Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Only Important Debate Is About How Best To Anesthetize American Workers As Their Jobs Are Offshored" Collapsing Empire Watch Continues

Have you noticed for the last decade or so (almost 30 years for many of these silent jokers) that many political commentators and events have never quite turned out to be what you would have expected (using regular logic and some decent reasoning)? I guess in the land of the free you can publicly announce yourself to be a Liberal while supporting Dumbya's tax and torture policies and a Conservative when . . . ? All the rest of the time?

There's an easy explanation to this national conundrum and it has to do with money: how many people were paid highly enough to change sides while mouthing the same platitudes for the most part, and how much money there was to be given out at the upper level of the wealth-endowed tip of the pyramid to enable many to say anything to obfuscate the issues and confuse the listeners/readers who just accept the labels. (I'd love to see the income figures (with sources included) of all these "neoliberals.")

This essay reminds me once again why I stopped watching MSM (including PBS and listening to NPR for anything except music). The oddest element in this news is that most of the people I know to have supported Dumbya's butchery (both ways) didn't do it to support the poor people of the world. Sorry, but I never quite comprehended before that tax-cheating, job-outsourcing billionaires had such tender hearts. And it's good to know that they are "saving the world's poor by sacrificing America's middle class," isn't it? And this guy is OUR Marx?

At least we get this inside info before the election!

As if that'll help turn around the dumbfounded (and dismayed) before they vote heartily for final collapse. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

The Bankruptcy of New Democrat Ideology

A Washington Post columnist and radio host pretends that liberals are choosing "American people" over "people"

Are critics of the Chinese dictatorship’s mercantilist trade strategy the unwitting enemies of the poor people of the world? Are multinational corporations that transfer production from unionized American workplaces to a low-wage country where independent unions are illegal and dissident democrats like Liu Xiaobao and his wife are jailed the true benefactors of humanity? The answer is yes, according to Matt Miller, a veteran of the Clinton administration who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a columnist for the Washington Post and the host of the public radio show "Left, Right and Center."

Miller, who at different times describes himself as a centrist or a progressive, wrote an Op-Ed for the Post last week titled "Liberalism’s moral crisis on trade."

Here's my question for American progressives: If you're for the little guy, are you just for American little guys? Or are you for poor underdogs even if they happen to have been born in India or China?

….[T]he trade debate will bring special agony for progressives who see themselves as fighting liberals at home and as global humanists abroad. We're at a hinge in history when it's no longer possible to pretend there's no tension between the two.

Whose side are liberals on? The American people? Or people?

The claim that progressives are the real enemies of the poor at home and abroad is a cliché of conservative rhetoric. In domestic policy, conservatives and libertarians pose as champions of the black poor by claiming that the welfare state is a "welfare plantation" that enslaves blacks, and that the best way to help black unemployment is to eliminate the minimum wage - arguments that have persuaded few black Americans. In trade policy, conservatives and libertarians argue that child labor laws and environmental regulations in developing countries will only hurt the global poor, and that the offshoring of industry from the U.S. to countries with non-union, low-wage workers is a great benefit to the latter.

Miller repeats this right-wing talking point:

Seen in this light, for example, big business may turn out to be a more "progressive" global force than American labor or government in the next few decades. Why? Because corporate America is generally the strongest voice for the reciprocal free trade and access to markets that poor nations need to thrive.

Matt Miller has enjoyed a successful career in the elite media as the token Democrat who sides with the right on major issues, while maintaining his "centrist" or "progressive" credentials by arguing for slightly higher taxation and universal healthcare in the form of subsidies for private insurance - positions that are compatible with moderate conservatism.

On May 11, 2005, in the New York Times, Miller, describing himself this time as a "liberal," defended George W. Bush’s proposal to gradually whittle away the value of Social Security by what was misleadingly called "progressive indexing": "You’d never guess from the Democratic hysteria that President Bush’s plan to 'progressively index' Social Security is an idea we liberals may one day want to embrace. So farsighted Democrats ... should quit carping about Bush’s evil "cuts" ..." Miller was one of the Democratic pundits who supported the Iraq war.

In 2003 on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN program, Miller declared: "I think capturing Saddam Hussein was a great thing. It’s made America safer and it’s rid the world of this brutal tyrant." According to Robert Kuttner, a genuine progressive, Miller-style neoliberalism is "a recipe for continued shifts to the right. It’s no surprise that Miller is emerging as the conservatives’ favorite liberal."

The project of the New Democrats around Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin was to replace organized labor and the working class with corporate and financial elites and professionals as the social base of the Democratic Party.

Matt Miller is the Marx of the managerial-professional class. One of "Tomorrow’s Destined Ideas" in his recent book "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas" is "Only the (Lower) Upper Class Can Save Us From Inequality." He predicts that the lesser rich, the corporate managers and professionals who insist that they are "middle class" while making $250,000 or $500,000 a year, will rein in the plutocratic excesses of the super-rich. It is not clear why the Lower Upper Class can be counted on to act for the benefit of society as a whole - noblesse oblige, perhaps?

Miller writes that another of "Tomorrow’s Destined Ideas" is that "Only Business Can Save Liberalism" by helping the world’s poor via the offshoring of American manufacturing. In "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas," Miller acknowledges that leading economists, including Ralph Gomory and Dani Rodrik, have established that entire nations as well as individuals can both lose and win from trade. Instead of sharing their conclusion that this justifies rethinking trade policy, Miller calls for offshoring to be rebranded as philanthropy.

According to Miller, the only important debate is about how best to anesthetize American workers as their jobs are offshored - "which tactics can best assure that we have no protectionist backlash in wealthy nations that ultimately hurts the world's poor" (emphasis in original). Miller writes: "Today’s prevailing idea, that 'free trade is good no matter how many people get hurt,' should yield to a new formulation: that free trade is good, provided we have protections in place to make people feel sufficiently secure in times of rapid economic change" (emphasis in original).

Using the italics that are a hallmark of his breathless style, Miller writes:

This is what economists [who denounce the defense of American manufacturing] are really up to. Their redeeming secret is that in hyping the case for free trade, and shielding us from the truth, their ultimate aim is to keep markets open enough for capitalism to work its magic and lift billions of desperate people from grinding poverty in developing countries. (p. 58, italics in original).

Miller’s argument that morality requires Americans to be impartial between the interests of their own people and those of other nations is easily dismissed.

Every practical system of morality, ancient and modern, secular and religious, including the moral philosophy of Adam Smith, permits people to favor their relatives over their neighbors and their neighbors over foreigners. In a world of many communities, public policy would become unworkable if every community had to promote the interest of the entire human race at the expense of its own. How is the interest of the human race, as distinct from that of Tanzania or Taiwan, to be determined by Tanzanian and Taiwanese policymakers? That’s why American liberals have favored anti-colonialism and national self-determination. The Chinese should look after Chinese, Americans after Americans, and diplomacy should resolve any legitimate conflicts.

Miller’s economics are as confused as his ethics. If Miller were truly concerned about barriers to developing-country exports, he would be criticizing the Chinese dictatorship, not American liberals. The victims of Chinese mercantilism include other developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin American and the Middle East, whose own exports to the West have been harmed by China’s undervaluation of its currency.

What's more, export-led development soon runs into its limits. Small countries like Singapore and Taiwan can develop by turning themselves into export-processing zones for multinationals and selling to giant foreign markets. Large countries cannot. The U.S. and Germany developed in the 19th century on the basis of their giant internal markets. So did Japan after World War II, which, even as it pursued an export-oriented strategy, used non-tariff barriers to reserve the large Japanese market for Japanese-made goods and services.

More than 2 billion Chinese and Indians will never catch up by making goods their people cannot afford to buy for less than a billion affluent Westerners. Not only critics of Chinese mercantilism, but also many Chinese government officials, recognize that China can advance further only on the basis of domestic demand-led growth. Among other things, that means raising the wages of Chinese workers, which have been artificially suppressed in order to finance an overbuilt export sector at the expense of Chinese consumers. While consumption in Brazil, another developing country, makes up 60 percent of GDP, in China between 2001 and 2007 it fell from 44 percent to 36 percent. Such shockingly low consumption numbers are reminiscent of Stalin’s forced industrialization of the Soviet Union at the expense of Soviet workers and farmers.

The truth is there is no genuine conflict between American workers and Chinese and Indian workers. Rejecting export-led development for domestic demand-led growth shared equitably with the workers in every nation is a win-win policy.

But the neoliberal ideology of New Democrats like Matt Miller is all about false choices : “Whose side are liberals on? The American people? Or people?”

It is hardly surprising that someone who argues that progressives must choose between retirees and children, and between teachers’ unions and students, should argue that American liberals must choose between American workers and foreign workers.

The "dead ideas" from whose tyranny Americans must free themselves include ideas like these.

Michael Lind is policy director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation and author of "Up From Conservatism: Why the Right Is Wrong for America."

Glenn Greenwald completes the argument against the neoliberals by dissecting it. Completely. (And there is some good news about U.S. rankings!) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Collapsing Empire Watch

Glenn Greenwald It's easy to say and easy to document, but quite difficult to really internalize, that the United States is in the process of imperial collapse. Every now and then, however, one encounters certain facts which compellingly and viscerally highlight how real that is. Here's the latest such fact, from a new study in Health Affairs by Columbia Health Policy Professors Peter A. Muennig and Sherry A. Glied (h/t):

In 1950, the United States was fifth among the leading industrialized nations with respect to female life expectancy at birth, surpassed only by Sweden, Norway, Australia, and the Netherlands. The last available measure of female life expectancy had the United States ranked at forty-sixth in the world. As of September 23, 2010, the United States ranked forty-ninth for both male and female life expectancy combined.

Just to underscore the rapidity of the decline, as recently as 1999, the U.S. was ranked by the World Health Organization as 24th in life expectancy. It's now 49th. There are other similarly potent indicators. In 2009, the National Center for Health Statistics ranked the U.S. in 30th place in global infant mortality rates. Out of 20 "rich countries" measured by UNICEF, the U.S. ranks 19th in "child well-being." Out of 33 nations measured by the OECD, the U.S. ranks 27th for student math literacy and 22nd for student science literacy. In 2009, the World Economic Forum ranked 133 nations in terms of "soundness" of their banks, and the U.S. was ranked in 108th place, just behind Tanzania and just ahead of Venezuela.

There is, however, some good news: the U.S. is now in fifth place in total number of executions, behind only China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and comfortably ahead of Yemen and Sudan, while there are two categories in which the U.S. has been and remains the undisputed champion of the world - this one and this one. And, of course, the U.S. is not just objectively the greatest country on the planet, but the greatest country ever to exist in all of human history - as Dave Roberts put it in response to these life expectancy numbers: "but we're No. 1 in bestness!" - so we're every bit as exceptional as ever.

Just ask the Rethugs!

We're Number 1!!!!

Jim Hightower, as usual, has the final word (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

Apparently, you and I owe an apology to the extravagantly-rich in our society. They're reported to be in a deep pout and a political funk because We the People have hurt their feelings.

This stems from the public's simmering anger over the fact that the Wall Street barons who crashed our economy are back to paying themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses, while the corporate CEOs who keep downsizing and offshoring our middle class opportunities are grabbing bigger paychecks than ever for themselves. The wealthy swells are upset by our anger and feel picked on by us riff-raff – they don't like being blamed for our economic distress, even though they are to blame, and they certainly don't like the rising populist fervor for more economic fairness in our country. So they're mad at us for being mad at them, claiming that they are victims of our "wealth envy."

I'm sure you feel as badly as I do about this, so you'll be glad to know that those living in luxury seem to have found a way to soothe their bad mood: they've gone shopping! Yes, while workaday Americans are scrambling just to cover the rent and buy groceries, the well-heeled are reported to be splurging again, indulging their consumer whims with such pricey pretties as exotic automobiles.

One analyst of trends in the luxury car market concedes that sales of Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, and other ultra-priced autos had been down the past couple of years. He explained that, "It didn't feel right buying a $300,000 Rolls-Royce when people were being foreclosed out of their homes." But this year, the elites are saying, "To hell with what the public thinks, I'm gonna get me a new Ferrari 458 Italia, the people be damned!"

How nice for them. But I don't think their conspicuous consumption is going to make anyone feel better about their greed – nor will it quell the public's rising populist fervor.

"Wealthy step up purchases of ultra-luxury cars," www.azcentral.com, September 16, 2010.

Anyone else need a new car? And I don't mean brand new - just one less than 20 years old?

Okay. That would be me. But still!

Suzan _________________

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