Employee Free Choice Act

If we vote in a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, there could be enough political support to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would reduce the number of opportunities businesses have to terrorize employees trying to unionize, and could restore working Americans’ lost ability to form and join unions.

Through unions’ capacity to educate members, unionization would enable working Americans to begin to exert political influence on economic decisions, a sorely needed corrective to the disastrous elites-only conservative economic program.

Business can’t run government by itself because, immersed in conservative rat-actor ideology, business leaders cannot govern for the good of the whole society. Governing only for their own immediate interests, they ultimately destroy not only politics, the environment, communities, and working class lives, but also the economy, including some of the basis of their own privilege.

As immediately annoying as it is to business owners, we need a strong, smart, involved working class to have a society that isn’t hellish.

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US Crisis, A Better Idea

Some reasonable analyses of the economic downturn:

Doug Henwood’s great radio broadcasts are here. He takes issue with Dean Baker and pounds a little hard on the theme of We Must Bail the Rich Out Because If The Economic System Collapses The Poor Will Be Hurt the Most. I am not so convinced–not by repetition, not by vehemence. It’s a hypothesis. Henwood, whom I usually learn from and love as one of those rare American intellectuals…and who also has great musical taste, is nonetheless a far-too-cranky guy, and in the spirit of MR’s John Bellamy Foster, is overly prone to going after some of the other 8 or 9 leftist American (or Canadian in the case of Naomi Klein) intellectuals with a super-persnickety beating stick.

(Henwood: If you want the full materialist philosophical justification / a more intellectually-legitimate substitute for Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” thesis, go back and read Elaine Scarry’s beautiful opus magnum “The Body in Pain.”)

I’m never crazy about the tactic of establishing legitimacy with liberals by cartoonizing and carping about other lefties; but I understand why folks feel sanctified in doing it. It aint easy bein’ red around here.

Anyway, I highly recommend Henwood’s intervju med Ogmundur Jonasson of the Althingi. I loves me some Scandinavian red-greens–they are rays of sanity piercing through the miasma. (Also, if you listen to the Jonasson interview, first check out Rebecca Solnit’s piece on neoliberal Icelandic complacency in the October (2008) issue of Harper’s. As Jonasson points out, these days Iceland is a metonym for all of us.)

Mark Weisbrot’s (September 2008) “The United States and the World: Where are We Headed?” is easy to read and it is not too long. It assesses not just the financial collapse, but the wider economic problems and political failures that are the result of hegemonic conservative ideology.

Robin Blackburn’s (March 2008) “The Subprime Crisis” is very long (40+ pages) and somewhat difficult to read. It could have been better organized, and it contains tons of financial jargon. It would have been nice if it had included appendices explaining financial theories, concepts, and definitions, and you might want to read it with a copy of Henwood’s “Wall Street” at your side. On the other side of the coin, Blackburn’s piece gives more detailed insider information into the financial collapse in particular. It also offers policy fixes at the end, and I’m always glad to see Rudolf Meidner’s economics invoked.

At MRZine, James K. Galbraith’s “A Bailout Plan We Don’t Need” provides progressive alternatives to the current rich men’s bailout proposals, as they threaten to simply motivate capital to fail again. Such policy poverty reflects the US’s failure and powerlessness to regulate and discipline capital, due to the power of politically-organized capital, the power of finance capital in the Anglo-American economic model, and conservatism’s ideological head lock on the US. Galbraith’s piece here is short.

At CEPR, Dean Baker’s “Progressive Conditions for A Bailout” is not too long, but it does assume some knowledge of finance. I haven’t screened it, but somebody recommended a primer to understand Baker’s prescriptions: “The Giant Pool of Money” by Ira Glass on “This American Life”. Normally, NPR makes my blood freeze and I want to throttle those propaganda pricks. But maybe this particular show is useful.

Baker also has written a piece questioning bailout, “Why Bail?” As for all those gambling-happy Peter Pans who hope that tax money will be dedicated to preventing housing prices from normalizing, the CEPR observes that 15% of Americans spend over half their income on housing costs.

Paulson, Lying

On September 22 or 23, 2008 Paulson lied, claiming that he was leaving to Congress decisions about oversight of the taxpayers’ bailout of speculators.

In fact, his bailout “plan” stated that the Secretary of the Treasury would have more power than a king:

“Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

Bernake and Paulson are conservatives and they have got nothing we need or want. This is what they’ve got for us: “Give us absolute power and we will transfer all your money to the supperrich.” No. That has been the one and only conservative idea for decades. It is a completely bankrupt program, and it is killing us.

Neocons and neoliberals: It is the year 2008 and by now at least elites, if not the broad public, are familiar with the crisis-conservative power grab tactic. Even if we were as moronic as your ideology holds, there is not only the Iraq War we have to jog our memory. There is also a widely-read, widely available book by Naomi Klein and that book details the history of your tactic and the comments you have made about this tactic over time.

In 2006: $62 billion in bonuses for Wall Street

Excerpt from
Egan, Timothy. 2008. “Crash.” The New York Times, September 24.

“But the larger lesson is how Wall Street brought down Main Street. Banks were largely unregulated then, free to gamble people‚Äôs savings on stock market long-shots. When the market collapsed, the uninsured deposits went with it. By the end of 1932, one fourth of all banks were shuttered, and 9 million people lost their savings.

In this century, thanks to the deregulatory demons released by former McCain adviser Phil Gramm and embraced by just enough lobbyist-greased Democrats, Wall Street was greenlighted again to act like a casino. Banks in the heartland passed on their mortgages to Wall Street, where they were sliced and diced in hundreds of largely incomprehensible ways. And while few people understand how those investment giants made money, this much is clear: it was a killing. In 2006 alone, Wall Street firms paid out $62 billion in bonuses.”

Attention Democrats

Given the extreme economic situation, this election seals it: The ONLY way the Dems can win the executive in the US is if a labor movement is rebuilt, because ONLY a labor movement can convince average Americans that they can make decisions based on economics, rather than simply electing their prom royalty.

Update: Clearly, I was slightly pessimistic on the US 2008 election at the moment I wrote this. So, in fact, we learn the Dems do not need a labor movement to get into the White House occasionally. Just an economic collapse and an out-of-touch Republican publicity machine.

try asking someone who isn’t a neoliberal

“In the end, what left so many lawmakers and economists frustrated was the sense that no one had a better idea. So they waited for Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke to give them more details about what they wanted to do.”

From A Professor and a Banker Bury Old Dogma on Markets
By PETER BAKER
Published: September 20, 2008
The New York Times

Check out this NYTimes article from January 2007. The article basically demonstrates how financial con artists were celebrated as experts in setting US deregulation policy–a beautiful portrait in miniature of US elites’ intellectual bankruptcy and leadership black hole. The mantra-like repetition of “innovative” as a synonym for “crappy” is hilarious. It sort of reminds me of another doublespeak term, “maverick”.

Just today half of those “innovative” British banks had to be nationalized to save them from collapse. Why do we let these idiots run everything? Really, direct democracy of all idiots could not possibly be worse than letting a special coterie of idiots run us into the ground while they make off with bailouts, bonuses and golden parachutes.