September 29, 2008

So The House Bill Failed

Now maybe the Democrats can muster enough of a progressive attempt to truly insulate taxpayers from rescuing a bunch of money grubbing spoiled babies who pretty much got all the deregulatory green lights they wanted... for decades – BUT DON'T COUNT ON IT! The House last Wednesday agreed to allocate, according to September 24, 2008 NY Times article, “$612 billion for national defense programs in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1” with $68 billion set aside for “operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next few months and would provide a 3.9 percent pay increase for military personnel, half a percentage point more than Mr. Bush requested.” The bill passed 392-39 – and went through without a murmur from anyone! Check out Chalmers Johnson piece in who wrote, "if we cannot cut back our longstanding ever increasing military spending in a major way, then the bankruptcy of the United States is inevitable."

So who the fuck are we kidding? This is NOT a functioning two-party political system but one corporate plutocracy with a bunch of bullying fascist pigs just waiting in the wings to declare martial law to save the day.

September 27, 2008

What Is Neoliberalism?

Listen to this interview with Wendy Brown conducted back in March of this year. And then read her 2006 essay "American Nightmare: Neoliberalism, Neoconservatism, and De-Democratization."

September 26, 2008

Libertarianism is in Denial

And I’m not just referring to making excuses for the self-destructive tendencies of unbridled deregulatory greed, or for sanctifying the incredible swelling of capital even when it comes at the expense of deepening inequalities which only translate into gaping discrepancies of institutional access and political power. Because underneath these all these denials lie a more fundamental trickery which comes to the fore once it is realized that if libertarians actually ever walked the balk they would turn their little venal crusade supposedly waged on behalf of “freedom” and “the individual” not just at government infrastructure and moral doctrine but at the “private” realm of concentrated power and wealth which dominates their own lives – as well as the very economy they want to liberate. In short, libertarians deny that the realities of overwhelming bureaucracies are not distinctly the work of “federal” planning but actually endemic to liberal capitalism itself, to both the “private” and “public” realms, where interest group bargaining and the forming of corporate cartels with high-priced lawyers have always been the norm. Ever hear of Frederick Winslow Taylor? JP Morgan? Henry Ford? Enron? The ugly truth is that the banking and financial sectors are themselves the absolute epitome of hierarchical command and control, mindless paper trails, and a bunch of middle-class stiffs in business suits whose job it is to serve The Man.

Of course, they may take home a nice pay check. That is the bottom line is it not? And why else would university departments – whole business schools even – be created and funded by private business through huge donations if not for the sole purpose of turning out data wielding control freaks steeped in the wisdom of Business Administration and Management, and who are to become foot soldiers for Hayekian class warfare? That sexy young libertarians also wear their kick-ass independence cred with honor is laughable however since the free-market panacea only pushes petty middle-class pursuits of private wealth where any and every facet of existence is subjected to charts, data, and schemes of all kinds, i.e., “the market,” in order to turn a fucking buck. Now how rad is that? And it’s not difficult at all to understand why libertarianism has so much appeal. When communitarian ethics have been rendered passé, as well as pinko socialism or any pretense for existential aesthetic rebellion, everything in the culture – especially what is “alternative” – gets marketed and ultimately normalized for mass consumption. To emphasize a point made time and time again by Thomas Frank, being blind to the primary ruling forces of business and to the totalizing expansion of corporate power which dominates social, cultural, and political possibilities is itself largely a product of those same commercial cultural industries.

The important political point in all of this is that libertarians have to face up to the fact that dissolving federal power is always bound to fail because such dissolve only ignores the very conditions that typically lead to the growth of centralization in the first place. They haven't seemed to figure that out yet. Indeed federalism was originally designed to promote self-governance by dispersing political power. But since these arrangements also presupposed decentralized local economies, the concentration of capital and economic power rendered the political schemes of the early republic anachronistic. Federalism has thus had to evolve in order to appeal – if not protect – those who were at the mercy of the whims of market forces. The alleged “business cycles” which many libertarians consider “natural” only increases the vortex of centralization and bureaucracy, public and private. Of course, everybody likes having bureaucracies, whether public or private, perform efficiently so that services can be expedited in a functional and timely manner. Yet because libertarianism is an ideology which doggedly harasses and sabotages attempts to make government agencies more effective and efficient – attacking even the very raison d’etrê of government – it can conveniently sweep into pockets the massive revenues made possible by liquidating public functions that actually are needed for any advanced post-industrial society to exist. Thus it is quite content to leave national security and electronic surveillance, the building and maintenance of bridges and roads, sanitation, the police and military, the voting booth – the very responsibilities and duties which have historically otherwise operated within a political domain accountable to citizens –to be governed instead by the private interests of shareholders. That is the issue. Libertarianism is a scourge upon the political.

September 24, 2008

Media Bail Out

There is a severe disconnect between political journalism (if you could call it that,) and politics. Eric Boehlert writes in today's Media Matters,
"Blinded by its obsession with the presidential campaign (an obsession that has too often revolved around tactics and trivia), the press this summer all but ignored the unfolding financial story at a time when the public announced, week after week, that it was starved for more economic reporting and that the economy was, without question and perhaps without precedent, the single most pressing issue for the presidential campaign."
Sheldon Wolin once wrote a great essay, "Political Theory and Political Commentary," describing how "insiders" lack proper political perspective because they are simply "too close" to politics. Today we see how the medias do not so much provide a platform for elections but brandish (even if unknowingly) a particular kind of political culture addicted to gossip, pseudo-scientific polling data, and predictions de jour which ultimately are negatively averse to the interests of the demos. Prior to last week, if you had ever wanted to dissent from the mantra of economic deregulation you would have been ignored, just as if you had been screaming against the war before it actually began. Pundits and anchors are not even capable of asking the right questions because they lack the comprehensiveness, much less concern, that today's important political issues require.

September 19, 2008

Unbelievably Exciting

The Federal Government has now assumed the role of senior partner in the economy. We’re not just talking the usual tax breaks, bailouts, subsidies, loans, and shelters provided for the corporate sector but the active involvement in commanding huge sums of capital and becoming the chief stockholder. The financial system has been turned over to centralized political planning; and has not only been met with necessary approval from investment firms but has also prompted some to even refer to a “paradigm shift” having taking place, an admission that should have everyone anticipating what actually privatizing the profits and politicizing the losses will actually come to mean.

Remember that the free-market libertarian panacea was always in denial of the implicit reliance of corporate power on government (in)action, and the various preferential treatments given to high finance which inevitably created the “welfare state for the rich” rallying cry. This past week however has only made it glaringly evident that state capitalism has sealed the deal and is here to stay. The alleged “paradigm shift” to thus be debated is whether we want merely a fusion of Thomas Hobbes and Max Weber through increased bureaucratic planning with some idolatry of the state thrown in for good measure, i.e., more of the same but hopefully kindler and gentler, or state actions which includes the kind of political accountability and democratic empowerment these canonical political figures – not incidentally – only precluded.

For Benjamin Barber,

the way out lies not just through technical fixes or pumping public money into failing banks and insurance companies. It means reasserting our rights as citizens to regulate the market. It means insisting we will not support the new 'socialism of risk' unless we also share in the profits (that's another way to reduce taxes!)

In short, it means consumers must become citizens again, reclaiming their democratic right to fiscal transparency, political oversight and market regulation. It means the public sector must come back not just in the default mode when the private sector fails, but actively and constructively so that the public weal takes precedence over private interests in good times as well.

Presently the political debate is mired in the slogans and poses of electioneering. Regardless of who you vote for it is important to know however the depth of the problem which many of us have been trying to emphasize. Just consider, for starters, how slow and almost irrelevant McCain and Obama have been this week when compared with the frenetic wheeling-and-dealing done by Paulson, Bernanke, et. al. The political discourse is utterly behind real developments. Indeed the nature of the problem today is encrusted corporate power which has not only dominated every facet of our existence but steadily paralyzed and corrupted the political culture; it is consistently anti-democratic, and it breeds powerlessness. A powerful state with an embalmed democracy at its side is only doomed.

Remember the words of George W. Bush who said, "I think the best part of this job is to set in motion big changes in history...its unbelievably exciting to be in a position to do that." The truth is that crisis sleeps with opportunity but too many people want to keep it a secret.