We’re not living the American dream. We’re living a financial nightmare.
The U.S. government—and that includes the current administration—is spending money it doesn’t have on programs it can’t afford, and “we the taxpayers” are the ones who will be forced to foot the bill for the government’s fiscal insanity.
We’ve been sold a bill of goods by politicians promising to pay down the national debt, jumpstart the economy, rebuild our infrastructure, secure our borders, ensure our security, and make us all healthy, wealthy and happy.
None of that has come to pass, and yet we’ve still been loaded down with debt not of our own making.
This financial tyranny works the same whether it’s a Democrat or Republican at the helm.
Let’s talk numbers, shall we?
The national debt (the amount the federal government has borrowed over the years and must pay back) is $28 trillion and growing. That translates to roughly $224,000 per taxpayer.
The government’s answer to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to throw more money at the problem in the form of stimulus checks, small business loans, unemployment benefits, vaccine funding, and financial bailouts for corporations. All told, the federal government’s COVID-19 spending has exceeded $4 trillion.
According to the Committee for a Reasonable Federal Budget, the interest we’re paying on this borrowed money is “nearly twice what the federal government will spend on transportation infrastructure, over four times as much as it will spend on K-12 education, almost four times what it will spend on housing, and over eight times what it will spend on science, space, and technology.”
Clearly, the national debt isn’t going away anytime soon, especially not with government spending on the rise and interest payments making up such a large chunk of the budget.
Still, the government remains unrepentant, unfazed and undeterred in its wanton spending.
Indeed, the national deficit (the difference between what the government spends and the revenue it takes in) is expected to be $2.3 trillion for fiscal 2021.
If Americans managed their personal finances the way the government mismanages the nation’s finances, we’d all be in debtors’ prison by now.
Despite the government propaganda being peddled by the politicians and news media, however, the government isn’t spending our tax dollars to make our lives better.
We’re being robbed blind so the governmental elite can get richer.
This is nothing less than financial tyranny.
“We the people” have become the new, permanent underclass in America.
In the eyes of the government, “we the people, the voters, the consumers, and the taxpayers” are little more than pocketbooks waiting to be picked.
Consider: The government can seize your home and your car (which you’ve bought and paid for) over nonpayment of taxes. Government agents can freeze and seize your bank accounts and other valuables if they merely “suspect” wrongdoing. And the IRS insists on getting the first cut of your salary to pay for government programs over which you have no say.
We have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow.
We have no real say, but that doesn’t prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn and forcing us to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.
If you have no choice, no voice, and no real options when it comes to the government’s claims on your property and your money, you’re not free.
It didn’t take long, however—a hundred years, in fact—before the American government was laying claim to the citizenry’s property by levying taxes to pay for the Civil War. As the New York Times reports, “Widespread resistance led to its repeal in 1872.”
Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.
On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.
It’s all gone downhill from there.
Unsurprisingly, the government has used its tax powers to advance its own imperialistic agendas and the courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s power to penalize or jail those who refused to pay their taxes.
While we’re struggling to get by, and making tough decisions about how to spend what little money actually makes it into our pockets after the federal, state and local governments take their share (this doesn’t include the stealth taxes imposed through tolls, fines and other fiscal penalties), the government continues to do whatever it likes—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.
To top it all off, all of those wars the U.S. is so eager to fight abroad are being waged with borrowed funds. As The Atlantic reports, “U.S. leaders are essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”
Of course, we’re the ones who will have to repay that borrowed debt.
As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in a 1953 speech, this is how the military industrial complex will continue to get richer, while the American taxpayer will be forced to pay for programs that do little to enhance our lives, ensure our happiness and well-being, or secure our freedoms.
This is no way of life.
Yet it’s not just the government’s endless wars that are bleeding us dry.
We’re also being forced to shell out money for surveillance systems to track our movements, money to further militarize our already militarized police, money to allow the government to raid our homes and bank accounts, money to fund schools where our kids learn nothing about freedom and everything about how to comply, and on and on.
It’s tempting to say that there’s little we can do about it, except that’s not quite accurate.
There are a few things we can do (demand transparency, reject cronyism and graft, insist on fair pricing and honest accounting methods, call a halt to incentive-driven government programs that prioritize profits over people), but it will require that “we the people” stop playing politics and stand united against the politicians and corporate interests who have turned our government and economy into a pay-to-play exercise in fascism.
Unfortunately, we’ve become so invested in identity politics that pit us against one another and keep us powerless and divided that we’ve lost sight of the one label that unites us: we’re all Americans.
Trust me, we’re all in the same boat, folks, and there’s only one real life preserver: that’s the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The Constitution starts with those three powerful words: “We the people.”
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, there is power in our numbers. That remains our greatest strength in the face of a governmental elite that continues to ride roughshod over the populace. It remains our greatest defense against a government that has claimed for itself unlimited power over the purse (taxpayer funds) and the sword (military might).
Where we lose out is when we fall for the big-talking politicians who spend big at our expense.
Oswaldo Terreros (Ecuador), Mural para la Universidad Superior de las Artes (‘Mural for the University of the Arts’), 2012.
In 2019, 613 million Indians voted to appoint their representatives to the Indian parliament (Lok Sabha). During the election campaign, the political parties spent Rs. 60,000 crores (around US $8 billion), 45% of which was spent by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the governing party; the BJP won 37% of the vote, which translated into 303 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha. A year later, a massive $14 billion was spent on the US presidential and congressional elections, with the winning Democrat Party dominating the spending. These are massive amounts of money, whose grip on the democratic process is quite clear by now. Is it possible to talk about ‘democracy’ without being candid about the erosion of the democratic spirit by this avalanche of money?
Money floods the system, eats into the loyalties of politicians, corrupts the institutions of civil society, and shapes the narratives of the media. It matters that the dominant classes in our world own the main communications outlets and that these outlets shape the way people decipher the world around us. Although the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression’ (Article 19), the plain fact is that the concentration of the media in the hands of a few corporate entities circumscribes the freedom to ‘impart information and ideas through any media’. For this reason, Reporters Without Borders has an ongoing Media Ownership Monitor that traces the consolidation of the media held by corporate power, which in turn drives a political agenda within existing systems of government.
Paul Guiragossian (Lebanon), La Lutte de l’Existence (‘The Struggle of Existence’), 1988
Aijaz Ahmad, Senior Fellow at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, argues that extreme right political projects find it possible to drive their agenda through democratic institutions, since the political structures in these countries – from the United States to India – have seen a considerable erosion of their democratic content. As Ahmad explains, the extreme right in countries such as the United States and India does not challenge the constitutional, liberal democratic form, but garrottes formal institutions by transforming society ‘in all domains of culture, religion, and civilisation’.
In Latin America, the extreme right has used every weapon to delegitimise its adversaries, including using perfectly good laws against corruption in a malicious way to target leaders of the left. This is a strategy called ‘lawfare’, where the law is used – often without evidence – to oust democratically-elected leaders of the left or to prevent them from running for office. Lawfare was used to remove Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya in 2009, Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo in 2012, and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff in 2016; these leaders were all victims of judicial coup d’états. Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was denied the right to run for the presidency in 2018 by a lawsuit of no merit whatsoever amidst predictions in all polls that he would win. Argentina’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner faced a series of cases beginning in 2016, all of which prevented her from running again in 2019 (she is now the vice president, a testament to her popularity in the country).
Emiliano di Cavalcanti (Brazil), Sonhos do carnaval (‘Dreams of Carnaval’), 1955.
In Ecuador, the oligarchy used the techniques of the guerra jurídica (‘legal war’) to delegitimise the entire left, especially former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017). Correa was accused of bribery – with the bizarre notion of ‘psychic influence’ (influjo psíquico) at the root of the case. He was handed down an eight-year sentence which prevented him from running for office in Ecuador.
Why was Correa anathema to both Ecuador’s dominant class and to the United States? The Citizens’ Revolution that Correa led passed a progressive constitution in 2008, which put the principle of ‘good living’ (buen vivir in Spanish and sumak kawsay in Quechua) at its heart. Government investment to strengthen social and economic rights came alongside a crackdown on corporate (including multinational) corruption. Oil revenue was not parked in foreign banks, but used to invest in education, health care, roads, and other basic infrastructure. From Ecuador’s population of 17 million, nearly 2 million people were lifted out of poverty in the Correa years.
Correa’s government was an aberration to the multinational firms – such as the US-based oil company Chevron – and to the Ecuadorian oligarchy. Chevron’s dangerous case for compensation against Ecuador, brought forward before Correa took office, was nonetheless fiercely resisted by Correa’s government. The Dirty Hand (Mano Negra) campaign put enormous international pressure against Chevron, which worked closely with the US embassy in Quito and the US government to undermine Correa and his campaign against the oil giant.
Legendary musician Roger Waters talks to me about Chevron’s mischief in Ecuador
Not only did they want Correa out, but they wanted all the leftists – called Correistas by shorthand – out as well. Lenín Moreno, who was once close to Correa, ascended to the presidency in 2017, switched sides, became the main instrument for fragmenting the Ecuadorian left, and delivered Ecuador back to its elites and to the United States. Moreno’s government gutted the public sector by defunding education and health care, withdrawing labour and housing rights, attempting to sell off Ecuador’s refinery, and deregulating parts of the financial system. Collapsed oil prices that led to cuts in oil subsidies, a hefty loan from the International Monetary Fund at the cost of austerity measures, and mismanagement of the pandemic battered Moreno’s legitimacy. A consequence of these policies has been Ecuador’s appalling response to the pandemic, which includes accusations of the deliberate undercounting of as many as 20,000 COVID-19 deaths.
Firoz Mahmud (Bangladesh), Ouponibeshik/Porouponibeshik (‘Colonial/Postcolonial’), 2017.
To ingratiate himself to the United States, Moreno ejected WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Ecuador’s London embassy, arrested computer programmer and privacy activist Ola Bini on a concocted case, and launched a frontal attack against the Correistas. The political organisation of the Correistas was broken up, its leaders arrested, and any attempt to regroup for elections denied. Once such as example is the Social Compromise Force or Fuerza Compromiso Social platform, which the Correistas used to run for local elections in 2019; this platform was then banned in 2020. A February 2018 referendum was barrelled through the country, allowing the government to destroy the democratic structures of the National Electoral Council (CNE), the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Judiciary Council, the attorney general, the comptroller general, and others. Democracy was hollowed out.
A month before the 7 February 2021 presidential election, it appeared clear that in a fair election the candidate of the left, Andrés Arauz Galarza, would prevail. A range of pollsters suggested that Arauz would win in the first round with over the threshold of 40%. Arauz (age 35) is an attractive candidate with not a whiff of corruption or incompetence around him for his decade of service in the Central Bank and as a minister in the last two turbulent years of Correa’s government. When Correa left office, Arauz went to Mexico to pursue a PhD at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The oligarchy has used every means to block his victory.
Gulnara Kasmalieva and Murat Djumaliev (Kyrgyzstan), Shadows, 1999.
On 14 January, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) provided Ecuador with a loan of $2.8 billion to be used to pay off Ecuador’s debt to China and to ensure that Ecuador pledge to break commercial ties with China. Knowing that Arauz might win, the US and the oligarchy of Ecuador decided to tie the Andean country to an arrangement that could suffocate any progressive government. Formed in 2018, the DFC developed a project called América Crece or ‘Growth in the Americas’, whose entire policy framework aims to edge out Chinese business from the American hemisphere. Quito has since signed up for Washington’s ‘Clean Network’, a US State Department project to force countries to build telecommunications networks without a Chinese telecom provider involved in them. This particularly applies to the high-speed fifth generation (5G) networks. Ecuador joined the Clean Network in November 2020, which opened the door for the DFC loan.
Correa drew in $5 billion from Chinese banks to enhance Ecuador’s infrastructure (particularly for the construction of hydroelectric dams); Ecuador’s total external debt is $52 billion. Moreno and the United States have painted the Chinese funds as a ‘debt trap’, although there is no evidence that the Chinese banks have been anything but accommodating. Over the last six months of 2020, Chinese banks have been willing to put loan payments on hold until 2022 (this includes a delay on the repayment of the $474 million loan to the Export-Import Bank of China and the $417 million loan to the China Development Bank). Ecuador’s Finance Ministry says that, for now, the plan is for repayment to start in March 2022 and to end by 2029. Moreno took to Twitter to announce these two delays. There were no aggressive measures taken by these two banks nor from any other Chinese financial entity.
Essentially, the DFC loan attempts to sabotage an Arauz presidency. This US-imposed conflict against China in Latin America is part of a broader assault. On 30 January, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research held a seminar alongside Instituto Simón Bolívar, ALBA Social Movimientos, and the No Cold War platform to reflect on the Latin American battlefield of this hybrid war.
The speakers included Alicia Castro (Argentina), Eduardo Regaldo Florido (Cuba), João Pedro Stedile (Brazil), Ricardo Menéndez (Venezuela), Monica Bruckmann (Peru/Brazil), Ambassador Li Baorong (China), and Fernando Haddad (Brazil).
Despite the hollowing out of democracy, elections remain one front in the political contest, and in that contest, the left fights to summon a democratic spirit. Perhaps poetry is the best way to articulate the texture of this conflict. Out of Ecuador’s rich tradition of emancipatory thinking came the writer and communist Jorge Enrique Adoum. Here’s a part of his powerful poem, Fugaz retorno (‘Fleeting Return’):
And we ran, like two runaways,
to the hard shore where stars
came apart. Fishermen told us
of successive victories in nearby provinces.
And our feet got wet with a spray of dawn,
full of roots that were ours and the world’s.
‘When is happiness?’, the poet asks. Tomorrow. Are we not all in search of tomorrow?
A self-funding national infrastructure bank modeled on the “American System” of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt would help solve two of the country’s biggest problems.
Millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and government relief checks and savings are running out; meanwhile, the country still needs trillions of dollars in infrastructure. Putting the unemployed to work on those infrastructure projects seems an obvious solution, especially given that the $600 or $700 stimulus checks Congress is planning on issuing will do little to address the growing crisis. Various plans for solving the infrastructure crisis involving public-private partnerships have been proposed, but they’ll invariably result in private investors reaping the profits while the public bears the costs and liabilities. We have relied for too long on private, often global, capital, while the Chinese run circles around us building infrastructure with credit simply created on the books of their government-owned banks.
Earlier publicly-owned U.S. national banks and U.S. Treasuries pulled off similar feats, using what Sen. Henry Clay, U.S. statesman from 1806 to 1852, named the “American System” – funding national production simply with “sovereign” money and credit. They included the First (1791-1811) and Second (1816-1836) Banks of the United States, President Lincoln’s federal treasury and banking system, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) (1932-1957). Chester Morrill, former Secretary of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, wrote of the RFC:
[I]t became apparent almost immediately, to many Congressmen and Senators, that here was a device which would enable them to provide for activities that they favored for which government funds would be required, but without any apparent increase in appropriations. . . . [T]here need be no more appropriations and its activities could be enlarged indefinitely, as they were, almost to fantastic proportions. [emphasis added]
Even the Federal Reserve with its “quantitative easing” cannot fund infrastructure without driving up federal expenditures or debt, at least without changes to the Federal Reserve Act. The Fed is not allowed to spend money directly into the economy or to lend directly to Congress. It must go through the private banking system and its “primary dealers.” The Fed can create and pay only with “reserves” credited to the reserve accounts of banks. These reserves are a completely separate system from the deposits circulating in the real producer/consumer economy; and those deposits are chiefly created by banks when they make loans. (See the Bank of England’s 2014 quarterly report here.) New liquidity gets into the real economy when banks make loans to local businesses and individuals; and in risky environments like that today, banks are not lending adequately even with massive reserves on their books.
A publicly-owned national infrastructure bank, on the other hand, would be mandated to lend into the real economy; and if the loans were of the “self funding” sort characterizing most infrastructure projects (generating fees to pay off the loans), they would be repaid, canceling out the debt by which the money was created. That is how China built 12,000 miles of high-speed rail in a decade: credit created on the books of government-owned banks was advanced to pay for workers and materials, and the loans were repaid with profits from passenger fees.
Unlike the QE pumped into financial markets, which creates asset bubbles in stocks and housing, this sort of public credit mechanism is not inflationary. Credit money advanced for productive purposes balances the circulating money supply with new goods and services in the real economy. Supply and demand rise together, keeping prices stable. China increased its money supply by nearly 1800% over 24 years (from 1996 to 2020) without driving up price inflation, by increasing GDP in step with the money supply.
HR 6422, The National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2020
A promising new bill for a national infrastructure bank modeled on the RFC and the American System, H.R. 6422, was filed by Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., in March. The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 (NIB) is projected to create $4 trillion or more in bank credit money to rebuild the nation’s rusting bridges, roads, and power grid; relieve traffic congestion; and provide clean air and water, new schools and affordable housing. It will do this while generating up to 25 million union jobs paying union-level wages. The bill projects a net profit to the government of $80 billion per year, which can be used to cover infrastructure needs that are not self-funding (broken pipes, aging sewers, potholes in roads, etc.). The bill also provides for substantial investment in “disadvantage communities,” those defined by persistent poverty.
The NIB is designed to be a true depository bank, giving it the perks of those institutions for leverage and liquidity, including the ability to borrow at the Fed’s discount window without penalty at 0.25% interest (almost interest-free). According to Alphecca Muttardy, a former macroeconomist for the International Monetary Fund and chief economist on the 2020 NIB team, the NIB will create the $4 trillion it lends simply as deposits on its books, as the Bank of England attests all depository banks do. For liquidity to cover withdrawals, the NIB can either borrow from the Fed at 0.25% or issue and sell bonds.
The NIB would be capitalized by purchasing up to $500 billion in existing Treasury bonds held by the private sector (e.g., in pension and other savings funds), in exchange for an equivalent in shares of preferred [non-voting] stock in the NIB. The exchange would take place via a sales contract with the NIB/Federal Government that guarantees a preferred stock dividend of 2% more than private-holders currently earn on their Treasuries. The contract would form a binding obligation to provide the incremental 2%, or about $10 billion per year, from the Budget. While temporarily appearing as mandatory spending under the Budget, the $10 billion per year would ultimately be returned as a dividend paid to government, from the NIB’s earnings stream.
Since the federal government will be paying the interest on the bonds, the NIB needs to come up with only the 2% dividend to entice investors. The proposal is to make infrastructure loans at a very modest 2%, substantially lower than the rates now available to the state and local governments that create most of the nation’s infrastructure. At a 10% capital requirement, the bonds can capitalize ten times their value in loans. The return will thus be 20% on a 2% dividend outlay from the NIB, for a net return on investment of 18% less operating costs. The U.S. Treasury will also be asked to deposit Treasury bonds with the bank as an “on-call” subscriber.
The American System: Sovereign Money and Credit
U.S. precedents for funding internal improvements with “sovereign credit” – credit issued by the national government rather than borrowed from the private banking system – go back to the American colonists’ paper scrip, colonial Pennsylvania’s “land bank”, and the First U.S. Bank of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Treasury Secretary. Hamilton proposed to achieve the constitutional ideal of “promoting the general welfare” by nurturing the country’s fledgling industries with federal subsidies for roads, canals, and other internal improvements; protective measures such as tariffs; and easy credit provided through a national bank. Production and the money to ﬁnance it would all be kept “in house,” without incurring debt to foreign ﬁnanciers. The national bank would promote a single currency, making trade easier, and would issue loans in the form of “sovereign credit.” ’
Senator Henry Clay called this model the “American System” to distinguish it from the “British System” that left the market to the “invisible hand” of “free trade,” allowing big monopolies to gobble up small entrepreneurs, and foreign bankers and industrialists to exploit the country’s labor and materials. After the charter for the First US Bank expired in 1811, Congress created the Second Bank of the United States in 1816 on the American System model.
In 1836, Pres. Andrew Jackson shut down the Second U.S. Bank due to perceived corruption, leaving the country with no national currency and precipitating a recession. “Wildcat” banks issued their own banknotes – promissory notes allegedly backed by gold. But the banks often lacked the gold necessary to redeem the notes, and the era was beset with bank runs and banking crises.
Abraham Lincoln’s economic advisor was Henry Carey, the son of Matthew Carey, a well-known printer and publisher who had been tutored by Benjamin Franklin and had tutored Henry Clay. Henry Carey proposed creating an independent national currency that was non-exportable, one that would remain at home to do the country’s own work. He advocated a currency founded on “national credit,” something he deﬁned as “a national system based entirely on the credit of the government with the people, not liable to interference from abroad.” It would simply be a paper unit of account that tallied work performed and goods delivered.
On that model, in 1862 Abraham Lincoln issued U.S. Notes or Greenbacks directly from the U.S. Treasury, allowing Lincoln’s government not only to avoid an exorbitant debt to British bankers and win the Civil War, but to fund major economic development, including tying the country together with the transcontinental railroad – an investment that actually turned a profit for the government.
After Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, the Greenback program was discontinued; but Lincoln’s government also passed the National Bank Act of 1863, supplemented by the National Bank Act of 1864. Originally known as the National Currency Act, its stated purpose was to stabilize the banking system by eradicating the problem of notes issued by multiple banks circulating at the same time. A single banker-issued national currency was created through chartered national banks, which could issue notes backed by the U.S. Treasury in a quantity proportional to the bank’s level of capital (cash and federal bonds) deposited with the Comptroller of the Currency.
From Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (1932-57) to HR 6422
The American president dealing with an economic situation most closely resembling that today, however, was Franklin D. Roosevelt. America’s 32nd president resolved massive unemployment and infrastructure problems by greatly expanding the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) set up by his predecessor Herbert Hoover. The RFC was a remarkable publicly-owned credit machine that allowed the government to finance the New Deal and World War II without turning to Congress or the taxpayers for appropriations. The RFC was not called an infrastructure bank and was not even a bank, but it served the same basic functions. It was continually enlarged and modified by Pres. Roosevelt to meet the crisis of the times until it became America’s largest corporation and the world’s largest financial organization. Its semi-independent status let it work quickly, allowing New Deal agencies to be financed as the need arose. According to Encyclopedia.com:
[T]he RFC—by far the most influential of New Deal agencies—was an institution designed to save capitalism from the ravages of the Great Depression. Through the RFC, Roosevelt and the New Deal handed over $10 billion to tens of thousands of private businesses, keeping them afloat when they would otherwise have gone under ….
A similar arrangement could save local economies from the ravages of the global shutdowns today.
The Banking Acts of 1932 provided the RFC with capital stock of $500 million and the authority to extend credit up to $1.5 billion (subsequently increased several times). The initial capital came from a stock sale to the U.S. Treasury. With those modest resources, from 1932 to 1957 the RFC loaned or invested more than $40 billion. A small part of this came from its initial capitalization. The rest was financed with bonds sold to the Treasury, some of which were then sold to the public. The RFC ended up borrowing a total of $51.3 billion from the Treasury and $3.1 billion from the public.
Thus the Treasury was the lender, not the borrower, in this arrangement. As the self-funding loans were repaid, so were the bonds that were sold to the Treasury, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The RFC was the lender for thousands of infrastructure and small business projects that revitalized the economy, and these loans produced a total net income of over $690 million on the RFC’s “normal” lending functions (omitting such things as extraordinary grants for wartime). The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more–all while generating income for the government.
HR 6422 proposes to mimic this feat. The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 can rebuild crumbling infrastructure across America, pushing up long-term growth, not only without driving up taxes or the federal debt, but without hyperinflating the money supply or generating financial asset bubbles. The NIB has growing support across the country from labor leaders, elected officials, and grassroots organizations. It can generate real wealth in the form of upgraded infrastructure and increased employment as well as federal and local taxes and GDP, paying for itself several times over without additional outlays from the federal government. With official unemployment at nearly double what it was a year ago and an economic crisis unlike the U.S. has seen in nearly a century, the NIB can trigger the sort of “economic miracle” the country desperately needs.
It’s an unprecedented coalition of business networks that have come together to raise our ambition. Not just to help our individual CEOs succeed, we’ll do that for sure. But to actually bring their voices together to help shift culture. So that the pushback on the BRT [Business Roundtable] from different business publications or other people within the business community lessens. So there’s less of a headwind culturally for this type of leadership.
— Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab and B Corporations [Source]
[These are not good people, and if anyone thinks otherwise, then, well, War is Peace, Truth is Lies, Hate is Love!]
We Are Big Data’s Dregs
The great data dredge. Everyone’s hired through a digital head hunter, staffing firm, and the result is a continuation of atomizing society with no water cooler, so to speak, from which to complain about working conditions, to discuss the next austerity measure concocted by the boss/management/ CEO/Corporation. No after work bull session at the local Chili’s or T.G.I.F. to compare notes about those exploding gas tanks and caustic chemicals and faulty electrodes in the air bag systems.
This is what Ford would have wanted, and this is what the heads of retail and data and manufacturing want. They’ve already put most of us over a barrel with forced arbitration clauses, non-compete agreements (sic), and rule after penalty after threat after law after delimitation, that, well, in this knowledge (sic) economy and post-Industrial (sic) economy, the white collar and pink collar workers are hemmed in by management. More than the field hands picking this country’s lettuce!
The hemming in is an oppression planned and sealed, and a deep seated zombifcation of the “higher castes” and to be honest, people of the land, even those in struggle, in other countries that have been deemed shit-holes by Trump and Third World by Biden have more gumption about them, more ability to fight the systems, the oppressors, than any member of the Western Civilization.
Just drive around your town or suburb, anywhere. Take a look at what and how the systems have been set up for and about the rich, for the money changers, for the money takers, for the dream hoarders. Take a look. How many bus stations, how many covered and art-imbued public amenities? How many public toilets, public waysides, public paths, public trails, public pedestrian overpasses, public bandstands, public gazebos, public museums, public eateries, public statues, signs, art, historical markers? How many trees and shrubs and open spaces set up for the public? How many picnic tables and interpretive trails, and …? How many tiny home villages for the houseless? How many community gardens? Theaters and cinemas for and by the people?
Talk about dead and lobotomized citizens, as we have allowed the captains of industry and oppressors of finance and the legions of pushers of the realm rule: retailers, consumer crack salesmen/women, middle managers, ant hill after ant hill of processors and facilitators of the entire house of cards built upon the dopamine hits of lizard drips of the brain. “I betcha can’t eat just one Lays potato chip,” now on steroids – “I betcha you can’t just have 3 big screen TVs in your pad … “And now you fill in that blank – Just look at the so-called Black Friday ads.
Amazing, junk, junk and more junk. Families buying deep fryers and rice steamers and any number of electronic junk that they can’t or don’t know how to use. All that plastic and tin, diodes and LED screens. All of that planned obsolescence. Nary a word about the embedded energy, the packaging, the toil and slave labor, the life cycle analysis. Piles and piles of worthless junk, planned to break, parts planned to snap, wires planned and ready to melt.
Planned Human Obsolescence
This is not a difficult thing to comprehend, about socialism for the land and people versus capitalism for the elite and bankers and small group of sociopaths, who will fight tooth and nail (well, with a battalion of lawyers at $1500 an hour each, not really a fight per se) to push the poisons, hawk the faulty products, demand the welfare for the rich and corporations, and deposit all the externalities of their profit schemes onto the public and the commons’ health.
But … Man, those “buts.” I talk all the time with great white saviors, who just start spewing at the mouth of the evils of socialism, and that, well, capitalism is good, and “we let Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg” accumulate so much wealth and power, so it’s our fault, and really, is it that bad we have these Titans who give us goods and services? This is like heaven compared to countries who push that bullshit democratic socialism crap. Do you know what the 10 pillars of socialism/communism/Marxism are?”
Try putting “debunking the critics of socialism” into the Google Gulag Search, and you shall receive so much hatred and polemics around anything tied to socialism on the first 50 pages of the search, that, well, you get the picture why these big white saviors will dare come up to me and challenge me the socialist on how and why socialism is bad-bad-bad while capitalism is god’s work.
As these great white saviors are pushing a cart filled with two TV’s, a new printer, two iPads, and junk junk junk, 50 pounds of kitty liter and a hundred pounds of dog chow. While walking past the two young men I am working with who are taking in shopping carts as part of their competitive work as people who happen to be living with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. These Great White Hopes are Blind to “them.”
These great white saviors, well, it’s all about survival of the fittest. All about the colonized mind. All about – “you majored in the wrong subject matter, sucker … born into the most messed up family, sucker grew up on that side of the railroad tracks, dufus … got stuck with those bills and foreclosures, sucker.”
Oh, the invisible hand of the oppressors, and these people – Biden and Trump supporters, what have you – are criminal thinkers, really, because with one huge swath of their inhuman brain, they disregard 90 percent of the planet’s people.
“They are all sucka’s for being born where they are and from the loins of ‘those’ rotten people.”
A Sucker Borne Every Nanosecond
Oh, and I am seeing more and more quasi-leftist stuff, saying, well, the left needs to embrace the Trumpies, to work with them on labor rights, on environmental rights, on health care for all, on all those issues, and not be so hung up on their misogyny, racism, classism, white Duck Dynasty Ted Nugent shit.
Insanity, man. Leftists writing from the comfort of their offices, well, they are a dime a dozen. The reality on the ground is that this country has a cool 100 million or so hateful, resentful, ignorant of the world, pro-war, rah-rah, hate welfare of all kinds sort of people. They don’t have to be Proud Boys and KKK. These people in this USA, the white ones, mostly, have come from that evil spawn stock, back even before SCD, Smith Colony Disease.
Then, again, we have Democrats with a wilted big “D” who need their comeuppance, and who are just one half brain shy of a squid, and somehow, the other squids (sorry about the dispersion to cephalopods) with another load of brain cells missing need to be embraced, because, the GOP and Trumpies and the like want to move toward a truly socialist society?
Again, the reality is some bad-ass slow, consistent and in many cases rapid death by a 1,000 capitalist cuts.
I meet people in my new job, working with Adults with ID/DD, to get job ready and jobs in the community – real jobs, not stuck in some sheltered workshop getting one-tenth the wage of anyone else in the same job.
Sure, I am doing great work, god’s work, the work of an angel (they really say this stuff to me, a commie, a devoted atheist), and while I get the gist of that, we talk about how it is my careers have been shit for pay, highly exploitive and yet highly regarded in some sense: teaching, social services, and, well, community journalism.
“Ha-ha, you are doing these great services knowing you are not going to get rich doing it, but thank you for your service.”
Imagine that stupidity, that dense mentality. Imagine, the hard jobs that need doing in a broken capitalist society with wave after wave of damaged, chronically ill, economically strafed, mentally poisoned, generously precarious, and one paycheck away from bad ass disaster citizens on the precipice? PayDay Loans? That in and of itself defines capitalism. The Mafiosi aspect of this spiritually deserted society.
Yet, now, these great leftist warriors are saying the Trumpies and the GOP of the world – the log cutters, the mill workers, the truckers, the blue collar millionaires – that they want workplace rights, the right to strike, the right to squat, the right to refuse bad and dangerous work; that they want to be able to shut down polluting industries, and the right of the people to take over industries? That these Trumpies and GOP want universal health care, universal rights for all people. That these GOP and Trumpies want real education, more education, holistic education, writing and thinking across the curriculum, across disciplines, across industries. That the GOP-Trumpies will work so-so well with organizers and “the people” over defunding and holding to task “the police-backed” banks-warehouses-fulfillment centers. Right!@#$%
So how does anyone on both sides of the manure pile called USA politics square this fact?
Ahh, the world’s 26 richest people currently have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion—down from 61 people in 2016. As the rich get richer, sea levels are rising, tribalism is flourishing, and liberal democracies are regressing. Even some of the wealthiest nations are plagued by job insecurity, debt, and stagnant wages. Ordinary people across the political spectrum are increasingly concerned that the system is rigged against them. Trust in public institutions is near an all-time low.
So that Google search got one hit on the “other side” of the dividing line (not really) – “What the Right Gets Wrong About Socialism. As Scandinavia shows, it does feature plenty of public ownership—but also a thriving economy.”1
Sure, we get this from the Norwegian:
Norway’s success has not come without costs—wealth accrued through oil and other extractive industries has had harsh ecological consequences. But students there and across Scandinavia graduate without the horrifying debt burdens of their U.S. counterparts. Those who sustain injuries in traffic accidents never have to beg bystanders not to call for an ambulance, for fear of drowning in medical debt. Norwegian diabetics don’t need to crowdsource their insulin. As seniors, they don’t spend their golden years working at Walmart or living in their vehicles. Their homes were not repossessed en masse by banks during the Great Recession. Extensive public ownership shields Norwegians from the harshest aspects of unfettered capitalism.
But then he attacks North Korea and Venezuela for being failing socialist countries, and without the context of the international transnational monetary criminal system of sanctions and debt and theft of Venezuela’s treasury, and war war war with Korea still on the hot plate. Then the illegal maneuvers of governments like the USA and supported by all those others, including Norway, in its attack on Venezuela’s elected leaders and support of the dirty rich racist opposition groups, that is not mentioned.
Yep, there is a link in the Norwegian’s piece to another article – July 2018, “There is Nothing Inherently Wrong with State Ownership” by Matthew Bruenig over at Current Affairs Magazine.
Again, short anemic, and an essay in response to an attack on Norway and Sweden and “socialist” countries in the Nordic category by a New York Times “writer,” a Bret Stephens, who is sloppy and makes untrue claims in this piece, “Democratic Socialism Is Dem Doom.”
No Richard Wolf and no Michael Parenti or any thousands upon thousands of thinkers who know about societies and economies and cultures and ecologies who could put this tripe to rest. This is it?
Hemming Us In
Imagine, a 69-year-old working in a deli at a national chain. “I was once a speech therapist with a thriving private practice. And then my retirement went bust, thanks to Enron.” So, Molly works with a terrible limp, arthritis everywhere and almost no hair left. Fryers, slicers, prepping, and she runs it. Since age 55, when not only her measly retirement went bust, but the speech therapy arena turned more and more into high end certification racket, and gobbled up by, well, monopolies, agencies that scarf up the independents, or make it impossible to compete against the aggregators and services felons.
Then another guy, James, working the parking lot, bathrooms, carts, etc., making a wage when he started at this national grocery chain, of $9.75 an hour. He busts his butt, and we talked about his chronic heart failure, the meds he takes each month, all of that, including the pace maker and other aspects of his life, at age 60. He is at $12 an hour after five years with this outfit, and he tells me his supervisor likes his work, and his helping the other cart people, so much so that he is in for a wage increase to $15 an hour. He has to wait 90 days for the higher ups to approve that.
Hemming in. Working hard jobs at an old age to keep bad health insurance that is part of a for-triple-profit system of penury and theft. Oh, stories of an item being charged 18 times more during this Covid “crisis.”
A study that revealed hospitals may be charging as much as 18 times over their costs.
Nurse Jean Ross – “ Yes. Again, unconscionable, but that seems to be the way in this country. Up to 18 times. So, for example, if your true cost — it’s called the charge-to-cost ratio, or CCR — if your true cost for your service is $100, they are, in many cases, charging up to $1,800. And they do it because they can.” This from a study put out by National Nurses United.
Sit on the Ground and Try and Pull Yourself Up by Bootstraps
Those great white hopes, those big happy white males and big happy white females who voted for Trump and then those that believe Biden is better, well, that’s what we have – “Just let it take place, and that’s the way the Capitalist Cookie crumbles. What would Cuba be doing? The great invisible hand will fix things!”
Where I currently work – a small non-profit – the amount of software and tracking-time management apps and all the government agencies I have to get my mandatory trainings on and get my certifications renewed, well, it’s almost daunting. That’s the squeeze, the money train to the middle men, having nothing to do with my job, my humanity, work.
This is a non-for-profit agency working with adults with ID/DD.
Imagine all those warehouses and factories and office buildings and other places where the atomization was already on overdrive before the plan-pandemic.
Now, with the lockdowns, the on-line doom dungeons, and alas, with more and more AI and IT measures in place to keep us out of each other’s social distance arena, things are really degrading big time.
Teaching to the New Technology
I want to look at another gig I had – substitute teaching. Not just the bad working conditions of the public schools and anxious teachers and idiotic principals and the dictatorial superintendent. Let’s look at the payrate. Look at this – substitute teachers, K12, in Oregon, on the Coast, now managed by a Tennessee outfit. Note the hourly rate, and of course, coming into substitute teaching, a teaching certificate is required, and that means, well, most teachers like me, we have master’s degrees. That Oregon licensing costs another cool $400 to get the license and jump through the hoops. We get no mileage expended to get to and from very remote schools.
Job details — $14 an hour; Full-time/ Part-time; The State of Oregon requires all substitute teachers to hold an active Oregon Teaching License, Restricted Substitute Teaching License, or an Oregon Reciprocal License. As leaders in the education staffing space since 2000, ESS specializes in placing qualified staff in daily, long-term, and permanent K-12 school district positions including substitute teachers, school aides, and other school support staff. With more than 700 school district partners throughout the US, ESS supports the education of more than 2.5 million students every day.
I had been teaching as a substitute a year ago. I had been hired by the District, and my contacts were through the District. I was making $80 for four hours and $160 for seven. In many cases I could get called in late and then get ready, make the drive in the rural county, get to the school and still get the full day’s pay rate. That’s more than $18 an hour, and alas, I got to know the teachers who wanted me when they had planned absences, and the school secretaries also knew me.
There is a shortage of substitutes, and, well, if things were better all around, substitutes could be integrated more seamlessly and holistically to provide amazing outside the box perspectives and teaching.
Not so in Lincoln County, as is true of most counties, with plenty of Administrators, plenty of bullshit curriculum cops, plenty of teach-to-the- test zombies running roughshod over the entire project of working with our youth, our kids, our aspiring young adults.
This staffing “solution” is killing again teachers getting together, working with the district, getting to know people in the district, airing grievances with the district. Everything goes through this Tennessee outfit. Complaints go nowhere, and if you get a complaint leveled against you by a school, ESS will NOT go to bat. They have taken that $18 an hour and whittled it to $14 an hour. Then, they probably charge more than just that $4 per each hour taught to the DIstrict. Add to the fact they will manage who gets called, how they get called. These people are running call centers, data dredging centers, and know zilch about the schools, the roads, the weather, the culture, the teachers, the students.
I am sure they will not be allowing teachers to get a few extra hours pay if they are called in late and end up working a partial day. I am sure there are all sorts of cost-cutting (human-killing measures) this Education Staffing Solutions outfit deploys.
And, they probably pay Google for a net cast to see how many hits on the world wide web Education Staffing Solutions gets mentioned or Yelped or rated on Indeed or Linked In. You can only imagine if I was still employed as a substitute teacher, through ESS, that conversation happening, as ESS would be the outfit that would be managing me, so to speak. Finding this article criticizing them, well, sayonara subbing Mister Paul Haeder.
Management fees, man, and government (local, city, county and state, and federal) giving up oversight and decent livable wages for all the agencies and the public utilities (that we could have) and everything else, gone to middle and middle and middle men.
Again, these warped folk with ESS probably backed Trump and believe in Capitalism on Steroids, while they make bank on all the public entities across the land, AKA, public schools.
That the bus systems for schools is now outsourced from sea to shining sea, that again, defines the bottom line of pathetic capitalism. All the food cooked in cafeterias, outsourced to Sodexo. There is nothing local anymore, and these multinationals, these huge stockholder and stock board run outfits, they are making money off of us, US taxpayer, and in that formula, they are welfare recipients, and mostly welfare cheats, and with ESS, they are ripping off the very people that do the work – teachers, para-educators, more.
My comeuppance it seems was being banned from the entire District because of a few students I was in charge of at a local high school accused me of “upsetting” them when we were having a classroom discussion about homelessness, about epigenetics and families, about poverty, about the potential for many people to become substance abusers. We were talking about the books Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm.
What happened was La-La-Land level stuff, and while I think some students are crackpots, and little versions of really bad parents, I am ready to deal with crackpots and talk them off their cliff.
I did not get my day in court, so to speak, and I was not allowed to explain what could have been the students’ (three of them) hysteria, and I had no chance to query the people involved or bringing in the rest of the classroom students who were both inquisitive and enthralled to have a well-traveled, well-read, well-educated, well-experienced person like me in their classroom, albeit, temporary.
And ESS did nothing to defend me, protect me, or gain some sort of redress. That was a year ago.
Here’s a positive story — “Musings on a Monday After Teaching High School Get You Down? Nope!”
Another — “Professor Pablo and Fourth Grade Enlightenment in Lincoln City”
Education By and Because of the Corporation
The backdrop of my teaching debut … was a predicament without any possible solution, a deadly brew compounded from twelve hundred black teenagers penned inside a gloomy brick pile for six hours a day, with a white guard staff misnamed ‘faculty’ manning the light towers and machine-gun posts. This faculty was charged with dribbling out something called ‘curriculum’ to inmates, a gruel so thin [that this school] might rather have been a home for the feeble-minded than a place of education.
— John Taylor Gatto, “The Underground History of American Education,”
I did get a bird’s eye and on-the-ground look at the elementary, middle and high schools in this District. I have done substituting elsewhere, as in Vancouver, Seattle, Spokane and El Paso. Things are not looking good for youth. And I have written about that fact decades ago, and, yes, way before COronaVIrusDisease-2019, and, now, in a time of stupidity, fear, self-loathing, and complete loss of agency, the world is flipped around and, in most cases, crushed for our young people.
Did I mention fear, and while this Intercept piece below is a superficial look at the digital divide, there is so-so much more to write about this lockdown and social (pariah) distancing. It is a caste system on steroids. Calling it “remote learning” is doublespeak, oxymoronic.
In agro-industrial Watsonville, California, English-language learners struggle with remote learning. It’s much easier for students in a nearby Bay Area suburb.
I have a daughter, a step-daughter and a niece in various schooling situations. One is in med school, one is getting a chemistry degree and one is in esthetician school. Hmm, you’d expect hands-on for med school and chemistry majors. Nope. The fear factor for one of the three young women is high, and she is not wanting to leave campus, and the great reset is not in her vocabulary. There is a bombastic, “I am so glad Trump is gone. I hate him. I wish he was dead” from one of the college students. But that’s about it.
The med school woman, well, she is still having to pay out the nose for the school, yet there are less hands-on classes, again, through this doublespeak system of “remote learning.”
Now the esthetician student is hands-on, learning about the human skin dynamics, the chemistry of things in the body and outside, and working on clients, hands on. Seems very interesting that this one area – not to knock one career choice over another – has more practical hands on work than university-level chemistry majors and medical school attendees.
Now, the chemistry major’s school is introducing an “app of paranoia and tracking 101” – you put it on your smart phone, and all those who accept this app, well, as soon as someone tests (sic) positive for the virus (sic), then the entire network of users will get a notification and a detailed map of that person’s whereabouts. Oh, it’s secure, safe, no personal data shared (or mined – right!) they say, and that is a blatant lie-lie-lie. This is the Great Reset, and it’s pathetic and a gateway drug to implanted RFID’s.
The two college students, well, they are focused on their majors, but because of the siloing (atomization) of schooling, the demands on S/T/E/M do not enter the real of STEAM, science technology engineering arts math as interdisciplinary critical studies and as a praxis of seeing how the world could, should and might work outside the Corporate Thievery of Capitalism.
The net effect of holding children in confinement for twelve years without honor paid to the spirit is a compelling demonstration that the State considers the Western spiritual tradition dangerous, subversive. And of course it is. School is about creating loyalty to certain goals and habits, a vision of life, support for a class structure, an intricate system of human relationships cleverly designed to manufacture the continuous low level of discontent upon which mass production and finance rely.” —John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education
More atomization, and more dumb-downing, and more caste systems, and more social-economic-intellectual-employment-philosophical-cultural distancing. This is it for us, no?
…. the world’s 26 richest people currently have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion—down from 61 people in 2016. As the rich get richer, sea levels are rising, tribalism is flourishing, and liberal democracies are regressing. Even some of the wealthiest nations are plagued by job insecurity, debt, and stagnant wages. Ordinary people across the political spectrum are increasingly concerned that the system is rigged against them. Trust in public institutions is near an all-time low.” [source]
Read some of this report, and the surface stuff, well, just surface feel good stuff, but dig deep — Oxfam Report. It’s harrowing.
Nick Hanauer, entrepreneur and venture capitalist:
I am a practitioner of capitalism. I have started or funded 37 companies and was the first outside investor in Amazon. The most important lesson I have learned from these decades of experience with market capitalism is that morality and justice are the fundamental prerequisites for prosperity and economic growth. Greed is not good.
The problem is that almost every authority figure – from economists to politicians to the media – tells us otherwise. Our current crisis of inequality is the direct result of this moral failure. This exclusive, highly unequal society based on extreme wealth for the few may seem sturdy and inevitable right now, but eventually it will collapse. Eventually the pitchforks will come out, and the ensuing chaos will not benefit anyone – not wealthy people like me, and not the poorest people who have already been left behind.
Ironically, the woman going into the beauty field is much more keenly aware of the economic and social disasters befalling small businesses in her own city, her own state and her region of the country. She is super left, but is keenly aware of her democratic governor’s insipid lockdown measures.
I have many friends who now are going bankrupt, closing their businesses. Those businesses are part of a multiplier fabric. The town is or was so much better off with all these independent and mom and pop owned businesses. Not just the cool eateries and breweries, but many people I know opened up furniture stores, businesses around building and construction, all kinds of services you can’t find at the national level. Heck, used computer parts and computers, and even car rental places. Things that are not part of the monopolizing Fortune 500 set. Gone.
That means, of course, STEAM is damaged, in that, sure, the arts are hit hard, but the rest of the STEM also are hit hard on many levels. These STEM folk like their food, beer, edgy stuff, locally sourced and owned. The neutron bomb that the lockdowns and lack of financing and wages and deep-deep help for the small guys and gals, well, it is hollowing out and even more hollowed out economy. The STEM folk will follow the money, while the arts folk and those deeply tied to something richer than science for profit and engineering for war and math for building and construction and technology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution will embed and grow a city’s or town’s or area’s culture.
This all leads us back to the semi-liberal class, even the youth who hate Trump and who don’t get all the conspiracies because they go to schools (universities) which are nothing to shake a stick at, since they are tied to social constructs and hierarchies reliant on the investor class; and they pay out the nose, take out loans and go to classes that are on-line, given to them now largely by scared educators, monitored and mashed up by the Titans of Technology, who have colonized every aspect of our society, ESPECIALLY, PK12 and higher education.
The young woman working on beautifying people and supporting their self-esteem and confidence on a superficial level (skin deep beauty, so to speak), well, she is more acutely aware of the lies of the authorities on both sides of the political manure pile than these card-carrying creeps who actually think Kamala Harris is something good. Anyone-but-Trump is what got us here, this evil of two lesser, lesser of two evils. The two college-going/educated ones are more and more tied into getting out and making money, and not to knock them, because they too know the disgusting reality of poverty and more and more people who once had decent lives, who were the fabric of communities, from that baker to the speech therapist, from that teacher to the counselor, from that glass blower to that coffee shop owner, from all those service workers with lives outside just the service economy (if they are budding or bustling artists).
The creative class is not what Richard Florida yammers about. The liberal class, as Chris Hedges writes, is dead. Education has been gutted and sold down the river, as Henry Giroux states. The New Jim Crow, as Michelle Alexander states, is the new normal for not just American mindsets at the citizen level, but on the economic and investor and Capitalist level.
But conditions today favor the amateur. They favor “speed, brevity, and repetition; novelty but also recognizability.” Artists no longer have the time nor the space to “cultivate an inner stillness or focus”; no time for the “slow build.” Creators need to cater to the market’s demand for constant and immediate engagement, for “flexibility, versatility, and extroversion.” As a result, “irony, complexity, and subtlety are out; the game is won by the brief, the bright, the loud, and the easily grasped.” — “The Great Unread: On William Deresiewicz’s The Death of the Artist”
Capitalism is fascism, and it takes over entire cities and states and regions. It operates on the “buyer beware” mentality, which relies on consumers to take it up the rear, no foul called on the billionaires and CEOs and capitalist systems; and it is protected through the fascist laws of the land created by the massagers of the law from the Supreme Court down to traffic court.
More Nazis Than They Knew What to do With
Again, the great reset tied to Dashboards, a million different types of Education Staffing Solutions (ESS), universal buffoon incomes, all of that inculcated by Karl Schwab, Bill Gates, the Aspen Institute, the TED-X-ers, the World Economic Forum, all of them in the elite class, their handlers, their sycophants, all of those billionaires determining the course of cradle to grave predetermination for billions of people (Zuckerberg has encircled the African continent with his cables and lines and fiber optics), that reset was started decades ago. Debt. Foreclosures. Bailing out corporations. Drugs for guns; Crack Cocaine and the CIA; and, well, the CIA is god, into everything, right, making sure the reset has already been ensured. CIA and Nazis, and Mossad and Jihad, and, these are the merry makers of the world of Lords of War, Lords of Disruptive Economies, Lords of Predatory-Parasitic-Vulture-Usury Capitalism.
Operation Paperclip – 1,600 of Hitler’s Angels of Death. Housing, citizenship, and carte blanc living in the United States. Families welcomed. Italy’s and Germany’s intelligent agencies working closely with the National Security State, and this was in the form of so-called the rat-lines. Tens of thousands going to South America. Tens thousand other Nazi’s allowed to come to USA.
And this was the plan, from the last days right before WWII ended with an illegal double bang of Atomic Murdering Tools – all these stay-behind armies from those defeated fascists of Italy and Germany. Check out this interview on RT –Chris Hedges talks to Gabriel Rockhill about the undercurrents of fascism in America’s DNA, and the US role in internationalizing fascism after World War II through clandestine activities such Operation Paperclip and Operation Gladio.
Rockhill is a Franco-American philosopher and the founding Director of the Critical Theory Workshop and Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University. His books include Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy, Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics, Radical History & the Politics of Art and Logique de l’histoire.
Try having conversations with liberal (illiberal) college-educated and college-loving Democrats about USA’s bioweapons program dating back to again, WWII, and Japanese scientists who were working on all sorts of bioweapons but were captured by the USA and reappropriated and brought back to the USA for, well, good paying jobs.
That is capitalism, right, reappropriating and stealing and setting up systems of mental, physical, psychological, biological, ecological, cultural repression, and eventually, disease and illness, because it pays more to treat and encourage the disease than it does to have a society living disease-free or at least living with those old time religion concepts of – precautionary principle, do no harm, preventative medicine, treat your fellow human as you would want to be treated. You know, all of that mumbo-jumbo that is not put into practice one iota in Capitalism, but certainly is mishmashed into the systems of propaganda, and, alas the “Si Se Puede” marketing of such criminals at Audacity of Hope Obama. et al makes some feel like there is change where change will NEVER be.
Until we get this liberal archetype who says Columbus was a bad guy, and that the USA was built upon the deaths and murders of Indians and Blacks, but, shoot, when ordering from the Prime Amazon account, or when scrolling up and down the iPhone, and, well, all of that which we take for granted in this First World which comes on the back of people here and now in this country and especially in other countries, then, well, the tune changes.
Because in an economic fascism, when again, old worn out people have to still hoof it to Walmart and stock shelves, and when there is no home health care for the sick and dying, young or old, unless there is always huge exchanges of money going out into the pockets of the purveyors of capitalism, you will be getting variations on a theme of a people hooked on Netflix, hooked on buying, hooked on not knowing, hooked on confusion and chaos and, well, this is what is planned.
The great reset and fourth industrial revolution are no-brainers. We’ve given up our fingerprints for a shit job, we have given up blood and urine for a shit job, we are guilty before we can attempt to prove our humanity, our innocence, and in reality, we are always guilty in the eyes of Capitalists.
Western and ruling class ideologies have played a crucial and cruel role in the violent transformation of the peoples, ecosystems and biosphere. The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents the most violent transformation of all. For as long as the ruling class is allowed to exist, social and environmental justice remain pipe dreams. [Cory Morningstar, source]
We are now taking those supposedly benign things like tracking outcomes – you know, if you have prenatal education and vitamins as a pregnant teen, and if you get the little tikes reading on a Chromebook, watching Sesame Street and if you eat this veggie over that deep friend morsel, and, all of those metrics that the data ditzes love, all of it is now being used AGAINST self-agency, AGAINST not just individuals, but all manner of classes, groupings, economic strata. You do the stuff “right” which Bill and Melinda have studied are right, then there will be s few more digital dollars in your bank account. If you fail to do them, well, no more dialing for dollars.
Because the jobs are going. The mom and pops are folding. Even chains like bowling alleys and movie theaters, all of that, they are shuttering. This revolution was already in the works before Marshall McLuhan and the medium is the message and Herman and Chomsky’s manufacturing consent. Way before deadly at any speed, a la Nader, and way before the lies of better angels of our nature Pinker.
The fix was in long-long time ago, when the food was locked up and the agricultural revolution forced us to stop being human and humane, and made us into the cogs in so many machines of oppression and suppression.
Until today, when the Catholic freaks are coming in their vestments with their exorcising tools for anyone who would dare desecrate the statue of Columbus or any Fray who pushed their stinking selves and their stinking religions onto this continent and the one south.
In response to Indigenous-led efforts that demanded land back and the toppling of statues, Catholic Church leaders in Oregon and California deemed it necessary to perform exorcisms, thereby casting Indigenous protest as demonic. [Truthout]
This is 2020, and the trillionaire Catholic Church is walking in downtown Portland with these conquistadors of nothingness, while the great reset is happening, with the green light of the Pope. “The story did not end the way it was meant to,” Pope Francis wrote recently, deftly excommunicating about a half-century’s worth of economic ideology. [source] In a striking, 43,000-word-long encyclical published last Sunday, the pope put his stamp on efforts to shape what’s been termed a Great Reset of the global economy in response to the devastation of COVID-19.”
Here it is imperative to note the consolidation of power happening in real time. World Economic Forum founder and CEO Klaus Schwab refers to this consolidation as a new global architecture; the new global governance. The following dates of are of paramount significance. On May 18, 2018, the World Bank partners with the United Nations. On June 13, 2019, the World Economic Forum partners with the United Nations. On March 11, 2020, the World Economic Forum partners with the World Health Organization (a UN body) launching the COVID Action Platform, a coalition of 200 of the world’s most powerful corporations. This number would quickly swell to over 700. On this same day, March 11, 2020, the WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic. The UN-WEF partnership firmly positions Word Economic Forum at the helm of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, also referred to as the Global Goals), which they are frothing at the mouth to implement. This is not because they care about poverty, biodiversity, the climate, or world hunger. Marketed with holistic language, dressed with beautiful images of brown smiling children, SDGs represent the new poverty economy (impact investing/social impact bonds) and emerging markets. Children as human capital data to be commodified on blockchain linking behaviour to benefits. Coercion has been repackaged as empowerment. The human population to be controlled via digital identity systems tied to cashless benefit payments within the context of a militarized 5G, IoT, and an augmented reality environment. A world where every function of nature is monetized, to be bought, sold and traded on Wall Street. — Cory Morningstar, The Great Reset: The Final Assault on the Living Planet [It’s not a social dilemma — it’s the calculated destruction of the social — Part III]
[Pope Francis meets with members of the clergy after his weekly general audience at the San Damaso courtyard, September 30 2020. Image: REUTERS/Yara Nardi]
The world is fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of rich and powerful land speculators and agribusiness corporations. Smallholder farmers are being criminalised and even made to disappear when it comes to the struggle for land. They are constantly exposed to systematic expulsion.
In 2014, the Oakland Institute found that institutional investors, including hedge funds, private equity and pension funds, are eager to capitalise on global farmland as a new and highly desirable asset class. Financial returns are what matter to these entities, not food security.
Consider Ukraine. The organisation Grain found that in 2014 small farmers operated 16% of agricultural land in that country, but provided 55% of agricultural output, including: 97% of potatoes, 97% of honey, 88% of vegetables, 83% of fruits and berries and 80% of milk. It is clear that Ukraine’s small farms were delivering impressive outputs.
Following the toppling of Ukraine’s government in early 2014, the way was paved for foreign investors and Western agribusiness to take a firm hold over the agri-food sector. Reforms mandated by the EU-backed loan to Ukraine in 2014 included agricultural deregulation intended to benefit foreign agribusiness. Natural resource and land policy shifts were being designed to facilitate the foreign corporate takeover of enormous tracts of land.
Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute, stated at the time that the World Bank and IMF were intent on opening up foreign markets to Western corporations and that the high stakes around the control of Ukraine’s vast agricultural sector, the world’s third largest exporter of corn and fifth largest exporter of wheat, constitute an overlooked critical factor. He added that in recent years, foreign corporations had acquired more than 1.6 million hectares of Ukrainian land.
Western agribusiness has been coveting Ukraine’s agriculture sector for quite some time, long before the coup. That country contains one third of all arable land in Europe. An article by Oriental Review in 2015 noted that since the mid-90s the Ukrainian-Americans at the helm of the US-Ukraine Business Council had been instrumental in encouraging the foreign control of Ukrainian agriculture.
In November 2013, the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation drafted a legal amendment that would benefit global agribusiness producers by allowing the widespread use of genetically modified seeds. When GMO crops were legally introduced into the Ukrainian market in 2013, they were planted in up to 70% of all soybean fields, 10-20% of cornfields and over 10% of all sunflower fields, according to various estimates (or 3% of the country’s total farmland).
Interestingly, the investment fund Siguler Guff & Co acquired a 50% stake in the Ukrainian Port of Illichivsk in 2015, which specialises in agricultural exports.
In June 2020, the IMF approved an 18-month $5 billion loan programme with Ukraine. According to the Brettons Wood Project website, the government committed to lifting the 19-year moratorium on the sale of state-owned agricultural lands after sustained pressure from international finance. The World Bank incorporated further measures relating to the sale of public agricultural land as conditions in a $350 million Development Policy Loan (COVID ‘relief package’) to Ukraine approved in late June. This included a required ‘prior action’ to “enable the sale of agricultural land and the use of land as collateral.”
In response, Frederic Mousseau recently stated:
The goal is clearly to favor the interests of private investors and Western agribusinesses… It is wrong and immoral for Western financial institutions to force a country in a dire economic situation amidst an unprecedented pandemic to sell its land.
Private equity funds – pools of money that use pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, endowment funds and investments from governments, banks, insurance companies and high net worth individuals – are being injected into the agriculture sector throughout the world. This money is used to lease or buy up farms on the cheap and aggregate them into large-scale, US-style grain and soybean concerns. The article outlines how offshore tax havens and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has targeted Ukraine.
In addition to various Western governments, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the foundation’s endowment, is also investing in private equity, taking positions in farm and food businesses around the world.
Grain notes that this forms part of the trend whereby the world of finance – banks, funds, insurance companies and the like – is gaining control over the real economy, including forests, watersheds and rural people’s territories.
Apart from uprooting communities and grabbing resources to entrench an industrial, export-oriented model of agriculture, this process of ‘financialisation’ is shifting power to remote board rooms occupied by people with no connection to farming and who are merely in it to make money. These funds tend to invest for a 10-15 year period, resulting in handsome returns for investors but can leave a trail of long-term environmental and social devastation and serve to undermine local and regional food insecurity.
This financialisation of agriculture perpetuates a model of farming that serves the interests of the agrochemical and seed giants, including one of the world’s biggest companies, Cargill, which is involved in almost every aspect of global agribusiness.
Still run as a privately held company, the 155-year-old enterprise trades in purchasing and distributing various agricultural commodities, raises livestock and produces animal feed as well as food ingredients for application in processed foods and industrial use. Cargill also has a large financial services arm, which manages financial risks in the commodity markets for the company. This includes Black River Asset Management, a hedge fund with about $10 billion of assets and liabilities.
A recent article on the Unearthed website accused Cargill and its 14 billionaire owners of profiting from the use of child labour, rain forest destruction, the devastation of ancestral lands, the spread of pesticide use and pollution, contaminated food, antibiotic resistance and general health and environmental degradation.
As if this is not concerning enough, the UN Food and Agriculture is now teaming up with CropLife, a global trade association representing the interests of companies that produce and promote pesticides, including highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs).
In a 19 November press release issued by PAN (Pesticide Action Network) Asia Pacific, some 350 organisations in 63 countries representing hundreds of thousands of farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and other communities, as well as human rights, faith-based, environmental and economic justice institutions, delivered a letter to FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu urging him to stop recently announced plans to deepen collaboration with CropLife International by entering into a formal partnership.
HHPs are responsible for a wide range of devastating health harms to farmers, agricultural workers and rural families around the world and these chemicals have decimated pollinator populations and are wreaking havoc on biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.
Marcia Ishii, senior scientist at PAN North America, explained the serious implications of the proposed collaboration:
Unfortunately, since Mr. Qu’s arrival at FAO, the institution appears to be opening up to deeper collaboration with pesticide companies, which are likely to exploit such a relationship for bluewashing, influencing policy development and enhancing access to global markets.
She went on to state:
It is no surprise that FAO’s recently appointed Deputy Director General, Beth Bechdol, comes to FAO with a history of close financial ties to Corteva (formerly Dow/DuPont).
The FAO has in recent years shown a commitment to agroecology but, in calling for an independent FAO, Susan Haffmans from PAN Germany, argues:
The FAO should not jeopardize its successes in agroecology nor its integrity by cooperating with precisely that branch of industry which is responsible for the production of highly hazardous pesticides and whose products contribute to poisoning people and their environment worldwide.
Agroecological principles represent a shift away from the reductionist yield-output chemical-intensive industrial paradigm, which results in among other things enormous pressures on human health, soil and water resources. Agroecology is based on a more integrated low-input systems approach to food and agriculture that prioritises local food security, local calorific production, cropping patterns and diverse nutrition production per acre, water table stability, climate resilience, good soil structure and the ability to cope with evolving pests and disease pressures.
Such a system is underpinned by a concept of food sovereignty, based on optimal self-sufficiency, the right to culturally appropriate food and local ownership and stewardship of common resources, such as land, water, soil and seeds.
However, this model is a direct challenge to the interests of CropLife members. With the emphasis on localisation and on-farm inputs, agroecology does not require dependency on proprietary chemicals, pirated seeds and knowledge nor long-line global supply chains.
By seeking to develop a formal partnership with the FAO, CropLife aims to further entrench its interests while derailing the FAO’s commitment to agroecology. This much has been apparent in recent times with US Ambassador to the FAO Kip Tom having attacked agroecology – and like CropLife members – he perpetuates the myth (recently debunked by Dr Jonathan Latham in the new book Rethinking Food and Agriculture of impending disaster if we do not accept the chemical-industrial paradigm.
Whether it involves farmers in India recently taking to the streets to protest against legislation that will throw the sector wide open to foreign agricapital, land acquisitions in Ukraine or struggles for land rights and seed sovereignty (etc) elsewhere, it is clear that a small cabal of unscrupulous global agribusiness giants are driving and benefitting from deregulated capital flows, peasant displacement, land acquisitions and decisions made at international and national levels via the IMF, World Bank and WTO.
The web that global capitalism weaves in a quest to seek out new profits, capture new markets and control common resources (commonwealth) is destroying farmer livelihoods, the environment and health under the bogus claim of ‘feeding the world’.
Those farmers who survive the profiteering strategies of dispossession and imperialism are to become incorporated into a system of contract farming dictated by global agri-food giants tied to an exploitative food regime based on market dependency and corporate control. A regime that places profit ahead of biodiverse food security, healthy diets and the environment.
Why do political science and neoclassical economics go in one ear and out the other?
A human being who has a fully integrated social body understands that economics is about a social system of circulation of goods and services. In other words, provisioning for the population. Politics is the collective process of evaluating and deciding a) where have we been (our past) and b) where are we going (the future). Politics is about steering. With this framework, it would be inconceivable to steer or govern without referring to how well the economic system is working. How can you steer without an evaluation of how goods and services are circulating? So too, how can you monitor the economic provisioning process without checking on the decision-making process of the steering of our social direction? In fact, a person with an integrated social body only makes a distinction between economic and political processes for analytical purposes. It would be better to call the whole endeavor “political economy”.
However, if you received an undergraduate college degree you probably never had a class in political economy. What you probably had is at least one class in political science and another class in economics. If you are like most people, you found these classes either boring or incomprehensible. Why? The answer is because both fields are riddled with capitalist propaganda that has little basis in most people’s experience. Sure, there are some people who are convinced that political science and neoclassical economics make sense but which social class is this? Chances are it is members of the upper middle class for whom political and neoclassical economics make sense from their class position. But upper middle-class people are 10% of the Yankee population. Even if we take half of the 30% of the middle class, it is still only a quarter of the population. (I exclude the ruling class and the upper class for whom these courses are not relevant for different reasons).
For the rest of the middle class and lower classes, these courses are likely to produce apathy. There is a reason why Yankee masses hate politics and why they pay no attention to economics. For the elites who control political science and neoclassical economics fields, mass apathy is fine because they don’t want the lower classes asking political and economic questions. Mass apathy doesn’t mean they haven’t internalized the propaganda of political science and/or neoclassical economics. It just means some of these assumptions and images exist in the unconscious of people. For example, most people will say, if asked, “we live in a democracy”. So too they will say economically “there are no free lunches”, right out of neoclassical economics guru Milton Friedman’s playbook.
In the meantime, the social body has now slowly been taken over by two zombies: a political science zombie and a neoclassical economics zombie. This zombification process undergoes at least five processes:
Political science and economics are cut off from history, anthropology and sociology.
Political science and economics are separated from each other. In a political science class, if you ask an economic question about politics you will be told that is “not their department”. If you ask a political question in an economics class you will be told the same thing.
Political science and economics classes become reified because both disciplines are presented as changeless and not subject to scandals, false turns or ideological manipulation. Both fields appear as things, dogmas, idols. In the case of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, these documents have become dogma. George Washington or Thomas Jefferson have become idols that are uncriticizable.
Both fields focus on very small micro processes that are relatively inconsequential for the average person’s life. In both fields, this is done because smaller processes lend themselves more easily to scientific measurement. In addition, most neoclassical economics theories are presented in mathematical form which is intimidating for working class and even some middle-class people because they do not have formal training.
Scientific method is emphasized over the content in the field. Unless you have some reason for going into each field professionally, knowledge of how they do science is not really relevant. In the case of Trump, if you want to know how someone with no political experience or training could become the president of Yankeedom, you won’t find the answers in your political science or civics courses.
The result is that any zombified Yankee college graduate is filled with self-congratulatory political science propaganda about the nature of democracy as well as self-congratulatory neo-classical economics which is filled with economics propaganda about the wonders of capitalism.
For this article I will draw on the books Tragedy of Political Science by David Ricci and Disenchanted Realists by Raymond Seidelman and Edward Harpham. For the economics section, I’ve drawn on Introduction to Political Economy by Sackrey, Schneider and Knoedler as well as E. K. Hunt’s History of Economic Thought and Polanyi’s TheGreat Transformation.
FROM INTERDISCIPLINARY TO SPECIALIZATION OF POLITICS AND ECONOMICS
In the beginning of both the study of politics and the study of economics each was understood as being inseparable from history, philosophy, sociology and anthropology. So, in the case of politics, we could never understand a form of rule without understanding the economic property relations through which rulers, and ruled interacted. Nor could we make sense of the rise and fall of dynasties without understanding the social class composition of the society. Lastly, how could we know how the current ruler differs from rulers decades or even centuries ago without including history.
In the case of economics, the interdisciplinary field that preceded it was called political economy. In the work of Smith, Ricardo and Marx, no economic transactions could be understood without understanding the machinations of political rulers or how the newly formed industrial capitalist society differed from the agricultural, slave capitalism that preceded it. This way of looking at things began to change in the last three decades of the 19th century with the marginal utility theorists Menger, Marshall and Walras, who gradually isolated economics from these other fields. This isolation continued into the 20th century with the Austrian school economics in the work of Eugen Ritter Böhm-Bawerk, Von Mises and Von Hayek just before World War II.
In the United States during the depression the work of Keynes was carried on as a political economy point of view because Keynes was interested in macroeconomics and he insisted the state needed to intervene to keep capitalism from going off the rails. The work of neo-classical economists Samuelson and then Milton Friedman in the 1950s and 1960s emphasized the independence of the market from all political influences.
ZOMBIE NUMBER ONE: POLITICAL SCIENCE PROPAGANDA FOR DEMOCRACY
How the political ideology of liberal pluralism gets in the way of research into how democratic Yankeedom actually is
American political theory has always fancied itself a democratic politics well before the end of the 19th century. There was never a time when political theory considered that Yankee politics’ “democracy” was ever something to be proven. It was already always the case. Political science was not a neutral approach to the study of politics. It dwelt in a national context of liberal democracy. This political ideology operates with the following postulates:
presumption of human rationality – people are capable of thinking through their situation about what their own interest requires them to do;
the separation of religious from secular institutions (separation of church and state);
separation of political powers into legislative, executive and judicial fields;
the presence of more than one political party to represent factions of citizens who must have their interests checked and balanced by the upper classes (electoral college);
all that is most profound and enduring about politics was laid down by the Founding Fathers in their documents; and,
liberal faith in science as the midwife of social progress and enlightenment.
The infrastructure of democracy – political parties, the electoral college, the constitution, the separation of powers – could not be challenged. This is crucial because it puts a damper on the study of power blocks and the behavior of elites. To the extent that it takes inequalities seriously, it farms them out to other social science disciplines such as sociology or political sociology.
What would happen if the results of actual political scientific research continually denied central tenets of democratic ideology that political scientists in the United States believe in? Supposed research showed that American citizens do not behave much like democratic citizens? Suppose a political scientist has a hypothesis that democratic theory in practice is an illusion. Can you still practice political science if you believe democracy really doesn’t exist? Suppose a scientist insists on studying politics scientifically even though their inquiry cannot insure the health of a democratic society. Hypothetically you should be able to do this research.
What are the chances of a research grant for a hypothesis designed to show how anti-democratic American social institutions are? Of course, political scientists have done this research in these areas and received grants. But the research in political science would be easier if you proposed research that made people hopeful, comfortable or at least neutral, rather than disturbing them. As of around the year 2000 there were two political science textbooks which did not toe the line of what will later be called “political pluralism”. One was Michael Parenti’s Democracy for the Few, which is Marxist. The other is Irony of Democracy by Louis Schubert and Thomas Dye, which are from the Elitist school of political science.
But political scientists work in educational communities and are somewhat dependent on each other. They have political tendencies that are not based on political facts but on political ideologies that inform the facts whether they are conservative, liberal or Marxist. These ideologies inform whether the reception they receive from their work is cool, hostile or enthusiastic. For example, the topic of political disorder is not looked upon favorably by political scientists. It undermines their theories and cracks their time-honored assumptions. This kind of research is far from welcomed, as important a topic as it might be.
As a political scientist, do you try to use the research to change the institutions in a more democratic way or do you leave the institutions alone and rewrite democratic theory to fit the growing problems and weaknesses of its institutions? The field of political science in the United States did the latter. We will focus on how the ideology of democracy kept political scientists from critically analyzing their own institutions.
Generations of Political Science in Yankeedom
The first generation of politics in the US, from 1880-1900 grounded politics in morality and comparative history. The goal was to pass on qualitative, comparative, eternal wisdom through the ages that led to the development of character. Teachers taught many subjects in the humanities. A single teacher would be responsible for teaching rhetoric, criticism, English composition, logic, grammar, moral philosophy, natural and political law and metaphysics. Teachers were not expected to “publish or perish”, as commercial publishers would not publish books on research because they were not profitable. Scholars in other disciplines, however, judged their work. A single organization, Allied Social Science Association (ASSA) housed History, Economics and Anthropology. Teachers were both products and co-producers of breadth-full learning.
Progressive era of muckraking: Charles Beard
The period of muckraking in the Progressive Era (1896 – 1916) was more down-to-earth and left-liberal compared to the previous generation. The desire was to expose the conditions and the workings of corporate capitalism with writers like Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens and Ida Turnbull. Yet they were still interdisciplinary. For example, Charles Beard famously took the Constitution apart and identified the economic property relations that underlined it. Beard’s vision of a new society included the fusion of new state powers with a revived, educated, informed and activist public.
Positivism political science
But after World War I, interest in political muckraking and activism cooled. When the American Political Science Association (APSA) was set up as a field, its connection to research was separated from history, economics or sociology. As capitalists expanded their industry, companies merged into corporations. They increasingly needed more highly trained managers to help in coordinating production, planning and supervising workers. Universities were chosen as the location to train the middle classes for work in these institutions. Some of these folks became political scientists.
Masses seem uninterested in substantive democracy
Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, the field of politics was taken over by a positivist scientific orientation and was rechristened as “political science”. The emphasis on science meant using techniques of modern empirical research and descriptive studies. Guided by the perspective that the social sciences could be as rigorous as the natural sciences, modern political science was based not on the discovery of eternal truths, but on an ever-expanding body of quantitative research. Science was considered a university affair in which basic research was done, supposedly independent of how the research could be used.
What this new science found was that Americans did not seem to be acting very democratically at all. Many did not bother to vote and masses were susceptible to dictators. The research showed the average American does not conform to the modern liberalism of Dewey and Roosevelt. Merriam and Gosnell wrote about the non-voting public that 44% of non voters gave general indifference or inertia as reasons for not voting. Lasswell pointed out that the findings of personality show the individual is a poor judge of their own interest. In a world of irrational humans, Lasswell argued that a stable order must rely on a universal body of symbols and practices which sustain an elite. This stable order propagates itself by peaceful methods and wields a monopoly of coercion which is rarely necessary to apply, as Graham Wallas said in Human Nature in Politics.
But what if scientific investigations carefully carried out with the intent to improve society might instead contradict popular expectations and undermine faith in democracy? Were political scientists to inquire into the most efficient ways to overthrow America’s government and then publish the results? These are not the types of questions political scientists would be happy to entertain. The tragedy of political science is that in pursuing scientific facts while ignoring political values, those political values became unconscious as they crippled their ability to critically evaluate and challenge the social institutions that stood in the way of a substantive democracy.
Political science fails to explain dictatorships, communism or fascism
Liberal democracy had failed to take hold in Europe after World War I. Instead, in Mussolini’s control of Italy, dictatorships were established in Portugal, Yugoslavia, Austria, and Bulgaria. In 1931 the Japanese invaded Manchuria. In 1932 the Nazis were voted into power and in 1939 fascism triumphed in Spain – and then came World War II.
Political science provided little guidance for understanding the political processes that were shaping Germany (fascism) and Russia and China (state socialism). With regard to key questions of the day such as why fascism existed or how it was possible for peasants to overthrow governments, they provided no serious answer. Even more damning, they could not explain why the politics in their own country were becoming less democratic. The entire corpus of scientific knowledge seemed unable to provide a course for society to follow which would enlighten the population about the rudiments of democratic government. World War I, fascism, Stalinism and World War II signaled a loosening of forces that would make human progress chaotic at best, rather than automatic
In spite of all this, political science proceeded on its merry way as if nothing had happened. Old liberalism counted on the rationality of citizens and the responsiveness of government. Neither was found to be very true. These are not findings that political science wanted to hear because it strongly supported institutions and practices of liberalism. Probably the most famous political scientist of the 1920s and 1930s, Charles Merriam, still held out hope for the public. He promoted a civic education to improve the political life of the average person.
The reification of research methodology
The first thing political science did was to bury itself in research methodology and stop paying attention to voting patterns or even more seriously, the electoral process itself. It worked overtime to be accepted as a kindred spirit to the natural sciences. Its aim was to make its research methods as close to natural science as possible. This meant quantitative measurement and specialization of the field.
Liberal democracy is like scientific method
John Dewey saw science as organized intelligence. When humans work together at science, the methods they employ individually are reinforced by their interaction collectively as an ever-increasingly joint capacity. Dewey developed a system called instrumentalism to organize the findings of science. Dewey believed that discovering the truth was a dynamic process which was forever incomplete yet evolving. Likewise, Dewey thought democracy must be the scientific method applied to politics. He came to think that the method of political science as at least as important, if not more important, than criticizing and changing political institutions.
In 1945, Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies was published. For the next decade, this was the stance that informed many polemics of the Cold War. Like Dewey, Popper saw the application of the scientific method as the road to democracy. He wanted to use the scientific method in his professional work so as to make modest proposals for reforming small parts of society one at a time – piecemeal social engineering as opposed to a “dangerous” utopian program for reframing all parts of society totally and simultaneously as in Marxism. Part of the process of distinguishing science from non-science is to make a distinction between what is true as the result of research, and what should be done with the research. The basic concepts and hypotheses of political science should contain no elaboration of political doctrine or what the state and society ought to be or do.
A product of this specialization was the loss of communication with the public. Political scientists talked to fewer and fewer people and those who listened heard more and more about less and less. Their research was guided by statistics, survey research, and later on formal modeling and game theory. These studies created jargon incomprehensible to the lay person. Instead political scientists became more concerned with how the work might interest their colleagues. As this happened political scientists lost touch with their colleagues in other disciplines and only discussed their findings with those already in their field. Associations which once housed many disciples differentiated into specialized bodies: Political science became more on the surface and lost its depth and breath. Only concrete scientific investigations could yield true knowledge and that knowledge was empirical, particular and experimentally verifiable.
Political scientists naively believed that by simply amassing more data, eventually a theoretical breakthrough would occur about how political systems changed. But while political scientists were slowly amassing reliable political knowledge about increasingly smaller political processes, in their insistence on separating fact from political commitment they left the barn door open by not providing political alternatives as a guide for social policy. Their political crisis came when Leninists and fascists did have political commitment while political science had nothing qualitatively to offer their own politicians.
Thin (Procedural) Democracy
Additionally, besides burying themselves in research method, their standards for what constituted democracy slipped badly. Instead of facing the lack of real substantive democracy in their own country they simply compared themselves favorably to “totalitarian societies” to make them seem relatively more democratic. The bad news for substantive democracy in the West was papered over by a comparison with the political life in “totalitarian” societies. As the evidence on individual and group irrationality mounted, many members of the discipline felt constrained to advocate an approach to politics designed to compensate for some of democracy’s shortcomings. This thin theory of democracy would praise existing liberal practices and institutions rather than criticize weak democratic processes such as voting and the electoral college. They needed to find new justifications for accepting the sometimes-disappointing outcome of democratic processes in the real world.
Rise of pluralism: political practice of interest groups as social science
If individuals are irrational, how did American democracy control its rulers? Empirical democratic theorists or pluralists examined the dynamics of group politics and the effect of organized interest groups on electoral competition. A plurality of groups competes with each other to constrain rulers and political parties to some extent. Pluralists claim, following Arendt, that unlike atomized individuals in totalitarian societies, in liberal democratic societies voluntary associations can and do exist for exerting pressure. William Kornhauser argued for the importance of maintaining pluralism, a bevy of competing power centers to guard against “mass society”.
Tinkering Instrumentalism as the invisible hand of politics
Why isn’t democracy the collective process by which we first establish our values, list our alternatives, prioritize the alternatives, weigh the potential consequences of each alternative and then act together to test what works? According to pluralists, this collective rational deduction process won’t work because humans cannot agree as to which values are to be pursued.
Dahl and Lindblom claim there is another way, which they call disjointed incrementalism. In Politics, Economics and Welfare, Dahl and Lindblom claim that democratic politics is incremental. Here small policy steps are taken without reference to unattainable consensus or grand objectives. Since a great many political actors from voters to interest groups to parties to bureaucrats must be consulted before anything gets done, this process will be disjointed. Yet it is a series of policy adjustments and taking small steps via calculated risks where immediate additions to old policy will not at once achieve all goals but at the same time will not unduly invite unforeseen tumultuous consequences.
Political science and the end of ideology movement
The self-congratulatory nature of political pluralism reached new heights with the “end of ideology movement.” From the late 1940’s and well into the 1960’s many leading scholars in the US agreed that Western society had progressed beyond any need for an explicit liberal ideology because liberalism had already won. The fundamental decency and social efficiency of American policy had been conclusively proven between 1930-1950. Daniel Bell (End of Ideology), Seymour Lipset, (Political Man) and Edward Shils agreed that most political parties in the West paid only lip service to ideology anyway. Secondly, there were so few social issues left that only practical tinkering rather than ideological solutions was needed. Daniel Boorstin’s book The Genius of American Politics argued that American political institutions by-passed the need for ideology. Raymond Aron, in the Opium of the Intellectuals, called for the abolition of ideological fanaticism and the advent of skeptics who will doubt all models and utopias. They rejected ideological speculation because its propositions could not be confirmed or disconfirmed. To questions about their ideological use of “the end of ideologies” in the service of the Cold War they responded that the Cold War was largely a military affair. Anti-ideologists represented the dominant American mood after WWII.
Political science pluralism excludes the working class
Seymour Lipset writes about working class authoritarianism. He points out that studies show the poorest strata of Western society were most likely to support Communist parties. Lipset believes the lower-class people simply do not fit the requirements for good citizenship. They are insufficiently pragmatic, open-minded skeptical and tolerant. Therefore, there is a social utility in the relative weakness of the lower classes. Real world democracies operate on the basis of high participation by elites with their superior political knowledge. Low participation by the masses might impair the political process with their undemocratic attitudes. Liberal political scientists had accepted apathy among citizens.
Rough road for political science in the 1960s
As most everyone knows, the 1960s were a time of explosion that neither Popper nor the pluralists predicted. As far back as the mid-1950s C. Wright Mills described a concentrated power elite which controlled society rather than the pluralist theories of a many-centered polity. The civil rights movement, the opposition to the Vietnam War, the rise of the New Left and the women’s movement all went unexplained by political science pluralism. Whether they called for reform or revolution, the politics of the 1960s were far from pluralist instrumentalism. Murray Edelman, in his book Symbolic Use of Politics, says the job of democratic procedures is to provide the public with symbolic gratification. Elections are for expressing discontent, for articulating enthusiasm, for enjoying political involvement and legitimating the democratic regime by giving it the appearance of popular support. Herbert Marcuse attacked pluralism for creating a “one-dimensional man”. John Galbraith argued that capitalism was not creating real public goods such as roads and bridges but was creating or expanding on the fleeting fancies of consumer products introduced by advertising.
Students complained that the universities were machines in the service of churning out passive consumers or beholden to military contractors. Student activists wanted universities to be agents of change, not handmaidens to the status quo. What united all these strands was a vision of politics that was participatory, not consensual. Political sciences had been focusing on conventional political processes, not the quality of the institutions themselves. They dealt with congresses, political parties, but not the content of what these institutions were doing. Students wanted more policy studies – that is, what the government chooses to do or not do. There were too few, if any, quantitative research studies found on powerful bureaucracies like the Department of Justice, the Ford Foundation or Institute for Defense Analysis. Political philosopher Sheldon Wolin advocated a for a renaissance in the vocation of political theory – to read, analyze, appreciate, extend and build upon the great political philosophers of yesterday. He called for a development of “epic theory”. Political science was not neutral. No stance is a stance for the status quo.
ZOMBIE NUMBER TWO: NEOCLASSICAL ECONOMICS
From political economy to neoclassical economics
Just as political science got cut off from its relationship to history, sociology, anthropology and moral theory by end of World War I, so too economics theory also got cut off from history, politics, anthropology and moral theory beginning around 1870. What now passes for economics, which is known in the United States as neoclassical economics, didn’t exist until the mid-20th century. Throughout the 18th-19th century there was a tradition called “political economy” which included Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill among others. Political economics assumed that economics could not be separated from history, politics or anthropology. It was only in the last three decades of the 19th century with the work of Jevons, Walras and Marshall – with what was called “marginal utility theory” – that economics began to be treated as if it could be separated from these other fields. The Austrian school of von Böhm-Bawerk, Von Mises and Von Hayek continued this tradition which separated the economy from the rest of social life. In the United States Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman brought together neoclassical economics fields.
Polanyi’s Great Transformation
In his powerful book The Great Transformation, political economist Karl Polanyi argues that for most of human history there was no such thing as a separate realm called “the economy”. The economy was embedded in social relationships regarding the circulation of goods based on principles of “reciprocity” within families and kin groups. At the level of the state power of kings and aristocrats, these political relationships were regulated by what Polanyi called “redistribution”. What might be called an “economy” was limited to some trade relations between societies, not within them.
Polanyi argues that this began to change when capitalism brought into society the wheeling-and-dealing that was once limited to trade between societies. At the end of the 18th century when industrialization began to pulverize community relations based on generalized reciprocity and redistribution, the state became more centralized and reorganized society as market relations. There is no better account of this great transformation than to examine Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. While Adam Smith is considered the “father” of neoclassical economics, in most ways he represented a cross between political economy and neoclassical economics. In the first section below I will contrast him with those harder-line political economists like Marx. In the next section I will show how different he was from neoclassical economists.
Substantive vs formal rationality
If you ask most people what an economy is, they will tell you that it is a social process by which people work to produce goods and then the goods are circulated and consumed. But in the minds of neoclassical economists, the economy is not a society-wide social process involving the transformation of nature to meet human needs through a production and circulation process. For neoclassical economists, the economy is a micro exchange between self-interested, hedonistic individuals who compete with each other. Their decisions about what will be traded or bargained is based on short-term self-interest in which they weigh the pros and cons. Society is no more than the aggregate sum of these micro interactions.
Adam Smith vs radical political economists (Marx)
Turning to Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, the first thing worth noticing is the ahistorical manner in which the origins of capitalism are presented. Smith argues that individuals “trucked and bartered” all the way back to hunting and gathering societies. Ideologically it is important to establish that some form of capitalism has always existed. For Marx and the institutionalist political economy theory, capitalism has a more recent origin in the 15th and 16th centuries. No anthropologist who studied tribal societies would try to make Smith’s case.
Secondly, Smith claims that capitalism starts when frugal, hard-working, shrewd traders identify a need to invest capital in land. In the best of all possible worlds, the product sells and he makes a profit. This capitalist has to compete with other traders and the results of this competition are better products for everyone. Smith called this “the invisible hand” of the market. Marxists and post-Keynesians contest this. Marx argued that capitalism doesn’t begin with trading. It begins with what Marx called “the primitive accumulation of capital” when peasants are thrown off the land (enclosures) and their tools and animals are taken away from him. The capitalist uses the land for commercial farming growing coffee, sugar, cotton and tobacco through the labor of slaves. Meanwhile former peasants are driven to work in cities and eventually work in factories after capitalists have revolutionized industry in the 19th century.
Smith believes that the source of profit is in the circulation process. Capitalist make profits by winning the competition, buying land cheap and selling it dear. His ingenuity and risk-taking are rewarded. For Marx, the key to understanding the source of profit is not primarily circulation process, but the production process. Marx says that the exploitation by the capitalist of the laborer comes in the form of wages paid to the worker. Marx estimated that the wages of work covered the first four hours of labor. This was enough money to reproduce working-class life. The last 4-6 hours were surplus labor that was pocketed by the capitalist. So, the ultimate source of profit was the exploitation of labor power. Smith also has a labor theory of value, but it was not the most important factor.
Adam Smith was sensitive to the cost the specialization of labor might have on the body and mind of the worker in terms of alienation on the job. Despite that, he felt that the massive productivity of volume that would result was worth that cost. In Bertell Ollman’s great book Marx’s Theory of Alienation he points out that workers are alienated from a) the process of labor; b) the products of labor; c) other people on the job while laboring; d) the tools harnessed; e) alienation from himself. Marx’s hope was that once an abundance of goods was produced the worker should work less and have a diverse set of activities, as he said, fishing in the morning, cattle rearing in the afternoon, criticism in the evening.
Human nature for Smith is pretty bleak. He believed that human beings are pleasure-seeking, rational and competitive, but lazy. Most people would prefer to do nothing and it is only by the carrot and the stick of enterprising capitalists that makes workers productive. For Marx, people are naturally collectively creative and want to cooperate. People only appear lazy when they have been performing wage labor and they are tired and miserable. When people control their conditions of labor, they are more productive than under capitalist conditions. This has been shown in evidence of worker cooperatives and workers councils during revolutions.
For Adam Smith the fruits of competitive capitalism led to lower prices for consumers. Marx said this is not what actually happens. Competition between capitalists leads to a concentration of capital in a few corporations and the elimination of smaller capitalists. As Marxists Baran and Sweezy point out, corporate capitalists agree not to engage in cut-throat competition and the prices of commodities are pretty much the same. They compete through advertising, not through the prices themselves. There are many more contrasts that could be made, but these are the most important. Let me turn now to the difference between Adam Smith and neo-classical economists like Milton Friedman. It is Milton Friedman‘s right-wing economics that is propagandized in college courses.
Adam Smith Vs Milton Friedman
Despite Smith’s departure from the more leftist political economists of Marx or Thorstein Veblen, compared to Milton Friedman, Adam Smith would have been considered a left liberal. In the first place, Adam Smith understood that the state was necessary for public works like roads, canals and harbors to provide education and defense. With rare exceptions, Milton Friedman wanted the state completely out of the market. His theory was “let the markets run everything”.
While Adam Smith was sensitive to the impact of the working conditions in factories, Milton Friedman might say that workers are free to find work elsewhere if the working conditions did not suit them. In terms of the source of profit, Adam Smith, like Marx, also included a labor theory of value. That means that the cost of a product depended at least partly on the labor time it takes to produce the product. To my knowledge, Milton Friedman ignored this.
How is wealth measured? Smith had an infrastructural answer to this. For him wealth is measured in a) the increased dexterity of every workman; b) the amount of time saved; and c) the inventions of machines that would shorten the workday for workers. Ultimately for Smith the increase in the standard of living of the poor should be the ultimate determination of social wealth. By today’s neoliberal and neoconservative light, Adam Smith would be to the left of Bernie Sanders! For Milton Friedman, he believed that maximizing the profits of capitalists would have a trickle-down effect on the poor.
Notice there is nothing in Adam Smith’s work about investment in the military or finance as sources of profit. For Adam Smith production of material, physical wealth was how profit was measured. For Milton Friedman, profit should be measured regardless of the field. This means that the profits made on a tractor and the profits made on a tank should all count as profit. This fails to make the distinction between tools which can produce food and tools which destroy land and people. So too, for Friedman, profits made on finance capital, investment in paper which produces no material wealth is the same as profits made on building roads, bridges or houses.
Adam Smith, like political economists such as Thorstein Veblen, included the creativity of farmers, artisan, scientists and engineers as creative sources for the economy. For Milton Friedman, the only fount of creative power was the ingenuity of the capitalist. Apparently, Friedman had little idea that the wealth capitalist possessed was not the result of personal ingenuity but most often from inheritance. Last time I checked about 2/3 of capitalist got their wealth from the inheritance they received.
Playing Hardball: the totalitarian nature of capitalist economics courses
In the fields of psychology, a student is presented with six different theoretical schools: psychoanalysis, behaviorism, humanistic psychology, physiological, evolutionary psychology and cognitive. In the fields of sociology, we might be presented with three founding schools – Marx, Weber and Durkheim. Second generation schools might be added: The Elitists (Mosca, Pareto, Michels), symbolic interactionists and rational choice theory. But in the field of economics, in Economics 101 classes, the student is presented with one school. That school would be the neoclassical economics of Samuelson and then later, Milton Freidman. No matter what the chapter heading, neoclassical economics has an interpretation and analysis. Keynesian theory might be presented somewhat, but only in select chapters. Surprisingly only two schools are presented. Does this mean there are only two schools? Hardly.
In their book Introduction to Political Economy, Sackrey, Schneider and Knoedler identify a number of other schools. In addition to a full presentation of Keynes, also included are the works of John Kenneth Galbreath, Thorstein Veblen, Karl Marx, along with might be called the anarchist economics of worker cooperatives. There are other schools called post Keynesians like Steve Keen and Michael Hudson. These are all first-rate economics, why are they not included?
The reason is solely for propaganda purposes. Neoclassical economics theorists are cheerleaders for what I call market fundamentalism. Other schools vary in calling for more state intervention (Keynes, Galbraith) while some are critical of finance capitalism (Keens and Hudson). Others like Marxists and anarchists are critical of the entire capitalist system. The propagandistic nature of neoclassical economics can be more blatantly seen in the fact that there is not one Marxian economist in the United States that is the head of an economics department.
It has often been said by people living outside of Yankeedom that the Yankee masses are stupid people. We don’t know anything about the history of other societies or where they even are on the globe. As true as this may be, what is even more disturbing is that Yankee masses do not understand our own political economy. This article was designed to show how our social bodies have been snatched away and then inhabited by two zombified entities. A political science body which is designed to persuade us that we live in a democracy despite our own best judgment. The evidence political science offers us is self-congratulatory, contradictory, irrelevant, myopic, filled with deceptive comparisons and anti-communist. The other body is a neo-classical economic entity which is also triumphant, mystifying, naïve, cynical, wooden, anti-social, shallow, obscurant and also anti-communist. Anyone in Yankeedom who manages to recover their social body must go through a process of de-zombification. What does this recovery look like? We must analyze the world through a political economy which is interdisciplinary, which is always undergoing quantitative and quantitative changes and through which we can collectively imagine and then build a new socialist world.
Is the U.S. ripe for a real revolution, where the disenfranchised and repressed overthrow the enfranchised and privileged?
Unfortunately, there are many weapons in the hands of the existing U.S. power structure. These include racism, control of the media, chauvinism, greed and more. These are all put into the service of weakening and dividing the population, and pitting them against each other, thus preventing the unity that might otherwise become the demise of the oligarchs and corporations.
It is encouraging to see apparently sincere support for Black Lives Matter and resistance against the police and other forces of suppression, but how deep does this sincerity run? How concrete and effective will it be? Or will it become largely cosmetic, as with past attempts to fight racism and change our society in fundamental ways? Many fear, based on experience, that the current uprising will be insufficient by itself to make more than a token difference, that the consciousness raised will be largely temporary and less than meaningful.
The present series of articles suggests a different – or at least complementary – approach. When the weak and disenfranchised attempt to take power, they need to be numerous, unified, determined and organized to succeed. That’s asking a lot, and few would argue that the movement in the U.S. possesses these traits at pressent.
An alternate approach is to strengthen, enfranchise, unify and organize the society first through other means, creating a stronger base upon which to redesign and reconstruct it. Rather than seizing power and then using it for social justice, we can empower the citizenry first or concurrently, thus enabling them to better press their demands and effectively alter their society.
One of the most pressing demands at present, voiced loudly and frequently in the demonstrations, is to tame police brutality, or even do away with the police altogether. Police brutality and endemic racism in the U.S. is in fact what motivated this series of proposals. Can we expect these demonstrations to have greater impact than previous movements, going back decades, generations and perhaps even centuries? What can we do to reach goals that continue to elude Blacks, Indigenous peoples and other disenfranchised populations?
Significantly, none of the installments of the manifesto has yet addressed the issue of policing, which will probably be the last installment other than a concluding one. This is because the other elements are all essential in doing away with a repressive and racist police force, and must be addressed first (in terms of explanation). In fact, all the elements are interrelated. They can be addressed separately to a certain extent, but they need each other in order to be fully successful, and therefore deserve to be demanded simultaneously.
A Foreign Policy for the Masses
Part V proposed measures for taming the power and influence of the U.S. military, the main tool in imperialist ambitions that exhaust the resources of the U.S. population and enhance the power of its ultra-elite. Hand in hand with the military is a highly aggressive U.S. foreign policy, which is what drives an imperialistic use of the military. One is an extension of the other. Its basis is the Wolfowitz doctrine of 1992, the Project for a New American Century and other neoconservative formulations. World domination, the subservience of other nations and the weakening of noncompliant nations is its primary object, by means of bullying, threatening and ultimately sabotaging and destroying other nations in order to remain in complete control. It matters not what sacrifices the American people make in order to feed such megalomania, nor those made by the victims of this policy. Whether they are peaceful or not, they must die in their millions and become refugees in the tens of millions to feed the bloodthirst of this policy. Imperialism always targets the disempowered, and especially Black and Brown peoples.
Many of these traits of U.S. foreign policy may disappear or at least diminish in the absence of military projection, as discussed in Part V. Nevertheless, it is important to explicitly state how policy will change, which will in turn illustrate why the military is mostly superfluous to the welfare of the general population. A lot of the change is as simple as actually complying with international law, such as the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter, to which the U.S. is already a signatory.
The central obligation of international law is that no nation will attack another or violate its sovereign territory except in response to a direct attack from that state, or a threat of immediate attack. Today the U.S. violates this obligation everywhere that it sends its drones to assassinate targets or even conduct surveillance without the permission of the nation in whose territory these missions are conducted. But of course, the U.S. goes well beyond such measures. It attempts “regime change” against countries that are not sufficiently loyal or compliant, and do not open their doors for exploitation of their economies for the benefit of U.S. corporations and interests, nor assist in enforcing U.S. global objectives.
Part of the problem is possibly that Congress has illegally abdicated its war powers under the U.S. Constitution. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) is unconstitutional because Congress cannot authorize modification of the Constitution by giving its power to the Executive branch of government, thereby abdicating its constitutional role. Only an approval by ¾ of the state legislatures can change the constitution. The AUMF must be abolished.
The use of economic, financial or other sanctions upon other nations is also a form of warfare, and potentially a cruel and devastating one. Such policies are therefore also illegal unless undertaken to counter a direct threat, and subsequent to a declaration of war by the Congress.
Other instruments of an imperialist foreign policy must also be dismantled. These include NATO, which is merely an association of gangsters, intended to enhance the ability of the U.S. to threaten and bully other nations. Similarly, the sole purpose of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation AKA School of the Americas is to assure that tiny power elites in countries that are under the domination of the U.S. will be able to suppress the rest of the population and thereby maintain their power for use in the service of the imperialist objectives of the U.S.
Similarly, the instruments of financial and economic coercion and exploitation must be disbanded. All international trade relations and commerce as currently upheld by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) must be reformulated to protect the labor, human rights, economy, environment and domestic industry of partner and recipient nations so that the growth of local industry and agriculture has the advantage over foreign corporate domination. The WTO, IMF, and World Bank must be eliminated or replaced with new institutions that are democratic, transparent, and accountable to the citizens of all nations. All debts incurred by poor nations must be forgiven, and financial assistance structured so as to enhance a nation’s income and ability to provide for the welfare and prosperity of its people, rather than to provide income to the creditors.
Finally, all weapons development, sales and military aid must cease being used to dominate other nations and to further imperialist interests. Foremost among these are nuclear weapons. They are simply too dangerous to be put into the service of geopolitical strategic objectives. Furthermore, they are an expenditure that in no way contributes to the welfare and prosperity of the American people. They should be abolished and all nuclear powers should mutually reduce stockpiles to this end. The U.S. should sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and end the research, testing and stockpiling of all nuclear weapons of any size. The same should apply to chemical and biological weapons and land mines. In addition, the U.S. should reverse its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and honor its stipulations.
In truth, the steps outlined in previous Manifesto installments, and especially number V (drastically reducing the role of the military) are likely to make the suggestions with regard to foreign policy relatively easy to implement. These effects will also become evident to a greater extent in the remaining installments.
The abstract science of mathematics is a language like music. But while music is in the realm of pure emotion, the language of mathematics only speaks to the mind not the heart. Numbers and equations do not lie. They are not, by essence, subjective. This being said, when the numbers are those of the dead, they can have the chilling emotional effect of a meat cleaver cutting through bones. While we have tried to stay away from the mainstream media litany of the death tolls, on April 25, 2020 we had passed 200,000 deaths globally. In the United States alone, by the end of April, the COVID-19 pandemic will have killed more people than the reported 58,220 US soldiers who died during the Vietnam war.
Ironically, two political leaders who are supposed to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum have framed their COVID-19 crisis narrative as a war. One is French President Macron, a neoliberal globalist champion, and the other one is nationalist-populist US President Trump. Both, however, have a lot in common: they are proponents of global corporatism, are Commanders in Chief of their respective military but did not serve in the military. Trump was a reputed Vietnam war draft dodger, while Macron was born too late to have done the mandatory French military service. In either case, their war on COVID-19 is not going well. As matter of fact Trump and Macron are winning their war on COVID-19 like the US won in Vietnam or NATO won in Afghanistan. And incidentally, if the COVID-19 is a world war, both of these presidents and other world leaders should consider ordering a military draft.
The COVID-19 killing spree is not yet over, even in its first installment. It is hard to forecast, but in a month or two, once countries such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the entire African continent are computed in the tragic body count, we could globally have reached 350,000 deaths. The worldwide government incompetence will continue and the litany of deaths will keep ticking away. Meanwhile human suffering is not a great concern for capitalism’s ruling class, the economy and the financial markets are now their main focus.
Never mind their countless failures and shortcomings through the crisis. What mostly concerns our callous and cynical political and business leaders is COVID-19’s impact on the global economy. While the lockdown of half of humanity could have been beneficial for an extra couple of weeks from a healthcare stand point, the enforcers of the imperative of global capitalism do not care. As far as salvaging what can still be saved from the current economic collapse, the political technocrats who serve the billionaire class, are perfectly willing to sacrifice thousands of human lives. People are dying. Poor people are starving even in the so-called developed world and relying on food banks in places like Queens, New York; New Orleans; or Seine St. Denis, in Paris’ poor northern suburbs. But what truly matters for the worshippers of capitalism is the well being of their free-market God, a profane deity brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanity is facing a time of reckoning. Despite what the global ruling class hopes for, the global economy has collapsed, and things will never return to normal.
The COVID-19 Great Depression
In just two months, the global economy was brought to a standstill. Airplanes are not flying; factories are not manufacturing, with the exception of face masks; oil has become worthless; three billion people are not consuming, at the exception of food products. The imposed hiatus for most global consumption and circulation of people and goods has blown a giant hole in the complex capitalist edifice. The main question now is will it recover. While the notion of a Great COVID-19 Depression has become accepted, governments worldwide are trying to give their citizens the idea that ultimately it will be okay again. As during the crash of 2008, worldwide national or supra-national banking institutions have followed the lead of the US Federal Reserve. Worldwide, the equivalent of about $7 trillion have been printed, and they are in the process of being injected in the financial markets. Without this, Wall Street and the other markets would already be worth as little as a barrel of US crude oil.
The oil war has come home to roost in the US
On April 21, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark for US crude dropped below zero. As matter of fact, it was trading at -$4.29 a barrel. Needless to say, despite the federal money injection, the impact on the US economy energy sector will be catastrophic. This situation was completely predictable. It was years in the making, with one geopolitical blunder after another. After all, for decades the US and its Saudi allies have used oil price as a weapon. The oil war has come home to roost.
During the Clinton administration an oil price drop was used against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; Bush Jr.’s administration used it against Iran; and the Obama administration used it against Russia as a retaliation over Ukraine. The Trump administration has applied the same policies with regime change goals in Iran and Venezuela. Like his predecessors, the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin-Salman, has been fully on board for decades. The mechanics are simple: you try to achieve your regime change goals by bankrupting another country’s economy, especially if it mainly relies on oil extraction, as does Venezuela. But Maduro is still in place and the Iranians are holding on against all odds.
The Trump administration, despite its claim of being an America-First isolationist, has dutifully followed the post World War II US empire’s geopolitical strategy of asserting a worldwide dominance, even bigger than the Monroe doctrine, by engineering failed states. It is likely, however, that with 26 million unemployed, millions relying on food banks to eat, and an economy that has imploded, the US empire will have to scale back its ambitions. For global neoliberalism’s prodigal son, Emmanuel Macron, the economic and social landscapes are equally grim.
Anger in France: “la racaille” & Gilets Jaunes’ new sans-culottes?
Despite the tough lockdown for more than six weeks in France, clashes have occurred between youths in poor French suburbs and the police. It started Saturday April 18 in Villeneuve La Garrenne with what appears to have been excessive police force against a motorcyclist. From there, it snowballed to the poor suburbs in other parts of Paris and elsewhere in France, specifically in Strasbourg, Roubaix and a Lyon suburb. In Strasbourg a police station was set on fire. The French far-right has done its best to capitalize on the incident, which involved mainly young French citizens of North African or African origin. The far-right populist leader of the Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen, called for a severe crackdown on the culprits of the social unrest. She made the racist claimed that “la racaille” (the human scum) had to be neutralized. Le Pen also attacked the Macron administration for doing something right, which was the release of 8,000 prisoners from prisons to avoid COVID-19 mass infections. This was to be expected from racist tough-on-crime Le Pen, but Eric Ciotti, a congressman from Les Republicains, a party that is supposed to be less Fascist than Le Pen’s, went a step further and called for L’intervention de l’armee et un couvre feu (a deployment of the military and a curfew).
Most people understand that, without the work of the six million French citizens of North African or African origin, France’s confinement would be a lot more challenging. Just like in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles or New Orleans, the mothers and fathers of the angry youths in France are largely the ones who have kept the country going during the lockdown, day in and day out, often risking their lives, anonymously. They are the clerks in supermarkets, the truck drivers and other delivery persons, the janitors, the garbage collectors, the bus drivers and low-paid support staff in hospitals and nursing homes. Generation after generation, since the early 1960s, the largely North African immigrants have done the hard work that the Caucasian French no longer care to do. Former president Chirac called this social inequality a fracture sociale in the 1990s. So it was identified but never fixed, and the COVID-19 crisis has just made it more blatant. France will ease its lockdown after May 11. After this, if the social inequalities are not addressed by actions instead of only words, the angry youths of the poor suburbs could be joined by the Gilets Jaunes, whose movement just went underground.
So far the central banks’ remedy, quantitative easing — a euphemism for printing money — has been largely futile. The 3 trillion dollars and 1.5 trillion Euros injected are financial band-aids on our global economical Titanic. If this doomed ship represents our pre-COVID-19 mode of development, it should be cheerfully sacrificed along with the giant cargo ships and planes, which are the nervous system of a globalization that is chocking on itself. The unfolding COVID-19 crisis has fully exposed the failures of governance and socio-economic systems worldwide.
Beyond their short-term post-COVID-19 strategies, few policy makers or business leaders have any valid answers. The ruling class’ model of globalization, based on corporate imperialism’s core principle of profit over people, is in ruins. In the middle of an unstoppable worldwide paradigm shift, so-called leaders and thinkers are in paradigm paralysis. They are trapped in a pre-COVID-19 reality bubble, unable to think outside the box.
As citizens of the world, we may look ahead possibly to a better future for the many. One critical systemic problem unlikely to survive COVID-19 is the extreme social inequality driven by hyper-capitalist wealth concentration. In a nutshell, the existential problem of capitalism that could cause its end is as follows: exactly 2,019 billionaires worldwide have more wealth than 60 percent of the world population. This is not only immoral but also unsustainable. Let us travel back in time to 1788 for a moment. In France absolute King Louis XVI, who presumably combined the power of Macron and the wealth of France’s richest man Bernard Arnault, thought he was firmly in power. But within a year he was swept away by the French Revolution. The motto of the revolution and subsequent French Republic was Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. These three notions still have power and value. If climate justice is added to them, this could be the foundation of an ecosocialist society.
While the Great Depression of 1929 unquestionably triggered the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, humanity cannot afford for that history to repeat itself. The COVID-19 Great Depression upon us might be capitalism’s end game and the birth of a new global ecosocialist era based on social equality, real democracy with sound governance, zero economic growth, zero global military spending, and respectful harmony with what is left of the natural world.
75 years ago Germany surrendered to allied forces finally ending the ravages of the Second World War.
Today, as the world celebrates the 75th anniversary of this victory, why not think very seriously about finally winning that war once and for all?
If you’re confused by this statement, then you might want to sit down and take a deep breath before reading on. Within the next 12 minutes, you will likely discover a disturbing fact which may frighten you a little bit: The allies never actually won World War II…
Now please don’t get me wrong. I am eternally thankful for the immortal souls who gave their lives to put down the fascist machine during those bleak years… but the fact is that a certain something wasn’t resolved on the 9th of May, 1945 which has a lot to do with the slow re-emergence of a new form of fascism during the second half of the 20th century and the renewed danger of a global bankers’ dictatorship which the world faces again today.
It is my contention that it is only when we find the courage to really look at this problem with sober eyes that we will be able to truly honor our courageous forebears who devoted their lives to winning a peace for their children, grandchildren and humanity more broadly.
The Ugly Truth of WWII
I’ll stop beating around the Bush now and just say it: Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini were never “their own men”.
The machines they led were never fully under their sovereign control and the financing they used as fuel in their effort to dominate the world did not come from the Banks of Italy or Germany. The technologies they used in petrochemicals, rubber, and computing didn’t come from Germany or Italy, and the governing scientific ideology of eugenics that drove so many of the horrors of Germany’s racial purification practices never originated in the minds of German thinkers or from German institutions.
Were it not for a powerful network of financiers and industrialists of the 1920s-1940s with names such as Rockefeller, Warburg, Montague Norman, Osborn, Morgan, Harriman or Dulles, then it can safely be said that fascism would never have been possible as a “solution” to the economic woes of the post-WWI order. To prove this point, let us take the strange case of Prescott Bush as a useful entry point.
The patriarch of the same Bush dynasty that gave the world two disastrous American presidents (and nearly a third had Donald Trump not annihilated Jeb at the last minute in 2016) made a name for himself funding Nazism alongside his business partners Averell Harrimen and Averell’s younger brother E. Roland Harriman (the latter who was to recruit Prescott to Skull and Bones while both studying at Yale). Not only did Prescott, acting as director of Brown Brothers Harriman, provide valuable loans to keep the bankrupt Nazi party afloat during Hitler’s loss of support in 1932 when the German population voted into office the anti-Fascist General Kurt von Schleicher as Chancellor, but was even found guilty for “Trading with the enemy” as director of Union Banking Corporation in 1942!
That’s right! As demonstrated in the 1992 Unauthorized Biography of George Bush, eleven months after America entered WWII, the Federal Government naturally conducted an investigation of all Nazi banking operations in the USA and wondered why Prescott continued to direct a bank which was so deeply enmeshed with Fritz Thyssen’s Bank voor Handel en Scheepvart of the Netherlands. Thyssen, for those who are unaware, is the German industrial magnate famous for writing the book I Paid Hitler. The bank itself was tied to a German combine called Steel Works of the German Steel Trust which controlled 50.8% of Nazi Germany’s pig iron, 41.4% of its universal plate, 38.5% of its galvanized steel, 45.5% of its pipes and 35% of its explosives. Under Vesting Order 248, the U.S. federal government seized all of Prescott’s properties on October 22, 1942.
The U.S.-German Steel combine was only one small part of a broader operation as Rockefeller’s Standard Oil had created a new international cartel alongside IG Farben (the fourth largest company in the world) in 1929 under the Young Plan. Owen Young was a JP Morgan asset who headed General Electric and instituted a German debt repayment plan in 1928 that gave rise to the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) and consolidated an international cartel of industrialists and financiers on behalf of the City of London and Wall Street. The largest of these cartels saw Henry Ford’s German operations merging with IG Farben, Dupont industries, Britain’s Shell and Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. The 1928 cartel agreement also made it possible for Standard Oil to pass off all patents and technologies for the creation of synthetic gasoline from coal to IG Farben thus allowing Germany to rise from producing merely 300 000 tons of natural petroleum in 1934 to an incredible 6.5 million tons (85% of its total) during WWII! Had this patent/technology transfer not taken place, it is a fact that the modern mechanized warfare that characterized WWII could never have occurred.
Two years before the Young Plan began, JP Morgan had already given a $100 million loan to Mussolini’s newly established fascist regime in Italy with Democratic Party kingmaker Thomas Lamont playing the role of Prescott Bush in Wall Street’s Italian operation. It wasn’t only JP Morgan who loved Mussolini’s brand of corporate fascism, but Time Magazine’s Henry Luce unapologetically gushed over Il Duce putting Mussolini on the cover of Time eight times between 1923 and 1943 while relentlessly promoting fascism as the “economic miracle solution for America” (which he also did in his other two magazines Fortune and Life). Many desperate Americans, still traumatized from the long and painful depression begun in 1929, had increasingly embraced the poisonous idea that an American fascism would put food on the table and finally find help them find work.
A few words should be said of Brown Brothers Harriman.
Bush’s Nazi bank itself was the spawn of an earlier 1931 merger which took place between Montagu Norman’s family bank (Brown Brothers) and Harriman, Bush and Co. Montague Norman was the Governor of the Bank of England from 1920 to 1944, leader of the Anglo-German Fellowship Trust and controller of Germany’s Hjalmar Schacht (Reichsbank president from 1923-1930 and Minister of Economy from 1934-1937). Norman was also the primary controller of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) from its creation in 1930 throughout the entirety of WWII.
The Central Bank of Central Banks
Although the BIS was established under the Young Plan and nominally steered by Schacht as a mechanism for debt repayments from WWI, the Swiss-based “Central Bank of Central Banks” was the key mechanism for international financiers to fund the Nazi machine. The fact that the BIS was under the total control of Montagu Norman was revealed by Dutch Central Banker Johan Beyen who said: “Norman’s prestige was overwhelming. As the apostle of central bank cooperation, he made the central banker into a kind of arch-priest of monetary religion. The BIS was, in fact, his creation.”
The founding members of the Board included the private central banks of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Belgium as well as a coterie of 3 private American banks (JP Morgan, First National of Chicago, and First National of New York). The three American banks merged after the war and are today known as Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.
In its founding constitution, the BIS, its directors and staff were given immunity from all sovereign national laws and not even authorities in Switzerland were permitted to enter its premises.
This story was conveyed powerfully in the 2013 book Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank that Runs the World.
A Word on Eugenics
Nazi support in the build up to, and during, WWII didn’t end with finance and industrial might, but extended to the governing scientific ideology of the third Reich: Eugenics (aka: the science of Social Darwinism as developed by Thomas Huxley’s X Club associate Herbert Spencer and Darwin’s cousin Sir Francis Galton decades earlier). In 1932, New York hosted the Third Eugenics Conference co-sponsored by William Draper Jr (JP Morgan banker, head of General Motors and leading figure of Dillon Read and co) and the Harriman family. This conference brought together leading eugenicists from around the world who came to study America’s successful application of eugenics laws which had begun in 1907 under the enthusiastic patronage of Theodore Roosevelt. Hiding behind the respectable veneer of “science” these high priests of science discussed the new age of “directed evolution of man” which would soon be made possible under a global scientific dictatorship.
Speaking at the conference, leading British Fascist Fairfield Osborn said that eugenics:
aids and encourages the survival and multiplication of the fittest; indirectly, it would check and discourage the multiplication of the unfitted. As to the latter, in the United States alone, it is widely recognized that there are millions of people who are acting as dragnets or sheet anchors on the progress of the ship of state…While some highly competent people are unemployed, the mass of unemployment is among the less competent, who are first selected for suspension, while the few highly competent people are retained because they are still indispensable. In nature, these less-fitted individuals would gradually disappear, but in civilization, we are keeping them in the community in the hopes that in brighter days, they may all find employment. This is only another instance of humane civilization going directly against the order of nature and encouraging the survival of the un-fittest.
The dark days of the great depression were good years for bigotry and ignorance as eugenics laws were applied to two Canadian provinces, and widely spread across Europe and America with 30 U.S. states applying eugenics laws to sterilize the unfit. Eugenics’ successful growth was due in large measure to the fierce financial support of the Rockefeller Foundation and the science magazine Nature which had been created in 1865 by T.H. Huxley’s X Club. The Rockefeller Foundation went on to fund German eugenics and most specifically the rising star of human improvement, Joseph Mengele.
The Nazi Frankenstein Monster is Aborted
Describing his January 29, 1935 meeting with Hitler, Round Table controller Lord Lothian quoted the Fuhrer’s vision for Aryan co-direction of the New World Order saying:
Germany, England, France, Italy, America and Scandinavia … should arrive at some agreement whereby they would prevent their nationals from assisting in the industrializing of countries such as China, and India. It is suicidal to promote the establishment in the agricultural countries of Asia of manufacturing industries.
While it is obvious that much more can be said on the topic, the Fascist machine didn’t fully behave the way the Dr. Frankensteins in London wished, as Hitler began to realize that his powerful military machine gave Germany the power to lead the New World Order rather than play second fiddle as mere enforcers on behalf of their Anglo masters in Britain. While many London and Wall Street oligarchs were willing to adapt to this new reality, a decision was made to abort the plan, and try to fight another day.
To do this a scandal was concocted to justify the abdication of pro-Nazi King Edward VIII in 1936 and an appeasing Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was replaced with Winston Churchill in 1940. While Sir Winston was a life long racist, eugenicist and even Mussolini-admirer, he was first and foremost a devout British Imperialist and as such would fight tooth and nail to save the prestige of the Empire if it were threatened. Which he did.
The Fascists vs Franklin Roosevelt
Within America itself, the pro-fascist Wall Street establishment had been loosing a war that began the day anti-fascist President Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932. Not only had their attempted February 1933 assassination failed, their 1934 coup d’etat plans were also thwarted by a patriotic General named Smedley Darlington Butler. To make matters worse, their efforts to keep America out of the war in the hopes of co-leading the New World Order alongside Germany, France and Italy was also falling apart. As I outlined in my recent article “How to Crush a Bankers’ Dictatorship“, between 1933-1939, FDR had imposed sweeping reforms on the banking sector, thwarted a major attempt to create a global Bankers’ dictatorship under the Bank of International Settlements, and mobilized a broad recovery under the New Deal.
By 1941, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor polarized the American psyche so deeply that resisting America’s entry into WWII as Wall Street’s American Liberty League had been doing up until then, became political suicide. Wall Street’s corporatist organizations were called out by FDR during a powerful 1938 speech as the president reminded the Congress of the true nature of fascism:
The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power… Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing. This concentration is seriously impairing the economic effectiveness of private enterprise as a way of providing employment for labor and capital and as a way of assuring a more equitable distribution of income and earnings among the people of the nation as a whole.
While America’s entry into WWII proved a decisive factor in the destruction of the fascist machine, the dream shared by Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Wallace and many of FDR’s closest allies across America, Canada, Europe, China and Russia for a world governed by large-scale development, and win-win cooperation did not come to pass.
Even though FDR’s ally Harry Dexter White led in the fight to shut down the Bank of International Settlements during the July 1944 Bretton Woods conference, the passage of White’s resolutions to dissolve BIS and audit its books were never put into action. While White, who was to become the first head of the IMF, defended FDR’s program to create a new anti-imperial system of finance, Fabian Society leader, and devout eugenicist John Maynard Keynes defended the Bank and pushed instead to redefine the post-war system around a one world currency called the Bancor, controlled by the Bank of England and BIS.
The Fascist Resurgence in the Post-War World
By the end of 1945, the Truman Doctrine and Anglo-American “special relationship” replaced FDR’s anti-colonial vision, while an anti-communist witch hunt turned America into a fascist police state under FBI surveillance. Everyone friendly to Russia was targeted for destruction and the first to feel that targeting were FDR’s close allies Henry Wallace and Harry Dexter White whose 1948 death while campaigning for Wallace’s presidential bid put an end to anti-colonialists running the IMF.
In the decades after WWII, those same financiers who brought the world fascism went straight back to work infiltrating FDR’s Bretton Woods Institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, turning them from tools of development, into tools of enslavement. This process was fully exposed in the 2004 book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins.
The European banking houses representing the old nobility of the empire continued through this reconquering of the west without punishment. By 1971, the man whom Perkins exposed as the chief economic hit man George Schultz, orchestrated the removal of the U.S. dollar from the Gold-reserve, fixed exchange rate system director of the Office of Management of Budget and in the same year, the Rothschild Inter-Alpha Group of banks was created to usher in a new age of globalization. This 1971 floating of the dollar ushered in a new paradigm of consumerism, post-industrialism, and de-regulation which transformed the once productive western nations into speculative “post-truth” basket cases convinced that casino principles, bubbles and windmills were substitutes for agro-industrial economic practices.
So here we are in 2020 celebrating victory over fascism.
The children and grandchildren of those heroes of 1945 now find themselves attached to the biggest financial collapse in history with $1.5 quadrillion of fictitious capital ripe to explode under a new global hyperinflation akin to that which destroyed Weimar in 1923, but this time global. The Bank of International Settlements that should have been dissolved in 1945 today controls the Financial Stability Board and thus regulates the world derivatives trade which has become the weapon of mass destruction that has been triggered to unleash more chaos upon the world than Hitler could have ever dreamed.
The saving grace today is that the anti-fascist spirit of Franklin Roosevelt is alive in the form of modern anti-imperialists Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and a growing array of nations united under the umbrella of the New Deal of the 21st Century which has come to be called the “Belt and Road Initiative”.
Had Prescott’s grandson Jeb (or Prescott’s spiritual grand daughter Hillary) found themselves in the position of President of the USA at this moment, it is unlikely that I would be writing this now, as I’m fairly certain WWIII would have already been launched. However, with President Trump having successfully survived nearly four years of Deep State subversion, and having called repeatedly for a positive alliance with Russia and China, a chance still exists to take the types of emergency actions needed at this moment of existential crisis to do what FDR had always intended, and win World War II.
I admit upfront that this is a hard newsletter to read. It is about debt. There is a bloodless quality to the way that we talk about the debt of the poorer nations. There is nothing poetic here. The numbers are alienating, their outcome shocking.
In mid-April, eighteen heads of government from Africa and Europe publicly urged the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank, and the New Development Bank as well as other regional institutions to announce an ‘immediate moratorium on all bilateral and multilateral debt payments, both public and private, until the pandemic has passed’. Meanwhile, these agencies – and others – were asked to ‘provide liquidity for the procurement of basic commodities and essential medical supplies’.
On 30 April, Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, wrote that the call for debt postponement is insufficient; what was needed was debt cancellation. In 2019, stunningly, sixty-four countries around the world (half of them on the African continent) spent more money to service their external debt than on health care; the governments in 121 low and middle-income countries spent 10.7% of their revenue on public health, while they drained 12.2% on external debt payments. Ethiopia, Ahmed wrote, ‘spends twice as much on paying off external debt as on health’. Last year, the IMF said that Ethiopia was one of the five fastest growing economies in the world; this is no longer going to be the case because of the impact of the novel coronavirus. Ethiopia, Ahmed noted, will slip into a coronavirus recession.
In late March, the IMF announced that it would provide a new facility worth $1 trillion to prevent countries from falling into a coronavirus recession (under pressure from the US Treasury, the IMF excluded Venezuela). Within a short period of time, more than a hundred countries appealed to the IMF for help. The IMF and the G20 either cancelled debt payments for the next six months or froze debts for the remainder of the year. The G20 said that $32 billion in debt servicing owed to official, private, and multilateral creditors would be suspended in 76 countries. The current debt stocks of the developing countries – by comparison – is over $8 trillion. The absence of any international debt authority means that these initiatives are insufficient. Private creditors are not bound to following through with these initiatives, which means that many of the highly indebted countries will have to continue to service their debt to them. There is talk of the creation of a ‘central credit facility’ developed within the World Bank, where the indebted countries could deposit their debt and let the World Bank deal with the creditors; after the coronavirus has gone, the situation of the debt would be reassessed.
Far more ambitious is the proposal from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to establish an International Developing Country Debt Authority. This body would have a dual mandate: first, to oversee any temporary standstills in debt repayments in order to stave off such events as a coronavirus recession; second, to look carefully at the necessity of fundamental debt relief (including debt cancellation). UNCTAD has made similar proposals in 1986, 1998, 2001, and 2015; each time the powerful creditors and the wealthy nations have rejected this approach. In 1985, the Cuban government hosted the Havana Debt Conference, where Fidel Castro made a plea for a Third World Debt Strike to put pressure on the creditors to come to the table; immense pressure on the less confident states derailed that approach. Neither UNCTAD nor the Havana Debt Conference were able to move this agenda. It now returns to the table.
On April 16, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said bluntly that the US is against any of these more aggressive measures. The most that the US would accept was ‘time-bound suspension of debt service payments’ in the G20 and Paris Club (official creditors), while the London Club (private creditors) would be asked to act on a voluntary basis. Not only has the US put its foot down to prevent any proper immediate relief, but it has said that no long-term debt cancellation is going to be allowed. If there is a coronavirus recession in the countries of the Global South, then so be it.
One of the countries that will slip into a coronavirus recession is Jamaica, where Minister of Finance and Public Service Nigel Clarke said that the ‘tourism sector is operating at zero utilisation and the prospect and timing of reopening remain unclear’. In November 2019, Jamaica completed its obligations to an IMF loan; the head of the IMF team, Uma Ramakrishnan, said that Jamaica was poised for a bright future. But these friendly words came at the end of a process of terrible austerity on the island.
Christophe Simpson, Chair of Jamaica Lands, spoke to Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research about the situation of debt and health care in Jamaica. Simpson emphasises that, in Jamaica, 90% of the population is descended from people who had been enslaved, whose labour was stolen by the British. When the people won their freedom, the British exchequer compensated the plantation owners for the ‘loss’ of their ‘property’; the loan that the British government took to pay the plantation owners was not paid off till 2015, when British Prime Minister David Cameron came to Jamaica to say that reparations for the formerly enslaved people and their descendants was off the table. Colonialism left Jamaica reliant upon tourism, with limited economic sovereignty.
‘We are in a never-ending cycle of debt’, Simpson said. ‘International institutions like the IMF set conditions on the money they lend, so that – for instance – we are not allowed to spend more than 9% of our GDP on public sector wages’. Health care and education face cuts, which means that nurses and teachers are underpaid. ‘Nurses and teachers are lured away from Jamaica by promises of higher wages in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Britain’. ‘They essentially benefit from our indebtedness’, Simpson explained. Jamaica’s people provide each other with free primary and secondary education and with half of the tertiary education costs; 80% of tertiary graduates leave the island to work abroad. Jamaica, which has been robbed for centuries now subsidises the health care sectors in the North Atlantic states.
Elean Thomas (1947-2004), a founder of Jamaica’s Workers Party, in her book Before They Can Speak of Flowers: Word Rhythms (1988) thought about how often she had been asked not to interfere in politics, or – as she put it in the clever Jamaican variation – in politricks. Neither hunger nor ill-health have to do with anything other than politics, since it is through political decisions that resources are stolen from people who then suffer the indignities of poverty.
How I fe no deal with politics? when Politricks a deal with me.
Take for instance…
the good book says
‘By the sweat of your brow
you shall eat bread’
But don’t you know
whole heap of people
a sweat rivers
and still can’t find no bread
is what decide that.
Vikas Thakur, ‘Home’, a distant dream for India’s migrant labourers, 2020.
Our Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research dossier no. 28 (May 2020) on CoronaShock: A Virus and The World is focused on the politics – or the politricks – of the moment. The virus of austerity and of enforced debt servitude produced a fragile world order in most of the world, which has crumbled in the wake of the global pandemic. The dossier traverses the political framework of neoliberalism, which has eroded the basic social institutions that provide health care and education, creating a world in which unproductive finance rules the roost and in which the vast platform or web-based firms have taken hold of a large part of the economy.
Along with the International People’s Assembly, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research produced a 16-point declaration that includes immediate relief and long-term measures. In our most recent dossier, we look carefully at one of these policies, the call for a Universal Basic Income (UBI). We lay out our critical view of the UBI scheme, offering our assessment of why this must be an undiluted universal scheme and why it must be funded by taxes on the wealthy and on profits rather than merely by dismantling other social service schemes. We take a socialist approach to the UBI, insisting that it be a supplement to other social wages rather than perpetuate the myth of the ‘deserving poor’ to sift out who should qualify and who should not.
Dossier no. 28 is illustrated by eight artists from Cuba to Malaysia who came together to make images that depict the Great Lockdown. This newsletter shares some of their work.
A call for artists for Anti-Imperialist Poster Exhibitions.
Collaboration with artists is a central feature of our work. For that reason, we have partnered with the International People’s Assembly and the International Week of Anti-Imperialist Struggle to hold a poster exhibition featuring four different concepts – capitalism, neoliberalism, hybrid war, and imperialism. Please widely forward the call for this exhibition.
Dar Yasin (Associated Press), Srinagar, Kashmir, 9 August 2019.
Three AP photographers – Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan, and Channi Anand – won a Pulitzer Prize for their photography on the struggles inside Kashmir. Please see our Red Alert on Kashmir.