Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Colder, Crueller Country – For No Gain Whatever - Unless You're Rich (What's Happening to England Under Austerity Thug Rule & Is Upcoming for US)

If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked?

Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don't even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.*

Keith Olbermann draws a lot of criticism from all sides of the political spectrum, none more so than the far left who think he's been a little bit too vehement at times to make his case coherently. Here, he mentions Chamberlain as a model for Obama's negotiating skills without any acknowledgement of the argument that Chamberlain was forced to make decisions when he had no real wiggle room, having a country at that time that was totally unprepared for war with Germany. Chamberlain, at that moment in history, in my opinion, comes out a lot better. Olbermann's pretty good here, however, on exactly what the Obama/Boehner/McConnell tax cut plan is, where it came from and what it will bring to us all very soon. Give this a moment of your time. You'll learn something, I guarantee it. He certainly speaks for me here (and I'm not a regular member of the KO groupies).

TRANSCRIPT OLBERMANN: Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the tax compromise.

To paraphrase Churchill, again, let me begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing: "that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road. We should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of American politics and policy have been deranged, and that the terrible words have, for the time being, been pronounced against this Administration: "thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting." In exchange for selling out a principle campaign pledge, and the people to whom and for whom it was made, in exchange for betraying the truth that the idle and corporate rich of this country have gotten unprecedented and wholly indefensible tax cuts for a decade, in exchange for giving the idle and corporate rich of this country two more years to accumulate still more and more vast piles of personal wealth with which they can buy and sell everybody else - In exchange for extending what he spent the weeks before the midterms calling tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires to people who have proven, without a scintilla of doubt, without even a fig leaf of phony effort to make it look like they would do otherwise, that they will keep the money for themselves - In exchange for injecting new vigor into the infantile, moronic, disproved-for-a-decade three-card Monte game of an economic theory purveyed by these treacherous and ultimately traitorous Republicans, that tax cuts for the rich will somehow lead to job creation, even though if that had ever been true in the slightest, the economy would not be where it is today - In exchange for giving tax cuts for the rich which the nation cannot afford, and extending their vintage through the next election and thus promising, at best, a reenactment of this whole sorry, amoral, degrading spectacle during the 2012 presidential campaign, when the sides will be climbing over each other to again extend these cuts - In exchange for this searing and transcendent capitulation, the President got just thirteen months of extended benefits for those unemployed less than 100 weeks. And he got nothing, absolutely nothing for those unemployed for longer, the 99ers.

This the Administration is celebrating, taking the victims of Republican economic policy, taking the living breathing proof that the Bush tax cuts for the rich do not create jobs, and putting economic bulls eyes on their backs as of next December. On the one hand, unaffordable tax breaks for the beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts, made ever more permanent as they threaten to suck four trillion dollars out of government revenues in the next decade.

On the other hand, an insufficient dead-end unemployment solution for Americans who would actually work for a living, a solution made ever more temporary. And we are hearing nothing about those 99ers, even though the numbers of them will balloon from two million to four million or more by next December even with this deal, even though just last Thursday, the President's own Council of Economic Advisers reiterated the reality that the easiest way to create jobs and keep jobs is to make sure that the unemployed continue to have money to spend. The unemployed, unlike the rich whom this president has just bowed to, are, in fact, the job creators. They do not have investment portfolios to expand. They do not have vast savings into which to stuff the government checks. They have to spend the money. And the Council reported last week that when someone becomes a 99er, his or her household loses at least one third of its income. And where the 99er was the sole breadwinner, that's four households out of ten, they lose nine tenths of their income.

The economy is surprisingly simple. If business and the rich won't spend, and the middle class can't spend, the only factor left to keep pushing money into the insatiable maw of capitalism is the government. So, should the government give the money to the rich who keep it, or to the not rich, who spend it? Apparently this President does not know the answer to that question, even though he has his own Council of Economic Advisers.

Mr. President, for these meager crumbs, you have given up costly, insulting, divisive, destructive tax cuts for the rich, and you have given in to Republican blackmail, which will be followed by more Republican blackmail. Of course, it's not just tax cuts for the rich that you've given up. There is also your new temporary payroll tax holiday, establishing a precedent that the way money is pumped into Social Security should be negotiated and traded off, and making it just that much easier to gut Social Security later. And, oh by the way, in the middle of a crisis over making temporary Republican tax cuts permanent, you give the Republicans another temporary Republican tax cut that they can come back later to blackmail you into making permanent. Well, sir, at least that's the end of it. Except, of course, for the estate tax, what Republicans so happily call "the death tax," which will be reduced from its 2009 levels.


The money given by one dead rich person to some living rich persons will not be taxed up to five million dollars. More than five million and it's 35 percent, which is less than it was under the tax laws of President Bush's last fiscal year. Sir, you have given undeserved tax breaks, and you have carved them a little more deeply into the stone of law, to rich people, living and dead. And you want me to tell them which Democrat proposed this estate tax giveaway part?

Blanche Lincoln! Blanche Lincoln, repudiated by nearly half the Arkansans in her own party, and then repudiated by 63 percent of the voters in Arkansas. Mr. President, you're listening to Blanche Lincoln? What? Were Bob Beckel and Pat Caddell unavailable? This president negotiates down from a position of strength better than any politician in our recent history. It is too late now to go back and ask why the President, and why the wobbly Democratic leadership, whiffed on their chance to force John Boehner to put his money where his mouth was. In September, Boehner said if he had no other option, of course he would vote to extend tax breaks only for the middle class.

So the President and the Democrats gave him another option, naturally. But didn't extending the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy became necessary to get Republican support for extending the jobless benefits? Nonsense. Five times in the last two years, the Republicans have gone along with extending those jobless benefits, and they've done it without being bribed with tax cuts for the rich.

Even now, Boehner's September confession, and the GOP's unwillingness to take the blame for killing off jobless benefits offered an alternative blueprint for this President: Let the law expire as scheduled in 24 days. Let all the tax breaks go. And when the Republicans take over the House and try to pass them anew, if they somehow are not stopped in the Senate, veto anything that does not keep tax cuts for the middle class and unemployment benefits as the dog, and perks for the rich as the tail.

The GOP is still terrified of being blamed for cutting off the unemployed. You take that fact and you break them with it. There is only one possible rational explanation for this irrational and childish transaction. There are Republicans and Tea Partiers who are still intent on cutting off their noses to spite their faces, the "Blind Rage Conservatives" for whom any compromise is disaster, just as for this president apparently no compromise is disaster.

Maybe the reason the administration's numbers don't really add up in this deal is that the administration was too busy instead counting votes, and there really are enough on the far right to sink it, and the President winds up having his cake and eating it too. He proposed what he can call a "tax compromise" and then he can have it derailed publicly and embarrassingly by the Republicans. Maybe the political calculus here exceeds both in priority and quality the real calculus. But I deeply doubt it.

Yesterday, I had an exchange with a very senior member of this administration who wanted to sell me on this deal. I pointed out that that was fine, except that, as I phrased it to him, "frankly the base has just vanished." "Well," he replied, "then they must not have read the details."

There, in a nutshell, is this Administration. They didn't make a bad deal. We just don't understand it. Just as it was our fault, Mr. President, for not understanding your refusal of even the most perfunctory of investigations of rendition or domestic spying or the other crimes of the Bush Administration, or why you have now established for those future administrations who want to repeat those crimes, that the punishment for them will be nothing. Just as it was our fault, Mr. President, for not understanding Afghanistan. Just as we didn't correctly perceive, sir, the necessity for the continuation of Gitmo. Or how we failed to intuit, President Obama, your preemptive abandonment of single payer and the public option. Or how we could not have foreseen your foot-dragging on "Don't Ask,Don't Tell." Just as we shouldn't have gotten you angry at your news conference today and made all the moderate Democrats wonder why in the hell you get publicly angry so often at the liberals who campaigned for you, and whether you might save just a touch of that sarcasm and that self-martyrdom for the Republicans. And of course, Mr. President we totally betrayed your administration by not concluding our prayers every night by saying "thank you for preventing another Great Depression; you are entitled to skate along on your own wonderfulness indefinitely.

And if you get less than you could have on health care reform or taxes, well, that'll be OK; we're happy to pay 10,000 bucks for a 300 dollar car because hey, it could've been 20,000, right? And because we only expect you to do one thing correctly during a presidency, and you know you had pretty much cleared that obligation when it proved that you were, indeed, not John McCain." We are very sorry.

In some sense, the senior member's remark about how we "did not read the details" is not utterly absurd. We have enabled this President, and his compromises spinning within compromises. And now there are, finally, those within his own party who have said "enough.

In the Senate, the Independent, Mr. Sanders has threatened to filibuster this deal. He deserves the support of every American in doing so, as do Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Conyers and the others in the House. It is not disloyalty to the Democratic party to tell a Democratic president he is wrong. It is not disloyalty to tell him he is goddamned wrong. It is not disloyalty for the 99ers and the 99ers-to-be to rally in the streets of Washington. It is not disloyalty to remind the president that he was elected by people to whom he had given a clear outline of what he would do for them, and if he does not steer out of the skid of what he is doing to them, he will not only not be re-elected, he may not even be re-nominated. It is not disloyalty to remind him that we are not bound to an individual.

We are bound to principles. If the individual changes, or fails often and needlessly, then we get a new man. Or woman. None of that is disloyalty. It is self-defense. It is the acknowledgment that, as my hero Thurber wrote, you might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backwards. That is what the base is saying to this President about his presidency. "Well, then, we must not have read the details." The Churchill quotation, as opposed to the quotation from that very senior member of your Administration, Mr. President, is from October 5th, 1938.

I don't want to make any true comparison to the historical event to which it related. The viewer can go ahead and look it up if they wish. I will confess, I won't fight if anybody wants to draw a comparison between what you've done with our domestic politics of our day to what Neville Chamberlain did with the international politics of his. The rest of what Churchill said, paraphrased, but only slightly paraphrased, bears repeating again. The terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against this Administration: "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting." And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and political vigor, we arise again and take our stand for what is right.

Good night and good luck.

* From my god, Joe Bageant. Heh. Go read him NOW.

Are you looking forward to the "austerity times?" For a quick preview all we have to do is look across the ocean to our original settlers' "homeland" England to see what they've got planned for their lower classes already.

They have . . . blindly obeyed the ideological precepts they learned as baby Thatcherites: slash the state, and make the poor pay most.

Osborne galloped through his Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) speech, failing to name almost any of the services that will be slashed or shut down. It's revealing that he doesn't want to name them while the nation is watching.

But beneath the statistics, there was a swathe of human tragedies that will now unnecessarily unfold across Britain. PriceWaterhouseCooper(s) – nobody's idea of a Trotskyite cell – says that a million people will now lose their jobs as a direct result.

This is what is happening NOW in England. (See if any of this sounds familiar with what has already happened in the treatment of "the connecteds.") And coming our way soon, although I had no idea how soon it would be until I saw what Obama had agreed to with the 'thugs running our country. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
A Colder, Crueller Country – For No Gain

Cameron has revealed that his baby sleeps in a cardboard box decorated by her big sister. Thanks to him, a lot more people are going to be sleeping in cardboard boxes. "The Independent" - Margaret Thatcher is lying sick in a private hospital bed in Belgravia but her political children have just pushed her agenda further and harder and deeper than she ever dreamed of. When was the last time Britain's public spending was slashed by more than 20 per cent? Not in my mother's lifetime. Not even in my grandmother's lifetime. No, it was in 1918, when a Conservative-Liberal coalition said the best response to a global economic crisis was to rapidly pay off this country's debts.

The result?

Unemployment soared from 6 per cent to 19 per cent, and the country's economy collapsed so severely that they lost all ability to pay their bills and the debt actually rose from 114 per cent to 180 per cent.

"History doesn't repeat itself," Mark Twain said, "but it does rhyme."

George Osborne has just gambled your future on an extreme economic theory that has failed whenever and wherever it has been tried. In the Great Depression, we learned some basic principles. When an economy falters, ordinary people – perfectly sensibly – cut back their spending and try to pay down their debts. This causes a further fall in demand, and makes the economy worse.

If the government cuts back at the same time, then there is no demand at all, and the economy goes into freefall. That's why virtually every country in the world reacted to the Great Crash of 2008 – caused entirely by deregulated bankers – by increasing spending, funded by temporary debt. Better a deficit we repay in the good times than an endless depression.

The countries that stimulated hardest, like South Korea, came out of recession first. David Cameron and George Osborne have ignored all this. They have ignored the warnings of the Financial Times, the newspaper most critical of their strategy. They have dismissed the warnings of Nobel economics laureates like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, who have consistently been proved right in this crisis.

. . . It can't be coincidental that this is being done to us by three men – Cameron, Osborne, and Nick Clegg – who have never worried about a bill in their lives. On a basic level, they do not understand the effects of these decisions on real people.

. . . Osborne is a beneficiary of a £4m trust fund he did nothing whatsoever to earn and which is stashed offshore to avoid tax. Clegg actually thought the state pension was £30 a week, a level that would kill pensioners.

These attitudes have real consequences. We're not in this together. Who isn't in it with us? Them, their friends, and their families. They were asked to pay nothing more in this CSR. On the contrary: they are being let off left, right and centre. To pluck a random example, one of the richest corporations in Britain, Vodafone, had an outstanding tax bill of £6bn – but Osborne simply cancelled it this year.

If he had made them pay, he could have prevented nearly all the cuts to all the welfare recipients in Britain. You try refusing to pay your taxes next time, and see if George Osborne shows the same generosity to you as he does to the super-rich.

There is one stark symbol of how unjust the response to this economic disaster caused by bankers is. They have just paid themselves £7bn in bonuses much of it our moneyto reward themselves for failure. That's the same sum Osborne took from the benefits of the British poor yesterday, who did nothing to cause this crash.

And he has the chutzpah to brag about "fairness." Britain just became a colder and crueller country. And for what? To pantingly follow a disproven ideology over a cliff. On the eve of the general election, Cameron told us: "There'll be no cuts to frontline services," "we're not talking about swingeing cuts," and "all cuts will be fair".

Is it possible to call him anything but a liar and an ideologue today?You can enjoy a long rest, Baroness Thatcher – your successors have embarked on a mephedrone-charged imitation that exceeds your most fantastical dreams.

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Some commenters add ably to the discussion:

Guest · 3 weeks ago The capitalist system uses workers wages and taxes as COLLATERAL for any losses suffered by the financial oligarchy. When bad times hit, the oligarchs are compensated for their losses, and the workers get kicked to the gutter. This is why governments are focusing on debt reduction instead of boosting their economies by spending. Someone's got to lose and someone's got to gain, and the wealthy are the winners. identalias · 3 weeks ago Good. Apparently the mass class needs to suffer intensely . . . before the masses will wake up and rise up against the fascist filth. Blood will purge this world of fascist evil. Guest · 3 weeks ago Not just the UK but the whole world will have to re-read and re-learn Keynes all over again. Right now the whole economic system is in an impasse and, as Keynes wrote (as far as I recall), "it will take a very clever dog to get us out of this marsh".

Manyhats · 3 weeks ago Let's keep in mind what happened at last June's G20 summit in Toronto. I'm not talking about the blatant suspension of civil liberties; but rather, that the countries present agreed to various austerity measures. Already, we're seeing it not only in the U.K., but in France and other European nations as well. Additionally, it is beginning to happen here in the United States; even though we continue unnecessary military operations all over the world. It no longer seems to matter which western democracy we live in; the wealthy ruling elite is hanging us all out to dry. voxpop · 3 weeks ago England's ruling class has been kicking the British peasants for nearly 1000 years - since they came over from Normandy. Some of their cousins stayed in the USA after 1776 and continued the process there. humanbeing · 3 weeks ago Do we have a modern day Charles Dickens to chronicle the hardships suffered today? Carl Darby · 2 weeks ago Sadly the core of the problem has to do with the debt nature of what passes as money. Until that changes we will be nothing but a sort of slave. Follow the Facts · 2 weeks ago ...."democracy" produced all this...and don't you ever forget that ...."democracy" did it...the "voting"...pacifies...mollifies..."it's gonna be alright, we're voting in new 'leaders'"... Britain is an island...and not a big island...a fraction of the size of Sweden....with over sixty million people...! ...oh yeah....Britain should have max 20 million... Britain is not too far from TWICE as densely populated as China is....! ...but no worries about that in Britain! true supremacists.... The Chinese – responsible, the British – irresponsible...China, building, improving....Britain – the democracy" . . . decaying, warring...sick....criminal...and on and on....

Not a time to look forward to. I think we've got to find some new leaders. Suzan ________________


Beach Bum said...

How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked?

You pretty much hit the nail on the head. Whats worse is that we both know when this house of cards finally falls completely down the result will be ugly and bloody. We are not the people or nation that worked its way through the Great Depression.

Suzan said...


In a word.

And, thanks, friend, for the wise comment.

And the teaser for the lower classes, included in the tax-cut continuance for the ultra rich, concerning the two-year nonpayment of Social Security taxes will end it as any type of dependable retirement asset.

If anyone thinks that people like Pete Peterson didn't had a hand in promoting the "deficit" fraud (after the "Social Security Going Broke lies didn't work) in order to privatize Social Security, they are dreaming (or unconscious).

What used to leave me livid (the need for the recruiting of the naive young people into the band of "Social Security won't be around for me" rightwingnut privatizing screamers) has now been obviated by the newfound and heavily PR'd worry about the deficit which was massively induced by the never-ending war spending and further tax cuts by Bush II.