My latest op-ed at Al Jazeera English is here. It begins like this:
NATO Summit Highlights Neo-con/Neo-liberal Overlap
More similar than different, both of America’s recent imperial ideologies have failed.
By Paul Rosenberg
As the general election phase of the American presidential election gets underway, the recent NATO summit serves as a potent reminder of just how little difference there ultimately is between the neo-con extremists who dominated US foreign policy under George W. Bush, and the neo-liberals who run just about everything in the Obama Administration.
Most notably, dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans returned their medals in a mass action that recalled Operation Dewey Canyon III, in April, 1971, when more than a thousand members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War held five days of marches and demonstrations against the Vietnam War in Washington, DC, including a memorial service near the Tomb of the Unknown and a ceremony on the Capitol steps where more than 800 veterans returned their combat medals.
Sgt. Alejandro Villatoro introduced the other veterans at the NATO protests: “At this time, one by one, veterans of the wars of NATO will walk up on stage. They will tell us why they chose to return their medals to NATO. I urge you to honor them by listening to their stories. Nowhere else will you hear from so many who fought these wars about their journey from fighting a war to demanding peace. Some of us killed innocents. Some of us helped in continuing these wars from home. Some of us watched our friends die. Some of us are not here, because we took our own lives. We did not get the care promised to us by our government. All of us watched failed policies turn into bloodshed.”
To read the whole piece, click here.
My latest Al Jazeera English Op-Ed is here. It begins as follows:
Tet Offensive echoes In Afghanistan attacks
The attacks in Afghanistan on April 15 were a faint echo of the Tet Offensive, and the message was strikingly similar.
As I first heard about coordinated attacks in the heart of Kabul and three other locations across Afghanistan last Sunday, my thoughts turned immediately to the Tet Offensive, the totally unexpected nationwide military offensive launched by South Vietnam’s Viet Minh guerrilla forces in 1968 that finally broke through the wall of denial in Washington DC, and convinced the American people that the Vietnam War could not be won.
The offensive was eventually turned back, and the forces who launched it were almost entirely wiped out – only to be replaced by a massive influx of North Vietnamese forces. Years later, American conservatives would rewrite what happened to make it a story of US military victory, turned into defeat by the hated – even traitorous – liberal media. But this US-centric view of things had nothing to do with the reality of Vietnam. The Vietnamese had been fighting outsiders for almost 2,000 years. Mostly they had fought the Chinese, then the French, then the Japanese, then the French again, and then the United States.
From a nationalist perspective – broadly shared, well beyond the communist’s base – major offensives like Tet, or the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in the spring of 1954, were a necessary part of their defensive wars against much more powerful foreign forces. But their real strength was their capacity simply to keep on fighting, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, however long it took, and whichever foreign power they were fighting against. A Tet or a Dien Bien Phu might succeed or fail militarily, but that was not really the point. The point was political: to force the foreign power to realise that the Vietnamese people would never stop fighting for their own self-determination, however many years – or generations – their struggle might take. Surely the descendents of Lexington, Concord and Valley Forge could understand this – if they only wanted to. If they only tried.
The same, of course, can be said of Afghanistan, long famous as the “graveyard of empires”.
Read the whole article here.
My new AJE op-ed is here. It begins as follows:
Mitt Romney, ‘Welfare Queen’
The private equity business model that Romney’s wealth is based on is founded on tax-payer subsidies, says the author.
Ever since Brown v. Board of Education, conservatives have been complaining about judges “legislating from the bench”. It was a brilliant strategy: “We’re not racists,” they could say. “There’s a matter of high principle involved here.” But it was not until 56 years later, with the Citizens United decision, and conservative justices ruling the roost, that we got to see what an earth-shattering example of legislating from the bench really looks like – and the Republican presidential primary is the number one surprise casualty. It’s just the sort of unintended consequence you’d expect in the absence of a thorough legislative fact-finding process, and the fine-tuning of final legislation. It’s not that the legislative process is flawless – far from it. But this sort of staggering bolt-from-blue consequence is precisely the sort of thing that the legislative process is intended to avoid, and that the judicial process is ill-equipped to anticipate. Oops!
So now the GOP has gotten a taste of their own medicine, with lurid, hyperbolic attack adds dominating the electoral process. And they do not like it, not one bit. Two deeply-flawed candidates have emerged as frontrunners in a process that has exacerbated and amplified those flaws a thousand fold. The tide may have finally turned, Mitt Romney may have finally learned how to punch back, and the tide of establishment money may have finally swamped Newt Gingrich for good as a serious threat – though he’s unlikely to quit. But even if Gingrich were to quit today, months and months of videotaped debates, press conferences, attack ads and various other vicious odds and ends are not just going to go away. They’ll be back when the general election campaign really heats up next fall.
More importantly, the Republican primary has unwittingly validated the Occupy movement in spades, laying the groundwork for a potentially very different sort of campaign environment not just in the fall, but starting right now. Mitt Romney’s limited tax-form release validates what we already knew: He’s not just a member of the 1 per cent, he’s in the 1 per cent of the 1 per cent – perfectly positioned to illustrate everything that’s wrong with the existing system. Seen through the lens of Romney’s own example, it’s not capitalism per se that’s the problem, but the dramatic shift away from a form of capitalism that benefited almost everyone to a form that only benefits a small handful. And it is Gingrich’s campaign that has forcefully made this point, on the stump, in debates and in the half-hour video, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, which starts off with a paen to capitalism as the source of the US’ strength before turning dark with its focus on Wall Street, leveraged buyouts and Romney’s Bain Capital in particular.
Although Gingrich attacks Romney for what he’s done to American workers, there’s an even deeper jujitsu criticism to be made of his business mode: Mitt Romney is a welfare queen. As we’ll see below, without the tax-breaks given to interest payment, the private equity business model would never have been born. Those tax-breaks are nothing but a taxpayer subsidy, paid for by everybody else picking up the slack for Mitt Romney and his crony corporate raiders. But let’s not spoil our appetites by starting with dessert.
To read the whole article, click here.
My latest Al Jazeera English op-ed has been published here. This is how it begins:
Enshrining the lies of the US’ 1%
What chance does truth have, if Americans cannot cast off lies that directly steal money from their own pockets?
Last week, in an act of profound deception, the American “fact-checking” organisation, PolitiFact, chose a true statement as its “Lie of the Year”. The pseudo-lie? “[House] Republicans voted to end Medicare”, as part of the GOP’s “Ryan Plan” last April. The reality? As the Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid wrote at the time, in a preview of the vote that Democrats would then cite to justify their claims:
The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the healthcare bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a programme that directly pays those bills. Mr Ryan and other conservatives say this is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs.
There is a potential lie-of-the-year in that paragraph. It’s just not the one that PolitiFact thinks it found.
The real lie is the claim that Ryan’s plan “is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs”. In fact, the problem isn’t Medicare per se, it’s the entire cost structure of American medicine as a whole, which is roughly twice the per capita cost of healthcare spending in other advanced countries – even those that have 50 per cent more people aged 65+than the US has.
The reason for that cost structure is non-competitive private oligopolies – insurance companies, drug companies, hospital chains, etc., – in sharp contrast to other countries with their government-run systems of various different kinds. There’s another name for these oligopolies -they are the cash cows of the one per cent. Paul Ryan is their man, and PolitiFact is part of their protection system.
You can read the whole op-ed here.
My latest AJE Op-Ed is here. It begins like this:
The dual failure of conservative policy and liberal politics
Politicians must ‘recognise and nurture a new sort of dialogue between two different ideologies’, author says.
Last week I wrote about Newt Gingrich’s incredibly destructive record and mindset. But as I wrote then, “If you want to know why the American political system can’t solve even most routine problems anymore, the reasons are larger than any one person”.
They are even larger than one party or one ideology. For the me-too-but-not-so-much style of “opposition” that the Democrats have increasingly practiced over the past 30 years is as problematic in its own way as Republican conservatism has been. After all, Wall Street deregulation was a bipartisan project, even though the Democratic base was ignored in the process. So, too, were NAFTA, the Iraq War, the no-strings TARP bailout, “No Child Left Behind”, and countless other initiatives that have chipped away at the New Deal legacy, the most successful governance system – or “political regime” – that the United States has ever known. The New Deal system took the US from the depths of the Great Depression to the pinnacle of world power while also giving birth to the largest middle class ever known in human history, and tearing down the legal barriers to full citizenship for women and minorities.
But conservatives saw this triumphant success as a nightmare that threatened the “natural order” of established privilege and power. Democratising opportunity and power, which liberals see as an unvarnished good, is deeply threatening to conservatives. With the legalisation of mass labour unions and collective bargaining in the 1930s, the democratisation of higher education and home-ownership in the 1940s, and the elimination of second-class citizenship for women and minorities in the 1950s and 60s, the US became a much freer and equal place to live than it had ever been before. This rapid expansion of “liberty and justice for all” resonated powerfully with the promise of the US as a liberal democracy.
Yet, this same promise and its progressive unfolding deeply scared and angered conservatives – and helped drive their activism. Backed by enormous private wealth, they set about organising a multi-generational movement to overthrow what the New Deal system created from the 1930s to the 1960s.
You can read the whole op-ed here.
Talking Points Memo highlights the National Review‘s Newt-bashing issue, and asks, “[W]ill rank and file Gingrich supporters accept the increasingly loud message from party elites that he’s a disaster? Or will they just resent it?”
A further question might well be, “If they DO derail Newt’s nomination, will this fuel enough resentment to undermine Romney in November and otherwise further deepen the GOPs internal conflicts?” Maybe even push them to the breaking point?
The big problem behind Newt’s surge is that it’s not just about Newt. Yes, Newt’s a problematic individual, so be sure, as my recent AJE op-ed argued. But he’s also quite integral to the conservative movement’s successes as well as failures.
The common conservative approach is simply to ditch anyone who becomes an embarassment (ahem! George W. Bush) and take up the line that they’re not a “true conservative”. So ditching Newt would be totally in keeping with conservative tradition. But the problem is, conservatives STILL haven’t figured out how to reinvent themselves after Bush. Being anti-Obama is the most unifying theme they’ve got.
Yes, they’ve tried that whole “constitutional conservative thing”, but beyond wearing silly hats, and confusing the US Constitution with the Confederate one, what more is there? That may be enough to win the House in an off-year election with unemployment through the roof, but that’s REALLY not saying a lot. And if the M$M weren’t so much in the tank, it would be painfully obvious how little the conservatives have going for them… even with Obama doing everything conceivable to keep them in the game, so that he can pull off his beloved “grand bargain” going-out-of-business sale.
This is why Newt appeals. There ISN’T any more substance left to be added to the mix. It’s all been discredited by reality, with it’s well-known liberal bias. But Newt with his spectacular bombast can keep this reality at bay MUCH better than any other “credible candidate” can. You take that away, and you face the very real risk that the entire conservative ediface may start to crumble back into its constituent parts–the Wall Streeters, nakeder than ever, the religious right, more reconstructionist than ever, and the Paulite libertarians with their insatiable thirst for the 19th Century… without, of course, the publically underwritten canals, railroads, Louisana Purchase, Homestead Act, Morril Land Grant College Act, and, oh year, THE CIVIL WAR, etc. that made it, however flawed, a century of dramatic, if erratic economic progress.
Yes, the right has TONS of money to paper over all of this. But that’s all it is… PAPERING OVER. Without Obama hatred to unify them, they’de have so little they’d be on the brink of tearing each other apart. Newt may be a crazy-quilt sociopath, but he’s THEIR crazy-quilt sociopath. And as of right now, crazy-quilt sociopathy is all they’ve got left. Toss that out, and they’ve got nothing.
p.s. Which just may be enough to get by, thanks to the neo-lib losers running the Democratic Party.
My latest Al Jazeera op-ed is here. It begins like this:
Newt Gingrich’s ‘Heart of Darkness’
Behind the smokescreen, Gingrich’s true accomplishment is being a master of propaganda.
I last wrote about Newt Gingrich in May – “Newt Gingrich, Eternal Victim”- as his presidential campaign exploded onto the scene and imploded on arrival. Now, amazingly, Newt is back – not just back, but back on top. Whether or not Newt ends up as the GOP nominee, his resurgence makes him once again a key figure for understanding today’s GOP, American conservatism, and American politics in general.
The picture that emerges is not a pretty one – even for those nominally on the same side as him. He was a disastrous leader as Speaker of the House – deposed by his own allies just shy of serving two terms – and the GOP establishment can’t put their faith in him. In fact, GOP pundits are “freaking out” as Gawker put it in their quote roundup, which featured David Brooks saying, “As nearly everyone who has ever worked with him knows, he would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated”. Peggy Noonan also chimed in: “He is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!’”
Of course, these are voices of the GOP establishment, whom Tea Partiers tend to hate. But Newt’s lucrative Washington insider career doesn’t jive at all with the Tea Party’s official anti-Washington narrative. By all rights, they ought to despise him as well. If he winds up being their man, nothing they claim to stand for can be taken seriously.
But deep as those failings may be, Newt has been far, far worse for the United States as a whole. He has played a key role in making American politics much more nasty, polarised and dysfunctional. If you want to know why the American political system can’t solve even most routine problems anymore, the reasons are larger than any one person. But the Washington Post‘s straw man argument that Newt didn’t do it alone hides much more than it reveals. Newt understood, as well as any other figure on the right, that conservatives had to make America dysfunctional in order to take it over, and Newt lead the way in doing so in the House, as I’ll explain in a moment.
To read the whole op-ed, click here.
My latest AJE op-ed, “American Deceptionalism” is up here. It begins like this:
Under the growing influence of the 1 per cent, American exceptionalism has become American deceptionalism.
From the dawn of the colonial era, long before they even had a national identity, Americans have always felt they had a special role in the world, though the exact nature of American exceptionalism has always been a matter of some dispute.
Many have taken it to be a special religious destiny, but Alexis de Tocqueville, the first to consider it systematically, affirmed the exact opposite: “a thousand special causes … have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects.” Ironically enough, the exact term “American exceptionalism” was first used by Joseph Stalin, in order to reject it.
And yet, for 70 years American exceptionalism has been most prominently and consistently associated with imperialism (“benevolent”, of course!), via the phrase “the American Century”. It was coined by Time-Life publisher Henry Luce in February, 1941, 10 months before Japan’s Pearl Harbour attack drew the US into World War II. The history of Luce’s coinage provides a depth of resonance for a recent twist: a not uncommon, but particularly telling juxtaposition of four Timemagazine covers from around the world this week.
In three editions – Europe, Asia and South Pacific – Time magazine’s visually hot, tumultuous cover featured a gasmask-protected Egyptian protester, upraised fist overhead with a chaotic street background behind. The headline: “Revolution Redux”. Not so in the exceptional American edition. There, the visually cool, wanna-be New Yorker-ish cover was a text-dominated cartoon against a light gray background: “Why Anxiety is Good For You.”
Clearly, Time is whistling past the graveyard.
Read the whole op-ed here.
My latest Al Jazeera English op-ed is available here. It begins thus:
Pepper spray nation
With most of the UC board of regents being in the 1%, student demonstrators should expect more police brutality.
The viral video of Lt John Pike casually pepper-spraying a line of peacefully seated student protesters has deep resonance for the Civil Rights generation. It’s impossible to escape comparisons to Bull Connor ordering the use of fire hoses on the black youth of Birmingham on May 3, 1963. Pike sprays the students’ faces as if they were cockroaches, many have said. The youth of Birmingham were sprayed with such force that some were knocked over like paper dolls. But it was segregation that was about to fall. The UC Davis students face a much more formidable foe, not least because it is harder to define. But their sacrificial courage holds the promise of helping to change that.
The details may differ between Davis and Cairo, but the underlying struggle is fundamentally the same: It is not just youth against age, freedom against repression, innocence against cynicism, hope against fear, dreams against nightmares – it is all that and more. But it is also something historically much more specific. It is the neo-liberal promise against its own grim reality, represented in the street battles in and around Tahrir Square, as well as the pepper-spraying of docile students at UC Davis.
How does it come about that this is the example that America sets for the world? How does a purported liberal democracy become a police state? The drama at Davis provides two paths towards answering that question.
First is the bizarre bifurcation of America’s First Amendment freedoms, with one virtually unlimited form for 1%, who really don’t need any protection, and another, carefully constricted form for the 99%, who really do need it. For the 1%, “money is speech”, an absurd proposition that effectively transforms democracy into plutocracy. But for the 99%, actual speech, along with the closely-linked right of assembly, is subject to all sorts of restrictions as to “time, place and manner”. Tents may cost money, but that doesn’t make them speech. Don’t be ridiculous. We’re not talking about the kind of money that the 1% has.
Sticks over carrots
The second answer is a bit messier one. It has to do with the gradual recasting of a social democratic state – with a broad ethos of shared struggle, shared prosperity and a bedrock foundation of common dignity – into a neoliberal state with a runaway individualist ethos that ultimately tends towards psychopathy. Despite the stories they tell themselves, neoliberal elites are actually much closer to elite conservatives than they are to their own self-imagined liberal base. Their public rhetoric may still carry occasional echoes of FDR and LBJ, even Martin Luther King. But the privatising logic of how they think of policy is vastly more similar to that of Ronald Reagan, or the far less visible figures who worked busily in his shadow….
Read the whole op-ed here.
My latest Al Jazeera English Op-Ed is up. It draws on material about conservative victimology ratios that I first discussed at Open Left, but it starts out dealing wth latest concrete mega-example that’s been in the news the past few weeks. It begins like this:
Herman Cain and the Conservative Victimology Ratio
Herman Cain’s claim that he’s the real victim reflects a wide-ranging conservative belief with profound consequences.
As Herman Cain’s candidacy has begun to falter – like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry before him – at least there’s an important lesson to be learned from the counter-attacks on those accusing him of sexual harassment. These come, not just from Cain itself – “the Democrat machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman to make false accusations” – but also, more extremely, from supporters in the conservative movement who have attacked victims of sexual harassment more generally, and even the very concept of harassment itself.
“I’m the victim here,” has been Cain’s rallying cry, invoking the memory of Clarence Thomas, who claimed to be the victim of a high-tech lynching. But outside of conservative circles, history has not been kind to that line of argument. Not only do most now believe that Thomas did harass Anita Hill, the over-the-top “high-tech lynching” charge never did make any sense. A lynching is a way of circumventing the legal process, ignoring the evidence, rushing to judgment and destroying a human life. But in Thomas’s case, the only threat he faced was that of not being confirmed, still leaving him on the second-highest court in the land.
What’s more, it was Thomas himself, with his dramatic, but unfounded accusation, who was seeking circumvent the standard legal process, suppress evidence and rush to judgment – one that would favour him, rather than his accusers. Yes, there were other accusers in addition to Anita Hill. And Thomas had help in suppressing their testimony, most notably from Vice-President Biden, then head of the Judiciary Committee, who was all in a hurry to wrap things up quickly. Nor were we allowed to hear about the extent of Thomas’ obsession with pornography, a pattern of behaviour that made Hill’s accusations far more credible. Nor, for that matter, did we know for certain that Thomas had already lied under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee, when he claimed to have never really thought about Roe vs. Wade. (A sympathetic conservative biographer conclusively judged that he had a decade ago.)
For the entire op-ed, click here.
My latest Op-Ed for Al Jazeera English is here. It begins like this:
Time to occupy the Democratic Party
Politicians should see the Occupy movement as a call to engage instead of “business as usual”.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is less than two months old, and its future trajectory is impossible to predict. But with the expansive strategy of last week’s general strike in Oakland, which brought tens of thousands of people into the streets, it’s beginning to look increasingly possible that it could be the emergence of a long-time force in US politics.
The initial numbers are quite promising. While Congress’ approval rating has registered as low as nine per cent in recent polls, Occupy Wall Street enjoyed landslide majority support of 67 per cent of New York City residents in a mid-October poll. Just before that, a Time Poll found that 54 per cent of Americans had a favourable view of OWS, vs 23 per cent unfavourable. Even more telling, Time went on to ask about “some of the issues the protestors have raised”, and elicited even higher levels of agreement with the following statement: “Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington”: 86/11 per cent agree/disagree. “The gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown too large”: 79/7. “Executives of financial institutions responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008 should be prosecuted”: 71/23. “The rich should pay more taxes”: 68/28.
Meanwhile, also echoing the Occupy Wall Street message, a nearly simultaneous Washington Post/Bloomberg News Poll found the public overwhelmingly opposed to the Washington bipartisan consensus on slashing the welfare state. Respondents opposed “Reducing Medicare benefits” by 82/14 (77/18 among Republicans) and opposed “Reducing Social Security benefits” by 83/13 (79/16 among Republicans). Other polls have yielded similar results. When Occupy Wall Street says “we are the 99 per cent”, the polling says they are right.
Yet, it’s a long way from being a fledgling movement in sync with the public to building long-term influence and staying power.
To read the whole op-ed, click here.
My latest Al Jazeera op-ed is available here. This is how it begins:
Occupy Wall Street: Another world is possible
Obama’s rightward shift since taking office has alienated many former supporters, helping to fuel the ‘Occupy’ movement.
Blogger David Dayen at Firedoglake hit the nail on the head last week: “The Occupy Wall Street protesters have done more to change the political dynamic in the country in a month than national Democrats have done in 30 years.”
If only the national Democrats had the wits or heart to notice or care. Yes, Obama has changed his tune and is pushing hard on his new-found jobs agenda. But it’s ultimately as superficial and opportunistic as his entire 2008 campaign turned out to be, given how disconnected it remains from the rest of his overall neo-liberal agenda. Above all, his long-term welfare state slashing priorities remain completely intact, along with the monstrously anti-democratic deficit super-committee and its mandated appetite for destruction. It’s little wonder that a poll of Occupy Wall Street participants found relatively low support for Obama’s re-election, compared with those who voted for him in 2008.
The shift in political mood has been striking, as summarised recently by Think Progress blogger Zaid Jilani. In late July, after months on end of elite drum-beating about deficits, cable news networks mentioned the word “debt” 7,583 times, compared to 427 mentions of “unemployment” and 76 mentions of “unemployed”, Jilani reported. But less than a month after the Occupy Wall Street protests began, the situation had changed dramatically: “Review of the same three networks between October 10 and October 16 finds that the word ‘debt’ only netted 398 mentions, while ‘occupy’ grabbed 1,278, ‘Wall Street’ netted 2,378, and ‘jobs’ got 2,738.”
Yet little has changed inside the Beltway. To the contrary, Democrats on the deficit super-committee just came out with a proposal that’s well to the right of previous bipartisan “deficit reduction” plans – cutting much more from the 99 per cent and asking much less from the one per cent. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explained:…
To read the whole op-ed click here.
My latest Al Jazeera English op-ed is up. Excerpt below:
Fighting the politics of illusion
Since the financial crisis began in 2008, political discourse in the US has been awash in defence mechanisms.
For three long years since the financial crisis began, American politics has been dominated by the politics of projection, displacement and denial – three basic subconscious ego defence mechanisms that are tremendously powerful in defending the indefensible. On the personal level, such defence mechanisms – analysed by Anna Freud in her 1937 book, The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence - protect the ego from conflicts that seemingly threaten its destruction, or at the very least weaken its foundations. They are, in a sense, helpful and adaptive at an early stage, since ego survival is a precondition for everything else. But they can take on a life of their own, “protecting” the ego from things that must be dealt with in order to grow as it should. The same is true when these mechanisms function socially, “defending” large groups of people – even whole civilisations – against facing up to their most important challenges, and preventing them from resolving conflicts that threaten to destroy them.
Such has been the establishment’s response to the financial crash of 2008 and its ongoing repercussions until now. In one short month, Occupy Wall Street has begun to change all that. While Occupy Wall Street is purportedly raucous, incoherent, and lacking in clarity, it has done more than anything else in the past three years to begin stripping away the dangerously irrational nonsense protected by and embodied in those three social defence mechanisms. In the wake of its global coming out day on October 15, it is a good idea to take stock of this remarkable accomplishment.
First, we need to consider what happened, and how those in power have tried to make it go away. What happened, in short, was the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Financial crises are built into the very nature of financial systems, as shown by the historical record compiled by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff in This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, and as explained by the late Hyman Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis. This historical fact has long been denied by free market ideologues, and their faith has grown particularly strong since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. That is why, in part, the US has destroyed almost all of its regulatory structures that could have and should have limited the scope of this most recent crisis, if not prevented it entirely.
Denial is, conceptually, the most basic of defence mechanisms – the refusal to accept external reality, and/or one’s own reactions to reality. And that is what I’ve just described – a breath-takingly broad example of denial. When people try to pretend that tens of millions are out of work because there is something wrong with each of them, individually, rather than with the economy as a whole, this too is an example of massive denial.
Read the whole op-ed here.
So, this weekend, Mitch McConnell made news once again by being an ass, as TPM, among many others, reported: “McConnell: Not My Job To Prevent Firefighter, Police Layoffs”
The idea of not wanting to employ teachers, firemen and police is naturally what got the most attention–and I noticed that first, as well. But what really got my attention, as I got beyond the headline, was the zombie lie here:
“I certainly do approve of firefighters and police,” said McConnell. “The question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses in order to send money down to bail out states for whom firefighters and police work. They are local and state employees.”
Obama’s proposal last week would NOT rasie taxes on 300,000 small businesses. In fact, it would not raise taxes on ANY businesses. It would only raise taxes on PERSONAL INCOMES over $1 million. If you’re a business owner, your personal income is what you take out of the business. By definition, it has no impact on the business itself. In fact, as David Cay Johnson has pointed out repeatedly, raising the personal tax rate makes it less attractive to take money out of a business, so higher tax rates on the wealthy are actually an incentive for business growth, rather than a disincentive.
What’s more, we actually have a pretty good idea of who actually would be paying those taxes, rather than McConnell’s mythical “300,000 small businesses”. This was pulled together recently by Mike Konzal at Rortybomb in a mid-October post titled “Who are the 1%, and what do they do for a living?”
He actually provided two charts–one for the top 1% and one for the top 0.1%. The $1 million level where the surtax would kick in is actually above the 0.5% level. But the two charts are generally fairly similar, I would say. See for yourself:
Those are the people who would REALLY be paying the surtax under the Democrats’ tax provision–only after the first $1 million in income. Obviously, some of them are business owners, but that’s not what they would be taxed for under the Democrats’ plan. This applies to those explicitly listed as “entreprenuers”, for example. And we should expect that a good number of those listed in law, real estate or medicine are business owners in the sense of being either sole owners or partners. But this is NOT the case for the large percentage of executives, managers and supervisors. They may own substantial shares of stock, but they are not business owners in either the legal or common sense of the term.
In short, the rhetorical world that Mitch McConnell inhabits has very little in common with the real world of actual economic activity. And the political reporters, editors, pundits, etc. who write about such things are either as ignorant as he is, or else they are otherwise derelict in the duties, with the end result that rightwing lies such as those McConnell spouts are treated on a par with actual economic facts. That can only mean that the economic policy discourse is heavily biased in a rightwing direction, treating zombies lies as if they were economic truths.
Because of her role as a spokesperson for the Occupy Wall Street off-shot, Occupy DC, NPR has fired Lisa Simeone as host of Soundprint, a radio documentary program, and is no longer distributing The World of Opera, which she also hosts. It will continue to be distributed by North Carolina-based classical music station WDAV, which produces the show. Simeone was NOT an NPR employee, but a freelance contractor. According this account in the Washington Post, it was all very cut and dried:
NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said the network disagrees with the station on the role of program hosts but respects its position.
“Our view is it’s a potential conflict of interest for any journalist or any individual who plays a public role on behalf of NPR to take an active part in a political movement or advocacy campaign,” she told The Associated Press. “Doing so has the potential to compromise our reputation as an organization that strives to be impartial and unbiased.”
Rehm said any host with NPR attached to their title is a public figure representing the network as a whole. But she said “reasonable people can have different views about this.” She said the negotiations with WDAV were civil and amicable.
NPR’s ethics code states that “NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies” involving issues NPR covers. The code notes that some provisions may not apply to outside contributors. It uses a freelancer who primarily contributes arts coverage as an example.
Rehm said the network didn’t need to cite the code in its decision to drop the show because its position on hosts’ political activities was “even more fundamental.”
Usually, controversies involving firing over free speech are more controversial the more arbitrary they appear to be. But actually, the reverse should be true, since it underscores the deep-seated structural nature of the profound political bias that’s passed off under the rubric of “objectivity”.
What am I talking about? Simple: the gaping contradiction between the LACK of free speech for a freelance arts program host, and the SUBSIDIZED (tax-exempt) speech of NPR’s corporate sponsors–specifically those in the FIRE sector, whose collective actions and practices are responsible for wrecking the economy. NPR’s corporate sponsors underwrite NPR specifically as a form of corporate image advertising meant to benefit themselves politically, positioning themselves as part of the “public interest” as opposed to their actual status as very specific special interests. The very essense of their sponsorship agreements is deception. A quick look at NPR’s list of sponsos from 2008 shows the following companies from the FIRE sector (finance, insurance, real estate) giving $1 million of more:
Progressive Casualty, Prudential Financial, State Farm, MasterCard, Natl Assoc of Realtors, Raymond James Financial, Travel Guard, Visa, and US Bank.
Cheapskapes in the $500,000 – $999,999 range included Citibank, iShares, LendingTree
T. Rowe Price and the Vanguard Group.
No one bats an eye at this situation. It never even occurs to anyone that there’s a problem here. Which, of course, is the most effective and most dangerous form of political speech imagineable. There is an exception, thankfully. Jeremy Iggers’ book Good News, Bad News: Journalism Ethics And The Public Interest. Iggers was a restaraunt critic at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who went back to school to get a PhD in philosophy, a background he then used to write this scathing critique of the deeply bogus nature of journalism “ethics”.
Iggers argues that the essense of an ethical code is that it is disinterested. The whole purpose of an ethical code is to stand apart from and against the individual motives of specific parties. And yet, historically, journalistic codes of ethics have always been quite the opposite–codes that protect the most powerful interests–primarily by total exclusion–while focusing virtually all their attention on the least powerful of actors. This is, in effect, a codification of double standards that’s the very antithesis of a true code of ethics.
A prime example of the sort of double-standard Iggers described is exmplified here, in which individual reporters (and, in this case, completely non-political arts program hosts) are supposed to be completely free from any appearance of “bias”, while immensely powerful corporate advertisers (here called “sponsors”) are not even considered as subject to rules. (In the 1980s, thngs got so bad that critics took to calling sister organization PBS “the petroleium broadcast system”.)
One thing that’s really great about Occupy Wall Street is that it creates a political context in which this sort of routine exercise of corporate political power can be clearly seen as part of a much larger, deeply immoral system. All of the sudden, what was deeply hidden is right out there in the open for all to see.