Shaking the System: A Greek Gift to Occupy USA November 2, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Greece, Revolution.
Tags: bailouts, debt crisis, democracy, Economic Crisis, european debt crisis, Goldman Sachs, Greece, greece austerity, greek referendum, jon corzine, margaret kimberley, mf global, occupy wall street, revolution, roger hollander
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The Greek government, after months of demonstrations by a citizenry that rejects impoverishment for the sake of the bankers, has promised to submit the bailout plan to a referendum. This should be a lesson to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the U.S. public in general: force the issue, or the issue will be forced upon you. “Americans think that backing two political parties who are both eager to work in the interests of banksters is a solution to averting a disaster despite the fact that the disaster never ends.”
The European debt crisis is but one symptom of the crisis in which the capitalist system finds itself. The years of accumulated “fictitious” capital, followed by a succession of ruptured market bubbles, were all signs that the system is like Humpty Dumpty, unlikely to be put back together again.
Greece is the current focus of attention, with American markets rising or falling based on the status of negotiations among the Eurozone leadership. Greece’s “partners” agreed to bail out that nation only on the condition that it impoverish its citizens. Yet because of sustained protest against the austerity measures, the prime minister has promised his people a referendum on the plan, which has thrown domestic politics and international finance into a state of turmoil.
“If only American politicians had to fear their people as much as their European counterparts do.”
The turmoil cannot be confined to Europe either. Former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine is in the news because the commodities firm that he heads, MF Global, was caught up in the European crisis and has now filed for bankruptcy. Corzine is a former Goldman Sachs executive who self-financed his own political campaigns for senator and governor. If there were a poster child for the unholy alliance between money and politics, Corzine should be it.
The fortunes of American firms and European politicians are not looking very promising these days, and that is a good thing. Greek Prime Minister Papandreou can’t close the rotten deal because his people won’t stand for it. As a result of popular actions such as strikes and demonstrations, he must offer a referendum which puts the entire system on notice and across the ocean MF Global and the American markets go in the tank.
“Greece’s ‘partners’ agreed to bail out that nation only on the condition that it impoverish its citizens.”
It is an important lesson for Americans. Greeks and other people around the world aren’t taken in by predictions of doom from the high and mighty. They have declared loudly and clearly that they will not pay a price because of corruption committed without their knowledge and consent.
The Occupy Wall Street movement should sit up and take notice. Their consensus organizational structure and national assemblies upon which it is based began in Europe. The OWS organizers would do well to repeat European actions taken against the 1% and the members of political class who are eager to do their bidding.
It is well and good to say that the OWS movement is finding its way, but if it doesn’t notice what happens when people take mass action, then they aren’t ready for the big leagues. Three years ago the American people were told that they would suffer if Wall Street was not bailed out with their money. The TARP deal went forward with the collusion of both Republicans and the then Democratic nominee, Barack Obama and the rest of his party.
The results of that capitulation have been calamitous. TARP was a band aid solution to a structural crisis and Americans are suffering despite the fact that their resources continue to be sucked into the bottomless pit of the federal reserve. Unemployment numbers are not improving, the housing market remains stagnant, and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.
“Even Social Security, the erstwhile “third rail” of politics, is on the table ready to be butchered by the party that used to at least pretend to defend it.”
If only American politicians had to fear their people as much as their European counterparts do. Instead of cowering in fear when the Wall Street chieftains shout, “Your money or your life,” we might have something to show three years after the big heist. Instead, Americans think that backing two political parties who are both eager to work in the interests of banksters is a solution to averting a disaster despite the fact that the disaster never ends.
The Greeks are bearing a good gift to the people of the United States but only if Americans have the awareness to see it. It would be wonderful to witness Barack Obama and the Democrats having to undo their dirty work with the Republicans because of popular action. Instead, even Social Security, the erstwhile “third rail” of politics, is on the table ready to be butchered by the party that used to at least pretend to defend it.
Prime Minister Papandreou has risked the wrath of European leadership because the people of his country won’t stand for anything else. There is no reason to fear turmoil in the markets and firms going belly up. We ought to let American political leaders know that we too have had enough of the back room deals which never serve our interests.
If democracy wasn’t born in ancient Greece, it is certainly exemplified by the actions of its people today. Their actions have rattled cages in many parts of the globe, and not only should these events not be feared, they should be celebrated.
How Abortion Caused the Debt Crisis August 1, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Racism, Right Wing, Women.
Tags: 1960s, abortion, abortion rights, amanda marcotte, anti-abortion, Civil Rights, debt ceiling, debt crisis, desegregation, feminism, racism, Republican Party, right wing, right-wing populism, roe v. wade, roger hollander, sexual liberation, sexual revolution, tea party
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Last night, right before the fatal deadline, the U.S. Congress finally came to a deal that allows us to raise the debt ceiling, without which the federal government would basically shut down completely and start to default on its loans, creating a cascade of economic disasters. Congress came to a deal before we had to learn those Depression-era money-saving skills (sadly, we don’t have flour sacks to make clothes from any longer). Now it’s time to reflect on how our country has gone so far off track that we can’t even handle the basic responsibility of keeping the country from plunging into a manufactured crisis that nearly led to economic collapse. There are multiple causes, but one that hasn’t been discussed much is abortion.
Yes, abortion. Or, more specifically, the sustained sex panic that has been going on in this country since the sixties and seventies, when the sexual revolution occurred and women secured their reproductive rights. If it seems a little strange to argue that sex panic helped bring us to the verge of economic collapse, well, that’s the nature of the circuitous, ever-evolving world of politics. But it’s sex panic that helped create the modern right-wing populist, and it’s the modern right-wing populist that created the current crisis.
Despite the recent coinage of the term “Tea Party,” what we call the Tea Party has been around under different names forever. It’s basically right-wing populism, and has been the thorn in the side of democracies for at least the past century. The modern form of it in the United States really formed in the sixties, in response to two major social changes: desegregation and the sexual revolution/feminism. (Yes, I realize feminism and the sexual revolution are separate things, but for the right-wing, they may as well be one thing, since it’s women’s sexual liberation that really gets them going.) You had this huge group of socially conservative people who were wound up about these social changes, but not a lot of direction for their anger and hate. Outside of glowering at Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King Jr., what are you supposed to do to stop widespread social change? They needed direction.
The genius of conservative leadership was that they were able to take all this anger about sexual freedom and desegregation and put the blame on two enemies: Democrats and the federal government. Democrats were blamed for society getting “out of control” and the federal government’s role in enforcing women’s rights and desegregation made them an easy target. Once these villains were established, all this right-wing populist anger could be pointed towards generic goals of big business Republicans. If you hate the federal government for enforcing the Civil Rights Act, it’s easy enough to start hating them for levying taxes, especially if you can be convinced those taxes are going to welfare to pay for what you believe is immoral behavior, such as single motherhood. If you hate the Supreme Court for Roe v. Wade, it’s easy to get you to support putting more conservative justices up there who will routinely vote for business interests.
The theory is that the Republican Party basically exploited right-wing populist anger and used it towards their economic, corporatist ends. This is a non-controversial statement, and is the thesis behind Thomas Frank’s famous book What’s the Matter with Kansas?, in which he wrote:
“Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically-correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.”
A lot of people, including myself, have been critical of Frank’s cynicism in this formulation, arguing that the leadership actually delivers more on right-wing populist demands than Frank gives them credit for doing.
But what we didn’t argue with was the basic premise that there’s two kinds of conservatives: right-wing populists and country club Republicans, and while liberals may not much like the latter, we at least had the reassurance that they’re not crazy. Country club Republicans may want less regulation and lower taxes, but they don’t actually believe that federal power is illegitimate, or that liberals are motivated by Satanic forces and therefore can be treated as always wrong. For the past few decades, the leadership of the Republican Party was able to work with Democrats on commonsense governance such as raising the debt ceiling, precisely because they didn’t believe the wild-eyed rantings from right wing talk radio about how Democrats and the federal government are pure evil. (And the legality of abortion is example #1 in the right wing pantheon of reasons to believe the federal government is evil.)
What I think Frank and those of us who were mildly critical of him failed to grasp is the right-wing populist beast may not be within the control of the Republican Party forever, and that the populists may become a large enough group of people that they could take over the party and make their obsessions—the evils of sexual liberation, the end of the federal government as we know it—the actual priorities of the Republican Party. They very nearly brought a real end to our country as we know it, defying what what Wall Street wanted, and a major reason is that the populist caucus in the party is more interested in ideological purity than doing simply following the lead of Wall Street.
I suppose it should have been easy enough to see coming: for decades, a constant stream of propaganda about the evils of federal power, abortion rights, affirmative action, social spending, multi-culturalism, gay rights and other right wing bogeymen has energized the base to keep voting and giving money and running for office. At a certain point, the populists would have enough power to change the rules of the game. This crisis was averted, but we should not forget the important lesson learned here. The constant feeding of the paranoid, sexually and racially panicked right wing extremist imagination does not come without consequences. In the past, the mainstream media could downplay this because the major victims didn’t have a lot of privilege or power. But increasingly, it looks like the victims could be all of us.
Amanda Marcotte blogs every day at Pandagon.net, and contributes a weekly podcast to RH Reality Check. She lives in Austin, TX with her two cats, boyfriend, and environmentally correct commuter bicycle.
Tags: Boehner, congress, danny schechter, debt ceiling, debt criisis, debt crisis, Obama, roger hollander, tea party, Wall Street
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Oh, the gnashing of the teeth, Oh, the flamboyant tactics. Oh, all the breaking news excitement on cable news as the debt ceiling countdown saga went down to the wire with an intense political confrontation of a kind we haven’t seen before …
Or maybe we had—in the TARP debate and so-called Obamacare vote, to cite but two moments of high political drama. Once again, all the key players knew the outcome but wanted to keep us guessing because it served everyone’s interests.
For Boehner and the boys on the GOP side it was the great leadership test subplot. He would prove how tough he was, demonstrate his leadership mettle, get equal time with the president, and even look presidential. The orange tan was gone. His moment had in the sunlight had come as he roped the Tea party kids into the politically correct corral. The Congressman from Ohio was now a national force to be reckoned with,
Let’s not forget that he had become Wall Street’s butt boy, had been put on their financial slush fund, had many of the big money lobbyists on his side even as the financiers whined and complained about exaggerated threats to the world economy.
They made some noise but not too much. They well remember the wit and wisdom of ex-White House aide and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel about a crisis being a terrible opportunity to waste.
The Wall Street powercrats are high stakes poker players and this was one game they knew they would win in a political arena dependent on their beneficence.
At the same time, as the media compared the charade to the uncertainty of who would be chosen as this week’s Bachelorette reality TV Show. The Tea Party even got Charles Schumer and Jon Stewart going by reaching into the home video collections for sound bite from Ben Affleck’s flick, The Town, a bank robbery shoot em’ up set in Charlestown MA.
Only the pols on the hill had their eyes set on slightly bigger banks as they served bigger banksters.
Some analysts put their tactics down to “lunacy.” Others to irrationality but this gambit was far more rational than most commentators realized. It reminded me of Richard Nixon’s well-concocted madman strategy to make the Vietnamese think he was crazy enough to blow up their dykes or even drop the big one. It was a well-calculated fear tactic, a shrewd maneuver in a game of psychological warfare.
Paul Krugman understood what was going on, seconding my own analysis of the kamikaze tactics the right was using. He wrote what most of the media obfuscated about:
“The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats – who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether – have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.”
And, oh yes, the President had some big skin in the game. It gave him the posturing moment he needed to show how “balanced” he was, and how centrist he could become.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) argued that Obama talked left to move right, as the Washington Post explained:
Forget about “winning the future”–Barack Obama wants to win the center. That’s what the Washington Post is telling readers (7/25/11):
Obama ‘Big Deal’ on Debt a Gamble to Win the Center
Advisers think securing his plan would ensure general-election victory
The Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb (who can’t be held responsible for the headline) explained that Obama was making Republicans an offer they couldn’t refuse….
“Obama’s political advisers have long believed that securing such an agreement would provide an enormous boost to his 2012 campaign, according to people familiar with White House thinking. In particular, they want to preserve and improve the president’s standing among independents.”
FAIR dipped into their own archive to reminds of us of an article from September 2009 which showed the President was under pressure even then to drop a focus on jobs to concentrate on the deficit.
In other words, this whole strategy is not new but years in the making:
“Parroting the Republican Party, corporate media have recently devoted much energy to deploring the federal deficit and chastising President Barack Obama for not focusing enough on balancing the budget. Very soon, media warn, either spending must be cut or taxes will need to be raised across the board—an argument that rests on the assumption that deficit reduction is, indeed, the top economic priority”
And, so, White House priorities shifted subtly to please the plutocrats and try to neutralize the Tea Party fanatics by co-opting their program the way Bill Clinton did in 1996, It was called “triangulation” then. Obama’s own supporters call it “betrayal” now; Obama’s pro-Wall Street economic team assured they wouldn’t give the men on The Street too much to worry about.
And so what happens now? The Republicans get their bill, unify their ranks even though it’s just more show and tell. As Reuters explains, its all a prelude to coming back to the bargaining table at the 11th hour to make a deal that both sides can use to political advantage.
Read this and as you do, read between the lines;
“The House of Representatives approved a Republican deficit plan on Friday that has no chance of becoming law but could pave the way for a last-ditch bid for bipartisan compromise to avert a crippling national default.”
This was the scenario—more akin to a Kabuki play than a real political fight. It’s more like professional wrestling of the kind they perform at the Capitol Arena not far from Capitol Hill.
The audience is hyped. The wrestlers pretend to hate each other, and arouse the crowd with acts of physical aggression. The match looks fierce, but, as everyone knows, it is fixed and scripted.
They musclemen throw each other around the ring, sometimes even gushing blood. The big bruisers denounce each other until it’s over to the count of 1-2-3; the bad guy always goes down.
The match ends, imagine that, just in time for a commercial break. Here it will end at the debt ceiling deadline. Each side will claim victory.
There is no ceiling on these political shenanigans. It’s just part of fast-paced game designed to keep the public on the sidelines and on the edge of uncertainly while the media keeps the politicians in the spotlight and excites the base in both parties,
In the end, the media will salute both sides for putting country above party. The only deficit here is one of political morality and honesty.
You tell me: am I too cynical, or is this the way what some call politricks has become?
Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter investigates the origins of the economic crisis in his book Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal (Cosimo Books via Amazon). Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
How Shadowy Right-Wing Front Groups Engineered Our National Embrace of Debt Reduction Over Job Creation July 29, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Right Wing.
Tags: big lie, debt ceiling, debt crisis, debt reduction, Economic Crisis, economic recovery, government spending, lee fang, right wing, roger hollander, spending reduction
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Roger’s note: repeat after me, “political democracy without economic democracy is not democratic.” Economic democracy is synonymous with (gasp!) Socialism. Under capitalist economic relations, money always trumps the interest of living breathing human beings. Right wing money is taking things to the extreme, but it is corporate money — left, right or center — that controls education, information, news and therefore public opinion. Has been that way since day one. What we are seeing today is the slow and steady collapse of world capitalism. You can’t get blood from a stone.
(Photo: Vanessa Arn / Flickr)
For the entire year, as a sluggish economy sputters by and states continue to struggle with falling revenue, the conversation in Congress has centered solely on spending reduction. Earlier this year, we witnessed looming government-showdown duels between competing spending reduction plans. Now with the debt ceiling debate, the only two options are a choice between a package of painful cuts and a package of deeply draconian cuts. There has been no lively discussion of new policy ideas for job creation, foreclosure mitigation, or how to spur demand, the key driver of economic recovery.
Earlier this week, Politico published a piece outlining the vast disparity in the ad war over the debt ceiling. Republican-aligned groups have run over $21.2 million in attack ads highlighting Democrats as irresponsible drivers of the national debt, and elevating the debt ceiling as a top priority. Meanwhile, groups on the left have spent about $30,000 on ads calling out Republicans on the debt, with one hitting lawmakers for “recklessly risking default.” Some Democratic leaning groups have even run ads casting Democrats as better at cutting than Republicans.
Since the end of the Bush presidency, shadowy right-wing groups, many of them formed for this very purpose, have primed the public with a sophisticated public relations campaign to shift the national discourse to a focus on debt reduction. Many of these groups do not appear partisan, and have figured out ways around registering their activity with the Federal Elections Commission (so the true extent to their ad-buying is rarely recorded):
– Founded in 2010 by former Bush admin flak Gretchen Hamel, the group Public Notice has quietly pumped millions into advertising about debt reduction: Public Notice sponsored at least $3 million on a debt ad called “Shovel” that falsely claims the spending doesn’t create jobs, an undisclosed amount for online ads promoting a highly produced web series on the evils of government spending, a debt pledge that features pop singer Justin Bieber, and what is believed to be another multimillion dollar ad buy recently for a commercial, appearing like a PSA, that warns that government spending is akin to cocaine addiction. To warp elite opinion, the group sponsored billboard ads at Reagan National Airport and on buses and bus shelters near Capitol Hill. Although Hamel does not reveal her donors, she is connected closely with the Koch network of billionaire and investors. Last year at a right-wing donor conference attended by top hedge fund manager Steve Schwarzman and Charles Koch, Hamel gave a presentation on “Framing the Debate on Spending.”
– Retired investor Pete Peterson has dedicated $1 billion of his personal wealth to reducing government spending; much of that money has gone to a multifaceted marketing campaign: The Peterson Institute has spent $1 million underwriting a movie about the debt, at least $1,010,232 developing a children’s debt sports game that also directs users to a Econ4U, a front group created by infamous lobbyist Rick Berman, millions more for a TV ad campaign called “Hugh Jidette,” an MTV-U cable television series that misleadingly conflates personal debt with the national debt, a newspaper partnered with the Washington Post, and even a program at Columbia University to develop a national debt-related K-12 curriculum.
– Corporate astroturf lobbyist Rick Berman has spent large amounts orchestrating a scare-mongering campaign over the national debt. Along with his connections to the Peterson network mentioned above, Berman has set up a campaign called “Defeat the Debt” to push the public into believing the national debt is the country’s top priority. He has run ads on television, purchased billboards throughout the Washington D.C. metro area, and aggressively marketed his campaign to Capitol Hill staffers. Last year, Berman purchased an ad during the Super Bowl — spending approximately $3 million — that showed schoolchildren pledging allegiance “to America’s debt, and to the Chinese government that lends us money.”
– A network of other right-wing groups have used a series of public relations gimmicks — like barnstorming bus tours filled with highly paid GOP operatives posing as Tea Party activists — to orchestrate an astroturf effort to build support for cutting spending over creating jobs. Groups like Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform sponsored a group called Spending Revolt that toured the country organizing debt-related rallies with Republican candidates last year. The group, which has organized events with the Ohio Coal Association, gained countless local press hits appearing as a genuine citizens groups, despite the fact its sponsors are corporate lobbyists. This year, Americans for Prosperity has continued a separate effort to organize debt-themed rallies. American Majority, a group founded after Obama’s election by two GOP operatives, has quietly provided training efforts across the country to mobilize around the issue of the national debt.
This is only a snapshot of the debt-related public relations campaign; millions more have been spent by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, and other big business advocacy groups.
The incredible resources the right has amassed for its debt campaign are unmatched by progressives. Moreover, at a time when solving the unemployment crisis should be our national priority, only the very wealthy and privileged have the money to direct national ad campaigns of any real impact. In an era of unlimited corporate money in politics, the unemployed and the Middle Class have a quickly disappearing voice in public life.