In an interview with David Johnson of Boston Review, anarchist/activist/anthropologist and author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years David Graeber makes a key point about the “morality” behind austerity movements that is destined to be missed by all influential economists, bankers, presidential candidates and media pundits, but which no one interested in ethics , politics, or economics should miss (my emphasis):
David Johnson: What inspired you to write the book?
David Graeber: It came out of the strange moral power that debt has over people. So many times you’re talking to people about the depredations of the International Monetary Fund in the third world, telling these horrible stories about the thousands of babies dying of preventable diseases because people aren’t allowed to maintain malaria-eradication campaigns or basic health services due to austerity measures and debt servicing, and people respond, “Well, yeah, but you can’t say they don’t owe the money. People have got to pay their debts, come on!” That common-sensical notion not only that it’s moral to pay one’s debt, but also that morality essentially is a matter of paying one’s debts can bring people to justify things that they would never think to justify in any other circumstance. For the most part, decent people tend not to think killing lots of babies is justifiable under any circumstances. But debt somehow changes all that. Why is that?
Let’s try to really pay attention to that question, because as citizens of the modern democratic-capitalist world, we are very well-educated to gloss over it. Read the rest of this entry »
I will try not to spend a lot of time on the latest overblown media spectacle to distract from what really matters. It probably won’t last long anyway. But the Hank Williams Jr. incident does say something about what’s wrong with the way Americans talk to (or around, at, or through) each other about America. Read the rest of this entry »
I call myself a Democrat because that’s how I’ve been registered all of my voting life. In fact, the older I get, the more disconnected I feel from that label. I don’t want to register as an independent because, Bernie Sanders notwithstanding, I can’t get over the prejudice that American independents are all right-wing at heart. Was it George Wallace’s American Independent Party that instilled this in me? Who knows? It’s beginning to feel, however, that the correct radical stance in this disintegrating context is to not register or vote at all. A vote begins to feel like acquiescence to the corruption.
Did Democrats or any other Obama supporter vote for the fiasco of the last month, culminating in the supreme surrender by our audacious leader last night to the anti-democrats of the Republican Party, bypassing the leaders of his own party to give the (fictional) partisanship-loathing centrists of the electorate the White House is courting for 2012 the illusion of “operational bipartisanship?” Well, yes, we actually did vote for it, unfortunately, and that’s where the whole problem lies. Read the rest of this entry »
Tyler Durden over at Zero Hedge makes a point overlooked by almost everyone who talks about this debt-ceiling limit compared to previous ones (his emphases):
While everyone and their grandmother is foaming at the mouth how both republicans and democrats hiked the debt ceiling for umpteen times over the past x years, the truth is that never before has the ratio of the proposed debt ceiling to the tax receipt ratio been as high as it is now. At nearly 6 times, this means that the top line (forget bottom line) cash inflows into the Treasury are 6 times lower than the current debt ceiling. And following the upcoming $2.5 trillion this number will surge to almost 8 times.
The leaders of US business in the form of the US Chamber of Commerce, the New York Times reports, spent millions of dollars last election cycle electing the extreme right-wing dynamos now holding the Chamber and the rest of us hostage for the sacred Republican principle of a balanced federal budget (well, sacred except to Reagan, the Bushes, and the Congressional Republican leaders of the last 30 years). One of these intellectual giants the Chamber was particularly generous toward displays the kind of logic these new leaders (and, by implication, the rest of us) are at the mercy of:
The chamber spent $436,953 helping to elect Steve Pearce, a New Mexico Republican, almost 20 percent of the total that he was able to raise and spend on his own.
This month, Mr. Pearce told the radio program “News New Mexico” that cutting federal spending was just as important as increasing the debt ceiling.
“We have talked a lot about Armageddon if we don’t pass the debt ceiling,” he said. “There’s an equal Armageddon on the other side if we don’t start curing the spending problems.”
Set aside that the debt-ceiling “Armageddon” is pending next Tuesday and the other has been pending since Bush and Congressional Republicans spent the Clinton-era surplus on tax breaks for the rich, Pearce evidently wants us to believe that in order to hold off the second already held-off Armageddon, it’s necessary to bring on the first.
Hey, Chamber, thanks for sending us this leader. Thanks a lot.
In the wake of September 11, 2001 and continuing through the lead-up to the Iraq War and into 2003, I was involved in an intense debate on several political Usenet groups (my involvement in political Usenet, actually, goes back to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal of 1997-1998), in which there was a clique of rabidly right wing libertarians holding forth on what they called “anarcho-capitalism.” Many believe that the only logical conclusion to right libertarianism (and to history, actually) is capitalism completely unfettered by government. In a sense, they’re right (except for the history part): If you think government is bad for business and you think business is the best way to distribute resources, then the best government is no government at all. Of course a lot of Libertarians believe government is necessary to provide for the defense of business interests, but the anarchos would argue that if businesses need to be defended, they should do it themselves. Abolish government, they say, abolish borders, open all the world to capitalism. Let the market determine the value of everything. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m not a fan of this ridiculous deficit obsession and wish Obama and the Democrats and even Republicans would rise to the historic occasion in front of them and pass meaningful demand-side legislation, but I can’t help but enjoy the game Obama is playing with the little mouse from Virginia: