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.


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