Monday, October 13, 2008

Hope and no money has got to be better than no money and no hope... I hope

"The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge" Jeremiah 31:29

Mr Obama’s laudable ambitions to extend health insurance to all Americans, to refurbish the country’s failing infrastructure, to make a college education affordable and to cut nearly everybody’s taxes will run up against the amazing demands that the rescue will place on present and future taxpayers. The fiscal mess left behind by the Bush administration makes the problem much worse.(...) Circumstances will force the next president to be a fiscal conservative on matters other than temporary stimulus and financial stability. Clive Crook - Financial Times
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George W. Bush with his wars, with his tax cuts, with his incompetent profligacy, and now with the measures he is taking to save our toxic financial system, is leaving behind him a weight, a legacy, so poisonous that any major change of direction in American social policies looks impossible in this generation. A death trap for social democracy.

America, of all the developed countries, is probably one with the least safety net. Already many Americans are suffering for lack of health insurance or adequate schools and lacking other programs that citizens of most rich and advanced countries take for granted.

This lack of a basic welfare state means that in any economic downturn poorer Americans suffer much more than their counterparts in other wealthy countries.

To be sick and to be hungry is always bad anywhere. To be sick and hungry in "the greatest country in the world" is to add insult to injury.

We have thus laid out before us many of the classic ingredients of fascism.

According to Wikipedia:
(Fascism) is primarily concerned with perceived problems associated with cultural, economic, political, and social decline or decadence, and which seeks to solve such problems by achieving a millenarian national rebirth by exalting the nation, as well as promoting cults of unity, strength and purity.
The same article quotes Robert O. Paxton, the author of "The Anatomy of Fascism", who defines it as:
A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.
It is easy to see that this is the direction that the Republican party has been taking since Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and which we are now seeing in full flower today. Joe Sixpack's, the evangelical's and the rural poor's "uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites" has proven a remarkably effective strategy in good times.

Now with a deep and long recession on the menu and the prospect of a Democratic government despite solid legislative majorities, impotent, without money to institute wide, sweeping social reform, while at the same time America's influence in world affairs steadily declines,
is an invitation to classical nativist paranoia of the grossest kind.

And not just for Republicans.

Barack Obama himself succinctly explained the yeast culture of American fascism in a few candid words that brought him much pain:
“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
The present crisis may very quickly turn heretofore prosperous suburbs all over America into "small towns in the Midwest," where the jobs have all gone, leaving bitterness and "clinging" in those whose educational attainments might have previously made them immune to those vapors.

With a weight of present and future debt so heavy that social policies to ameliorate the lot of suffering citizens will be nigh impossible; in a moment of dreamlike gravity, at the end of some unmarked line, leaden footed, molasses blooded and peering into an abyss of clinging bitterness and rage: the American people find themselves at the point of handing a blank check to an unknown quantity who has until now announced the vaguest of recipes for how to solve the situation... and now there is no other viable choice left

At this point, unless (God forbid) Osama bin Laden intervenes, that is what there is.

The idea that Obama's inexperience might be important has always been considered irrelevant by the millenarians who cling to him. Those with experience of experience would say that inexperience is only a virtue in young, marriageable girls; and only then in traditional societies, but today, many of America's most hopeful, in the aching audacity of their hope, apparently see some sort of political or administrative virginity to be as essential to redeeming America. Much as the Taliban see value in the hymens of their future wives.

Not only poor midwesterners "cling" it seems.

I hope they all are right for their sake, for my sake, and for the world's sake.

Surely it is better to hope than to despair

We can only wish President Barack Obama and ourselves Godspeed. DS


Mike Doyle said...

But the defining characteristic of the existing US healthcare system is that it is more costly compared to the other industrialized countries and less effective in delivering actual healthcare. A switch to single payer ought, eventually, to save money (and save lives).

One problem is that those who decide these things in DC believe that the US already has the best healthcare in the world. They're partly right: they have a very good h/c system but for the rest of us it's not so good.

The other difficulty is our state religion - free market fundamentalism. But now that government intervention has again rescued capitalism (assuming that the US will eventually follow the UK and nationalize the banks) can our legislators now free up their thinking on healthcare?

forensic economist said...

You have expressed the pessimistic view very well. Here is the optimistic view:

Unlike in the depression, the federal reserve and the treasury are not letting banks fail. The money supply is increasing, not decreasing. Public works are being discussed, and likely something will be enacted.

This will be a severe recession, but will be over by the 2010 midterm elections. It will be long over by the 2012 elections.

An Obama administration will not nationalize banks, GM, or health care - perhaps it should - but it will reregulate so that the financial industry will be back under more control.

The lumpenproletariat will go back to watching TV.

I do think that there is more danger from right wing racist fanatics than Bin Laden - before 9/11 the worst terrorist attack in America was Timothy McVeigh's bombing in Oklahoma City. It could happen again. Barring a depression or the presidency of Sarah Palin, you wont see them anywhere close to real power.