Saturday, July 11, 2015

Michelle Grisham Against The World

I have to hand it to my congresswoman, 1st District Rep Michelle Grisham. During her brief tenure in the House she's repeatedly voted to slash the federal budget and keep in place and even expand tax breaks for the rich, but pulled off a brilliant publicity stunt this week by showing up at the local Social Security office and standing in line with retirees for several hours, then criticizing the overworked federal employees inside whose budget she had cut.

From Michelle Grisham's Facebook page
Local media and what passes for an alternative here dutifully transcribed Grisham's press releases about her stunt or wrote stories based on her Facbook account, which at last check had garnered her well over 1,000 gushing congratulatory comments -- a lot for a politician's Facebook page -- from sorely uninformed New Mexicans entirely ignorant of what this woman's been up to. Once she lived for a week on what a food stamp recipient gets -- had herself photographed doing it, publicized it, the whole bit -- and later voted to cut food stamps.

To be fair to Ms Grisham, the other Democrats in the New Mexico federal delegation, and most Democrats in congress, and the national Democratic Party, also support Neoliberal, Reaganomics economic policies, but either didn't think of, or think themselves above, standing in line in the hot sun with average citizens for three hours. My delegation as far as I can tell refuses to meet their constituents face to face any more.

As a reminder of what's at stake when Democrats act like Republicans on economic issues, look the charts at the end of the post, which show how we the people have fared economically since Ronald Reagan cowed the spineless politicians we still call Democrats into getting in line behind him. Economists are calling it the new normal; zero to slow growth, stagnant wages. The news media now calls it a "recovery" when the stock market goes up and the all the benefits of said recovery go to the already well off.

Net Neutrality

As soon as the Federal Communication Commission bowed to the public pressure campaign to save net neutrality and adopt rules in February to do so, corporate America began to undermine it. They took a two track approach, filing a dozen or so lawsuits, and working with congress to override the FCC's decision. The lawsuits were dismissed, but a congressional vote is approaching that will undo net neutrality while New Mexico's Democrats, naturally, have remained silent.

This is critical, both for big business and for we the people. The power of the internet as an organizing tool is now well proven. Occupy, #BlackLivesMatter, net neutrality, are a few examples. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign would not have survived the attacks on it by mainstream Democrats, and being frozen out of the mainstream media, if not for being driven by social media, which has propelled the poll numbers that have forced the mainstream media to finally take note of it.

Corporate America has well founded fears that its chokehold on government and power in this country can be threatened by the internet, and they want to control it, and decide who can and who can't speak on it. That's what's at stake in the net neutrality struggle. You can let your congress member and senators know how you stand here.


Two important meetings took place this week in Ufi, Russia, that the media is unaware of or barely aware of.  One was of the BRICS group -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. These developing nations formed an economic block several years and and this week set up an infrastructure investment bank. This is big. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have had a monopoly in the market for funding big projects and have used it to spread Neoliberal orthodoxy around the world. It's quite simple -- if a government wants World Bank or IMF funding it is required first to cut taxes on the rich, slash social spending and sell government assets -- i.e., privatize services. That can have devastating affects on the people, as we see playing out in Greece most recently.

The other meeting in Ufi was of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, another economic block that includes China and Russia, formed 15 years ago, like BRICS as a way to circumvent corporate America's control over the world economy.

I wrote last weekend about a range of ways China and Russia are cooperating to circumvent the US ruling elite's strategy to encircle them military and make them submit to US-led economic hegemony, to become US colonies in short. These action are in response to, in the case of Russia, the relentless expansion of NATO into former Soviet satellites, right up to Russia's borders, the bungled Obama Administration attempt to bring Ukraine into the US orbit with last year's coup, and in China's case the president's "pivot to Asia" by which he seeks to encircle China with naval and air power, with new bases in countries like Australia, and through military alliances with Pacific Rim countries and trade agreements like the TPP treaty.

China has also formed an investment bank, which has been joined by almost all our European allies, and is building high speed rail systems, much of it built by the German government, to move freight rapidly from China's industrial areas to Europe and throughout the Eurasian land mass, including Russia, circumventing the US sea and air power being built up that threatens it. The SCO is part of this strategy, and this week admitted India and Pakistan as full members and elevated several other countries to observer status, a prelude to full membership.

Some people fear China, which has one aircraft carrier, and a few actually fear Russia with its ancient propeller driven bomber fleet. Neither have attacked anyone outside what they consider their borders during the time the US has been attacking countries the world over. Look at how that's worked out, with the US stretched so thin militarily it can't bring one of its disastrous foreign wars to conclusion, and then rethink your fears of China and Russia, who again, have attacked no one. Some also fear cyber warfare from Cnina or Russia. Google "Stuxnet virus." The US by far leads the world in that field. Think Edward Snowden, too.

The interminable Pepe Escobar of Asia Times, from Geneva where he's covering the US-Iran nuclear negotiations, which may be falling apart, wrote this week regarding US policy by which it is isolating itself from much of the world:

"The record is not good. It took over five decades for Washington to start normalizing its relations with heavily sanctioned Cuba. Washington has already alienated the overwhelming majority of 1.7 billion followers of Islam. It has lost most of 1.2 billion Indians – as India joins the SCO. It has lost 1.3 billion Chinese with the pathetic “pivot to Asia” and the non-stop South China Sea saber rattling. It has totally lost Russia, the absolute majority of Latin America and the absolute majority of the Global South."

Its Labor Movement decimated, most of its good jobs gone and having decided the wealthy and corporations don't have to pay significant taxes any more, and as a result with its infrastructure crumbling and its public education system in decline, the US, in order to enforce its hegemony has come to rely ever more on its military, which consumes more than half its budget and for which the working class pays dearly, by shouldering the tax burden and through cuts to social services. And where are Democrats? Doing publicity stunts, talking about green job fantasies, pointing at the Koch brothers and shrieking.

The American working class achieved its highest standard of living, the one that was the envy of the world, remember, between World War II and the early 1970s, before Ronald Reagan came on the scene, and also when there was a counterweight to US hegemony and US corporate power. Say what you will about Russia and China, but that's a fact.

If they, and Latin America,  perhaps eventually Africa, and much of the rest of the world acting in cooperation come to fulfill that counterweight role again things can't be any worse than they are now, with American workers wage having been flat for 30 years and their living standards in decline, and it's more likely we'll be better off.

The rise of US corporate power is why Hillary Clinton cavorts openly with the Wall Street bankers Barak Obama refuses to prosecute for their crimes but instead routinely invites to the White House for lunch, and why the New Mexico delegation says nothing about it, or about the coming end to net neutrality. It's why they say nothing when the president tries to cut Social Security.

It's why none of them have said a word against Neoliberalism. It's why neither Grisham, as she makes her career with publicity stunts pretending to be for the working class, nor representative Ben Lujan nor senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, seem to mind that in Albuquerque, which has monumental buildings named after Republicans, the only remembrance of the New Mexican who voted to establish Social Security, Democratic Senator Dennis Chavez, is a little stretch of blacktop out at the edge of the desert that goes nowhere.

Total spending under current Democrats. Remember that as overall spending has declined the military has been getting more

Economic Policy Institute - productivity increased, but not incomes, under Neoliberalism

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