Tag Archives: economic crisis
Rouge Forum Update: The Gathering Storms
This will be the last update until after Labor Day. This one should hold up for readers until then.
Action Oriented Links:
Please note and try to attend the Freedom in Education Meeting in Fresno this weekend.
Call for Papers, the Rouge Forum News Number 15.
The Rouge Forum Immortalized at Wikipedia.
Deadline For Nominations to the Rouge Forum Steering Committee is September 1.
We recognize with sadness: the doors at Room 101, an incisive radio program on KZUM hosted by Michael Baker, are closed. Mr Baker’s long run on the radio included interviews with key radical and progressive voices in education from Noam Chomsky to RIch Gibson and liberals as well. Congratulations to Michael Baker on a great run. Two, three, many Room 101s!
There are, at the beginning of the school year, 4,516 on our email list. Wish it was more? Send it along. Invite a friend.
Obamagogue Spins War News With the Best of Them.
Holy Cow! The Afghans are Not Helping
Double Holy Cow! The CIA Threatens and Beats People!
“General Pickett, send more men.” “But, General Lee, I have no more men.”
Council on Foreign Relations: Afghanistan is NOT a War of Necessity and Oh Yes it Is, It’s The Pipelines, Stupid
William Calley: Sorry About That
Mercs Outnumber US Troops in Afghanistan
Brother Can You Spare A Dime?
Unemployment Uber Alles
California Unemployment Hits Post WW2 High
Nope, But if You Are A Banker, Here is $12.9 Trillion, No Strings, No Kidding. It is Yours. Woo hoo.
Video–Where is that Tarp? What Tarp? What Me Worry? “I have to tell you honestly, I am shocked to find out that nobody at the Federal Reserve, including the Inspector General, is keeping track of [the unaccounted for trillions].”
The Stim is Definitely Working? Forbes
The Education Agenda is a War Agenda:
Ohanian on Duncan’s Merit Pay Schemes
The Education Stimulus is a Merit Pay Stimulus
Ravitch on Obama’s Awful Education Plan
The State As an Executive Committee and Armed Weapon of the (Corrupt) Rich:
Holy Double Dog Cow: Hillbillary’s and Obamagogues Pals are Crooks
Notorious Friends of Hillbillary
Yes, We Told Them So: The Demoagogue
It is probably not all that helpful to announce that we told you so, but….Yup, we told many people so.
The core issue of our time is the rapid rise of color-coded inequality and the emergence of world war met by the potential of a mass, class-conscious resistance.
These are not “public” schools we see. They are capitalist schools in a society where capitalism trumped whatever vestiges of democracy existed a decade ago. They are segregated schools. That’s not merely the result of bad people doing bad things, exploiting others (though they surely are bad people) but also the consequence of a social system dependant on exploitation—meaning inequality.
The education agenda is a war agenda. It is a capitalism in crisis agenda, a Regimented National Curriculum agenda, mostly to promote nationalism.
Such a curriculum necessarily sets up anti-working class and racist high-stakes tests. Both teacher unions, the NEA and AFT, helped design both the national curriculum and the high-takes exams. They are in no position to stop the next step. The professional organization, from NCTE to AHA to NCSS and all in between, proved more than impotent, they too collaborated.
Those tests necessarily and logically lead to merit pay which already exists in the deep divide in, say, Detroit and suburb pay and benefits.
Militarization of schooling is part of the war agenda.
To some degree, privatization and charters are part of the war agenda. Privatization serves some sectors of elites, and others not. Why fully abandon a huge, tax supported, funnel for war, ignorance, and inequality; missions for capitalism and their unwitting, ever so nice, missionaries.
Restoring hope is part of the agenda, but it is false hope. The future is war, inequality, unemployment, horrible options for youth and it will not change without a mass social movement for equality.
All of these interconnected attacks on life and reason have already happened, all over the western world.
Merely opposing any one of these factors, like merit pay, but not the rest just reinforces the entire project. As we see, NEA now dishonestly speaks out about merit pay, but NEA backed the regimented curricula and high stakes exams, sharply attacked people like Susan Ohanian who spoke against them, and dumped the students who suffered most from them.
Too late for NEA which is merely trying to keep the rubes sending dues money, but there is now nothing much NEA can do. Only direct action strikes, boycotts, etc., can halt the drive to the factors described above.
NEA has done nothing at all to prepare for that, and is not likely to do so. The union leaders are completely corrupt and their structures don’t unite people. They divide people: city from suburb, students from teachers, teachers from other public workers and private employees—as easily seen in the California Teachers Association’s effort to pass off a tax on poor and working people just months ago, a project that cost dues-payers millions of dollars and failed miserably, convincing the public, again, that educators want to pick their pockets.
What would be helpful is to wonder about the analytical and critical mistake that led to all that support for Obama, a demagogue. Several things led to that.
- A misunderstanding of capitalist democracy which is now sheer capitalism and little democracy. There was no significant difference between the Bush/Obama/McCain or even Clinton policies. Obama has betrayed, if we take his consistency as a betrayal, nearly all of his liberal supporters who, for what have to be psychological reasons, still support his personification of the reign of capital which has, among other things, failed in every important arena of human life.
- A misunderstanding of the gravity of the current situation vis a vis the war of empires. The US is in rapid decline in relationship to Russia China and even Europe and Japan—economically and militarily, and the US has lost any ability to promote itself as a moral nation, internally and externally. This puts extraordinary pressure on elites who need soldiers, Boeing workers, prison guards, and teachers too.
- A misreading of the real internal crisis inside the US; the rapid rise of segregation and inequality—which has not, yet, led to civil rebellions. But everything is in place to lay the ground for those uprisings, except a left which can make sense of why things are as they are, and what to do. Lost wars. Collapsed economies. Immoral leaders caught with dozens of hands in a thousand cookie jars, war without reason pulling 1.5 million people into direct action—and the wreckage of their lives. All that should, and more, should mean massive resistance. But that has not happened? Why not? No draft. No left. Spectacles. Divide and Rule. Carrot and stick. The education system. The same ways tyrants always ruled.
- The continuing appeal of racism and nationalism.
- Acceptance of the division of labor inside academia which means, for example, historians talk to historians and write books while literacy people talk to literacy people and write books, and few academics seriously organize anything at all, as the state of the campuses (and open willingness of the overwhelming majority of faculty to abandon their academic freedom in favor of standards) now. This also means historians, as in AHA, don’t pay much attention to teaching while too many education personnel don’t know much history.
- A general public so mindless about history and social processes that it can rightly be called hysterical, potentially dangerous. Steeped in spectacles and consumerism for more than a decade, so vacant about their location in the world that Chalmers Johnson says they cannot connect cause and effect (as with the endless wars, but in regard to schooling as well). Fickle to the core, they howled for Bush, abandoned him when things went wrong, then another bunch howled for Obama, and now we see a new crowd howling about health care–all leaping for thousands of forms of selfishness that keeps the the war of all on all that is the system of capital alive and well.
Not recognizing the historical moment, rejecting the real whole of the situation, capitalism in decay everywhere, shatters analytical and strategic capability, meaning many people cannot tell left from right, muddle along looking for someone else to save us when no one but the collective Us is going to save us.
This, written months before the election and originally published in Workplace, online, is now floating around the net.
Those who are not angry and screeding a bit these days may not be witnessing the ravages of war, hunger, unemployment, and unreason itself.
Yup. We told them so. Big deal. Those who have not made a big mistake in life can be absolved. We are all lambs among wolves. But we do not have to be lambs among wolves if we recognize, and act on, the role of class consciousness.
good luck to us, every one.
Congratulations to Sharon, Amber and the gang at a wonderful new school. Thanks to Adam, Wayne, Gina, (Good health to Bob), Donna, Erin, Taylor, Jody, That Great Family, Irene and Tom, Della, Emily W, Sherry, Marc, Mary and Paul, Joe L, The Susans (always), Lucita, Marisol, Vincente, Arturo, Allen, Greg, Carrie, Harv, Norm, Frank, Teeyah, Glenn R, Dave (happy wedding), and Candace.
Rouge Forum News (Issue 14) just released
Issue 14 of the Rouge Forum News focuses on papers given at the the 2009 RF Conference: Education, Empire, Economy & Ethics at a Crossroads: What do we need to know and how can we come to know it?, which was held in May at Eastern Michigan University.
This issue contains nine articles from conference presenters, including the keynote address of legendary activist, historian, lawyer Staughton Lynd and NCSS Defense of Academic Freedom Award recipient Gregg Queen. Other contributors include Cory Maley, Travis Barrett, Rich Gibson, Paul Ramsey, E. Wayne Ross, Carol Williams, and Adam Renner, plus poetry by Gina Stiens, Sonya Burton, and Billy X. Curmano.
Download Rouge Forum News Issue 14 (August 2009) [pdf]
Previous issues of Rouge Forum News can be found here.
Rouge Forum Update: The good and bad resistance and More!
The Rouge Forum No Blood For Oil page is up and updated at www.rougeforum.org.
Remember, nominations for the Rouge Forum Steering Committee can be made to Community Coordinator Adam Renner by August 15.
On the Capitalist Education for War and Inequality Front:
Obama to Schools: Change Tenure Laws or Else: The Ed Stim is Merit Pay
UC System Demands 9% Tuition Hike and 8% Pay Cut While Class Size Booms
CSU Boss Wants 20% Tuition Hike
Substance News carries the wrap up of the National Education Association Rep Assembly
Linda Chavez, a top aide to the American Federation of Teachers’ Albert Shanker, testifies against Sotomayor
On “The Depression can only be a passing fancy” Front:
Paul Craig Roberts: “This should tell even the most dimwitted patriot who “their” government represents.”
Rolling Stone on Goldman Sachs and the Great American Bubble Machine
Chart on the Waves of California Jobs Lost
Reuters: Foreclosures Hit Record High
The International War of the Rich on the Poor Front:
The Bushamagogue Assassination Schemes
Michael Klare’s Shocker: Iraq as the New Oil Pump
And the Resistance (bad example/good example) Front:
So Long EFCA: Union Bosses Can Deliver—nothing
The many crises grow around us apace. Unemployment and foreclosures mean an eradicated tax base, meaning more demands for cuts on education and services, increased taxation of those who have a little, more PR to crush hope in the sense that nothing can be done, more police activity to raise funds and tamp down resistance, and more spectacles. On the war front, more war—for oil, regional control, that is, profits, using the children of the poor to fight the children of the poor on behalf of the rich in their homelands.
What stops the madness? Understanding that the core issue of our time is the relationship of rising color-coded inequality to the potential of mass class-conscious resistance. That has been the project of the Rouge Forum, connection reason to power, for more than a decade. Please join us and help lead the fight-backs that will come.
Thanks to Bob, Al, Sean, Amber, Tony, Kino, Marisol, the Dean, Candace, Sally, Sheri, Barb and Ken (yes, that is right), Donna, Brian, Adam and Gina, Koli, Jesus, Ashwana, Bill, Joe, Dariah, the Susans, and Ann.
Good luck to us, every one.
Rouge Forum Update: Come to Ypsi!
Less than one week to the Rouge Forum Conference in Ypsilanti, Michigan at Eastern Michigan University. Keynote speakers include Staughton Lynd, author, radical historian, civil rights leader; Greg Queen, winner of the National Council for the Social Studies “academic freedom award,” and Rebecca Martusewicz, eco-justice educator and activist.
Students at Los Angeles’ Crenshaw High walked out of school last week in protest of budget cuts
People are being positioned so that the fight-back is almost inevitable. The question is: Will it make any sense and win?
Call it paranoid but it is not entirely coincidental that the L.A. Times is running a series of articles on “bad teachers” and UTLA (which may well be true) just days before the planned UTLA walkout on May 15. The walkout, unfortunately, is scheduled for that date in order to not disrupt district testing, but it is one of the first direct-action responses to come from any large NEA or AFT local. The walkout came to being after considerable rank and file struggle inside the union, demanding collective action.
The L.A. Times does not have much to say about the reasons for rising inequality and the real promise of perpetual war, that is, capital’s relentless quest for profits. Nor does it deal with the daily lives of children in Compton and when it does mention them, it does so in terms of being under privileged, not super-exploited.
But, come to think of it, UTLA doesn’t speak in those terms either.
Its parent body, CTA, is working with the Gropenfuhrer to pass the anti-working class tax hikes, trying to panic voters into taxing themselves rather than the rich. A recent CTA news spends most of its glossy pages telling teachers how to adjust to the financial crises, rather than how to fight back, dealing with the consequences of the crises rather than to address the causes at the root.
There are alternatives, such as the Rouge Forum.
Here is The New Yorker‘s abstract of an article touting the partnership of the American Federation of Teachers and Steve Barr, of Green Dot charter fame; and a response from Susan Ohanian.
But the fact is that the education agenda is a war agenda, and vice versa.
Industry, Finance, War, and Pedagogy
Chrysler Gets Judge to Allow The Bankrupt Company to Borrow $4.5 Billion from USA! Huh?
Don’t forget those Good For the Rest of Your Life Rouge Forum Posters.
Chalmers Johnson on the Signs of Decay
The banks behind the meltdown (Center For Public Integrity)
One-half million people are now fleeing the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Whether the guerrillas will stand and fight or melt away is yet to be seen.
In April and May, 1975, US forces fled Vietnam, the world’s most powerful empire forced out by peasant nationalists who fought imperialism for decades, making huge sacrifices. The US defeat was caused, mainly, by Vietnamese military and political operations, but also by the actions of soldiers in the US military and civilians in the anti-war movement. Here is a clip from the film, Sir No Sir, as a reminder that people can resist, under harsh conditions, and win.
May 9 is Victory Day (May 8 in the US—Victory in Europe Day) seemingly forgotten in America now. But the sacrifices of the people of the world in defeating fascism should be remembered.
Thanks to Joe B and the entire Ypsi gang for pulling together a great conference and to Adam and Gina Renner for taking the lead in developing the most recent edition of the Rouge Forum News: It is the only clear expression of education radicalism in the US.
Thanks too to Susan H and O, Amber, Diego, Ernesto, Lucy W and S, Jesus, Joseph, Amilia, Candace, Bob and Tommie, Wayne and Perry, Steve, Big Al, Nancy, Lisa, Marisol, Ricio, Chantelle, The Wailers, Harv, Ned, Ray, Earl, Sandy and Van, Mickey, Jim, Phillip and his entire gang, Selene and Frank, Carolina, Maria, Bruno, Daniel, Natalia, Nereyda, Edgar, Edwardo, and Gil
All the best and good luck to us every one.
Banks “frankly own the place” (Congress that is)
Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy
Glenn Greenwald reports,
Sen. Dick Durbin, on a local Chicago radio station this week, blurted out an obvious truth about Congress that, despite being blindingly obvious, is rarely spoken: “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.” The blunt acknowledgment that the same banks that caused the financial crisis “own” the U.S. Congress — according to one of that institution’s most powerful members — demonstrates just how extreme this institutional corruption is.
Greenwald’s piece for Salon (and republished at Global Research), clearly illustrates how the US government functions as an executive committee of the rich when it comes to handling the economic crisis.
Greenwald points to the revolving door from Congress to K Street lobbyists; how Goldman Sachs has a lock on US Treasury jobs and is funding Congressional banking committee members like Evan Byah; and just happens to post a $1.8 billion profit, just coincidentally of course.
And why isn’t there more outrage? Greenwald thinks its because of what Matt Taibbi calls the “peasant mentality” of Americans:
After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like [Glenn] Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. . . .
Actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish . . . can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff.
That Congress is fully owned and controlled by a tiny sliver of narrow, oligarchical, deeply corrupted interests is simultaneously so obvious yet so demonized … that even Durbin’s explicit admission will be largely ignored. Even that extreme of a confession … hardly causes a ripple.
We need to start making ripples and waves…
Rouge Forum Update: Schools, Economic Crises, Wars and More!
Educators attending the Rouge Forum Conference (May 15-17, Ypsilanti, Michigan) can now gain Continuing Education Units for attending conference sessions. Please spread the word.
Thanks to Joe Bishop and the Michigan work group for this big step forward. Links to the current issue of the Rouge Forum News.
This week in the schools:
Sacramento holds segregated assemblies to promote racist high-stakes exams: Laguna Creek Principal Doug Craig said dividing the students by race allowed staff to talk about test scores without making any one ethnic group feel singled out in a negative manner.”Is it racist? I don’t believe it is,” Craig said.
Poway AFT Local Leads Southern California in Making Concessions: Concessions don’t save jobs. Like giving blood to sharks, concessions only make bosses want more. It should be no surprise that the Poway district is represented by the worst union in the USA, the American Federation of Teachers, but it is of little matter now. The Poway union now sets the table for the rest of SoCal and especially San Diego. Nobody should follow their lead.
Controversial Stanford Study on Big Tests, Girls, and Minorities, by Emily Alpert.
This week on the economy:
Joseph Stiglitz – One of the reasons why our economy is weak is that we have growing inequality in our society. That means that people who would spend the money don’t have it. We sustained their consumption by lending but that lending was unsustainable and so unless we do something about the underlying inequalities both within our countries and across the world, it may be difficult to restore the global economy to the kind of prosperity that we would hope.
Reich: We are not at the beginning of the end.
GM and Chrysler Bankruptcy May End Pensions.
Jackknife: The collapse of the Teamsters Union.
Social Inequality and Mental Health.
This week on wars and resistance:
California Towns Defeat Military Recruiters.
Forget Star Wars, It’s Back to the Little Wars.
Democrats and Rockefeller backed CIA Torture.
With sadness, we note the death of Lindy Blake, courageous mutineer and Vietnam war resister.
“The sky is, of course, falling. We are lambs among wolves. The core issue of our time is the relationship of rising color-coded social and economic inequality challenged by the potential of mass class-conscious resistance.”
Thanks to Amber, Adam, Gina, Wayne, Dave, Kevin, Beau, Vanessa, Cheri, Donna, Kelly, Sarah, Marisol, Ernesto, Candace, Sally, Sandy, Ann, Ruthie, Della, Jose, Greg and Katie, Joe B, Paula, Alfie, Steve R and Rick C, Bill, and Glenn.
See you in Ypsi!
All the best and
good luck to us, every one.
Rouge Forum Update—Bailouts and the “anti-war” movement
For those teaching or learning about the current depression, here are some more good sources:
- Lewis Corey’s outstanding 1934 book, Decline of American Capitalism, is online free;
- How Goldman Sachs was at the Center of the Oil Trading Fiasco that Bankrupted SemGroup;
- The auto crisis, likely leading to the bankruptcy of GM (and the end of retiree health benefits, etc.) but this is also an indicator of the power of finance capital over industrial capital and the shift to the corporate state as US society decays;
- Stiglitz on State Capitalism as Robbing Workers;
- Updated interview with John Bellamy Foster;
- Bello’s Primer on the Economic Meltdown;
- The Economist on the Huge Fraud Beneath the Fiscal Crisis: Missing the Deeper Fraud; Exploited Labor
Five Million Jobs Lost So Far This Depression
- Centinela CalfiorniaTeachers Wildcat Strike;
- Al Sharpton and the Ruling Class;
- Labor Bosses Forge Unity Committee: The plum here is the dues from 3.5 million education workers, members of the National Education Association who will quickly learn that they are funding yet another layer of enemies.
Criticism of “Progressive” Warmongers:
The term “progressive” may have no meaning anymore. If it is Move.on, that means slavish support for the demagogue, Obama. If it is United For Peace and Justice, it means the same thing in shifty terms. UFPJ’s recent Wall Street demos, deliberately set up to counter demands from rank and filers to demonstrate on the anniversary of the war, failed completely. This is nothing to gloat about even though we said, years ago, that following UFPJ would do just this. Still, it is tragic.
Less than 10,000 people demonstrated, down from the one million who hit the streets six years ago. But numbers are not everything. UFPJ trumped that by teaching people nothing at all important about why things are as they are, what to do in order to develop grand strategy (peace, justice, equality, freedom, etc.) or strategy (how to understand specific local circumstances and to seek out choke points where people can use powerful direct action moves) and tactics (particular actions that link these three elements).
Why would that be? Because UFPJ is run by remnants of the Communist Party USA, people who have never sought to build a mass class conscious movement and who have always fought those who try. The current Rouge Forum News has a very fine article by Tom Suber about the wreckage that UFPJ leadership is creating.
Let us be clear. The core issue of our time is accelerating color coded inequality met by the potential of organized mass class conscious resistance. Neither the CP nor UFPJ want any part of that.
Here is a sampling of UFPJ’s failures:
- NYC protesters urge government to bail out people, not banks
- NYC protesters ask US to ‘bail out the people’
- Activists protest bailouts near Wall Street
The task at hand is ours. The $10.9 trillion dollars the corporate state just printed for the banks and insurance companies is going to come from the lives and labor of someone. Either it will come from the ruin of hundreds of thousand of poor and working people, or, if we fight back, it can come from the rich. Let them suffer and pay, as they should. The degree of the pain will be determined by the levels of our real resistance in schools, in communities, at work places, and in the military. When they say Cut Back; We should say Fight Back.
This is a critique from Antiwar.com: Progressive Warmongers.
We note with sadness the death of a friend, Janet Jagan.
Thanks to Joe and Charles B., Steve and all the sharp eyes who caught the misspelled word in the last update (argh), Adam, Gina, Greg and Katie, Wayne, Sandra, Colin, Josh and M, Suber (s), the Sally’s, Penny and Rick, Doug and Connie, Betty, Joe C, Susan O and H, Ginny H, Jim S, Ricky C., Chris, Carol Panetta, Sharon A, David, Donnie A, the Breedloves, and the entire RF Steering Committee and folks working on the upcoming conference. http://www.rougeforumconference.org/
All the best and good luck to us, every one.
Finance oligarchy captures US government; US government preps for civil unrest
The conventional wisdom, to this point, has been that current economic crisis cannot be as bad as The Great Depression. Conventional wisdom is apparently changing.
Last week, renowned investor George Soros said the world financial system has effectively disintegrated, adding that there is yet no prospect of a near-term resolution to the crisis.
Soros believes the current economic crisis has created more severe turbulence than the Great Depression and former Fed chairman Paul Volker, speaking at the same conference at Columbia University, agrees: “I don’t remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world,” Volcker said.
Referring to events in Septmeber 2008, when Lehman Brothers went under, Soros said, “We witnessed the collapse of the financial system. It was placed on life support, and it’s still on life support. There’s no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom.”
The bailout money is being abused in a number of ways, all of which recycle bailout cash back to corporate elites and the political class:
- Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has criticize AIG, not for using bailout cash to give huge bonuses to its executives, but for repaying, in full, its investment banking partners—steering additional federal dollars to Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan Chase and others when they already were already being propped up by Washington.
- And, Newsweek reports that filings with the Federal Election Commission reveal that the political action committees of five big TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) recipients doled out $85,300 to members of Congress in the first two months of this year—with most of the cash going to those who serves on committees who oversee the TARP program. For example,
“Bank of America (which got $15 billion in bailout money) sent out $24,500 in the first two months of 2009, including $1,500 toand another $15,000 to members of the House and Senate banking panels. Citigroup ($25 billion) dished out $29,620, including $2,500 to House GOP , who also got $10,000 from UBS which, while not a TARP recipient, got $5 billion in bailout funds as an AIG “counterparty.”
But Spitzer and Newsweek are talking small potatoes compared to the Simon Johnson’s assessment of the current economic crisis. In “The Quite Coup” (The Atlantic, March 2009), Johnson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, says that that the finance industry has “effectively captured our government” not through violence or bribes (Abramoff and K Street notwithstanding), but
Instead, the American financial industry gained political power by amassing a kind of cultural capital—a belief system. Once, perhaps, what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Over the past decade, the attitude took hold that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country. The banking-and-securities industry has become one of the top contributors to political campaigns, but at the peak of its influence, it did not have to buy favors the way, for example, the tobacco companies or military contractors might have to. Instead, it benefited from the fact that Washington insiders already believed that large financial institutions and free-flowing capital markets were crucial to America’s position in the world.
What we have is an ideological coup. The government quite clearly acting as the executive committee of the rich. Johnson explains why we have been been denied the pleasure of of seeing fat cats jumping out of Wall Street skyscrapers—the financial oligarchy remains in control, blocking essential reforms and continuing to push us toward the Greatest Depression.
Johnson’s article is the most clearly reasoned, knowledgeable, and accessible piece I’ve read on root causes of the current crisis and he presents a “tried and true” strategy for solving it too—IMF shock therapy. He likens the U.S. economic and financial crisis to what has been seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets) like South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again).
In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.
The financiers who created the crisis with the able assistance of Wall Street alumni in government (particularly ex-Goldman Sachs executives who have been ensconced at the Treasury Department for multiple administrations) are now, according to Johnson, “using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.” Well, the financiers are the government.
For Johnson the two major, interrelated problems are the banking sector “that threatens to choke off any incipient recovery that the fiscal stimulus might generate” and “a political balance of power that gives the financial sector a veto over public policy, even as that sector loses popular support.” On the former, he suggests the IMF’s nationalization approach. On the latter, Johnson suggests replacing our current elites, with a new batch. Hmm.
While Johnson’s analysis is compelling, his solutions, unsurprisingly, aren’t—two scenarios: IMF approach solves the problem or catastrophic global depression smartens up the elites).
Meanwhile the US government moves forward to on plans to use the military to control civil unrest as a result of the collapsing economy, as legislation to establish internment camps on US military bases has been introduced into the House of Representatives.
Doesn’t look to me like the finance oligarchy is planning to step down any time soon.
Rouge Forum Update, updated
Just a follow up to the Update from yesterday. Joe Bishop pointed out that Lewis Corey’s book, The Decline of American Capitalism, is online.
For those teaching anything to do with today’s financial collapse, Corey’s book, written in the early thirties, is so on point that it is almost breathtaking. Corey, aka, Louis Fraina, was expelled from the CPUSA very early on, on trumped up charges.
Taken together with John Bellamy Foster’s Great Financial Crisis, Marx, and R. Palme Dutt’s, Fascism and Social Revolution, it not only offers a clear look at what happened, but what may come.
Wayne and I took that up at Znet as well.
While other groups are collapsing in this rush to the emergence of fascism, we in the RF are pretty well positioned to make sense of things and to develop strategies and tactics that are reasonable, yet forceful.
Please spread the word about our upcoming conference.
All the best