- the Supreme Court's creeping grant of the status of personhood to corporations,
- the gross disparities in wealth and income (and all concomitant benefits, like health, education, longevity, etc.),
- Bush and Obama attacks on civil liberties (including Habeus Corpus, Posse Comitatus, whistleblower protections, protections for journalists — the few who actually investigate US government misconduct),
- the Democratic-Republican assault economic protections for elderly Americans.
- the effective criminalization of poverty,
- the cultural glorification of the New American Virtues — wealth, fame, good looks, longevity, fashion, etc.
Friday, August 12, 2011
It is time to stop pretending that this is an accident of other phenomena in the US. Rather, this is what the American elite want.
Americans equate wealth, longevity, "good looks" (in the form of housing, fashion, personal appearance) with virtue. Americans embrace the notion that the wealthier, longer-lived elite are better, innately better, morally better, intellectually better.
Americans embrace an innateness of status that was rejected by Europeans through the French Revolution and numerous other social upheavals.
Worst, Obama, most Democrats, all Republicans, and most important, the Oligarchs (the top 1% or so), want the rest of us to be worse off — in every sense.
This is an explanation that has all the merits attributed under the scientific method. It is simple. It explains what we observe. It has predictive power. Above all, it explains why Obama and others would pursue the policies they do despite overwhelming factual evidence.
Fine. But two obvious questions arise.
1. Is there a point where inequality provokes a backlash among the less-well-off? The answer in the US for decades has been no. Americans are remarkably, stunningly indifferent to the gross inequalities of the US, hands down the most unequal of all the industrial democracies. The US has one of the lowest social mobility rates in the world, even compared to non-democracies and less-developed nations. It has fares most poorly among its peers on health, longevity, education, happiness — very nearly every index of comparison. (The only country that does roughly as badly is Britain. What a surprise — the nation that has done most to parrot the American example.)
Despite this, as John Kenneth Galbraith long noted (among many others), Americans didn't seem to care.... American exceptionalism. Speaking on The Charlie Rose Show, economist Kenneth Rogoff's comment echoes something I've heard elsewhere: Americans "expect to win the lottery." Americans are generally happy to see others enjoy billions because a remarkable percentage of Americans are deluded into thinking they too will win any day now — this despite the US having a dismal degree of social mobility.
Will this change? Can it change? Can Americans develop a measure of anger? Can they rally the way the French or Greeks have? The way anybody but Americans do?
This brings us to the second question:
2. How are the US government and oligarchs suppressing American egalitarian impulses or protecting themselves against the same? I suggest that the national security apparatus/state that has been developing for years and has accelerated under Obama will be used to contain any American social upheaval — should any develop, which seems unlikely given the level of Americans' apathy and ignorance. Under Obama, domestic spying has grown. Obama has viciously sought to suppress whistleblowers, as Glenn Greenwald has described repeatedly. Moreover, we have an educational system which borders on systematic indoctrination. From grade school through university (especially university) we have a host of institutions that endlessly trumpet the unalloyed glories of both unlimited greed and the infallibility of the American way of doing things. I am frequently astonished by the extent to which extraordinarily well-educated, intelligent people show absolutely no inclination or ability to challenge American orthodoxy.
The writings of H. L. Mencken, John Kenneth Galbraith, Noam Chomsky, Mark Twain, and many others go into this over the length of American history. Today, we have many new voices — Naomi Klein, Glenn Greenwald among them. Yet Americans remain impervious to even the most obvious truths.
The wealthiest and their willing slaves like Obama and Congress (those members who are not among the 1% already, that is) have obvious incentives for pressing the dogma. But why so many Americans prove so indifferent is a mystery.
Friday, August 5, 2011
The Orwellian doublethink in Panetta and the Pentagon's assertions is something to behold. Note that the Pentagon is also angling for more money on the grounds that there are new security threats in the form of climate change, among other things. This hopelessly expansive, all-encompassing, "everything is a national security issue" thinking will will swell to include economic issues. Indeed, it already has, as seen in much of the hysterical rhetoric about China.
Paul Krugman noted, again, the other day that the US is looking more and more like a banana republic. One of the features of those failed states is massive numbers of citizens working for the military. Going into the military in many of these countries was the equivalent of going into business in western Europe or North America.
Have Democrats settled on the military as the only social program Republicans will support? Or is Obama just as spinelessly militant as Joseph Lieberman and war-hungry Republicans?
The US patted itself on the back over the success of its strategy of forcing the Soviet Union to spend itself into oblivion on 'defense.' On the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Zbigniew Brzezinski told Carter, "We have given the Soviets their Vietnam."
The US is now doing the same . . . to itself.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Robert Samuelson Redefines "Wealthy"
Friday, 29 July 2011 17:27
The Washington Post once ran a front page piece questioning whether people who earned $250,000 a year, President Obama's cutoff for his no tax hike pledge, were really rich. However, it also features Robert Samuelson on its opinion page telling readers that seniors with income of $30,000 a year are wealthy. I'm not kidding.
In a piece titled "Why Are We In This Debt Fix? It's the elderly stupid," Samuelson tells readers:
"some elderly live hand-to-mouth; many more are comfortable, and some are wealthy. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports the following for Medicare beneficiaries in 2010: 25 percent had savings and retirement accounts averaging $207,000 or more."
Let's see, we have retirees who have their Social Security checks, plus a stash of $207,000. If someone at age 62 were to take that $207,000 and buy an annuity this money would get them about $15,000 a year. Add in $14,000 from Social Security and they are living the good life on $29,000 a year. And remember, 75 percent of the elderly have less than this.
To be fair, many of the people with $207,000 in savings will be older than 62 so their money will go further, but it is hard to believe that anyone can think of this as a cutoff for being wealthy, or at least anyone other than Robert Samuelson and his colleagues at the Washington Post.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
- Technological means;
- Vastly expanding conceptions of what constitute (a) threats and (b) legitimate means; and
- A disparate, dispersed but nevertheless organized body of very willing participants.
- Sheer numbers;
- Growing ease of communication;
- Commitment to a stable, sustainable, humanitarian solution.
- Absolute openness (combat secrecy with openness);
- Ever-repeated commitment to non-violence;
- An extended, open hand even to those with whom we disagree.
Friday, July 8, 2011
When are liberals and progressives going to figure this out? The Democratic strategy for 30 years has been to out-Republican the Republicans. The dividing line, to the extent that there is one, has been on social issues like abortion and gay rights — not on economic issues, not on military issues. Had Clinton not gotten embroiled in the Lewinsky scandal, he would have moved aggressively to privatize Social Security, many of his 'liberal' economic advisers (like Robert Rubin) advocated.
Similarly, when Obama was (supposedly) tackling American health insurance issues, he excluded all single-payer advocates and most (perhaps all) organized labor representatives from the discussion. We now know that even when he was publicly supporting the public option during the campaign, we was in fact privately and personally opposed.
If Obama had been on the political stage 40 years ago, people would have marveled agape at a Black Democrat who was (and is) more conservative than Richard Nixon or most Republicans before George W. Bush. Obama is significantly more conservative than Nixon, George H. W. Bush and Reagan on a number of issues.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama hit on a winning strategy of enlisting the support of many disaffected liberals and progressives. Now, his lies are laid bare. He knows he cannot win out support again (except for delusional diehards who forgive or overlook his wrongdoing). Instead, Obama is moving to claim more conservative voters, which is where is natural sympathies lie anyway.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Saturday, January 1, 2011
This has been answered very nicely by Paul Krugman, Michael Kinsley, James K. Galbraith and many others on the liberal and progressive end of the spectrum. The US is already a de facto oligarchy. Clinton, Bush and now Obama have worked diligently to formalize American Oligarchy, with the unalloyed support of Wall Street and a huge percentage of corporate boards, Democrats, Republicans and American super-rich.
I emphasize that this issue has been expressly raised by many who are far less left-leaning than I am.
It's a possibly-encouraging feature of American democracy that some who could easily ride the wave among fellow oligarchs are vocally opposed to the decline (among them, George Soros).
By contrast, a deeply discouraging feature is the absolute failure of the vast majority of American journalists to do anything even remotely resembling the work they assert they do. Here is London Times editor Robert Lowe in 1851:
The first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation... The Press lives by disclosures... For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure of facts as they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, without fear of consequences – to lend no convenient shelter to acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgment of the world.
Similar thoughts have been voiced by H. L. Mencken, Mark Twain, Studs Terkel, and others. But today, we hear prominent members of the American news establishment explicitly reject this journalistic duty. The torrent of condemnation of and vile misreporting on Julian Assange is a perfect example of this (by, among others, the New York Times, including 'star reporter' John Burns).
Equally discouraging is the deeply delusional state of the American people. Economist Ken Rogoff was recently on Charlie Rose (Rose usually dismally middle-of-the-road to conservative). In response to a question on why Americans support the Republican campaign to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, Rogoff — absolutely on-target — said something to the effect, "Because everyone expects to be rich." I've heard this on the street myself — people with no prospects of any kind asserting with total confidence that they are going to win the lottery. I heard this twenty years ago in Massachusetts when it was reported, during widespread opposition to a modest tax increase proposal, that many lottery ticket buyers spent more on the lottery each year than they paid in their state taxes. (Dollar for dollar, which do you think returned more value to them? Hint: Expected gain on a one dollar lottery ticket is less than a penny.)
The US may very well have the most ill-informed, poorly-educated, deluded population of any country on Earth. (But China seems determined to best us on that count.)