Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mass Murderer Maggie Dead But Not Mourned Except By Reagan/Pinochet Cabal and Obama Conundrum Explained?

When reading the essay below try to not think of Madeleine Albright (bearer of "we think the price" of other people's suffering "is worth it" sentiments). And then try not to think of who that "we" is.

The Woman Who Wrecked Great Britain

Margaret Thatcher earned every single cheer that greeted her death
By Alex Pareene

The woman who wrecked Great Britain
Margaret Thatcher and Augusto Pinochet in March, 1994, during a private meeting in Santiago. (Credit: Reuters)
(Click on picture to enlarge.)

Aging punk rockers, trade-unionists and decent people around the world greeted the news of the passing of Margaret Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, with something less than respectful restraint. Millions of people had been looking forward to yesterday for years.

Despite their quaint maintenance of a monarchy, British politics are less respectful than ours, and the prime minister is afforded much less regal deference than our president — though by the end of her reign Thatcher was always using the royal “we” — so the death of Thatcher has and will be debated in the United Kingdom much more critically than the death of her comrade-in-arms against the postwar liberal consensus Ronald Reagan was in the United States. The more cowardly American press, though, calls her time in office “controversial” and then moves on to the much more comfortable territory of her extraordinary ambition, forceful personality and skill with a cutting remark. (Our weird class of privileged British expat media leeches have also guided the discussion of the Iron Lady along those lines.)

It would be a crime to allow hagiography and personality to distract from what made her so deeply despised: She ruined Britain.

Let’s skip the rise-to-power biographical crap — if you care you can see it in the Meryl Streep movie, I assume — and get to the point. She intentionally immiserated millions of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish people in order to carry out a liberalization of the British economy that benefited the wealthy at the expense of nearly everyone else. Decades after she left office, the country hasn’t recovered.

Julian Barnes, in a 1993 New Yorker piece on Thatcher’s self-aggrandizing autobiography, wrote that Thatcher’s opponents made two “fundamental miscalculations.” The first was to consider her a “weirdo,” instead of an embodiment of a certain “politically disregarded form of Englishness.”*

The second miscalculation was the assumption, made until quite late in the day, that what she was doing to the country could, and would, eventually be undone. This had always more or less happened in postwar politics: little pendulum swings to the left and then to the right along the years. Now, post-Thatcher, the pendulum continues to swing, but inside a clock that has been rehung on the wall at a completely different angle.
This has turned out to be entirely the case, from the subsequent era of rule by New Labour, through the current post-recession austerity experiment.
In the U.K., unlike the U.S., the ruling party is essentially free to carry out its policy agenda, and so they can take all the blame when the result is disastrous.
Thatcherism wasn’t a total disaster, if you were, say, a banker. For the rest of Britain, it was obviously a pretty bad deal. As this chart from the Guardian shows, poverty skyrocketed during the Thatcher era — no surprise there, considering the intentional recessions and massive deindustrialization that made up her economic agenda — and never went back down, even as unemployment finally fell to pre-Thatcher levels during the most recent boom.
At the same time, Britain became much less equal.
As the trade unions were broken “The City” — London’s Wall Street — experienced the deregulation and subsequent astronomic growth that would eventually lead to Libor-rigging and, paired with similar deregulatory efforts in the States, the spectacular international financial catastrophe itself.
Britain no longer “makes” much of anything, and when those lost jobs were replaced, they were replaced with low-wage, no-security service industry work. Thatcherites insist, still, that Thatcher did what had to be done, that globalization would’ve devastated hidebound, union-choked Britain regardless, and that Thatcher “rescued” the country from inflation and a general 1970s feeling that the 1970s kinda sucked.

Germany and France, luckily, never had Thatchers of their own to “rescue” them. (The myth — and it is a myththat the 1970s were Britain’s lowest point persists mainly because “winners” of Thatcher’s upward wealth redistribution are more likely to write books and newspapers columns and host television shows than former miners are.)
Really, it’s hard to argue with former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who remembered Thatcher on Sky News yesterday:

She created today’s housing crisis. She created the banking crisis. And she created the benefits crisis. It was her government that started putting people on incapacity benefit rather than register them as unemployed because the Britain she inherited was broadly full employment.
She decided when she wrote off our manufacturing industry that she could live with two or three million unemployed, and the benefits bill, the legacy of that, we are struggling with today.

In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact that she was fundamentally wrong.
It is commonly assumed that Thatcher put now jobless miners and other victims of her policies on “Incapacity Benefit” — their version of “disability” benefits — instead of counting them as unemployed, to make the widespread economic devastation she was wreaking look less appalling at election time. This would’ve been especially necessary considering that the Conservatives won thanks in part to their famous “Labour Isn’t Working” campaign, and then they immediately chucked the longtime British policy of full employment.
As with Nixon, every year seems to bring new revelations of the viciousness of her government. In 1981 Thatcher advisers recommended evacuating Liverpool and leaving it to “managed decline.” She was aware of and complicit in the police coverup of their role in the Hillisborough stadium disaster. At one point Thatcher suggested solving the Northern Ireland problem with “relocation” of all the Catholics, or “the Cromwell solution.”
She and her government passed the original “don’t say gay” bill, a proposal called Section 28 that forbid local government councils from doing anything that would “promote” homosexuality. This prompted actor Ian McKellen to come out as gay. As he said in 1988:

Many Tories were appalled by Section 28 right up to one whip who described it as red meat thrown to the wolves in the party. I’m prepared to believe the ex-member of her cabinet who tells me that Mrs. Thatcher has no objection to individual homosexuals and employs quite a few of them.
What she cannot stand is groups of homosexuals. By the same token she doesn’t mind trade-unionists, it’s just that she doesn’t like them joining trade-unions. You can’t have homosexuality on the rates anymore. She is privatising homosexuality. Well I for one intend to take out shares.
Here’s Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, with a more international take:

Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies.
Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent whether in support of the Chilean dictator Pinochet, her opposition to sanctions against apartheid South Africa; and her support for the Khmer Rouge.
Thatcher wasn’t just a supporter of brutal Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet, she was the dictator’s personal friend.

Pinochet was an annual visitor to her home in London after he stepped down from power in 1990, always sending flowers and chocolates on his arrival in England.
Days before his arrest he was invited for tea at the former premier’s home.
When Pinochet escaped extradition to Spain for human rights abuses, Thatcher sent him a congratulatory commemorative plate. Pinochet’s military dictatorship killed between 3,000 and 15,000 people and tortured tens of thousands more. “Your return to Chile has ensured that Spain’s attempts to impose judicial colonialism have been firmly rebuffed,” Thatcher wrote in a personal note enclosed with the plate.
Here’s Thatcher answering questions about her government’s material support for the Khmer Rouge on “Blue Peter,” a children’s show:
Thatcher’s SAS trained and armed the genocidal (but anti-
communist Soviet) Khmer Rouge for years. And, yes, she called Nelson Mandela a terrorist. And there was her pointless war in the Falklands, in which hundreds of people died so that the British Empire could prove to itself that it could still win pointless wars.
Margaret Thatcher was a zealot, a friend to the worst mass murderers of the 1980s, a force for antisocial cruelty, and her violent means of ending the great British experiment in social democracy made the country a more brutal, less equal county.
One of the most telling, and disturbing, of Thatcher’s catchphrases was “there is no alternative,” which was always invoked specifically to close off the possibility of considering the many extant alternatives to her top-down class warfare.

At this point, the alternatives that might’ve produced a more equitable future are indeed long since gone, and the future — for England’s indebted, jobless youth and people the world over ground down by her philosophical comrades — looks about as grim as those horrid 1970s must’ve looked
to the people who originally voted Thatcher into office.

The world is better off without her, and it would’ve been much better off had she never existed in the first place.
*(Also see this piece for some vintage creepy Thatcher fetishizing by old Tory sots like Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin. For all the sexist language that Thatcher’s opponents wielded against her over the years, her treatment by a certain class of older British male admirer is its own kind of gross.)

Alex Pareene
Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

I've linked to a lot of supposed explanations of the Obama Conundrum, but this is probably one of the best. I only disagree about the genesis of his caving. After all, he made the first announcement about needing to address the Social Security "problems" in the speeches immediately following his reelection. Hardly an appeasement springing from current opposition.

Obama Caves Yet Again: Offering Social Security Cuts to Appease the Right...

Posted by Dan Crawford | 4/09/2013
by Linda Beale
Obama caves yet again: offering Social Security cuts to appease the right...
Obama's budget isn't even released yet and he's already caving to the "let's make the rich richer and forget the rest" crowd.  That crowd that claims that we need a capital gains preference so the rich can gather all that extra money to purportedly create jobs.  The crowd, that is, that fails to acknowledge that the rich tend to take all that extra money to Singapore, the Bahamas, or the Cayman Islands or hide it away in some Swiss bank, none of which does any good for our economy compared to what the government investing that money in infrastructure projects would do.
See, e.g., David Leigh, Leaks reveal secrets of the rich who hide cash offshore, The Guardian (Apr. 3, 2013);  The corporatist crowd that refuses to admit the empirical evidence that says government investment is as important as private investment in creating jobs.  It is the government that makes the market go round.  And government money - our money - spent for schools, bridges, safer communities provides jobs and improves lives.  Without that government investment, there is no market, just barter.

President Obama seems to have forgotten that he was elected. as a Democrat, over the Republican candidate.  Obama has no business proposing cuts to Social Security benefits as part of a purported deficit reduction package.

Social Security is not a deficit driver: it is a social insurance program earned by those who receive it by payments over lifetimes of hard work.  It is the only stable retirement income most have.  The average Social Security beneficiary receives just short of $14,000 a year from Social Security - that's just 125% of the poverty line, which of course is defined so low as to guarantee that anyone living at or below that line is indeed in abject poverty and unable to move out of it.

The Republican Party has argued for cuts to Social Security benefits for decades, using whatever crisis of the moment they can engender to argue that we can't afford the system in place.  They've invented the perjorative term "entitlement" to imply that those who rely on social insurance because of disabilities or old age are just 'freeloaders' who are mooching off others.   Not so, since Social Security is an earned benefit program like insurance: workers pay premiums throughout their working life, and then once they reach retirement age they may draw benefits.

There are a number of reasons for the amount of debt that the US government has - most of them related to the four-decade-long drive by the Republican Party to protect the wealthy and the corporations they own from much of a tax burden and to allow the accumulation of immense wealth by a few at the top of the income distribution.

Outsize military expenditures driven by Bush's preemptive wars undertaken at the same time that the Bush Administration pushed through tax cuts that favored the rich are of course a big problem.  The Bush tax cuts threw us from surplus to deficit and we haven't gotten beyond them yet.

The almost complete capture of the financial regulatory agencies by Wall Street, and the resulting financial crisis driven by casino capitalism spiked with the heady bubbles of derivative inflation is of course another part of the problem, and we haven't gotten beyond that yet, as Big Banks still exercise far too much power over their own regulation, proven by the LIBOR scandal that demonstrated their ability to manipulate the purportedly objective market rate to suit their profit machines.

But Social Security is not one of those drivers of the debt. And the debt is not so outsize that it merits sacrificing the most vulnerable amongst us to mollify the wealthy who merely want to avoid paying their fair share of the revenues needed to get rail service up to snuff, bridges safe, and public schools owned by the public again.

The average Social Security benefit is just under $14,000: the use of chained CPI will result in a loss to the average recipient of "$4,631 in Social Security benefits by age 75, $13,910 by age 85; and $28,004 by age 95" (from release by Social Security Works, based on “Inflation Indexation in Major Federal Benefit Programs: Impact of the Chained CPI,” Alison Shelton, AARP Public Policy Institute, March 2013.).

Obama has no business facilitating the gluttony of the rich.  He should drop the proposal to use “chained CPI” that will result in a cut benefits for Social Security recipients.

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