22 October 2008

Henwood article

Doug Henwood has a good piece on the latest crisis. I'm especially fond of the last two paragraphs:

This is the point where it’s irresistibly tempting to call for a re-regulation of finance. And that is sorely needed. But we also need to remember why finance, like many other areas of economic life, was deregulated starting in the 1970s. From the point of view of the elite, corporate profits were too low, workers were too demanding and the hand of government was too heavy. Deregulation was part of a broad assault to make the economy more ‘flexible’, which translated into stagnant to declining wages and rising job insecurity for most Americans. And the medicine worked, from the elites’ point of view. Corporate profitability rose dramatically from the early 1980s until sometime last year. The polarization of incomes wasn’t an unwanted side effect of the medicine — it was part of the cure.

This is the elephant in the room that we're all taught to ignore. The current crisis didn't come about because the system "failed to work." We're where we're at because the system worked too well. The crème de la crème continued to skim cream off the top as the milk underneath soured.

Although we’re hearing a lot now about how the Reagan era is over and the era of big government is back, an expanded government isn’t likely to do much more than rescue a failing financial system (in addition to the more familiar pursuits of waging war and jailing people). Nothing more humane will be pursued without a far more energised populace than we have. After this financial crisis and the likely bailout, it looks impossible to go back to the status quo ante — but we don’t seem ready to move on to something appealingly new yet, either.

Henwood nails the point here. When we live in a context in which a key piece of anti-Obama rhetoric (albeit, one that hasn't been effective) is that he wants to "spread the wealth" and "be fair," there's something amiss with the class consciousness of the lower 99% of Americans (including those Joes who make less that 250 grand a year.) OF COURSE, WE WANT TO SPREAD THE WEALTH WHICH WE PRODUCED! I'd like to spread some of that wealth so that I received it instead of it falling into the hands of some fatcat who had gotten his clammy hands on it via some economic voodoo inherent in our current system. If a desire to keep at least a decent portion of the wealth that I help produce is socialism, communism, islamo-fascism, or whacko-leftism, so be it. I'm less concerned with titles and mottoes and more concerned with outcomes. But as Henwood says, we currently live in an ideological desert, with plenty of dissent and few productive avenues for it flow.


libhom said...

I find Henwood's show on WBAI fascinating, since it's the only opportunity to listen to a Marxist economist I really have. However, I think his view of a ideologically bereft populace ignores liberal and non-Marxist progressive voices on the Internet.

Also, I think he sometimes buys too much into the notion that we must either go along with everything corporate interests want or we have to destroy capitalism and start over. There are other options.

Karlo said...

This is the first time I'd come across the name.

Jodi said...

good post--particularly on spread the wealth; I can't figure our why the McCain people think that folks wouldn't agree with that. It seems almost like a slogan for the lottery or Wal-Mart, really innocuous. But may the very obviousness of it to some of us (or me?) belies the threat to the elites.

libhom said...

Karlo: Here's his main gig.

Karlo said...

I'll listen to it when I get a chance. Thanks! And I agree with you Jodi. Sometimes we get our hands slapped for speaking to directly. We're supposed to ignore that widening gap with the top 1% and conclude that the other 99% of us are just too lazy and too stupid. The truth is we're stupid to put up with it.