Subject: Ruling-class fantasies are working-class nightmares.
[“JOIE” when read upside down in a mirror reflection]
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
This new year has delivered increased dangers to humanity and at the same time my 70th birthday. Like many of my generation, I have out lived my parents and my grandparents. The human progress in physical health, daily diets, longevity, education, communication and creature comforts, etc. for most people on our planet is undeniable. Still the uneven development and the regressive policies of reactionary political leaders continue to cause unjustifiable misery for millions of people around the world. The retro-ideologies of neo-liberalism and nationalism, coupled with religious bigotry and ethnic and gender prejudices, serve as a cover for the relentless private profit motive which remains the notorious motorforce of our political economy. On this front, despite the obvious progress in science and technology, we have made no advance and indeed are moving blithely toward irreversible decline (perhaps, in the opinion of some experts, toward the self-inflicted death of our species).
In the midst of today’s insane “sanity” --to coin a Foucaudian concept—we engage in somewhat predictable responses, which offer new opportunities to our superiors, i.e. those who have placed themselves above us in an imaginary political power pyramid of “superiors/inferiors” –financially, intellectually, culturally, militarily, and/or biologically dominant—to profit even more.
Several years ago, the famous US foreign policy historian, William Blum, author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II-- , sent us the following short description of just such an illegitimate political power hierarchy in operatioin :
DANCING ON THE ELECTRIC GRID
by Per Fagereng
Picture this standard experiment in psychology: A group of rats is placed on an electric grid and the voltage is slowly increased. After a while the rats feel a burning tingle in their feet. The experimenters up the voltage some more, and watch the rats dance and bite each other.
The experimenters are seeking knowledge, and the rats’ pain is presumably worth it. The experimenters don’t blame the rats for fighting each other, or punish the more aggressive ones. They know that individuals react to pain in different ways.
Now picture the economic terrain as a different kind of pain grid. Instead of electric shocks, the inhabitants experience job loss, higher prices, less pay, overwork, polluted neighborhoods and so on. Controlling the grid are not psychologists, but CEOs and bankers. Instead of knowledge, they are seeking profit. And so they up the pain, but not because they want to hurt people. They are really trying to up their profits, and the pain is a side effect.
After a while people on the grid do nasty things to each other, everything from domestic violence to immigrant-bashing to crime. Unlike the rats, the people get blamed for their misbehavior. We are told to point our fingers at the victims on the grid, instead of at the economic rulers who keep increasing the pain.
You’d think that the CEOs and bankers would ease up on the pain, but think again. They continue to demand more sacrifice from the poor, knowing full well how they’ll react.
Would you call this a big conspiracy? Or the sum of many small conspiracies? Maybe it doesn’t matter that much. I’m not a mind reader. The point is, the economic rulers pursue their profits and they know the consequences. So to that extent, they are choosing to inflict pain.
Despite the grave shortcomings of our political economy, faults which are becoming exceedingly apparent, we extend to CEIMSA readers our wish for a fulfilling and effective year of rebellion.
To further this objective, we are honored to share with you the following 15 items which can only contribute to a more complete understanding of the practico-inert which presents a challenge to us on a daily basis.
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
Another Fine Mess: NATO’s 'Laurel & Hardy Act' In Libya Not Getting Laughs
by Finian Cunningham
Jihadists Deepen Collaboration in North Africa
Subsistence societies, globalisation,climate change and genocide:discourses of vulnerability and resilience
World War 3 is Coming - Shocking Predictions Coming True
From: "Edward S, Herman" <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, 1 January, 2016 10:56:51 PM
Subject: Ed Herman. Review of Weisbrot's Failed: What the Experts Got Wrong on the Global Ecoonomy
[Z Magazine, January 2016]
Failed: What The “Experts” Got Wrong About The Global Economy
By Mark Weisbrot
(Oxford University Press, 2015, 293 pp.)
Review by Edward S. Herman
Mark Weisbrot, a co-director with Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), has written an enlightening book that pulls together many of the analyses that CEPR has been producing over the past several decades. The book is important and useful because it provides an alternative framework of analysis to the one used by establishment experts, media and policy-makers. What is more, this alternative framework and description of reality is well supported by empirical evidence and is convincing. It is marginalized in the mainstream because it runs counter to the interests of the powerful, who over the past three decades have successfully pushed for a neoliberal world order that scales back the earlier welfare state advances and pursues trickle-down economics and the well-being of the affluent.
In fact, an important feature of Weisbrot’s analysis is his recognition of the extent to which policy failures have flowed from biased analyses that serve a small elite and punish the majority, and that policy successes have often followed the loss of power by those serving elite interests. His first chapter is entitled “Troubles in Euroland: When the Cures Worsen the Disease,” whose central theme is that the long crisis and malperformance of Europe’s economies, and especially the weaker ones of Greece, Portugal, Spain and to a lesser extent, Italy, were in large measure the result of poor policy choices. The crisis, which dates back to 2008, was not due to high sovereign debt, which was only threateningly high in Greece, but rather the refusal of the policy-making “troika,” the European Central Bank (ECB), European Community and IMF, to carry out expansionary policies that would allow the poor countries to grow out of their deficit position.
The Fed met the U.S. crisis with an easy money program which, when combined with modest fiscal expansion efforts quickly mitigated this crisis (although the fiscal actions fell short of what was needed for a full recovery). But the ECB refused to carry out a comparable expansion policy, and there was no Europe-wide fiscal program in the EU system. So the poor countries were forced to depend for recovery on an “internal devaluation” of cutbacks in mainly social budgets, given that external devaluations for individual countries were ruled out by the use of a common currency, the euro. This didn’t do the job, so the eurozone remained in a depressed state, even up to the present.
Weisbrot shows that this policy failure was deliberate, with the troika leaders--mainly the ECB-- taking advantage of the weaker countries vulnerability to force on them structural and policy changes that served the interests of the international business elite. These changes, including cutbacks on public outlays for education, health care, social security, and poverty alleviation, mainly harmed ordinary citizens. So did the enforced pro-cyclical monetary and fiscal policies themselves, which produced a eurozone crisis of unemployment and foregone output that extended for six years and is still ongoing. Weisbrot points out that this policy and process was a notable application of Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine,” according to which elites take advantage of painful developments (here macro-distress) to force policy changes that could not be obtained through a democratic process like a national political vote of approval. Weisbrot shows that the troika leaders were quite conscious of the fact that they were pursuing “reforms” that the public wouldn’t support outside of shock conditions.
This process rested on the undemocratic structure of macro-policy-making in the European community. One of neoliberalism’s instruments is an “independent” central bank, where independent means not subject to democratic control. The ECB meets that standard well, more so than the Fed; and in its statute the ECB is only required to meet a price stability objective, so it is free to ignore unemployment and even deliberately increase it. Neoliberal practice is also encouraged by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which placed ceilings on the size of budget deficits and total public debt (3 and 60 percent respectively). These unnecessary ceilings are often breached, but provide levers to put pressure on weaker countries.
The countries victimized by the ECB’s pressure for painful internal devaluation could in theory exit from the euro and rely on expansion via currency devaluation and newly feasible monetary and fiscal expansion. But the risks in the cutoff of aid and money market access and the turmoil in any transition are severe, and although Syriza was voted into power in Greece on an anti-austerity program and pledge, it did not see fit to exit.. In this connection Weisbrot discusses the case of Argentina, which, in the midst of a calamitous recession in 2001-2002 did default on its large external debt, ended its peg of the peso to the dollar, froze bank deposit accounts, and installed controls over capital movements. This caused immediate chaos and a worsened crisis, but as Weisbrot stresses, after only a single quarter of further GDP decline (5 percent), freed of its externally imposed constraints, Argentina began its recovery, taking three and a half years to regain its pre-recession level of output, but with real growth of some 100 percent over the next 11 years. Greece, which had a peak GDP loss of 25 percent, and which is still mired in a badly depressed economy, could hardly have fared worse than Argentina if it had exited years ago. Whether that option should still be taken is debatable, and Weisbrot discusses the pros and cons without coming to a definite conclusion, but that an exit might well have a positive result is suggested by the Argentinian experience.
A major theme of Failed is the negative impact of neoliberalism on the growth of low and middle-income countries and the welfare of their people. A major chapter on “The Latin American Spring” features evidence that the triumph of neoliberalism in the years from 1980 to the end of the 1990s was a dismal economic and welfare failure, Per capita GDP growth fell from 3.3. percent per year, 1960-1980 to 0.4 percent 1980-2000, rising again to 1.8 percent in the years 2000-2014. The earlier period (1960-1980) was one of widespread government intervention in the interest of rapid economic development; the middle years were dominated by the triumph of neoliberalism, with widespread imposition of structural adjustment programs under IMF and World Bank auspices, lowering trade and investment barriers, and ruthlessly cutting back development and welfare state programs. The years 2000-2014 saw a resurgence of economic growth, but not up to the pre-Reagan years.
Weisbrot shows that the new spurt in economic growth was closely associated with the victory of leftist governments in quite a few Latin American states, starting in 1998, He also presents a great deal of evidence showing that the growth spurt resulted in major improvements in a range of human welfare indicators, like reduced infant mortality, poverty reduction, more widepread schooling, enlarged pensions, and greater income equality. Thus, for example, the Brazilian poverty rate, which had remained virtually unchanged in the eight neoliberal years before the victory of the Workers Party, saw a 55 percent drop in that rate during the years 2002-2013. Similar changes in this and other welfare measures took place in Ecuador, Bolivia and other Latin states that escaped the neoliberal trap. Although these changes brought improved lives and prospects to millions, Weisbrot points out that the U.S. mainstream has played dumb, refusing to feature and reflect on the significance of this widespread improvement in human welfare and its strange efflorescence associated with the decline in U.S. and IMF-World Bank influence in Latin America.
Weisbrot stresses the importance of democratization and policy space in these growth and welfare improvements. The ECB narrowed that policy space in the eurozone, making it difficult for national leaders to expand or otherwise help improve social conditions. This reflected the weakening of democracy in the eurozone, with the ECB, EC and IMF able to make decisions that local democratic governments would not be able to make. Similarly, the loss of power over Latin governments by the U.S. and IMF following the left political triumphs from 1998, and their record of anti-people actions and other policy failures, made for policy space. So also did the rise of China as an economic power, providing a market for Latin products and loans without political conditions. Weisbrot notes that the common orthodox position that the democratic West would be more likely to help poorer countries develop democracies as compared with what authoritarian China would likely do is fallacious. China lends widely without intervening politically. The United States has a long record of support of undemocratic regimes that will serve as its political instruments and/or provide a “favorable climate of investment.” (This writer’s The Real Terror Network was a dossier of U.S. support of National Security States in Latin America and of its active involvement in many counter-revolutionary “regime changes.”)
It is arguable that an unrecognized benefit of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was their distracting U.S. officials from major efforts to halt the trend toward democratic government in Latin America, although their participation in the attempts at regime change in Venezuela and their successful support of an undemocratic coup in Honduras in 2009 shows that the longstanding anti-democratic policy thrust of the U.S. leadership is not dead. (Mrs. Clinton of course fully supported the Honduras coup. So we may see a more energetic pursuit of the traditional U.S. policy of hostility to democracy in Latin America with her election.)
Weisbrot stresses throughout the importance of per capita growth for improving the human condition. A problem with this premise is that the human race may be growing too fast for ecological survival. Weisbrot confronts this issue, arguing that while population growth is a definite negative productivity growth may on balance be a means of coping by increasing food output and lowering the cost of wind turbines, solar panels and other improvements. However, increases in incomes tend to increase the preference for meat, larger houses, and other resource depleters, so that productivity improvements may, on balance, place even more pressure on the environment.
Weisbrot is possibly over-optimistic on this front. But his book is rich in compelling analyses and data that show how the mainstream live in an Alice-In-Wonderland economic world and the important things we may do to escape that Wonderland.
The Secure and the Dispossessed: How the Military and Corporations Are Shaping a Climate-Changed World
(with three short video)
by Nick Buxton
Why Engineers Can’t Stop Los Angeles' Enormous Methane Leak
Watch Fracking Gas Flares Light Up the Earth at Night
by Kaleigh Rogers
Koch Out, Science in
JUSTICE IN HAITI
Over 140 Haitian-American Groups and Leaders Warn Kerry: Going ahead with fraudulent elections in Haiti “a recipe for unrest”
Haiti: Going ahead with Fraudulent Elections "a Recipe for Unrest"
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
Poland: Massive Marches against Growing Authoritarian Threat from Far-Right
January 23, 2016
A candidate of by and for the 0.01%: Former NY Mayor Bloomberg,
Fearing a Trump/Sanders Race,
Eyes Presidential Race
By Dave Lindorff
[ Former NY Mayor Bloomberg, 8th richest billionaire in the US, is thinking of running for president if the choice is Trump or Sanders. Here are five pros and cons of having a candidate from the 0.01% running for president of the USA from TCBH! journalist Dave Lindorff. ]
Our George Orwell/Noam Chomsky Paradox: Let’s Decipher the Doublethink Media and Government Peddles About U.S. Foreign Policy
Links to Recent Articles of Interest
By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted January 1
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUNY Albany.
By David N. Gibbs, History News Network, posted December 27
The author teaches history at the University of Arizona.
By Allen Fromherz, The National Interest, posted December 23
The author is director of the Middle East Studies Center at Georgia State University.
Edited and introduced by William Burr, National Security Archive, posted December 22
By Gary Leupp, CounterPunch.org, posted December 18
The author teaches history and religion at Tufts University.
By Walter G. Moss, History News Network, posted December 13
The author is a professor of history emeritus at Eastern Michigan University.
"Gangsta Jihad" [review of Jason Burke's The New Threat: The Past, Present, and Future of Islamic Militany]
By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, posted December 16
The author is a professor of history and international relations emeritus at Boston University.
By Murray Polnar, History News Network, posted November 30
By William R. Polk, Consortium News, posted November 17
The author is a former State Department official and former University of Chicago history professor.
Thanks to James Swarts, Steve Gosch, and an anonymous reader for contributing suggestions for the above list. Suggests can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.