Monday, December 30, 2013

Out, Out, Damned Year

Stuff to make the coffee burble out of your nose on a gloomy Monday morn:
Americans named President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the world's most admired living man and woman in 2013, according to a Gallup poll released on Monday.
OMG, you declare in disbelief? Be heartened, Sardonickists. Because they only asked a thousand people out of a population of 300+ million. Because despite winning this dubious popularity contest, Barack is fully 16 percentage points less popular with a thousand people than he was a year ago. Even Hillary, who has been winning the Beloved Sweepstakes for a dozen years running, is not quite so loved as she once was.

The Prom King and Queen are in good company.  Runners-up in the Court of Popular Opinion include Sarah Palin, Oprah, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, Ron Paul and Clint Eastwood.

Oh, but miracle of miracles: Pope Francis managed to make the cut, too. So all is not lost in Poll World, where you are given a preapproved list of people to admire rather than being allowed to blurt out, say, Noam Chomsky or Chris Hedges or Ed Snowden or Glenn Greenwald.

If you are a New York Times columnist named Charles Blow, and your New Years resolutions include holding politicians accountable, resisting the coverage of politics as a sporting event, and becoming a voice for the voiceless, then that makes you the Worst Purple Proselytizing Hack Ever, according to The New Republic. Worse than Frank "Foodie" Bruni, even!
Because, when you are bestowed with a valuable plot of establishment journalism real estate, then you must write for those who live on valuable plots of establishment real estate. Such as David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, who make comforting the comfortable their whole raison d'etre. I get that Blow sometimes veers off into self-conscious overwrought schmaltz, and is often all too willing to give Obama a free pass, but at least he is not as smarmy as Ross Douthat or as shallow as MoDo.

So let's hear it for New Republic: celebrating the New Normal of mass immiseration by trashing the polemic of its critics.
Meanwhile, the paper of record itself persists in covering the politics of mass immiseration as a horserace rather than a humanitarian crisis. Today's headline declares that minimally raising the minimum age to a paltry ten bucks and change is a "winning strategy" for the same politicians who just cravenly voted another austerity budget into existence:
Democratic Party leaders, bruised by months of attacks on the new health care program, have found an issue they believe can lift their fortunes both locally and nationally in 2014: an increase in the minimum wage. 
The effort to take advantage of growing populism among voters in both parties is being coordinated by officials from the White House, labor unions and liberal advocacy groups.
Cry me a river for those multimillionaire Democratic leaders covered with their boo-boos and needing to lift their own fortunes by pretending to care about poor people. They are taking advantage, for their own political gain, of a horrendous situation that they themselves were instrumental in creating.

Which brings me to Paul Krugman, who today declares that the "fiscal fever" of the Beltway deficit hawks has broken -- that Austerity Is Dead, Long Live Sanity. Uh... not so fast. My comment:
Just because the Fix the Debt crowd have been discredited doesn't mean they're still not out to get us. They're in temporary retreat, is all. A pope with a social conscience was elected, a progressive-talking NYC mayor was elected, and Elizabeth Warren finally has the power to take on the banking Mafia with the righteous indignation that they so sorely require.
Deficit fever hasn't broken. Like malaria, it rests between strikes. Our millionaire leaders certainly aren't breaking a sweat about the jobs crisis. Little do they seem to care about the shaking chill running up and down the spines of terrified ordinary people on a daily basis.
Nancy Pelosi, for example, told her colleagues to "embrace the suck" and pass another domestic austerity budget. And then both parties eagerly appropriated another $633 billion for the war budget (euphemistically called "defense.")
And while the unemployed are condemned to poverty, and nearly 50 million families with children to hunger, the welfare program known as Q.E. will continue to pump a free $75 billion a month to the banks. Jamie Dimon celebrated by sending out Christmas cards of his own family carousing and playing tennis in their palatial art museum of a home. The stock market is soaring.
Yes, the intellectual case for austerity has collapsed. But who said any of its instigators are intellectuals? They are true believers in a noxious cult of greed. And they're in dire need of some forced deprogramming therapy by the masses.
As one reader pointed out, my statement implying that Q.E. sends money to "the banks" was misleading, since the Fed is in reality buying up bonds and other financial products rather than writing checks to JP Morgan, Citi, and Goldman Sachs. As such, he said, I am only giving more credence to the ravings of the Tea Party, which claims the Fed is printing money and driving the country into inflation. 

So, I stand corrected. I should have written that the Fed is artificially propping up the bloated head of a diseased monstrosity (the financialized economy), which is comprised of Wall Street, the big banks, and corporations. Even a former official of the Fed admits that Q.E. has been nothing less than a backdoor bailout of the market.


Jay - Ottawa said...

To a non-technician like me Quantitative Easing is said to be an attempt by the government’s central bank to increase the GENERAL money supply by buying (i.e., giving cash for) other people’s (investors) bonds and similar forms of debt they’ve run up wisely or foolishly or dishonestly. QE, it is argued, will enable the banks to extend themselves to make more loans to the little people.

Benanke’s QE policy –– Because of the suspicion and criticism of QE practices around the world, he would prefer that we call his nuanced implementation of QE “Credit Easing.” Aha, whatever. –– which last July he said he would cut back by fall (but changed his mind and did not cut back on QE or, if you will, CE) sure has increased the money supply. Most of it remains in the pockets of bankers and other speculators. Every month Benanke plays God and showers down green mana (billions now totaling trillions) at their feet. Because they are his chosen few.

Yes, yes, this is an oversimplification. You won’t pass the exam if you regurgitate the whole article in Wiki from which I am getting my education.

So listen to what one of a number of experts, quoted in Wiki, conclude about the effect of Benanke’s QE/CE:

“Economist Anthony Randazzo of the Reason Foundation wrote that QE ‘is fundamentally a regressive redistribution program that has been boosting wealth for those already engaged in the financial sector or those who already own homes, but passing little along to the rest of the economy. It is a primary driver of income inequality.’ ”

We need a chaser and, for once in his life, Chris Hedges has given it to us. His Monday morning essay is full of H O P E. It’s about forms of banking already in existence in the USA that correct that unhappy little side effect of gross inequality that comes with Bernanke’s wise solutions.

James F Traynor said...

Yeah, Karen, you're dead on about QE easing. I was for it, expecting and hoping for some sort of fiscal stimulus (infrastructure repair and extension like mass transit for instance) to go along with it, but I was foolish in my hope. And I was foolish about NAFTA, thinking and hoping (again that dread disease, hope) that some adjustments for labor inequities and the environment would be made. They weren't and I was the greater fool for believing the 'new' or Clinton Democrats that sold us that goddamn garbage. Both we and the Mexicans suffered for that debacle and it ain't over yet.

So here I am, at the onset of the new year, baying at the moon and charging back and forth in my cultural cage, gnawing at the bars. Christ, will it never end?

And that idiot in the New Republic, on Blow? What an absolute shit! And he gets paid for it! Blow is a mensch which is a hell of a lot more than you can say for than that s.o.b..

I still hope (there's that damn, traitorous word again) that Warren will run against Hilary. Perhaps Bernie Sanders would be better from a tactical point of view.

annenigma said...

Ralph Nader has a list of 10 books on his website that he recommends to provoke conversation in the new year. He gives a brief description of each, and they sound like great selections well worth reading - if we can find them.

David R. Gleason said...

Karen Garcia, thank you so very much for what you do. You nail the issues like very few others, which puts you right up there with the very greatest, such as Ralph Nader, Robert Scheer, and Chris Hedges. Happy New Year!

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Anne. I've read the excellent Abramsky book, and have the "Censored" waiting on the bookshelf.

I just finished "Exile Nation" by Charles Shaw, who does a pretty good job exposing the prison-industrial complex and the war on drugs via his own personal experience with same.

One that I can't recommend enough is "The Beast" by a young Central American journalist named Oscar Martinez. It eloquently recounts the harrowing lengths Central Americans go to traverse Mexico and reach the border. Another stinging indictment of NAFTA and the war on drugs.

Thank goodness for libraries, the greatest institutions on earth.

Karen Garcia said...

To David Gleason:


Will said...

Happy New Year, friends. Here's a beautifully sad, mellow song by Colin Hay--yes, *that* Colin Hay--for everyone who's taking it easy & staying home tonight. Enjoy. :)

Cirze said...

I second that emotion.

And keep out!

Hope we get lucky with the next one.

I've been honored to read your prose, Karen.

Here's hoping for a political awakening in our population's consciousness providing a new direction to ensure greater equality in results, which is desperately needed now in order to make up for the inequality of opportunity we've been suffering for decades.

"Out, Out, Damned Year"

Pearl said...

Dear Friends: A wish for a happy and healthy New Year to you all. Keep
working and hoping and remember:

Isaac Asimov once wrote: "Not in one man, or in one generation, can anything great be accomplished... mankind, and life in general, is a succession of generations in which it is enough to nurture a spark from hand to hand, always in the hope that the flame will catch at last."

James F Traynor said...

If New Year's Eve is bad, New Year's Day is a magnitude worse. Fortunately my gym is closed today and I won't have to deaden my ears to the litany of bullshit pouring forth from the self-satisfied sexa-septua-octagenarian brigades of retirees as they claim how much worse they had it than the current crop of ignoramuses. By Thursday, a weights day for me, it will have been reduced in volume to a tolerable degree and Friday, cardio (a substitute for running), will help with its 'high'. And then the Silly Season will be over for another year.

David said...

The New Yorker, interestingly, writes "Obama’s contribution to fighting inequality and enlarging opportunity is already law, a historic one—the Affordable Care Act. Therein lies his Presidency’s claim to greatness, and its pathos: not just the political bloodshed, the flawed rollout, and the uncertain implementation but also the sense—which Obama perhaps shares—that he should have achieved even more. If there’s a new liberal moment, President Obama may have missed it."