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maya1971: “Don’t ruin my country. Please. Don’t sink its people in a bath of blood.”

1:39 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

We all should know the Western ‘news’ media has uniformly reached new lows in embarrassing imperialist propaganda on the Ukraine coup/putsch/revolution, so we must search in somewhat odd places to find non-biased stuff, words that have that gritty real feel. The comment below by (I very much think) an authentic Ukrainian — maya1971* — hits that spot, and deserves as many readers as it can find. It is comment #62 under the ‘liberal’ Guardian’s absurdly fear-mongering ‘news’ report, ‘Russia puts military on high alert ((NO IT DIDN’T**)) as Crimea protests leave one man dead’. I’ve made many corrections to the grammar, spelling and paragraphing of, and added links to, maya1971′s original comment:

maya1971
26 February 2014 8:56pm
65 Recommend

I am a Ukrainian. Somebody has to be. I am not a cleaner or plumber or strawberries picker. Surprisingly, many of us have better aspirations in life and have managed to achieve them, but this is not the point.

I am appalled and shocked by what is happening to my country. We knew about corruption and abuse of power but to such an extent? But I am appalled even more so by how it is being ripped apart now. By a “democratic” opposition that lives in a bubble of luxury and absolute denial. By EU politicians who are now such frequent visitors to help us form the government. Absurd. Where else in the world do you see a representative of a foreign country, no matter how friendly and well-wishing, come to your country and tell you what sort of life you should have?

I suspect that these are all politicians who have failed badly in their own countries, with their own people, and are now trying desperately to secure their place in history, somehow, somewhere, by ruining and damaging a people already impoverished, deceived and betrayed by all.

They are offering a life of austerity to people who already live on 100 Euros a month. All of that will now be borrowed from people in other countries, equally living in the regime of austerity. Logic? If there is any?

And to the glamorous democratic opposition and your supporters! With no money in the budget, with the economy in ruins, the only thing you have done so far is to cancel the Russian language [See ‘The new Ukraine’s first law revokes Russian language rights’ and ‘Western media blacks out Ukraine’s revocation of Russian language rights’]. Why does it even matter? It does not seem to be a problem in civilized, calm and prosperous Switzerland with 3 languages. Or in Belgium with 2.

Has cancelling Russian miraculously increased your state budget? Created jobs? Or did it simply create smoke and mirrors as you are not capable of anything else? You did fight for power very hard, I can give you that. People died for you. But you must be terribly disappointed? There is nothing left for you to steal? So yeah, lets cancel Russian. One has to do at least something.

And have you forgotten that Maidan, even with thousands of people, does not represent 46 million? When some of you, our new “ democratic” leaders claim that the Nazi occupation was actually a liberation, have you asked my 77 year old mother whether she agrees with you? After all, she is a citizen of ‘a free and democratic Ukraine’(?) who survived 4 years of occupation as a child. She witnessed her village burnt to ashes by SS troops. Her father (my grandfather) was killed in one of those “mass-grave” battles in 1942. The same on my father’s side. My parents were the only people who survived out of their families. Have you asked many millions like her, which language does she want to speak, whether she wants you to shit on her memories?

Mind you, she is not an oligarch so her opinion does not count, does it?

Of course, she has only spent all her adult life, 55 years, working as a pediatric nurse. She survived war, ruins, hunger, cold, Stalin, communists, socialists, “perestroika”, collapse, capitalism, only so that people like you could come and steal everything from her. She survived again. So when there is nothing more that you can steal from millions like her, you want to rob them of their memories, and even their languages?

You claim that Ukrainian identity was robbed and ruined. Where? I grew up in Eastern Ukraine, often portrayed as pro-Russian. But in school, when it was still the Soviet Union by the way, I had as many hours of Ukrainian as of Russian. I speak both freely and fluently. (In fact, much better (grammatically and phonetically) than a famous boxer.)

And we never thought of ourselves as pro-this or pro-that. We just lived, studied, worked, moved forward. What were you doing all that time, I wonder? Why is there a need to label people as pro-this, pro-that? Did it not cross your arrogant and ignorant mind that they are simply scared, confused and once again betrayed?

If you want to write a new chapter in history of Ukraine like responsible and honest people, please do it. But if you want to re-write the whole history and rob people of their own, then no, you won’t get a vote from me.

Luckily for you, I don’t believe in violence and manipulations. So I guess you have won once again.

Oh yeah, there is Mr. Putin of course. I actually don’t know the guy or have ever seen him in Ukraine in all these years. It’s a tad tiring though, the same old story: “Will give you gas, will not give you gas.” Whatever, make up your mind. Seems we have an unlimited amount of tires to burn anyway. They have kept us really ‘warm’ all these long winter months.

I am Ukrainian. But above all, je viens de la Terre, I come from Earth. And so do you. All of you, regardless where you were born. Don’t ruin my country. Please. Don’t sink its people in a bath of blood. Don’t poison it by division, lies, hypocrisy and hatred towards each other. But if you can’t speak the truth, could you please just have a glass of wine and keep quiet.

*maya1971′s profile

**As I pointed out in a Guardian comment and as reported by Aljazeera, the Russian drills are routine. As with any drill, participants are supposed to act like its the real thing, to pretend to be on high alert, and so that may have given the Guardian the opportunity for its blatant fear-mongering headline. Here are the key portions of the Aljazeera report:

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued battle drills for army, navy and airforce troops based in Russia’s western military district, which borders Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states, Finland and the Arctic. …

[Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu said that “generally speaking, the drill is not in any way related to the events in Ukraine”.

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said that similar inspections were made regularly in Russia to ensure readiness.

Here’s to a less prettied up, less distracted, less disguised 2014

11:43 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Cartoon versions of Republican elephant and Democrat donkey

“In the new year could we be less distracted by the manufactured b.s. … designed to make us hate the Reds or the Blues?”

Great quote in yesterday’s Counterpunch from John Stauber:

Democracy is all but dead, snuffed out by centuries of a corporate economic system that has concentrated wealth and thus political power in the hands of an elite. That elite sits astride a self-destroying economy that is eating up the earth to churn out consumer crap and the vision of a shopping mall utopia. Nothing will get better for the poor or the planet until we individually and collectively come to grips with this reality, and any propaganda that disguises or pretties up this ugly situation is detrimental.

I wonder if in the new year we could be less distracted by the manufactured b.s. — produced by the Democratic and Republican Parties — designed to make us hate the Reds or the Blues? Just a little less? Or if we can keep our eyes on the prize more steadily, the prize being changing the economy into one that makes full employment at good wages our number one ‘left wing radical’ priority. Why is the latter so hard to achieve, when it is what any developed economy can achieve (don’t let the austerians fool you) and what everyone outside the wealthy elite wants?

Well, if you really want to know, not that it really matters: “Wall Street — the West’s financial hierarchy and the established wealth it represents — is destroying the world, a case of class warfare by one class against the others. So general moral bankruptcy is not destroying the earth, but the moral bankruptcy of one class is.” But why are they destroying the economies that make them rich? I think the answer is two-fold: 1) power over the economy and over all of us non-elites matters more to the elite than (even) a healthy, growing economy, and 2) they’re blinded by short-term profitability and are incapable of taking a long-term perspective on their wealth. These are just the _wrong_ people, worse than even the manufacturing ‘class’, to have controlling the world economy.

Oops, think I might’ve just gotten you and me off-track from eye-ing the prize … see how easy it is?

Okay, nuff said. Here’s to a less prettied up, less distracted, less disguised 2014. Eyes on the prize and happy new year people!

Read the rest of this entry →

Censorship, Mercy & A Shortage of Resistance at Huffpost

11:18 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Are Huffpost columnists required to make a crack by paragraph two that alienates anyone except hard-core MSNBC Democrats? Actually, after its second paragraph, Robert Koehler’s “A Shortage of Mercy” is a good Huffpost column.The problem is paragraph two, in particular the highlighted (by me) section:

As the economy twists downward for most of us — as the politics of money tightens like a noose around everything we love — I think about the disintegration of human values, which insane logic and the Republicans tells us we can no longer afford.

So I respond in (something like) the following comment, which is then censored:

Mr. Koehler, nothing you write has anything to do with “the Republicans” and everything with the bipartisan neoliberal pro-austerity, anti-social-safety-net consensus. Your argument is completely voided when you make it clear in paragraph two that your ‘solution’ is to elect more of one of neoliberal austerity parties.

Koehler’s next paragraph goes like this:

A few days ago, Paul Buchheit wrote on Common Dreams about the poisonous nature of the ongoing privatization process: the inexorable corporate takeover of the human commons. As markets expand, the public domain — physical, social, spiritual — shrinks. It’s not simply that public land is auctioned off or that water rights are taken away from us, but that our right to care for others, to organize society around a modicum of compassion, is being confiscated in the name of “sorry, can’t afford it.”

What the hell does that have to do with making this a fake partisan issue? The corporate Democratic party led by President Obama can’t be any more pro-privatization. And by letting him and his corrupted cabal off the hook you let him cut cut cut away at all the good programs you supposedly are writing the column to defend. But of course you’ll whine, he can’t be as bad as “the Republicans,” who are in favor of “the disintegration of human values.” Maybe not, but both parties are fighting for shortages in mercy and everything else that costs the rich money.

In America’s feeble post-democratic and heavily censored discussion space, Huffpost is not worth the time. I’ll stick to commenting under Yahoo! articles. No censorship there and a lot more readers.

Reuters: redirecting fiscal crisis onto the old and sick is ‘avoiding’ it

11:24 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

The latest, from Reuters:

President Barack Obama raised anew the issue of cutting entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security as a way out of damaging budget cuts, a White House official said on Sunday, as both sides in Washington tried to limit a fiscal crisis that may soon hit millions of Americans.

For the rational among us, and apparently we are a dwindling few, it can be hard reading ‘news’ like this. It’s the latest from oppositeland, where “cutting entitlements” is a way to cure what “damaging budget cuts” will do to the economy. But under any economic theory cutting Social Security and Medicare by the same amount as those damaging budget cuts (which disproportionately hit the military (YAY!)) can’t be any less damaging to the economy.

How can they be saying this stuff?!

Along the same lines, in non-oppositeland, the following — “as both sides in Washington tried to limit a fiscal crisis that may soon hit millions of Americans” — translates as

as both sides in Washington try to redirect the fiscal crisis so that it falls on the old and sick and not the military.

And that was just the first sentence … Does the Reuters stenographer, Richard Cowan, understand how abased, how bootlickingly absurd he sounds?

P.S. – The White House official, by the way, was Gene Sperling, whose deconstruction by William Neil is worth reading. Just another nice representative of Democratic Party elite economist thinking. A Naked Capitalism writer comments on Neil’s analysis:

… the thesis presented here, of neo-liberalism systematically de-industrializing/de-capitalizing America, and transforming it into an extractive economy (see fracking, mountaintop removal, Keystone and Trailbreaker pipelines, road and rail projects, etc.) with concomitant Second World-style political structures (elite impunity, secret police) has a lot of appeal for me.

Yup yup yup, that sounds like what I see everyday.

The Growth Party vs The Neoliberal (and Green?) Parties, Part 1

7:17 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Part 1: The Problem is Growth Party? Fuck That!

Don’t let the right wing economists steal reality from us. All that people value must be reckoned with when we assess growth and prosperity, whether or not it can be neatly counted.

The major political weakness of neoliberalism is that it is the economics of slow growth. Great on re-distribution up, which is why it is so popular with elites, but it slows economic growth even when it is not pushing austerity. But we leftists don’t exploit this weakness! Among the reasons for the preceding are that, like most citizens, leftists have been propagandized into misunderstanding economics, ignoring economic history and making right-wing or just wrong background assumptions that have no basis in reality.

Case in point is David Lindorff’s tragically subtitled — “The Problem is Growth” — piece in Counterpunch of a few days ago. (‘Tragic’ because only the left will lead us out of neoliberal hell, and a left that is anti-growth will fail.) Lindorff asserts baldly — in a piece whose actual title is also pretty ridiculous, “What’s Wrong with America” — that “economic growth … is a threat to life.” He comes to this conclusion in the usual way, from the global warming, pollution, overcrowding angle.

But Lindorff’s background assumption, about the meaning of “economic growth,” is wrong: he has assumed that it must mean increased factories, cars, buildings and similar. That is not true. Economic growth for real human beings means an increase in whatever individuals give economic value to. Do I value a pollution-free environment? Yes. Then for me an increasingly clean environment represents economic growth. Do I value a more egalitarian distribution of income? Yes. Then for me an increasingly egalitarian society represents economic growth.

Economic value and growth, then, are about what we value, or more specifically what each of us values aggregated together. That’s a real, human GNP. Yeah, it’s not something that is entirely measurable, but so what, that’s sometimes how reality goes. Mainstream economists nonetheless blithely and absurdly assert that economic value (and therefore economic growth) consists only of money and whatever else can be counted. But that destroys any real human meaning to the terms ‘value’ and ‘growth’ just to make economic growth, and by implication prosperity and even happiness, measurable. It isn’t, they aren’t.

If we understand economic value, and therefore growth, in the only way that makes sense to human beings, then left economics can and should be about economic growth and fairly shared prosperity. That, of course, doesn’t mean we support polluting, warming and destroying the planet. No, instead, economic growth and prosperity are for us to define in any way we like, subjectively and democratically. I sure hope and believe most people find great value in a clean and non-warming planet.

Hope I’ve disposed of the ‘Lindorff Objection’. (Of course, I may have done so here, but it is still out there …) But if I haven’t, let’s talk about it in the comments!

Europe’s permanent austerity crisis will soon be America’s

3:25 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

The European and U.S. problem is not only the year-after-year reality of high unemployment and slow or negative growth, it’s that results be damned most of us ‘still’ believe in austerity. The masters have reason to believe and even love austerity, because they get rich off moving wealth from the middle to the top, but dammit most of us chumps believe too. Read this December 14 U.S. Rasmussen Report and weep:

Overall, 73% of Likely Voters nationwide believe the federal government should cut spending rather than increase it in reacting the nation’s current economic problems. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 18% are looking for an increase in spending.

That’s crazy in this economy, but it’s what 73% believe.

The belief in the medicine that will kill us is so pervasive it of course infects the news. An example is an article on tighter EU budget rules that will take effect on January 1. The common sense of this is plain: the rules if followed make austerity permanent because they prevent application of Keynesian solutions to economies in deep recession, as more and more European nations are. Here are paragraphs two through four with my comments between each paragraph:

Finalized in March, 25 of the 27 EU member states accepted a “balanced budget rule” in the compact to ensure that governments would no longer run the massive budget deficits which drove the debt crisis and nearly sank the euro.

But of course the original crisis was a ‘banker stupidity on a monumental scale’ crisis, and it was the multi-trillion dollar bank bailout — ‘required’ by European and U.S. big banks after they bet everything on the real estate bubble — that created those debts and continues to do so. But that history has been disappeared and now, for all mainstream readers, we have a debt crisis. The economies of the European south, of course, were not deficit-ridden before the bank bailouts. And in fact debt — deficit spending — is the only way out of austerity. So news on our current economic crisis describes the solution, ‘debt’, as the problem. Are you getting why I describe the European austerity crisis is permanent?

The Fiscal Stability Treaty also laid down penalties for those who breached the rules to limit deficits and debt, providing for a degree of central EU oversight to keep miscreants in line.

Damn, keep in line you juvenile delinquent, you ‘miscreant’ — synonyms include wrongdoer, criminal, villain, rogue, sinner, rascal, scoundrel, vagabond, reprobate, malefactor, blackguard, and evildoer. An economic minister who applies the standard Keynesian remedy to his country’s austerity-generated recession/depression is a scoundrel? Michael Hudson becomes Hudson the Rogue, Paul Krugman The Malefactor Krugman, were either allowed to determine economic policy.

And this is just the news, no intended agenda, just an inside the brain look at how most people think and what they believe. How do you escape disinformation so deep and multilayered? You don’t?

Notably, the balanced budget provision has to be written into national law, and preferably, enshrined in the national constitution, to make it very hard to change or get around in future.

Yeah, ‘enshrine’ this madness baby, make it ‘very hard’ for common sense anti-recession measures, the only ones that will work, ever again to be employed inside the EU. Economic austerity permanent, anyone?

And it is not just 73% of the population, or their news sources, that believe in the austerity lie. It’s also epidemic among most of ‘the mainstream left’: for example, Howard Dean, labor boss Andy Stern, and the ‘leftist’ Guardian’s finance editor. Bill Black writes (emphasis added):

It is hard enough countering Pete Peterson’s billion dollar campaign to inflict austerity and unravel and privatize the safety net. Peterson funds myriad front groups. We also have to counter the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party, which dominates Treasury, OMB, the Justice Department, and the office of the Chief of Staff and favors austerity and unraveling the safety net. We should not have to deprogram progressives indoctrinated into repeating neo-liberal economic dogmas.

And yet we must, but that would only be a first step and without practical impact. Let’s face it, despite the catastrophic and consistent bad news everywhere produced by austerity policies and neoliberal economics, we’re _losing_ the influence battle. Badly. And so, uh, see the title of this article. Read the rest of this entry →

‘The Austerity Crusade’ Wins in Greece

10:01 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

The Greek parliament today approved deeper austerity measures, as apparently 17% unemployment was not good enough for ‘the markets’ and the bankers. Or, to put things from the market perspective:

In exchange the IMF and the ECB will release funds that allow Greece to continue doing what really matters: paying back bankers for all they’ve done for the Greek people over recent years, and making market players’ stupid gambles on Greek debt look smart.

Greece is not a foreign, ‘over there’ story. Instead it is a live-action shot of The Austerity Crusade © (just kidding), the world’s number one right-wing campaign. The American version has Sen. Tom Coburn (R) Oklahoma (on Charlie Rose last night) and his Calvinist uncle schtick (that parson’s visage, that hair, those curling lips), and Pres. Obama with a severe but somehow kinder and gentler version of hard times will hurt so good. Which side are you on? ;->

The crusade’s ultimate purpose is to end the welfare state. It was essential PR during the anti-communism era but for years the PTB (‘the markets’?) have considered it wasteful, unprofitable, un-self-reliant, un-Prussian, un-sado-masochistic, un-Randian, undisciplined, hell, un-American. In their idealized future, the only welfare handed out will be to big corporations, the rich, and to the rest of us if we’re cops/military/jailed.

Has the Greek resistance done anything wrong in its efforts to stop austerity? No. But its great disadvantage was and is that the labor unions are in the pocket of established power. The greatest power of an awakened people is not a few of its members (and police provocateurs) throwing rocks at riot police, but its ability to withhold labor from the corporations that control the government. For that to happen effectively, organized labor needs to be on the anti-austerity and pro-prosperity side of the battle lines.

Though the battle is not over, that is the most important lesson of Greece for the rest of us. Get our ducks in a row, get organized labor out of short-run electoral politics and ruling party crumbs b.s., and into participating in the leadership of the anti-austerity and pro-prosperity struggle.

Obviously The Prosperity Crusade © (just kidding) won’t be won in 2011. In fact, the bad guys have us on the run right now, in Greece, the U.S., and almost everywhere else. We’ll only win if we’re smart and organized labor is independent and reliably on our side.

Bankers Mug Greece Today, You Tomorrow

2:47 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

“Thieves―Hustlers―Bankers”

– sign at recent anti-austerity demonstration in Athens

One world, one global ruling class, one ideology, headquartered in New York and a few other Western capitals. It wants our money. There’s only one thing stopping it, the people of each new target, and today it’s the Greece’s turn. The only question is whether its people will submit to IMF-style austerity or walk away from the blackmail. Well, they’re fighting back, saying “NO,” and that makes me optimistic. Solidarity with Greece! We’re better off here (wherever we are!) if our Greek brothers and sisters can stop the austerity machine over there. Here’s the latest from Reuters:

Greek protesters to surround parliament to stop cuts debate

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek protesters vowed on Tuesday to surround parliament to prevent deputies from debating new austerity measures on June 15, and unions said they would bring the country to a halt in a national strike. …

“Now that the government is putting the medium term austerity program to vote, we (will) encircle the parliament, we (will) gather and we (will) stay at Syntagma,” the self-styled People’s Assembly of Syntagma Square said in a statement.

“Our first stop is the general strike of June 15th. We won’t stop until they withdraw it.”

The size of cuts that the Greek ‘Socialist’ Party has agreed to impose are mind-boggling. The World Socialist Website writes:

To comprehend the magnitude of these cuts, the figures must be related to Greece’s population of 11 million and the size of its economy—roughly $305 billion in 2010. Scaled to an economy the size of the United States, this would amount to yearly US spending cuts of $250-$375 billion and asset sales of $3 trillion dollars. This would mean cutting funding equivalent to half of the US senior-citizen health program Medicare each year for five years, and selling off roughly 20 percent of the main S&P 500 stock market index.

Significantly, the scale of the cuts is not far removed from proposed deficit reductions laid out by US President Barack Obama in April—amounting to $4 trillion over the next 12 years.

Like I said, this is not about Greece vs. European bankers alone. Barack Obama is also on the bankers’ team, and we’re all potential targets of banker-and-investor-class-subservient austerity drives. You simply can’t explain, for example, the steam-rolling bipartisan deficit-reduction drive in the U.S. as anything rational, not when there’s 9.1% unemployment. Dean Baker writes:

… it’s worth asking how the proponents of deficit-reduction think that lower deficits will lead to increased growth and job creation in an economy mired in a severe slump. There is not an easy answer.

… at the end of the day, we don’t have a coherent story as to how reducing the budget deficit will boost growth just as the creationists don’t have a coherent explanation for what we know about the plant and animal kingdoms.

As the Reuters report from Greece notes, earlier deficit-reduction austerity measures have crushed the Greek economy:

Austerity measures [imposed March 2010] have already hammered the economy, and a 5.5 percent contraction in first quarter gross domestic product and unemployment above 16 percent have added to discontent.

The Greek commerce umbrella association representing small businesses said on Tuesday it would protest against the new tax hikes with its members shutting their shops for three hours.

“The answer to the country’s big problem, recession, cannot be other than a restart of economic activity and investment in the small business sector, which is the spine of employment,” GSEE and ESEE said in a statement.

They’re right, and austerity is just plain crazy from a human point of view. Who cares if a bunch of fat cats lose a few thousand dollars or euros on their bad gambles? Well, they do, and it makes good sense to see deficit reduction as part of bankers and other creditors effort to make ‘the rest of us’ pay for their failed investments of the past four years. They made bad bets but they own the political system. The non-owners have to make the owners whole and then some.

But Michael Hudson is right that there’s more to the agenda than short-term enrichment of unwise or luckless investors. The larger project likely is ending welfare state, using what you save from doing so to further enrich the wealthy, and then making all of it irreversible by, as Michael Hudson puts it, replacing economic democracy with financial oligarchy:

How Bankers use the Debt Crisis to Roll Back the Progressive Era
Jun 13, 2011 – 12:34 PM
By Michael_Hudson

What is to be reversed is the “modern” agenda. The aim a century ago was to mobilize the Industrial Revolution’s soaring productivity and technology to raise living standards and use progressive taxation, public regulation, central banking and financial reform to distribute wealth fairly and make societies more equal. Today’s financial aim is the opposite: to concentrate wealth at the top of the economic pyramid and lower labor’s returns. High finance loves low wages.

We see that anti-democratic impulse all over the basic economic blackmail of Greece and other countries for the sake of international bankers’ profits, and also in the details of the latest austerity package. WSWS writes:

The latest proposals from EU officials and Eurozone governments will award quasi-dictatorial powers to non-elected bodies to sell off socially necessary institutions and services such as hospitals, power companies and telecommunications to the highest bidder. The result will be higher consumer prices for essential services and the complete abolition of any sort of safety net for the needy and the working population―already plagued by mass unemployment.

John Mauldin, a foreign exchange investment advisor explains the European bankers’ terror from a Michael Hudson perspective:

Hudson first lays the European crisis at the feet of banks and the institutions (ECB, IMF, and the EU) that are taking the Greek (and other) bank debt and putting it into public hands. He has a very real point. Then he points out that Greece is far better off just walking away, a la Iceland (at least read the last part of this post, on Iceland). And in polls he cites, 85% of the Greek people are against taking on the debt and paying the banks.

As I wrote last week, there is a revolution going on all over Europe, slowly building up as people realize that the “solution” being offered benefits banks and not German taxpayers or Greek creditors. Ireland will be watching. There is no easy way out. …

The crisis for Greece – as for Iceland, Ireland and debt-plagued economies capped by the United States – is occurring as bank lobbyists demand that “taxpayers” pay for the bailouts of bad speculations and government debts stemming largely from tax cuts for the rich and for real estate, shifting the fiscal burden as well as the debt burden onto labor and industry. The financial sector’s growing power to achieve this tax favoritism is crippling economies, driving them further into reliance on yet more debt financing to remain solvent. Aid is conditional upon recipient countries reducing their wage levels (“internal devaluation”) and selling off public enterprises.

The tunnel vision that guides these policies is self-reinforcing. Europe, America and Japan draw their economic managers from the ranks of professionals sliding back and forth between the banks and finance ministries – what the Japanese call “descent from heaven” to the private sector where worldly rewards are greatest. It is not merely delayed payment for past service. Their government experience and contacts helps them influence the remaining public bureaucracy and lobby their equally opportunistic replacements to promote pro-financial fiscal and monetary policies – that is, to handcuff government and deter regulation and taxation of the financial sector and its real estate and monopoly clients, and to use the government’s taxing and money-creating power to provide bailouts when the inevitable financial collapse occurs as the economy shrinks below break-even levels into negative equity territory.

But the IMF and related institutions also never forget to work their sorcery on the less developed world. Indian writer Vijay Prashad writes of an IMF report authored for a recent meeting of G8 leaders:

Hastily, the IMF report came to the point: “The key role will have to be played by the private sector, including by attracting foreign direct investment. Thus, government policies should support an enabling environment in which the private sector flourishes.” If the IMF and the G8 have their way, the Arab Spring, like the Eastern European Autumn of Nations, will flounder in the winter of economic discontent, as the profits rush to the “private sector” (monopoly firms that do not fly the Egyptian flag, or any flag, for that matter). The congenitally unimaginative IMF is preparing Egypt to be the next decade’s Greece.

By the way, though the austerity attack on Greece predictably has failed at its ostensible purpose, there is an alternative. The real solution to Greece’s artificial economic crisis has for several years been obvious, but the ‘problem’ is that it is a solution that hurts Greece’s creditors while it helps the country’s people. Nouriel Roubini writes, not just about Greece but about all the countries on the Eurozone periphery:

… there is really only one other way to restore competitiveness and growth on the periphery: leave the euro, go back to national currencies and achieve a massive nominal and real depreciation. After all, in all those emerging market financial crises that restored growth a move to flexible exchange rates was necessary and unavoidable on top of official liquidity, austerity and reform and, in some cases, debt restructuring and reduction.

Of course today the idea of leaving the euro is treated as inconceivable, even in Athens and Lisbon. Exit would impose big trade losses on the rest of the eurozone, via major real depreciation and capital losses on the creditor core, in much the same way as Argentina’s “pesification” of its dollar debt did during its last crisis.

Yet scenarios that are treated as inconceivable today may not be so far-fetched five years from now, especially if some of the periphery economies stagnate. …

‘Stagnate’? No, Nouriel, much worse than that. And the larger point is that we’ll each of us be on the periphery soon enough.

Obama on Jobs: ‘Nothing to Do But Wait’

7:46 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

The weak May job report has exposed the helplessness and denial of neoliberalism when faced with an economic crisis that ‘does not compute’. And Obama and his advisors are such true neoliberal believers:

So ‘Creating Jobs Ain’t Our Job’ is now the Obama jobs program? Jeff Madrick, citing research by Andrew Sum, tells us where we are at after two years of ‘recovery’ (emphasis in original):

… There has never been an economic recovery since World War II nearly as bad as this one.

Yes, there has been GDP growth, but it has almost all gone to profits, not pay. By most measures, there are still fewer jobs today than there were at the bottom of the recession. Just as disturbing, there has been no increase in wages. There are many measures of wages and salaries, but Sum and his group found that average hourly earnings of all private sector wage and salary workers were unchanged over the seven-quarter recovery. The typical or median full-time worker lost ground over this period. …

For the first time in more than sixty years, aggregate wages and salaries adjusted for inflation did not rise after seven quarters of recovery. What did rise was corporate profits — and sharply. Here’s the stunner, as Sum calculates: Pre-tax corporate profits in 2010 dollars rose by $464 billion and real wage and salaries in 2010 dollars fell by $22 billion.

But President Obama is a Reaganite when it comes to government being part of the jobs solution. This, from his Saturday radio address, is especially revealing:

Now, government is not – and should not be – the main engine of job-creation in this country. That’s the role of the private sector. But one thing government can do is partner with the private sector to make sure that every worker has the necessary skills for the jobs they’re applying for.

So, after arguing the self-evident (your opponents on the left are NOT asking government to be the MAIN engine of job creation, at most we’re asking it to create jobs for the unemployed 9.1%), Obama then transitions to the feeble role his mind does see government playing in the nation’s economic life. School and skills training. Pathetic.

What are we going to do with this President and these politics, knowing the Republicans are even worse on jobs? Well, on the one hand there is no reason the U.S. can’t have a strong, full-employment economy, while, on the other, there is the political corruption, ownership, of both parties by big corporations, the banks, and the rich. And that crowd, as part of the continuing program Madrick refers to of re-distribution from the middle to the top 5%, is hell-bent on bringing ‘European-style’ austerity to the U.S.

Far from being ready to spend more on job creation, both parties agree that it’s time to slash spending — destroying jobs in the process — with the only difference being one of degree. – Rule by Rentiers (Paul Krugman)

So we end up with this, Obama and the Republicans united on austerity, budget and job slashing during a deep, long-term recession.

In reaction to that, at minimum I hope the real left doesn’t use the next five years (it will take at least that long to de-neoliberalize) simply badgering ‘its’ party, the Democrats, to concede a little on jobs or cool it on neo-liberalist extremism. The President concedes or misleads for the election year and then after the election goes right back serving us corporations-and-banks-subservient neoliberalism.

That’s exactly what happened with Obama in 2008 and Clinton in 1992. Obama, selected through a political contest dependent on investor class, banker and big business money, may double-talk or lie to us again in 2012, but post-election he will be the same old servant of neoliberalism and corporate globalization. That’s what owns him. As for the party’s 2016 nominee, if he/she submits to the same thoroughly corrupted electoral process, we can reliably say he/she will be just another Obama.

So, while this column by Robert Reich – Why the President Must Come Up With Demand-Side Solutions, And Not Go Over to the Supply Side – like many others is right about the immediate economic policy move that would’ve already happened if the President weren’t intellectually and literally sold out, and might still happen as a temporary election season treat, it’s missing the forest.

Yes, good progressives like you, me, Reich and RJ Eskow – If the President Won’t Do Something About Jobs, Who Will? – may browbeat the President into at least trying to pass (instead of attacking as he does now) a jobs bill, but this is not as if you’ve effected permanent change by enlightening the inside of the Obama’s brain. No, when the letter-and-email campaign quiets, the same old neoliberal ‘government is the problem not the solution’ President, the same old neoliberal party, goes back to advancing the interests of the money power that owns them.

Punditry advocating for what everyone knows is correct policy, neo-Keynesian stimulus, is easy but not enough anymore. Real left analysts need to do two additional things. First, tell us why this is happening, why both parties are pushing, very hard, economic policy sharply counter to the people’s interests. Paul Krugman has that diagnosis:

What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I’m increasingly convinced that it’s a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.

Second, however, Krugman and the best of the leftist writers must tell citizens what to do. What should we do with the knowledge that a rentier elite (or whatever you wanna call fat cats) owns economic policy? Krugman doesn’t do that. Certainly the solution can’t be “Do the Same Thing in 2012 I Said to Do in 2008, Vote Obama.”

In fact, maybe this terrible ‘Obama on Jobs’ week can teach us that a revolt against the rentiers and their allies will have failed if their number one ally – Barack Obama – remains in the White House, and it will also have failed if Barack Obama is replaced in the White House by a Republican even more subservient to that elite. A leftist punditocracy would be reminding us of those twin facts, and then would advocate for a non-neoliberal Presidential candidate, or at least a candidate not owned by large corporations, money, and transatlantic rentiers. James Galbraith or someone similar, come on down?

In a a comment a couple days ago I complimented Liz Berry (I hope that’s how she understood me) for getting our current politics right:

What you’re basically talking about is understanding our politics as class politics, and that the enormous amount of money given by one class to both parties means they are both on the upper-class side of the war. The rest of us, middle-class, working class, working poor and unemployed, are on the other side. …

metamars has a good point (and a good idea, to primary the heck out of the Democrats). What are we gonna do about it? … let’s keep our eyes on the prize. We should use the current era of economic insanity (cutting deficits during a deep recession) and leverage that into grabbing the political system away from the upper class. 2012 is a time to make our perspective known, but it’s only the first step toward a realistic prospect of victory in 2014 and/or 2016, if the economy gets worse as unfortunately it seems it will.

From ‘Great Prosperity’ (1947-1977) to _This_?

2:22 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Obviously the U.S. economy is sputtering. Obviously II, our economic problems are not a short-term thing, but part of a trend since the late 1970s of bubble booms, recessions, and good-job-free recoveries. Dean Baker tells us today what is happening now:

Very Little Positive News in Latest Jobs Report

The unemployment rate climbed back up to 9.1 percent in May, as the rate of private-sector job growth slowed to just 83,000, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report. The prior two months data were also revised downward, lowering the average job growth for the last three months to 160,000, approximately 70,000 more than what is needed to keep pace with the growth of the labor force.

The weakness in the private sector goes along with a government sector that lost 29,000 jobs in May and has lost an average of 24,300 jobs over the last three months. State and local governments will continue to make cutbacks, and there is a strong likelihood of further cuts in federal spending in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Without new stimulus, the unemployment rate may continue to creep upward.

But of course III, there will be no new stimulus, because the Republicans and President Obama don’t want one. Apparently they are insane, though admittedly the madness is worldwide: Greece to impose deeper austerity for new rescue. How austerity generates recovery and not the opposite is a question for madmen and mainstream economists.

But the madness of our economists is only a symptom of a deeper disease that has caused anemic or no income growth since the 1970s for everyone except those at the top. Robert Reich was very helpful on the big picture this week, in The Truth About the American Economy and The Truth About the American Economy (II). Reich sums up the story as follows:

During the Great Prosperity of 1947-1977, the basic bargain had ensured that the pay of American workers coincided with their output. In effect, the vast middle class received an increasing share of the benefits of economic growth. But after that point, the two lines began to diverge: Output per hour — a measure of productivity — continued to rise. But real hourly compensation was left in the dust. …

Starting more than three decades ago, trade and technology began driving a wedge between the earnings of people at the top and everyone else. The pay of well-connected graduates of prestigious colleges and MBA programs has soared. But the pay and benefits of most other workers has either flattened or dropped. And the ensuing division has also made most middle-class American families less economically secure.

Government could have enforced the basic bargain. But it did the opposite. It slashed public goods and investments — whacking school budgets, increasing the cost of public higher education, reducing job training, cutting public transportation and allowing bridges, ports and highways to corrode.

Reich goes on to describe the attack on the ‘safety net’, a 1980s phrase that in itself lowballs what government of the people should be doing for the people. But Why? Why did government do the opposite? Why does it do the opposite now, despite the predictably disastrous results from austerity programs?

Reich has elsewhere talked about the buying of Congress and the increasing obedience of the Democratic Party to, in a phrase, Wall Street. But he doesn’t discuss that ‘why’ in those two new posts. In The Truth About The Middle Class, Dave Cohen calls out Reich:

Think for a moment. What’s missing in Reich’s explanation? Why was the government so mean-spirited? Why would the government sacrifice the middle class at the altar of the rich?

And of course the answer is political corruption, which resulted in the financialization of the American economy. Corruption is built right into the long, expensive election process (campaign contributons, aka bribes) and the law-making process (armies of lobbyists writing legislation in the Congress).

Because Reich does not state the cause of our problems, he can’t tell us how to solve them, stating merely …

The fundamental economic challenge ahead is to restore the vast American middle class. … That requires resurrecting the basic bargain linking wages to overall gains, and providing the middle class a share of economic gains sufficient to allow them to purchase more of what the economy can produce.

But all signs point in the opposite direction for Reich’s Democratic Party, and things are worse with the Republicans. Cohen writes:

Many call[] what we [have] the FIRE economy (finance, insurance & real estate). And if you’ve got a FIRE economy, and middle class Americans are being squeezed, a housing bubble makes all the sense in the world. Those in finance and real estate prosper, while those buying houses are led to believe they are acquiring wealth (in home equity) for the first time in three decades. Then the bubble pops, and what does the government do? It bails out the too-big-to-fail banks, who effectively own the Congress, and run economic policy at the Treasury and in the White House.

Rational and unbought economists know what to do, but we get the policy that’s paid for. The solution is to end the ownership of Congress and the White House by the economic and financial elite. Of course IV, admittedly not unlike Reich, I don’t know how we get there.