Don’t Give Up

To help understand the meaning of the bailout crisis one should go to Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine and her appearance on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman’s TV program (10/6/08), where she discussed the economic philosophy of Milton Friedman who recommended the kind of deregulation that underpinned the foreclosure crisis and bailout. ... Most of his ideas are referred to in his classic book, Capitalism and Freedom.

Her first point is that the issue of deregulation needs to be seen in context of an ideology beginning with Reagan that government is the problem, not the solution. Government should get out of the way of capitalist ventures created for profit. Regulations impede profitability. Government is seen as intrusive. ... The emphasis is on profitmaking, not the need to protect its citizens. I gathered that the citizenry is now seen more and more on their own—Bush has said the public has to learn that they can’t expect the government to meet their needs when in trouble.

Secondly, she emphasizes that his approach heralded “the most successful liberation movement of our time ... by capital to liberate itself from all constraints on its accumulation.” She indicates that this ideology can be seen as “a class war waged by the rich against the poor and it is winning.”

Thirdly, to gain credence and acceptance for his view of economics, [Friedman] developed theoretical justification that his ideas about deregulation, privatization, free trade, cuts to government spending (such as basic entitlements like Medicare and Social Security) could be applied in the many countries he visited. We certainly know of the failure of deregulation which contributed to the recent massive bailout. The implications of the bailout may involve wholesale evaluations and cuts to our basic services and entitlements.

Finally, to illustrate the power of Friedman’s ideology of unrestrained capitalism, most congressmen are true believers—feel that a government bailout of the foreclosed is a betrayal of conservative principles; the bailout should be in the hands of the private sphere. Not to fear, I understand from Klein, it will happen.

It is noteworthy that Dennis Kucinich (TruthDig.com 10/6/08), nearly alone in his outrage, also sees the bailout as a sellout by Congress because it ignored the populist protective ideal of meeting the needs of the people in crisis. How the battle between Main Street and Wall Street will turn out may be predictable—yet it may stir up some useful dissent and fight to protect our ideal of a protective regulatory-style government from the excesses of a dispassionate unconstrained urge for economic power over our lives.

Sidney Moss
Elkins Park, Pa.

They Have to be Kidding

The thing that burns me most about the bailout is that the “leaders” try to spin it as the responsible thing to do. If they had been responsible, they would have passed significant aid for homeowners over six months ago. If millions of people had been able to get out from under crushing mortgage terms, they would not have defaulted in such numbers and all these failing banks would not have been holding so much bad debt. There would have been no Wall Street crisis, or it would have been much smaller and less costly.

But you know what our “leaders” and “representatives” were doing. They were busy fundraising, much too busy to deal with things like their constituents’ growing debt crisis. For them it’s not a crisis until it affects their big donors. And then they flap their hands and run around yelling, “Do something!” without ever stopping to think what would really help.

A trillion for Iraq, a trillion for the financial sector—so where’s the money for bridges or schools or health care or energy independence? Sorry, can’t spend on stuff like that—wouldn’t be responsible.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
Baltimore, Md.

Capitalism Can’t be Reformed

Social, ecological, economic, and political reforms can never be permanent in our present system.

Daniel DeLeon, founder of the Socialist Labor Party in 1891, made it quite clear in his numerous editorials in the publication The People (at that time The Daily People), that in a capitalist economic system the interests of capitalist and worker are irreconcilable. Capitalism demands the greatest amount of profit that can be extracted from the labor of the workers, else the enterprise will be swallowed by a similar one (or as nowadays simply a larger one), which has managed a greater profit margin by reason of more efficient exploitation of labor. The saying popularized by Margaret Thatcher, “There is no alternative,” applies not to the capitalist economic system, but rather to the inevitable “race to the bottom” necessitated by such a system.

Private enterprise must, therefore always will, seek the lowest cost for labor in order to survive, and CANNOT be concerned with social or ecological issues except as they may affect the “bottom line.” It will, unless restrained by government, seek the most return for the least investment, meaning that ecological and social damage must be disregarded. And the more powerful capital becomes, the more, in our present system, it can BUY the government, which we know that it does now, thus increasing its power in a diabolical feedback loop where power increases profits increases power, etc.

The fact that individuals, known by the title of CEO (Chief Executive Officer ) rake in literally millions per year, nearly five hundred times the income of the lowest paid worker in their company, is a result of personal greed, enabled in its expression by the summary dismissal of large numbers of employees. This results in a weakening of the financial position of the corporation and destruction of morale but has little to do with the fact that reforms CANNOT work permanently under capitalism, except that this tremendous and ungarmented plundering of corporate resources enables the CEO to join the upper 1% who make the rules through their bought and paid for political prostitutes.

Only when the workers control the economy, as DeLeon constantly emphasized, will there be production, whether of material goods, information, public services, or anything else, for human needs rather than for profit. Only when those who actually produce the wealth also determine the allocation of resources, the distribution of income, social services, and ecological responsibility, will it be possible to legislate lasting reforms. Other than eventual social and ecological deterioration into chaos and probable nuclear annihilation, there is, as Thatcher said, “No alternative.”

Phil Sullivan
Woodstock, N.Y.

Republicans Are Done

Anyone who read or studied about the Great Depression (which I guess now we can refer to as “GDI”) knows that people were invested in Wall Street over their eyeballs, many “ordinary” people, and believed then that the market would only go up. It took nearly 80 years, but those pesky old regulations put in place to prevent a record disaster were finally removed, at the urging of the same Republican Party that encouraged the first disaster, with the same free market ideas.

And while said Republicans were pushing these deregulations, they got wealthier and wealthier, and turned even Congress into a stock market to do so.

In the space of one day the economy went from “doing great” to “O my god!” And “nobody saw this coming”? Even the guy (Ben Bernanke) who is claimed to have studied the 1929 crash?

Can anyone say Enron, even?

And Republicans still think they should run this country? Or anything? And Americans are assumed to be seriously listening to anything any of them have to say at this point?

It staggers the imagination, but I guess it’s true.

So much for the “greatness” of “democracy.”

And I’ve actually heard people who should know better say, “A depression like this only happens once every 100 years.” Yeah, they do—when you deregulate all the safety devices!

People have to know why things are the way they are in order to make intelligent decisions about what to change. Like that stray thread you find on a sweater and think you’ll “just pluck off”; good luck with that.

How much more incompetence does the Republican Party have to show before people start to understand that maybe these aren’t the brightest people on the planet?

But, of course, “liberals” are the problem, say they(!)

These are the really depressing thoughts.

Cheryl Lovely
Presque Isle, Maine

Great American Gut Check

Ever since Sen. McCain made Sarah Palin his vice presidential pick, we’ve been hearing a lot about a certain piece of the ideal American story. It’s the old-style western frontier story she seems to represent—with her starring as the pistol-packing mama. Lately the pundits have been saying over and over again that this is our most cherished fantasy of ourselves. But it’s just one piece of the ideal American story. There are a lot of others in play this election season. And a very different one is edging to the front of the pack now.

When we’re getting down to the wire in our national political life, the great American gut check is what counts the most. It’s about common sense and knowing when you’ve been kicked in the teeth. The recent wave of public rage about the bailout may be just the appetizer on this one. After all, we’re looking at the biggest case of “rot at the top” in about 80 years. It’s the worst American nightmare come true: unchecked, high-level lying, cheating and stealing that hurts us all—full scale public betrayal of the most disgusting, gut wrenching kind.

Denis Hayes, coordinator of the first Earth Day, once said of Americans that as a people, we are a “punch-back fighter.” Well, we’ve just been punched hard in the economy, after a long series of sucker punches about Iraq, topped off by being made into torturers in front of the whole world by our own government. Years ago in New York City, I heard well known political economist Gar Alperovitz say the following: “The American people do the right thing in the end.” Well, this is definitely some kind of an end.

On Nov. 5, no matter what happens, we’ll need to put another piece of the ideal American story into play—the one where we make a fresh start, try new things, do it ourselves, and reclaim our True American Identity from the Bush trash heap, starring as “the Comeback Kids.” That old wild west nostalgia Palin evokes may be nothing more than our favorite escape from reality, something we all know perfectly well— in our guts.

Susan C. Strong, Ph.D.
Orinda, Calif.

Election Day Blues

I had for a time considered voting for Barack Obama, before he started swinging toward the right from the center (America has no Left). I hoped that “Change” really meant “Change” for a change.

Keeping health care in the hands of predatory health insurance companies is no reform at all. Expanding faith-based programs beyond Bush’s efforts further dismantle the separation of church and state. Supporting immunity for “spy phone” communications companies is a shame. Letting this criminal regime off the hook from election fraud in 2000, 9/11 disinformation and the multiple lies supporting the imperial invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are crimes in themselves. His calling for escalation of war in Afghanistan is equal to McCain’s “I’ll follow Bin Laden to the Gates of Hell” croaking. Since 9/11 is not even listed on Bin Laden’s FBI Most Wanted poster, where is the justification for either action?

The more I know of Israel, the more I believe America’s unconditional support of it and their brutal treatment of Palestinians must end. The war crimes of Israel against the captive Palestinian population are well documented and we are much too willing to be their surrogate army to destroy their enemies, namely the entire Islamic world. It is discouraging to see Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin compete for the “I Love Israel the Most” award.

So what will I do on Election Day? Since over 60% of Utah would give Bush another term, McCain is the choice and any vote otherwise is irrelevant. I will vote for Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney or the Road Runner, it doesn’t matter either way in our shamocracy. Then I’ll get drunk, pass out hoping to wake up and find that it is still 1973 and the last 35 years were only a ‘Ripple’ induced nightmare.

Paul Ames
Eureka, Utah

What Kind of Liberal?

Froma Harrop’s snide comment in her 10/1/08 column about out-of-control home life and families on welfare helps perpetuate the stereotype of welfare recipients being some sort of lesser, dysfunctional type of human. That comment, and others I have read since her column started running in TPP bring to mind the questions: “Is Froma Harrop a liberal, or a neoliberal? Is Froma Harrop a traditional Democrat, or a Clinton/Pelosi-style New Democrat? Is Froma Harrop really progressive?”

Matt Roman
Binghamton, N.Y.

Cons Ruined the Country

What is so great about being a conservative? We have had conservative leaders in charge of government for most of the last 8 years. We are fighting two wars. The war in Iraq is totally illegal and unnecessary. Our country is Trillions of dollars in debt. The value of the dollar is the lowest in recorded history. Americans have lost the respect of most of the rest of the world. The lobbyists of corporations and their deep pockets have taken over most all aspects of government. Lobbyist in back rooms write the legislation.

If the conservatives remain in control for another 4 to 8 years the schools better start teaching how to speak, write, and read Chinese.

My name is James Hamer, and I approve this message.

James Hamer
Montello, Wis.

Take Your Choice:

The Sadim Touch (Midas spelled backwards) is the reverse of the Midas Touch. A prime example of the Sadim Touch is George W. Bush and his Privatizing Bible Thumper pals—everything they touch turns into s**t.

John McCain nominated Sarah Palin for VP because he wanted to do something to make his fellow Republican ex-VP Dan Quayle look like an intellectual.

Arthur Robbins
San Diego, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2008

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