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First they came for welfare….

10:33 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

In Obama’s America, each day is Halloween. The “lesser people” (Alan Simpson) should be afraid, very afraid! Why? Uncle Sam is bankrupt. He lives merely on the kindness of strangers. Only painful actions can remedy this situation.

Uncle Sam, you see, has long suffered from Affluenza. While the condition is often mistaken for a state of healthy well-being, the illness can be terminal. There are limits. They need to be respected. Austerity looms. The open question before Americans today: What kind of austerity will we have? The common answer amounts to this: Uncle Sam’s Affluenza would be fatal but for the remedies which a public commitment to fiscal austerity can provide.

The medicine is harsh and drastic, but necessary.

Or, so it is often claimed by a large fraction of America’s political and economic elite. Bob Urie, on the other hand, points out that:

The scare tactics being used to cut social insurance depend on the public’s misunderstanding of several related issues. In the first, the U.S. isn’t ‘broke’ because it can create money as needed — ask yourself: how were the bank bailouts funded? Next: what is an ‘entitlement’ when existing government policy overwhelmingly benefits the rich through favorable tax treatment, cost-plus government contracts, Federal Reserve bailouts and government guarantees of the banks. ‘Free markets’ have nothing to do with how the wealthy became so. The fight over ‘entitlements’ is over how government expenditures are allocated, not over their ‘scarcity.’

Urie suggests that the rich have prevailed in the democratic class struggle and now wish to deepen and intensify their exploitation of the “lesser people,” using the federal state and its fiscal situation as their hammer:

Social Security has an income ‘cap’ of $110,000 above which no deduction is made. A billionaire who became rich by sending jobs overseas — by firing and lowering the wages of labor, pays a smaller proportion of his or her income into Social Security than does the worker whose wages have been reduced. And by reducing the wages of labor, workers are left with less to pay in to these social insurance programs through payroll taxes. The problem with Social Security and Medicare is that a small group of connected plutocrats have ‘entitled’ themselves to far more of what labor produces. How often has the deficit ‘crisis’ been raised when there is a war to be fought for multi-national oil companies or a corporate welfare scheme like the bank bailouts to be paid for?

And this all ties back to Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act — if he and his corporate supporters were truly interested in fiscal discipline they would have pushed for far less costly ‘Medicare for all.’ Instead Mr. Obama pursued a deal with private health insurers that includes (sic) a ‘profit’ above the cost of a government program. Those wanting to argue the political infeasibility of Medicare for all are now confronted with a ‘liberal’ Democratic President who believes he can cut the programs that most of us have paid into under known terms for decades. If doing this is politically feasible while building a rational public health care system isn’t, we are truly doomed.

Doomed? Yes….

Ultimately Mr. Obama, like his ‘opponent’ Mitt Romney, is but an apparatchik in a class war launched by the rich against the rest of us. Left out of the contrived nonsense about an ‘entitlement’ society is who exactly is entitled. Were the government spending the rich live off of under the knife there would be no argument of scarcity — we have the wars, the bailouts and corporate welfare to prove it. But social insurance programs stand between over one hundred million of our citizens and destitution. And these are programs we have collectively paid for — they aren’t a ‘gift’ as the rich and their servants in government would have us believe

Even the ‘gifts’ of income transfers, support for education and public transportation, Medicaid, subsidized housing, occupational training, works programs, etc. are not lacking in social benefits which directly and indirectly improve the quality of life enjoyed by every American. Every American would benefit from a fair and humane society, from a better standard of living. Such a society serves a common and public good. Who, after all, wants to watch the homeless die on the street for want of food and medical care? How might the United States compete with the emerging Asian economic powers when its education system, long the envy of the world at large, falters because of a lack of fiscal and political support? Who wants to bring children into the world when they will intimately know insecurity and want?

But the Nobel Laureate Americans just reelected wishes to create neither a fair nor humane society. He is a system politician who serves his various masters. The latter are cruel and greedy. Americans of the lesser kind along with the world at large deserve much better than Barack Obama. They truly need a man much better than him..

Another endgame driven by money

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by szielinski

Thomas Ferguson and his collaborators have warned us about an endgame surge by the Romney campaign, a possible leap in his popularity that might eventually bury the Obama presidency. In this respect the Romney campaign may mimic the Bush campaign of 2000. Both have been fueled by massive spending and guided by lying. These, to be sure, are core competencies of the Republican Party. It is because of this late cycle spending that G.W. Bush jumped over Gore in the last days of the electoral season, although his election victory was helped by a corrupted electoral mechanism and a most dubious Supreme Court decision. Additional political disasters followed the constitutional coup d’état of December, 2000. Campaign money brought the country to that situation.

This is the post-Citizen’s United age in American politics, and money collection and spending along with elite ‘generosity and civic mindedness’ are the true stories of the current electoral season. This fact does not distinguish the 2012 elections from its recent predecessors. The defining mark this year issues from the quantities of money spent during the campaign. Billions of dollars will be spent on the presidential race alone. The Romney campaign, according to Ferguson, et. al., lately seems to be spending large sums of this money in the battleground states to win a victory next week. This effort favors Romney, of course.

A Romney victory fueled by big donor cash would certainly prompt outrage by Democratic Party partisans, although their rage would obscure the massive amounts of money raised and spent by the 2012 and 2008 Obama campaigns. The Democratic Party lacks clean hands in this matter. It, like the Republican Party, serves as a tool of Wall Street, the security-surveillance apparatus and, in a word, the empire. Thus the cries of the partisans ought to be considered mere hypocrisy rendered into obscure sounds, wholly without intrinsic importance. The somewhat obscure significance of this kind and degree of campaign spending lies elsewhere. Ferguson and company rightly locate and identify the effect produced by this money:

Big Money’s most significant impact on politics is certainly not to deliver elections to the highest bidders. Instead it is to cement parties, candidates, and campaigns into the narrow range of issues that are acceptable to big donors. The basis of the “Golden Rule” in politics derives from the simple fact that running for major office in the U.S. is fabulously expensive. In the absence of large scale social movements, only political positions that can be financed can be presented to voters. On issues on which all major investors agree (think of the now famous 1 percent), no party competition at all takes place, even if everyone knows that heavy majorities of voters want something else.

Read the rest of this entry →

Trumka put lipstick on a pig

10:50 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

Richard Trumka, leader of that political black hole the AFL-CIO, had this to say about Scott Walker’s decisive victory in the recent Wisconsin recall election:

We wanted a different outcome, but Wisconsin forced the governor to answer for his efforts to divide the state and punish hard-working people.

Their resolve has inspired a nation to follow their lead and stand up for the values of hard work, unity, and decency that we believe in. We hope Scott Walker heard Wisconsin: Nobody wants divisive policies.

Yes, Trumka wanted to elect the Democrat in this election. We know this because the AFL-CIO always wants to elect Democrats. The Democratic Party and ‘big labor’ have a special relationship. Trumka wanted ‘big labor’ to have a seat at the table. After all, AFL-CIO unions would need to be at the table in order to ‘negotiate’ the concessions the political and economic elite want unions to make. What Trumka did not want was the elimination of that furniture which never includes the majority of Americans. He thus wanted ‘big labor’ to have more political power than it now has, but not so much political power that that power would threaten to eliminate its seat at the table.

Actually, the election and the campaign beforehand hardly made Walker answer for his class politics. In fact, the outcome legitimized Walker’s class politics. Wisconsin voters affirmed a victory by the political reactionaries in America’s class war. Moreover, Walker’s easy victory made it clear to anyone with eyes that the left cannot challenge the party duopoly that governs America. The labor movement in America lost this election. Left populists lost this election. The system ‘worked.’

Finally, despite Trumka’s claim to the contrary, many Americans want divisive politics. The left especially wants divisive politics. The left wants to improve the lot of the poor, the working and middle classes; it wants to increase political accountability and democratic participation. These goals are inevitably divisive in the United States today. The Trumkas of the world do not want a divisive politics. They are, in a word, complacent. Gomperism lives. Complacency, unfortunately, produces system affirmative outcomes such as we have recently seen in Wisconsin and saw in 2008.

Scott Walker defeated his opponents in the Wisconsin recall election

8:30 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

His was a landslide victory. Walker’s victory affirmed the party-duopoly which governs the United States because both candidates were system politicians in good standing, both accepted managed democracy as legitimate. Democracy ‘won’: the system ‘worked.’

Walker’s victory is an unqualified disaster for the left, at least for any left committed to popular participation, democratic accountability and equality. It does not matter a jot that Walker had enormous financial resources to use in this election, pace those who claim otherwise (see, for instance, this and this). He did not buy votes. The election was not decided by the work of a Republican Party Sturmabteilung. What matters is Walker was a nationally known political reactionary and who had the backing of the reactionary faction of the nation’s economic elite and oligarchs, and who used these resources to muster the popular support he needed to defeat all of his opponents in what appears to have been a fairly contested election. Walker had to be defeated in order for the left in America to deliver on the promises generated by the Wisconsin Uprising and by the Occupy Movement. Anything less than a Walker defeat in this recall election meant a general and decisive defeat of the political left.

How important was this election? In my estimation, the Wisconsin governor recall election was so important that Walker’s latest victory may well stand alongside Reagan’s destruction of PATCO, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, Bush v. Gore, passage of the Patriot Act, the 2004 electoral affirmation of the Bush regime and the Iraq Occupation as well as Barack Obama’s steadfast affirmation of the security-surveillance state as recent landmark moments in the dissolution of America’s democracy.

The ungrateful bastards

6:07 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

The New York Times reported that:

President Obama’s re-election campaign is straining to raise the huge sums it is counting on to run against Mitt Romney, with sharp dropoffs in donations from nearly every major industry forcing it to rely more than ever on small contributions and a relative handful of major donors.

From Wall Street to Hollywood, from doctors and lawyers, the traditional big sources of campaign cash are not delivering for the Obama campaign as they did four years ago. The falloff has left his fund-raising totals running behind where they were at the same point in 2008 — though well ahead of Mr. Romney’s — and has induced growing concern among aides and supporters as they confront the prospect that Republicans and their “super PAC” allies will hold a substantial advantage this fall.

To whom does the Obama campaign turn when the stuffed-pocket crowd has turned its collective back on him?

With big checks no longer flowing as quickly into his campaign, Mr. Obama is leaning harder on his grass-roots supporters, whose small contributions make up well over half of the money he raised through the end of March, according to reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

The Republican Super PACs are fat with cash just as one should have expected after the Supreme Court’s very controversial Citizens United decision (.pdf). This problem has thus forced the Obama campaign to make appeals for funding to the lesser people whose interests he failed to serve during his first term.

Caveat emptor!

Food for thought

4:04 pm in Uncategorized by szielinski

The political philosopher Andrew Levine recently addressed the nearly lifeless condition of democracy in America. The condition he discussed hardly affirms America’s self-identification as the world’s oldest, freest and most democratic country. Yet this sour claim resonates with the experience of many, and has real material and systemic causes which cannot be separated from the institutions which self-satisfied patriots affirm without thought or irony. These causes include a duopolistic party system with nearly unscalable entry barriers; the strongly anti-democratic features of the 1787 Constitution; the vast sums of money now spent on electoral campaigns, monies which mostly spring from the coffers of the better-off, the massive corporations and the obscenely rich oligarchs; the social, economic and political powers embedded within private institutions; and the enormous size, complexity and diversity of the American social system. These factors affect the quality of American democracy, as Levine points out:

Despite what students are told in civics classes (where they still exist) and what normative theories of democracy propose, democracy in America today has almost nothing to do with rational deliberation and debate, and very little to do with aggregating preferences or reconciling conflicting interests. It is about legitimating government of, by and for the corporate malefactors and Wall Street banksters who own Congress and the White House along with an obscenely large chunk of the nation’s wealth.

The Occupy movement has driven this point home, but it was widely appreciated long before Zuccotti Park entered the national consciousness. Why then is there no legitimation crisis here in the Land of the Free? The answer, in short, is that we hold competitive elections and, for the most part, abide by their results. Evidently, that suffices.

Thanks to centuries of struggle, we are all today at some level democrats, no matter how removed our political system is from anything like real democracy — rule by the demos, the popular masses (as distinct from economic and social elites). Democratic commitments run so deep that almost anything that smacks of real democracy becomes invested with extraordinary powers of legitimation.

This is why competitive elections have the power to legitimate even regimes like ours in which elites plainly do rule a disempowered ninety-nine percent plus of the population. Competitive elections embody a shard of what real democracy is supposed to be, and that evidently is good enough for us.

The United States of America — a land with a deep and intractable legitimation deficit (due to its democracy and accountability deficit) but no legitimation crisis to speak of, a country where the well-off and powerful fear the latent power of lesser people and where the relatively powerlessers have little input into the system which governs them. Common Americans mostly obey the laws made for them while meekly meeting the needs of their betters, a feature of the American system which affirms the status quo. The public face of this paradox will be on display this election year. One need only juxtapose presidential Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to sense the absurdity of this electoral contest, the completion of which will legally but not popularly legitimize the government thus elected. We have government with only barest consent of the governed.

This condition, ironically enough, may be compared to one which could be found in the various countries which composed the Warsaw Bloc prior to the Velvet Revolutions of the late 1980s. There one could find a depoliticized and seemingly cowed population, one which endured the policies and intrigues of an elite which they could not hold accountable in any way. Only a popular refusal to submit to authoritarian governance, when coupled to the dissolution of the Soviet imperial system, put these regimes into their well-deserved graves. Neither the Tea Party Movement, the two legacy parties, the Pentagon and the security-surveillance apparatus in general nor the coequal branches of the federal government embody the spirit of the American Revolution. That is, they are not agents of radical democratization. In the United States today, that honor today belongs to the Occupy Movement, for democracy in America can be found only when it is put into practice on the streets of its cities and towns.

As a matter of fact, the Tea Party Movement, the legacy parties, the security-surveillance apparatus and the coequal branches of the federal government are committed opponents of the democratization of the American political system.

Cynicism in politics

8:58 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli (via commons/wikipedia)

Paul Krugman noticed the cynic at work in a recent Romney gaffe and its aftermath:

Speaking in Michigan, Mr. Romney was asked about deficit reduction, and he absent-mindedly said something completely reasonable: “If you just cut, if all you’re thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy.” A-ha. So he believes that cutting government spending hurts growth, other things equal.

Romney, it seems, is a closeted Keynesian, which is a sin against modern Republicanism far worse than being a closeted gay man!

Romney aide Ryan Williams quickly attempted to control the damage Romney’s lapse caused:

“The governor’s point was that simply slashing the budget, with no affirmative pro-growth policies, is insufficient to get the economy turned around. However, he believes that budget cuts — especially in the context of President Obama’s unprecedented spending explosion — are a step in the right direction. As he made clear in his economic plan, he believes that spending cuts that reduce the size of government and balance the budget are crucial to economic growth and job creation.”

How might we reconcile Romney’s claim about government spending cuts and Ryan William’s ‘explanation’? It so happens that the two cannot be reconciled. Market fundamentalism demands that one makes a choice. One is either a fundamentalist or not. Krugman cheerfully concludes from this episode that Romney “…is running a campaign of almost pathological dishonesty.” Krugman continues to mine this political gold:

Every one of the Romney campaign’s major themes, from the attacks on President Obama for going around the world apologizing for America (he didn’t), to the insistence that Romneycare and Obamacare are very different (they’re virtually identical), to the claim that Mr. Obama has lost millions of jobs (which is only true if you count the first few months of his administration, before any of his policies had taken effect), is either an outright falsehood or deeply deceptive. Why the nonstop mendacity? Read the rest of this entry →

My — our — long wait: Enduring the Reagan Revolution

11:42 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

Reagan lays down the law to PATCO

Reagan lays down the law to PATCO

I’ve pined thirty-years for something like the Occupy Wall Street movement. Thank God — I’m an atheist! — it’s here. I’ve waited that long because it’s been a little more than thirty years since the 1981 Washington, DC Solidarity Day March. The AFL-CIO organized and paid for it. (I was collecting unemployment but took a union sponsored bus to DC.) Estimates of the march’s size range from 100,000 to 500,000 (I’m drawing upon my memory here). Whatever the precise numerical count might have been, the March was large. I’d say its purpose was clear to the participants and to its adversaries. It expressed a popular disgust with the Reagan Administration, which had recently concluded the PATCO strike by firing the striking air traffic controllers. The PATCO strike was a seminal event in American history. It clearly revealed the weakness of organized labor in America and the willingness of the Reagan administration to demolish a politically conservative union filled with labor aristocrats who had supported Reagan in the 1980 election. I thought then that the March would be the initial event of an on-going popular response to the Reagan Presidency. Surely many if not most Americans would see Reagan and his policies for what they were and what they promised. Surely they would push back. Read the rest of this entry →

Steve Fraser on Occupy Wall Street, its historical precedents and its current significance (updated)

10:47 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

Writing for TomDispatch, Steve Fraser, a historian of labor and Wall Street as well as a publisher of important books, recently provided his readers with a capsule history of America’s resistance to American finance capital. His article is worth reading.

Fraser begins by asserting that:

Occupy Wall Street…may be a game-changer. If so, it couldn’t be more appropriate or more in the American grain that, when the game changed, Wall Street was directly in the sights of the protesters.

The fact is that the end of the world as we’ve known it has been taking place all around us for some time. Until recently, however, thickets of political verbiage about cutting this and taxing that, about the glories of “job creators” and the need to preserve “the American dream,” have obscured what was hiding in plain sight — that street of streets, known to generations of our ancestors as “the street of torments.”

After an absence of well over half a century, Wall Street is back, center stage, as the preferred American icon of revulsion, a status it held for a fair share of our history. And we can thank a small bunch of campers in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park for hooking us up to a venerable tradition of resistance and rebellion.

Which game might be changing? I would call it the Masters of the Universe or MOTU Game. The MOTU Game (which refers, of course, to an American political-economic regime) belonged to the rise of finance capital in the United States during the post-Vietnam era; to American deindustrialization and privatization; to America’s tax cut mania, its rejection of 1960s leftism and its race relations backlash; to the decline of its common and very high standard of living; to the development of an exceptionally large and historically unprecedented prison system; to the unhealthy growth of its overseas empire and its security-surveillance system; etc. These mostly were elite projects. Yet, politics is never an activity confined to the elite. The MOTU Game strongly and necessarily depended on the mostly apathetic response of America’s “lesser people” (Alan Simpson) to this political regime. After all, Americans elected Nixon and Reagan, Clinton and Obama. They accepted with little complaint the rise, consolidation and workings of the MOTU Game. Even apathy is politically significant! Their acceptance conferred democratic legitimacy on the MOTU Game. Their — our! — “going along to get along” meant then and means today being complicit in some way and degree with it.

Lest my MOTU Game talk create confusion, we could also call it the Neoliberal Game.

What, then, is the new game? I would call it: Push Back. To play the Push Back Game, a fraction of the lesser people must choose to no longer passively and silently endure the workings of a social system which often fails to meet their basic needs (needs which includes the need for a personally secure form of life and for a future worth having) and which lacks a political mechanism by which the lessers can effectively hold accountable some of their “greaters” (that is, their political representatives). The Push Back Game, assuming it endures, is a feature of our time, our world. It reflects the autonomy and foolishness of a political caste which acts as though they were not citizens of a democracy. It also reflects the realistic fear of a people who sense that their way of life is dying and that the vultures are ready to pounce on some of them. Those who play the popular side of the Push Back Game are, to my mind, defending some parts of that dying way of life and, along with it, America’s civil society. They want to survive, and secure a way of life worth having. They are pushing back against those groups, organizations and institutions which now threaten them.

Normal politics in the United States appears to be changing, as Fraser suggests, and we ought to thank the Occupy Wall Street movement for being an early adopter of this embryonic political reality. (The Wisconsin Protests would be another.)

If the Push Back Game endures, that is, if American politics will henceforth include the popular element it lacked since the protests of the 1960s, then normal politics in America will no longer refer to the machinations of professional (system) politicians, to political parties deeply embedded in America’s federal state system, to deep-pocketed lobbyists buying influence, to news media led and staffed by individuals who are nearly government and party propagandists and, most importantly, to a passive citizenry willing to accept nearly anything from their greaters. An altered normal politics would now include popular actors giving voice to their concerns, doing so in and to the public.

Since Push Back Game rejects passivity and since this rejection contrasts sharply to the politics of the MOTU era, we may wonder why Americans failed to resist the assaults on their personal and collective interests. Why would Americans willingly kneel before their betters? They had not always done so, as Fraser reminds us. They would act when threatened. Why would they obey corrupt laws, suffer elite criminality, watch their standard of living falter, their jobs disappear, etc.? I would say that, in general and abstractly, many conformed in order to conserve their place in the American way of life, a social condition they have known since they were children. They feared a near complete loss of what they considered a livable world, a world they wanted to live in. If America happens to change because of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the appearance of a Push Back politics, this change will reflect the fact that much of the once silent majority will directly participate in the new normal politics they will help create. They will participate because they must if they want to live with dignity in the America coming into view.

Sadly, perhaps, America’s consumer republic (a social system which binds the citizen to the consumer) dying. It began to die in the 1970s. The disease cluster killing it includes the ‘maturity’ of America’s capital base, the rise of a predatory finance capital, the emergence of the Reagan coalition, etc. It was then that both the consumer and citizen components of that Republican figure began to fade. Americans generally traded a fulsome use of their citizenship rights for an increasingly insecure bundle of consumer goods. As a consequence, life in America has become harder, meaner and more precarious as the years passed. Americans increasingly found themselves yoked to an economy and a polity which failed them. I believe these burdens and the personal responses they elicited comprise a kind death work. Americans were forced to work through — that is, to recognize, mourn and recover from — the death of their way of life. But what is truly sad — if “sad” is even the right word to use — is the diligent work performed by the legacy parties and their loyal supporters. As we know, American’s professional politicians want to replace America’s consumer republic with an austerity regime. Naturally, their austerity regime also affirms elite power and, of course, America’s predatory political economy. Their efforts amount to class conflict in action, to political power mustered to serve the interests of America’s profit-taking class. They too are a kind of death work, albeit work that aims to kill off the hopes many Americans would want to place in their future and the future of their children. Stated in different terms, I believe the elite today wish to euthanize the American way of life, to kill off that which is dying because it has become an expensive and unnecessary burden to America’s political and economic elite.

I believe the achievement of the Occupy Wall Street movement can be located in its effort to contest America’s greaters as they seek to secure their austerity regime. This is no small achievement given the political apathy seen over the last three decades and the power in the hands of America’s political elite. Nevertheless, it is a needed task given passivity and losses of the past. They are speaking to a growing fraction of Americans willing to listen to their criticism. We will know when the trigger setting free a more rambunctious politics has been tripped when common Americans are willing to do more than just listen.

In other words, the initial phase of the Push Back Game remains incomplete. Much is to be done. The Occupy Wall Street movement needs to survive. In the near-term it will need to overcome the legal and political obstacles placed in its path. It certainly will need to grow in size. To conclude, I believe we will know when America has achieved a new and better society if the Occupy Wall Street movement (or a movement like it) finds an enduring place in American politics. We will know America has achieved a significantly better society when it no longer needs an Occupy Wall Street movement. America’s consumer republic may not survive much longer, but the austerity regime the elite want to put in its place is hardly inevitable.

Update

Writing for the New York Times, Bernard C. Harcourt, a University of Chicago political scientist, provided a different name for the phenomenon I called the Push Back game. Harcourt explains:

Our language has not yet caught up with the political phenomenon that is emerging in Zuccotti Park and spreading across the nation, though it is clear that a political paradigm shift is taking place before our very eyes. It’s time to begin to name and in naming, to better understand this moment. So let me propose some words: “political disobedience.”

Occupy Wall Street is best understood, I would suggest, as a new form of what could be called “political disobedience,” as opposed to civil disobedience, that fundamentally rejects the political and ideological landscape that we inherited from the Cold War.

Civil disobedience accepted the legitimacy of political institutions, but resisted the moral authority of resulting laws. Political disobedience, by contrast, resists the very way in which we are governed: it resists the structure of partisan politics, the demand for policy reforms, the call for party identification, and the very ideologies that dominated the post-War period.

Besides Harcourt’s “political disobedience,” I have also seen the Occupy Wall Street labeled as a kind of antipolitics. An antipolitics refers to politically significant action that is not a part of the predominant political institutions in a society. Antipolitics involves a principled refusal to use political power and force as these are normally understood.

When first considered, antipolitics and Harcourt’s political disobedience appear to me to be cognate terms. That said, Harcourt wishes his term will include a popular effort to avoid drawing upon Cold War political ideologies. This might be wishful thinking. I believe any social movement we are likely to encounter will flounder badly if it refuses to talk about rights, justice, need fulfillment, collective identities, regulation, etc. Moreover, the personal choice many made to participate in the Occupy Wall Street movement also entails facing additional and related decisions. These follow from the initial decision to participate in the movement. We are creating a future whether or not we are aware of this fact. Even Herbert Marcuse’s “great refusal” (1964, 257) was meant to guide a hopeless humanity to a place wherein hope can be realized.

A conservative addresses the mess we’re in

9:19 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

Paul Craig Roberts, long a conservative, wrote:

Economic policy in the United States and Europe has failed, and people are suffering.

Economic policy failed for three reasons: (1) policymakers focused on enabling offshoring corporations to move middle class jobs, and the consumer demand, tax base, GDP, and careers associated with the jobs, to foreign countries, such as China and India, where labor is inexpensive; (2) policymakers permitted financial deregulation that unleashed fraud and debt leverage on a scale previously unimaginable; (3) policymakers responded to the resulting financial crisis by imposing austerity on the population and running the printing press in order to bail out banks and prevent any losses to the banks regardless of the cost to national economies and innocent parties.

Later on, Roberts observed: “This is what economic policy in the West has become — a tool of the wealthy used to enrich themselves by spreading poverty among the rest of the population.” Roberts refers here to what James Galbraith called the Predator State. Roberts eventually concluded his article with:

For four years interest rates, when properly measured, have been negative. Americans are getting by, maintaining living standards, by consuming their capital. Even those with a cushion are eating their seed corn. The path that the US economy is on means that the number of Americans without resources to sustain them will be rising. Considering the extraordinary political incompetence of the Democratic Party, the right wing of the Republican Party, which is committed to eliminating income support programs, could find itself in power. If the right-wing Republicans implement their program, the US will be beset with political and social instability. As Gerald Celente says, “when people have have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”

One point I wish to make: I do not believe the Democratic Party is as incompetent as Roberts suggests; I do believe instead that the Democratic Party is as morally, culturally and politically bankrupt as the Republican Party, including that party’s most reactionary component. Competence is not the problem for the Democrats. The problem broadly considered can be found in the political commitments of the two parties and the structural constraints which make creating an opposition party and opposition movements so difficult. To my mind, this broadly construed problem reflects the essence of the duopoly party system: There exists no viable alternative to the status quo — it’s the duopoly parties and non plus ultra.