Volatility

August 17, 2011

MMT Housekeeping (The Lost NC Comments)

Filed under: Reformism Can't Work, Sovereignty and Constitution — Tags: , , — Russ @ 1:49 am

>

Sorry to indulge myself, but blogger’s prerogative, reasons of state, force majeure and all:
 
It’s insufferable when NC goes haywire and absolutely refuses to post a comment (and no one ever plucks it out of moderation limbo, where I know this one was). And it’s never what I consider a throwaway comment, but one I consider worthwhile, in this case about the proper use of MMT.
 
Replying to this comment (my other comments are there in the thread) :
 
 

addictedsays:

Except NYT commenters (and readers) DONT know the basics of MMT (and if they did, then this blog post wouldn’t even be necessary). Again, there are a set of regular commenters, who would essentially post the same comment on every blog post of his, nearly every time, claiming, as Krugman states, that deficits don’t matter, without the inflationary qualifier.

But either way, your comment “No matter how much everyone involved knows the basics of a point, unless its advocate explicates each and every one of those basics in each and every comment, its detractor is justified in claiming he doesn’t imply the omitted basics” applies to Yves’ blog post equally.

Bottom line is that Krugman, in this instance (he may have on other instances), wasn’t mischaracterizing MMT. He was correctly characterizing the position explicated multiple times, by “MMT types” in his comments.***

My reply:

Maybe we’re talking about a different line of argument. The fact is, deficits don’t matter, period. And everyone knows it.
 
Can you name anyone whose actions indicate he believes deficits matter? Certainly no one in government or the political class, who all advocate ever-bigger government and ever-bigger deficits, but only for corporate welfare.
 
The “deficits matter” Big Lie is only trotted out to give a pretext for gutting public interest spending. So “deficits matter” is only asserted by deficit terrorists who don’t actually believe it, but are merely lying as part of a political attack.
 
So perhaps these commenters you refer to are merely using MMT to bolster a broader argument. (And why not? Shouldn’t MMT serve some constructive purpose instead of just fueling the fantasies of unreconstructed statists?)
 
Or perhaps, on the contrary, they’re pro-banksters who are merely slandering the MMT idea by intentionally misrepresenting it. (In which case, why would Krugman go along with this sham rather than counterattack it? Unless he actually agreed with it.)
 
Either way, I stand by my initial assessment that the commenters know the basics, and Krugman knows they know.
 
***
 
Same thing next day, this thread.
 
 
My comment quoted part of someone else’s comment to which I was replying:
 
“in MMT we behold yet another ideological motif in the political tendency known as bourgeois reformism, which claims that the evils of capitalism can be mitigated or done away with altogether while keeping intact the rule of capitalism as a system.”
 
Yes, that’s evidently the MMTer psychology. The “theory” is really just a vehicle of unreconstructed statist fantasies. Fantasies of “good government” and so on. It’s another way of zombifying faith in “better elites”. It’s another Special Case economics.
 
But in practice, what they really picture happening or actually propose always falls far, far short of the soaring theoretical potentialities (for example, taken to its logical consummation, MMT is inherently anti-propertarian). Their indelible reformist meagerness comes through in things like proposed “Jobs Guarantees” which would guarantee only minimum wage makework which scrupulously avoids competing with the private sector.
 
Such picayune proposals demonstrate how MMTers are really the same old craven reformists in practice, who merely want to dress up their paucity with a highfalutin “theory”. Show me an MMTer who openly says that MMT means the store of value function is illegitimate, from which it follows that all hoarded property is illegitimate, and that policy should follow from that truth, and I’d say now we’re cooking. But I won’t hold my breath.
 
Any constructive use of the MMT idea will come independently of, and probably counter to, the intentions of the establishment MMTers themselves. But “MMT” as a pseudo-radicalism which will always be used to herd people back toward paltry reformism is a pernicious thing.

February 10, 2011

The Revolution of Food

 

Two years ago a hideous surge in food prices triggered spontaneous crowd scenes the MSM termed “food riots”. These stout writers and editors didn’t let us know how they think they’d fare if they and their families were being intentionally starved amid plenteous food, on account of purely artificial scarcity generated by purely political choices made by criminals. Today this food stagflation is upon us again, and this time it looks permanent.
 
We’ve long known the nature of these political decisions. It’s fundamental to capitalism that scarcity be generated amidst plenty. This is accomplished by stealing the vast majority of what the productive people grow and craft. In the case of agriculture, the basic mechanisms of this crime were land enclosure in the West and globalization for much of the global South. The result in both cases was to drive vast amounts of people off the land, generating mass migrations similar to the barbarian migrations into Europe in the first millennium. This migration headed to the shantytowns of the cities (and their ghetto and project and trailer park, and now tent city, equivalents in America). In the wake of globalization, in line with the new feudalism, the South is undergoing a new onslaught of land enclosures, as regional kleptocracies “sell” vast amounts of land in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and elsewhere to corporations and conglomerates from places like Sweden, the UK, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and of course Wall Street.
 
The number one reason for this new colonial land grab is to grow jatropha and palm oil feedstock for biofuels. This is just the latest and most malevolent result of the West’s biofuel mandates, a policy as wicked as it is irrational. Within a country like the US, ethanol mandates are pure corporate welfare, and globally they serve only to degrade the environment, cause further rainforest destruction and greenhouse gas emissions, and drive up the price of food by diverting it from the mouths of billions of the most vulnerable to the gas tanks of the richest and fattest. Now they’re also the engine of the new feudal enclosures.
 
These assaults on the Southern farmer are the latest depredation of the same globalization in agriculture which has dumped subsidized Western commodities on the domestic markets of almost every country. The goal here was to force all agriculture on Earth, the vast amount of which is logically subsistence agriculture and agriculture grown for local and regional markets, to conform to the practices, prices, and power relations of globalized corporate commodity agriculture. At the same time the IMF, as part of its structural adjustment assaults, forced most of these countries to dismantle their well-functioning state investment programs whose explicit goals had been to assure decent prices for their farmers and make affordable credit available to them. This helped keep much of the wealth generated by small farmers in the hands of those farmers. (If one chose, one could cite this as an example of a liberal government program which worked well. In that case, the Western liberals’ betrayal of such enlightened Southern governments in favor of Western globalization and agribusiness is just another on the ledger of their great crimes.) Today the dumping includes subsidized GMO crops as well as the proprietary seeds, which cabals like Bill Gates’ AGRA (Alliance for A Green Revolution in Africa) are trying to force upon these already beleaguered farmers, to further enforce this global indenture.
 
Another major driver of grain prices, similar to biofuel mandates, is the diversion of grain from food to feed for livestock. As more people in the East can afford to eat more meat, this generates more demand for the inefficient use of grain to feed cattle and pork rather than be used directly for food. The conversion rates are c. 7 grain calories to produce 1 calorie of beef; for pork it’s 4-5:1. People wanting to eat more meat isn’t intrinsically wicked the way using food to fuel one’s SUV is. What is evil is the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) mode of animal farming which has been designed to foster this conversion process. Everywhere CAFOs exist they’ve destroyed all independent cow and pig farmers and radically accelerated the food conversion process and concomitant structural price increase for grain. This process, too, has been subsidized by Western governments. 
 
Today every survey of food stagflation cites biofuel mandates, CAFOs (though they usually blame the consumers themselves; this was Bush’s favorite culprit) and the decline of agricultural investment as two of the main drivers. Over the last ten years, we can add food speculation to the indictment against Western capitalism. There’s been a lot of controversy lately over how much of an effect on prices food speculators really have. It’s true that they don’t have the same structural effect as subsidized commodity dumping, subsidized proprietary inputs and seeds, the forced privatization of investment, and biofuel mandates. These are all structural crimes. In light of these, speculators may serve as a scapegoat for some who want to politically shield these interests. Then we have globalization ideologues like Paul “It’s not class warfare” Krugman who are ardent to absolve all direct criminal actors of blame. So in desperation he blames poor harvests, this time in Russia, which are perhaps effects of climate change and its volatile weather patterns. He claims that the absence of evidence of significant grain hoarding proves his case. He trots out his stupid supply-demand graph which conveniently assumes and therefore conceals all the structural criminal aspects of the system, the crimes he spent years fighting to see committed. “Once we ignore the artificial scarcity built into the system, and all the rents it extracts, then we can call it a ‘market’. And once we’ve rationalized, moralized, normalized the status quo in this way, it’s easy to see that speculators can’t have any effect compared to a failed harvest.” 
 
But this whole line of argument is ridiculous. The very fact that climate change may be affecting harvests renders the effects of speculation all the more destructive, as the margin is that much more thin. The market already teeters on the brink of a price explosion even under the best conditions, on account of the system’s already being a hostage to global commodification in all its aspects. Under these conditions of structurally hardwired volatility, how much would a speculator have to hoard in order to drive up prices enough that his bets would win? I bet it’s not much. What other manipulations could a player like Goldman Sachs perform?
 
It’s common sense that if banksters start messing around with a market and the price explodes, they played a role in it, even if exactly how they did it isn’t always immediately clear. As Sherlock Holmes said to Watson, “If I asked you to prove two plus two is four you might have some trouble doing it, even though you know it’s true.”
 
So we have permanent food stagflation afflicting billions in the non-West as well as, increasingly, the West itself. We know this is not the result of supply-demand fundamentals, since supply has been grotesquely manipulated by power. Subsidies in the form of direct payments, tariffs, IP policy, and one-way globalization “treaties” which boil down to “free markets for me, prostrate victimization for you”, more than make up for any revenue which would otherwise be lost according to textbook supply inefficiencies. Globalization was never anything but colonialism by other means. And just as the original imperialism eventually came home politically to Europe in the form of totalitarian politics, so today’s globalization is coming home in the form of totalitarian corporate economic rule.
 
This is the essence of globalization, and it’s the structural reason for food stagflation as we descend into global depression and permanent mass unemployment (also an intentional policy). Food speculation is the last straw added to the already burning pile. Given how the banksters were the ones who coordinated the globalization onslaught, set in motion the process of mass permanent job destruction, and have now intentionally crashed the world’s real economy and used this as the pretext to steal trillions more in the form of the Bailout, it’s not surprising that their speculation in food is the most inflammatory element of the price explosion, even if relative to the structure its effect is supplementary. In essence, speculating in food, just like any predatory manipulation of food supplies, is a crime against humanity. All of commodity agriculture, and all proprietarianism related to it (it’s conceptually impossible to have a property right in any food plant, since commercialized plant varieties are already the result of thousands of years of grower selection and breeding, and any new work is merely a miniscule add-on, like placing a pebble on a mountain; any intellectual property is already long since hardwired into its public domain existence), is such a crime. So if food speculators are becoming the public face of infamy, this is really an armed robber and mass murderer being hanged for one of his lesser muggings. He still deserves it, of course. I’ll go along with whatever’s most politically effective, since it’s the same capital criminal. But our analysis should identify what’s fundamental (globalization itself, capitalism itself) and what’s ancillary. 
 
The peoples of the world know these crimes for what they are, evidently far better than those of the West itself. It makes sense – they have far more experience as the victims of these crimes. Unlike in 2008, they’re reacting to this new, permanent round of food price crime, not with “food riots” but with revolutions. I have high hopes that we’re finally seeing the anti-colonial movement resuming after so many decades of having been hijacked and subverted. This time the people of the world won’t fall for the lies of the West. They’ve been through this too many times before. This is the final bid for liberation, and although many of its initial demands will be political, it’s more profoundly about the people taking control of their economies. Most of all, it’s about food. These are lessons we’ll have to bring home to ourselves to meet the totalitarianism now coming home to us. Here too, it’ll be about food.
 
Meanwhile, I haven’t been seeing much of the MSM calling this a food riot anymore. That must be why they sound so confused, tentative, disgruntled - such easy dismissals will no longer be easy for them. Oh no! Somebody’s actually making them work! Horrible. Hopefully we’ll soon be making them work as well.

December 15, 2010

Smugman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Russ @ 2:19 am

 

In light of Paul Krugman’s recent pro-corporate proclamation, where he sneers that we should just lie back and enjoy corporate tyranny, that to want to fight it is “so sixties” anyway, I thought I’d ask a few questions about him of those who still believe in him.
 
The contention is that he’s a reformist, and even among those who reject reformism there’s a residual affection for him. Everything he says is, on its face, reformist at best. But as I’ve traced in many posts, I think he’s actually a pro-bank, pro-austerity manipulator who only poses as a citizen. Others think his pro-bank aspects are the pose. If he’s really a citizen advocate, that’s the secret. Others think they can detect this citizen advocacy in him, but it seems to me they can never adequately explain it. My explanation for what I think is a scam is that it’s precisely because Krugman has such (fraudulent) progressive credibility that he can astroturf better by posing as a real progressive, even though he’s not really that even in his pose.
 
But here’s my questions (versions of this can apply to many others as well):
 
1. You think Krugman is secretly on our side, and that if he had the power he’d come out in open opposition to the system. But he thinks he lacks that power, so he tries to change from within, tries to nudge, tries to persuade, to convince. “I joined the Party because I hoped to be a moderating influence from within.” You think he’s an appeaser, and you support him in that even if you reject it in others.
 
2. For the sake of argument, let’s say that’s true. But we know for a fact that appeasement of a criminal aggressor doesn’t work. It’s been tried innumerable times throughout history, and has failed every time. So even if that’s Krugman’s real mindset (I doubt it, but I grant it’s possible), it’s a pointless mindset. And when he explicitly rejects class war as being the enemy’s motive, it’s an objectively harmful, malicious mindset.
 
3. Krugman may possibly be that dumb, but why should any of us? So even if that is his mindset and strategy, why would anyone support him in it?
 
4. Why oppose my criticism of him? If Krugman is who you think he is, then my criticism would fall into the “make him do it” category. Because it’s clear that if Krugman really were on our side, the best thing he could do would be to come out in open opposition.
 
5. But again, I don’t believe that’s what he really is. I think he’s on their side, playing his role, which is make some of their worst crimes look “progressively” palatable. So I’m not trying to “make him do it”. I’m trying to convince people that Krugman is not our secret friend, but our enemy.
 
But he can prove me wrong any time he pleases.

November 23, 2010

Guns, Butter, and Bonuses (MMT, Money, and Deficits) Part 2

 

In part 1 I discussed some of the core lies of neoliberalism: That money creation is based on deposits; that we need the banks in order to create money; that money creation without risking runaway inflation is constrained by anything other than the capacity utilization of the economy; that under today’s Depression circumstances America faces any “deficit problem” at all other than the political one created by the criminals who are looking for a pretext to steal yet more trillions under the rubric of “austerity”.
 
Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), the latest incarnation of a much older idea once called producerism, greenbackerism, chartalism, and other names, teaches these truths. So in these senses MMT is objectively subversive of the particular status quo which afflicts us today. It means the banks have no legitimacy and shouldn’t exist at all.
 
Money creation is a sovereign power of the people, and a core responsibility of government if we’re to have a government at all. Whether done directly by the government or through the middleman of the banks, money creation is done out of thin air, simply by crediting the account of a loan or payment recipient. The right way to create money is to gauge the money supply to the productive capacity of the real economy. If there’s capacity underutilization, the government should engage in deficit spending to fill the gap, until it has done enough to stimulate the full productive capacity and full employment. This is MMT’s prescription, according to many of the MMTers I’ve read.
 
The most direct, efficient, rational, and productive way to do this is for government to directly issue money, directly credit accounts.
 
Contrary to popular propaganda, the banks don’t create money as a multiple of deposits, but simply create it out of thin air. They do this not for the sake of economic health, but for their privatized rent-seeking. They want nothing but control of money in order to steal as much of every transaction as possible. The banks tax economic activity at least as much as the government does, but bank taxation is far more destructive in principle. Government taxation, although usually excessive and tyrannical in practice*, can in principle be measured and used for the sake of rearranging wealth so that economic well-being and productivity is maximized. But bank taxation is never anything other than purely greedy, purely destructive, and never has any measure other than how much they can get away with stealing. That’s what the financialization of the economy is, the attachment of a permanent financial parasite to the real productive activity of a people. This parasite does nothing but suck ever larger amounts of our life blood, steadily weakening us and even achieving motor control over our actions.
 
[*Today we have terminal kleptocracy, and this government, itself a creature of the banks, will never tax for any purpose other than to help the banks and corporations steal. So I'm certainly not calling for this particular government to tax more. On the contrary I say we must reject and resist all new or extended taxes on the non-rich.
 
In this discussion I only want to establish the principle that, as a matter of reformist philosophy, for the government to resume the full money creation and taxation power from the banks would be a progressive step.
 
But in the end we must get rid of centralized government as well.] 
 
Once the banks have financialized the economy, they believe in and demand rampant deficit spending, but they want it detached from all real production. Under financialization, the currency becomes mere funny money for bankster gambling and speculation, while all losses and destructive effects are socialized on the productive people.
 
Toward this end, the bankster-bought government has alienated its sovereign currency and its sovereign power. Thanks to the government’s corruption and abdication, the banks create money, not for socially and economically productive ends, but for destructive profiteering.
 
But the government could just as easily reclaim its money sovereignty and directly issue the money, and do so toward the goal of a healthy, productive real economy. We wouldn’t need the big banks to exist at all, and could be rid of them. There would be no threat of destructive inflation from this money issuance so long as there’s major capacity overhang and unemployment in the economy, as there is today.
 
Meanwhile the banks encourage unhealthy corporatist deficit spending (A2 = C, in my terminology from part 1, instead of the healthy A1 = B), and neo-austerity-mongers like Krugman embark upon their own bait and switch, wanting to surreptitiously switch in A2 for the A1 they previously advocated, and the C for the B. But they face two prospects of change: The possibility of having to capitulate to deflation at some point; and the possibility that the old greenbacker idea, in today’s MMT form, will get more and more traction.
 
As a contingency plan, they’ve started floating trial balloons for a restored gold standard. This is an old bankster trick. In the short run, it’s standard political misdirection. In the 19th century they used to call it “sound money” and “honest money”, and this does have a surface plausibility.
 
In the long run, any metal standard is always used to artificially constrict the money supply among participants in the real economy, in order to force them into debt. Whether it’s a time of real inflation or real deflation, the gold standard is used the same way, as a depressant and control over the non-finance sectors, and especially the non-rich. In our circumstance, as deflation definitively sets in, a gold standard would be used by the banksters to accelerate it beyond its natural pace, in order to more effectively impose debt indenture and strangulation. A gold standard would simply be austerity by other means.
 
So there’s more evidence that the true reform solution, if we’re to continue with a centralized economy at all, is that:
 
1. The government should directly issue greenbacks;
 
2. toward economically productive goals.
 
No “finance sector” necessary.
 
So the reformist MMT idea is an attempted end run around the criminal hoarding of social wealth on the part of the banks and corporations. The call for direct government issuance, including deficit spending when the economy is depressed, would be an attempt to bring the circulating supply of money in line with the economy’s productive capacity and counteract the intentional withholding of money from the economy by rent-seeking criminals who hoard that money (all stolen), and who do so in order to prop up those same rents.
 
There are various proposals which mean in effect crediting the accounts of the unemployed. Right there we can already see a structural weakness in the concept, since it seems to assume the continuance of bank accounts. Well, maybe it could refer only to local banks, credit unions, state banks. (I’m going to expand on a few of these ideas in an upcoming post on state banking.) The proposals could be called partial refunds of our money the banks stole through the Bailout.
 
While I’m not calling for such a program myself, let me stress that Washington already does “credit the bank accounts” of the unemployed. It’s just that these particular unemployed are the parasites of the FIRE sector, Pentagon sector, Big Ag, and all the rest of the corporate welfare recipients who do no work at all, who only destroy. Meanwhile to give money directly to the nominal unemployed would in fact be giving the money to productive workers who are unemployed only because those same banks intentionally destroyed their jobs.
 
This is in fact what MMTers advocate. Here’s a typical proposal from Marshall Auerback:
 

What we desperately need to do is to increase our deficit by several percentage points of GDP and offer public sector jobs to all those who want one. Government as Employer of Last Resort is one idea I have been pushing (along with Randy Wray, Bill Mitchell and a host of other people). As I said in an earlier post,

The U.S. Government can proceed directly to zero unemployment by hiring all of the labor that cannot find private sector employment. Furthermore, by fixing the wage paid under this ELR program at a level that does not disrupt existing labor markets, i.e., a wage level close to the existing minimum wage, substantive price stability can be expected. Other benefits could be provided, including vacation and sick leave, and contributions to Social Security and, most importantly, health care benefits, providing scope for a bottom up reform of the current patchwork health care system……

At any rate, what we desperately need to do is to increase our deficit by several percentage points of GDP and offer public sector jobs to all those who want one. We thus have to aim to ensure public spending fills the gap left by non-government saving (a consolidated position combining the private domestic and foreign sectors) and keeps aggregate demand growing at such a rate that it provides scope for the private savings desires to be realised without compromising our public purpose goal to ensure there is sustained full employment and inclusive income distribution outcomes.

But by far the majority of the unemployed workers could be offered a minimum wage job to work on community and environmental care projects for as long as they desired. I would suggest we also raise the minimum wage so that everyone has access to decent housing and health care etc. But the ELR scheme would only be offering a wage to workers who have no market bid for their services by definition. It will give them a job, some income security, will add to aggregate demand and help stimulate a broader recovery and, in itself, will not be inflationary.

 
As Auerback says, many of his colleagues support similar ideas. While I reject the specifics*, it’s good that the basic idea is spreading. It’s a cognitive rebellion against the structural bank paradigm itself, and against the deficit terrorist “austerity” propaganda and policy demands.
 
[*What's wrong with specific MMT-related job creation programs:
 
1. They still want this job creation within the capitalist framework, and explicitly don't want to create living wage jobs. (Edit: Cf. comments below for more on this. My critique here may not apply to every proposal.)
 
2. Nor are the jobs supposed to compete with the inefficient, uncompetitive private sector. So these proposals want the worst of capitalism in every aspect, the structural inefficiency and incompetence as well as the exploitation of the worker.
 
3. No doubt in practice the disbursement and administration would be corporatized. We saw how Obama's idea of "job creation" is employer tax credits, i.e. another useless, expensive corporate toll booth. No other job creation program under corporate circumstances is likely to be executed any differently.
 
4. What these proposals really want to do is deliver a modest direct payment, but because they think it would be more politically palatable, they want to launder it through degrading makework. But I don't think even the politics would work out that way. Nobody seems willing to learn, you can't appease neoliberalism. Anything you try to do, good or meager, will be equally demonized. So why not demand the good, instead of a program which looks like real-life version of a caricature from a conservative polemic?
 
If you want a job creation program, go for the jugular, and do it with pride. Let it be real work at a real wage. Compete directly with the inefficient private sector, and proclaim that competition as a selling point, not a matter for fear and shame the way these guys seem to think it is. One can never win politically through timidity and appeasement. The best chance is always to seek to compel respect through an honest, frontal assault.]
 
In the end this is will all still be academic if it takes the current political parameters as given. For there to be effective fiscal policy change presupposes a general, radical political transformation. I think MMT can be part of the mix of transformative ideas, but is doomed to be relegated to arcana if its advocates see themselves as mere “reformers within the system”, and maybe not even that.
 
Here’s how I see things. My moral derivation from MMT (which I’m not claiming is part of MMT, but which I do claim morally and rationally follows from it) is that since money in itself has value only on account of government fiat (because government will accept it for tax purposes), therefore it follows that money can never legitimately serve as a “store of value”.
 
It can count as “property” only where it’s actually circulating or fermenting as a truly productive investment. Only then is it participating in the public life of the society which gives it life in the first place.
 
Money being hoarded, antisocial money, money as a store of value, in effect has no right to exist at all, and should be restituted to its proper owner to be put to its proper use. “Store of value” represents unproductive, parasitic hoarding of the public resource. Resources must be used productively in order to confer legitimacy of possession upon the possessor. One is a participant in the economy to the extent he is an agent of the velocity of useful, constructive activity (not mere “velocity of money”). One who’s not such a participant has no valid claim on society’s resources. That includes all rentier parasites. Hoarded “property” is nothing but stagnation, rot.
 
Hoarded wealth is both useless and pathological. Since all wealth is produced by people working together, even if we agreed to channel more of it through some hands than others, this could be fair and efficient only if the intent were to give them greater opportunity to enjoy the wealth only through the act of recirculating it, spending it in the real economy.
 
But for someone so blessed to instead hoard and financialize is a double-cross. It’s breaking the deal which distributed that wealth in the first place. (As for the “investment” justification, history has empirically proven that beyond a modicum, concentrated wealth is not productively invested but is used for unproductive, destructive speculation and gambling. In the same vein, corporations which aren’t producing but merely hoarding, as so many are today, have no right to be “taking profits” at all. By definition any such extractions are just looting. Under today’s post-capitalist conditions, the forms of capitalism are no longer valid. They’re worthless and worse than worthless. Pernicious.)
 
This is the basic critique of idle, useless “property”: Since all value is a cooperative endeavor, and the only rationale for allowing property rights would be to increase the cooperative value and happiness, therefore as individuals and groups we have a legitimate right to useful possession, but none to stagnant hoarded “property”. We should apply this to money, purging the “store of value” concept.
 
So that’s why I say sitting on wealth, relegating it to unproductivity, is useless in any practical sense, and has no moral validity because it abrogates the social contract under which it was unequally distributed in the first place. Only constructive velocity can justify inequality of distribution. (Again, wealth is cooperatively generated in the first place. Even the greatest thinker still stands on the shoulders of his predecessors, and on the education society provided him. And he then depends upon the resources of nature and the work of many others to bring his ideas to fruition.)
 
In all this I’m referring to large wealth concentrations. I’m not referring to attempts at saving on the part of the non-rich under this system, where people are forced by circumstances to try to save for the hardships of the future, since we have no adequate social support system or safety net. The neoliberal barbarians of today want to do away with civilization itself.
 
But in a human community there would never be any need or justification for unproductive hoarding. Useful possession is the measure of legitimate possession. MMT supports this with its proposition that since money is created only by the government, and only as an economic lubricant of the productivity of the people, money as a “store of value”, that is the hoarding of it, has no rational or moral legitimacy.
 
So getting back to MMT’s accounting identity, here’s the course of action to render things morally and rationally valid: The government can run a deficit in order to stimulate the depressed real economy (this depression being accounted for by the “surplus” hoarded by the banks and corporations), so its production recovers from the vandalism inflicted upon it by the banks, and counteracts their depressive criminal assaults which destroy jobs and relegate resources to uselessness. The government could even redeem its sovereignty and smash the criminals, restituting this stolen “private surplus” and restoring it to the productive people who are its true owners. In all this, there would be no practical reason nor moral right for the big banks to exist.
 
In the course of this restitution the economy’s productive potential could be focused on the transformation from the fossil fuel based “growth” economy to the post-oil steady-state economy.
 
Once this was done, there would no longer be a need for a government deficit, or for a centralized government at all. This could be retired as the now fully employed, fully productive steady state economy rationally and prosperously proceeds.
 
These ideas will become more and more apparent as the criminal disease metastasizes. For now the point here is to be aware of these facts:
 
1. Government will spend on anything it wants. (And so long as the economy is depressed, it can spend as much as it wants without fear of triggering inflation.) The elites, whether aware of the real nature of money or not, all implicitly agree that deficits don’t matter. Their actions prove this.
 
2. But the elites tell the lie that spending is constrained in order to justify cutting public interest spending and raising taxes on the non-rich.
 
This conjunction of 1. and 2.  explains the obvious, grotesque contradiction of a government hemorrhaging borrowed money and deficit spending on bailouts, wars, and corporate welfare at the same time it calls for “austerity”. (This juxtaposition is so patently idiotic and obscene that I don’t understand why just by itself it doesn’t trigger a revolution. Is it really possible to be so dense and/or compliant that one can’t see the manifest bad faith, indeed total criminality, of such a government?)
 
3. For now we can’t do much about 1., but we can expose the lie upon which 2. is based. That’s the mission of MMT.

November 18, 2010

Krugman: Austerity-Lite

Filed under: Disaster Capitalism, Reformism Can't Work — Tags: , — Russ @ 5:29 am

 

I don’t intend to start in again on the pernicious Paul Krugman, and I’m not going to write another long post on the likes of him.
 
I just wanted to point out another example of the standard Krugman ploy, this time in his post, Why I’m Soft on Sales Taxes.
 
Consider (as Krugman invites us to) a country like Sweden or Denmark which started out with a more socialistic mindset, always maintained a strong safety net, and always had consumption taxes as a major part of the revenue mix.
 
There’s obviously no comparison between that and imposing a massive, alien sales tax on a country where the safety net is being shredded, and where the mentality is a Hobbesian shooting gallery. Under those circumstances such a tax would be viciously regressive. Yet Krugman is now taking the lead in calling for such taxes.
 
This is the same scam Thugman pulled when he was astroturfing for the health racket bailout, another reactionary austerity measure, when he claimed that the “exchanges” had something in common with the systems of Switzerland and the Netherlands.
 
But again, this is a vicious lie. Such comparisons aren’t even on the same planet, let alone in the ballpark. But here’s Krugman trotting out the same lie, this time as part of the austerity-lite initiative exemplified by his own death panel proposal and the Rivlin/Domenici counterproposal to Obama’s Star Chamber plan. The goal here is to get reactionary “austerity” enacted by making it look reasonable by comparison to the Obama commission.
 
Thugman actually has the nerve to tell what he has to know is a criminal lie:
 

All of which says that if I can trade a somewhat regressive VAT for guarantees of decent retirement and universal health care, I’ll take it.

 
He knows damn well this is not the intent of any VAT proposal from the elites, and will not be its effect. He knows damn well any such revenue will go right down the rathole. He’s a despicable, criminal liar.
 
We need to be clear, that by now ALL taxes on the non-rich are purely predatory. Every cent of taxation on the non-rich is simply stolen from us and redistributed upward to the banksters and corporations. We need to become neo-Norquists, presenting a united front intoning an absolute NO to all tax increases for the non-rich.
 
This obviously includes all new regressive taxes and all regressive increases. We have to oppose these Krugman taxes.
 
Once and for all the people need to eradicate two equally pernicious ideas: We have one mob who wants to destroy all non-violent aspects of government in order to liberate the corporations. We have another, even more stupid, who thinks increasing the size and power of a corporatist government will somehow do anything other than further empower the corporations and further impoverish the people.
 
We need to reject both sides of this evil coin. We need to recognize the corporate tyranny and the government tyranny as the same tyranny. The corporations are completely dependent upon the government’s violence, overt as well as implicit, and they own the government.
 
So one part of the strategy has to be to starve government toward the goal of starving the corporations. This means, among other things, forcing it to continue borrowing instead of taxing. This will accelerate the government’s financial collapse, and that in turn will deal a mortal blow to the corporate parasite.
 
So read our lips. No Taxes for the Non-Rich. 

November 15, 2010

Krugman Watch 11/15: The Austerity-Mongering is On

 

“What’s going on here? I don’t think you can resort to class war arguments.”
 
I would have that be seen as the defining quote of Krugman’s career. True, there’s competition from the likes of “In Praise of Cheap Labor”, but I think this best sums up Krugman’s role as corporate liberal astroturfer. He epitomizes the historical mission of system liberals: When the going gets tough for the criminal elites, and there’s some risk of their facing real resistance, their first choice is to bring in the liberals as consultants, agents of misdirection, astroturfers. (The second choice is fascism, if the liberals fail.)
 
To come in and say things like, “I don’t think you can resort to class war arguments.”
 
I called my shot on Krugman a long time ago, in posts like Schizoid Krugman and Krugman Watch on Sarajevo Day. I said he didn’t really oppose the Austerity offensive in principle, but only questioned its tactical tempo, and perhaps the vehicles being proposed. He thought they were jumping the gun.
 
I said then and I still say that in the end he’ll support the gutting of Social Security. You just watch.
 
Now we’re starting to see Krugman’s maneuver in that direction. Before I get to his current advocacy of death panels and regressive taxation, let’s first go over today’s column. It’s a typical batch of Thugman nonsense and lies, and I don’t normally bother, but since we’re already here…..
 

On Wednesday David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political adviser, appeared to signal that the White House was ready to cave on tax cuts — to give in to Republican demands that tax cuts be extended for the wealthy as well as the middle class. “We have to deal with the world as we find it,” he declared…..

But the bitter irony goes deeper than that: the main reason Mr. Obama finds himself in this situation is that two years ago he was not, in fact, prepared to deal with the world as he was going to find it. And it seems as if he still isn’t.

 
Krugman correctly calls out Axelrod’s crackpot pragmatism. Let’s be clear about what pragmatism really is, as opposed to Orwellian “pragmatism”.
 
If you have the nominal power to push through your agenda, but you unilaterally scale down your goals because of the merely political resistance of the enemy, and perhaps the disapproval of the MSM, you’re already a coward. Then there’s the fact that the historical record proves that the enemy won’t credit any of your concessions, but instead will treat your self-diminished position as the outrageous primal extreme.
 
If, under those conditions, you still seek appeasement and compromise, then cowardice has escalated into morbid stupidity. No rational, modestly self-respecting person under those conditions would do anything other than use his power to ram through his entire agenda, knowing that there will be no political reward for doing anything less. Not to mention that there may very well be a tremendous reward for aggressively doing it all, that you’d galvanize your base and compel the respect and even admiration of many who hadn’t previously supported you.
 
What really happens, assuming the alleged “progressives” are really at all progressive in intent, is that if their only options are to either give up their goals or to force their way through to their goals, but in such a way that they’d have to endure being shrieked at by their enemies to the right, that’s too much for them to endure. That’s the elemental cravenness which goes into defining the progressive “character”. And out of that, by way of self-justification, arises the rationally absurd crackpot “pragmatism”, which is the least pragmatic course of action from the point of view of reality.
 
All of that assumes that the “progressive” is somewhat sincere in his own mind. Of course that’s seldom the case with system elites, who are for the most part conscious criminals who use crackpot pragmatism in an Orwellian way, to pseudo-justify their liberal lies and help astroturf the well-meaning but cowardly base.
 

In retrospect, the roots of current Democratic despond go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president. Again and again, he defined America’s problem as one of process, not substance — we were in trouble not because we had been governed by people with the wrong ideas, but because partisan divisions and politics as usual had prevented men and women of good will from coming together to solve our problems. And he promised to transcend those partisan divisions.

 
Crackpot pragmatism is a good complement for the liberal “process” mentality. They both serve the parallel goals of camouflaging liberal corporatism and psychologically consoling the feckless rank and file, keeping them in the fold. Obama knew what he was doing during the campaign.
 
Of course, here we see the core Krugman lie: He pretends Obama is one of the feckless, rather than one of the criminals.
 
But the fact is that Obama is a perfect example of those who rule with “the wrong ideas”. That is, a criminal. (It’s also a core part of Krugman’s project to represent all elite criminals, even the Republicans, as merely misguided or crazy. After all, “I don’t think you can resort to class-warfare arguments.”)
 
The fact is that Thugman himself is one of those who rule with criminal ideas. For the prime example, he supports the Bailout. While opposing the Bailout isn’t sufficient to signify that one has the right ideas, it is necessary. (He was also Hack #1 pied piping for the health racket bailout and austerity bill.) 
 
With that, we reach his call for death panels and regressive taxes:
 

So, what I said is that the eventual resolution of the deficit problem both will and should rely on “death panels and sales taxes”. What I meant is that

(a) health care costs will have to be controlled, which will surely require having Medicare and Medicaid decide what they’re willing to pay for — not really death panels, of course, but consideration of medical effectiveness and, at some point, how much we’re willing to spend for extreme care

(b) we’ll need more revenue — several percent of GDP — which might most plausibly come from a value-added tax

…But medical costs must be controlled somehow, or nothing works. And is a modest VAT really so much more implausible than ending the mortgage interest deduction?

 
1. What deficit problem? Why is Krugman suddenly echoing Republican talking points? Very interesting…
 
There’s certainly no deficit problem which can’t be helped most of all by ending the Krugman-supported bailout and restituting all the trillions stolen in the Krugman-supported looting binge.
 
2. Is there any fiscal problem at all? The solution is obvious:
 
Total Austerity for the Criminals, Not One Cent More from the People.
 
But of course, that would have to mean acknowledging the class war being waged upon us, and Krugman has decreed that we can’t resort to that. But that conveniently forestalls all the right ideas and leaves in place only “the wrong ideas”. The same bad ideas Krugman is always claiming to deplore through his crocodile tears.
 
3. As I’ve written before, no matter how good something like a VAT sounds in the good civic wonk textbooks, we know for a fact that under kleptocracy ALL government revenue represents nothing but wealth redistribution from the productive people to the corporate criminals. The same would be true of a VAT.
 
So when Krugman whips out the wonkery and calls for the good civics playbook, all he’s doing is advocating class war robbery by other means. Why does he recite conservative talking points and advocate a regressive tax on the same web page where he pretends to deplore the extension of the Bush tax cuts? That juxtaposition is no accident. It indicates that he supports regressive taxation as the primary revenue stream going forward, once profligate borrowing becomes impossible. (His incessant China-bashing is meanwhile meant to provide a scapegoat for the soon-to-come collapse of the dollar.)
 
4. Meanwhile the great advocate of the bailout for the “insurance” rackets is now echoing the NYT party line, that the only allowable path to cutting health care costs is to cut services for the non-rich. This is austerity with a vengeance. This criminal now regrets that he was so impolitic as to crack a joke about death panels (remember how under Bush he said we should revile anyone who laughs at our impoverishment and misery? so how should we regard your death panel joke, scumbag?), but the idea remains the same: In order to maintain the ability of the insurance racketeers to extract enough to remain luxuriantly “profitable”, the health care system will have to crush the people.
 
That’s the health racket bailout Krugman always consciously supported before, and that’s the bailout and austerity assault he supports now.
 
So Krugman now indicates that he sees the limits of the Bailout on the horizon, and that in order for the finance sector to maintain its extractions, it will need to move to more direct robbery methods. In a word, “austerity”.
 
Thugman is on schedule. He’s “waffling” (i.e. insidiously maneuvering) with regard to austerity itself, via the masked austerity of the regressive VAT which he advocates in the same breath that he sighs over the foregone conclusion of the extension of tax cuts for the super-rich. And he’s doing the same when he joins his home NYT in pushing for austerity via the health racket bailout when he attempts misdirection toward the provider side. The real goal, of course, is to force people to buy worthless “insurance policies” while those policies don’t actually pay for care. That’s the death panel Krugman advocates here.
 
What’s going on here? I think it’s clear to any honest, moral human being that we must resort to class war arguments. Paul Krugman is a class war criminal. That’s why every step of the way, from day one of the Obama administration, he has systematically advocated bailouts and austerity, while seeking to obfuscate the class war reality. As I said above, that’s the historical mission of system liberals. Krugman has been one of the best at his pernicious job, which makes him in reality and morality one of the worst.

October 12, 2010

Setting Records in Breaking Promises (Obamacare)

Filed under: American Revolution, Health Racket Bailout — Tags: , — Russ @ 3:24 am

 

The health racket bailout was sold with a welter of promises. Yes, we were to be coerced into buying these policies, but the bill contained so many safeguards and inducements that we’d be the beneficiaries of the exchange.
 
In fact, even if everything in the bill came true, that would not be anywhere near sufficient recompense for yet another major assault on our economic and political freedom, and yet another major entrenchment of criminal corporate tyranny. But, as critics of the bill recognized and warned from the start, even the alleged crumbs are lies.
 
The fact is that this bill has no purpose whatsoever but to extort revenue from an already staggering population and provide nothing in return except for a worthless piece of paper which certifies that one went through a predatory toll booth and paid the toll. Since the American colonists similarly were to have revenue extracted from them by an Empire whose benefits were nowhere near sufficient to justify the extraction and the debasement of freedom; and since they were to get in return a wretched piece of paper, a Stamp; so here too I propose we refer to these forced “insurance” papers as Stamps, and the Mandate to purchase them is the Stamp Mandate.
 
The core political lie of the Stamp Act was Obama’s constant mantra, “if you like what you have, you’ll get to keep it”. But this is already being proven a Big Lie. Already the rackets and employers are moving in parallel tracks toward the real intended goal of driving people out of employer-based insurance and onto the far more expensive, far less protected individual market where we’ll have to face the rackets alone to buy our individual Stamps. This is how they plan to solve the problem of getting employers out of the responsibility of providing health insurance while letting the government still refuse to exercise its own responsibility to do so. The real goal is to revoke organized health care itself for large swaths of the population. I’ll develop this idea further in an upcoming post, The Health Racket Bailout As An “Austerity” Bill.
 
For today I’ll just focus on two particular lies which are already drawing their consequences. One is the subversion of the bill’s vaunted “regulations” by granting prolific waivers to employers. The other is the racket campaign to gut the 80% rule. (They’re also already stonewalling on covering “children” up to age 26 on parents’ policies, threatening to stop writing policies for children altogether. But this too was a showcase promise of the bill, and the reason young adults can’t get their own insurance is because there are no jobs for them, and these jobs are not coming back.)
 
Employers like McDonald’s have already received waivers allowing them to continue to offer inferior Stamps which don’t meet the standards of the bill. The administration has already granted 30 such waivers. Remember, this is waiving all the provisions that Obama, Krugman, and all the other hacks promised would make the bill such a great thing. They’re already gutting it all. (And not a peep from Thugman, who was so garrulous last winter. I guess his work here is done. Just like on the war he pretended to oppose when it was Bush’s war.)
 

How much the administration can, or should, compromise in ways that could dilute the effect of the new law in the next few years is a subject of much debate, depending on the politics from state to state or the economic dynamics in a particular market.

 
There’s no debate here at all. Maybe there’s a “debate” among the hacks still pretending and “progressives” who still refuse to see the truth, but the fact is that the administration and the rackets always planned to dilute, as the NYT calls it here. Or as we citizens always said, they always planned to refuse to enforce any of the “regulations”. We’re already being proven right. McDonald’s and others have already gotten waivers to provide Stamps which cover far less than Obama promised. And the rackets are getting waivers to sell Stamps which cover far less than Obama promised. While we’ll have to buy Stamps, McD’s, Walmart and others won’t have to help their employees pay for them. So our taxes will also have to go to helping to pay for these Stamps.
 

The waivers issued so far include the policies offered by McDonald’s to its fast-food workers, typically capped at just a few thousand dollars, sold by a profit-making company owned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. As a result of the administration’s efforts, McDonald’s says it is “confident that we’ll continue to provide health care coverage for our 30,000 hourly restaurant employees.”

Aetna and Cigna have also received waivers to continue selling limited-benefit policies, according to the list released by the Department of Health and Human Services, as have small employers like Sanderson Plumbing Products and Guy C. Lee Manufacturing. HealthMarkets, which offers policies through MEGA Life and Health and other insurers, says it also plans to apply for a waiver for some of its plans.

 
Meanwhile the states, upon whom Obama placed much of the unfunded burden for administering and enforcing Obamacare, are trying to evade these burdens by also granting exemptions.
 
This leads to the second example.
 

These early exemptions offer the first signs of how the administration may tackle an even more difficult hurdle: the resistance from insurers and others against proposed regulations that will determine how much insurers spend on consumers’ health care versus administrative overhead, a major cornerstone of the law.

Several leading insurers, including WellPoint, Aetna and Cigna, have also objected to new rules requiring them to cover even those children who are seriously ill, warning that they will stop selling new policies in some states because the rules do not protect them from having to cover too many sick children.

 
The bill claims to require the Stamp rackets to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar extracted on patient care. But Obamacare intentionally left this vague. How are these to be measured:
 
1. What counts as premium revenue, 80% of which has to be spent on patients?
 
2. What spending counts toward the 80%?
 
The rackets have already set up a lobbying cabal to gut the provision by eroding both of these standards. Thus, for example, they want Stamp sales commissions deducted from the gross before the 80% is applied. And they want all sorts of administrative “costs” to count as part of the 80%.
 
This quasi-surreptitious lobbying attack was by prearrangement with the Democrats, as per the deal Obama and Baucus struck with the rackets. The NYT’s dry comment
 

The new standards may prove a challenge to the administration in its attempt to protect the limited-benefit plans. Under the legislation, insurers are required to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar in premiums on the welfare of their customers, and many of these plans spend far less.

 
is therefore true, though not in the way they want us to read. I suppose it is a challenge to oversee the intentional scuttling of your own centerpiece policy as you enter an election. (They’re counting on a lot of help from the “progressives”.)
 
According to this the administration will accommodate the rackets on the 80% rule, although the states are offering some objections.
 

The administration says it has the authority to change the way medical spending is calculated. But the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which has been charged with drafting the regulations that will go to the Health Department for approval, has so far rejected the notion that these plans deserve special treatment.
A committee looking at the issue concluded that there was no reason to calculate spending differently for these plans, saying state regulators could always request exemptions later if they foresaw too much market turmoil.

 
It looks like it’ll be a race to the bottom, as the states look for ways to weasel out of the impossible position Obama’s put them in. 
 
Our plight is far worse than that of the colonists, and our cause even more just. The colonies did not economically or militarily need the British Empire and rightfully concluded that there should be a flourishing trade relationship, and perhaps a loose political relationship, but absolutely not a relationship where the Empire could tax them and otherwise legally and forcibly subordinate them. But at least they did get great benefits from the trade relationship, and still did feel ties of emotional kinship, thus the long reluctance to make the final psychological break and demand Independence.
 
We, on the other hand, get absolutely nothing from these rackets, and have no bonds of any sort with them. The only relationship is one of fraud and soon force, from the smallest day to day dealings to the most momentous transactions of government.
 
There’s also the difference that the colonists were on the upswing of prosperity. They could have afforded to pay the British exactions without much difficulty. But they chose to make a stand on principle. We, on the other hand, are economically already suffering hardship or face the prospect of it, and therefore already experience the fear of it, which is already a reality. We can’t afford the predations of these criminals as it is, let alone having to buy this hideously expensive Stamp.
 
So what must we be by comparison with our forefathers if, in addition to having at least as good a principled claim, in fact a better one, we also have a far greater economic necessity, and yet we fail to rouse ourselves to assert our freedom and safeguard our prosperity with the same level of vigor, resolve, and confidence?
 
(Is that the real issue right there, the lack of confidence? Then that’s what we have to work on. Confidence can be supplemented by education, but is built most of all in the course of action itself.) 
 
We should have, as a solid mass, declared Independence of these rackets at the outset and demanded Single Payer, absolutely refusing to accept one jot less, or to listen to one lie more. Well, we didn’t do that when it would have been easiest. But the next best thing is to do it now. We must organize to resist the Stamp Mandate.

August 25, 2010

Food For Thought: We Can Have Food And Thought, Or Else Neither

 

The salmonella egg scare is just the latest outbreak of corporate food-borne illness. I’m sure it won’t be the last or anywhere near the worst, in spite of the purported food safety bill now moving through the Senate to join the predatory bill the House already passed last year.
 
It’s already clear that even given corporate food production, the egg outbreak could have been prevented with the simple expedient of vaccination. Britain instituted this ten years ago and saw salmonella incidence plummet.
 
But of course our corporate-captured FDA decreed that there “wasn’t sufficient evidence” to take this measure. That’s a basic difference between Europe and the corporatized US: Over there they still recognize the precautionary principle, which is really just common sense. Where there’s any question, as there always is with any new development in industrial agriculture, the burden of proof must be on the technological or organizational “innovator” to prove his practice is safe, not on those who wish to take precautions to prove that it’s unsafe (which usually can’t be done until it’s too late).
 
So here we are again. One of the criminals responsible is a familiar name from previous outbreaks, worker abuse, accusations of rape, and endless incidents of contempt for the most basic rules of food safety, Jack DeCoster and his company, Wright County Farms. This guy’s record really is something to see. Sometimes real Mwa-ha-ha type evil finds room to gratify itself under the fig leaf of “business”. That’s an example of the FDA’s forbearance in action, and for whom it sees itself as working.
 
That seems unlikely to change under the food bill. I’ve written before about the House bill from last year (for example here and here), which systematically seeks to destroy small food producers by imposing a one-size-fits-all regime upon them. This regime is calculated to be a mere nuisance to the industrial producers while posing severe financial and logistical hardship on smaller producers. Small-scale producers obviously cannot cause large-scale outbreaks. Only factory farming (CAFOs are in fact unregulated bioweapons labs) and corporate distribution systems can do that. And they have been doing it, as every year brings more severe outbreaks. The swine flu may have originated at a Smithfield factory farm in Mexico*. It’s only a matter of time before a massively lethal pandemic originates at a CAFO.
 
But for the criminals in Congress the idea was to use these very corporate-caused outbreaks as the pretext to pass pro-monopoly food bills. This is exactly what happened with HR 2749. The Senate bill was originally crafted in the same disaster capitalist way.
 
[*These bills also seek to tighten the stranglehold of globalization over food, surrendering our food sovereignty completely to anti-sovereign syndicates like the WTO. Let's recall globalization arch-cadre Paul Krugman's celebration of CAFOs themselves.]
 
In committee there were several modifications to the Senate bill:
 
  • The amendment sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pertaining to farms that engage in value-added processing or that co-mingle product from several farms.  It will provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the authority to either exempt farms engaged in low or no risk processing or co-mingling activities from new regulatory requirements or to modify particular regulatory requirements for such farming operations.  Included within the purview of the amendment are exemptions or flexibilities with respect to requirements within S. 510 for food safety preventative control plans and FDA on-farm inspections.
  • The amendments sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) to reduce unnecessary paperwork and excess regulation.  The Bennet language pertains to both the preventative control plan and the produce standards sections of the bill.  FDA is instructed to provide flexibility for small processors including on-farm processing, to minimize the burden of compliance with regulations, and to minimize the number of different standards that apply to separate foods.  FDA will also be prohibited from requiring farms and other food facilities to hire consultants to write food safety plans or to identify, implement, certify or audit those plans. With respect to produce standards, FDA will also be given the discretion to develop rules for categories of foods or for mixtures of foods rather than necessarily needing to have a separate rule for each specific commodity or to regulate specific crops if the real food safety issue involved mixtures only.
  • The amendment sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to provide for a USDA-delivered competitive grants program for food safety training for farmers, small processors and wholesalers.  The training projects will prioritize small and mid-scale farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and small food processors and wholesalers.  The program will be administered by USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture.  As is the case for all of the provisions in S. 510, funding for the bill and for this competitive grants program will happen through the annual agriculture appropriations bill process.
  • The effort championed by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to strip the bill of wildlife-threatening enforcement against “animal encroachment” of farms is also in the manager’s package.  It will require FDA to apply sound science to any requirements that might impact wildlife and wildlife habitat on farms.
  • An amendment proposed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to amend the traceability and recordkeeping section of the bill that will exempt food that is direct marketed from farmers to consumers or to grocery stores and exempt food that has labeling that preserves the identity of the farm that produced the food.  The amendment also prevents FDA from requiring any farm from needing to keep records beyond the first point of sale when the product leaves the farm, except in the case of farms that co-mingle product from multiple farms, in which case they must also keep records one step back as well as one step forward. 

Not in the package but still under serious negotiation for inclusion in the bill when it reaches the floor of the Senate is an amendment by Senator John Tester (D-MT) to exempt food facilities with under a certain annual gross sales threshold from preventative control plan requirements and to exempt farmers who primarily direct market product to consumers, stores or restaurants from the bill’s produce standards regulations.  Our expectation is this amendment will be successfully negotiated over the coming weeks and will be accepted as part of the final bill once the bill reaches the Senate floor.

We also continue to note and emphasize the additional provisions NSAC helped secure when the bill was marked up in Committee last year.  Those changes included:

  • requiring FDA and USDA coordination (including with respect to organic farming);
  • limiting recordkeeping for farmers to just the initial sale to the first purchaser of the crop; and
  • language in the produce section directing FDA to create rules that are appropriate to the scale and diversity of the farm, that take into consideration conservation and environmental standards established by other federal agencies, that do not conflict with organic certification standards, and that prioritize high risk crops.
 
As a result, some sustainable food organizations now support this version of the bill, and would presumably support a final version which was closer to the Senate bill than the House bill. [Edit: The support of the NSAC, linked here, is contingent on inclusion of the Tester amendment; cf. comment below.]
 
The fixes still seem weak. The bill still gives the government too little power over the real threat, the industrial producers, and too much over the innocuous small producer. We know how “regulation” always works out. Sure enough, even as the FDA (and other agencies; I’m not even getting into the intentionally Byzantine regulatory structure whereby one agency is responsible for the eggs while they’re still in the shell, another once they’re liquefied and processed, and those federal agencies are responsible except where they’re not and the state is….) refuses to do its public interest job where it comes to the big producers, it’s been launching aggressive raids against small producers. (In principle the bill gives the bureaucracy immense power with little restraint. The implications for civil liberties and unaccountable authoritarianism are chilling.) 
 
This shows the kleptocracy’s real intent. The goal of these police actions, and the goal of the bills in Congress, has nothing to do with food safety and everything to do with corporate and social control. Corporate food wants a total monopoly on production and distribution. The nascent relocalization movement, which is necessarily focusing on food sustainability as one of its core goals, is a threat to this elite control.
 
Even if this bill ends up having been stripped of its most overtly aggressive features, it would be foolish to think that’s not just a temporary tactical retrenchment on the part of the power structure. Although some of what’s written about these bills sounds alarmist, the language is clearly being carefully crafted to provide scope for the most far-reaching power assaults, perhaps some years down the line.
 
That’s why we who want to build new economies and polities from the soil up will have to be ready for civil disobedience and self defense. Although many don’t want to think about it in those terms, I think that’ll be a necessary element for successful relocalization. I plan to develop the idea and try to figure out a strategy when I write more about how we have to conceive and fight the health racket mandate as our Stamp Act.
 
But as we see with the corporate food bill, there are in fact many Stamp Acts. Just as in the 1760s, the plan is systematic expropriation and feudal indenture. But since we’re commencing upon the descent of the industrial age rather than its ascent, the serfdom in store for us is far more bleak, far worse even than medieval, if we don’t rouse ourselves to redeem our country, our freedom, and our humanity.

August 4, 2010

ACLU Civil Liberties Report

 

The ACLU has released a report on civil liberties under Obama as they relate to “national security” issues. The report gives a mixed verdict, concluding “that the administration has taken positive steps and made genuine progress in some areas”, but that:
 

Regrettably, in a pattern that has repeated itself throughout the administration’s first eighteen months, a significant achievement was followed by a step back: the administration reversed its decision to comply with a court decision ordering the release of photos depicting the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it supported legislation granting the Secretary of Defense unprecedented authority to conceal evidence
of misconduct.(p.2)

 
Actually the report doesn’t support this “some good, some bad” conclusion. Rather, it depicts the administration as having started out well but then having taken nothing but “steps back” since then.
 

On January 22, 2009—his second full day in office —President Obama signed a series of executive orders that squarely repudiated some of the most egregious abuses of the Bush administration. The new orders categorically prohibited torture and limited all interrogations, including those conducted by the CIA, to techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual. They outlawed the CIA’s practice of secret detention and shut down the CIA’s overseas prisons. And they mandated the closure of the Guantánamo prison within one year. These auspicious first steps towards fulfilling candidate Obama’s promise of change were more than symbolic gestures: they carried the force of law, they placed the power and prestige of the presidency behind restoration of the rule of law, and they gave weight to the President’s oft-stated view that adherence to our nation’s fundamental principles makes us safer, not less safe.
(p.2)

 
There’s the good words at the outset, and indeed, since I can’t imagine why Obama would have signed those orders at all if he meant to trample their spirit later on, I guess here’s one place where I can believe he started out meaning well. But that doesn’t make any difference. Nobody should care about good intentions even where they do fleetingly exist, if one has the power to follow through but refuses to do so. As the report details, Obama not only hasn’t followed through, he’s flipped to a reactionary position, as he seeks to entrench and normalize Bush policy across the board.
 
(The report itself admits that its anodyne conclusion is more of a political olive branch than a firm belief:
 

The ACLU will continue to monitor the impact of the administration’s national security policies on fundamental civil liberties and human rights. We hope that this report, published less than halfway
through the President’s first term, will serve as a vehicle for reflection and further dialogue; we hope that the administration will renew its commitment to the principle that the nation’s fundamental values are the very foundation of its strength and security.
(p.3)

)

 
The report is divided into seven subjects.
 
1. Transparency:
 
In seeming accord with his campaign promises, Obama started out ordering all federal agencies to maintain a “presumption in favor of disclosure”. This seemed to directly reverse the “Ashcroft Rule” which demanded a presumption of secrecy. There were some lesser cosmetic improvements.
 
The most important action was the release of the Bush torture memos.
 
But “the administration’s commitment to transparency has been inconsistent, and it has waned over time.”  Obama continues to flout court orders to release torture photos from Iraq and Afghanistan.
 

Since its change of heart on the abuse photographs, the administration has fought to keep secret hundreds of records relating to the Bush administration’s rendition, detention, and interrogation policies. To take just a few of many possible examples, it has fought to keep secret a directive in which President Bush authorized the CIA to establish secret prisons overseas; the Combatant Status Review Transcripts in which former CIA prisoners describe the abuse they suffered in the CIA’s secret prisons; records relating to the CIA’s destruction of videotapes that depicted some prisoners being waterboarded; and cables containing communications between the CIA’s secret prisons and officials at CIA headquarters. It has argued that the CIA’s authority to withhold information concerning “intelligence sources and methods” extends even to methods that are illegal. The administration has also fought to withhold information about prisoners held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Obama administration has released less information about prisoners held at Bagram Air Base than the Bush administration released about prisoners held at Guantánamo.
(p.5)

 
Although the existence of Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional assassination program has been publicized and acknowledged, he refuses to release any details. Meanwhile, even as he refuses to investigate Bush-era crimes (for the obvious reason that he and his thugs are committing the same crimes), Obama, contradicting another campaign promise, has been aggressively pursuing and indicting whistleblowers. Thomas Drake and Bradley Manning are the two most prominent citizen activists who are being persecuted by the man who during his campaign promised to “make sure those folks [whistleblowers] get protection.”
 
I guess like so many other things he said, that statement had an Orwellian connotation as well.
 
2. Torture and Accountability:
 
Here’s where Obama’s initial declarations were at their best. He released the torture memos and ordered that all prisoners be afforded the protections of the Geneva Convention. He ordered the close of secret CIA dungeons and Red Cross notification regarding all prisoners.
 
But unlike most other countries involved in the torture crimes – the UK, Germany, Canada, and Spain – this administration has curtly rejected all calls for accountability for these crimes under Bush.
 

The truth is that the Obama administration has gradually become an obstacle to accountability for torture. It is not simply that, as discussed above, the administration has fought to keep secret some of the documents that would allow the public to better understand how the torture program was conceived, developed, and implemented. It has also sought to extinguish lawsuits brought by torture survivors—denying them recognition as victims, compensation for their injuries, and even the opportunity to present their cases.
(p. 8 )

 
Obama has thrown up a welter of pseudo-legal barricades to legal accountability which would make Bush envious. He has sought to expand the noxious “state secrets doctrine” (Mohammed vs. Jeppesen Dataplan), lied about the law (Rasul vs. Rumsfeld), invented Kafkaesque conundrums and pseudo-federalistic mumbo-jumbo (Arar vs. Ashcroft), all in order to keep the cases out of the courts completely. (Never mind that this is exactly the situation the federal courts are for according to arch-federalist Hamilton himself.)
 
Another Catch-22 has been the administration’s bogus arguments that civil suits aren’t necessary because the Justice Department’s own investigations are sufficient. This is a twofold lie: first, the DoJ, even if it were undertaking good faith investigations, represents the community, not the victim himself; and second, it’s a lie that any such investigations are taking place anyway.
 
All the DoJ has done is announce a lame “preliminary review”, which they explicitly proclaimed a priori will seek to establish only the “abuses” committed by bad apples. They ideologically ruled out of consideration any indictment of systemic, top-down policy. (This is a standard corporate liberal trick, one of many places they join hands with the real fascists. As detailed in Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, everyone from Amnesty International to the South African Reconciliation Commission has agreed to go along with the bad apple Big Lie wherever the real torturer was the neoliberal power structure.)
 
Of course throughout Obama’s notorious watchword has been “look forward, not back.” The slogan of criminals down through history. As the report says,
 

In fact the choice between “looking forward” and “looking back” is a false one. While it’s crucial that the Obama administration adopt new policies for the future, we cannot ignore the abuses of the past. And while President Obama has disavowed torture, a strong democracy rests not on the goodwill of its leaders but on the impartial enforcement of the laws. Sanctioning impunity for government officials who authorized torture
sends a problematic message to the world, invites abuses by future administrations, and further undermines the rule of law that is the basis of any democracy.
(p. 9)

 
“The impartial enforcement of the laws” is in fact precisely what Obama, his supporters, the MSM, and the establishment in general do not want. Where it comes to Obama hacks, we’ve seen plenty of examples (Krugman defending Obama on the Gruber flap; Sunstein advocating illegal subversion of Internet democracy) of how, as long as the Democrats are in power, we shouldn’t have the rule of law or the rule of principle or the rule of anything other than our faith in their benevolence. (Of course, Republicans are the same way with their own criminals.)
 
(Of course I don’t assume that torture has actually ended or that the dungeons have all been closed. Obama says lots of things he doesn’t do.)
 
3. Detention:
 
During the campaign Obama promised to close Gitmo. Coming into office he set a one year deadline for that goal and ordered the secret CIA prisons closed.
 
Since then he has flouted his own deadline, pretending that trumped up Congressional resistance is stopping him. (Before I became convinced that Obama is secretly a Republican in his mind, this was another of my examples of what I thought was his basic political incompetence and how he can’t get the spoils system right. I asked, There’s no federal prison in a safely Republican district where he can dump these prisoners?)
 
He has consistently resisted judicial review of the status of prisoners, achieving a hideous “supreme” court ruling against habeas corpus, one of the most basic indivisible elements of the Constitution. (The juxtaposition of this anti-constitutional and anti-human ruling with the Citizens United decision a few weeks later is perhaps the most stark proof that America no longer has a constitutional judiciary, but a rogue, hijacked structure which has abdicated all sovereignty. This is definitely true at least of the SCOTUS.)
 
The basic position is hostile to the rule of law; the administration will review or not and keep or release prisoners at its pleasure, but they deny any law or constitution compels them to. In May 2009 Obama went farther than Bush ever did, proclaiming in principle that the government has the right to detain anyone it defines as a terrorist indefinitely, without trial, no matter where and under what circumstances the suspect was grabbed. The government of course has no such right, no such authority, no such prerogative. This is a stark declaration of lawlessness, of anti-constitutional contempt, of autocratic tyranny.
 
And what if Obama ever did decide to close Gitmo after all? He’s already covered himself, simply setting up Bagram as the same thing Gitmo used to be. So Gitmo has already been cloned, and closing the one would no longer make any substantive difference. It would be a political fraud. “What I give with one hand I take away with the other.”
 

Finally, the Obama administration has advocated for the transfer of some Guantánamo prisoners to a prison in Thomson, Illinois, where they would be detained by the military without charge or trial. The ACLU will continue to oppose this effort to transfer the Guantánamo detention regime to the heartland of America; we fear that if a precedent is established that terrorism suspects can be held without trial within the United States, this administration and future administrations will be tempted to bypass routinely the constitutional restraints of the criminal justice system in favor of indefinite military detention. This is a danger that far exceeds the disappointment of seeing the Guantánamo prison stay open past the one-year deadline. To be sure, Guantánamo should be closed, but not at the cost of enshrining the principle of indefinite detention in a global war without end.
(p. 12)

 
This is perhaps the most ominous part of it. We already see all the worst depredations of neoliberal economic and paramilitary assaults coming home to us. The totalitarians would love to bring this kind of prison regime to the home soil. That would be quite a precedent. We must oppose all new terror war prisons everywhere, but especially on home soil. If shutting down Gitmo would mean simply moving the spirit of Gitmo stateside, then it’s much better to physically leave Gitmo where it is.
 
Closing Gitmo is not primarily a physical concept, it’s a legal, political, and moral concept. Bagram already means Gitmo won’t close, and a domestic Gitmo will be even worse.
 
4. Assassination:
 
This is a radical extension of Bush policy. Here there’s no doubt at all that Obama’s actions are illegal by international law and unconstitutional at least as applied to US citizens. We know of at least one citizen targeted for death, and the administration has hinted that there are more.
 
5. Military Commissions:
 
Candidate Obama rejected the Military Commissions Act and proclaimed his “faith in America’s courts”.
 
Here there was no initial promising action as a way station between the promise and its betrayal – president Obama moved without transition to actively seeking to enshrine the commissions. While Obama hacks and cultists mysteriously claim he can’t influence Congress where it comes to public interest legislation, he had no problem at all aggressively pushing for legislation clarifying and entrenching military commission power.
 
These kangaroo courts flout every American principle of justice, from allowing “evidence” extracted under torture* to refusing the defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him. I don’t know if they display the Ten Commandments in these dank little anti-judicial pits, but they sure must not display the Bill of Rights.
 
(*Maimonides thought even voluntary confessions shouldn’t be admissible in criminal trials, as even that ran too much of a risk of violating of the defendant’s soul. Oh well…)
 
6. Speech and Surveillance:
 

With limited exceptions, the Obama administration’s positions on national security issues relating
to speech and surveillance have mirrored those taken by the Bush administration in its second term.
(p. 16)

 
Early in the campaign Obama spoke out against Bush’s wiretapping crimes. Here he didn’t wait until after the election to betray what he said, voting for telecom immunity and other pernicious features of the FISA Amendments Act.
 
Since taking office the administration has argued that the FISA act, like everything else related to alleged “national security”, should be beyond judicial review. As many of us predicted from very early in the Bush years, a Democrat in office has embraced all the Bush surveillance and search arrogations and sought to extend and normalize them. Obama has pushed for the intensification of the Patriot Act’s assaults on freedom.
 
Obama also collaborated with the SCOTUS to shred the 1st Amendment with their “material support” doctrine, which declares in principle that anything the government declares is communication which “supports terrorism” is beyond the bounds of free speech. Needless to say, anything you want can be so defined. I’ve always said and believed SUV commercials support terrorism. That’s just one example. Is conspiracy to attack the currency a terrorist act? If Al-Qaida did it, it would be. So that means when Wall Street does it, it is. So according to Obama and the supreme court themselves, defending the big banks is providing material support to terrorism and is not legitimate free speech. I guess I’ll take their word for it on that one….
 
7. Watch Lists:
 
Letting dubious characters slip through while wrongly flagging hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people, the no-fly list has been an ongoing embarrassment for the government and a major problem for those wrongly listed. The administration is unrepentant. It refuses accountability, refuses to divulge its methods for listing, refuses to institute a procedure for the redress of wrongs and delisting of the innocent.
 
Obama has sought to expand the list regime while rejecting even the slightest semblance of due process. A low level police state hack chirped, “the entire federal government is leaning very far forward on putting people on lists.” (p.18)
 
While the ACLU doesn’t go so far in this publication, it sounds to me like the watch list is more of an exercise in police statism for its own sake than anything meant to actually have utility or to function rationalistically. From that point of view, a chronic process of “erroneously” victimizing the innocent is a feature of state terror, not a bug.
 
The government has also extended privateering and constitution-shredding tactics from the “drug war” to the “war on terror”, arrogating the power to seize the assets of charities on alleged suspicion of terrorist connections. Needless to say, here too there’s no transparency regarding the procedure of suspicion or the evidence in any particular case, and the administration claims that these as well must lie beyond the reach of the courts.
 
So just as with the watch list, here’s strong evidence that, as many of us have argued for years, the point of the drug war was to pioneer totalitarian tactics to be more broadly applied as soon as the pretext was available. 9/11 provided that pretext.
 
 
So here’s my basic summary.
 
This report demonstrates Obama’s contempt for the rule of law and democracy (p.10). Rather, at every turn he has the attitude of a despot. He and his hacks (and the media) want the cult of personality over the rule of law (p.9). Taking off where Bush left off he has developed a veritable ideology of detention, which is bot ha pseudo-principle and a weapon to assail all true American principles (p.11).
 
He has systematically sought to set up Kafkaesque catch-22s: Gutting the FOIA as he nominally expands it (p.5); winding down Gitmo while revving up Bagram (11), using the typical antidemocratic “standing” ploy against accountability in the courts, e.g. where it comes to FISA (16); keeping the watch list in the darkest closet of culpable secrecy (18).
 
He has perverted federalism with his attacks on judicial oversight (pages 9, 11, 16, and other examples). He has denied that there was ever a system problem under Bush, but rather continued to propagate the Bush Big Lie that incidents like Abu Ghraib were the “abuses” of “abd apples”, when all torture and atrocities were in fact the result of systematic top down policy.
 
This paper also enumerates several major Obama campaign lies: The promise of transparency as a value and a practice (p. 4); encouragement of whistleblowers (6); that he’s close Gitmo (in spirit as well as physically) and end detention without trial (10); that he opposed military commissions.
 
The result is a devastating condemnation of Obama as an enemy of American values and a traitor to the mandate of his election. It establishes that he briefly may have intended to roll back some aspects of the Bush assault on civil liberties, but quickly changed his mind. Since then he has continued the Bush assault on a broad front. So we cannot endorse this from the ACLU’s conclusion:
 

There can be no doubt that the Obama administration inherited a legal and moral morass, and that in important respects it has endeavored to restore the nation’s historic commitment to the rule of law. But if the Obama administration does not effect a fundamental break with the Bush administration’s policies on detention, accountability, and other issues, but instead creates a lasting legal architecture in support of those policies, then it will have ratified, rather than rejected, the dangerous notion that America is in a permanent state of emergency and that core liberties must be surrendered forever.(p.20)

 
Obama has clearly endeavored to do the opposite. The most he did was fake in one direction for a few weeks and then reverse course. And the “inheritance” meme, so beloved of Obama’s desperate hacks and cultists, is beneath contempt. (Something doesn’t count as a bad inheritance if you have the power to disavow and reject it but instead seize full ownership of it with great gusto. In that case it’s not your “inheritance”, but something you morally own going back to its inception. That applies to Obama/Bush’s Second Great Depression, Obama/Bush’s Bailout, Obama/Bush’s war, Obama/Bush’s offshore drilling, and it applies to Obama/Bush’s assault on civil liberties.)
 
So what is to be done? I’m not sure. Along with net neutrality, civil liberties is an issue where we do seem to need “reform within the system”. (Although the problem’s not quite as bad. The Internet democracy is far more vulnerable and requires positive reform action by the government for its preservation, while however degraded the civil liberties regime becomes in principle, the government would still have to actively assault us to make good on its threats, and we have many other routes of resistance besides system reform. Nevertheless, the problem is critical.)
 
I suppose at this point my prescription would be that, to whatever extent we do still try to seek reform within the system (which I normally think is pointless and argue against), we should focus on these two issues.

June 28, 2010

Krugman Watch June 28 (Sarajevo Day)

Filed under: Corporatism, Globalization, Health Racket Bailout — Tags: , — Russ @ 6:27 am

 

The significance of Paul Krugman is that he’s the most prestigious of the corporate liberal hacks. This is on account of what the general quasi-educated readership believes to be his great intellectual accomplishments. (Burnished by his alleged Nobel Prize; but in fact the economics Prize is really a pseudo-prize which was fabricated in the 70s for precisely this purpose, to bestow fraudulent authority upon neoclassical economists; and by now all nobble prices are fraudulent anyway, as proven by their giving the “peace” prize to a war criminal. This was intended to encourage and whitewash further war.)
 
It’s also because of Krugman’s excellent record of opposition to Bush and the Republicans. He was so cogent and often eloquent in his attacks on Bush that many people who don’t know the history or forgot it believe he opposed Bush policies as opposed to supporting the policies but attacking as a partisan Democrat. And what about those who remembered the real Krugman from the 90s?
 
The globalization hawk who wrote “in praise of cheap labor” (the same piece where he lasciviously indulged his fantasy of people having to literally live in toxic waste dumps and proclaimed that working at McDonald’s should be the normative job condition; of course he claimed to seek improvements on this, but actions and results are always the proof, never bogus caveats) and proclaimed his vision of utopia:
 

A highway interchange, a parking lot filled with cars, a traffic jam, suburban tract housing, an apartment building with numerous satellite dishes, an office with many computer screens, office workers on a busy street, high-rise office buildings, a “factory farm” with many chickens, a supermarket aisle, a McDonald’s arch.

 
Many who remembered this thought Bush had made him see the error of his ways and that he repented. I too thought it might be possible.
 
Of course we know today that the New Progressive Krugman is the same old neoliberal Thugman. Since Obama came in Krugman has done five things:
 
1. He has supported the Bailout and supports its perpetuation forever.
 
2. In particular, he was lead propagandist floating the scam of Swedish-style nationalization. needless to say the kleptocracy would never have taken big banks into receivership and either liquidated them or nursed them back to health, either way on terms favorable to the people. (And of course even real Swedishism would still never work outside Sweden. Here the rackets are too existentially thuggish and even if resolved and reinstated on a Swedish basis would quickly go back to their old crimes. It really didn’t work even in Sweden, as we see from the Swedish banks’ Baltic depredations. No, you can never “resolve” or temporarily “nationalize” private bank rackets. They have to be absolutely eradicated.)
 
The system never wanted to do anything like this, but Krugman was there as ringleader of the idea, just in case Obama felt politically pressed enough that he had to pretend to do it.
 
Of course it would only have been a pretense. Just as in practice Bagehot’s rule (lend freely, only to solvent banks at penalty rates on good collateral) was transformed to “give freely to insolvent banks at near-zero rates on no collateral at all”, so in Obama and Geithner’s hands “nationalization” would have been just a pure unloading of all toxic assets off the balance sheets and onto the public, at which point the banks would have gotten off scot free.
 
That was Krugman’s notion of the ideal Bailout.
 
3. He was lead agitator among the “educated liberals” on behalf of the health racket bailout. He knows this is a vicious reactionary assault and simply systematically lied about it, out of his corporatist ideology and Democrat partisanship.
 
Read here for what the Bush-era Krugman thought about health reform and about possible political scams the Republicans might try. How strange, that he flipped 180 degrees on both the policy and the tactics as soon as a Democrat came back in.
 
4. Simpatico with administration rhetoric, he’s tried to play astroturfer on the China currency manipulation issue. The goal of Obama, Geithner, and Krugman is good old misdirection by xenophobia. Demonize the (non-white) foreigner. It’s the Yellow Peril again.
 
The truth is that the US and Chinese kleptocracies together comprise the Chimerica entity, which wages war on the peoples of both America and China. The US gangsters want the American people to blame this vague but menacing nebula, “China”, for what are actually US system crimes. The same dynamic occurs in China.
 
Just as the real business of the Chinese people is to get rid of the Chinese gangs, so the real business of the American people is to get rid of the home-grown US rackets. Propaganda criminals like Krugman want to distract us from our interests. We mustn’t let them.
 
5. Krugman now supports the war. Now that Obama has taken full personal ownership of the war, and did so with great glee and gusto, now that it’s a Democrat war, Thugman supports it.
 
But he doesn’t say so. He, who wrote so often and with such passion on this allegedly non-economic issue during Bush (of course it really is a fully economic issue), has suddenly gone suspiciously silent. Suddenly he implicitly agrees with all the critics who whined during the Bush years that he shouldn’t be writing about war or anything other than straight economic topics. 
 
That’s because he wants to keep basking in the reputational nimbus of his anti-war heroism. He thinks if he had to join in with all the other liberal hacks who have been reborn as jingos, it would harm his brand and impair his effectiveness as an economic hack astroturfer. So now he keeps his mouth shut.
 
 
So that lays bare the real Thugman agenda. But lately his main preoccupation has been an internecine squabble over the timing of “austerity”. I wrote about this before, describing how where it comes to “austerity” Krugman objects to the timing of a particular class war tactic, but does not object to the class war assault as such, and that’s why he argues the way he does, refusing call austerity by its rightful name, robbery, and refusing to call his colleagues in crime “class warriors”, because he actually agrees with them on principle and strategy and only disagrees on tactical tempo. Today I wanted to revisit and refine the message, as well as place it within the real Krugman Context.
 
In today’s column Krugman again affirms his overall support for the Permanent Bailout:
 

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today’s governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.

 
It looks like we’re even making some progress in forcing some marginal honesty out of his rhetoric. Where before he would fraudulently blame Republicans for Democratic actions where the Dems had total licence to do whatever they wanted and therefore by definition did do whatever they wanted, today he says:
 

The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won’t authorize additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.

 
This is still a lie. The Reps still have zero power to do anything the Dems don’t let them do, and the agenda here is being driven not by alleged “conservative” Dems but by the Dems period. What he’s calling conservative is the Dem establishment mainstream, as well as what the alleged “progressive” Dems agree to every time.
 
So existentially there’s no such thing as relative “conservatives” among the Democrats, while “progressives” are nonexistent in both relative and absolute terms. There are simply the Democrats as such, who economically and in war are a right wing conservative party in an absolute sense.
 
The recap of this column, as a Krugman update, is simple.
 
1. He still credits “invisible bond vigilantes” as representing a real motivation, albeit a wrongheaded one.
 

Why the wrong turn in policy? The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing Greece and other nations around the edges of Europe to justify their actions. And it’s true that bond investors have turned on governments with intractable deficits. But there is no evidence that short-run fiscal austerity in the face of a depressed economy reassures investors. On the contrary: Greece has agreed to harsh austerity, only to find its risk spreads growing ever wider; Ireland has imposed savage cuts in public spending, only to be treated by the markets as a worse risk than Spain, which has been far more reluctant to take the hard-liners’ medicine.

It’s almost as if the financial markets understand what policy makers seemingly don’t: that while long-term fiscal responsibility is important, slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating.

 
 
He still refuses to speak the truth:
 
Austerity is robbery.
 
Those who advocate austerity are robbers.
 
Any excuse like “invisible bond vigilantes” is nothing but a pretext to try to justify robbery.
 
But they really want austerity for its own sake because they want to continue robbing.
 
2. Thugman doesn’t object to the robbery as such. That’s proven by his support for the Bailout as such, as well as such crimes as his astroturfing for the health racket bailout.
 
3. It’s just that in this case he thinks it’s tactically premature for the US as well as trade surplus countries to undergo the austerity stripping. The column basically says as much. To requote:
 

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today’s governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.

 
The Bailout plus the hijacked Obama stimulus = Krugman’s idea of the correct looting policy for now. He thinks the Bailout stage still has further legs.
 
(Here’s a broader analysis of Krugman’s looter ideology, his place as neoclassical synthesist.
 

The reality of the Great Depression convinced many economists and business observers in the late 1930s that Keynes was right, and led to widespread references to the “Keynesian revolution.” Keynes’s proposals related to stimulating effective demand through civilian government spending were not directly applied in the 1930s, however, and it was the Second World War that lifted the United States and other advanced capitalist economies out of the Great Depression. After the war, Keynes’s analysis was debased by such figures as Paul Samuelson at MIT, leading to what was sometimes called the “neoclassical-Keynesian synthesis,” or more frequently the “neoclassical synthesis.” In what Keynes’s younger colleague, Joan Robinson, famously dubbed “bastard Keynesianism,” Keynes’s more revolutionary insights were all excluded and his analysis was reincorporated with the neoclassical theory in a subordinate form.9 Mainstream economists came to the conclusion that the capitalist economy could be effectively managed by monetary and fiscal policy fine tuning, with an emphasis on the former. This was because the economy was once again implicitly assumed to act in accordance with Say’s Law, moving naturally toward a full-employment equilibrium, now redefined as a “natural rate of unemployment.” Neoliberal globalization, deregulation, the removal of all restrictions on the movement of capital, the creation of sophisticated new financial architectures, were seen as constituting the essence of all economic logic on a world scale.

Hence, by the 1970s (and even more so after the stagflation crisis of that decade) Keynes had been relegated to a “special case theory of Depression economics,” applicable only when monetary policy could no longer be effectively used to boost the economy.10 But such a condition was no longer believed to be relevant, since, as University of Chicago economist Robert Lucas declared in 2003 in his presidential address to the American Economic Association, the problem of depression and even of the business cycle had essentially been solved. This view was reiterated in 2004 by Ben Bernanke, then a Federal Reserve Board governor, now chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. For Bernanke the Great Depression was no longer of theoretical interest; rather the problem to solve was the “Great Moderation,” i.e., the reduced volatility of the capitalist economy in the 1980s and ’90s. What needed investigating, he argued, were the reasons for the effective end of the business cycle, which he attributed to more sophisticated monetary policy, arising initially out of the insights of Milton Friedman’s monetarism.11

Today figures like Krugman are seen as partly challenging these conclusions, and as representing the return of Keynesian economics. But this is not a return to Keynes in the sense of his general theoretical critique of capitalism’s fundamental flaws. Rather it is a return to Keynesianism as a “special case” of “depression economics,” where monetary policy is ineffective and expansive fiscal policy needs to be given priority.12 The ascendancy of neoclassical economics, which bastardized and subordinated Keynes’s mildly critical view of capitalism, is not itself challenged. Nor is capitalism questioned. Rather it is assumed that mistakes were made in monetary policy and in regulatory systems that have pulled the economy back down into the “special case” of Keynesian “depression economics.”

Hence, what Keynes called the “outstanding faults” of the capitalist economy are hardly addressed as such.

 
He believes in Keynesianism, yes. But only in its corporatist looting form. Maybe at best he dreams that some of the bounty will trickle down. That’s definitely what he claims to believe.)
 
4. So while he objects to austerity in this context, he has to find grounds to do so which still obfuscate the fact that everything the system is doing, from globalization and financialization as such to lies like trickle-down to the Bailout to “austerity” and onward through the corporate nightmare, is ROBBERY.
 
Paul Krugman strives to whitewash this because he’s a trickle-down corporatist ideologue and Democrat partisan, both of which mean in practice he supports the worst economic crimes in history. It means he’s a hardened activist of kleptocracy, and he’s doing everything he can to serve it. 
Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 244 other followers