Election 2010

A lot of people and the US media predicted that Republicans would gain strength in the Congress in the midterm elections, and they did.  Republicans (R's), in great solidarity, obstructed or watered down practically everything that Obama proposed knowing that his success would get in the way of their election prospects. Think carefully what they intend to do... or to block.

Instead of serving the public, Republicans (including the Tea Party) stated goal is to oppose President Obama. Congress will be in gridlock.  For the many challenges we face, don't expect a functioning Congress. What's the matter with Kansas has gone nationwide.

Although the US has the most expensive healthcare of the developed world, outcomes are mediocre, so you would think that Republicans would support the modest reforms make by the last Congress. But no. They like the insurance company run bureaucracy we have now.

No doubt the Rs agenda will be much like that of the Chamber of Commerce economic recovery plan to privatize Social Security, cut taxes for the rich, log the national forests, expand offshore gas and oil drilling, privatize highways and waterways, and cut spending at all levels of government. The CofC, like Republicans, represents the corporate agenda. They care more about money than people.

For the last 30 years (since Reagan really), workers wages flatlined, even though productivity improved. A lot of families needed two incomes to keep up, they borrowed on their homes, accumulated credit card debt, and often worked multiple jobs. Benefits were slashed. Mortgage foreclosures soared.  Consumers went in to unprecedented debt, and, financially exhausted, there is now little demand to keep the economy moving. The proceeds went to corporate profits and to obscene CEO salaries, not to wages. Again, as in the 1930's, the economy crashed and unemployment now looks to be chronic.

Republicans don't help workers. (They want tax cuts for the wealthy or a flattened tax. They don't usually support the minimum wage. They continue to bust unions, workers best bargaining tool. They held up unemployment payments. They turned a blind eye to worker safety conditions. They privatized the student loan process. They made bankruptcy tougher.

A large part of the working-age population is unemployed because there is a global labor oversupply (overpopulation) and because efficient production techniques render them surplus. Subsistence wage countries without environmental standards are competing directly with broad categories of formerly well-paid US industries. Many will be left out...because the R's think that only the 'private' sector can create jobs. That's not so. Much of our infrastructure, including highways, parks, rails, the internet, was built at government expense. What got us out of the great depression was a huge government program...WWII. Republicans have brought us lemon socialism where profits are privatized, and the losses go to the taxpayer. Market regulation is necessary to dampen speculation, but Republicans blocked it and want to roll it back.

Don't worry about the middle class. It will shrink to a very small number.

Since there is little demand, there is no reason for business to expand. Republicans continue to bloviate that only the private sector can create jobs. We all know that there is always plenty of work to do, but a market that leaves a lot of people idle is not good at allocating resources. A market that crashes regularly is not self-regulating.

Spend time in our National Parks, you will notice that many of the facilities were created in the 1930's by a government jobs program. Mount Rushmore is a high-profile example. The US is now behind in many areas: internet speeds, trains, bridges, health care, education... People who need and want jobs should be employed in fixing our problems. They should earn a living wage while doing it. Republicans oppose government jobs programs though...unless they involve weapons for the military.

So, yes, the government CAN create jobs. Fact is: there is always plenty of work to do, but the private sector does not need everyone.  Especially when there is a downturn. Many vital jobs, like child care or elder care, are not paid at all. So, for those without life support, there needs to be another way. The government can be the employer of last resort. (All you 'pro-lifers'...you would rather see them starve ? If Republicans were really pro-life, they might take action for the 16,000 children worldwide who die of starvation each day. Their pro-life attitude stops at the border.) 

When Republicans talk about fiscal discipline, they want to cut expenses for people: unemployment, minimum wage, Social Security, health care. They want to sell the commons: highways, railroads, public buildings, and even outsource government. Their other solution for the deep red ink: cut taxes. Duh. For a long time they have been complaining about the 'death tax', formerly called the inheritance tax. The Walton family, owners of Wal-Mart, stand to benefit by many billion dollars. Since the US now has very high levels of inequality, the R's agenda will be really effective at bringing back aristocracy. The oligopoly behind the Republican Party will be well pleased.  Cutting government spending will cause even more of a slowdown, but that's what Republicans want to do.

Income inequality has reached levels not seen since the great depression, the market again crashed, and there is convincing evidence that social pathology is the result. See The Spirit Level, Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger: by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, which explains in detail why inequality brings on social pathology. The graduated income tax limits concentration of wealth and is favorable for the demand side of the economy. Since R's fight or block fundamental change that improves demand, the economy is not coming back.

In the 1930's we learned some difficult lessons, and some automatic economic stabilizers were created. The Glass-Steagle Act kept government insured banks from speculation. (R's repealed it.) Social Security provided an income floor for many elderly. (R's tried before...and will try again...to 'privatize' it or cut it back.) Healthcare reform may strengthen our shredded safety net, but Republicans want to roll it back. Modest financial regulation was recently passed, but Republicans want to roll it back. They oppose the Volcker rule. There will continue to be boom and bust cycles as speculators cash in. 

When Republicans deregulated, what they did was allow corporations to do almost anything that they wanted. What we got was a carnival of corruption by companies like Enron, Tyco, Worldcom, with complicity from Arthur Anderson, major banks, brokerages. In addition, these same Corporations bought political favors, special legislation, pollution permits, tax breaks, and access that allowed them to control the agencies that were supposed to be regulating. It is no surprise the economy crashed. Since the press is also on the take, we get only corporate news.  In a flagrant display of lemon socialism (profits are privatized, losses are public), both parties combined to bail out the biggest players. The economy should serve the well-being of people, not corporations. Mussolini (and some dictionaries) defined fascism as control of the government by corporations. We've got that.

There are two economies: the paper one which Republicans seem to concentrate on, and the real one which is about the condition of the real world. The paper economy swung out of control and crashed in 2008. Economists like Joe Stiglitz and Paul Krugman have written that the stimulus was too small, but the tea party thinks otherwise.

Most economists think that fiscal discipline right now is a mistake. It will cause further job cuts, weaken already anemic demand, cut government services (likely for the most vulnerable but not for the world's largest military). Balancing the federal budget right now is a bad idea.

To create some stability, corporations should be limited in size, speculative activity, influence, concentration, and rights of citizenship. If they are sociopaths, as many are, there should be sanctions up to and including revocation of their charters. Concentration of corporate power is just as dangerous as a strong-man head of state. The R's want an executive with unlimited power, Corporations untroubled by regulation.  

We have seen that the market is unstable, unfair, and unsustainable, Republicans want to rely on the market to solve our problems...not democratically elected government.  Since consumers cannot provide demand, business has no reason to invest or hire, and only government can make it right. Republicans won't do it. Theirs is the agenda of our plutocracy. The economy will shrink to serve only the wealthy. It's their YOYO agenda. Your On Your Own.

To create some stability, corporations should be limited in size, speculative activity, influence, concentration, and rights of citizenship. If they are sociopaths, as many are, there should be sanctions up to and including revocation of their charters. Concentration of corporate power is just as dangerous as a strong-man head of state. The R's want an executive with unlimited power, Corporations untroubled by regulation.

In the real economy, Corporations have been off-shoring as many jobs as they could, bypassing wage and benefit gains formerly gained by unions. Now R's want to privatize Social Security as well. They are willing to cut government spending for people, but never for the military. They oppose a new arms control treaty, and they want to spend another $80 billion for new nuclear armaments. They are ready to go bomb Iran. Republicans are war mongers.

Bush appointed Neocons who had drafted the PNAC, Project for the New American Century, which was their plan for world domination. They ignore the history that every empire has ultimately been destroyed. They initiated  two wars on fabricated pretext and didn't bother to pay for them. Now we are paying for a military presence in hundreds of countries. The US spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined. World domination is expensive, but deadbeat Republicans want something for nothing. They won't pay taxes for it.

R's are not upset with their President's gratuitous war, torture, wiretaps on everyone's phone, or even roll back of habeas corpus. As Thom Hartman puts it: What conservatives are really arguing for is a return to the three historic embodiments of tyranny that the Founders and Framers identified, declared war against, and fought and died to keep out of our land. Those tyrants were kings, theocrats, and noble feudal lords....They stripped the president of the power to declare war...Separated the State from the church and they rejected feudalism (broadly defined as "rule by the super rich.) Paraphrased from Thom Hartman's book Threshold

The most ominous Republican message is their denial of climate degradation: We know that glaciers are melting rapidly, the polar ice caps are shrinking, fresh water is becoming precious commodity, fisheries are collapsing, species are going extinct at an alarming rate. CO2 levels are at record levels, so expect much more warming and more violent storms. It's a good bet that as the arctic tundra melts that massive amounts of methane will be released. Methane is much more potent as a greenhouse gas than is CO2. Environmental devastation, as it proceeds will certainly cause mass migrations on a scale we have not yet seen, devastation of low-lying coastal land, and that will lead to even more vicious competition for resources. To appreciate the consequences try Gwynne Dyer's book: Climate Wars:. It explains why water scarcity will lead to food shortages, warming will cause sea level rise, and why poor countries, some nuclear armed, will go to war. The evidence seems to show that extinction events due to high CO2 levels have occurred before. See Under a Green Sky:- Peter D. Ward Ph.D  (See Ward's video message.) Steven Hawking thinks our planet could look like Venus.  Republicans won't move to protect the environment, so that will be their legacy for their grandchildren.

Although scientists agree we are faced with an existential crisis, Republicans, corporations, and Murdoch's Fox News minions (like Sarah Palin), are in denial and they use the same tactics that the tobacco industry did. Denying environmental damage at this late stage is rather like delivering Jim Jones's kool aid to the planet.

Economic instability has been making people angry, and it also is moving them to the political right. (Some one said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.) Right-wing policies got us in trouble in the first place. They are inappropriate for the next years, and will likely cause disaster. In the 1930's, such events drove the Germans to Nazism. We are headed toward an armed, right-wing agenda, funded from newly liberated deep corporate pockets, encouraged by Fox News and other Murdoch media. The Citizens United decision assured there will be a tsunami of political advertising for US election

Come to think of it, Republicans and their media have opposed every attempt at improving health care, reigning in the financial sector, protecting the environment. It appears that R's will do anything to regain control. No matter who it hurts. Expect the kind of performance seen in W's administration...or worse. Thanks to Republicans, there is certain to be widespread misery.

See the longer term forecast.

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What we could do...if we were really Conservative.

Nothing is likely to change until catastrophe strikes. Republicans reject constructive solutions.

US Media is on the take, so it mostly contributes to our national amnesia.

If we continue our profligate military spending for empire, we will be bankrupted or devastated as, historically, other empires have. Resource wars, very likely on our soil this time, will be the inevitable outcome as will environmental catastrophe. Republicans do love their wars though, whether they are necessary or not.

War is not an effective policy choice. Better to respond with humanitarian aid, education, stronger social supports funded with heavily graduated taxes. Reducing income inequality would help restore stability. Turning down the hyper-nationalism would be helpful in solving global problems that are imminent.

Following are suggestions for improving our economy.

Money does not calibrate the health of the real economy. We need to change the way we measure. See the Stiglitz and Sen paper at http://wikiprogress.org/w/index.php/The_Commission_on_the_Measurement_of_Economic_Performance_and_Social_Progress

For one of the best assessments of our economics and its difficulties, see David C. Korten's book, Agenda For a New Economy from Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth

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Joe Bageant : http://www.alternet.org/economy/147501/joe_bageant%3A_our_plunder_of_nature_will_end_up_killing_capitalism_and_our_obscene_lifestyles/

 

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