Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Treading Water Underwater

That's the excellent metaphor used by Binyamin Applebaum of the New York Times today in describing the most recent jobs report. We're drowning while continuing to flail.

And as per usual, the experts proclaim themselves mildly surprised and disappointed that we aren't bursting from the depths and performing a water ballet. They're still a little bummed that austerity for the masses and corporate welfare and quantitative easing for the plutocrats has not caused a sonic boom in hiring. All they can come up with to describe the destructive effects of the class war is that the situation continues to be "lackluster."

 The jobs stats, released 18 days late because of the partial government shutdown, don't even reflect the massive furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal employees. And many government contract employees are either still not working or have had their hours cut. Some will get back pay, others will not. Even those who've have been promised back pay have been hit with late charges on their bills.

 So come November, the metaphor for the jobs report could well be this: Gasp and Gurgle.

The only true trickle-down is the shit that flows downhill. The richest of the rich are still raking in the dough, and they won't be happy till they swallow the very last crumb.

We know this because the Pain Caucus of the richest of the rich is still very much in charge of the bipartisan economic enhanced torture program. Dick Durbin, the aptly named Democratic Whip, lashed out against the mythical hordes of greedy geezers on Fox News the other day. He used his best threatening mob boss voice. Because when it comes to fomenting fear about retirees, it is simply no longer enough for deficit scolds like Dick to call them greedy. As pawns in the Grand Bargain for the Grandees, earned benefit recipients have become terrorists armed to the dentures. According to Dick, it's the invasion of the Body-Snatching Boomers Who Bomb!

"Social Security is gonna run out of money in 20 years," he lied. "The Baby Boom generation is gonna blow away our future. We don't wanna see that happen."

Millionaire Politician Warns America: The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Grandma Herself!!!

Of course, even if deficits mattered, Social Security has never contributed a dime to the deficit. It actually has a surplus, and could be rendered solvent into perpetuity if the cap on FICA taxes was scrapped. Even taxing income up to $250,000 would ensure the program's solvency for another 75 years. Durbin the Democrat does not tell you this. He wants you to believe that there's a generational theft conspiracy going on, rather than tell the truth about the blatant ongoing theft of every single generation by a tiny handful of oligarchic robber barons.

Durbin, of course, is not really a mob boss. He's merely the consigliere of the Teflon Don in the White House who smilingly presides over the neighborhood block parties even as he orders the hits. Michael Hoexter has a penetrating piece on what it is, exactly, that could be making Boss Obama tick. What's with that paradoxical shtick of voicing concern for people at the same time he throws them under the bus?

Hoexter recommends that we pick all, some, or none of the following: Obama sincerely believes austerity is a virtue and helps to grow the economy. He sincerely believes that the free market is the greatest force for good the world has ever known, and that government is only secondary. He sincerely believes, like most fiscal conservatives, that the private sector owns the currency and that government is "borrowing" from the owners to fund social insurance programs, thus putting the owners at risk for bankruptcy. He sincerely believes in the Confidence Fairy (h/t Krugman) -- that only giving the oligarchs whatever they want will make them want to create jobs.

Obama does not believe any of the above, but is pretending to be a true believer in his capacity as official trickster and "front man" for Wall Street. He could suffer from a genuine psychological disorder, similar to the anorexic who equates starvation with good health. Perhaps, as the child of divorce, he is desperately searching for stern father figures in the Republican Party, seeking to appease them and win their approval. He really is a Prag-Prog ("pragmatic progressive") who thinks he can only succeed at nibbling around the liberal edges. Or, he's been a closet Republican all along.

In short: Obama is either an idiot, a borderline personality, a fraud, a coward, or a psychopath. Pick none, pick one, pick some, pick all. Or add your own.

In short: Obama and his minions need an intervention, pronto.


Jay - Ottawa said...

Whether stupid or ingenuous, Obama and the rest of the Washington gang are decidedly on the wrong side of a class war, the eternal class war, which is as old as history. The Forties, Fifties and Sixties were exceptional decades in the US. Now the age-old drift to feudalism is at full flood once again. It’s the new normal, as it was the old normal for centuries. Everywhere.

We are conditioned to shudder in horror at such talk.

Chris Hedges, who is about as blunt as Marx on this score, pulled out all the stops yesterday in describing the present situation at home and around the world. And in describing the measure of meaningful resistance.

Anything less than a solid pushback to this degree of oppression is a waste of time and a form of genteel and slow motion collaboration with the lords who are used to turning up the flame under frogs blissed out with their smart phones and iPads and content to float around with their eyes half shut.

James F Traynor said...

Yeah, just finished reading Hedges' article in Truth Dig. But what is to be done and how must we do it? I haven't a clue.

The Black Swan said...

I don't get the Hedges article. He clearly says we've been here before, then advocates the same methods for change that have failed every other time we've been there before. Grab our pitchforks? And get killed by drones, or our militarized police force, or whisked off to Gitmo? And if revolution succeeds, then what? In a violent revolution, the most violent among us will become the leaders and the eventual winners. So we overthrow one oligarchy of sociopaths for a new one? Sounds like a real good plan. And with disasters like Fukushima just waiting to unleash hell on earth, I couldn't imagine a better time to wage worldwide revolution.

Revolution has never been successful. If it was, we wouldn't be back here having this same discussion, over and over and over.

And I thought Hedges was a Christian, where is the talk of love and compassion? I think it is important to understand that the oligarchs are the most ignorant and miserable among us, how else could they commit such evils? They don't deserve our rage, they deserve our pity, they are only the physical manifestation of mankind's darker nature.

We need to treat the ills of our time as a disease of the spirit. The complete loss of love and compassion from human discourse and interaction as embodied by the oligarchy. If we start a revolution based on hate, anger, disgust or fear we will create a world as bad or worse than the one we live in.

Humanity needs a sea change. But it has to come from our best qualities: love, compassion, creativity.

How we go about this is a big question, but the debate we need to have is 1) how do we survive the next 50 years as capitalism eats itself alive? 2) what comes next?

Civilization is a collection of ideas agreed upon by a community of people. These things aren't set in stone, they aren't unbreakable laws of nature, they are an entirely human construct that we can shape in any way we choose. It is up to us to start the discussion on which type of world we choose to live in.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Hamlet and Gandhi: both misunderstood.

After Hamlet discovered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were out to kill him, Hamlet got off his perch of indecision. It all happened on their voyage, which is where we get the expression "a sea change."

At what point will Americans be ready for a sea change in their reaction to Wall Street, hypocritical politicians and the corporations? Or should they test their luck with more blurry thinking?

Gandhi never preached meekness. He advocated resistance that was in your face and could not be ignored. Takes courage to face the canon without a canon of your own. For Gandhi, anything except a passive acceptance of oppression, which "mildness" Gandhi rejected and considered far worse than the response of those who resorted to violence against the oppressor.

A quote from yesterday's Hedges, but not Hedges himself speaking, if that makes it more acceptable:

“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are,” Wendell Berry writes. “Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all—by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians—be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.”

Pearl said...

James: You say you haven't a clue what to do after reading Hedge's well
thought out article about the current chaos we are living in. The clue is to do what Hedge has. He is using his considerable writing talents and
extensive knowledge to inform, warn and educate. We all have talents that can be used in various ways to cope and help others cope with the disasters unfolding around us. The roof is slowly falling down and we have the chance to speak out, join groups that are planning constructive actions, ask and answer questions of friends, family members, colleagues at work and send in comments to various articles of interest.
Now is the time to become involved in some way small or large because we
have the ammunition via the obvious disastrous results of poor leadership, the figures of a downward financial spiral, ad infinitum. If you read something of meaning, contact the writer and express your support or criticize if necessary. They want response from the public.
Use your personal experiences to inform others as you have many times on Karen's blog.
Don't be silent, you never know how something you say or do may have effects beyond what you might believe. If you have children or grandchildren try to point them in the right direction for the world they have to inhabit after you are gone. Every little bit that we all do together is important for others as well as ourselves.
Reading Noodge's speech by FDR is a reminder of a time when great things
happened during a catastrophe because people were united and had a great
leader. This is not an impossibility if things get worse, especially hitting the younger generations whose futures are in peril.I get as discouraged as anyone, but it helps to keep active and do one's best. Karen is such an inspiration for so many people; let's not let her down.

James F Traynor said...

Don't worry Pearl, I'll never quit the struggle, it's in my nature. Hell, I even rooted for Troy, what with all those women and kids behind the walls the Mycenaeans were trying to breech. I guess that's my point, sort of. We're all caught in this matrix of genes and environment, like bugs in amber, except we're aware of it. At least some of us are.

Before I'd read Hedges' article in Truth Dig I'd read another in the latest New Yorker by Ari Shavit called "Lydda, 1948" that, even more than Hedges, chilled me to the bone. And furthered my hypothesis about our being caught, imprisoned in the amber of our nature and nurture. We are what we are. Depressing.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

What I got out of Hedges' article was the rich aren't like the rest of us. As far as I can tell, they are exactly like Hedges described them - selfish and believing in their innate superiority. They are not going to see the light - and they are not to be pitied. Revolution has been successful - but sadly, there is usually a lot of personal sacrifice on the part of only a few people - those brave enough to put themselves out front.

Hedges doesn't advocate violence - but he does advocate courage and taking a strong stand. His referring to pitchforks is symbolic. He wants us to get mad enough to do something like get out in the streets and put up a stink.

But I fear that Jay-Ottawa is right. Computer toys and fancy phones are the opiate of the masses in the first world.


The Black Swan said...

I guess it's all in how you define success. If success means overthrowing the current government and installing a new one, then yes there have been many successful revolutions. But if success means replacing an inequitable society with an equitable one, then I know of no successful revolutions. They always turn into the thing they were attempting to overthrow. I would be more than happy to be proven wrong on this point.

We are facing a true crisis of civilization and the death of our biosphere. Getting out the pitchforks and overthrowing the current oligarchy does nothing to confront these issues. If we don't correct the deep underlying cultural and spiritual issues that have created this modern world, then any revolution is just going to end up back where it started. And the only way that I know to correct those issues is by living a life of love, compassion and creativity.