Today, Ian Welsh
offers some profound thought and excellent wordsmithing. Pass around these words:
America is in terminal decline. There may be a lot of ruin in a nation, as Keynes said, but that amount is not infinite. The next chance you get to turn this around you will be starting from a much worse position. A lot more pain will be unavoidable.
Obama is not turning things around, what he is doing is negotiating with Republicans how fast the decline will be, and how much and how fast it is necessary to fuck ordinary Americans in order to keep the rich rich. If Obama wins another term, he will continue to negotiate the decline, then, odds are very high, a Republican will get in, and slam his foot on the accelerator of collapse.
This is why Obama must lose in 2012. I would prefer that he lose to a Democrat in a primary, then that Democrat wins, but he must lose regardless. If he loses to a Republican, then 2016 you get a chance to put someone in charge who might do the right things (or even just some of them.)
No, those odds aren’t good. They suck. Every part of them sucks. And even if you get a Dem in 2016, you’ll probably choose the right most candidate, just like you did last time, and he’ll go back to negotiating with Republicans over what parts of the corpse of America’s middle class they should dine on next. “No, no, eat one kidney first, they only need one to survive, so that’s not too cruel.”
But it is still your best chance. Otherwise you’re looking at full, Russian-style collapse. What comes out the other end, I don’t know, but you really won’t enjoy getting there.
And yes, if a Republican gets in in 2012, that’ll be awful. Just awful. But it’s not like a Republican is never going to be president ever again. That’s not on the agenda, that’s not possible. It will happen, and he will substantially cater to the Teabaggers. He will trash your country. That’s baked into the cake now, all you can choose is how soon it happens, and work to replace him with someone who might do the right thing.
Remember, the question is not “if” this will happen, it is when. The sooner you get it over with, the sooner you have another chance to get it right, and the less decline the US will have suffered. If President Teabag gets in after 4 years of Obama, the US will be in better shape at the start of his wrecking than it will be if he gets in after 8 years of Obama. Obama is a disaster, who is making things worse, not better. He’s just making it worse more slowly than a Republican.
These words have prompted some discursive thinking on my part. What I have to say may go far afield from Welsh's essay, but bear with me.
For decades, one sector of the left has argued that the worse things get, the better things get. Those lefties who favored a radical makeover have long believed that the great shift can happen only if conservatives ruin the nation -- well and truly ruin
it. That's their plan: Dis the liberals relentlessly, root for the right-most candidate to get into office, and then wait for catastrophe.
That strategy is the reason why Noam Chomsky despises the memory of JFK. That's why Gore Vidal says snarky things about FDR.
I've never agreed with this strategy. Yes, I can grant Vidal's point: Roosevelt did not overthrow capitalism; he saved its ass. But to me (and not, apparently, to Vidal) that's a good
Soon, we may reach a point where the "root for the bad guys" strategy is the only option left. That's scary. I'm no revolutionary, and I don't want to believe that electoral politics can no longer effect a rescue.We can't rescue the future until we rescue the past.
The fixes need not -- should not -- be radical. Don't hoist the red flag: Shout "I like Ike."
In the 1950s, we had high top tax rates, strong unions, strong regulation on banks, a much narrower income distance between workers and owners, and massive gummint-run infrastructure projects. And things were great
, economically speaking. Nowadays, libertarian propagandists talk about the Truman-Carter era -- the era of Keynesian consensus -- as though those were the nightmare years. In fact, those were the best times we've ever had.
We have to reclaim our history.
You want to know why politics now offers only a grim choice between teabagger craziness and Obama's continuing sell-out to Wall Street? Because tireless propagandists have distorted the historical record. The citizenry does not know the truth about its past, does not know what has been tried and what has failed. Example: Even after the disaster of 2008, many Americans believe that deregulation of finance capitalism is the solution, not the problem.
Right-wing propaganda succeeds because the right forgets nothing. They never stop trying to "correct" the historical record to favor their ideologically-driven hallucinations.
In recent years, we've seen attempts, largely successful, to redeem the memory of Joseph McCarthy. When Reagan called the Vietnam war a "noble cause" in the 1980s, he got laughs, even from many conservatives. Today's young people really believe that nonsense. Not long ago, I re-acquainted myself with the Alger Hiss affair, and was surprised to see how weak the case against him really was. Nevertheless, across the board, his guilt is considered an established fact -- a classic example of winners writing the history.
Within a few years, the propagandists will rewrite the history of the Iraq war. It too will be a "noble cause."
We've already collectively forgotten that it was Dick Cheney
who said: "Reagan proved the deficits don't matter." There are young people who would snicker at you if you told them that Bill Clinton got the government out of the red. Deficits have been rebranded as a liberal thing.
The ideologues who pretend that FDR caused the Depression, that the post-war Keynesian era was an unmitigated horror, and that Bill Clinton increased the national debt, also tend to say things like this
The United States saw the greatest growth in productivity and living standards in the 19th century as ever before.
Hmm. What has been airbrushed out of this picture? A lot: Child labor, twelve hour work days, six day work weeks, unsafe working conditions, poor nutrition, people living in cramped conditions, tainted food, urban disease, rampant political corruption, company towns...
...and oh yes: slavery
We have millions of slaves in the world today. Not in any of those "nightmarish" semi-socialist countries like Norway and Switzerland and France. Slavery flourishes where the doctrine of laissez faire
rules most ruthlessly. Dubai proves that unfettered capitalism always
tends toward a system of slavery and peonage.
Libertarian propagandists don't tell you about the massive numbers of sex slaves to be found in "liberated" former socialist countries subjected to the Chicago schoolers' Shock Doctrine. They don't tell you about America's Dominionists, all staunch free marketers, who have written candidly about their plans to reinstitute slavery once they take power.
Instead, libertarian propagandists point to the example of Henry Ford. "Unleash" the capitalists and they will surely pay their workers well, as Ford did -- or so the propagandists would have you believe.
They don't tell you that Ford funded Hitler
. They don't tell you that the Nazi party would have died in its infancy without money from the man Hitler called "Heinrich" Ford.
The propagandists don't tell you that the threat of unionism -- and nothing else
-- prompted Ford to offer his workers five bucks a day. They don't tell you about the time Ford's goons opened fire on protest marchers -- and got away with it, because the company owned the law.
They don't tell you that the majority of capitalists in the gilded age were closer in spirit to George Mortimer Pullman, who drastically reduced wages without lowering prices in his company stores. That move created the Pullman Strike, which the libertarians would have you believe was a terrible thing.
The propagandists will tell you to read The Lexus and the Olive Tree
-- but they don't
tell you that Toyota became what it became due to measures which libertarians would decry as socialism. Without decades of government investment and protection, Toyota would have remained a maker of looms. Similarly, without massive government aid and rigidly controlled foreign imports, the great South Korean industrial concerns would never have become what they now are.
They don't tell you that decades of free trade orthodoxy have brought only decline and ruination to American industry.
They don't tell you that America's economic expansion in the 19th century resulted from the doctrines of Alexander Hamilton -- doctrines that today's libertarians would consider socialistic. (An amusing label, that. Hamilton himself could be considered a prophet of modern capitalism; he foresaw a land of big industry. Thomas Jefferson, the libertarian hero, wanted America to remain a land of gentleman farmers.) Hamilton did not believe in free trade. He believed in high tarriffs and the nurturing of what he called "infant industries." America prospered in the 19th century to the degree that it followed Hamiltonian directives.
There's much more to say, but the point is made. The past makes the present makes the future. Unless we can rescue our history, politics will continue to be a frustrating contest between President Sellout and President Teabagger, with both parties competing to see who can kill America faster.