Archive for the ‘Capitalism’ Category
You guys, I never realized how hilarious Alan Greenspan is…
Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognise it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global “invisible hand” has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.
Yeah, except for that incident in 2008 where the word’s economy plunged from the heavens like a fiery meteor, everything has been awesome. Oh, and apart from all those other times that happen around “every three years,” according to Larry Summers.
Over the past 20 years major financial disruptions have taken place roughly every three years, starting with the 1987 stock market crash; the Savings & Loans collapse and credit crunch of the early 1990s; the 1994 Mexican crisis; the Asian financial crises of 1997 with the Russian and Long-Term Capital Management events of 1998; the bursting of the technology bubble in 2000; the potential disruptions of the payments system after the events of September 11 2001 and the deflationary scare in the credit markets in 2002 after the collapse of Enron.
And I suppose wages have indeed been stable if by “stable” Alan means stagnant inside the United States for over thirty years. Also, too, international prices are stable unless you’re a poor brown person looking to buy bread, in which case stab your neighbor and try to steal his flour because the invisible hand of the market is coming to crush you.
Alan must have temporarily blacked out and forgotten he already confessed back in 2008 that he placed too much faith in the ability of markets to correct themselves, and that his belief in deregulation had been shaken. Somewhere between 2008 and 2011, however, the markets went back to being God’s perfect tools.
Of course, I think Alan means the invisible hand has created relative stability for a small clan of plutocrats while everyone else throws elbows to secure the crumbs left behind.
By allowing banks to kick people out of their homes using fraudulent creative paperwork, this kind of fraud is inevitable.
A sign in the front of a building on West 39th Street tells visitors that it’s the Unicredit Debt Resolution Center in Erie.
Once debtors got inside, they were fooled into believing they were in a courtroom with a judge, but the whole thing was a fake, according to a lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania attorney general.
Team 4′s Jim Parsons reported that Unicredit America is accused in the lawsuit of deceiving, misleading and coercing hundreds of consumers into paying off their debts.
Well, why not? Banks used hairdressers and Wal-Mart floor workers with no formal training as “foreclosure experts” in order to make millions of Americans destitute because their exploitive loans are now worth more than their homes. After all, indebted people are stupid, and they deserve to be taken advantage of.
I do have to give Unicredit America points for creativity, though.
The Attorney General’s Office told Team 4 that Unicredit lured debtors to the building by sending employees who appeared to be sheriff’s deputies to their homes, implying that they would be taken into custody if they failed to appear at the phony court hearings.
So much of what the elite business class does is pure illusion. Grab a couple hairdressers and call ‘em “foreclosure experts.” Clean up some of the fellas at the bus stop and they’re “sheriffs.” Sell some poor people shitty loans and call them “subprime mortgages.”
When the underclass does this, it’s called fraud. When the elite does it, it’s called Capitalism.
This week, Citizen Radio interviewed Salon blogger, bestselling author, and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald, and returning champ, Noam Chomsky. Both interviews can be heard by subscribing to the free podcast at wearecitizenradio.com. You can also view a teaser of Glenn’s interview at our Youtube channel, which you should subscribe to in order to see more neat interviews.
Greenwald interview: Topics include: How the Obama administration has continued Bush era policies, why the War on Drugs is similar to the War on Terror, Elena Kagan, cause and effect in the War On Terror, Jon Stewart and false equivalencies, the unconstitutional detention of Guantanamo prisoners, gay teen suicides and the Obama administration’s treatment of the LGBT community, third party candidates, America’s collapsing empire, and of course…puppies.
Chomsky interview: Topics include: his friend, the late Howard Zinn, refugee prisons, debt, Capitalism, and love.
Citizen Radio is a political-comedy internet radio show hosted by Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein that airs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Subscribe to the show at http://wearecitizenradio.com.
“Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny have created an important political radio show that balances humor and unreported news. At a time when media conglomerates dominate the airwaves, independent media like Citizen Radio is vital to national discourse.” – NOAM CHOMSKY
The WSJ published a ridiculous article yesterday that claims Capitalism saved the Chilean miners, and opens with a boldface lie when writer Daniel Henninger proclaims, “It needs to be said.” Does it, Daniel? Does it really?
Henninger believes the rescue of the miners is a smashing success for free market Capitalism because without that nifty drill bit, which was the only tool capable of freeing the workers, those blue-collar suckers would still be trapped in the belly of the earth with Satan and his fiery army. You see, the drill bit was developed by a company for a profit, which obviously means regulation and anything else that stands in the way of the righteous free market, is are killing Chilean miners. Or something.
In reality, Capitalism helped contribute to the mine disaster. That is, hyper-Capitalism, the most warped version of Capitalism, which sacrifices regulation in the name of profit, led to mine disasters that culminated with 33 men being trapped deep below ground in darkness for 69 days.
Dick Blin, a spokesman for the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions in Geneva, says the Chile accident is a sign that the workplace safety culture needs to change in Chile. As proof, Blin cites the fact that the San Jose Mine was closed down for safety violations in 2006 and 2007.
My new Maureen Dowd is on a roll this week. First, he declared an end to the era of opulence based on the rantings of a southern Baptist megachurch leader. Bobo made this bold proclamation during a time of enormous wealth disparity, and after poor taxpayers just dropped a couple trillion dollars bailing out Wall Street tycoons, who BTW, handed out record bonuses during the economic collapse.
Now, he argues that we are the middle of a “jobless recovery,” whatever that means. At first, I assumed he was talking about the people who wrecked the economy receiving fat bonuses, while the starving masses squirrel away food stamps. You know, “the right people” are recovering – prospering, even – while the undesirables suffocate under a mountain of debt and disease. After all, there’s not enough money for universal health care, but there’s enough cash to supply two ongoing military occupations.
Or perhaps Bobo was referring to America’s two tier justice system where the underclass forever toil and barely scrape by, occasionally bearing the full brunt of the courts, which imprison and enslave the working class for petty theft and drug-dealing, while the CEO of a company that dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, along with poisonous chemical dispersants, gets to go yachting with his buddies.
Alas, Bobo appears to be talking about magical thinking. He writes, “After decades of affluence, the U.S. has drifted away from the hardheaded practical mentality that built the nation’s wealth in the first place.” In his revised history of the United States, sometime around 1800, the economy simply “took off.” Like a miracle.
I find it disturbing that a major city being put on lockdown in order to accommodate the international elite and suppress the underclass has become standard — and acceptable — procedure.
Right now, the leaders of rich and developing nations are in Toronto, and the authorities anticipated that there will be a series of protests during the conferences because there are always protests during the G8/G20 meet-ups.
Capitalism is particularly unpopular right now because the US has unleashed a steroid-filled version of it unto the world, and this economic system has failed to provide for the majority of people. It has, however, created a dwindling elitist echelon who control a vast majority of riches. In the year of Hayward and his yachting adventures, there’s no reason to doubt there will be any fewer protests against the douchiest rich people among us.
Toronto was ready to suppress such dissent, and shape a nice, pleasant narrative for the city’s visitors, by implementing a complete and total lockdown.
The “lockdown” of central Toronto includes a 3m-high (10ft), 3.5km (2.2-mile) concrete and metal fence enclosing the G20 meeting area and a huge security presence. Banks and theatres will be closed, as will one of Canada’s most famous tourist attractions – the CN Tower.
It’s important to remember that the supposed goal of the G20 summit is “to continue the work of building a healthier, stronger and more sustainable global economy.” And what better way to express that kind of egalitarian unity than to build a 10-ft-high, 2-mile-long fence to keep out the serfs?
These kinds of global gatherings have also become a playground for authorities to experiment with their newest, shiniest crowd control devices. Last year, I reported that Pittsburgh police demonstrated the latest suppression technology on protesters near that year’s G20 summit. The weapon du jour were sound cannons.
The crisis confronting capitalism is a vivid demonstration of the vapidity that underlay the appeal of globalization (a k a the Washington Consensus) as a mantra for all seasons, all times, all countries and all continents. Mass unemployment once again threatens the advanced capitalist world, as it has during thirty-four business cycles since 1854. Ehrenreich and Fletcher map today’s conditions, underline the weaknesses of the left on every level and then pose the old question, What is to be done?
Before addressing the question, a few points of disagreement. Despite mocking those on the left who, in the past, saw every downturn as an opportunity to proclaim that the end of capitalism was nigh, the authors fall into the same trap. This time, we are told, the “patient may not get up from the table.” I don’t agree. Capitalism is always faced with crises, which are part of the deadly logic of an economy based on a state-buttressed market system. It has failed many times before but has recovered, including during periods when it confronted real political challenges. Its ability to adapt and survive should not be underestimated, even though it will do so, as before, at the expense of the majority it exploits.
Until the emergence of a viable sociopolitical and economic alternative, perceived by a majority as such, there will be no final crisis of capitalism. In order to save themselves, today’s elites will consider approaches to the crisis that preserve the status quo. The choice they are faced with domestically is between establishing a public utility credit and banking operation geared to reviving a productive sector, or shoring up a discredited, deregulated Wall Street/City of London operation based on fictive capital. The bailouts in New York and London are designed to do the latter. Globally, it’s more difficult to accept a loss of Atlanticist control, but if pressure continues to mount, the Far Eastern bloc might suggest a new set of institutions based on multilateral rather than imperial control, leading to dismantling but also renewal.
What of the alternatives? With the post-1990 entry of capitalism into Russia, China, Vietnam, etc., the global media networks crowed that the capitalist Cinderella had defeated the ugly sisters, communism and socialism. The shift was experienced by a majority of the world’s less-privileged citizens as a collapse of all anti-capitalist perspectives.
A new mood for change developed slowly: the Caracazo in 1989, Seattle a decade later, followed by the birth of a World Social Forum to counter the ideology of Davos, followed by a set of mass social movements in South America. The dramatic collapse of the Argentinian economy led to workers’ self-management experiments, factory occupations and district soviets (councils) in Buenos Aires to discuss a different future. In Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, the social movements challenging the neoliberal order produced governments that represented a new form of radical social democracy that seeks to combine state, socialized, cooperative, small-scale private and individual enterprises. These popularly elected governments broke the isolation of Cuba and obtained its help in constructing health and education infrastructures that benefit the majority. If Cuba, in turn, learned the importance of political pluralism from its new allies, the results would be beneficial.
What happens in Latin America is important for the United States. The backyard has moved indoors. The large Hispanic population within US borders maintains links with its past. The effect has sometimes been negative–e.g., among Cubans in Florida, but there, too, the mood is changing. The social movements in South America challenged deregulation and privatization more effectively than organized labor has done in North America or Western Europe. If adopted in the United States, this model could build popular pressure for a nationalized health service, massive investment in education and reduced military spending, and against bailouts for the car industry and sinking airlines. Let them fall, so that a public transportation infrastructure can be built based on an ecologically sound and more efficient train service that serves the needs of all. Without action from below, there will be no change from above.
Tariq Ali is an editor at New Left Review. His latest book is The Duel: Pakistan on the Flightpath of American Power (Scribner).
Other Contributions to the Forum
Immanuel Wallerstein, “Follow Brazil’s Example”
Bill McKibben, “Together, We Save the Planet”
Rebecca Solnit, “The Revolution Has Already Occurred”
Robert Pollin, “Be Utopian: Demand the Realistic”
John Bellamy Foster, “Economy, Ecology, Empire”
Christian Parenti, “Limits and Horizons”
Doug Henwood, “A Post-Capitalist Future is Possible”
Mike Davis, “The Necessary Eloquence of Protest”
Lisa Duggan, “Imagine Otherwise”
Vijay Prashad, “The Dragons, Their Dragoons”
Mark Ames (h/t Alternet)
The killing spree in Alabama fits a well-worn pattern of workplace-driven massacres that we’ve seen since the “going postal” phenomenon exploded in the middle of the Reagan revolution.
In spite of the fact that these killings have gone on unabated for over 20 years, most of the country doesn’t want to know why they’re happening — least of all the people in power.
If we study the motive for Michael McLendon’s shooting rampage Tuesday, which left 11 bodies across three towns in southern Alabama, and we look at the bizarre way that the causes of the shooting are being hushed up, you begin to understand why this uniquely-Reaganomics-inspired crime started in the United States, and continues to plague us.
But of all the inexplicable circumstances surrounding the murder spree, one of the oddest has to be the way Alabama authorities went from focusing hard on solving the shooter’s motive to suddenly dropping the issue like a hot potato and running away from the scene of the crime, as if they didn’t like what their investigation produced.
On Wednesday night, investigators announced that they had discovered the motive, and they would reveal it to the world on Thursday morning.
Investigators close in on motive of Alabama gunman
by Donna Francavilla
SAMSON, Ala. (AFP) — Alabama investigators said they were closing in on a motive for the U.S. state’s deadliest-ever shooting, in which a man killed his mother, grandmother and eight others before taking his own life. The Alabama Bureau of Investigations said there had been “very recent developments that we believe may direct us to a motive” for the grisly rampage, but ABI was quick to dismiss earlier reports that a hit list had been found in the house of the gunman, identified as Michael McLendon.
But then something funny happened on Thursday. Alabama investigators completely reversed themselves: They were now claiming there was no way to find out the motive for the killings, and in fact, no motive ever existed in the first place.
“There’s probably never going to be a motive,” Trooper Kevin Cook, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, said Thursday.
Even the list that provided so many obvious clues as to what sparked the shooting is now no longer the “hit list” or list of people who had “done him wrong,” but rather, “the kind of list you’d put on a magnet on the refrigerator door,” according to Cook.
Which is odd, because just the day before, Cook told reporters, “As to motive, what we do know is that his mother had a lawsuit pending against Pilgrim’s Pride.”
Why the bizarre about-face? We may never know, because Alabama investigators abruptly closed the investigation at noon on Thursday, sending home almost the entire team. Nothing to see here folks, keep moving along.
This raises a new question: What was it about McLendon’s motive that officials wanted hushed? Or better yet: What did Pilgrim’s Pride do that could have incited a man described by all as nice, quiet and respectful to unleash a bloody killing spree?
On the surface, the horrific details seem to suggest a straightforward case of a lone psychopath unleashed: Michael McLendon, 28, shot and killed execution-style his own mother and four dogs, then set their bodies on fire before driving to other relatives’ houses and killing them; he killed a deputy’s wife and baby, along with bystanders; and like so many rampage massacres over the past 20 years, he ended his life inside of his former workplace: Reliance Metal Products, in the small town of Geneva, Ala.
Authorities say they discovered a list — presumably a hit list — of people and companies whom McLendon felt had done him wrong. Popular culture tells us that the hit list and his grievances are themselves signs that he suffered from a persecution complex, like so many Charles Mansons. No need to actually look into who was on that hit list and why — the mere discovery of such a list should be enough to indict him, case closed.
But nothing’s solved, nothing’s closed; and if we’re serious about understanding the “why” of this massacre, as everyone claims to be, then that list is the best place to start.
As with so many of these rage massacres from the past 20 years, the more you look at Tuesdays’ killing spree, the more you see that the system we’ve been living under since Reaganomics conquered everything has created all kinds of monsters and maniacs, from the plutocrats who’ve plundered this country for three decades straight, down to the lone broken worker — McLendon — who took up arms in a desperate suicide mission against the beast that crushed him.
So far we’ve learned that McLendon’s hit list names the three companies he had worked for since 2003 — Reliance Metals, which makes construction materials; Pilgrim’s Pride, the nation’s number one poultry producer, where his mother also worked, until she was suspended from her job last week; and Kelley Foods, a smaller family-owned meat-processing company from which McLendon apparently quit just last week.
Even more striking to someone who has studied these workplace massacres, it appears that McLendon was bullied and abused at work. One clue as to why he’d end his spree at Reliance, where he hadn’t worked since 2003, could be that he was trying to kill the source of the pain: workers at Reliance used to taunt him incessantly, giving him the nickname “Doughboy.” Which basically means “fatso” and “faggot” combined: McLendon was 5 feet, 8 inches tall, but he weighed roughly 210 pounds.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but “Doughboy” is the exact same nickname that workers at Standard Gravure, a printing plant in Louisville, Ky., gave to a guy named Joe Wesbecker back in the 1980s.
Like McLendon’s case against Pilgrim’s Pride, Wesbecker also was locked in an ongoing labor dispute with his company, whose top shareholders had gone on an eight-year plundering spree, leaving little for the workers; the government backed Wesbecker’s case against Standard Gravure, and he “won” his dispute, but it was irrelevant.
By 1989, the culture had changed, all power went to the CEOs and major shareholders. Standard Gravure’s senior executives ignored the arbitration rulings and continued to treat Wesbecker however they felt, slashing his pay under a different pretense, which would require a whole new round of arbitrations.
Joe “Doughboy” Wesbecker finally cracked: on Sept. 14, 1989, he unleashed America’s first private workplace massacre, pitting aggrieved worker against vampiric company, borrowing from the numerous post office shootings that had erupted a few years earlier. The result: seven killed, 20 wounded, and the death of the company that drove him to the brink. And an unending string of workplace massacres by “disgruntled employees” ever since.
Next time any asshole calls a kid or a co-worker “Doughboy,” put the bully and the bullied on the top of your next Ghoul Pool list. Bullying in the workplace, like bullying in the schoolyard, is only now being recognized as a serious problem, with devastating psychological consequences — and the occasional rampage massacre.
Conventional wisdom used to say that victims of bullying should “deal with it” since it was “just the way things are”; nowadays, after all the workplace and school shootings, anti-bullying laws and codes are becoming increasingly common.
KIEV, Ukraine — Steel and chemical factories, once the muscle of Ukraine’s economy, are dismissing thousands of workers. Cities have had days without heat or water because they cannot pay their bills, and Kiev’s subway service is being threatened. Lines are sprouting at banks, the currency is wilting and even a government default seems possible.
Ukraine, once considered a worldwide symbol of an emerging, free-market democracy that had cast off authoritarianism, is teetering. And its predicament poses a real threat for other European economies and former Soviet republics.
The sudden, violent protests that have erupted elsewhere in Eastern Europe seem imminent here now, too. Across Kiev last week, people spoke of rising anger about the crisis and resentment toward a government that they said was more preoccupied with squabbling than with rallying the country.
The sign held by Vasily Kirilyuk, an unemployed plumber camped out with other antigovernment demonstrators here in the past week, summed up the pervasive frustration: “Get rid of them all,” it said.
Mr. Kirilyuk did not hesitate to take that further. “There will be a revolt,” he said. “And people will come because they are just fed up.”
Mr. Kirilyuk, 29, was standing in the same central square where throngs in 2004 carried out the Orange Revolution, a seminal event that brought to power a pro-Western government in Ukraine. He said he was a fervent supporter then of the protesters, but now he and a few dozen others who have set up tents here are demanding that the heroes of that revolution step down.
It is not hard to understand why world leaders are increasingly worried about the discontent and the financial crisis in Ukraine, which has 46 million people and a highly strategic location. A small country like Latvia or Iceland is one thing, but a collapse in Ukraine could wreck what little investor confidence is left in Eastern Europe, whose formerly robust economies are being badly strained.
It could also cause neighboring Russia, which has close ethnic and linguistic ties to eastern and southern Ukraine, to try to inject itself into the country’s affairs. What is more, the Kremlin would be able to hold up Ukraine as an example of what happens when former Soviet republics follow a Western model of free-market democracy.
“Ukraine is a linchpin for stability in Europe,” said Olexiy Haran, a professor of comparative politics at Kiev Mohyla University. “It is a key player between the expanding European Union and Russia. To use an alarmist scenario, you could imagine a situation in Ukraine that Russia tried to exploit in order to dominate Ukraine. That would make for a very explosive situation on the border of the European Union.”
That Ukraine can cause problems for Europe was highlighted in January when Ukraine engaged in a dispute with Russia over how much it would pay Russia for natural gas, as well as over gas transport to the rest of Europe. The Kremlin shut off the gas for several days, and some European countries went without heat. The Kremlin also shut off gas to Ukraine in 2006 in a pricing dispute.
While Ukraine’s economy is dependent on exports of steel and chemicals, which have plummeted, the crisis has cut deeply because people are disillusioned with the government.
President Viktor A. Yushchenko, a leader of the Orange Revolution, who garnered attention around the world in 2004 when his face was scarred in a poisoning episode, is so widely scorned that a recent poll found that 57 percent of people wanted him to resign.
His rivals have also lost popularity, as the public has become exasperated by years of political bickering. In February, the International Monetary Fund refused to release the next installment of a $16.4 billion rescue loan to Ukraine because the government would not adhere to an earlier agreement to pare its budget.
Around the same time, Ukraine’s finance minister resigned, saying that the job had been “hostage to politics.”
On Friday, the monetary fund projected that Ukraine’s economy would shrink by 6 percent this year, and said that it was continuing to work with the government to find a way to disburse the rest of the rescue loan.
A presidential election is coming, probably to be held next January, and this prospect is making politicians, especially Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, reluctant to adopt an austerity program that might alienate voters.
Mr. Yushchenko and Ms. Tymoshenko were pro-Western allies during the Orange Revolution, but have bitterly feuded since then, and he fired her once. A third rival, Viktor F. Yanukovich, a former prime minister who heads an opposition party that favors closer ties with Russia, also wants to be president.
On Friday, Mr. Yushchenko and Ms. Tymoshenko held a public meeting in an effort to demonstrate that they were working together. Mr. Yushchenko said he wanted “to show the readiness of all sides to take political responsibility for decisions which today are not easy.”
Even so, the two did not announce further anticrisis measures.
All over Kiev have been signs that tensions are building.
On the city’s outskirts, more than 200 tractor-trailer rigs were parked Thursday, their drivers threatening to block roads if the government did not help them with their debts, which they said were caused in part by the drop in the value of Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia.
The truckers dispersed Friday, only after the government said it would try to address their demands, but they said they would be back soon if they were ignored.
“The government is to blame for all this,” said a trucker, Viktor V. Zarichnyuk, 26, who had been at the protest for 12 days. “We want the government and the national bank to agree that the money allocated by the International Monetary Fund, at least part of it, should go to regular people.”
At a branch of the Rodovid Bank across town, a tense crowd gathered Friday morning. The bank, close to failing, was allowing withdrawals of only $35 a day. And so people, some of them pensioners fearful for their life savings, have been trooping each day, ever more aggravated, to try to get what they can.
“Every day we come here — it’s insulting — in the cold and line up,” said Alevtina A. Antonyuk, 58, an engineer. “They are nothing at this bank but a bunch of thieves.”
Who is to blame, she was asked. Before she could answer, Dmitri I. Havrilkiv, 78, a retired crane operator, interrupted.
“The government has to be replaced,” he shouted. “They just can’t handle it!”
We have a remarkable ability to create our own monsters. A few decades of meddling in the Middle East with our Israeli doppelgänger and we get Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida, the Iraqi resistance movement and a resurgent Taliban. Now we trash the world economy and destroy the ecosystem and sit back to watch our handiwork. Hints of our brave new world seeped out Thursday when Washington’s new director of national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He warned that the deepening economic crisis posed perhaps our gravest threat to stability and national security. It could trigger, he said, a return to the “violent extremism” of the 1920s and 1930s.
It turns out that Wall Street, rather than Islamic jihad, has produced our most dangerous terrorists. You wouldn’t know this from the Obama administration, which seems hellbent on draining the blood out of the body politic and transfusing it into the corpse of our financial system. But by the time Barack Obama is done all we will be left with is a corpse—a corpse and no blood. And then what? We will see accelerated plant and retail closures, inflation, an epidemic of bankruptcies, new rounds of foreclosures, bread lines, unemployment surpassing the levels of the Great Depression and, as Blair fears, social upheaval.
The United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimates that some 50 million workers will lose their jobs worldwide this year. The collapse has already seen 3.6 million lost jobs in the United States. The International Monetary Fund’s prediction for global economic growth in 2009 is 0.5 percent—the worst since World War II. There are 2.3 million properties in the United States that received a default notice or were repossessed last year. And this number is set to rise in 2009, especially as vacant commercial real estate begins to be foreclosed. About 20,000 major global banks collapsed, were sold or were nationalized in 2008. There are an estimated 62,000 U.S. companies expected to shut down this year. Unemployment, when you add people no longer looking for jobs and part-time workers who cannot find full-time employment, is close to 14 percent.
And we have few tools left to dig our way out. The manufacturing sector in the United States has been destroyed by globalization. Consumers, thanks to credit card companies and easy lines of credit, are $14 trillion in debt. The government has pledged trillions toward the crisis, most of it borrowed or printed in the form of new money. It is borrowing trillions more to fund our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And no one states the obvious: We will never be able to pay these loans back. We are supposed to somehow spend our way out of the crisis and maintain our imperial project on credit. Let our kids worry about it. There is no coherent and realistic plan, one built around our severe limitations, to stanch the bleeding or ameliorate the mounting deprivations we will suffer as citizens. Contrast this with the national security state’s strategies to crush potential civil unrest and you get a glimpse of the future. It doesn’t look good.
“The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications,” Blair told the Senate. “The crisis has been ongoing for over a year, and economists are divided over whether and when we could hit bottom. Some even fear that the recession could further deepen and reach the level of the Great Depression. Of course, all of us recall the dramatic political consequences wrought by the economic turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, the instability, and high levels of violent extremism.”
The specter of social unrest was raised at the U.S. Army War College in November in a monograph [click on Policypointers’ pdf link to see the report] titled “Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development.” The military must be prepared, the document warned, for a “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States,” which could be provoked by “unforeseen economic collapse,” “purposeful domestic resistance,” “pervasive public health emergencies” or “loss of functioning political and legal order.” The “widespread civil violence,” the document said, “would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.”
“An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home,” it went on.
“Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD [the Department of Defense] would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance,” the document read.
In plain English, something bureaucrats and the military seem incapable of employing, this translates into the imposition of martial law and a de facto government being run out of the Department of Defense. They are considering it. So should you.
Adm. Blair warned the Senate that “roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown.” He noted that the “bulk of anti-state demonstrations” internationally have been seen in Europe and the former Soviet Union, but this did not mean they could not spread to the United States. He told the senators that the collapse of the global financial system is “likely to produce a wave of economic crises in emerging market nations over the next year.” He added that “much of Latin America, former Soviet Union states and sub-Saharan Africa lack sufficient cash reserves, access to international aid or credit, or other coping mechanism.”
“When those growth rates go down, my gut tells me that there are going to be problems coming out of that, and we’re looking for that,” he said. He referred to “statistical modeling” showing that “economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one to two year period.”
Blair articulated the newest narrative of fear. As the economic unraveling accelerates we will be told it is not the bearded Islamic extremists, although those in power will drag them out of the Halloween closet when they need to give us an exotic shock, but instead the domestic riffraff, environmentalists, anarchists, unions and enraged members of our dispossessed working class who threaten us. Crime, as it always does in times of turmoil, will grow. Those who oppose the iron fist of the state security apparatus will be lumped together in slick, corporate news reports with the growing criminal underclass.
The committee’s Republican vice chairman, Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri, not quite knowing what to make of Blair’s testimony, said he was concerned that Blair was making the “conditions in the country” and the global economic crisis “the primary focus of the intelligence community.”
The economic collapse has exposed the stupidity of our collective faith in a free market and the absurdity of an economy based on the goals of endless growth, consumption, borrowing and expansion. The ideology of unlimited growth failed to take into account the massive depletion of the world’s resources, from fossil fuels to clean water to fish stocks to erosion, as well as overpopulation, global warming and climate change. The huge international flows of unregulated capital have wrecked the global financial system. An overvalued dollar (which will soon deflate), wild tech, stock and housing financial bubbles, unchecked greed, the decimation of our manufacturing sector, the empowerment of an oligarchic class, the corruption of our political elite, the impoverishment of workers, a bloated military and defense budget and unrestrained credit binges have conspired to bring us down. The financial crisis will soon become a currency crisis. This second shock will threaten our financial viability. We let the market rule. Now we are paying for it.
The corporate thieves, those who insisted they be paid tens of millions of dollars because they were the best and the brightest, have been exposed as con artists. Our elected officials, along with the press, have been exposed as corrupt and spineless corporate lackeys. Our business schools and intellectual elite have been exposed as frauds. The age of the West has ended. Look to China. Laissez-faire capitalism has destroyed itself. It is time to dust off your copies of Marx.