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Jeffrey Sachs on the Budget: “Do we really have to have our own Egypt here in the United States?”

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This is astonishing. Jeffrey Sachs manages to speak candidly about what is going on about the Obama budget cuts and related politics on an MSM outlet. To put it mildly, this is a marked contrast with his prior stance on liberalization of financial markets and development. Hat tip Jesse via e-mail:

Screen shot 2011-02-14 at 10.32.09 PM

You can view the video here.

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86 comments

  1. Francois T

    Holy Mackerel! Candor one can believe in…that’s what I’m talking about!

    Sachs hit all the relevant and IMPORTANT points. I just so love the ““Do we really have to have our own Egypt here in the United States?” thingy.

    I could listen to that kind of candor every day.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Sachs: “We don’t even address serious problems (in US politics) anymore….”

      I agree with Sachs that most of what we see in politics these days appears to be 95% corporate propaganda. It avoids real issues, seeks to candy coat dire problems, and seems to be largely about preening for the sake of corporate campaign contributions.

      What a breath of fresh air Sachs is in this interview!
      And how sad that the young male Bloomberg employee seems so socialized into markets and profit-taking that he can hardly get his head around what Sachs is saying.

      As government fails to address real issues, it makes itself irrelevant.
      I envy the Egyptians; they believe government is important and they want one that works.

    2. Vargold vonWerther

      Jeffrey Sachs asks, “Do we really have to have our own Egypt here in the United States?”

      The Vargold Project asks, “Do we really have to wait until it’s too late before we have a second American revolution?”

  2. Christian

    Marx observed that people can accept any level of immiseration if they see others accepting it as well. The problem with a lot of the rhetoric surrounding our economic policies and futures is cast in the “necessity” of our own immiseration. At least future generations will be amused.

    On Sachs, I do not think it is surprising. Say what you will about what his mostly wrong headed advice to EE and LA, it always seemed to come from a sincere desire to improve the life of the disadvantaged. His focus has pretty much been on development and he is not really a free market fundamentalist.

  3. Jesse

    Thanks for picking this up Yves.

    I too was stunned by this, especially given some of the previous stances that Prof. Sachs has taken.

    I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that live this afternoon your time. The look on Matt Miller’s face is priceless.

  4. Deb

    I agree with EmilianoZ — there will be no Egypt here. Americans are too lazy and over-marinated in McFat and reality TV to get off the couch. Also, we have no real media anymore to inform us.

    1. Tao Jonesing

      You and EmilianoZ are right. There won’t be a peaceful revolution here. It will be violent, bloody and not at all sheeplike. The false divisions run too deep, and the citizenry is well-armed.

      1. psychohistorian

        Add to that how dumbed down the society is….no critical thinking and so they are literally going to be the bull in the china closet.

        I will say that it is refreshing to watch someone talk frankly on the MSM about the rich controlling America’s and other world economies. I guess it shows that the end is nigh, whatever that means…..

        1. bmeisen

          I think it’s the convenient denial of cheap gas, not stupidity. Just keep getting in your car and driving – even smart people argue that they have no other choice.

          1. attempter

            Yes, and how long will the system by able to subsidize gas (and food) at the level required for the proto-serfs to be able to function at all? It looks like even prior to the final financial system collapse (though that’ll come soon enough), food and fuel stagflation is going to force things to break down.

    2. Brian

      To people neighboring USA and otherwise, it is the Deb comment that resonates and reinforces their world view of USA.
      Americans lack thoughtful introspection on their culture and society.

  5. Nik Kondratieff

    Sure signs America is in the twilight of its empire. Sachs is refreshingly candid and accurate in his analysis. The real tragedy is that no one will listen as we enter this presidential election cycle. As the influence of tea party nonsense grows, and the middle/working classes think they hear a solution to their increasingly intractable problems, it will probably only hasten the demise of our empire. Then maybe we can rebuild anew and take to heart our founding fathers fears of the tyranny of aristocracies (or oligarchies for that matter) and the danger of ruling factions.

    Seems like Marx’s assessment of capitalism sowing the seeds of its own destruction is spot on.

    1. attempter

      Why bother singling out the tea party? It turns out the whole “give us services but no taxes” approach, however absurd in theory, was the right one in practice all along.

      That’s the correct response to kleptocracy, whose clear policy goal is:

      1. Government must become ever larger and ever more aggressive.

      2. All government spending and action shall be on behalf of corporations and against the people.

      3. Government taxation and regulation of the non-rich shall continue to intensify.

      4. All corporate action shall become the same thing as government taxation and regulation.

      5. Government shall provide zero services. It shall austeritize what little public interest spending is left and alienate all remaining public property.

      When you put it all together, you can see how this is a zero sum war where reformism has no place.

      That’s why my line has become:

      No Taxes on the Non-Rich.

      Total Austerity for the Criminals, None for the People.

      Let the kleptocracy print and borrow for what it wants to spend. But the tax issue is clear.

      1. Nik Kondratieff

        I single out the rhetoric of the tea party because it is incendiary, mendacious, fear mongering, and has elevated several memes into the mainstream political/economic debate that are pure canards (ie, anti-unionism, birtherism). In short, it’s reactionary garbage that has crept into mainstream media and GOP talking points and offers no semblance of rationale policy options for solving our nation’s ills, yet it appeals to millions of middle class and working poor Americans who don’t have a f’ing clue as to how bad their lot is about to become.

        1. Jeff Larson

          Give me some quotes. I heard none of that on August 28th, but I keep hearing lefties saying the same tired rhetoric about all the vitriol from the tea party. I hear a lot more from you guys!

      2. attempter

        My point was that neoliberalism and “austerity” are not “tea party” projects, although they do what they can to astroturf it.

        These are the projects of a practically unanimous cohort of both Republicans and Democrats, as well as the MSM and most of academia. The elites and their flacks are completely on board with an absolutely vicious, tyrannical class war assault. It’s mainstream policy.

        So that’s why I asked, “Why focus on the tea party?” Don’t you know that’s a standard misdirection trick of Democrat and MSM hacks?

        1. Chocolate Covered Cotton

          Austerity is not a “tea party” project? What tea partiers oppose deep cuts to or elimination of existing social spending, laying off government workers, cutting salaries and benefits to the remaining public sector? What “tea partiers” support stimulus spending, infrastructure spending, or any other spending by government that benefits the public?

          Neoliberalism, defined as radical deregulation, and privatization, isn’t a “tea party” project? So, tea partiers oppose elimination of government regulation of corporations? Oppose the dismantling of public sector unions? Oppose private corporations operating key functions of government? Support strengthening labor rights generally? Support government provision of services generally? Support government involvement in the economy at all?

          Name a single “tea party” candidate or officeholder that fits this description. Just one. You can’t, because anyone who does is someone whom the “tea party” will denounce as a socialist.

          1. attempter

            Fer chrissakes, will people climb out of their partisan mire and face facts?

            As I said over and over, I’m not defending the so-called tea party*, but I want to focus on the truly empowered criminals.

            For the best example of what I mean, you (or anyone else who cares to do so) should go back over your comment and, in every place the term “tea party” is written, substitute “establishment Democrat”.

            Now please tell me which Democrat or corporate liberal supports any public interest, pro-labor, anti-corporate, anti-neoliberal policy.

            The point is to prove that there’s no point still investing faith and energy in a terminally corrupt system.

            [*The real Boston Tea Party was anti-corporate, so by definition anyone truly acting in the 1773 spirit would have an anti-corporate goal. It looks like we'll need to take back the term "tea party" from those who have stolen it.]

  6. Greg

    It’s not even being run for the benefit of the wealthy few.
    It is being run to their detriment, too.
    The wealthy few are too stupid to realize that investing in this country, even if it costs them tax dollars, is more for their benefit than any body else’s. They are the owners. But they are like the owners of a company, (the US) running that company into the ground, consuming its capital, not because they can’t pay the bills, but because they just don’t want to pay the bills. They gild the plumbing of their house, rather than see to its foundation.

    The sad part is that the people running our country really don’t deserve to. This country is better than they are.

    What we should tell Obama that we will not vote for him. He could raise a trillion dollars, and we will not vote for him. They count on our votes, and then betray us. Only by taking our votes back, can we have any effect on this government. If we do not, we will die by inches. I will not vote for him. He could raise a trillion dollars, and I will not vote for him. I will not vote for my Democratic representative, I will not vote for whomever the Democrats nominate for Senate in my state.

    I will write letters, and I will tell them this.

    I am just another citizen. As long as they think they have my vote, they will continue to screw me. But I withdraw my consent.

    1. Tao Jonesing

      “It’s not even being run for the benefit of the wealthy few.”

      That’s a worthwhile observation, but everything depends on how few you define those “wealthy few” to be. If you define the “few” to be the top one half of one percent, the statement is true. If you broaden the “few” to include the top five percent, you probably have rendered the statement false.

      At a certain point, under the current system of financialism (it isn’t capitalism any more), the vast majority of people hold “wealth” only temporarily and for the benefit of the wealthy few, who will reclaim it in due course. These true owners have no concerns about this country as their fortunes are not tied to it. They can move along with their capital to anywhere they wish to live. They certainly stopped investing in this country long ago. They just gamble in the secondary markets these days.

      But you are right that many with apparent but inadequate wealth to transcend national borders are going to have to eat where they’ve been defecating . . .

      1. Sarah

        No, if you consider the broader point that we are, at their behest, ignoring the global problems of food insecurity and climate change, the rich are definitely acting very much against their own self-interest. Certainly in the longer term. I can only suppose that a) they really ARE that stupid or b) they’re over 50, either don’t have or care about their children and think the deluge will hold off until they’re gone.

    2. Birch

      As the elites go about amassing power, I wonder if they really do forget that it’s more enjoyable (rewarding, glorious) to be wealthy in a healthy nation than the absolute ruler of a deadly dump. Seems obvious enough from the outside, but spending your entire life in gated communities surrounded by your own decadent class must have a detrimental effect on your reasoning capabilities.

      Once we’re all starving at their gate, they’ll tell their minions to feed us all brioche, then not be able understand why there isn’t enough to go ’round.

      1. Guy2k

        I think the Laffer curve has some merit (raise taxes high enough and more people will hide more of their income. I think the problem with proponents is they believe we are on the far right (overtaxed) part of the curve. The empirical evidence (lower taxes and revenue falls) since 1980 clearly suggests otherwise.

        1. Francois T

          Agreed on the high taxes part. There has been studies done by governments on that. In the province of Québec, despite a 15.6% VAT, tax revenues were declining. (DUH!)

          Their IRS did a study (yes! they had too cause the pols wouldn’t otherwise listen) which concluded the obvious, with the nice twist that they were able to come up with a non-fictitious number.

          Above 10% of VAT, the gig was up: people were systematically switching to gray market behaviors to conduct ordinary business.

          Did this knowledge modify the legislative behavior of the politicians? (Mpppffffffff! Stop tickling me!)

          Of course not; They boosted the taxman budget for enforcement.

          Plus ca change…

          1. liberal

            “Above 10% of VAT, the gig was up: people were systematically switching to gray market behaviors to conduct ordinary business.”

            Perhaps, but it depends what you’re taxing.

            You can tax land rent at 100% and you actually make the economy more efficient because you prevent land hoarding.

            Same thing goes for any other scarcity rent.

          2. TimOfEngland

            Think on this then – The VAT rate in the UK is now 20%!

            How much black or grey market does that promote?

    1. Paul in TO

      I don’t understand the comment on the Laffer curve at all. The Laffer curve says that if you set the tax rate at zero you will collect zero revenue and if you set it at 100% you collect (roughly) zero revenue from it. However, between those two points is a rate which will maximize revenue collection and the job of government was to find what that rate was. Laffer posited that the rate was probably lower than the rates set by governments, but to say that history has proven the Laffer curve itself to be nonsense is, well, nonsense.

      1. alex

        The Laffer curve is a trivial observation. The hoopla was about the notion (now an article of faith amongst some) that in the US we’re on the right side of the curve. Since there isn’t a shred of evidence to support that, Laffer’s trivial insight deserves to be put on the back shelf of history

        1. Paul in TO

          A simply astonishing reply. The Laffer curve forces people to address the issue of whether taxes are imposed to raise revenue or as part of a social engineering plan. Hardly trivial when you’re trying to determine what particular kind of an open society you’re trying to create.

          1. alex

            “forces people to address the issue of whether taxes are imposed to raise revenue or as part of a social engineering plan”

            An additional claim that doesn’t jive with your earlier statement that

            “between those two points is a rate which will maximize revenue collection and the job of government was to find what that rate was”

            which of course assumes the question is settled.

            Moreover, since nobody has managed to come up with any evidence in the last 30 years for the canard that US tax rates are to the right of the maximum, the Laffer curve is at best an academic curiosity (though more likely ideologically driven distraction or FUD).

            30 years and no evidence. Do they need more time to work on it?

  7. rene

    The Republicans truly could be held responsible for the end of the world . By ignoring the major issues of the time to be corporate shills they are truly selling our souls. As, for the Democrats, they dont have anything to hold their heads up for anymore as well.

  8. Toby

    Sachs: “We don’t even address serious problems (in US politics) anymore….”

    I’m at work so can’t watch the piece for another 9 hours or so, but wanted quickly to talk about this quote. Solving many of those serious problems might not make a profit, which is the structural/paradigmatic problem we are not allowed to discuss. E.g. (from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/20/AR2005052001332.html):

    Fundamental change will require three things: the brainpower to develop new technology, a market that makes clean technologies profitable and a strong dose of American will. Right now we have two out of three.

    Profit is a necessity to solving problems. This is straight from bizarro world, but everyone accepts this as so normal, that even signaling profit as a possible problem is the stuff of lunacy. And yet we have solutions to problems that threaten profit and jobs, that is, threaten the money system. Not choosing those solutions but instead defending the money system is choosing self-destruction in the interests of money. I find that bizarre. Why not, e.g. more wind power and other renewables? Not enough profit:

    The key thing here is that we are beginning to unveil what I’ve labelled the dirty secret of wind: utilities don’t like wind not because it’s not competitive, but because it brings prices down for their existing assets, thus lowering their revenues and their profits. Thus the permanent propaganda campaign against wind. But now that this “secret” is out in the open, it’s hopefully going to make one of the traditional arguments against wind (the one about its supposed need subsidies) much more difficult to use… (From: http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/6418)

    Human ingenuity plus the necessity for steady-state or 0% ‘growth’ demands we question deeply and dispassionately the one thing we are not allowed to question; money itself. But until we do, we’re just rearranging deck chairs.

    I hope to be pleasantly surprised by the interview in 9 hours time, but I doubt I will be.

    1. Nik Kondratieff

      Toby, you make a crucial point that is the DNA of our situation: the inexorable requirement that all solutions and outcomes be profit maximizing. We will never get real solutions to the fundamental structural problems in America until we dispense with the fallacious belief that profit must drive all decisions. Everything else is just noise. Since I (and apparently many others) believe we’ll never reach that epiphany, it would seem we are at the end of the American epoch as our brand of capitalism has metastasized into a oligarchical corporate kleptocracy. The mantra of free markets is merely the enslavement of the people to a perverted ideology, peddled by corporate interests, who thanks to Citizens United are now granted the same rights and protections as people. T

      1. Toby

        The root of the problem, at least in the opinion of those I respect on this matter, lies deeper than ideologies of the so-called left and right. Labels like capitalism and socialism are no longer helpful, in fact they just get in the way. As hard as it is, we’ve somehow got to be as unprejudiced in our thinking as we can, and ask what at first sight might seem pretty stupid questions, like ‘why money profit as society’s driver?’

        For example, pretty much all half-way decent economists (assuming economics has anything to offer humanity at all right now) are sure GDP Growth is a lousy to destructive measure of societal success and health. If we want a more reasonable measure – to the extent societal health can be measured – perhaps some scale which explicitly measures literacy, crime rate, robustness of the environment, income equality and so on, would be an improvement. Can we have such a measure and also have ‘Monetary Profit + The Invisible Hand’ as our do-it-all mechanism? Can that deadly duo really deliver the beans? I believe not. I suspect Monetary Profit, while chief arbiter of What Gets Done, guarantees forced growth, growing and entrenched rich-poor divides, environmental destruction as we wait for The Invisible Hand to sort out our mess as if by magic, declining access to quality education, and so on.

        So this is not about capitalism or socialism, it’s about an inquiry into what’s good for humans regardless of ideology. The first task is to set up a system which has the quality and health of what John McMurtry calls “the life-ground” as its primary focus, and let other elements of our socioeconomics flow from that. If we, as a species, don’t deliberately and overtly choose the life-ground as our top priority, it seems to me we are right away failing to build sustainability into our system. And without a sustainable system, we’re living on borrowed time.

        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          So this is not about capitalism or socialism, it’s about an inquiry into what’s good for humans regardless of ideology. The first task is to set up a system which has the quality and health of what John McMurtry calls “the life-ground” as its primary focus, and let other elements of our socioeconomics flow from that. If we, as a species, don’t deliberately and overtly choose the life-ground as our top priority, it seems to me we are right away failing to build sustainability into our system. And without a sustainable system, we’re living on borrowed time.

          Just a ‘thanks’ for your insights on this thread, Toby.
          ‘Profit’ in terms of simple dollars is a crude cudgel for measuring much other than price. What’s left unspoken in that crude measure is the damage done by unrelenting profit-maximising in our financialist system.

          The ‘borrowed time’ shrinks by the day.
          And as Sachs points out, we aren’t even pretending to confront it; our politics has fundamentally failed to address our very serious problems. And this is in large part because our politics is based on assumptions about ‘money’ that are so crude, narrow, and nefarious that it can’t begin to come to grips with the destruction it’s wreaking.

          Gamal Mubarak worked at Citi; he’s a Cautionary Tale.
          Sachs seems to recognize that frightening fact; Congress, not so much.

    2. liberal

      “Profit is a necessity to solving problems.”

      There’s nothing wrong with profit in the sense intended by Adam Smith. The evil lies in rent collection.

      1. Toby

        There’s nothing wrong with profit in the sense intended by Adam Smith.

        I’ll meet your assertion with a counter-assertion: There is something wrong with (monetary) profit, even in the sense Adam Smith intended. We have two options: 1. We devise a money that accurately reflects the total costs of production and distribution, and operates smoothly with non-consumerism abundance (to coin a phrase on the fly); or, 2. We transition globally to resource-based economics (or post-scarcity economics), which would measure profit in non-monetary ways.

        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          2. We transition globally to resource-based economics (or post-scarcity economics), which would measure profit in non-monetary ways.

          Ding!!

          Yes, the measures of post-scarcity economics ought to aggregate more accurately and truly the externalities involved in a transaction. Thus, ‘price’ would finally be a full, meaningful signal, rather than the distorted cudgel it is under our current system.

    3. craazyman

      Toby, wind power is not a good metaphor here. There are enormous technical complications associated with wind that make it very hard to integrate into the grid in many areas of the nation.

      Wind power is intermittent and unpredictable — it doesn’t work for so-called baseload demand (i.e. 24-hour per day demand for homes, buildings, hospitals, everywhere). There are no transmission lines to many prime wind territories. Building these lines is in fact very profitable, but the process faces considerable public resistance, often from environmentalists. There are also many utilities strongly embracing wind, where they can and when their regulators permit. Wind is a rapidly growing source of generation, but it can’t do everything. There are many areas of the country without any utility scale wind power potential. If folks want the lights on 24/7 then there are many factors to consider. It’s not black and white like that.

      1. Toby

        Craazyman, I’m not claiming black and white anything, nor am I claiming anything as a silver bullet, though there are idolized golden calves that need slaughtering.

        However, wind is steadier than you seem to think, at least according to studies I have seen, and there are many ingenious technologies and solutions for storing excess capacity, but wind alone would not be enough (though it is plenty). Of course there are going to be complications transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energies, and there are ‘profits’* to be made in that transition, and of course other things like cars, trains, houses, and cities need deep redesign, and much else besides. But that’s what I keep hammering at. This isn’t about a tweak here and a tweak there, nor is this about the bullshit left/right tribalism rampant across the anglosaxon mindspace right now, it is about how to prioritize sustainability. Renewables are obviously part of the solution, but so is much else. Sadly I can’t pack my every comment full of every detail; not only do I not know them, not only is it up to each of us to want a better way and do our own research, but no comment could ever be long enough to cover everything anyway, and The New Way is to be hammered out by all of us.

        Seriously, this is such a no-brainer it amazes me how hard it is to get this simple logic accepted. I’m not ‘preaching’ anything accept common sense, yet ideologues from one side or the other froth up at any perceived threat to their core values, as if ideologies are going to solve our problems, which are enormous and threaten civilization. Empires rise and empires fall, that’s inescapable, but history, thank god, only rhymes. Wisdom can and does improve — though fitfully — over time. The question is, are we wising up fast enough? Are we taking our predicament seriously enough? Sometimes I think yes, but mostly dwelling on that question is just depressing.

        Glittering Consumerism 4Ever with attendant environmental breakdown, or sustainability? Which. Do. We. Want?

        *What are profits, really?

  9. john bougearel

    What a great freaking question “Do we really have our own Egypt here.”

    This is not the same Jeffery Sachs at the IMF who advocated and implemented the “Big Bang” (read shock doctrine approach) approach to economic reforms in Poland and Russia. Such diametrically opposed spirits residing in the same namesake, one an angel and the other a devil. Who’d a thunk it?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is the same Professor Sachs. He has been trying to redeem himself, but heretofore within the parameters of Respectable Orthodox Thinking. The fact that he has gone a bit rogue says a lot about the state of the world.

      1. Sarah

        He’s done it before- e.g. Africa. What I find so astonishing about him is how utterly SURE he is each time, no matter how ignorant of the cultures or problems in question. At least this time he’s focusing on his own country, where he has some hope of getting it right, finally. It will be interesting to watch what happens when that supreme confidence comes up against an opponent that is formidably well-armed and dangerous – instead of the crippled and helpless adversaries he is used to.

    2. /L

      I believe it’s possible that Sachs is/was sort of a idealist, blinded by the ideology and did believe neo-liberal economic dogma would bring prosperity for all. They might be morally innocent but dangerous in powerful positions.

    3. craazyman

      Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, to save a wretch like me
      I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see

      LOL

      Ecce Homo, said Fred.

  10. Crocodile Chuck

    Holy S_ _ _! And I thought Sachs was a nong!

    That clip was the single most powerful exposition of the crisis before the US I have EVER heard/read.

    Bravo, Professor Sachs!

  11. Tao Jonesing

    Amplifying on my response to Deb and EmilianoZ . . .

    The problem with your thesis that Americans are sheep who will continue to accept whatever they’re handed comes down to the severe cognitive dissonance arising from holding two completely incompatible thoughts in their heads. On one hand, they’re told they’re exceptional. America is the best country ever, after all. On the other hand, they’re told that they’re perpetual victims. Those nasty muslims hate us for our freedom. And those limousine liberals hate us because they think we’re dumb. And those hypocrite conservatives hate us because they’re warmongering authoritarians.

    The inherent problem is that the exceptional person cannot be a perpetual victim, a loser. The exceptional person by definition can and does overcome adversity in spite of overwhelming odds. At some point, the majority of people are going to realize that the two narratives are incompatible. The right wing Tea Partiers are already there, as are an equal number of a more leftward bent. When you reach that point, you invariably choose to identify with the exceptional person and not the loser. And then you try to make the world match your conception of yourself, which can get very ugly when somebody else invests their exceptional nature in the opposite of your vision.

    We can only have an Egypt in the U.S. if people are able to get past the false divisions of left and right and focus on what makes all Americans the same. We have a lot more in common than we’re led to believe, both with each other and with the people of the Muslim world, like Egypt.

    FYI – I firmly believe the revolution in Egypt will be fully co-opted and turned away from the goals and aspirations of the people in Egypt who forced this great outcome. They don’t fully understand how power actually works. Indeed, to everyone’s surprise, they successfully exercised a power they weren’t really sure they had. Their surprise is precisely why they will lose that power.

    1. aletheia33

      “I firmly believe the revolution in Egypt will be fully co-opted and turned away from the goals and aspirations of the people in Egypt who forced this great outcome. They don’t fully understand how power actually works. Indeed, to everyone’s surprise, they successfully exercised a power they weren’t really sure they had. Their surprise is precisely why they will lose that power.”

      what exactly don’t they understand about how power actually works?–can you explain?

      could it be that their surprise shows how well they do understand how power actually works? kissing a soldier doesn’t mean you want to go to bed with him. does the fact that they have now gone home mean that they will stay home and allow themselves to be “fully” trampled back down from now on?

      generals, world plutocracy, global meltdown and all, i’m betting that in the wild world of 2021 they’ll not have lost the self-respect they’ve seized in 2011. how does power actually work when a people–according to their own testimony–have rediscovered their lost dignity in the space of three weeks?

  12. Greg

    I have just finished writing my letters. One to the President, one to my Democratic Senator, and one to my Representatve.

    Though I have voted Democratic in the past, I’m telling them I’m not going to vote 2012.

    If the choices offered are the ‘Death of a Hunderd Cuts,’ (Republican) and the ‘Death of a Thousand Cuts,’ (Democratic) I refuse to choose.

    I’m mailing my letters today.

    That’s all it takes. Not much more trouble than voting.

    If enough voters do this, our politicians won’t worry so much about pandering to the wealthy.

    And we can have our Egypt here.

    1. John

      I am aware of the problem of third parties: their adherents tend to come from one party more than the other. So voting for a third party means drawing votes from the lesser of two evils, in favor of the greater evil.

      However, there is no advantage to not voting, over third-party voting. Not voting has the same disadvantage and no advantage. So if you’ve decided not to vote, you might reconsider that decision and go for a third party.

  13. Michael Fiorillo

    If we are going to have our “Egypt moment,” it had better happen soon: the recently elected governor of Wisconsin has submitted a bill to the Republican-controlled state legislature that will essentially outlaw collective bargaining for public sector workers, and has announced the mobilization of the National Guard in case of any “problems.”

    When unions are destroyed by the state, under the threat of military coercion, is it still bad manners to mention the word “fascism?”

  14. mannfm11

    There is a mess brewing. For one, government salaries are too high. You can bet Sachs gets paid plenty. The problem is government employees, the corporate world, the financial world and the poverty pimps are sucking the middle class dry. The typical government retirement costs a million dollars. Who is guaranteed to retire on a million dollars? That is a start there. The middle class is going to be lucky to have a marginal social security check.

    I have never been a fan of high tax rates, but I think it is time we get there. The compound equation of rents is going to cause a collapse in society. Bernanke is doing nothing more than creating liquidity so the banks are able to operate bankrupt, causing a massive amount of money to float around looking for another turnip to squeeze blood out of. The idea they are cutting payroll taxes when we are looking at the cash flow into social security collapse is absurd. Run away medical costs are merely another industry gaming the government teat. The entire mess is unsustainable. It appears our leaders are doing their best to permanently screw up the system. Like a plan to loot and little else.

    The government needs to adopt a policy to deflate the bubble, not to make matters worse. Obama and the Democrats missed a golden opportunity to do something besides pass a disaster health plan, like Americans only have need for all the health care they can consume and nothing else. Health care should be deflated too, but a means of deflating this debt instead of blowing new bubbles should have taken precedent. This would probably start with 60% to 70% tax on rents on incomes above a million and maybe a little higher and at least a 50% bracket on earned income at $1 million or so. Capital gains preference should be minimized and prices indexed to inflation to get around merely inflated gains. The compound accumulation of assets by the super wealthy should be slowed. Debt in excess of 300% of GDP is not a sustainable situation and never has been and no Federal Reserve guru will ever enable it to be.

    1. Sherparick

      I found your entry a confusing compilation of WTF and stuff I could agree to that I had respond. First, where did you find this stuff about Government workers? Have you talked to friends or family members who work for local, state, or Federal Government? Do you understand Government is hierarchial, that the few at the top get paid more than the many in the rank and file? How much should Governmeent workers get paid for positions that need college educations and advance degrees (say teaching or prosecutors or research scientiests)? How will their student loans be repaid? What kind of talent will go into professions that pay little and have little or nothing for retirement? At what level will people start doing cost benefit analysis on the question of being worthwhile to accept bribes in the course of doing their jobs? We will soon be sliding to the Egyptian and Mexican level pretty soon. I am afraid you have been victimized by the Right Wing and Village Media meme of the day that our country’s problems are the result of those “bad Government” workers and unions.

      Egypt is a rather homogenous society with a strong sense of shared nationalism. The United States is not (we have strong “nationalisms,” but they usually exclude a strong number of their fellow Americans. See http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/cpac-immigration-panel-readying-fight-save-gop-and-white-america)

      Because of this, as mannfin11 illustrates, we often move from anger at our elite rulers, to anger at our fellow middle class citizens who are Government workers or anger at the mythical benefits of “illegal aliens” who get better health care in “detention” facilities, or anger those of other races who we percieve our “inferior” and “undeserving” beneficiaries of our tax dollars.

  15. Ignim Brites

    This is just an example of elite panic. Sachs’ talks about how we are grinding the poor down but then in the end attributes food inflation to global warming. The guy is an ingenuous phony.

  16. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    So one of the insiders recants… another Greenspan moment? But ROT – respectable orthodox thinking – [hat off to Yves’ terminolog!] is still ROT.

    But even more disconcerting perhaps are some of the subsequent comments that see the “Founding Fathers” as something other than an aristocracy… that the republic founded by them was not designed to preserve their wealth and power. Nothing could be further from the truth. The American Revolution was a POLITICAL Revolution but it was not a SOCIAL Revolution – France [1789]; Russia [1917]; China [1949]. The colonial elites that orchestrated the “revolution” in the war of national liberation [independence] were the authors of the US Constitution. No change of “power” there. They were powerful before the Revolution and more powerful after it.

    This is the “noble lie” underlying American Exceptionalism. Until it is dispelled and relegated to the dustbin of history there will not be an Egypt moment in this country. Too many of you still believe that CLASS is somehow foreign to this country – that we’re different! Another manifestation of American Exceptionalism for why no class-consciousness in this country perhaps?

    Part of the problem lies in how one interprets the period from 1932-1980. POSTWAR America and much of Western Europe are seen as the exception to the rule where we all got along and the outmoded divisions of left and right did not apply. But is this accurate or part of the ROT mythology? Increasingly, the period from 1932-1980 is beginning to appear as the exception rather than the rule and not just here in the United States. And the exceptional position/cicumstances of this country immediately after WWII had much to do with this postwar consensus. Naomi Klein has examined this in her book: Disaster Capitalism. But for much of its existence, dare I say most of its existence, capitalism flourished under authoritarian auspices rather than with representative forms of government. It was only after industrialization that “Social Democracy” emerged in the West with its greatest impact experienced between 1932-1980. And since then it has been pulled to the right… dismantled and discredited as irrelevant to the new world order by the likes of Professor Jeffrey Sachs and his ilk.

    But prior to 1932 and after 1980 has CLASS been more relevant than what we have been led to believe? American Labor History is replete with violence and repression by the state is not uncommon, not to mention the use of Pinkertons and private local militia/armies to terrorize workers into submission. This – the so-called absence of class conflict – is part of the “noble lie” fostered by American Exceptionalism. After 1980, Americans simply forgot this history or were led to believe that America was back. It became the ROT and it is still ROTTEN. But too many of you still believe.

    That Egypt moment touched upon by Jeffrey Sachs will only come when Americans QUIT believing in the noble lie imprinted on US from birth. If we don’t break with the noble lie it will break US.

  17. /L

    Stratfor.co have good article on the Egypt revolution, that they was a real revolution.

    Egypt: The Distance Between Enthusiasm and Reality
    It is not that nothing happened in Egypt, and it is not that it isn’t important. It is simply that what happened was not what the media portrayed but a much more complex process, most of it not viewable on TV.

    The week began with an old soldier running Egypt. It ended with different old soldiers running Egypt with even more formal power than Mubarak had. This has caused worldwide shock and awe. We were killjoys in 2009, when we said the Iranian revolution wasn’t going anywhere. We do not want to be killjoys now, since everyone is so excited and happy. But we should point out that, in spite of the crowds, nothing much has really happened yet in Egypt. It doesn’t mean that it won’t, but it hasn’t yet.

    An 82-year-old man has been thrown out of office, and his son will not be president. The constitution and parliament are gone and a military junta is in charge. The rest is speculation.

  18. Larry Elasmo

    This is not how you suck up to billionaires. For telling the truth (at least in part) Jeffrey Sachs just lost his chance to be the guest host of CNBC’s Squawkbox for three hours in the morning along with Joe, Becky and Carl!

    Better send him back to the “How to Fawn Reprogramming Center”, along with Elizabeth Warren.

  19. nickj

    Nothing to see here; glabalization has only ever been for the rest of the world, not the US. People in the US just wouldn’t stand for it.

  20. Mat Albert 5416

    Perhaps Jeffrey Sachs has become what Slavoj Zizek refers to as a “liberal communist”. Following is an excerpt from his April 2006 article for the London Review of Books, entitled “Nobody has to be Vile”:

    “Since 2001, Davos and Porto Alegre have been the twin cities of globalisation: Davos, the exclusive Swiss resort where the global elite of managers, statesmen and media personalities meets for the World Economic Forum under heavy police protection, trying to convince us (and themselves) that globalisation is its own best remedy; Porto Alegre, the subtropical Brazilian city where the counter-elite of the anti-globalisation movement meets, trying to convince us (and themselves) that capitalist globalisation is not our inevitable fate – that, as the official slogan puts it, ‘another world is possible.’

    It seems, however, that the Porto Alegre reunions have somehow lost their impetus – we have heard less and less about them over the past couple of years. Where did the bright stars of Porto Alegre go?

    Some of them, at least, moved to Davos. The tone of the Davos meetings is now predominantly set by the group of entrepreneurs who ironically refer to themselves as ‘liberal communists’ and who no longer accept the opposition between Davos and Porto Alegre: their claim is that we can have the global capitalist cake (thrive as entrepreneurs) and eat it (endorse the anti-capitalist causes of social responsibility, ecological concern etc). There is no need for Porto Alegre: instead, Davos can become Porto Davos.”

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n07/slavoj-zizek/nobody-has-to-be-vile

  21. tar, etc.

    He named The Central Problem: campaign finance. The current system of legalized bribery is a disaster. There is a solution, and that is for the currently employed congress to put a stop to it. Can’t happen? Wait ’til we go Egyptian on their a**es.

  22. Toby

    What pleased me most about the Sachs interview was the man’s exasperation. It was palpable. I know little about Sachs or his views, past or present, so can make no judgment as to any change of heart on his part. However, the interview was revealing because obvious and simple truths were spoken which shocked and are shocking to a country which does not know the wider world any more, nor even itself. America has declined in status dramatically over the last few decades, and that decline is accelerating. The laughable circus it trots out day after day and calls democracy is an embarrassment to humanity. In pursuit of profit it has blindly dumbed down its people to ignorant consumers, consumers who tote guns and shout slogans as programmed automatons, and those slogans most often are some salivating, Pavlovian grunts to do with ‘freedom.’ The irony is bitter indeed. It is as if the US’ founding fathers were in fact Monty Python script writers: “Yes, we’re all different!”

    America was once Europe’s dream of what might be. Something happened on the way to the bank though, something dank and fetid. The stench is rising. The explosion is going to be stratospheric.

  23. JPS

    A Voter/Taxpayer revolution is clearly on the horizon.
    Billionaires have clearly destroyed the “American Dream” for the 99.99% of us who have been living in a Kleptocracy. Kleptocrats around the world aka politicians and billionaires have been stealing and transfering the enormous wealth created by labor to themselves for centuries.
    The only way to end the stealing is for the people to demand a progressive tax on all income from all sources, which will stop the greedy!
    See Robert Reich’s solution – something like this has to happen, or American will end ugly!
    http://robertreich.org/
    “My proposal to raise the marginal tax to 70 percent on incomes over $15 million, to 60 percent on incomes between $5 million and $15 million, and to 50 percent on incomes between $500,000 and $5 million, has generated considerable debate.”

  24. votermom

    Amazing to watch someone tell it straight on a wall-street-news channel. Thanks for posting it!
    (And any bets that Sachs does NOT get invited back?)

  25. Change America Now!

    I’m really sorry I missed Jeffrey Sachs video, it was great! I hope people email this to everyone they have ever known!!! Every American should watch this 10 times!

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