Saturday, April 9, 2011

Third World Blues

As President Obama and congressional Democrats try to put a good face on their latest defeat, their latest great sellout of the working class, their cave-in to $38 billion in cuts to social programs for the poor and struggling as part of a stop gap spending bill, cuts that will further devastate an American working class already on its knees and which may well halt the economic recovery along with Obama's and many Democrat's re-election chances, it is well to remember that Democrats control the White House and Senate. Republicans control only the House of Representatives, and yet from that minority position are in complete control of the American political process and the United States government.

My New Mexican legislative delegation has remained typically silent during the budget debate, mute with the fear that they might antagonize a tea bagger or one of the corporate donors they rely on for campaign funds. Rep. Martin Heinrich, who hopes to become Senator Heinrich, cowered in his office until it was almost over, but finally managed to pull himself together long enough to send out an email letting us know who would be screwed by a government shutdown if it had happened, that is, who would be hurt by the Democrats' ineptitude and cowardice, and who among us who depend on government services can breathe easy.

For the time being, that is. Don't think that the Republicans are finished with us. As I have written in several earlier posts, what is happening now is simply part pf a process. It's a continuation of Reaganomics. It's really the fruition of Reaganomics, sometimes called Neoliberalism by academics who have studied it up one side and down the other but which should be called exactly what it is, Reaganomics, good old trickle down upon us supply side economics, that collection of campaign slogans and selling points invented by the likes of Michael Deaver which never was an economic theory but rather a plan to undo what the American working class had gained in the 20th century.

The goal of Reaganomics was and is to reduce American working class living standards until they are closer to those of the so called Third World, and enrich the super wealthy. American wages have remained flat since 1978, adjusted for inflation, and our living standards have been headed gradually downward. The pace of the decline has recently increased. The attack on public sector unions, the last center of anything resembling organized working class power, is simply one element in the final assault.

Much of the Republicans' work has been done. Americans are divided more than ever. Institutions in which we once had a common stake like public schools, government, social programs, are on their way out. The remaining public institutions are in the cross hairs and are in disrepute, so successful has been the Republican propaganda machine in setting the agenda and limiting the discussion, that is, framing the debate. These same institutions are the ones our government tries to build in countries it wants to bring democracy to, like Iraq and Afghanistan, where it is called "nation building," because they know very well that public institutions are a necessary part of a functioning democracy. That's not what they want for us, of course, and our public institutions were just dealt another harsh blow, with full Democratic Party complicity.

Obama, who just launched his re-election campaign, is said to be planning to raise $1 billion for his 2012 re-election, which would break the record he set in 2008. The hopeful small donor legions who contributed and volunteered then were promptly sidelined after the election, and have not even been hit up yet for their spare change. The rich and powerful provided most of Obama's '08 campaign chest, and his new re-election campaign manager, Jim Messina, is presently on a "listening tour" of big donors -- that is, listening to the jingle of their purses as they empty them into Mr Hope and Change's big fat hat.

Messina, as outlined by Ari Berman, spent the last two years as White House deputy chief of staff, where his purpose was to muzzle and neuter the "progressive" left. He mainly kept them out of the picture, and stifled any dissent from the Left as Obama caved in to one Republican demand after another and generally sucked up to big time Capital any way he could away with.

America's Comeuppance

The golden age of the American working class lasted from the time of Franklin Roosevelt in the late 1930s until the late 1970s, by which time one person working could support an entire family, buy a house, send the kids to college and live a dignified retirement. The rate at which we consumed was the envy of the world, indeed, was what drove the world economy. Liberals often could be heard lamenting the fact that the US consumers had it so good because working people in other countries had it so bad. Often you would read things like this: The United States consumes 40 percent of the world's energy with only 5 percent of  the world's population."

Of course none of these same Liberals ever suggested we give up anything, that we share what we had. Consumption is part of our culture, part of our being. Getting ahead. Having more. Many of us professed to be against war, but our standard of living was made possible, after all, because US corporations, as a result of US military interventions, threats of interventions, CIA interventions, and the propping up and bribing of friendly dictators all over the world, were always able to acquire raw materials cheaply. Cheap copper from Chile, cheap oil from the Middle East, Mexico and Venezuela, cheap bauxite and uranium from African countries. The list went on and on. The working class of the Third World was kept in poverty as a result, and their misery fueled our consumption.

But soon we will stand shoulder to shoulder, in economic terms, with our Third World working class sisters and brothers, who, by the way, have not benefited from our decline. The money being taken from us is not being shared with them, but has all been going to the top one percent, as the Federal Reserve and many others have pointed out, and most of that to the top .1 percent.

But unlike the working class of the United States, the Third World working class knows where the money is. They know how Capitalism works. They are much better informed and more politically astute than the docile American working class, the majority of whom now sit in front of a big screen TV and eat up the Republican, Reaganomics propaganda that is Fox News, and accept without question the idea that the rich deserve to accrue unto  themselves most of the wealth that our labor creates.

Perhaps one day when the mass of the American working class, many of whom get out of bed every morning thinking that they are better than everybody else, look around and discovers that in fact they are not, not even in terms of their once much envied standard of living, perhaps then they will reach out with a newly discovered humility and in a new found spirit of solidarity, and ask their brothers and sisters around the globe for help.


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