generally, it goes without saying that positive freedom is proportional to how much money you have. It apparently doesn't bother most libertarians that if you're poor and unable to find an employer to rent yourself to (in the gloriously "free, voluntary, and non-coercive" labor market), you won't be able to eat or have a minimally decent life. Hopefully private charities and compassionate individuals will come forward to help you; but if not, well, it's nothing that society as a whole should care about. Strictly speaking, there is no right to live (or to have shelter, food, health care, education, etc.); there is only a right not to be interfered with by others (except in the workplace). What a magnificent moral vision.
Libertarians admit that concentrations of wealth emerge in capitalism, but they deprecate the idea that capitalism leads to competition-defeating market concentration in such forms as oligopolies, monopolies, and monopsonies (like Wal-Mart). Usually these are created, supposedly, by government interference. But most businessmen and serious scholars disagree, pointing, for instance, to the significance of economies of scale. The famous business historian Alfred Chandler showed that many industries quickly became oligopolistic on the basis, in large part, of economies of scale. Historian Douglas Dowd observes that large-scale industrial technology has made it both necessary for firms to enlarge and possible for them to control their markets, while Australian economist Steve Keen argues that "increasing returns to scale mean that the perfectly competitive market is unstable: it will, in time break down [into oligopoly or monopoly]."
Larson might have gone further in this line of argument by emphasizing just how much capitalists hate market discipline -- i.e., the "free market" -- and are constantly trying to overcome it. They're obsessed with controlling markets, whether through massive advertising campaigns, destruction or absorption of their competitors, price-fixing and other forms of collusion, or the formation of hundreds of trade associations. The historian Gabriel Kolko's classic study The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900–1916 revealed that the hatred of market anarchy is so extreme that Progressive-Era oligopolists were actually the main force behind government regulation of industry (to benefit business, not the public), as with the Meat Inspection Act of 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act, the Federal Reserve Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act. Andrew Carnegie and Elbert H. Gary, head of U.S. Steel, even advocated government price-fixing! So much for the corporate propaganda about how wonderful free markets are.
If government regulation is primarily responsible for monopoly elements in industries, as Friedman and Hayek argue, then you'd think that the deregulation tsunami of the neoliberal era would have led to greater competition across the economy. Did it? Not exactly. Larson quotes a Forbes article:
Since freight railroads were deregulated in 1980, the number of large, so-called Class I railroads has shrunk from 40 to seven. In truth, there are only four that matter These four superpowers now take in more than 90% of the industry's revenue An estimated one-third of shippers have access to only one railroad.
Quod erat demonstrandum . But there are many other examples. The deregulatory Telecommunications Act of 1996 was supposed to throw open the industry to competition; what it accomplished, according to the Wall Street Journal , was "a new phase in the hyper-consolidation of the cable industry An industry that was once a hodgepodge of family-owned companies has become one of the nation's most visible and profitable oligopolies." These trends have occurred throughout the media , on a global scale.
The same consolidation is found in the airline industry, where deregulation "set off a flurry of mergers" (as the Journal notes), "creating a short roster of powerful giants. And consumers are, in many cases, paying the price." In fact, it's well known that deregulation has facilitated an enormous wave of mergers and acquisitions since the 1980s. (Similarly, the big businesses, and later the mergers, of the Gilded Age appeared in a time of little public regulation.) All this market-driven oligopolization has certainly not increased consumer freedom, or the freedom of anyone but the top fraction of one percent in wealth.
Speaking of communications and the media, another classic libertarian claim is hollow: far from encouraging a rich and competitive diversity of information and opinion, the free market tends to narrow the spectrum of opinion and information sources. When Hayek writes of totalitarian governments that "The word 'truth' ceases to have its old meaning. It describes no longer something to be found, with the individual conscience as the sole arbiter it becomes laid down by authority," referring to the "spirit of complete cynicism as regards truth the loss of the sense of even the meaning of truth," it is easy to think he's describing the mass media in the heavily capitalist United States. For one thing, because of scale economies and other market dynamics, over time fewer and fewer people or groups can afford to run, say, a successful and profitable newspaper. Across the West, in the twentieth century competition eventually weeded out working-class newspapers that had fewer resources than the capitalist mass media, and the spectrum of information consumed by the public drastically narrowed. "Market forces thus accomplished more than the most repressive measures of an aristocratic state," to quote the authors of an important study .
At the same time, the sources of information became less and less independent, due to the development of the advertising market. Advertisers "acquired a de facto licensing power because, without their support, newspapers ceased to be economically viable." As Edward Herman says, it wasn't the final consumer's but the advertiser's choices that determined media prosperity and survival, and hence the content (broadly speaking) of the news and opinion pieces. Moreover, the media increasingly consisted of giant corporations who had basically the same interests as advertisers anyway. The result corresponded less to Friedman's slogan Free to Choose than to Edward Bernays' slogan Free to Imagine That We Choose (because what we're choosing from is a narrow range of corporate and government propaganda ).
Capitalism vs. Freedom also has a chapter on "political freedom," and another on the "freedom of future generations" -- which is nonexistent in a strictly capitalist society because future generations have no money and therefore no power. They have to deal with whatever market externalities result from their ancestors' monomaniacal pursuit of profit. Including the possible destruction of civilization from global warming, a rather large externality. Even in the present, the IMF has estimated that the "external" costs of using fossil fuels, counting public health effects and environmental ramifications, are already $5 trillion a year. Again, this should suggest to anyone with a few neurons still functioning that markets aren't particularly "efficient." Especially considering the existence of major public goods that are undersupplied by the market, such as roads, bridges, sanitation systems, public parks, libraries, scientific research, public education, and social welfare programs. What do Friedman and Hayek think of these things? Well, Hayek was writing for a Western European audience, so he had to at least pretend to be reasonable. "[T]he preservation of competition [is not] incompatible with an extensive system of social services," he wrote, which leaves "a wide and unquestioned field for state activity." Okay. But that's a significant concession. Apparently his "libertarianism" wasn't very consistent.
For Friedman, public goods should be paid for by those who use them and not by a wealthy minority that is being taxed against its wishes. "There is all the difference in the world," he insists, "between two kinds of assistance through government that seem superficially similar: first, 90 percent of us agreeing to impose taxes on ourselves in order to help the bottom 10 percent, and second, 80 percent voting to impose taxes on the top 10 percent to help the bottom 10 percent." Thus, the wealthy and powerful shouldn't have to pay taxes to maintain services from which they don't directly benefit. We shouldn't subtract any of the positive freedom from people who have an enormous amount of it (i.e., of power , the concentration of which libertarians are supposed to oppose ) in order to give more positive freedom to people who have very little of it. That would be unforgivably compassionate.
Most of Larson's chapter on political freedom consists of salutary reminders of how politics actually works in the capitalist United States. Drawing on Thomas Ferguson's investment theory of party competition , Larson describes the political machinations of big business, the concerted and frequently successful efforts to erode the positive and negative freedoms of the populace, the permanent class war footing, the fanatical union-busting, the absurdly cruel austerity programs of the IMF (which, again, serve but to crush popular freedom and power), and the horrifying legacy of European and U.S. imperialism around the world. Readers who want to learn more about the dark side of humanity can consult William Blum's Killing Hope , Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine (which also describes Hayek and Friedman's love-affairs with neo-Nazi Latin American generals), Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilization , and most of Noam Chomsky's books . In light of all these practices and policies that have emerged, directly or indirectly, out of the dynamics of the West's market economy, to argue that capitalism promotes human freedom is to be a hopeless intellectual fraud and amoral minion of power.
(If that judgment sounds harsh, consider this gem from Hayek, directed against measures to ensure worker security: "It is essential that we should relearn frankly to face the fact that freedom can be had only at a price and that as individuals we must be prepared to make severe material sacrifices to preserve our liberty." More exactly, working-class individuals have to make severe sacrifices to preserve the liberty of the capitalist class.)
In fact, to the extent that we have freedom and democracy at all, it has been achieved mainly through decades and centuries of popular struggle against capitalism, and against vicious modes of production and politics (including slavery and Latin American semi-feudalism) that have been essential to the functioning of the capitalist world-economy. Göran Therborn's classic article " The Rule of Capital and the Rise of Democracy " gives details, as does Howard Zinn's famous People's History of the United States .
Larson, unlike the charlatans whose work he reviews, actually does believe that "concentrated power is opposed to human freedom," so he dedicates his final chapter to briefly expositing a genuinely libertarian vision, that of socialism. Here I need only refer to the work of such writers as Anton Pannekoek, Rudolf Rocker, Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Murray Bookchin, and others in the anarchist and/or left-Marxist tradition. There's a lot of talk of socialism these days, but few commentators (except on the left) know what they're talking about. For instance, like Hayek and Friedman, they tend to equate socialism with state control, authoritarianism, the Soviet Union, and other boogeymen. This ignores the fact that anarchism, which reviles the state, is committed to socialism. So virtually all mainstream commentary on socialism is garbage and immediately refuted from that one consideration alone. The basic point that conservatives, centrists, and liberals refuse to mention, because it sounds too appealing, is that socialism means nothing else but worker and community control. Economic, political, and social democracy. It is, in essence, a set of moral principles that can theoretically be fleshed out in a variety of ways, for instance some preserving a place for the market and others based only on democratic planning (at the level of the neighborhood, the community, the firm, the city, the nation, etc.). The core of socialism is freedom -- the absence of concentrated power -- not absolute equality.
Whether a truly socialist, libertarian society will ever exist is an open question, but certain societies have approached the ideal more closely than others. The Soviet Union was, and the U.S. is, very far from socialism, while Scandinavian countries are a little closer (since the population generally has more freedom and power there than in the U.S. and the Soviet Union). The Bolivian Constitution of 2009 is vastly closer to socialism, which is to say morality and the ideal of human dignity, than the reactionary U.S. Constitution . On a smaller scale, worker cooperatives -- see this book -- tend to embody a microcosmic socialism.
Larson ends his book on the note sounded by Rosa Luxemburg a century ago: socialism or barbarism . Margaret Thatcher's infamous declaration "There is no alternative" can now be given a more enlightened meaning: there is no alternative to socialism, except the destruction of civilization and maybe the human species. Morality and pragmatic necessity, the necessities of survival, now coincide. Concentrated corporate power must be dismantled and democracy substituted for it -- which is a global project that will take generations but is likely to develop momentum as society experiences ever-greater crises.
In the end, perhaps Friedman, Hayek, and their ilk will be seen to have contributed to the realization of a truly libertarian program after all, albeit indirectly. For by aiding in the growth of an increasingly authoritarian system, they may have hastened the birth of a democratic opposition that will finally tear up the foundations of tyranny and lay the groundwork for an emancipated world. Or at least a world in which Friedmans and Hayeks can't become intellectual celebrities. For now, I'd settle for that. Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: Chris Wright
Chris Wright has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the author of Notes of an Underground Humanist , Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States , and Finding Our Compass: Reflections on a World in Crisis . His website is www.wrightswriting.com .
Aug 05, 2018 | www.unz.com
UnzReader , August 3, 2018 at 2:31 am GMT@AaronB
AaronB, your observations are always insightful and interesting. I wonder if you believe in freewill at all, even in "insignificant" matters because time and sequence are all important and such trivial events set up the really big ones in our lives.
"Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free but as causally bound as the stars in their motions." – Albert Einstein.
I look forward to your response.
Jul 26, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
The children of America's white-collar middle class viewed life from their green lawns and tidy urban flats as a field of opportunity. Blessed with quality schools, seaside vacations and sleepover camp, they just knew that the American dream was theirs for the taking if they hit the books, picked a thoughtful and fulfilling career, and just, well, showed up.
Until it wasn't.
While they were playing Twister and imagining a bright future, someone apparently decided that they didn't really matter. Clouds began to gather -- a "dark shimmer of constantly shifting precariousness," as journalist Alissa Quart describes in her timely new book " Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America ."
The things these kids considered their birthright -- reputable colleges, secure careers, and attractive residences -- were no longer waiting for them in adulthood.
Today, with their incomes flat or falling, these Americans scramble to maintain a semblance of what their parents enjoyed. They are moving from being dominant to being dominated. From acting to acted upon. Trained to be educators, lawyers, librarians, and accountants, they do work they can't stand to support families they rarely see. Petrified of being pushed aside by robots, they rankle to see financial titans and tech gurus flaunting their obscene wealth at every turn.
Headlines gush of a humming economy, but it doesn't feel like a party to them -- and they've seen enough to know who will be holding the bag when the next bubble bursts.
The "Middle Precariats," as Quart terms them, are suffering death by a thousand degradations. Their new reality: You will not do as well as your parents . Life is a struggle to keep up. Even if you achieve something, you will live in fear of losing it. America is not your land: it belongs to the ultra-rich.
Much of Quart's book highlights the mirror image of the downwardly mobile middle class Trump voters from economically strained regions like the Midwest who helped throw a monkey wrench into politics-as-usual. In her tour of American frustration, she talks to urbanites who lean liberal and didn't expect to find themselves drowning in debt and disappointment. Like the falling-behind Trump voters, these people sense their status ripped away, their hopes dashed.
If climbing up the ladder of success is the great American story, slipping down it is the quintessential tragedy. It's hard not to take it personally: the ranks of the Middle Precariat are filled with shame.
They are somebodies turning into nobodies.
And there signs that they are starting to revolt. If they do, they could make their own mark on the country's political landscape.
The Broken Bourgeoisie
Quart's book takes a sobering look at the newly unstable bourgeoisie, illustrating what happens when America's off-the-rails inequality blasts over those who always believed they would end up winners.
There's the Virginia accountant who forks over nearly 90% of her take home pay on care for her three kids; the Chicago adjunct professor with the disabled child who makes less than $24,000 a year; and the California business reporter who once focused on the financial hardships of others and now faces unemployment herself.
There are Uber-driving teachers and law school grads reviewing documents for $20 an hour -- or less. Ivy Leaguers who live on food stamps.
Lacking unions, church communities and nearby close relatives to support them, the Middle Precariats are isolated and stranded. Their labor has sputtered into sporadic contingency: they make do with short-term contracts or shift work. (Despite the much-trumpeted low unemployment rate, the New York Times reports that jobs are often subpar, featuring little stability and security). Once upon a time, only the working poor took second jobs to stay afloat. Now the Middle Precariat has joined them.
Quart documents the desperate measures taken by people trying to keep up appearances, relying on 24/7 "extreme day care" to accommodate unpredictable schedules or cobbling together co-living arrangements to cut household costs. They strain to provide things like academic tutors and sports activities for their kids who must compete with the children of the wealthy. Deep down, they know that they probably can't pass down the cultural and social class they once took for granted.
Quart cites a litany of grim statistics that measure the quality of their lives, like the fact that a middle-class existence is now 30% more expensive than it was twenty years ago, a period in which the price of health care and the cost of a four-year degree at a public college nearly doubled.
Squeezed is especially detailed on the plight of the female Middle Precariat, like those who have the effrontery to procreate or grow older. With the extra burdens of care work, pregnancy discrimination, inadequate family leave, and wage disparities, (not to mention sexual harassment, a subject not covered), women get double squeezed. For women of color, often lacking intergenerational wealth to ease the pain, make that a triple squeeze.
The Middle Precariat in middle age is not a pretty sight: without union protection or a reliable safety net they endure lost jobs, dwindled savings, and shattered identities. In one of the saddest chapters, Quart describes how the pluckiest try reinvent themselves in their 40s or 50s, enrolling in professional courses and certification programs that promise another shot at security, only to find that they've been scammed by greedy college marketers and deceptive self-help mavens who leave them more desperate than before.
Quart notes that even those making decent salaries in the United States now see themselves barred from the club of power and wealth. They may have illiquid assets like houses and retirement accounts, but they still see themselves as financially struggling. Earning $100,000 sounds marvelous until you've forked over half to housing and 30% to childcare. Each day is one bit of bad luck away from disaster.
"The spectacular success of the 0.1 percent, a tiny portion of society, shows just how stranded, stagnant, and impotent the current social system has made the middle class -- even the 10 percent who are upper-middle class," Quart writes.
Quart knows that the problems of those who seem relatively privileged compared many may not garner immediate sympathy. But she rightly notes that their stresses are a barometer for the concentration of extreme wealth in some American cities and the widening chasm between the very wealthy and everybody else.
The Dual Economy
The donor-fed establishment of both political parties could or would not see this coming, but some prescient economists have been sounding the alarm.
In his 2016 book The Vanishing Middle Class , MIT economist Peter Temin detailed how the U.S. has been breaking up into a "dual economy" over the last several decades, moving toward a model that is structured economically and politically more like a developing nation -- a far cry from the post-war period when the American middle class thrived.
In dual economies, the rich and the rest part ways as the once-solid middle class begins to disappear. People are divided into separate worlds in the kinds of jobs they hold, the schools their kids attend, their health care, transportation, housing, and social networks -- you name it. The tickets out of the bottom sector, like a diploma from a first-rate university, grow scarce. The people of the two realms become strangers.
French economist Thomas Picketty provided a stark formula for what happens capitalism is left unregulated in his 2015 bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century . It goes like this: when the rate of return on the investments of the wealthy exceeds the rate of growth in the overall economy, the rich get exponentially richer while everyone becomes poorer. In more sensible times, like the decades following WWII, that rule was mitigated by an American government that forced the rich pay their share of taxes, curbed the worst predations of businesses, and saw to it that roads, bridges, public transit, and schools were built and maintained.
But that's all a fading memory. Under the influence of political money, politicians no longer seek a unified economy and society where the middle class can flourish. As Quart observes, the U.S. is the richest and also the most unequal country in the world, featuring the largest wealth inequality gap of the two hundred countries in the Global Wealth Report of 2015.
Who is to Blame?
Over and over, the people Quart interviews tend to blame themselves for their situation -- if only they'd chosen a different career, lived in another city, maybe things wouldn't have turned out this way. Sometimes they point the finger at robots and automation, though they arguably have much more to fear from the wealthy humans who own the robots.
But some are waking up to the fact it is the wealthy and their purchased politicians who have systematically and deliberately stripped them of power. Deprivations like paltry employee rights, inadequate childcare, ridiculously expensive health care, and non-existent retirement security didn't just happen . Abstract words like deregulation and globalization become concrete: somebody actually did this to you by promoting policies that leave you high and dry.
As Quart indicates, understanding this is the first step to a change of consciousness, and her book is part of this shift.
Out of this consciousness, many individuals and organizations are working furiously and sometimes ingeniously to alter the negative trajectory of the Middle Precariat. Quart outlines proposals and developments like small-scale debt consolidation, student debt forgiveness, adequately subsidized day care, and non-traditional unions that could help.
America also has a track record of broad, fundamental solutions that have already proven to work. Universal basic income may sound attractive, but we already have a program that could improve the lot of the middle class if expanded: Social Security.
Right now, a worker stops having to pay Social Security tax on any earnings beyond $128,400 -- a number that is unreasonably low because the rich wish to keep it so. Just by raising that cap, we could the lower the retirement age so that Americans in their 60s would not have greet customers at Walmart. More opportunities would open up to younger workers.
The Middle Precariat could be forgiven for suspecting that the overlords of Silicon Valley may have something other than altruism in mind when they tout universal basic income. Epic tax evaders, they stand to benefit from pushing the responsibility for their low-paid workers and the inadequate safety net and public services that they helped create onto ordinary taxpayers.
Beyond basic income lies a basic fact: the American wealthy do not pay their share in taxes. In fact, American workers pay twice as much in taxes as wealthy investors. That's why infrastructure crumbles, schools deteriorate, and sane health care and childcare are not available.
Most Americans realize that inequality has to be challenged through the tax code: a 2017 Gallup poll shows that the majority think that the wealthy and corporations don't pay enough. Politicians, of course, ignore this to please their donors.
And so the Middle Precariat, like the Trump voters, is getting fed up with them.
From Depressed to Energized
Quart astutely points out that income inequality is being written into the law of the land. Funded the efforts of billionaires like the Koch brothers, politicians have altered laws and constitutions across the country to cement the dual economy through everything from restricting voting rights to defunding public education.
Several Middle Precariats in Squeezed have turned to independent or renegade candidates like Bernie Sanders who offer broad, substantial programs like debt-free college and universal health care that address the fissures in their lives. They are listening to candidates who are not afraid to say that markets should work for human beings, not the other way around.
If Donald Trump's political rise "can be understood as an expression of the gulf between middle-class citizens and America's ruling classes," as Quart observes, then the recent surge of non-establishment Democratic candidates, especially democratic socialists, may be the next phase of a middle class revolt.
Recent surprise victories in Pennsylvania and New York in the Democratic primaries by female candidates openly embracing democratic socialism, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who bested Democratic stalwart Joe Crowley by running for Congress on a platform of free Medicare and public college tuition for all, may not be the blip that establishment Democrats hope. In New York, democratic socialist Julia Salazar is looking to unseat long-time state senator Martin Dilan. Actress Cynthia Nixon , running against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, has just proclaimed herself a democratic socialist and promises to raise taxes on the rich and boost funding for public schools. Michelle Goldberg recently announced in the New York Times that " The Millenial Socialists are Coming ," indicating the intense dislike of traditional politics in urban centers. These young people do not think of things like debt-free college or paid family leave as radical: they see it done elsewhere in the world and don't accept that it can't be done in America.
Historically, the more affluent end of the middle class tends to identify with and support the wealthy. After all, they might join their ranks one day. But when this dream dies, the formerly secure may decide to throw their lot in with the rest of the Precariats. That's when you have the chance for a real mass movement for change.
Of course, people have to recognize their common circumstances and fates. The urban denizens of New York and San Francisco have to see what they have in common with middle class Trump voters from the Rust Belt, as well as working class Americans and everybody else who is not ultra-rich.
If the growing ranks of Precariats can work together, maybe it won't take a natural catastrophe or a war or violent social upheaval to change America's unsustainable course of gross inequality. Because eventually, something has to give.
Sergey P , July 26, 2018 at 3:42 amathena , July 26, 2018 at 6:06 am
I think one crucial thing that has to change is the culture of extreme individualization.
Professed as a right for individual freedom and empowerment, in reality it serves to suppress disobedience with shame. If you earn like shit -- it's gotta be because YOU are shit. Just try harder. Don't you see those OTHER kids that did well!
Part of the blame is on New Age with it's quazi-buddhist narrative: basically, everything is perfect, and if you don't feel it that way, it's because you are tainted with envy or weakness.
Thus what is in fact a heavily one-sided battle -- is presented as a natural order of things.
I believe we need a new framework. A sort of mix of Marx and Freud: study of the subconscious of the social economy. The rich not just HAPPEN to be rich. They WANT to be rich. Which means that in some way they NEED others to be poor.
Of course, I'm generalizing. And some rich are just really good at what they do. These rich will indeed trickle down, they will increase the well-being of people. But there are others. People working in insurance and finance. And as their role in the economy grows -- as does their role in politics, their power. They want to have more, while others would have less.
But behind it all are not rational thoughts, not efficiency, but psychological trauma, pain of the soul. Without addressing these matters, we will not be able to change the world.
I'm sorry if my thoughts are somewhat fragmented. It's just something I've been thinking of a lot since I started reading NC, discovering MMT and heterodox approaches in general.NotTimothyGeithner , July 26, 2018 at 7:53 am
I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and completely agree with them all. :)Louis Fyne , July 26, 2018 at 8:53 am
The problem is the perception the Democratic Party is reliable as a partner. The culture wasn't a problem in 2008 when the Democratic candidate was perceived as wanting to raise taxes, pass universal health care, and end the wars.Urizenik , July 26, 2018 at 9:00 am
====Part of the blame is on New Age with it's quazi-buddhist narrative: basically, everything is perfect, and if you don't feel it that way, it's because you are tainted with envy or weakness.
Adam Curtis touched about this (and the 50's/60's "self-actualization movement) in his TV documentary "Century of Self." if i recall correctly. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=century+of+self
That's where I first heard of this theoretical link. I think that it's flat out right and post-WWII psycho-babble has seeped into society in pernicious ways (along with everything else, breakdown of nuclear family, etc). Unfortunately, can't prove it like Euclid.MC , July 26, 2018 at 10:16 am
"A sort of mix of Marx and Freud"– the " Frankfurt School " is a start, with the realization of "the culture industry" as force majeure in the "heavily one-sided battle." And ditto recommendation of "The Century of the Self."Left in Wisconsin , July 26, 2018 at 1:00 pm
There's also Zizek.DolleyMadison , July 26, 2018 at 3:02 pm
Both good suggestions.
Responding to Sergey P:
I think one crucial thing that has to change is the culture of extreme individualisation.
There are really only two alternatives to individualism. There is Durkheim-ian "society," in which we are all in this together – interdependent. I think this is still an appropriate lens for a lot of smaller cities and communities where people really do still know each other and everyone wants the community to thrive. And, of course, it is the only way to think about human society nested inside a finite Earth. But it can only work on a larger scale through mediating "institutions" or "associations." All the evidence shows, consistent with the piece, that precariousness by itself weakens social institutions – people have less time and money to contribute to making them work well.
And then there is Marx-ian "class." Which is to say, we are not all individuals but we are not all of one group. There are different groups with different interests and, not infrequently, the interests of different groups are opposed – what is good for one is bad for another – and if power is unequal between groups (either because some groups as groups have more power than others or because individuals with more power all have the same group affinity), then powerful groups will use that power to oppress others. In that case, the only remedy is to try to systematically empower the weak and/or disempower the strong. This also requires collective action – institutions, associations, government – and it is again noted that our collective institutions, most notably unions, have been seriously weakened in the last 40-60 years.
The real world doesn't always fit into neat categories. Trump's America First is an appeal to the "society" of USAmerica. Maybe there will be some improvements for working people. But the argument in the piece, perhaps not as clearly stated as I would like, is that the interests of the (former) middle class – as a class – have diverged from the interests of the upper class. Changing that equation requires collective action.Redlife2017 , July 26, 2018 at 5:08 am
Well saidJim Haygood , July 26, 2018 at 5:49 am
Naturally one must quote the great Frank Herbert from his novel Dune:
"Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them."
Or shorter: Follow the money.YankeeFrank , July 26, 2018 at 8:34 am
'We already have a program that could improve the lot of the middle class if expanded: Social Security.'
Never mind expanding it -- even the existing Social Security program is less than 20% funded, headed for zero in 2034 according to its trustees. Scandalously, these trustees owe no fiduciary duty to beneficiaries. Old Frank wanted pensioners to be forever dependent on his D party. How did that work out for us?
Take a look at the transmittal letter for the 2018 trustees report, released last month. Two public trustee positions are "VACANT," just as they were in last year's transmittal letter:
Just above these blank spaces is the signature of one Nancy Berryhill, "Acting Commissioner of Social Security." But wait --
On March 6, 2018, the Government Accountability Office stated that as of November 17, 2017, Berryhill's status violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which limits the time a position can be filled by an acting official; "[t]herefore Ms. Berryhill was not authorized to continue serving using the title of Acting Commissioner after November 16." Berryhill declared, "Moving forward, I will continue to lead the agency from my position of record, Deputy Commissioner of Operations."
By June 5th, Berryhill was still impersonating the Acting Commissioner, legally or not.
Summing up, even the trustees' one-page transmittal letter shows that Social Security is treated as a total and complete Third World joke by the US federal government.Kurtismayfield , July 26, 2018 at 8:44 am
Yeah, yeah. Gubmint can't do nuthin' rite. How about we take our government back from the plutocrats and set SS on solid footing again. There are no impediments other than the will of the people to use our power. Now that the Boomers are moving off all sorts of things, like 'thinking', and 'logic', will become prevalent again.Jamie , July 26, 2018 at 11:03 am
Never mind expanding it -- even the existing Social Security program is less than 20% funded, headed for zero in 2034 according to its trustees. Scandalously, these trustees owe no fiduciary duty to beneficiaries. Old Frank wanted pensioners to be forever dependent on his D party. How did that work out for us?
Correct, then the system will eventually be totally reliant on taxes coming in. According to 2011 OASDI Trustees Report
Beginning in 2023, trust fund assets will diminish until they become exhausted in 2036. Non-interest income is projected to be sufficient to support expenditures at a level of 77 percent of scheduled benefits after trust fund exhaustion in 2036, and then to decline to 74 percent of scheduled benefits in 2085
The benefits are never going to go completely away, the benefits will decrease if nothing is done. Things can be done to change this, such as an increasing the the cap on earnings, raising new revenues, etc. This is not exactly an "end of the world" scenario for SSI.
Also, no one complained when the excess SSI tax collected "Social security trust fund" was used to keep interest rates down by purchasing Government bonds.Kurtismayfield , July 26, 2018 at 11:29 am
The whole tax angle is a complete red herring. Raising the cap is not the answer. FICA is "the most regressive tax" the country imposes. Eliminating FICA altogether, doing away with the "trust fund" and the pretense that SS is not the government taking care of it's elderly citizens but is workers taking care of themselves, is the answer. If the emphasis in Quart's book on the rise of a new democratic socialism means anything, it means reconciling with the notion that it is OK for the government to take measures to ensure the welfare of the people. Pay-as-you-go SS can become simply the re-assumption of our collective responsibility to take care of our own, as a society, not as individuals.kgw , July 26, 2018 at 11:39 am
I would be fine with that if I could trust the Federal government to do the right thing. The problem is that we have too many people invested in the system, and I don't trust the Federal government to not screw people over in a new system. You know what will happen, they will set up a two tiered system where people over a certain age will keep their benefits, and the new people will get a system that is completely crapified or means tested.Anon , July 26, 2018 at 2:02 pm
Well-put The only way to eliminate the constant refrain of "but SS is (insert blithering comment on entitlement spending), is to shift resources to people rather than armies for the SuperRich.JCC , July 26, 2018 at 9:52 am
Yeah, more Butter–Less Guns!
(Now how do we stop the media hysteria about those big,bad Enemies -- Russia?!)Grumpy Engineer , July 26, 2018 at 11:00 am
So we should just ignore the fact that our own Govt has "borrowed" $2.8 Trillion, at least, from the SS Trust Fund so far and can't (won't) pay it back?
This "borrowing" should be illegal and I believe that "Old Frank" would be rolling in his grave if he knew that would happen.
And I sincerely doubt his intentions were to get SS on the books in order to keep us beholden to the Dem Party. And if that were true it is obvious that his party doesn't agree. If they did they wouldn't be assisting in gutting the program.Spring Texan , July 26, 2018 at 1:15 pm
The whole concept of creating and maintaining a multi-trillion dollar "trust fund" was irrevocably flawed. When the surplus payroll taxes were "invested" in government bonds, they entered the government's general fund and were promptly spent. The money is gone. That's why it's on the books as a debt owed to the Social Security administration. There are no actual assets behind the fund. It's just one part of the government owing money to another part of the government.
However, what would the alternative have been? Investing in the crap shoot known as the US stock market? No thanks. Or setting the funds aside in a bank account, where they would cease circulating through the economy? That wouldn't have worked either, as all dollars in circulation would have eventually ended up there, causing massive deflation.
None of these are workable. We should have gone on a strictly pay-as-you-go basis. If payroll taxes generated more revenue than was necessary, we should have cut payroll taxes and/or raised benefits. And if they fall short, we should raise payroll taxes and/or cut benefits.
Today, we cover about 95% of benefits with payroll taxes. The remainder comes from "trust fund redemptions", where general fund monies are given to the SSA to cover the shortfall. Given that our government is already running a deficit, this means more borrowing (or money-printing, depending on how you look at things).
When the "trust fund" is depleted, but SSA will lack the legal authority to claim any more general fund monies, but it would be quite easy for Congress to change the rules to simply state that "any SSA shortfall will be covered by the general fund". And I predict they will do so in 2034, as it would take less than a month of constituents complaining about reduced benefits to force even the strictest of deficit hawks to cave.
Or maybe they'll get creative and instead raise rates on the interest that the trust fund earns. Right now it's a 3% rate, but if Congress were to double or triple it, the trust fund would last much longer. [As would the debt owed to the SSA.] Heck, if they multiplied the interest rate by a factor of 11, then they could theoretically dispense with payroll taxes entirely. Right?Milton , July 26, 2018 at 10:37 pm
Yes, SS has contributed NOT ONE PENNY to the deficit and the reason it accumulated a surplus was so people could collect later. Now, they want to say that old surplus shouldn't count. That's thievery.ObjectiveFunction , July 26, 2018 at 6:44 am
tired old tripe and how much is the US military funded? I can answer that for you. It's ZERO. 0% funded! Take your heterodox BS to a bunch of freshman impressionables – it is only tolerated here because you are a fine writer and interesting as hell and know almost all there is about economic liberalism.Musicismath , July 26, 2018 at 7:29 am
Wow. So let's go full SSCodex for a bit and push this trend out to the limit.
While the unwashed masses remain a market for big Ag, big Pharma, big Auto, big (online) Retail, and a few others, it seems like the predatory 'fund' segment of the FIRE elite has moved on to devouring larger prey (capitalist autophagy?). The unbankable precariat are beneath their notice now, like pennies on the sidewalk.
So in that case, the 1% of the 0.1% has evolved beyond 'exploitation' in any Marxist sense. It is now indifferent to the very life or death of the precariat, at home or abroad, still less their security or advancement. It needs them neither for consuming nor producing, nor for building ziggurats.
(Just so long as the pitchforks aren't out – but that's what the credentialed minion 20% is for. And drones).
Here Disposables, have some more plastic and painkillers. Be assured the Alphas will be live tweeting the Pandemic, or Chicxulub 2.0, from Elon's luxury robot-serviced survival capsules (oh, you thought those were for use on Mars? Silly rabble!)
It's like that DKs mosh pit classic: "Uncounted millions whisked away / the rich will have more room to play"
[I exaggerate, of course, for illustration. Slightly.]athena , July 26, 2018 at 7:47 am
I think you can extend this analysis to the current U.K. Conservative Party. Commentators have started to notice that the Brexiteer wing of the party seems completely impervious to claims Brexit will harm the economy. Are the Tories no longer the natural party of British business, they ask?
Using your logic, we can say that a fund-interest-dominated Tory party simply has no interest in or need for the "ordinary" bits of the British business community anymore. What it wants are shorting and raiding opportunities, and from that vantage point a catastrophic Brexit is very attractive. Put these interests in coalition with a voter base largely living on guaranteed incomes and retirement funds of one sort or another and you have the surreal spectacle of an entire governing party and its supporters who are no longer anchored to the "real" economy at all. Yes, it's an exaggeration but it's an exaggeration that explains a few things, I think.ObjectiveFunction , July 26, 2018 at 8:47 am
You both need to read the 2005 leaked Citigroup "plutonomy memo", if you haven't yet. Very bright minds called it a decade ago, that the global economy isn't even an economy any longer in any traditional sense. This is part one: https://delong.typepad.com/plutonomy-1.pdfsharonsj , July 26, 2018 at 4:59 pm
"Plutonomy" sounds like some nasal epithet out of a Goebbels speech: " die Plutonomisten und Bolshewisten! "Louis Fyne , July 26, 2018 at 8:09 am
Great link. From page one, Citigroup thinks the global imbalance is a great opportunity. Nothing new here. For years I've been reading about stock and futures manipulations–and vulture capitalists–that cause people to die or kill themselves. The rich don't care; they see it as a way to make more money. And then you wonder why I've been talking revolution for years as well?athena , July 26, 2018 at 8:17 am
"Who is to Blame?"
Answer: Add the US wasting its blood and cash meddling in other countries' affairs. "honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none." bueller ?
Ironic as multilateralist/globalist/fan of US interventions George Soros supposedly provided some of the seed money for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.chris , July 26, 2018 at 8:40 am
I don't think Soros is diabolical or sadistic. He's just, let's say, "neurologically eccentric" and unimaginably wealthy.athena , July 26, 2018 at 9:25 am
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iipn6yM43sMChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 11:52 am
I just want to not die earlier than necessary because I can't afford health care. I'd also like to stop worrying that I'll spend my golden years homeless and starving because of some disaster headed my way. I gave up on status a long time ago, and am one of those mentioned who has little pity for the top 10%.John B , July 26, 2018 at 8:50 am
DittoDaniel F. , July 26, 2018 at 9:32 am
Sounds like a good book. I shall have to pick it up from my library, since buying new books is a stretch.
Nearly all income growth in the United States since the 1970s has gone into income obtained by the rich other than wages and salaries, like capital gains, stock options, dividends, partnership distributions, etc. To capture overall economic growth to which the entire society has contributed, Social Security benefits should be tied to economic growth, smoothed for the business cycle. If people believe benefit increases require tax increases, the tax should be applied to all earnings, not just salary/wages. Raising the $128,400 cap on income subject to SS taxes would thus increase taxes on the lower rungs of the upper middle class but not really address the problem.nycTerrierist , July 26, 2018 at 9:47 am
I apologise in advance for being blunt and oversimplifying the matter, but at the end of the day, (in my very humble and possibly uninformed opinion) nothing short of a mass beheading would work. The 0.1% doesn't really seem, uh, willing to let go of their often ill-gotten billions, and when they do (i.e. charities and such), they often end up being some kind of scam. I refuse to believe that the Zuckerberg-types operate their foundations out of genuine philanthropy. Acquisitions and mergers like Disney buying Fox or Bayer gobbling up Monsanto don't contribute anything to the well-being of the 99% either, and I think that's and understatement.
If there's going to be some kind of revolution, it needs to happen before the logical conclusion of rampaging capitalism. the OCP-type megacorp with its own private army. And, if there indeed is a revolution, what's next?Michael Fiorillo , July 26, 2018 at 10:14 am
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/25/betsy-devos-yacht-untied-causing-10000-damages/Newton Finn , July 26, 2018 at 9:36 am
Case in point: as a public school teacher who has been opposing so-called education reform for two decades, I can assure you that the "venture/vulture philanthropy" model that infests the education world has absolutely nothing to do with improving education, and everything to do with busting the teachers unions, privatizing the schools and turning them into drilling grounds for training young people to accept the subordination, surveillance, tedium and absurdity that awaits them in the workplace. For those lucky enough to have jobs.
As a result of this phenomena, I periodically suggest a new term on the education blogs I post on: "Malanthropy:" the process of of using tax exempt, publicly subsidized entities to directly and indirectly support your financial and political interests, but which are harmful to the public good"The Rev Kev , July 26, 2018 at 10:06 am
Clear and compelling analysis, although still a little MMT challenged. About to turn 70, I vividly remember living through a sudden sea change in American capitalism. In the late 1970s/early 80s, whatever undercurrents of patriotism and humanitarianism that remained within the postwar economy (and had opened the space for the middle class) evaporated, and almost overnight we were living in a culture without any sense of balance or proportion, a virulent and violent mindset that maxed out everything and knew not the meaning of enough. Not only the business world but also the personal world was infected by this virus, as ordinary people no longer dreamed of achieving a healthy and stable family life but rather became hellbent to "succeed" and get rich. Empathy, compassion, and commitment to social justice was no longer cool, giving way to self-interest and self-promotion as the new "virtues." Men, of course, led the way in this devolution, but there was a time in the 90s when almost every other woman I knew was a real estate agent. I touched upon a small male-oriented piece of this social devolution in an essay I wrote several years ago: Would Paladin Have Shot Bin Laden? For those who might be intrigued, here's the link:
https://newtonfinn.com/2011/12/15/would-paladin-have-shot-bin-laden/Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 10:49 am
What was needed was a Wyatt Earp, not a Paladin ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgvxu8QY01s ). His standard procedure in the old West was to use his Colt revolver to pistol-whip an offender. Short, sharp and effective.
But then again there was no way that Bin Laden was ever going to be taken prisoner. That bit on his resume as being a contractor for the CIA was a bit embarrassing after all.Newton Finn , July 26, 2018 at 12:22 pm
I remember the 50's and even under the hue of bright eyes saw that people were just as hell bent to 'get ahead' in their careers as now and that competing with 'the Joneses' in every crude way imaginable was the rage.
Perhaps more precise to say that in the early '80s, Capitalism reached a tipping point where gravity overcame thrust and virtues with latent vice became vices with the optics of virtue. That and the fact that the right actors always seem available -as if out of thin air, but in reality very much part of cause and effect – for a given state of entropy.BrianStegner , July 26, 2018 at 10:05 am
No doubt what was somewhat latent in postwar American capitalism became obscenely blatant in or around the Reagan era. It was all there before, of course, in former times like the Gilded Age. But in the midsize, now rustbelt city I grew up in and continue to live in, the upper middle class of my childhood and youth–the doctors, lawyers, corporate exec's, etc.–lived a few blocks away from my working class neighborhood, had nicer homes, drove caddys instead of chevys, and so forth, but their kids went to school with us working class kids, went to the same movies and dances, hung out in the same places, and all of us, generally, young and old, lived in essentially the same world. For example, my uncle, a lawyer, made maybe 3 times what my dad, a factory clerk, made. THAT was the split between the middle and upper middle class back then, at least in a fairly typical Midwestern city. THAT was what drastically and suddenly changed in the late 70s/early 80s and has only intensified thereafter.Expat2uruguay , July 26, 2018 at 10:28 am
Terrific article, but with so many "missing" words (words left out)–too many to list, gratis–you make it a serious challenge to consider sharing with literate friends on social media. Seriously, doesn't anyone re-read their work before "posting?"ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 11:40 am
Well, at least the missing words in this piece don't make sentences unintelligible. I've seen that happen before.
It's such a shame for authors to put so much work time and effort into their articles, but then allow the lack of an editor or final read-through to tarnish the entire work.David Miller , July 26, 2018 at 10:11 am
If they're so literate, they can fill in the missing words as the NC commentariat has apparently done with no difficulty.
The substance is well worth sharing, and widely.Eureka Springs , July 26, 2018 at 10:16 am
One thing that strikes me – a generation ago the talking-point robots of the right could decry "socialized medicine" and all those people supposedly dying while waiting for an operation in foreign, "socialized medicine" places. And they could largely get away with it because relatively few people had personal acquaintances outside their own area.
But now, anyone active in social media probably can interact freely with people all over the world and appreciate how pathetic things really are in the US.
I read on a sports-related forum where an English guy had been watching Breaking Bad and commented offhand that he was amazed at the cost of medical treatment for Mr. White. This turned into a discussion between Brits and Yanks about the NHS. And person after person chimed in "yeah, NHS is not perfect but this kind of thing could never happen here." And you saw the Americans – "yeah, our health care system really is a disgrace."
I'm not a big fan of the social media Borg in general, but here at least seems to be a good effect. It might over time enable more people to wake up as to how jacked up certain things are here.ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 11:50 am
I'd like to declare us a completely divided, conquered people.
In the last few weeks I've visited with many old friends all of them suffering in silence. Each and every one falling further behind, on the brink of disaster, if not already there. No matter their credentials, many highly credentialed with multiple degrees and or highly experienced in several fields. All with ridiculously high work ethics. All feel maintaining personal integrity is costing them an ability to 'get ahead'.
Many of these friends have multiple jobs, no debt, no car payment, some have insurance which is killing them, medical bills which bury them if they ever have so much as basic health issues, and they are thrifty, from the clothes they wear to the amount of rent they commit themselves. And yet 'staying afloat', is but a dream trumped by guilt and isolationism.
I often joke with my fellow country neighbors that it costs a hundred bucks to simply leave the house. It's not a joke anymore. At this point those still fighting for a paltry 15.00 should include a hundred dollar per day walk out your front door per diem.
A couple months back I gave my camper to an old acquaintance who had no record, found himself homeless after being falsely accused of a crime and locked up for two months. And another friend with full time management position, just gave up her apartment to move into a tent in another friends back yard. Both of these people are bright, hard working, mid forties, white, family peeps with great children. The very kind this article addresses.
The noose tightens and people are committing desperate acts. There is no solidarity. No vision of a way out of this.
Watch a ten dollar parking ticket bring a grown man to terror in their eyes. And he brought in a thousand bucks last week, but has been texting his landlord about past due rent all afternoon.
I feel like I'm on the brink of a million episodes of " Falling Down ".John , July 26, 2018 at 11:56 am
Indeed. But as consciousness is raised as to the real causes (not personal failure, not robots taking over), hopefully solidarity will grow.
Wonderful article, definitely want to read the book.sharonsj , July 26, 2018 at 5:09 pm
I don't think the 0.1% wanted to build a society like this, it is just the way the math works. Somewhere around 1980 the integrity of the US was lost and it became possible for the owning class to divorce themselves from their neighbors and arbitrage labor around the world. Computers and telecommunications made it possible to manage a global supply chain and Republicans changed the tax rules to make it easier to shut down businesses and move them overseas.
A different way to view this: as the wealthy earn profits they can use some of their cash to modify the rules to their benefit. Then they gain more cash which allows them to influence voters and politicians to modify the rules even more in their favor.
If people organized they could change the rules in their favor, but that rarely happens. We used to have unions (imperfect though they were) which lobbied for the working class.Louis , July 26, 2018 at 10:17 am
I think the 1980s was when I found out my wealthy cousins, who owned a clothing factory in Georgia, had moved it to–get ready for this–Borneo! And of course they are Republicans.John Wright , July 26, 2018 at 10:33 am
The collective decisions to pull up the drawbridge, and a lot middle-class people have supported these decisions are the major reason why there is a housing crisis and higher-education is so expensive.
A lot of people, especially middle-class people, come out with pitchforks every time a new housing development is proposed, screaming about how they don't want "those people" living near them and will vehemently oppose anything that isn't single-family homes which has resulted in the housing supply lagging behind demand, thus affordability issues.
These same people over the years have decided that tax-cuts are more important than adequately funding higher education, so higher education has become a lot more expensive as state support has dwindled.
As the saying goes you made you bed, now you get to sleep in it. Unfortunately so does the younger generation who may not have anything to do with the horrible decision making of the past.FluffytheObeseCat , July 26, 2018 at 10:58 am
The article stated Americans are "Petrified of being pushed aside by robots".
Maybe I associate with the wrong people, but I don't know any who fear being pushed aside by robots.
But I do know of someone who was being laid off from a tech firm and was finding his job moved overseas.
The deal management presented was, "you can leave now, with your severance package, or get two more weeks pay by training your replacement who will be visiting from overseas."
He trained the new worker for the two weeks.
The American worker is being hit, not by robots, but by outsourcing to other countries and by in-sourcing of labor from other countries.
Robots are expensive and will be avoided if a human can do the job cheaply enough.
That the article brings "fear of robots" into the discussion is a tell that the writer does not want to mention that it is the competition from others in the world wide labor force that depress USA wages.
In the USA, we are witnessing labor arbitrage encouraged by both parties and much of the media as they push USA wages toward world wide levels.
But not for the elite wage earners who gain from this system.Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 11:11 am
Agreed. The kind of pink collar and barely white collar employees this piece was focused on are not presently threatened by "robots". They are threatened by outsourcing and wage arbitrage.ambrit , July 26, 2018 at 12:24 pm
That the article brings "fear of robots" into the discussion is a tell that the writer does not want to mention that it is the competition from others in the world wide labor force that depress USA wages.
You may have a point there, and you are spot on that the vast bulk of job-loss is due to job migration and import of cheaper labor. But regardless of the writer's intent or simple laziness, don't be too fast to poo-poo the effect of Robots.
One problem is that we tend to measure job loss and gain without reference to the actual job loosers and the fact that re-training for them may well be impossible or completely ineffective or, at the very minimum, often extremely painful. So while automation may provide as many new jobs as it takes away old ones, that is cold comfort indeed to the worker who gets left behind.
Another, is that the fear of massive job loss to Robots is almost certainly warranted even if not yet fully materialized.Todde , July 26, 2018 at 1:01 pm
When the "Steel Wave" of robot workers comes ashore, I'll be near the head of the queue to join the "Robo Luddites." If the owners of the robot hordes won't pay a fair share of the costs of their mechanominions worker displacement activities, then they should be made to pay an equivalent share in heightened "Production Facility Security Costs." Ford Motors and the River Rouge plant strike comes to mind.
See: http://98937119.weebly.com/strike-at-the-river-rouge-plant-1941.htmlBrooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 1:35 pm
The robots are going to be shooting backambrit , July 26, 2018 at 9:45 pm
It'd be great to be right there with you on that fateful day, Ambrit :-) (And I've even got my gun with the little white flag that pops out and has "Bang!" written on it, all oiled up and ready to go). I suspect however that it will be a silent D Day that probably took place some time ago.
Hard Briexit looks to be baked in the cake
Global Warming disaster looks to be baked in the cake
Water wars look to be baked in the cake.
Massive impoverishment in developed and so called third world nations alike and insane 'last gasp' looting looks to be baked in the cake
Why would all manner of robots, the ones too tiny to see along with human looking ones and giant factories that are in reality themselves robots be the exception?G Roller , July 26, 2018 at 4:30 pm
We'd be facing robots, so that flag would have to go "Bang" in binary code. (Might even work. While they are trying to decipher the flag, we can switch their tubes of graphite lubricant with tubes of carborundum.)
When the technologically capable humans have all died off, will the robots perish likewise for lack of programmers?Arizona Slim , July 26, 2018 at 12:02 pm
"Robots" are software programs, do-it-yourself online appointments, voice recognition, "press 1 now." What's the point of retraining? All you're good for is to make sure the plug is in the wall.Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 1:46 pm
The act of training the overseas replacement could become an act of sabotage. Think of the ways that one could train the replacement to do the job incorrectly, more slowly than necessary, or not at all.funemployed , July 26, 2018 at 12:19 pm
Sabotage by miss-training.
In a lot of cases that doesn't require much 'intentional' effort. But the lure of cheap labor seems to conquer all. I've seen software companies take loss after loss on off-shore development team screw ups until they finally get it right. I even saw one such company go out of business trying rather than just calling it quits and going back to what was left of their core developers.ChristopherJ , July 26, 2018 at 2:03 pm
As I approach 40, having only realized in recent years that the constant soul-ache I've lived with my whole life is not some inherent flaw in my being, but a symptom of a deeply ill society, I desperately wish I could share in the glimmer of hope at the end of this post.
But I cannot. What drives me to despair is not the fragile, corrupt, and unsustainable social/political/economic system we're inheriting; nor is it the poisoned and increasingly harsh planet, nor the often silent epidemic of mental and emotional anguish that prevents so many of us from becoming our best selves. I retain great faith in the resilience and potential of the human spirit. And contrary to the stereotypes, I think my generation and those who have come after are often more intellectually and emotionally mature than our parents and grandparents. At the very least, we have a powerful sense of irony and highly tuned BS detectors.
What drives me to despair is so pathetically prosaic that I want to laugh and cry all at once as I type this. To put it as simply as I know how, a core function of all functional human societies is apprenticeship, by which I mean the basic process whereby deep knowledge and skills are transferred from the old to the young, where tensions between tradition and change are contested and resolved, and where the fundamental human need to develop a sense of oneself as a unique and valuable part of a community can flourish.
We have been commodified since before we were even born, to the point where opportunities for what Lave and Wenger would call "legitimate peripheral participation" in the kinds of work that yield real, humane, benefits to our communities are scant to nonexistent for most of us. Something has gone deeply awry in this core social function at the worst possible time in human history.
... ,,, ,,,lyman alpha blob , July 26, 2018 at 3:31 pm
thank you funemployed, perceptiveGayle , July 26, 2018 at 5:11 pm
Sympathies from a fellow traveler – your experience sounds similar to mine. I'm a little older and in my 20s I avoided getting a 'real' job for all the reasons you describe. When I hit my 30s and saw what some of the guys who had been hanging out in the bar too long looked like, and decided I ought to at least try it and see how it would go.
Turns out my 20 year old self had been right.David May , July 26, 2018 at 5:16 pm
"Some quirk of my psychology means doing those things creates an irresistible urge in me to slowly poison myself with alcohol and tobacco."
I think those things and drugs are conscience oblivators. Try gardening. Touch the earth. Grow actual food. Not hemp. Back away from the education racket. Good luck. Quit the poison.ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 7:08 pm
That was a wonderful post, very moving, thank you. These kind of testimonies are very important because they show the real human cost of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is truly a death cult. Please find an alternative to alcohol. Music, art, nature, etc.ambrit , July 26, 2018 at 9:58 pm
Thank you for sharing your compelling story. As someone who could be your mother, it is painful to me not only that this is your experience, but that you are so acutely aware of it. No blinders. Hence, I guess, the need for alcohol.
You write beautifully. Hope is hard to come by sometimes.Unfettered Fire , July 26, 2018 at 12:25 pm
At least you are self aware. Most people are not. As for the Ship of Status, let it sink. Find a lifeboat where you feel comfortable and batten down for the Roaring (20)40s yet to come. Once you find something to work for, the bad habits will lose much of their hold on you. As long as you don't slide into alcoholism, you have a chance.Newton Finn , July 26, 2018 at 5:10 pm
Life was kinder just 40 years ago, not perfect but way more mellow than it is today. Kids were listening to Peter Frampton and Stevie Wonder, not punk, grunge, rap and industrial music. What changed? Neoliberalism, the economic policy that is private sector "free market" driven, giving the owners of capital free, unfettered reign. Created by libertarians like Fredrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman, they sold it to the nation but failed to mention that little peccadillo about how privatization of government would usher in economic fascism.
"An extreme form of laissez-faire individualism that developed in the writings of Hayek, Friedman and Nozick they are also referred to as libertarians. They draw on the natural rights tradition of John Locke and champion's full autonomy and freedom of the individual."
What they meant was ECONOMIC freedom. They despise social freedom (democracy) because civil, labor, health, food safety, etc., rights and environmental protections put limits on their profits.
The "maximizing shareholder value" myth turns people into psychopaths . The entire neoliberal economic policy of the past 40 years is based on the false assumption that self-interest is the driving evolution of humanity. We're not all psychopaths, turns out. We're social beings that have mainly used cooperation to get us through these thousands of years of existence.
There's nothing wrong with wanting government to protect the public sector from predatory capitalists. Otherwise, society's value system turns upside down sick people are more valued than healthy violent are more valued to fill up the prison factories war becomes a permanent business a filthy, toxic planet is good for the oil industry a corporate governance with no respect for rights or environmental protections is the best capitalism can offer?
Thanks, but no thanks.
The easily manipulated right are getting the full assault. "Run for your lives! The democratic socialists want to use the government bank for everyone, not just the 1%!! They understand how the economy really works and see through our lies!! Before you know it, everyone will be enjoying a better quality of life! AAAAGHHH!!"
Even the IMF is getting a scolding for being so out-of-touch with reality. Isn't economics supposed to factor in conscience?
"If the IMF is to shake its image as an inward-looking, out-of-touch boys club, it needs to start taking the issue seriously. The effect of the male dominance in macroeconomics can be seen in the policy direction of the organisation: female economists are more likely to be in favour of Government-backed redistribution measures than their male counterparts.
Of course, the parochial way in which economics is perceived by the IMF, as nothing more than the application of mathematical models, is nothing new. In fact, this is how mainstream economics frequently is taught in universities all over the world. Is it any wonder that the IMF has turned out as it is?"
Michael Hudson, as usual, was right:
"Economics students are forced to spend so much time with this complex calculus so that they can go to work on Wall St. that there's no room in the course curriculum for the history of economic thought.
So all they know about Adam Smith is what they hear on CNN news or other mass media that are a travesty of what these people really said and if you don't read the history of economic thought, you'd think there's only one way of looking at the world and that's the way the mass media promote things and it's a propagandistic, Orwellian way.
The whole economic vocabulary is to cover up what's really happening and to make people think that the economy is getting richer while the reality is they're getting poorer and only the top is getting richer and they can only get rich as long as the middle class and the working class don't realize the scam that's being pulled off on them."Andrew Watts , July 26, 2018 at 12:54 pm
Unfettered Fire and funemployed: deeply appreciate your lengthy and heartfelt posts. It's a terribly small thing, but I have a suggestion to make that always helps me to feel a bit better about things or should I say to feel a bit better about the possibility of things. If you're game, and haven't already done so, search for the following free online book: "Equality" by Edward Bellamy. Then do no more than read the introduction and first chapter (and slightly into the second) to absorb by far the finest Socratic dialogue ever written about capitalism, socialism, and the only nonviolent way to move from the former to the latter–a way wide open to us, theoretically, right now. I know that's a hell of a qualifier.precariat , July 26, 2018 at 1:36 pm
Why do modern intellectuals insist on inventing euphemisms for already known definitions? The middle precariat is merely another term for the petty bourgeoisie. While they may have possessed economic benefits like pensions and owned minuscule amounts of financial assets they were never the dominant ruling class. Their socioeconomic status was always closer in their livelihoods to the working class. After the working class was effectively being dismantled starting in the 1970s, it has become the petty bourgeoisie's turn to be systematically impoverished.
This is the primary economic development of our era of late capitalism. The question is, what does it mean to be American if this country is no longer a land of opportunity?Mel , July 26, 2018 at 1:44 pm
Because the 'known definitions' do not apply anymore.
The middle has more in common with those below than those above. And here is the scary reason: everyone is to be preyed upon by the wealth extractors who dominate our politics/economy -- everyone. There is no social or educational allegieance, there is only a resource to be ruthlessly plundered, people and their ability to earn and secure.Andrew Watts , July 26, 2018 at 5:07 pm
Right. It's hardly a euphemism. The Middle Precariat are the people in the 9.9% who will not be part of the 8.9%.ProNewerDeal , July 26, 2018 at 1:16 pm
The so-called precariat lacks any sense of class consciousness and as a consequence are incapable of any kind of solidarity. Nor do they perceive any predatory behavior in the economic system. If the article is to be believed they blame themselves for their plight. These traits which include the admiration and imitation of the rich are the hallmarks of the petty bourgeoisie.
This disagreement over semantics is an example of the shallowness and superficiality of new ideas. Marx already predicted that they'd be unceremoniously thrown into the underclass in later stages of economic development at any rate.precariat , July 26, 2018 at 1:24 pm
thanks for this article.
The BigMedia & BigPols ignore the Type 1 Overqualified Underemployed cohort. Perhaps hopefully someone like the new Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will discuss it, her recently being of this cohort as an economist by degree working as a bartender. Instead we have examples of BigMedia/BigPol crying about "STEM worker shortage" where there already are countless underemployed STEM workers working Uber-ish type McJobs.
Afaict the only occupations (mostly) immune to Type 1 Overqualified Underemployment risk here in Murica are medical pros: physicians/dentists/pharmacists & possibly nurses. Otherwise there are stories of PhD Uber drivers, MBA strippers, & lawyers working Apple store retail, especially in the first few years post 2008-GFC but still present now. In other words, the US labor market "new economy" is resembling "old economy" of Latin America or Russia (proverbial physicist selling trinkets on the Trans-Siberia railway).Jean , July 26, 2018 at 1:34 pm
From Eureka Springs, this:
"I often joke with my fellow country neighbors that it costs a hundred bucks to simply leave the house. It's not a joke anymore. At this point those still fighting for a paltry 15.00 should include a hundred dollar per day walk out your front door per diem."
This is a stark and startling reality. This reality is outside the framework of understanding of economic struggle in America that is allowed by the corporate neoliberal culture/media.Sound of the Suburbs , July 26, 2018 at 1:38 pm
As the Precariat grows, having watched the .1% lie, cheat and steal – from them, they are more likely to also lie, cheat and steal in mortgage, employment and student loan applications and most importantly and sadly, in their dealings with each other. Everybody is turning into a hustler.
As to dealings with institutions, this comment is apt. I think this came from NC comments a couple of weeks ago. Apologies for not being able to attribute it to its author:
"Why should the worker be subservient to the employer? Citizens owe NO LOYALTY, moral or legal, to a someone else's money making enterprise. And that enterprise is strictly a product of signed commercial legal documents. Commercial enterprise has no natural existence. It is a man-made creation, and is a "privilege", not a "right"; just as a drivers license is a privilege and not an absolute right."Lambert Strether , July 26, 2018 at 3:35 pm
Economics was always far too dangerous to be allowed to reveal the truth about the economy. The Classical economist, Adam Smith, observed the world of small state, unregulated capitalism around him.
"The labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money. But every savage has the full fruits of his own labours; there are no landlords, no usurers and no tax gatherers."
How does this tie in with the trickledown view we have today? Somehow everything has been turned upside down.
The workers that did the work to produce the surplus lived a bare subsistence existence. Those with land and money used it to live a life of luxury and leisure.
The bankers (usurers) created money out of nothing and charged interest on it. The bankers got rich, and everyone else got into debt and over time lost what they had through defaults on loans, and repossession of assets.
Capitalism had two sides, the productive side where people earned their income and the parasitic side where the rentiers lived off unearned income. The Classical Economists had shown that most at the top of society were just parasites feeding off the productive activity of everyone else.
Economics was always far too dangerous to be allowed to reveal the truth about the economy.
How can we protect those powerful vested interests at the top of society?
The early neoclassical economists hid the problems of rentier activity in the economy by removing the difference between "earned" and "unearned" income and they conflated "land" with "capital". They took the focus off the cost of living that had been so important to the Classical Economists to hide the effects of rentier activity in the economy.
The landowners, landlords and usurers were now just productive members of society again. It they left banks and debt out of economics no one would know the bankers created the money supply out of nothing. Otherwise, everyone would see how dangerous it was to let bankers do what they wanted if they knew the bankers created the money supply through their loans.
The powerful vested interests held sway and economics was corrupted. Now we know what's wrong with neoclassical economics we can put the cost of living back in.
Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
Employees want more disposable income (discretionary spending). Employers want to pay lower wages for higher profits
The cost of living = housing costs + healthcare costs + student loan costs + food + other costs of living
The neoliberals obsessed about reducing taxes, but let the cost of living soar. The economists also ignore the debt that is papering over the cracks and maintaining demand in the economy. This can never work in the longer term as you max. out on debt.Livius Drusus , July 26, 2018 at 7:46 pm
> These young people do not think of things like debt-free college or paid family leave as radical: they see it done elsewhere in the world and don't accept that it can't be done in America.
An unexpected consequence of globalization is that a lot of people see how thing are done, elsewhere.
Part of me doesn't feel sorry at all for the plight of middle-class Americans. When times were good they were happy to throw poor and working-class people under the bus. I remember when the common answer to complaints about factory closings was "you should have gotten an education, dummy." Now that the white-collar middle class can see that they are next on the chopping block they are finding their populist soul.
At the end of the day we need to have solidarity between workers but this is a good example of why you should never think that you are untouchable and why punching down is never a good political strategy. There will always be somebody more powerful than you and after they are done destroying the people at the bottom you will probably be next.
Jul 27, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com
Authored by Lee Camp via TruthDig.com,
Our society should've collapsed by now. You know that, right?
No society should function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a "Star Wars" movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can't afford a $500 emergency . Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion . He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself.
Worldwide, one in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years . (If they only buy single-ply toilet paper.) Put simply, you cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation.
So shouldn't there be riots in the streets every day? Shouldn't it all be collapsing? Look outside. The streets aren't on fire. No one is running naked and screaming (usually). Does it look like everyone's going to work at gunpoint? No. We're all choosing to continue on like this.
Well, it comes down to the myths we've been sold. Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth, deeply entrenched, like an impacted wisdom tooth. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned.
I'm going to cover eight of them. There are more than eight. There are probably hundreds. But I'm going to cover eight because (A) no one reads a column titled "Hundreds of Myths of American Society," (B) these are the most important ones and (C) we all have other shit to do.Myth No. 8 -- We have a democracy.
If you think we still have a democracy or a democratic republic, ask yourself this: When was the last time Congress did something that the people of America supported that did not align with corporate interests? You probably can't do it. It's like trying to think of something that rhymes with "orange." You feel like an answer exists but then slowly realize it doesn't. Even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed into an oligarchy : A small, corrupt elite control the country with almost no input from the people. The rulers need the myth that we're a democracy to give us the illusion of control.Myth No. 7 -- We have an accountable and legitimate voting system.
Gerrymandering, voter purging, data mining, broken exit polling, push polling, superdelegates, electoral votes, black-box machines, voter ID suppression, provisional ballots, super PACs, dark money, third parties banished from the debates and two corporate parties that stand for the same goddamn pile of fetid crap!
What part of this sounds like a legitimate election system?
No, we have what a large Harvard study called the worst election system in the Western world . Have you ever seen where a parent has a toddler in a car seat, and the toddler has a tiny, brightly colored toy steering wheel so he can feel like he's driving the car? That's what our election system is -- a toy steering wheel. Not connected to anything. We all sit here like infants, excitedly shouting, "I'm steeeeering !"
And I know it's counterintuitive, but that's why you have to vote. We have to vote in such numbers that we beat out what's stolen through our ridiculous rigged system.Myth No. 6 -- We have an independent media that keeps the rulers accountable.
Our media outlets are funded by weapons contractors, big pharma, big banks, big oil and big, fat hard-on pills. (Sorry to go hard on hard-on pills, but we can't get anything resembling hard news because it's funded by dicks.) The corporate media's jobs are to rally for war, cheer for Wall Street and froth at the mouth for consumerism. It's their mission to actually fortify belief in the myths I'm telling you about right now. Anybody who steps outside that paradigm is treated like they're standing on a playground wearing nothing but a trench coat.Myth No. 5 -- We have an independent judiciary.
The criminal justice system has become a weapon wielded by the corporate state. This is how bankers can foreclose on millions of homes illegally and see no jail time, but activists often serve jail time for nonviolent civil disobedience. Chris Hedges recently noted , "The most basic constitutional rights have been erased for many. Our judicial system, as Ralph Nader has pointed out, has legalized secret law, secret courts, secret evidence, secret budgets and secret prisons in the name of national security."
If you're not part of the monied class, you're pressured into releasing what few rights you have left. According to The New York Times , "97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state cases end in plea bargains, with defendants pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence."
That's the name of the game. Pressure people of color and poor people to just take the plea deal because they don't have a million dollars to spend on a lawyer. (At least not one who doesn't advertise on beer coasters.)Myth No. 4 -- The police are here to protect you. They're your friends .
That's funny. I don't recall my friend pressuring me into sex to get out of a speeding ticket. (Which is essentially still legal in 32 states .)
The police in our country are primarily designed to do two things: protect the property of the rich and perpetrate the completely immoral war on drugs -- which by definition is a war on our own people .
We lock up more people than any other country on earth . Meaning the land of the free is the largest prison state in the world. So all these droopy-faced politicians and rabid-talking heads telling you how awful China is on human rights or Iran or North Korea -- none of them match the numbers of people locked up right here under Lady Liberty's skirt.Myth No. 3 -- Buying will make you happy.
This myth (Buying will make you happy) is put forward mainly by the floods of advertising we take in but also by our social engineering. Most of us feel a tenacious emptiness, an alienation deep down behind our surface emotions (for a while I thought it was gas). That uneasiness is because most of us are flushing away our lives at jobs we hate before going home to seclusion boxes called houses or apartments. We then flip on the TV to watch reality shows about people who have it worse than we do (which we all find hilarious).
If we're lucky, we'll make enough money during the week to afford enough beer on the weekend to help it all make sense. (I find it takes at least four beers for everything to add up.) But that doesn't truly bring us fulfillment. So what now? Well, the ads say buying will do it. Try to smother the depression and desperation under a blanket of flat-screen TVs, purses and Jet Skis. Now does your life have meaning? No? Well, maybe you have to drive that Jet Ski a little faster! Crank it up until your bathing suit flies off and you'll feel alive !
The dark truth is that we have to believe the myth that consuming is the answer or else we won't keep running around the wheel. And if we aren't running around the wheel, then we start thinking, start asking questions. Those questions are not good for the ruling elite, who enjoy a society based on the daily exploitation of 99 percent of us.Myth No. 2 -- If you work hard, things will get better.
According to Deloitte's Shift Index survey : "80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs" and "[t]he average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime." That's about one-seventh of your life -- and most of it is during your most productive years.
Ask yourself what we're working for. To make money? For what? Almost none of us are doing jobs for survival anymore. Once upon a time, jobs boiled down to:
I plant the food -- >I eat the food -- >If I don't plant food = I die.
But nowadays, if you work at a café -- will someone die if they don't get their super-caf-mocha-frap-almond-piss-latte? I kinda doubt they'll keel over from a blueberry scone deficiency.
If you work at Macy's, will customers perish if they don't get those boxer briefs with the sweat-absorbent-ass fabric? I doubt it. And if they do die from that, then their problems were far greater than you could've known. So that means we're all working to make other people rich because we have a society in which we have to work. Technological advancements can do most everything that truly must get done.
So if we wanted to, we could get rid of most work and have tens of thousands of more hours to enjoy our lives. But we're not doing that at all. And no one's allowed to ask these questions -- not on your mainstream airwaves at least. Even a half-step like universal basic income is barely discussed because it doesn't compute with our cultural programming.
Scientists say it's quite possible artificial intelligence will take away all human jobs in 120 years . I think they know that will happen because bots will take the jobs and then realize that 80 percent of them don't need to be done! The bots will take over and then say, "Stop it. Stop spending a seventh of your life folding shirts at Banana Republic."
One day, we will build monuments to the bot that told us to enjoy our lives and leave the shirts wrinkly.
And this leads me to the largest myth of our American society.Myth No. 1 -- You are free.
... ... ...
Try sleeping in your car for more than a few hours without being harassed by police.
Try maintaining your privacy for a week without a single email, web search or location data set collected by the NSA and the telecoms.
Try signing up for the military because you need college money and then one day just walking off the base, going, "Yeah, I was bored. Thought I would just not do this anymore."
Try explaining to Kentucky Fried Chicken that while you don't have the green pieces of paper they want in exchange for the mashed potatoes, you do have some pictures you've drawn on a napkin to give them instead.
Try running for president as a third-party candidate. (Jill Stein was shackled and chained to a chair by police during one of the debates.)
Try using the restroom at Starbucks without buying something while black.
We are less free than a dog on a leash. We live in one of the hardest-working, most unequal societies on the planet with more billionaires than ever .
Meanwhile, Americans supply 94 percent of the paid blood used worldwide. And it's almost exclusively coming from very poor people. This abusive vampire system is literally sucking the blood from the poor. Does that sound like a free decision they made? Or does that sound like something people do after immense economic force crushes down around them? (One could argue that sperm donation takes a little less convincing.)
Point is, in order to enforce this illogical, immoral system, the corrupt rulers -- most of the time -- don't need guns and tear gas to keep the exploitation mechanisms humming along. All they need are some good, solid bullshit myths for us all to buy into, hook, line and sinker. Some fairy tales for adults.
It's time to wake up.
bobcatz -> powow Fri, 07/27/2018 - 16:43 PermalinkDingleBarryObummer -> bobcatz Fri, 07/27/2018 - 16:49 Permalink
Myth #9: America is not an Israeli colonybfellow -> DingleBarryObummer Fri, 07/27/2018 - 16:55 Permalink
#10: Muh 6 Gorillion
#11: Building 7Oldguy05 -> Oldguy05 Fri, 07/27/2018 - 22:25 Permalink
815M people chronically malnourished according to the UN. Bezos is worth $141B.
$141B / 815M people = $173 per person. That would definitely not feed them for "multiple years". And that's only if Bezos could fully liquidate the stock without it dropping a penny.
Author lost me right there.BennyBoy -> Nunny Fri, 07/27/2018 - 18:51 Permalink
" Point is, in order to enforce this illogical, immoral system, the corrupt rulers -- most of the time -- don't need guns and tear gas to keep the exploitation mechanisms humming along. All they need are some good, solid bullshit myths for us all to buy into, hook, line and sinker. Some fairy tales for adults. "
Seems like there's tear gas in the air and guns are going to be used soon. The myths are dying on the tongues of the liars. Molon Labe!....and I'm usually a pacifist.Oldguy05 -> Nunny Fri, 07/27/2018 - 22:43 Permalink
"American Society Would Collapse If It Weren't For Invasions Of Foreign Countries, Murdering Their People, Stealing Their Oil Then Blaming Them For Making The US Do It."Proofreder -> vato poco Fri, 07/27/2018 - 18:39 Permalink
Eisenhower's speeches were awesome and true. But he was right there doing the same shit. Was he feeling guilty in the end?east of eden -> vato poco Fri, 07/27/2018 - 18:55 Permalink
Freedom - just another word for nothing left to lose ...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7hk-hI0JKw&list=RDEMoIkwgyb6gDyuA-bFyRTheEndIsNear -> HopefulCynical Fri, 07/27/2018 - 18:33 Permalink
Well, in a world driven by oil, it is entirely bogus to suggest that citizens have to work their asses off. That was the whole point of the bill of goods that was sold to us in the late 70's and early 80'. More leisure time, more time for your family and personal interests.
Except! It never happened. All they fucking did was reduce real wages and force everyone from the upper middle class down, into a shit hole.
But, they will pay for their folly. Guaran-fucking-teed.
As one who has hoed many rows of cotton in 115F temperatures as well as picking cotton during my childhood and early adolescence during weekends and school holidays, I concur. It was a very powerful inducement to get a good education back when schools actually taught things and did not tolerate backtalk or guff from students instead of babysitting them. It worked, and I ended up writing computer software for spacecraft, which was much fun than working in the fields.
Jul 20, 2018 | www.globalresearch.ca
The Sexual Passion of Orwell's Winston Smith
"Christianity gave Eros poison to drink; he did not die of it, certainly, but degenerated to Vice." – Frederick Nietzsche , Beyond Good and Evil
"Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen." – D. H. Lawrence , Lady Chatterley's Lover
"The so-called consumer society and the politics of corporate capitalism have created a second nature of man which ties him libidinally and aggressively to the commodity form. The need for possessing, consuming, handling and constantly renewing gadgets, devices, instruments, engines, offered to and imposed upon the people, for using these wares even at the danger of one's own destruction, has become a 'biological' need." – Herbert Marcuse , One Dimensional Man
There is a vast literature analyzing the political prophecy of George Orwell 's Nineteen Eighty-Four . Big Brother, double-speak, telescreens, crimestop, etc. – all applied to our current political situation. The language has become part of our popular lexicon, and as such, has become clichéd through overuse. Blithe, habitual use of language robs it of its power to crack open the safe that hides the realities of life.
There is no doubt that Orwell wrote a brilliant political warning about the methods of totalitarian control. But hidden at the heart of the book is another lesson lost on most readers and commentators. Rats, torture, and Newspeak resonate with people fixated on political repression, which is a major concern, of course. But so too is privacy and sexual passion in a country of group-think and group-do, where "Big Brother" poisons you in the crib and the entertainment culture then takes over to desexualize intimacy by selling it as another public commodity.
The United States is a pornographic society. By pornographic I do not just mean the omnipresent selling of exploitative sex through all media to titillate a voyeuristic public living in the unreality of screen "life" and screen sex through television, movies, and online obsessions. I mean a commodified consciousness, where everyone and everything is part of a prostitution ring in the deepest sense of pornography's meaning – for sale, bought.
And consumed by getting, spending, and selling. Flicked into the net of Big Brother, whose job is make sure everything fundamentally human and physical is debased and mediated, people become consumers of the unreal and direct experience is discouraged. The natural world becomes an object to be conquered and used. Animals are produced in chemical factories to be slaughtered by the billions only to appear bloodless under plastic wrap in supermarket coolers. The human body disappears into hypnotic spectral images. One's sex becomes one's gender as the words are transmogrified and as one looks in the mirror of the looking-glass self and wonders how to identify the one looking back.
Streaming life from Netflix or Facebook becomes life the movie. The brilliant perverseness of the mediated reality of a screen society – what Guy Debord calls The Society of the Spectacle – is that as it distances people from fundamental reality, it promotes that reality through its screen fantasies. "Get away from it all and restore yourself at our spa in the rugged mountains where you can hike in pristine woods after yoga and a breakfast of locally sourced eggs and artisanally crafted bread." Such garbage would be funny if it weren't so effective. Debord writes,
The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images .Where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behavior.
Thus sex with robots and marrying yourself are not aberrations but logical extensions of a society where solipsism meets machine in the America dream.
As this happens, words and language become corrupted by the same forces that Orwell called Big Brother, whose job is total propaganda and social control. Just as physical reality now mimics screen reality and thus becomes chimerical, language, through which human beings uncover and articulate the truth of being, becomes more and more abstract. People don't die; they "pass on" or "pass away." Dying, like real sex, is too physical. Wars of aggression don't exist; they are "overseas contingency operations." Killing people with drones isn't killing; it's "neutralizing them." There are a "ton" of examples, but I am sure "you guys" don't need me to list any more.
Orwell called Big Brother's language Newspeak, and Hemingway preceded him when he so famously wrote in disgust In a Farewell to Arms ,
"I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice, and the expression in vain. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene "
This destruction of language has been going on for a long time, but it's worth noting that from Hemingway's WW I through Orwell's WW II up until today's endless U.S. wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, etc., there has been the parallel development of screen and media culture, beginning with silent movies through television and onto the total electronic media environment we now inhabit – the surround sound and image bubble of literal abstractions that inhabit us, mentally and physically. In such a society, to feel what you really feel and not what, in Hemingway's words, "you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel" has become extremely difficult.
... ... ...
But as we learn in 1984 and should learn in the U.S.A. today , "seemed" is the key word. Their triumph was temporary. For sexual passion reveals truths that need to be confirmed in the mind. In itself, sexual liberation can be easily manipulated, as it has been so effectively in the United States. "Repressive de-sublimation" Herbert Marcuse called it fifty years ago. You allow people to act out their sexual fantasies in commodified ways that can be controlled by the rulers, all the while ruling their minds and potential political rebelliousness. Sex becomes part of the service economy where people service each other while serving their masters. Use pseudo-sex to sell them a way of life that traps them in an increasingly totalitarian social order that only seems free. This has been accomplished primarily through screen culture and the concomitant confusion of sexual identity. Perhaps you have noticed that over the past twenty-five years of growing social and political confusion, we have witnessed an exponential growth in "the electronic life," the use of psychotropic drugs, and sexual disorientation. This is no accident. Wars have become as constant as Eros – the god of love, life, joy, and motion – has been divorced from sex as a stimulus and response release of tension in a "stressed" society. Rollo May, the great American psychologist, grasped this:
Indeed, we have set sex over against eros, used sex precisely to avoid the anxiety-creating involvements of eros We are in flight from eros and use sex as the vehicle for the flight Eros [which includes, but is not limited to, passionate sex] is the center of vitality of a culture – its heart and soul. And when release of tension takes the place of creative eros, the downfall of the civilization is assured.
Because Julia and Winston cannot permanently escape Oceania, but can only tryst, they succumb to Big Brother's mind control and betray each other. Their sexual affair can't save them. It is a moment of beauty and freedom in an impossible situation. Of course the hermetically sealed world of 1984 is not the United States. Orwell created a society in which escape was impossible. It is, after all, an admonitory novel – not the real world. Things are more subtle here; we still have some wiggle room – some – although the underlying truth is the same: the U.S. oligarchy, like "The Party," "seeks power entirely for its own sake" and "are not interested in the good of others," all rhetoric to the contrary. Our problem is that too many believe the rhetoric, and those who say they don't really do at the deepest level. Fly the flag and play the national anthem and their hearts are aflutter with hope. Recycle old bromides about the next election when your political enemies will be swept out of office and excitement builds as though you had met the love of your life and all was well with the world.
But understanding the history of public relations, advertising, propaganda, the CIA, the national security apparatus, technology, etc., makes it clear that such hope is baseless. For the propaganda in this country has penetrated far deeper than anyone can imagine, and it has primarily done this through advanced technology and the religion of technique – machines as pure abstractions – that has poisoned not just our minds, but the deepest wellsprings of the body's truths and the erotic imagination that links us in love to all life on earth.
In "Defence of Poetry," Percy Bysshe Shelley writes:
The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.
We are now faced with the question: Can we escape the forces of propaganda and mind control that run so very deep into American life? If so, how? Let's imagine a way out.
Orwell makes it very clear that language is the key to mind control, as he delineates how Newspeak works. I think he is right. And mind control also means the control of our bodies, Eros, our sex, our physical connections to all living beings and nature. Today the U.S. is reaching the point where "Oldspeak" – Standard English – has been replaced by Newspeak, and just "fragments of the literature of the past" survive here and there.
This is true for the schooled and unschooled. In fact, those more trapped by the instrumental logic, disembodied data, and word games of the power elite are those who have gone through the most schooling, the indoctrination offered by the so-called "elite" universities. I suspect that more working-class and poor people still retain some sense of the old language and the fundamental meaning of words, since it is with their sweat and blood that they "earn their living." Many of the highly schooled are children of the power elite or those groomed to serve them, who are invited to join in living the life of power and privilege if they swallow their consciences and deaden their imaginations to the suffering their "life-styles" and ideological choices inflict on the rest of the world. In this world of The New York Times , Harvard, The New Yorker , Martha's Vineyard, The Washington Post , Wall St., Goldman Sachs, the boardrooms of the ruling corporations, all the corporate media, etc., language has become debased beyond recognition. Here, as Orwell said of Newspeak, "a heretical thought should be literally unthinkable, at least as far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express." The intelligently orthodox, he adds, must master the art of "doublethink" wherein they hold two contradictory ideas in their minds simultaneously, while accepting both of them. This is the key trick of logic and language that allows the power elites and their lackeys in the U.S. today to master the art of self-deception and feel good about themselves as they plunder the world. In this "Party" world, the demonization, degradation, and killing of others is an abstraction; their lives are spectral. Orwell describes doublethink this way:
To tell deliberate lives while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink . For by using the word one admits one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.
... ... ...
Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely; he is a frequent contributor to Global Research. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/ .
Jul 23, 2018 | www.globalresearch.ca
... ... ...
The Helsinki hysteria shone a spotlight on the utter impotence of the establishment media and their Deep State controllers to make their delusions reality. Never before has there been such a gaping chasm visible between the media's "truth" and the facts on the ground. Pundits compared the summit to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 , with some even reaching for the brass ring of the Holocaust by likening it to Kristallnacht , while polls revealed the American people really didn't care .
Worse, it laid bare the collusion between the media and their Deep State handlers – the central dissemination point for the headlines, down to the same phrases, that led to every outlet claiming Trump had "thrown the Intelligence Community under the bus" by refusing to embrace the Russia-hacked-our-democracy narrative during his press conference with Putin. Leaving aside the sudden ubiquity of "Intelligence Community" in our national discourse – as if this network of spies and murderous thugs is Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood – no one seriously believes every pundit came up with "throws under the bus" as the proper way of describing that press conference.
The same central control was apparent in the unanimous condemnations of Putin – that he murders journalists , breaks international agreements , uses banned chemical weapons , kills women and children in Syria , and, of course, meddles in elections . For every single establishment pundit to exhibit such a breathtaking lack of insight into their own government's misdeeds is highly unlikely. Many of these same talking heads remarked in horror on Sinclair Broadcasting's Orwellian "prepared statement" issuing forth from the mouths of hundreds of stations' anchors at once. Et tu, Anderson Cooper?Helsinki – Trump and Putin – a Showdown for Summer Doldrums or a Genuine Attempt Towards Peace?
The media frenzy was geared toward sparking a popular revolt, with tensions already running high from the previous media frenzy about family separation at the border (though only one MSNBC segment seemed to recall that they should still care about that, and belatedly included some footage of kids behind a fence wrapped in Mylar blankets). Rachel Maddow , armed with the crocodile tears that served her so well during the family-separation fracas, exhorted her faithful cultists to do something . Meanwhile, national-security neanderthal John Brennan all but called for a coup, condemning the president for the unspeakable "high crimes and misdemeanors" of seeking to improve relations with the world's second-largest nuclear power. He called on Pompeo and Bolton, the two biggest warmongers in a Trump administration bristling with warmongers, to resign in protest. This would have been a grand slam for world peace, but alas, it was not to be. Even those two realize what a has-been Brennan is.
Congress wasted no time jumping on the Treason bandwagon, led by Chuck Schumer conjuring the spectre of the KGB, Marco Rubio as neocon point-man (one imagines Barbara Bush rolling in her grave at his usurpation of Jeb's rightful role) proposing locked-and-loaded sanctions in case of future "meddling," and John McCain , still desperate to take the rest of the world with him before he finally kicks a long-overdue bucket, condemning the "disgraceful" display of two heads of state trying to come to an agreement about matters of mutual interest. The Pentagon has invested a lot of time and money in positioning Russia as Public Enemy #1, and for Trump to put his foot in it by making nice with Putin might diminish the size of their weapons contracts – or the willingness of the American people to tolerate more than half of every tax dollar disappearing down an unaccountable hole . Peace? Eh, who needs it. Cash , motherfucker.
Trump's grip on his long-elusive spine was only temporary, and he held another press conference upon returning home to reiterate his trust in the intelligence agencies that have made no secret of their utter loathing for him since day one. When the lights went out at the climactic moment, it became clear for anyone who still hadn't gotten the message who was running the show here (and Trump, to his credit, actually joked about it). The Intelligence Community believes it is God, and it hath smote Trump good. Smelling blood in the water, the media redoubled their shrieking for several days, and crickets. On to the Playmates .
Sacha Baron Cohen 's latest series, "Who is America," targeted Ted Koppel for one segment. Koppel cut the interview short after smelling a rat and expressed his high-minded concern that Cohen's antics would hurt Americans' trust in reporters. But after a week of the entire media establishment screaming that the sky is falling while the heavens remain firmly in place, Cohen is clearly the least of their problems. At least he's funny.
Helen Buyniski is a journalist and photographer based in New York City. She covers politics, sociology, and other anthropological/cultural phenomena. Helen has a BA in Journalism from New School University and also studied at Columbia University and New York University. Find more of her work at http://www.helenofdestroy.com and http://firstname.lastname@example.org .