Crooks, Liars, Idiots, and Plutocrats

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By Matías Vernengo, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Utah. Originally published at Triple Crisis.

Economic historian Carlo Cipolla famously noted that human beings fall into four basic categories: the martyr who takes an action and suffers a loss while producing a gain to others; the genius or prodigy who takes an action by which he/she makes a gain while yielding a gain also to society; the crook (and liar too) who takes an action by which he/she makes a gain causing others a loss; and the stupid person who causes losses to others while deriving no personal gain and even possibly incurring losses. At first glance, the shutdown of the government and the looming debt-ceiling crisis seem to indicate that we are dealing with idiots, the likes of Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert, Steve King, and other Tea Party Republicans.

After all, there is no rational reason to shut down the government to preclude what is essentially a Republican-designed health law (created by the Heritage Foundation), that would create the conditions for finally attaining universal health coverage in the United States, a goal that all the other advanced nations have achieved decades ago. In particular, the alternative to “Obamacare” proposed by the GOP is nonexistent, and basically means leaving millions of Americans without proper medical care. On top of that, the shutdown, together with the previous sequestration, and the overall contractionary fiscal stance, will most likely make the very slow recovery even slower, maintaining an unnecessarily large portion of the labor force unemployed.

The debt ceiling, which we are still approaching, even if at a slower pace because of the shutdown, will make matters even worse. There is a certain degree of uncertainty of what could happen if an agreement on the debt ceiling is not reached. I tend to believe that there will be neither a run on the dollar nor a collapse of the world economy, as some expect. It seems unlikely that the euro, or the yen, let alone the yuan, would replace the dollar. Europe and Japan are not really thriving, and investors are not going to flock in mass to Chinese assets, since it is far from clear that an economy controlled by a single party with extensive ability to intervene in contracts provides more security than U.S. bonds. Markets might very well assume that the U.S. crisis is temporary, and as in previous crisis in the United States, like the Lehman Brothers collapse back in September 2008, flock to the security of the dollar.

But I do believe that it will force a significant additional fiscal contraction on an economy that cannot take it, and may very likely lead to a new recession. It must be emphasized that the actual net level of debt, once intra-government holdings (by the Fed and other agencies and trusts) are discounted, is actually not high by historical standard (around 60% of GDP rather than 100%, which is the gross amount), and the rate of interest on it is at historical lows. So actually borrowing more to get the economy out of the slow recovery would be the sensible thing to do.

However, it would be a mistake to conclude that we have been dominated by a group of rogue and irrational idiots hell-bent on destroying Western Civilization in the name of Christian values and some crazy, ill-defined notion of freedom. It is important to note that over the last two years the radical elements within the GOP have actually achieved something. They have consolidated a contractionary fiscal stance, barring any possibility of the fiscal expansion that we need for a healthy recovery. They play in the United States the same role that the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund) plays in Europe, and that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has traditionally played in developing countries. And austerity is at the service not only of cutting expenses on services that affect the neediest in society, but also keeping wage demands in line, and so protecting the interests of corporations and the few that benefit from that.

So if the public faces of the shutdown are the Tea Party-ites in Congress, with Ted Cruz and his filibuster as their poster child, it is important to remember that these groups have received the backing of foundations and shadow groups controlled by a few wealthy plutocrats, like the Koch brothers. It is those wealthy at the top, who are not affected by the shutdown, that should be blamed for the current crisis. Class warfare, not stupidity, and the crooks and liars at the top, not the “idiots” in the public spotlight, are the problem.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. tulsatime

    I am coming to see less of a problem with class warfare. secret and unspoken, it has been waged against the middle class for years by the right.

    1. digi_owl

      Not just the middle class. In the eyes of the upper class there are only two classes, them and the rest.

  2. Ryan Langemeyer

    The idea that ObamaCare is somehow equal to Universal Health Coverage, and is equal to the health coverage of the other industrialized nations is ludicrous. I cannot understand how any thinking person can believe that.

    I am a dark green progressive, formerly a Democrat. Voted for Obama in 2008, voted for no one in 2012; no more “lesser of two evils” for me.

    The ACA (ObamaCare) is a gift to the Medical Community, the Health Insurance Industry, and Big Pharma, nothing more. Those low rates that are being talked about buy the purchaser a pitiful level of coverage, while the hospital chains, medical device companies, insurance execs, and drug pusher wring even more profits out of the consumer.

    Please, folks. The ACA is a sad joke on the American public. No one living in Europe would consider it remotely equal to what they receive.

    1. Daikon

      Absolutely. And don’t forget people in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and a lot of other non-European countries. ACA ensures that the US will continue to have third-world health insurance and care systems.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Yes, and the TPP trade racket intends to bring civilized countries down to our level, parasitic healthcare by vampire financiers on a global scale. This all reeks of Shock Doctrine.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Hear, hear, Ryan. ObamneyCare takes a tragedy and makes it worse, adding insult to injury, compelling everyone to buy a defective product from death-panel profiteers.

      Of course the TP is not standing up to stop this Obamanation, but to make it a Frankenstein monster more hideous still. It looks like the shape of the ransom will take the form of cutting medical device taxes and increasing credit agency barriers to those most needy. In this, the TP may be Koch-addled idiots, but they are useful idiots for Obama and his masters to inflict their Shock Doctrine disaster on us all. The great betrayal may be even worse than we imagined.

      1. scott

        When you take the equivalent of a car payment a month extra from every houshold in exchange for the privilege of paying 5 figure out-of-pocked/deductables, you will see consumer spending grind to a halt. The Obamacare recession will be one for the history books.

    3. Aaron Layman

      “I am a dark green progressive, formerly a Democrat. Voted for Obama in 2008, voted for no one in 2012; no more “lesser of two evils” for me.”

      Uh, no. You just voted to allow the farce to continue. When you choose not to vote, you are casting a ballot nonetheless. There’s a reason more Americans are interested in a third party. When they actually start voting for one, then the game changes entirely.

      1. fresno dan

        I agree with the need for a third party.
        But the sad fact of the matter is that there is not only 3 (3rd) parties, but dozens of parties

        But people, after bitching and whining about both parties, than will say to me after I mention all these other parties, that they will “be throwing their vote away”
        When you vote for a democrat or republican, nine times out of ten you are throwing your vote away, and voting for the status quo. Until people STOP voting for tweedle dee or tweedledumb, we are going to have defacto single party rule. Voting for any other party on the ballot will help expand our choices and bring some modicum of responsibility back to the political process.

    4. Banger

      The real tragedy, beyond the poor care people will continue to receive, is that almost no Americans know anything about alternative systems. This fact is, on the surface, the fault of the mainstream media which will only report what DP or RP political operatives declare is legit information. I could write a book on the misinformation, misdirection and outright fairy tales the graduates of elite universities package as accurate news and information. Americans, despite an allegedly “free” press (it is not free at all) and the internet know less probably about the world than citizens of the USSR knew during the Cold War.

      The real culprits are two–one, is the “liberal class” Chris Hedges has written and spoken about so eloquently and with stunning insight; two, is the more radical left, that has been content to snipe from the sidelines as the U.S. has descended into a post-Constitutional neo-police state with an ever rightward drift. Too many of us (and I know old radicals who have done this) support Obama no matter what. Too many of us have not called out the media for what it is and still think NPR is more accurate than Fox and therefore we listen. Too many of us accept the media narrative and false conflicts, tempests in Tea Pots and think MSNBC hosts are leftists (they’re not). We lack a narrative and we lack a culture of resistance–not that all of us need to get on the barricades but that we need to support each other rather than spar in online comment pages. We need to understand that we have to have a vision, a set of clearly articulated values that are contrary to the failed liberal class and the whole panopoly of self-centered political currents that flow all around from the TP to the Evangelicals to the status-quo “grown-ups” who have nothing coherent to say, no vision, nothing. We are adrift in this country and the radical left that has, in my view, the Force with us remains picking over the minutiae of social disintegration.

      1. Jim Haygood

        ‘In particular, the alternative to “Obamacare” proposed by the GOP is nonexistent.’ — Vernengo

        Nice rhetorical jab, but easily deflected by any opponent with a brain.

        Just to mention one alternative among many, some developing countries provide a social safety net of free clinics and hospitals (no Medicare or Medicaid fraud with in-kind services!) and a parallel, affordable private health system for those who can pay.

        ‘No alternatives’ is the language of coercion, which is what Obamacare does with its hateful mandate to fine the uninsured. KMA, Barky. Ain’t workin on yo plantation no mo!

        1. James Levy

          You sidestepped the issue. The Republicans are most certainly NOT talking about setting up a system of public clinics that will solve this problem. They are defunding clinics in States were they hold sway, and cutting money from WIC and Food Stamps to boot. So, although I think Obamacare stinks, I’ve yet to hear an alternative from the Republicans that amounts to more than “be frugal and buy it yourself or die and reduce the excess population.”

      2. Cassiodorus

        From Paul Craig Roberts: “As Jeffrey St. Clair has made clear, America no longer has a left-wing.”

        Every once in awhile (in the post-1973 era) someone like Barack Obama revives the symbolism of the “Left” in this country, toward standard neoliberal owning-class ends.

        Instead there are two right wings, the corporate right and the antipublic right.

        Actually establishing a Left would mean establishing a postcapitalist vision that would be something other than the dominant postcapitalist vision we see promoted by the owning class, in which the functions of “landlord” and “business owner” are increasingly fused and rent extraction becomes the dominant mode of business. We can call that “neofeudalism” if you want.

        Is anyone actually working on postcapitalism?

        1. Banger

          Indeed, I think we are all trying to find our way to something like what you describe. The problem is not our intention or even dedication (though I wonder sometimes) but rather to essential things: one, the willingness to actually face up to the reality of what we are up against and the situation as it is; and two, the lack of a real ethical philosophy that would act as a framework for action.

          As part of our understanding about how things stand, we need to see the paradox of leftist being more individualistic than rightists yet they preach a form of collectivism. This reality makes it so hard for the left to organize into a real dynamic movement even if we had an ethical framework. Also, post-capitalism would infer a return to communities rather than “independent” agents who live to maximize their self-interest. Post-capitalism must include the understanding that we are in this together and we need to de-program ourselves from the cult of the self and we cannot do that in isolation–and ultimately, it is our isolation that makes the real left moribund.

          1. peace

            These two books set up a moral philosophy based on evidence regarding natural instincts to help one another instead of the pervasive assumption and socially constructed narrative that we are self-interested by nature: Kropotkin’s “Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution” and Hofstadter’s “Social Darwinism in American Thought” (if you were at the 1 year anniversary OWS march, this was my sign)

            I hope to have the time and motivation to write a book elaborating on some ideas I have about this or at least a theoretical journal article. My sharing this info here does not aid my self-interest or career (someone can beat me to the chase on an article or book). Am I foolhardy or generous and hopeful of producing some synergy, encouragement or a coauthor interested in working with me on this? Anyway, I feel good about sharing (self-interested form of altruism); additionally, I like to add value here and help the NC community thrive.

          2. Cassiodorus

            Since there is no collective postcapitalist strategy as of yet, it’s hard to say if we are thinking “postcapitalism,” or not. There is no doubt a lot of nostalgia in the political sphere for the good old days of Keynesian economics.

        2. bh2

          The idea that the people should control the government (rather than vice versa) is only recently considered novel in America.

          Indeed, this was the key feature distinguishing American assumptions of government from the European feudal premise that the people are subservient (“subjects”) of the sovereign power. In America, the people were sovereign.

          This meant they literally could hire government as they saw fit as “a useful servant” but could likewise fire it at will if it sought to become “a terrible master”. (Washington’s words).

          When the Articles of Confederation (the first post-Revolutionary government) seemed unfit in the eyes of citizens, the various states met and changed it on their own authority. No one would be expected to swear an oath of loyalty to government any sooner than to one’s butcher, hairdresser, or butler. The government was untrusted and expected to encroach where it was not authorized. Thus the many warnings (not least from Jefferson) about a necessity of vigilance to preserve a free society.

          By definition, the government could not, therefore, be allowed to become so large that the people could not “drown it in the bathtub” if that was their sovereign pleasure.

          When people like Grover Norquist utter these ancient sentiments, it’s important to recognize they are throwbacks, no more relevant today than button-hooks, hoop skirts, or liberty.

      3. Alejandro

        “I could write a book on the misinformation, misdirection and outright fairy tales the graduates of elite universities package as accurate news and information. “

        Already written-“Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media”, by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky.

        “Too many of us have not called out the media for what it is and still think NPR is more accurate than Fox and therefore we listen.”

        Disagree. NC is my favorite example of many Alternatives. The real challenge, imho, is unplugging and detoxifying prior to engaging (plowing before sowing/”education” before motivation).

      4. DolleyMadison

        Here Here! The “Million Vet March” collected the “Barrycades” from the war memorials this morning and deposited them at the whitehouse gates – haven’t seen a word of this on any station.

        1. john

          Color me unimpressed. If they don’t like government then they shouldn’t take their government check.

    5. DolleyMadison

      AMEN. If they can’t get your home via foreclosure, they’ll get it via IRS liens for failure to get insurance or pay a fine you cannot afford. They want us all to be slaves.

    6. Bruce MacKenzie

      I think it will only be the health “insurance” industry that profits from ObamaCare. The high co-pays and deductibles and narrow networks are designed to prevent actual utilization by policy holders. The medical providers have not expanded their capability — more doctors, more technicians, more hospital beds have not been planned — because no real increase in demand is expected. This morning’s NY Times explains how Big Pharma’s profits are already protected by the perversion of intellectal proptery law in “Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath.”

  3. from Mexico

    Some have thrown out the idea that the elites are fracturing, and that all this is being driven by a competition between the elites.

    So if we look at the budget and debt brinkmanship through that lens, cui bono? Which elites do austerity and the shutdown help?

    I’m trying to think of who the most powerful elite factions are:

    Banking and finance

    Big Pharma

    I can’t possibly see how austerity and shut down could help Big Pharma, Retail and Manufacturing, unless it’s a ploy to push down labor costs.

    So is all this is being driven by Banking and finance, Hydrocarbons and Military?

    Are there other important sectors I’ve omitted? How does austerity and shut down help Banking and finance, Hydrocarbons and Military?

    1. Aussie F

      The elites have simply lost control of the Tea Party and the Republican grass roots. Racist lunatics cowering in cellars desperately clutching their AR-15s and preparing for a UN takeover simply couldn’t care less for the corporate sector.

      There are some uncomfortable historical parallels: German industry and finance backed Hitler against the labour movement and other domestic irritants. It was all well and good when the Freikorp were breaking striker’s legs and killing socialists. Eventually the fanatics turned on their paymasters, and the rest, as they say, is history.

      1. skippy

        I was going to ask… if it was to soon to call them the National Socialist Tea Party yet…

        skippy… ridged upright strutting and physical gestures to come… hugo boss get a big order?

        1. Banger

          Fortunately for us the right lacks real brains–they live so much in fantasy worlds they can’t be Machiavellian enough to actually seize power without their oligarch masters–they’ll never be an independent force.

          1. skippy

            Well it looks like the status quo finally got what they wanted since the attempted coup against FDR…. and look at what they have done… killed the goose… silly buggers. And some people are confused~ (see ideologues TP/RP/Freemarkets mobs).

            skippy… M – C – M writ large with no societal purpose save to concentrate more wealth and ownership, to even a smaller and more privilege group, that has trans-sovereign like powers trying to achieve singularity event (meet gawd in person). Its a feature and not a bug thingy~

      2. from Mexico

        I think there’s more to it than that.

        I believe it is impossible to understand any of this with a provincial outlook, that it is necessary to “think globally” as they say.

        One such global outlook is this one offered by Banger the other day:

        [T]he alliances that built the imperial and neoliberal project are in disarray. Just as they won complete control over the system and locked it up so that no reform of the system that did not itself just reinforce oligarchical power (ACA and so on), just as they have been able to put in place a beautiful police state apparatus with all kinds of contingencies form mass incarceration to picking off radicals by suppressing demonstrations before they even happen (I have stories), just as they can taste complete financial and military dominance over Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, just as they have firmed up their deals with a variety of shady characters and organized crime gangs–they have fallen on their faces because of internal disagreements. The oligarchs are now at war with each other–the idiots!

        While I agree with Banger that “the alliances that built the imperial and neoliberal project are in disarraray,” I don’t agree this is happening for the reasons that Banger gives.

        I don’t see the imperial and neoliberal project as being anywhere near as omnipotent and all-powerful, or successful, as Banger does. The disarray is happening because of the failures of the imperial and neoliberal project, not because of its successes.

        As Hannah Arendt asserts in “On Violence”: “Rule by sheer violence comes into play where power is being lost.” Leonidas K. Cheliotis comes to very similar conclusions here (hat tip skippy):

        History, according to Fromm, teaches us that state governments lacking either the resources or the will to provide adequately for the majority or large segments of the populace, first turn to the formation of social characters that may provide mass legitimation for the unjust order of things as they stand. Once this ideological effect wears off as a result of persistent basic insecurities among the public, Fromm goes on to explain, state governments resort to the cultivation of the ‘authoritarian character’.

        In the case of the authoritarian character, real public insecurities – and thereby also public anger towards incumbent rulers – are displaced onto concocted substitutes and are acted out aggressively against them. ‘Sadism’, Fromm writes, ‘is the great instinctual reservoir to which one appeals when one has no other . . . satisfactions to offer the masses’, or when other ‘instinctual satisfactions of a more positive nature are ruled out on socio-economic grounds’ (Fromm, 1970: 113). But the authoritarian character may only be complete so long as ‘sadism’ is accompanied by ‘masochism’, in the sense of willingly subordinating oneself to powerful and unjust or otherwise failing authorities. Indeed, sadistic acting out functions as a lure to masochistic submission, which is why failing rulers take it upon themselves to perform sadistic violence on behalf of their constituents.

        As a counterfactual to Banger’s Borg-like portrayal of the imperial and neoliberal project (for instance, Banger says “just as they can taste complete financial and military dominance over Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia”) I would like to offer this from the Mexican politlogue Alfredo Jalife-Rahame (my translation):

        The electoral triumphalism of the Republican Party is on a collision course with a multitude of symptoms that throw in doubt the future of Thatcherian neoliberalism and the survival of global finance….

        To many out-and-out US-centricists, accustomed to thinking unilaterally, it is undoubtedly perturbing to reflect on the inescapable decline of the United States…..


        The last superpower cannot dictate or control global and regional events like it used to. In spite of its exaggerated techno-military power, it cannot control events in Irak or Afghanistan to bring forward stability and peace. The events in these countries move towards greater instability and chaos.

        This fact brings with it regional and global implications and repercussions. The aura of the virtually omnipotent American, supported by his unequaled military power, has been severely sullied and is collapsing. For the entire world, this amply shows the inability of the military of the last superpower to subdue and control, in the post-invastion phase, two small and relatively insignificant powers: Irak and Afghanistan.

        1. skippy

          I thirdly support the disarray theory, as their social sites are in panic, don’t even know who they are anymore and blindly scrambling fore identity.

          In the sites I frequent their argumentation is increasing desperate reductio ad absurdum, in the face of over whelming deviance. Cognitive POP.

          Skippy… I think, they think, they are still fighting monarchy or something, yet their bloody worse as there is no mob to put them in check. Yet the narrative lives on!

          Its just so ridiculous

        2. Banger

          Good critique of my position. I have expressed, in other areas, that the dominance of the oligarchy is a new type–it is not a top-down or illuminati style conspiracy at this point. There are, I believe, powerful and very violent parts of the oligarchy who are very strong in this system of governance but the organization itself is “emergent” and of the network variety that actually has a kind of “life” of its own. If they had left things well enough alone most of the elements of the oligarchy would have done just fine–but as values have broken down and the worship of ego and self-interest is now culturally dominant parts of the network have broken down with great rapidity. Perhaps a new homeostasis and period of adjustment will be reached but we aren’t there yet.

          1. susan the other

            It does look like racketeering. If the goal was the TPP and TAFTA all along, it almost makes sense. The USA is extorting the Pacific Rim and Europe into free trade contracts that can be seen as a big solution to the world’s problems. The biggest problem being vanishing profits for big corporations. That these two things: crushing austerity in the US and the EU and big trade schemes are happening simultaneously is a little suspicious. When the US economy contracts it crushes the entire world because it stops importing all that crap. So in order to maintain the hysteria about our indebtedness – to force all this globaloney free trade – we create a brutal austerity, justified by our tweaked accounting fictions. As Prof Vernengo just mentioned in passing, our debt to GDP is only 60% and not a problem by any standard. There has to be a reason for all this nonsense.

      3. from Mexico

        By the way, I agree with your take on the relationship between the Nazis and the German industrialists and financiers (and British and US industrialists and financiers I might add, as Thorstein Veblem made clarion). This is the same opinion expressed by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism:

        National institutions resisted throughout the brutality and megalomania of imperialist aspirations, and bourgeois attempts to use the state and its instruments of violence for its own economic purposes were always only half successful. This changed when the German bourgeoisie staked everything on the Hitler movement and aspired to rule with the help of the mob, but then it turned out to be too late. The bourgeoisie succeeded in destroying the nation-state but won a Pyrrhic victory; the mob proved quite capable of taking care of politics by itself and liquidated the bourgeoisie along with all other classes and institutions.

        However, I would like to point out that there is a very different point of view out there than ours:

        In Germany, as seen by Neumann, National Socialism has tied the economic organization into the web of “industrial combinations run by the industrial magnates.” By means of the newer implementation of property, the administrative command, the cartellization of German business has proceeded rapidly. The Nazis saved the cartel system, whose rigidities were sorely beset by the depression. Since then their policies have consistently resulted in a further monopolization into the orbit of the big corporations….

        But who runs the giant cartels? Behind cartellization there has occurred a centralizing trend which has left power decisions and profits in the lap of the industrial magnates…. The dreams come true in Germany may well be those of the industrial condottiere everywhere.

    2. Banger

      Yes, this is obvious. The big plutocratic forces do not directly benefit from an economic downturn but, as I’ve suspected for some time since it is common in history, these oligarchs have consolidated power in their hands and are now fighting among each other as thieves have always done. This has allowed certain factions that have carefully husbanded alliances in the body politic to use their assets, i.e., the Christian right and the angry white (not just males) anti-modernist coalition of nihilists. Many people believe that this group is now a powerful force unto itself that have stepped away from the total domination of their masters to chart their own course by filling an important power vacuum.

      And it isn’t just the oligarchs who are fighting among each other. The whole American system is so focused on “self-interest” and their own power-plays, scams, and conspiracies going. I believe corporations are, within themselves, filled with rival factions. Government bureaucracies are filled with infighting (mainly in the passive/aggressive mode), lobbyists are each struggling for influence in a fractured Congress that has stopped government and therefore pork spending, favorable legislation, and appropriations, the consultant community is and has been at war within as well as can be seen from the inability of the NSA, just as an example, to keep its secrets. Even the national security state is at odds within (not unusual actually) about the imperial project as the War Party is in decline. What we have Mr. Mexico, is chaos and a lack of leadership at all levels because there is no sense of common purpose other than theft and power.

      Washington and other areas of power once was a mixture of banditry and patriotism–there were serious leaders who asserted some sense of common purpose beyond personal gain–maybe they were misguided but it was true–I’ve seen it and lived it. That era is gone and the right-wingers, though they are living in a world of fantasy (but aren’t we all in the U.S.?), at least sense that there is rot there and now have leverage to gum up the works. They will fail, probably, because the works are already gummed up so all it took was a nudge.

      1. tongorad

        Where’s the chaos? I only see and hear the neoliberal choir coming together like never before. Harmonizing on all fronts.

        The transformation from citizen to consumer is pretty much a done deal.

      2. gepay

        the myth of a monolithic illuminati running the world is as much of a fantasy as the myth of monolithic communism trying to take over the world. The elites who run things have always been pluralistic. The Kings of Europe used to fight among themselves. Queen Elizabeth is still among the richest women in the world. Former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is still the major stockholder of the aptly named Royal Dutch Shell. Her husband Prince Bernhard (former officer in the Nazi SS) formed the Bilderbergers. In the US there is the Council on Foreign relations and the TriLateral Commission. Most of the Rothchilds are still very rich. To think that George Soros and Bill Gates ageee on everything is idiotic. I think that Goldman Sachs cares about global warming only as a way to make money on Carbon credits or other schemes. For a time it was the industrial magnates, then the oil companies who are still very powerful. The bankers appear to have command right now and their desires are different than what the military industrial complex (with the newer layer of national security added since WW2) might want. Is the CIA still the bastion of the New England aristocrats? – TS Eliot had a more benign opinion than I ‘These were a decent people. Their only monuments: the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls . . .’ But I notice John Kerry is now Secretary of State
        The Chinese have been let in – do you think they have the same interests as the US elite? The Euro and the union of Europe has been in the works since WW2 (although it seems to have run into a few snags). David Rockefeller has publicly stated he wants a one world government (bush the father talked about a New World Order) and works for it. Who could have predicted that “the powers that be” could have convinced the world that a war on terror is a worthy substitute for the the Soviet Union and the fear of world communist domination. What’s next environmentalism via global warming? the invasion of the space aliens? Anything to buy time until androids and robots are perfected and they don’t need us. Then the mass vaccinations will start (oh right, they’ve already started but they’re just dry runs like the Swine flu epidemic that didn’t happen – wasn’t that backed by the United Nations. The elites would love a world populated only by the 1%. So many problems solved. Sub-Saharan Africa as one big nature preserve and think how nice South Africa could be without ….

    3. Andrew Watts

      “Some have thrown out the idea that the elites are fracturing, and that all this is being driven by a competition between the elites.

      So if we look at the budget and debt brinkmanship through that lens, cui bono? Which elites do austerity and the shutdown help?“

      Nobody wins and that’s the problem. It was Reinhold Niebuhr who originally observed that the United States didn’t suffer from the class conflict or internal discord that poisoned the politics of European nations because the richness of American natural resources allowed economic growth to continually expand the economic pie. It was always a matter of dividing the pie.

      Without the rapid expansion of the economy to enable this to take place we’re plunging headfirst into a political crisis. It appears with the benefit of hindsight that the sequester was a means of spreading the fiscal pain around to every power-bloc of the Establishment. It could’ve been a political maneuver to buy more time for the economy to recover, but whatever the original purpose was it’s clear now that it didn’t work. The question remains who’s going to have to sacrifice more? The Great Betrayal is a far from guaranteed outcome. Especially if rank-and-file Democrats start mobilizing in earnest against such a deal.

      Apparently no acceptable solution has emerged. This is a major contribution to the political gridlock in Washington. The American empire has seen it’s better days.

      1. MikeNY

        Excellent comment.

        Indeed, both parties still recite the mantra of GROWTH as the solution to our economic problems, and hence political problems; thus they don’t perturb the plutocrats. But it is highly likely that the days of 3% real growth are gone, as Jeremy Grantham has written.

        IMHO, the political discourse must shift from a mindless recitation of the growth doxology to one of justly sharing the resources we have; not only because the days of rapid growth are behind us, but also because the planet cannot support humanity’s pursuit of endless growth, because the failure to allocate our resources more equally will provoke instability, and because — simply but most importantly — the actual distribution of resources in our society is immoral.

    4. Brooklin Bridge

      I can’t possibly see how austerity and shut down could help Big Pharma, Retail and Manufacturing, unless it’s a ploy to push down labor costs -from Mexico

      Is it not also possible that there are different factions of the elite competing with each other without obviating what many of them jointly “see” as the benefits of austerity and shut down; for instance, the meme that government is good for nothing and privatization would solve all the problems we are encountering. Lower wages isn’t the only game in town. And it’s not just propaganda; Detroit is up for sale to the highest bidder. And so on. Smashing things up can be profitable. HuffPo was posting articles selling that whole toxic stew of privatization as the silver lining only a couple of days ago (I can find the link if necessary) and they are not the only Vichy propaganda outlet to do so. There isn’t a single industry you mentioned, including the military, that isn’t deeply in bed with corporate fixation on privatization of virtually everything and wrecking the economy along with the social structures that hold it in place seems perfectly legitimate to them as long as it works and it does seem to be working though not as consistently as they might like if they were all sitting around a table discussing this calmly like surgeons before an operation. I think Banger is right in a way. Their successes, some of which are down-right failures, are killing them along with everyone else. If they can convince the masses to go against their own self interest for decades, why can’t they also convince themselves of the same thing regarding austerity?

      Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that the current fiasco can have its roots in a combination of competition and shared delusion.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Yup, the “elite” are like the scorpion who, halfway across the river, stings to death the gullible frog ferrying him across. But don’t blame the scorpion, right? He can’t help it; it’s his nature.

      2. James Levy

        I’ve often said that in Bismarck’s day, only the stupidest oligarchs believed their own baloney, but today, I’m not sure if a high percentage of these high rollers haven’t drunk their own Kool-Aid, which makes them much more dangerous than your old-style platitude-spouting operator.

        I still see signs of panic and demoralization where others see a more concerted plan. The overwhelming power of the financial sector must overawe all but the biggest player in anything but the arms and oil businesses. Those older middling business interests which used to connect and guide the local Republican establishments have atrophied, and been replaced by professional operatives and retail politicians. The moderating influence of men who wanted a stable “Fordist” political economy and had no thoughts of globalization seems to be non-existent (Reagan was the Svengali who convinced them to screw local concerns, handsome affluence, and any tie to place, and go for the brass ring of bigger and richer). Eisenhower said privately in the mid-1950s that only a handful of stupid fools like the Hunt brothers contemplated repealing the New Deal. Now, it is Republican Party dogma.

        The Power Elite set up a system predicated on winners, losers, and endless growth. The growth phase has played itself out, largely because massive cheap inputs of energy are gone (note: I didn’t say no more oil, I said massive inputs of cheap energy). And this time around the losing can no longer be restricted to the lower orders. Retailers, car sales, the housing market, are all in for a serious “haircut” in the coming dispensation. The question remains if they are going to try to prop up the Democrats as their vehicle for keeping their share of the pie, or have they thrown in the towel at this point, and if they aren’t fighting back, who is?

      3. anon y'mouse

        “the meme that government is good for nothing and privatization would solve all the problems we are encountering.”

        exactly. mass debt hysteria, hostage healt*care* systems etc. are just serving to delegitimize a gov’t that no one had faith in anymore anyway. when they pull it down and put up Gov 3.0, likely it will be some kind of private system (it already is with corps having political rights) and everyone will say it was sad, but a necessity.

        push the public to the wall, and they will accept anything to get out of it. basic Winston’s ratcage.

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        1) Corporate profits higher than ever;

        2) Class distinctions sharper than ever;

        3) High disemployment keeping wages low;

        4) Life expectancy starting to drop for the lower orders;

        5) General sense among the elite that kicking and whipping the peasantry is not only good, clean fun, but a duty.

        What’s not too like?

    5. craazyboy

      I would add healthcare/hospitals, the AMA professional union, and the medical equipment industry to “Big Pharma”.

      Then also “Big Ed/College Football” seeing that the University of CA was O’s biggest campaign contributor, we have had more higher education inflation since the mid 80s than even healthcare inflation, and we are up to one trillion in student loans, and counting.

      Big Law deserves a mention too.

    6. Chauncey Gardiner

      Thank you and Banger both, Mexico. Interesting basic framework you’ve posited.. I’ll bite on what some here might consider to be a rhetorical question regarding certain prominent nodes of the network [there are others such as the “Deep State”; the FED and the supranational network of the BIS, World Bank and IMF; foundations, think tanks, research universities, NGOS; corporate media and IT; the Legal-Judicial complex (h/t craazyboy below); etc. which I believe give the status quo a great deal of resiliency.]

      With respect to your specific question: “How does austerity and shutdown help Banking and finance, Hydrocarbons and Military?”

      Hydrocarbons: Maintain high prices for crude. Suppress domestic demand and economy in the U.S. to lower public resistance to fracking, pipelines/transport, and privatization of publicly owned resources. Expand global profit margins. Assure military availability.

      Military: Meet ongoing need for “Volunteers” to replace those lost in the charnel houses, as well as to assure adequate infusions for training in sophisticated systems and geopolitical expansion.

      Wall Street: Global presence that enables them to “Make Money” on both the long and short sides of trades, but also, too and most especially on derivatives speculation with OPM (Other People’s Money).

      I would particularly note the omission of the “Deep State”. Watched the Feb 2013 SOTU address for who in the audience the MSM focuses on with their camera pans. Kind of like watching key officials at the old Soviet military parades, perception is reality.

      In response to Banger’s question about whether there is deep dissension within the network, I would have to respond that I have no idea.

      “They thought they were free.” —Milton Mayer, on the Germans from 1933-45.

      1. Banger

        The “deep state” is pretty similar to the “national security state” in my book. That state has tentacles/nodal points everywhere. Why? Because ultimately, as Mao said, power comes out of the mouth of a gun. While there are lots of “soft” penalties to pay for dissent if you work in the system there are are also “hard” penalties to pay if you f–k with the wrong bunch.

  4. Hugh

    If you look at this in terms of complementary evils, crazy Republicans enable Obama and the Democrats to pursue their own anti-progressive, anti-99%, pro-corporatist, pro-kleptocrat agenda. If the crazy Republicans did not exist, Obama and the Democrats would have to invent them. The Overton window becomes not if austerity but how much, a lot or even more, the choices for healthcare become corporatist Obamacare or the current laissez-faire. On the other hand, on some issues, like the surveillance state, the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, and free trade, it is hard to tell which party is crazier. And on a few, like the Wall Street bailouts, some of the conservative Republicans are less crazy than the Democrats.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Obama also invented the crazy Republicans by

        3) Not doing squat about unemployment (thereby losing 2010);

        4) Making the foreclosure crisis worse (thereby losing 2010);

        5) Making the bigger banks even more powerful (remember that in 2010, Coakley had sued Goldman for $20 million and won. If she’d run on that as a populist, she would have won, 10 to 1. Instead, for some reason she went to DC to fundraise with the Dems, got some tepid Obama support — she is, after all, a woman — and then went down in the general sense of betrayal after the bright promises of 2008);

        6) and worst of all, after having the Republicans on the ground, with their boots on the Republican’s throats after the Bush administration’s credibility was completely destroyed, and with a mandate for “change,” the Democrats gave the Republicans a hand up, dusted them off, and let them get right back in the game.

        Everything those mean Republicans are doing today was baked in, back in 2009. Because you have to remember — even leaving wild scamming and depredations of the Bush administration aside! — the Republicans of 2009 (and the Republicans of 2013) are the Republicans of 2000: The party that shut down the government under Clinton, impeached Clinton over a *******, stole the Presidency in Florida 2000! That’s way worse than today’s Republicans! There isn’t anything, not one single thing, about today’s Repubicans that we did not know, 10 or 15 or even 20 years ago.

        I cannot believe, given #6, that the portion of the legacy two-party system labeled Democrat is not fully complict with the portion of the legacy two-party system labeled Republican. I do believe that the two parties hate each other, and I don’t think the party leadership is phoning Mission Control for a nightly telcon. However, given the history of the last twenty years, it couldn’t be more clear that the Obots and career “progressives” and tribal Democrats yammering and bleating and whinging about those mean Republicans are actively distracting from their own party’s complicity and betrayal.

        We are where we are with Republicans because of strategic decisons made by Democrats.

        1. Doug Terpstra

          Nice replay of an emergency resuscitation of the flat-lined GOP by Obama and the DP. It was like watching Obama sprint down the wrong end of an empty court to lob a three-pointer score for the opposition before the buzzer, with the Black Caucus and progressives meanwhile frozen in amber. The loss of Kennedy’s seat was an especially astonishing feat.

          Well played Obama, well played. And still so few get him. Color-blind blindness I suppose. What a maddening five years it’s been.

        2. Brooklin Bridge

          Lambert: I cannot believe, given #6, that the portion of the legacy two-party system labeled Democrat is not fully complict with the portion of the legacy two-party system labeled Republican. I do believe that the two parties hate each other, and I don’t think the party leadership is phoning Mission Control for a nightly telcon. However, given the history of the last twenty years, it couldn’t be more clear that the Obots and career “progressives” and tribal Democrats yammering and bleating and whinging about those mean Republicans are actively distracting from their own party’s complicity and betrayal

          That’s it exactly! Hate each other as they may, and except for the edges I’m not even sure about that, they are fully complicit.

        3. kimsarah

          Well said. Plus the teabaggers today give Dems even more cover for their complicity, and for continuing to shift the bar toward the right rather than the left.
          Every Dem leader has proven they are cowards, cavers and untrustworthy. It’s good to remember this as events unfold this week.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Some Republican nut jobs:

      1) Vehemently opposed the bailout

      2) Want to end the empire

      3) Defend the Fourth Amendment.

      I don’t like and can’t accept their thought processes or the premises from which they reason, but it’s hard to find a Democrat with policy outcomes that good.

      (Addding, to pre-empt any partisans, that there are policy outcomes from Republican nut jobs I think are horrible.)

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        It’s a bit wierd, isn’t it? I often wonder at it, but I think they’ll stop short of becoming Robin Hood for the people.

        1. gepay

          The Tea Party has been co-opted by the Kech Bros although the Koch bros are not part of the in crowd working for NWO. Just like the Christian right has grown off the debasement of the American dream characterized by NAFTA and outsourcing. The de-industrialization of the US made the world much more scary for working class america and yes, Jesus loves me is comforting. Instead of dealing with the root cause of these fears and real insecurity, much passion is siphoned off into debates about gay marriage and abortion. I don’t know how many liberal women vote for their advantage because the Democrats are much better on women’s rights. Since the 80s the elites have been quite adept at bringing in women, blacks, Jews, gays whatever to be their public face. In that sense they are equal opportunity employers.

      2. kimsarah

        Let’s see how vehement those Republicans are if and when they get the White House back. Then it will be the Dems’ turn again to be holier than thou, along with the loyal Obot “progressives” who give a bad name to real progressives.

  5. peace

    The clear and consistent goal advanced by the government shutdown is to delegitimize government to increase popular support for reduced government and increased privatization. That is the Teaparty’s and the Republican’s consistent, publicly espoused goal – smaller government.

    1. from Mexico

      But they’re not for small government when it comes to the neocon’s Utopian vision of worldwide full spectrum dominance.

      They’re not for small government when it comes to promoting the criminal-justice industrial complex.

      They’re not for small government when it comes to using the long arm of the government to enforce property rights.

      They’re not for small government when it comes to their own Medicare.

      1. JTFaraday

        Or their own Social Security, because they earned it.

        That’s why the only thing I can come up with is Foodstamps, and why the article you posted above on neoliberalism and middle class punitiveness seems relevant to me.

        Well, also Medicaid. Corporatist Obamacare did include an expansion of Medicaid, which didn’t go down well in the Red States, and which we can lose sight of in emphasizing its likeness to the Heritage Plan. Does “delay Obamacare” mean “delay Medicaid expansion”?

        That doesn’t mean politicians like Paul Ryan wouldn’t privatize Medicare and social security for the FIRE sector.

        If I recall, that’s where the deal broke down last time. The “middle class” made its wishes known to John Boehner.

      2. bh2

        Let’s summarize: they are not for small government.

        Both dems and repubs are serial drunks who party hard. They only disagree about what goes into the punchbowl. But they all drink from the same one.

    2. from Mexico

      And I don’t know about the Tea Party, but when it comes to the Republican Party it surely is not for small government when it comes to lavishing untold trillions of dollars on derelict alpha-bankers.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yes. The Republican base, which turned into the Tea Party, was vehemently opposed to the bailouts in 2008. The bailouts were passed by the Democrats, with Obama whipping for the bill, and the Republican leadership.

    3. casino implosion

      Of course, “smaller government” doesn’t actually mean smaller government in any meaningful sense. Been to DC since the Bush era explosion of privatized security/intelligence/military? Government is bigger than ever. It’s just now run by overpaid CEOs instead of moderately paid GS scale bureaucrats.

      1. peace

        Exactly “privitized.” KBR and Blackwater pay $100,000 while a private in the army gets $18,000 for the same work. A scam and a fake narrative promoted by Republicans to support their cronies in expensive private firms and industries including: military, prison-industrial-complex, and FIRE (finance, insurance, real-estate). I agree with you and Mexico.

    4. financial matters

      Yes, the three tenets of shock doctrine:

      “First, governments must remove all rules and regulations standing in the way of the accumulation of profits. Second, they should sell off any assets they own that corporations could be running at a profit. And third, they should dramatically cut back funding of social programs. The three-part formula of deregulation, privatization and cutbacks.’

      This also incorporates the thinking of neoliberal or neoclassical economics.

      As Michael Hudson and David Graeber point out it actually takes a lot of violence and intimidation to enact these policies. And is largely based on Adam Smith’s fantasy that when people act in their greedy self interest it will benefit all in the long run.

      If you look at popular demand there is actually a lot of support for helping each other out and against bailing out our financial institutions..

      1. James Levy

        Since I would insist people be fair to Karl Marx, I must be fair to Adam Smith. Smith’s vision was of a marketplace with the equivalent of infinite players; anyone could opt in, and anyone could opt out because the costs of participation was low (think oat farmers and bread bakers in Scotland in 1776). Given enough choices of oats from farmers and bakers to sell oats to, this would drive down costs and increase quality. In fact, the lost ideal of The Wealth of Nations was to make life better for consumers, not producers, and certainly not money-lenders. Smith was an enemy of monopolies for this very reason.

        The problem is obvious: very few markers look remotely like this (consumer electronics is one of the few that comes to mind). So Smith wasn’t so much wrong as largely inapplicable to most real-world situations. The perversion of Smith is that his modern-day acolytes (who never read the damn book, just quotes from it and bastardizations from the later 19th century) obsessively stress the individual in this matrix of buying and selling, while Smith put the emphasis on the social good of markets like the one I described above. Profit was a reward for producers playing the game, but one circumscribed by competition which was to drive down costs and limit profits. The real winner was supposed to be the average Angus who could buy more things at lower costs if he didn’t have to deal with a government sponsored monopoly or corporation.

        1. financial matters

          I think Adam Smith was an idealist in his own way and developed a useful model. My above comment is more as you point out that it didn’t apply to most real- world situations. Models are helpful but if taken to the extreme can make economists think that their complicated mathematical formulas actually represent an objective ‘free market’ and should influence policy decisions.

          It takes debt and credit, slavery and servitude, and human emotion out of the equation and just has the basis of a ‘rational’ individual. This may have been the beginnings of the ‘science’ of economics, but if used wrongly these can sabotage the meaningful social and political aspects of a healthy ‘economic’ life.

          I just watched a great movie ‘Chasing Ice’ about our vanishing glaciers. It shows a lot of beauty and determination but also highlights the fragility of the very air we are breathing. Funding basic science can help us deal with important problems of alternative fuels, sustainable food and environments but take more of a long term approach by people who care about society.

        2. craazyboy

          I think that there should be a law that our present day shamans should not be allowed to contact dead economists and ask them questions about today’s global economy and then tell us what the dead economists think about it.

          1. James Levy

            True–no scientist today asks themselves, “what would Faraday or Pasteur think about this?” Great as they were, their ideas today would almost certainly be irrelevant.

          2. bh2

            Economics by seance produces exactly the failed policies you would expect. Unfortunately, the only thing worse than paying attention to dead economists is paying attention to living ones. They all give soothsaying a bad name.

    5. anon y'mouse

      who wins what tokens and who gets to sacrifice others is all a joke. the agreed-upon end is within sight.

  6. Aaron Layman

    “There is a certain degree of uncertainty of what could happen if an agreement on the debt ceiling is not reached. I tend to believe that there will be neither a run on the dollar nor a collapse of the world economy, as some expect. It seems unlikely that the euro, or the yen, let alone the yuan, would replace the dollar.”

    Interesting point, but I think it borders on the view of American exceptionalism. In a blind taste test of favored currencies, with just the recent data and government actions to guide your decision, I’m not so sure that argument holds water. As they say, you never really appreciate something until it’s gone!

    1. Jill

      I see that I did not link to the source for the above. It’s at Greenwald’s twitter. The person who wrote it is, Liliana Segura. I also found this article at Glen’s which I belive directly speaks to what is happening in our nation.

      People are being discouraged from making connections. Without connections and history people are easily propagandized into thinking everything is divided between parties. We litterally cannot see how everything flows together, each feeding off the other as Lambert is showing here.

      “n “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” one of the most poignant and important works of 20th-century philosophy, Hannah Arendt made an observation about what she called “the banality of evil.” One interpretation of this holds that it was not an observation about what a regular guy Adolf Eichmann seemed to be, but rather a statement about what happens when people play their “proper” roles within a system, following prescribed conduct with respect to that system, while remaining blind to the moral consequences of what the system was doing — or at least compartmentalizing and ignoring those consequences.

      1. Banger

        Spot on! Arendt and others who followed her were a strong influence on radical thought of the sixties–alas, people tend not to read anymore or think deeply.

        Making connections is what the mainstream media does not do. It presents us with a view of history that, following Churchill, is “one damn thing after another” and that’s the height of stupidity. History is a flow that came from somewhere and is going somewhere and this is denied by the mainstream media and the American intellectual class more so on the left than traditional right.

        1. nobody


          Do we ever know where history is really made?

          History throws its empty bottles out the window.

          History only tastes bitter to those who expected it to be sugar coated.

          That’s the way the breakers recede. And so predictably that one has to believe in a kind of amnesia of the future that history distributes through mercy or calculation to those whom it recruits. That’s how history advances, plugging its memory as one plugs one’s ears. She doesn’t care, she understands nothing, she has only one friend, the one Brando spoke of in Apocalypse: horror. That has a name and a face.

          And politics?

          Politics is the mark history makes on the present.

      2. skippy

        I thought the connection was as a species, where the divisions, are demarcations of more ancient origins, fueled by ignorance.

        Eichmann I would proffer… would be of the latter category, the aplomb in which he did his service is a tell.

        Skippy… methinks he understood his morals all to well.

        PS. all do respect to Hannah Arendt of course.

      3. diptherio

        “The trader with the whisky, it must be admitted, is certain of getting the most furs…There are many honorable and highminded citizens in this trade, but expediency overcomes their objections and reconciles them for the sake of the profits of the trade.”

        In stating this fact, McKenney was unwittingly enunciating a profound truth, the force of which mankind is only now beginning to realize, that the pursuit of profit will transform natures inherently capable of much good into sordid, cruel beasts of prey, and accustom them to committing actions so despicable, so inhuman, that they would be terrified were it not that the world is under the sway of the profit system and not merely excuses and condones, but justifies and throws a glamour about, the unutterable degradations and crimes which the profit system calls forth.
        ~Gustavus Myers, History of the Great American Fortunes, vol.1

  7. Thomas McGovern

    Re: “the alternative to “Obamacare” proposed by the GOP is nonexistent.” What about Medicare?

    1. James Levy

      Um, ah, are you implying that the Republicans a positing “Medicare for all”? Obamacare, however deeply tied it may be to the Pharma/Insurance/HMO nexus, is designed to get the 47 or so million Americans who have no health care insurance covered so that they might, just might, contemplate a little preventative and remedial health care short of a trip to the emergency room.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Even ObamaCare’s informed proponents admit that a maximum of half those uninsured will be covered when the program is fully implemented. ObamaCare is in no sense “universal,” and had it been intended to be, it would have been designed to be.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Shhhh … don’t disturb the deafening golden silence. There is no alternative to the insurance-racket/Big-Pharma bailout, aka ObamneyCare. Medicare is the obvious, efficient, cost-effective solution closest to what most civilized countries have, but because there is no profiteering from misery in that, it must not be discussed in public. Lambert Strether has often addressed this immoral censorship. The only time TP protesters addressed it was with signs warning — “keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

      And so Obama the “socialist” actually reduced funding to the one real solution. When Medicare once again never appears on the POTUS teleprompter and is never broached in the MSM debate, it can’t be any more obvious that this crisis is staged for another Shock Doctrine assault on the safety net. The Great Betrayal is coming.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Yes, even though they are stepping all over each other’s feet, they all want that golden ring and they desperately feel time is running out for them to grab it.

  8. steve from virginia

    Another ‘comprehensive’ critique of our various crises and not a word about energy.

    Modernity runs on high-order fossil fuels, all depend upon petroleum … extremely low cost petroleum. Because petroleum was cheap for so long, almost 100 years, citizens were encouraged to waste as much petroleum as possible, as fast as possible … which they did.

    There are consequences to multi-decade waste; supplies of inexpensive fuels of all kinds are constrained or exhausted. What remains are increasingly difficult to extract: the real cost of petroleum has jumped 6X in the past 15 years.

    Societies have borrowed to make up the difference but now credit costs have compounded the fuel costs, the economy as a whole is buckling under the cost burden.

    ” … the shutdown, together with the previous sequestration, and the overall contractionary fiscal stance, will most likely make the very slow recovery even slower, maintaining an unnecessarily large portion of the labor force unemployed.”

    There is never going to be any recovery at all, ever. Our fossil fuels were capital, once burned — for nothing — capital cannot be retrieved. It is gone almost forever, for 10s of millions of years, denied to future generations. What the managers have been hoping to do is recover destroyed capital by increasing the (money) claims against what remains. This is the idiocy, it is also the crisis.

    It is also un-acknowledged by those who should know better, the professional economists and other analysts who believe that there will always be energy available for us to waste, like they believe in Santa Claus.

    Because our economy is built on a foundation of capital destruction and waste, the diminution of available capital is irretrievably fatal; the economy is destroyed by its aggregated costs. This is underway right now under everyone’s nose.

    This effects the managers and tycoons more than other because their fortunes are borrowed, dependent upon the same others to repay; dependent therefore upon the maintenance of the status quo. They are just as lost and fearful as everyone else, maybe more so because they have much more to lose.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      There is never going to be any recovery at all, ever. -Virgina

      Point taken, but when the tide is going out there are still largish waves that occasionally wash higher ashore than the surrounding ones time wise and make it look like things are getting back to normal if only for a brief period. And that will happen here and the elite will be ready to plunder what they can each time. The problem is partly one of time scale and the way things appear to people who never get to see the bigger picture. Classic Easter Island problem.

      For the most part, however, the elite (for lack of a better equally short term) don’t care, even those who are aware of the moral crime, of the suffering, even those aware of possible to probable species extinction if you bring in another element not spoken of as often as it deserves, namely our environment. The elite are in the middle of a highly electrified experience, the global rape of humanity (the pathological imposition of their will over others), and in the urgency of the act they can’t be bothered with pangs of conscience, especially as the depravity of what they do is a part of the thrill. Look at the impossibly massive mansions they are putting up on beaches they know full well have a shelf life of decades at most and tell me they are not enjoying the thrill of their own depravity. Depravity mixed with fear is a lethal glue; they can’t break off.

    2. anon y'mouse

      I think they know it all too well. hence the jockeying for hereditary rights to be the ones To Be Paid rather than those who will pay.

      if everything is privatized, it is no objection to drive down the standards of everything in the name of costs. less toilet paper in the rolls, fewer nuts in the candybars, etc. are all things the customer gets used to. not necessarily so with the citizen and his rights, unless you sell that the right way (War on Terror).

  9. Glen

    I agree with your point that the Tea Party should not be characterized as idiots or stupid, nor even that they represent anything other than the logical ultimate goal of the Republican party. We may be looking at the next level of kabuki all within the Republican party itself, “We cannot control them, they are crazy”. at the same time that other Republicans are downplaying the consequences of a default.

    No, these people and their actions clearly make them members of the Republican party and clearly represent the goals of the Republican party. They are very successful at meeting their goals. By their actions, The House and Senate are essentially negotiating over the implementation details of the Ryan budget, By their actions, we have seriously reduced the Federal government’s ability to govern. By willingness to default on the debt, and yes, they are willing to push through this action, they may be able to fatally cripple the Federal government, and free those states they control to implement their policy goals. They must have big money backers that have gamed this out and think that their long term goals will benefit by these actions. So far, they have not been wrong.

    So far, the Democratic party has been “forced” to allow the Republican party’s actions to set the budget, just as they will be forced to offer up Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to further cuts. And despite the fact that so far Obama has been unwilling to allow further cuts to Obamacare, there will come a time when the Democratic party will be “forced” into accepting a rollback of those parts of the plan which are not completely corporate controlled.

    “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

    “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

    The Federal government is being dragged into the bathroom, and they will try to drown it. Their actions are not an aberration or “out of control” extremists, but the long stated goals of the Republican party.

  10. Jim

    It seems to be confidently assumed by a significant proportion of the growing NC community that some type of warmed-over neo-Marxist critique of modern capitalism is just what is needed to eventually mobilize our presently rather passive population to, at a minimum, eventually embrace a return to the glorious New Deal narrative which represented the status quo between 1933 and 1975 and, in my opinion, has served as the foundation for our, at present, terminal corruption– in both the public and private spheres.

    While traditional class struggle ended in our county when the labor movement was integrated into State power after 1933, our majority commetariat, still seems to hope that class anger/rage and hatred can once again become the key foundation for future political mobilization (despite the catastrophic consequences of such successful mobilizations in the 20 th century (think Soviet Union, China, Germany).

    If the foundation of our crisis in now cultural, not purely economic, then quite different strategies for eventual mobilization would seem to be necessary.

    Some issues which could explored, if the key assumptions behind neo-Marxist thinking are ever questioned– might include the following:

    What are the linkages between governing oneself and governing others?

    Can we approach a new politics more obliquely, through ethics, offering the eventual potential to mobilize a portion of the evangelical right to our side?

    Would a concern for individual self-transformation have a resonance far beyond class?

    Could a new form of asceticism and virtue ever replace class hatred and rage as a more effective mobilizing strategy?

    In order to have a different society do we need to go deeper to transform ourselves?

    1. James Levy

      The class that hates is the upper class. In America, the normal run of middling folk, and even many of the poor, were happy to leave the rich wealthy so long as they governed effectively, didn’t act like leeches, and gave some bright young people a chance to climb the ladder of “success.” The hate has come for years from people like Mitt Romney and his 47% taker bullshit and Ronnie Reagan’s “welfare queens”. Please don’t peddle any false equivalence nonsense here. We know a bit too much history for that. If the poor and middle class are finally getting angry at a strata of society that engineered the system that gave them 95% of the rewards in whatever kind of “recovery” we’ve been experiencing for the last four years then it is about time.

      1. Banger

        I don’t see the anger as pointed towards the elites. They are far too slick to let that happen–don’t forget they have at their hands the most sophisticated mind-control apparatus know to man. Large numbers of the poor are retreating into tribalism not critiquing the rich.

      2. Jim

        James Levy:

        To what degree do you believe class thinking is responsible for the release of genocidal energies in the 20th century?

        To what extent is class primarily a descriptive sociological term largely strategic in nature, a term which is really interested in creating a type of combat collective for fomenting civil war?

        1. craazyboy

          One for you, 10 for me, one for you, 20 for me, one for you, 30 for me…

          This is what got the first King Caveman killed.

    2. Banger

      I’ve been specifically arguing for something very much like this. I don’t think the current state of Marxian analysis is very good (no fault of Marx though).

      The issue we have is that we don’t recognize the many dimensions of our political situation. The real conflict that the Tea Party reveals is the conflict between those of us who align ourselves with the general line of Western Civilization and those who oppose modernism (that is the foundation of our civilization) for some romantic idea of feudalism or the Wild West. If you accept rationalism, science and Western values you cannot possibly argue for Tea Party ideas or even, at this point, mainstream RP ideas.

      And if you are rational you cannot, also, accept the Democratic Party as anything but a political party of operatives, hustlers, con artists, opportunists and cowards.

      What to do? You are right a re-examination of ethics and values is key to any success of the left. Fortunately, there is no other game–the right is just floundering in it’s irrationalism and the center is too corrupt for anyone to take seriously that leaves the left to pick up the pieces. This is our opportunity.

      1. Jim


        Couldn’t agree with you more about a potential opportunity–but the attempted shift from a theory of class society with its vertical differentiation expressed only through repression and privilege towards a situation of vertical differentiation primarily based on asceticism and virtue will be filled with shouts of selling out that old revolutionary dream– but I never was much for neo-Marxist political correctness.

  11. Jim

    It seems to be confidently assumed by a significant proportion of the gradually growing NC community that some type of warmed-over neo-Marxist critique of modern capitalism is just what is needed to eventually mobilize our presently rather passive population to, at a minimum, eventually embrace a return to the glorious New Deal narrative and structure of power which represented the status quo between 1933 and 1975 and, in my opinion, has served as the launching pad for our, at present, terminal corruption–in both the public and private sectors.

    While traditional class struggle largely ended in our country when the labor movement was integrated into State power after 1933, the sentiment of our majority commetariat still seems to hope that class anger/rage/hatred can once again become the key foundation for future political mobilization(despite the catastrophic consequences of such successful mobilizations in the 20th century(think Soviet Union, China, Germany).

    But if the foundation of our present crisis in now primarily cultural(taken the degree of corruption which now permeates Big Capital, Big Bank and Big State,)rather then purely economic, then quite different strategies for eventual mobilization would seem to be necessary.

    Some issues which could be explored, if the key assumptions behind neo-Marxist thinking are ever questioned–include the following:

    Could we approach a new politics more obliquely, through ethics, offering the potential to possibly mobilize a portion of the evangelical right to our side?

    Would such a concern for individual self-transformation have a resonance far beyond class?

    Could a new form of asceticism and virtue ever replace class hatred and rage as a more effective mobilizing strategy?

    Could such a new vision detail the linkages between–better governing ourselves and better governing others?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      In fact, I think “the revolutionary dream” is a problem. It might be a good idea to let go of it.

      That said, the straw is piled pretty high in your comment. I mean, I’m not sure that “the left,” as a category, is even sensible (both senses) despite Banger’s definition of the term (second draft, short enough go on a post card, please ;-)

      UPDATE Adding… The Archdruid seems to be covering your new vertical beat.

  12. Jim

    “Starve the Beast!” “Cut Taxes!” “Eliminate social programs!”
    That has been the Republican agenda for the past 30 years.
    The Tea Party is on steroids to get to the ultimate ENDGAME!

    What is the ENDGAME???
    Sell off all of the government’s non-military assets, starting with its historical landholdings with valuable natural resources, national forests, and national parks. Eventually, even essential government buildings would be sold and leased back.
    Who benefits from this? Foreigners and under-taxed wealth accumulators who have access to large funds to buy up our American legacy.

    1. Doug Terpsra

      And with Obama we now have nearly perfect bipartisanship, behind the curtain. Off-stage, both parties are in perfect accord, despite cosmetic and costume differences.

  13. Shane Schmidt

    However stupidity enables the class warfare you discuss. Cruz, Bachmann et al are symptoms of a bigger problem. They show that people do not understand the system and how it affects their best interests. It take much more than a cabal of bad people to guide destructive policy. You need millions of voters to create a sense of populism. People like Bachmann and Cruz don’t have a lick of sense. They survive only because people are poorly informed…or stupid.

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