March 20, 2009

Bail Out!

Here’s a few notes toward collecting my thoughts on the bailout policy.

Basically, we have (1) a corporatist, neo-feudalist elite, and (2) a veritable bubble society, where the whole basis of the economy and social psychology, indeed the whole culture, is exponential debt and gold rushes.

The elite manages to achieve ever more concentrated wealth and power through a general political agenda and through disaster capitalism, which affords an ever more frequent litany of opportunities.

The two-party winner-take-all pseudo-democracy enables them every step of the way. Politicians are both corrupt and either corporatist ideologues or brainwashed into “capitalist” mythology. (Paul Krugman on his blog gave his assessment that Obama doesn’t want to nationalize these bank-derived structures simply because he’s “culturally” averse to it. Brainwashing.)

I think it does look like Obama’s presidency has already failed. It certainly will if he continues down this path. Obama may not be corrupt like Bush, but he does seem ideologically just as committed to the Bush economic agenda. (We can call it the Clinton-Bush-Obama corporatist agenda.)

What’s worse, his entire temperamental thrust seems to be toward appeasement. His apparent obsession with “bipartisanship” and appeasement is inexplicable from any point of view other than being a basic character flaw. After all, how is it possible to have been paying attention to the way things have gone the past few decades and still believe it’s possible to appease the republicans, unless you have some desperate personal dream of doing so?

Seeing these giant bank structures using money extorted from the public to gobble up smaller, real banks, I’ve long been asking (it seems obvious to me), if we need this massive public bailout, because failure at the top, and on Wall St, will reverberate to Main St, then why don’t we go to the real links in the chain and shore up the real, local, real deposit/real lending banks (as opposed to these castle-in-the-clouds bank-derived structures who just lend one another funny money in a round-robin ponzi scheme)? Why don’t we shield these (there have to be ways at least as effective, and probably alot simpler) from those alleged reverbs, as we let the cancerous growth die off (or better yet burn it off)?

(Basing everything at the smaller bank level would also provide a better base from which to launch the “stimulus”.)

One last point, regarding the poor being inexplicably willing to crucify themselves on debt disaster which wasn’t even their own fault, in a way the rich would never do: This is the same question Thomas Frank wrestled with in What’s the Matter With Kansas? , why do so many among the lower classes support Republican policies which are so obviously radically against their economic interests? Presumably the answer isn’t just stupidity and clever manipulation of “culture war” issues.

I had occasion to think about this the other day when I was rereading part of Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism. She referred to how the unclassed, atomized masses of post-WWI Europe, especially in Germany and other places wracked by hyperinflation, insurrection,  and other economic and social upheaval, developed a strangely selfless way of looking at day-to-day life (“selfless” in the sense of not looking to their socioeconomic interests), while at the same time they became keenly interested in ideology, conspiracy theories, culture war issues, etc., as a kind of mass political escapism, and that this helped prepare the ground for the rise of totalitarianism.

We’re still very early in the world-historical crisis. To paraphrase Churchill, we’re still in the “beginning of the beginning”. But I wonder if people, especially in America where class consciousness has always been artificially repressed, and rational self-interest may therefore be an atrophied faculty (and not only among the poor), are already beginning to check out on “reality” (i.e. give up on really trying to roll up their sleeves and tackle a problem) and fly off into escapes.

Eight years of George Bush is difficult to explain otherwise. And that Obama can clearly signal that he intends to largely continue with the Bush agenda, and not immediately bring down mass protest (where are all the people who supposedly wanted “change”?), is also difficult to explain otherwise. 

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