Friday, September 19, 2008

I come out of hibernation and what do I find?!

My savings going up in smoke and the new candidate for the arsonist party only 2% behind in the polls. NY Times, for one, mentions that we who have been saving the last 30 or 40 years for our retirement just took a hit many will not recover from.

There are a thousand things to say about the administration's attempt to use the massive screw-ups of our unregulated financial giants as a cover for taking the last bits of power from congress and the last bits of taxpayer money in the treasury and just giving it to Mr Paulson's former colleagues on Wall Street. Fortunately, these things are being said. At TPM, HuffPo, TruthOut, Brad DeLong and Agonist you will find a flood of facts and contempt for what the administration is trying to do. TPM and Agonist have nice juicy dirt on McCain's connection to the beneficiaries of the proposed bailout via his lobbyists/advisers Carly Fiorina, Phil Gramm and Rick Davis.

So why am I writing? I have soured on is the sport and distraction of people who have problems they can't ignore but don't understand and who do not wish to deal in person with the shiftless dehumanized bums they hold responsible. Seriously, just do one thing: do not let that senile sell-out, John McCain nor his Bush-in-a-skirt ratings buoy get in to office. Those idiots will plunge us into a dark age and a depression faster than I can get safely to a place off the grid, with low taxes and a climate that would let me feed myself.

I fear this bailout will be no longer lived, in its good effects, than the previous gyrations and heroics with which the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have papered over the stock market's tumbles three times in the last 16 months. How long do you think this nation could go on ignoring all the laws of common sense economics, spending a trillion on useless wars, cutting taxes, letting jobs go off shore with no plan to re-educate the bereft workers and removing all obstacles to head long consumer spending and balance of trade hemorrhaging? How long? You can also ignore the laws of gravity until the moment of impact with the ground. Borrowing to prop up all those losing activities will naturally come to an end. Just as Reagan smirked in 1989 that communism was dead, I suspect Hu Jintao and Putin now smirk that capitalism as Americans do it, is in equally poor health.

It really and deeply hurts me that this country has been so weakened, I can not find an article in any of my reading that overstates how stupid and treacherous the Republicans have been. Even Larisa Alexandrovna seems too restrained.

I have read just one too many of these dooms day scenarios by "America-hating" liberals. I have seen too many of their predictions unfold like clockwork ticking.
Steve Fraser, writing the day before the administration's finance managers, Bernanke and Paulson called their desperate huddle on capitol hill, gave a pretty good summary of how bad things were, how drastic the solutions must be and a gentle reminder that this train wreck of ruined credit vehicles at all levels of the economy was not an accident. It is the largely predictable consequence of dismantling regulation of markets that has gone on throughout Democratic but mostly Republican administrations over the last 30 years. The line in Dubya's speech last night in which he claimed our problems were due to old regulations written for different times is a lie...his party tore up the regulations. There are many things that are meant by regulation but the rules and enforcements that would double check greed-colored decisions that risk other people's money should not be weakened until a species of human can be found that does not sucome to greed. I repeat: Democrats and Republicans have had a hand in weakening such rules and we ought to ask why they did so. I think Fraser's article also points in a good direction for solutions. Rather than these fits of spilled tax monies and deferred debt that suspend consequences for the risk taking of a coterie of bankers and deal makers who amass vast empires of paper wealth, we need to subsidize the creation of education, productive capacity and infrastructure, as the Chinese have been doing like mad for a decade, . You might give Mr. Fraser's remarks a little attention, if not for their appearance in TruthOut, then for their having also been picked up by the generally perceptive editors of Asia Times. Did y'all read Stirling's essay on "penultimate crises"? Are we there yet?

My blogging ceased recently. I found all I was doing was passing on the complaints you have already heard from sources closer to the fray. My excuses for writing have been the general relief of venting my anger at our subjugation by smug, selfish, ignorant and privileged fools, or the claim that every voice counts for something if it adds to the din of outraged hue and cry. But other than my feeble involvement with MoveOn, what have I done to change things? Not much. In my blog as a partisan in the war for sustainability, I have perhaps a more activist, or perhaps more accurately a PASSIVIST, approach to things. I expose myself to chastisement for abandoning a fight that I consider lost. I really don't think Americans, nor Chinese for that matter, in their governments nor in the minute daily struggles and decisions of citizens and consumers, give a damn for whether their strivings amount to a stable long term program for human life on earth. These economic dramas by which we seem to be caught up and swept along, are symptoms of an even bigger collapse that our nearly universal quest for a bigger share of nature's pie has doomed us to suffer.

I am contemplating what I suspect most readers would confuse with the programs of survivalists and the anti-government paranoids. I wont have a rack of guns and boxes of ammunition in a bunker but I do actually consider it likely that most of us will at some point in the next two generations, be forced to fend for our selves personally to gain food and warmth when they are no longer obtainable by the ordinary economy. Corporate greed may be accelerating the ruin and necessitating the occasional revamping of the macroeconomic machinery but the personal appetites, innate or induced by ad culture, on which that machinery has fed is equally to blame and more to blame for the irresponsible way we outstrip the mineral and biosphere capacities to support our life style ambitions.

I am planning a retreat from all this. I am lucky enough to be able to buy arable land at a time when the housing debacle in the US has put a few such acres on the market at a discount. I plan to work at jobs for pay or to otherwise participate in the emerging nationalized-finance economy as little as possible. We have finally heard sensible complaints from pundits who should have said long ago that the wholesale abandonment of fiscal conservatism by the republicans and the suspension of critical economic thought by the electorate are burying us and generations of our children with debt. If I make no money, I cannot be taxed to pay that debt. Take the repayment from the accounts of the chairmen and CEO's of Wall street, please. I will have beans and squash to plant and strawberries and peaches to can. I wonder though, if many take up my strategy, how long before the US income tax would be augmented by a national real estate tax or a "small farm" tax. Would our reduction to serfs in a subsistence agriculture economy be so very different from the present state of the late and unlamented middle class? Only the size of the paycheck and the demands on the earth's resources would shrink. Too many of the little people, the wage earners and workers, their vision diverted by hope that they too will participate in Dubya's mythical "ownership society" have seen that to pursue that participation via debt makes for a "foreclosure society". We are there now. Even before that was visible, it was clear that these workers were being saddled with deferred national debt spent on useless wars and bankers who had ceased to worry about risk. I refuse to carry these fat bankers on my back, no matter how diffuse and indirect the means by which I am hitched to their mistakes.

The day after I drafted this post, I found one Jo Fish at FDL had an inkling of the revolt that attracts me. Larisa is not the revolutionary at all.

I claim to have been a model citizen: If a democracy is a government that derives its legitimacy and its policy directions by consulting all its citizens, then it is an absolute necessity that those citizens actively engage in being broadly informed and recognize their individual obligation to bear the costs of the commons. Biden is right that it is patriotic to pay your taxes. I would go so far as to say it is idiotic not to. It is perverse that one of our nation's last great public investments in those commons, the Internet, had the potential for each of us to finally be constantly and broadly informed but instead our natures lent us the Internet as a means to form balkanized virtual enclaves. Our awareness of the plural nature of our society and the interdependence of its parts has changed to estrangement and an arms length perception of faceless competitors in our midst. We now have a country where the recognition of our obligations is atrophied. When I first began earning a good paycheck as a 20-something engineer, I did resent the chunk taken by the state and the federal government. In the 35 years since my career began, the household income here at Greensmile Acres has grown to 97th percentile and our tax bill is now 50% larger than the median yearly income in the US yet I have grown grateful that I can carry my share of the weight. I should be a Republican but I am not and I only resent the taxes pissed away on warfare and the useless leeches in the Defense and Energy and Fatherland Security departments. What madness is it that permits a man to see himself as a would be savior while lining his pockets with public monies for which greater needs are in plain sight? Our family has saved more and consumed far less than is typical even in our income bracket. We have lived 35 years with a modestly escalating and, we thought, absolutely sound prosperity resting on good paychecks and a value for prudent saving. Our story differs from Sean-Paul's. And that difference may only tell a story of one generation and its successor in this country. We have had money for our children's education. Our checks to the IRS do not mean we will have to do without. Retirement, if we ever wanted it, should have been a fat chest of goodies we were positioning at the end of our working years. We have had no debt for over a decade. But now the rotten condition in which Republican policies have left that chest, and the way the majority of voters in this country have supported, ignored or acquiesced to those policies despite being hurt by them all darken my view of life in this country. Of what have I been a model citizen? Will the feeble mined elders who have clung in their insecurity to the protofascist pitches of Rove and of Bush turn to cling the more fervently to McCain now that their fears and harms have been aggravated by a deeper plunge into financial insecurity? I want no part of such a nation yet I have no choice.

"In the long run" is a phrase that slips in to many a polemical paragraph, certainly in to mine, to warn you the writer fancies he has some perspective or can accurately project trends forward to some eventuality. I don't know how long we have to run before retrospectives of the history of protests against the selfishness exemplified by Republican economic policy can be said to remove doubt and ambiguity from my conclusions: some liberal economists and a few progressive legislators have had a good grasp of what was wrong with those policies. I don't know how long we have to run, period. Now that nothing less than our entire national economy lays bleeding, bled, and broken in a heap before congress, it is a bit late to admit that in the long run, pandering to the selfishness of taxpayers is a fucked up scheme and the most toxic substitute for leadership, however successful it may be in getting you in office for in the short term.

I do not trust these fascists. Though many liberal economists can see clearly enough that Republican deregulation is a cause of the over extension of debt instruments that finally collapsed our entire credit apparatus, I expect to hear daily in the news the bleating of Neoconservatives who will try to hide their matches and gasoline and say we are witnessing a kind of Reichstag fire on Wall Street for which, god knows how, those tax-and-spend liberals must be to blame. Naomi Klein has been mentioned by a few of my favorite bloggers in light of this week's economic events. That is apt. We might have paid more attention to the feckless pursuit of Bin Laden, now gone somewhat into reverse in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we might have looked at the connection between the devastation of Galveston and the disappearance of the polar ice sheets...real problems abound... but now the Republicans can shout "oh! look! An emergency! Quick, give me more power, cede more rights so I can protect you!".

What is being judged then, by all these tribulations? We cast all our judgments on our political champions so they may stand in for us, and we the voters absolve ourselves of blame. My disgust and withdrawal stem from this understanding: voting only dilutes blame, it does not absolve. If we stumble on as we have, electing McCain and otherwise teetering toward fascism, it is not John McCain who should be examined for his failures but we teh people.

I am not talking about somebody else, I am talking about YOU. The "we" who stumble includes me, all who say and do the right things as well as the dangerously ignorant and mislead who foam at the mouth over at We all have the vote. Everybody says vile things about lawyers except the one who gets them out of jail or wins their civil case. Everyone resents the wealth of doctors...except the doctor who cures their disease. Everyone is saying vile things about bankers...except the one who lent them the money to start their business. Do you not see what a shitty job we are doing of sharing the world?

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