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You now have a year to a year and a half at most before the next economic meltdown

2011 January 20
by Ian Welsh

The RNC is asking for 2.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. Assume Obama and Dems split the difference (remember, Obama wanted a freeze already, anyway).  1.25 trillion.

The effects of that on the US economy, such as it is, will be catastrophic.

If you can work right now, do.  Earn as much money as you can, reduce your costs as low as you can and get ready for the next downturn.  It’s going to be ugly.  Jobs will continue to be shifted out of the country, Americans will continue to be turned into debt-serfs with every relationship a revenue stream for some entity which provides a necessary service (whether internet, credit, food, or whatever).  Your house probably can’t be sold for what it’s worth, since the banks have a ton of houses they need to sell, so don’t assume you have an asset worth its face value, instead evaluate it as housing.

Times are bad, they will get worse, especially as this type of austerity is happening in virtually every western country.  Expect both high inflation in what you actually need (food, for example) and high unemployment (the return of stagflation), whatever the “official” rate of inflation says.

This is what Americans voted for.  Republicans were very clear that this is what they wanted, and Obama spent his campaign talking about tax cuts, not spending.  They’ll meet somewhere in the middle. “No, let’s amputate at the hip, not the neck.”

60 Responses
  1. Rilen permalink
    January 20, 2011

    Times are bad, they will get worse, especially as this type of austerity is happening in virtually every western country.

    Where else are America’s ownership class suppossed to get the money to establish their 21st century Raj over China and India?

  2. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 20, 2011

    I agree, Ian. I believe, for a myriad of reasons, that permanent decline in a stepped down fashion will be the way of the future. Some steps will be much steeper and severe than others. I have to chuckle when I hear economists talking about all the different shaped recoveries, i.e. the U or the V or what ever the latest is. They’re so full of shit. Their craft is pure voo doo at this juncture. I meant to sound like HW Bush there…it was no accident.

  3. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 20, 2011

    And, as we all know, the anger and resulting violence will be misdirected. It always is.

  4. anon2525 permalink
    January 20, 2011

    The current economic meltdown hasn’t stopped. Just ask the 40 million people who rely on food stamps, the 60 million people who have no insurance for medical services if they get sick or injured, or the uncounted millions of people who have been evicted from their homes. Until those numbers are reversing, those people live in an economic meltdown.

    Of course, the DOW is near 12,000, the S&P 500 is near 1300, corporations have $2 trillion in cash, and banks have $1 trillion in excess reserves at the Fed. Reserve (benefiting from a nice “yield curve,” thank you, BenB).

    If an economic meltdown happens only to the middle class and poor, does it make a sound?

  5. January 20, 2011

    “This is what Americans voted for.”

    Well we voted for something else in 2008, and look what good that did.

  6. 11BP permalink
    January 20, 2011

    Morocco Bama
    January 20, 2011

    And, as we all know, the anger and resulting violence will be misdirected. It always is.

    no, not this time. we have our list ready to go. us army trained us and trained us well. hatred is the most powerful motivator known to man and we have an infinite, endless supply. gates and private security will not be enough to stop us.

  7. good quote permalink
    January 21, 2011

    Revolutions are fought by those whose ribs are easily counted.

  8. par4 permalink
    January 21, 2011

    Ian; What makes you think any other country wants any Americans? Unless you are a multi-millionaire who can buy your way into another country you are pretty much stuck here.

  9. alyosha permalink
    January 21, 2011

    My only quibble is with your timing. Obviously it’s to Obama’s advantage to hold off the pain as much as possible till his second term begins. The Rs, of course want to destroy him by taking down the economy just before the election. It’ll be interesting to see how well he can manage/who wins. Regardless, I expect inflation to begin ticking up this year.

  10. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 21, 2011

    Revolutions are fought by those whose ribs are easily counted.

    That is a good quote. And Jesus, if that’s the case, it will be a long tome before there’s a revolution in the U.S. Have you seen the size of these people? They’re as big as a house, and not just the adults, the kids are huge, and not huge in a good way, but huge like the chickens, pigs and cows that are fed nothing but growth hormones and can hardly stand because the of the pressure on their joints. Weebles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq0OQBdIhsc), they are not. They’re more like June Bugs. Once you tip them over and get them on their back, they can’t get up.

  11. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 21, 2011

    It was to Obama’s interest not to have such a shitty economy coming into the 2010 elections, too, and he couldn’t manage that. Obama has said he wants to do the “right” thing and if that means he gets one term, so be it. (Assuming that he is competent enough to manage the economy, which is not a given.)

    Par4: one of my friends just moved to Canada from the US, actually, and he’s not a multi-millionaire. Of course, he is a shrink. But another pair made it in and the husband is a techie.

    Not saying it’s easy to get out, but it’s open to more than multi-millionaires.

  12. David Kowalski permalink
    January 21, 2011

    The way Obama negotiates, Republicans will get 3/4 of what they want or more. Then Obama will brag about the $500 million he saved. Either he’s a bad negotiator or more likely Obama really wants the Republican program in the first place and has to throw in something for Democrats.

  13. guest permalink
    January 21, 2011

    alyosha PERMALINK
    January 21, 2011
    My only quibble is with your timing. Obviously it’s to Obama’s advantage to hold off the pain as much as possible till his second term begins. The Rs, of course want to destroy him by taking down the economy just before the election.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Just because the R’s say they hate Obama and want to destroy him, doesn’t mean they deep down want to or will. He is the most accommodating president they can hope for, and he brings blue dog support with him, so they can do more damage with him than without. And on top of that, the Dems take the blame. The Vichy Dems owned TARP and they will own the gutting of Social Security and the rest of the Austerian Agenda.

    I seriously think the fix is in and Obama will be reelected Joe Lieberman style (a nominal Democrat who gets his most critical support from the Republicans)

    It’s just a good cop/bad cop routine. They’re all on the same side – they’re all bad cops.

    And 11BP is nuts if he thinks there is any widespread understanding of who the real enemies are. Which means that if his talk of violence is anything more than puffery, he will probably misdirect it too.

  14. someofparts permalink
    January 21, 2011

    Took your advice a year ago and it has made a big difference. If my friends and I survive what is coming, you will know we are making it if I am still able to get online and show up at this website. My heartfelt apologies for whatever hardship this will cause our Canadian neighbor.

  15. alyosha permalink
    January 21, 2011

    Just because the R’s say they hate Obama and want to destroy him, doesn’t mean they deep down want to or will. He is the most accommodating president they can hope for, and he brings blue dog support with him, so they can do more damage with him than without. And on top of that, the Dems take the blame…

    Agree, it’s a win-win for the Rs. If Obama wins, they get a Vichy Dem. If an R wins, their agenda moves into a higher gear, much like when W won in 2000.

  16. Notorious P.A.T. permalink
    January 21, 2011

    “Just because the R’s say they hate Obama and want to destroy him, doesn’t mean they deep down want to or will. He is the most accommodating president they can hope for, and he brings blue dog support with him”

    Too true. But, like most people who usually get what they want, the Republicans won’t settle for “only” getting 3/4 of their demands. If they replace Obama with one of their own, they will get 4/4 of their demands. And plenty of Democrats will go along with it, like they did during Bush. And even if they don’t, that won’t stop the Republicans, who will find a way to get things done.

  17. John permalink
    January 21, 2011

    Thanks for the heads up, Ian! Unfortunately, I am now of the view that the least amount of planetary suffering my be if the whole current US thing does wind down. When Americans are poorer, less energy gets used. Combining Austrian economics and corrupt Wall Street management of the economy is sure to do it.
    It is a dangerous time though, for when economies crash, most oligarchs think it wise to start a war to keep the peasants occupies and stimulate the economy.
    But I look at pictures of a destroyed village in Afghanistan that the Agonist posted and I think I can say it is simply a picture of evil. The before and after, side by side, bird’s eye view is hard to even comprehend.
    http://agonist.org/sean_paul_kelley/20110120/exhibit_1346_in_why_our_foreign_policy_is_a_failure

  18. S Brennan permalink
    January 21, 2011

    Ian, I don’t agree with this at all:

    “This is what Americans voted for.”

    Citizens voted against the Bush/Obama Regime…revenge, not.FOR.a.damn.thing. All that was offered was shit on a stick in 2010.

    Wrong…on many levels Ian.

  19. Bernard permalink
    January 21, 2011

    was wondering why you give the time frame you do.

  20. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    January 21, 2011

    @SBrennan

    How short the memory.

    There was nothing “on offer” in the election 2010, except two years of corruption and failure by Congress, two years of corruption and failure by Obama and his administration, two years of corruption and failure by the Supreme Court and the judiciary. All this was burdened by two further years of death and destruction in two illegal “wars” initiated by lies, countless hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians “liberated” from life, and “democracy” robbing still more millions of everything they posses.

    The bright side, a sizable fraction of “blue-dog democrats” were cast from public office and the DLC Democrats were shifted out of power in the Congress, a smaller housecleaning took place in the Senate, if not completely constraining that dysfunctional appendage, at least reducing its ability to wreck corruption and removing from the executive’s powers, some measure of unconstitutional malfeasance. IIRC one of Eisenhower’s congresses was criticized for being a do nothing congress, one wag responded that the country was better off for it, fearful for what would have been done had it been a do something congress.

    As for 2012? With any luck, the country will see the back side of Obama. At this point, neither political party is capable of overcoming their corruption let alone producing a viable plan for the country. Whoever follows, and Palin provides the best guarantee that the Philadelphia experiment is at an end, endowed with national power will be incapable of exercising that power. A vacuum will be created, those in power will attempt to hold power, others, most likely those of the military, industrial, congressional complex which will be threatened will contest for that national power. The police state is firmly in place to control the population and instill further fear as well, taser deaths will be astronomical, much like the civilian deaths in Iraq were in that population. All communications will be monitored and all information will be censored. Public education will be a rare luxury. Books will be burnt. The borders will be hermetically closed. Death will overtake many before their time. Once all wealth is purloined, the plutocrats will turn on themselves, theirs would be the last remaining value available, their greed psychopathic.

    Somehow, Ian, on so many levels is not as wrong as you imagine. You should reconsider your position.

  21. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 21, 2011

    All that was offered was shit on a stick in 2010.

    Interesting that you say “all that was offered.” It underscores that we don’t get to choose these dopes, they’re chosen for us and then the option between shit on a stick and shit on a stick is displayed and we call it Democracy. Ha!!!!

    It’s been this way for as long as I can remember, so this is certainly nothing new or something to be surprised about. I once upon a time laughed at these clowns, but they’re not funny anymore, and the stakes keep getting higher and higher.

  22. anon2525 permalink
    January 21, 2011

    It was to Obama’s interest not to have such a shitty economy coming into the 2010 elections, too, and he couldn’t manage that. Obama has said he wants to do the “right” thing and if that means he gets one term, so be it. (Assuming that he is competent enough to manage the economy, which is not a given.)

    He’s going to remove the onerous regulations that are holding business back. Because if 2008 showed us anything, it’s that overzealous regulators are the problem with the economy.

    And if that doesn’t fix everything, he’ll ask the repub. party what other orders he should follow that he hasn’t already.

  23. January 21, 2011

    By the way, NPR this morning mentions that Obama’s approval ratings are up, but that wasn’t the interesting part. The interesting part was that he got a 10% boost with independents, and it was attributed to his increased tendency towards bipartisanship as opposed to his previous extremist liberalosity. I am inclined to believe the attribution, because I am willing to believe that there is a significant constituency of Americans who descended from the Neutral Planet.

  24. January 21, 2011

    “was wondering why you give the time frame you do.”

    I’m curious about this, too. Obviously there is going to be another crash–the mechanisms that prevented crashes from FDR to Clinton have been dismantled–but how do we know when it will be?

  25. jcapan permalink
    January 21, 2011

    “Obama has said he wants to do the ‘right’ thing and if that means he gets one term, so be it. ”

    Yes, it all depends on what his definition of “right” is. Overwhelming odds/evidence support the contention that he’ll continue doing the oligarchy’s bidding until he leaves office, in 2 or 6 years. So I read his repeated line as, I’m going to continue doing the right thing for my patrons and if the little people we’re fucking over wake up and throw my ass out of office, so be it.

    As Mobama says, however, meet the new boss…

  26. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 21, 2011

    It takes about a year to a year and a half for the full impact of the cuts to be felt.

    Obama’s ratings are up just in time for an election…, oh, woops. Don’t worry, they’ll be in the toilet when the next time they matters comes around, because “bipartisanship’ is going to make the economy worse, not better.

  27. Bernard permalink
    January 21, 2011

    Moderates/independents ? what suckers!!!!

    the more i see what is going on, the more i realize how well the Public Relations BS of “Government is the Problem” is the basic unspoken belief of these ignorant idiot Americans.

    Gosh how easy the white middle class is being played! one thing is for sure, the whites sure are all for destroying Government and Society as well. the demonization of the “Other” has worked so well. this idea that we have to cut everything but Defense and Homeland Security/CIA/NSA seems to go unquestioned by the white people i talk with. they have no clue how well they are being played, or even care.

    Feudalism/serfdom seems to be preferred by the Whites rather than pay taxes that any “Other” can benefit from. throwing the baby/society out with the bathwater/taxes is a “square deal” these fearful whites lap up with such eagerness. The Republican scam/Reaganism has succeeded in destroying Society as i once knew it. Astounding.

    wonder how they will respond once they are left high and dry and screwed?

    the crash may wake up a few, but i bet the “Other” will be blamed for that too.

  28. John B. permalink
    January 22, 2011

    yes Bernard, I think that is right…

  29. Notorious P.A.T. permalink
    January 22, 2011

    Gotcha Ian, thanks.

    I don’t know, obviously the people of this country deserve some blame for where we are, but as was said up above, who are they supposed to vote for when both choices are bad? In 2008 we could pick from a guy who enacts Republican policies, cares more about corporations than people, and gives nice speeches, or a guy who enacts Republican policies, cares more about corporations than people, and gives bad speeches. What was the public supposed to do?

  30. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 22, 2011

    What was the public supposed to do?

    Here’s an idea.

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=04c_1264707528

  31. January 22, 2011

    If those GOP-proposed cuts go like the recent DoD budget cuts have, they’ll mostly be in the budget years this congress won’t be voting on. I agree that nothing good will come of this congress and our current President, but mostly because of what they won’t do, rather than what they’ll cut. What they won’t do is stimulate the economy, fix the health care mess, or regulate the banks properly.

    Oh, and they won’t cut defense, either. Go figure.

  32. anon2525 permalink
    January 22, 2011

    What they won’t do is stimulate the economy, fix the health care mess, or regulate the banks properly.

    They might also refuse to help states and municipalities with their budget imbalances, leaving the states and municipalities to enact anti-stimuli (spending cuts and tax increases) — the “50 Little Hoovers” (plus thousands of Tiny Hoovers), or to use the modern example, 50 Little Latvias. (If this gets bad enough for the states, the silver lining could be that some of them will decide to start state banks. See The Fed Has Spoken: No Bailout for Main Street and Public Banking Institute).

    They might (might?) bail the banksters out of their foreclosure fraud, but as with the previous bailout, this will only increase moral hazard and put money into places where it will not work to employ more people. It might also help to increase speculation in commodities, leading to higher prices for the rest of us.

    And they’re not going to do anything for the people who lost their jobs 99 weeks ago and still can’t find a new one. But as those people lose their UI, they’ll just “improve” the “unemployment” rate.

  33. anon2525 permalink
    January 22, 2011

    Oh, and they won’t cut defense, either. Go figure.

    Of course not. It’s “defense.” Who could be against “defense?”

    If there is to be a cut in spending for the military, the mercenaries, and the weapons makers, then we should expect that to happen only as part of a deal that offsets the spending cut with spending increases elsewhere. Since there is no crisis for the people who matter (see, “DOW near 12,000, S&P 500 near 1300, etc.”, above), there are no plans for spending increases elsewhere. So, there is no deal to be made at this time.

    On the other hand, if people start piling up dead in the streets, then Obama&co might be moved to increase spending on, say, food and low-income shelter, if the estate tax, say, could be rolled back to, say, 15%. You know, because, it’s the right-wing party’s Holy Grail. And we must give them what they want because otherwise we sanctimonious purists would be responsible for the people dying in the streets.

  34. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 22, 2011

    Why is it that candidates with the views of, say, a Kucinich, aren’t considered viable? Why don’t Dem primary voters, who are a substantial proportion of the population, vote for them?

    Americans will not accept any politician who would even talk about doing any of the right things.

  35. guest permalink
    January 22, 2011

    Why is it that candidates with the views of, say, a Kucinich, aren’t considered viable?
    ++++++++++++++++++++
    Because Cokie and Sam and George and the rest *tell* us they are not viable. They are not viable because they made a funny ARGH sound, or supposedly looked silly wearing a helmet in that tank, or whatever. Someone makes a vague but extremely dismissive remark and everyone who doesn’t agree is laughed at (most probably don’t even understand what facts are behind the vague remark). They never really talk about his views (much less give them consideration). They’ll repeat something that is or is considered foolish that he said or did, and that’s that.
    Or the candidates *are* viable because these same people have “heard good things” about this gifted black speaker from Chicago, or this bipartisan coalition builder in Texas. It doesn’t matter. There is no one to call bullshit on it.
    Most people think they are really liberal if they like or listen to NPR (I have never found NPR anything but bland and anodyne) and McNeil/Lehrer. Outside of a tiny minority that read blogs, those are about the most liberal and most well informed voters you will find in America (that is not meant as a compliment). And more importantly, there is no effective means for anyone to get traction outside of the mainstream media. It seems like it’s really too big a country for anyone to break thru the cartel power of the MSM.
    Not that I had any use for Olberman, but with him gone, who’s left besides lesbionic Maddow on TV and “shrill”, “hateful”, “meansprited”, “discredited” Krugman in the newspapers?

  36. January 22, 2011

    While no doubt media money has something to do with it, it is often overused and overemphasized as an excuse for, dare I say it, learned helplessness. You can spend billions of dollars but you will not convince anyone that water is dry. The media money works because the American electorate has a predilection to believe certain things over others, for a variety of reasons. And they are very relieved to be given superficial reasons—like the Dean Scream—to dismiss something they wanted to dismiss anyway.

  37. guest permalink
    January 22, 2011

    You can spend billions of dollars but you will not convince anyone that water is dry.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++
    We’re not talking about water. And many many people *are* convinced Sarah Palin would be a great president. Even more were convinced Bush would be and was one.
    How is watching Dean get sunk in a matter of days “learned helplessness”? I didn’t abandon him, but he was gone months before I could even vote for him.
    That remark about “learned helplessness” is so sanctimonious, and yet absurd. Where have you been the last 10 or 20 years? This mess of a country is not going to turn around with any amount of your BS highhandedness. Get over it!
    In the America I grew up in, if a natural gas pipeline blew up and burned dozens of houses and killed many people, it would have been in the news for months and there would have been hearings in Congress, commissions created and laws passed and malefactors held accountable. That incident was over and forgotten in a matter of days, even though we were informed that there were thousands of such vulnerable pipelines all around the country. And that is just one small example. The BP oil spill is practically down the memory hole. Katrina, the lies that led to the Iraq war, the endless crimes of Bush/Cheney, a freaking interstate highway collapsing into the Mississippi. The list is endless. No one in DC cares, and out in the country there is either a lack of awareness, or a lack of outrage, and there is no viable alternative. The idea of a 3rd party is a JOKE. You would need a completely revamped Constitution with proportional representation to make it even possible. Any 3rd party that does come up will either kill one of the other two parties or get coopted into it. That is just baked into our political system.
    The kind of apathy out there will not be overcome, especially after all those idealistic young people got punked by Mr Hopeychangey. The degradation of America is well advanced and as long as nothing too shocking comes along, people will muddle along quietly. They will know things are not right, and that the media is not giving them the scoop, but that doesn’t really inform them or motivate them to find out what’s really going on. If they do get motivated they’ll just end up “learning the truth” from right wing radio and joining a militia. The losers will move into their parents’ basements, or into the streets until they die of exposure. As long as they die off so they don’t threaten the system, no big deal.
    One person or 1000 or 1 million is not going to turn anything around. At this point all you can hope for is to be personally prepared for whatever comes next. There will be no general strikes, much less anything that could be considered radical, at least not from the left. This is a country where no one would even think to protest between Monday and Friday. And if there are any messy protests they will be put down with a vengeance, and there will be little or no sympathy for those crushed.

  38. January 23, 2011

    Oh, believe me, I am well aware of the problems with the American left, but some of them are…endogenous, even as they are intractable. Such as the total inability to cobble together any sort of institutions, with or without money. I’ve been around long enough to watch trivial schism after schism,with the purgee being the purger not long afterward—and that’s just the blogosphere.

  39. S Brennan permalink
    January 23, 2011

    Ian to,

    “Why is it that candidates with the views of, say, a Kucinich, aren’t considered viable?”

    I have been trying to tell the left for some forty years, it’s not the message…it’s the suck ass messengers…and every time I do, I get same the same lame ass reply…”it shouldn’t matter that [insert dweeb looking candidate name here] looks lamer than cold dog poop on a paper plate”.

    No it shouldn’t, in a perfect world it wouldn’t…but this is not a perfect world and it does. Sorry, but real leaders know:

    “We are here, we need to go there, this is how we will do it”.

    Not:

    “if the world was like this, we would do this…and everything would fall into place”

  40. jcapan permalink
    January 23, 2011

    While this may be true, “Americans will not accept any politician who would even talk about doing any of the right things,” it strays close to blaming victims IMO. Americans won’t accept an authentic leftist b/c they’ll never hear what he/she has to say. Much like they’ve not encountered an authentic narrative from the left during their entire lives. Long before they’re ready to vote, they’ve been indoctrinated into the narrowest patterns of thought, about who or what ideas are serious, worthy of their scant attention and time. Even if their media didn’t deserve to be tried for treason, their schools and churches wrecked their stillborn intellects long long ago. And then they procreate and the cycle repeats. The left, sadly, doesn’t breed in comparable numbers.

    Plus, when they leave their so-called schools behind, embracing the 21st century American dream (i.e. negative utopia), with whatever leftover energy and time they can summon, they want only distraction, escape, and Huxley says all that need be said on that topic.

  41. January 23, 2011

    The point is, the electorate is not wholly a victim in this. It also bears a measure of responsibility. Otherwise, we tread perilously close to the “sheeple” kind of thinking, which I know is popular among reflexive pessimists.

  42. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    January 23, 2011

    Ultimately the responsibility falls on the electorate in a republic; that electorate is not always synonymous with the population as implied in a broad-based democratic republic, more likely a powerful subset of the population has been the historical norm of electorate (i.e. Venetian Republic was a merchant class; the Florentine Republic had a banking/merchant class; the Roman Republic had a military class; etc.) The American Republic originally used a propertied class (liable for taxes) for its electorate which was eventually broadened into universal suffrage after the blood investment the public gave the country during the Civil War (Lincoln’s enlargement of the Constitution, if you will).

    Like in Adam Smith’s “free market” all was well until economic forces obtained the capability to alter and distort that market; economic monopolies usurping economic income from those it rightfully belonged (e.g. rents from land, wages from labour, interest from capital) to enhance and aggrandize profit income for the entrepreneur. The Political Marketplace has also been distorted. Once inhabited by individual voters bringing their personal experiences into political considerations; the advent of mass-marketing and application of marketing to the political decision process has divided the political process from its moorings in actuality, myth and illusion now substitute for reality, best illustrated at political conventions. One flag is still a proper symbol, banks of flags used as backdrops for the candidate become mere decoration; the candidate marketed with the mostest, largest, bestest, greatest flags wins.

    Marketing (and its shadow Propaganda) have made the individual and their experience redundant and have replaced the independent individual with the mentality of the herd, following where “everybody else” is going. It is not any secret that herding the religious fundamentalists to support an otherwise unsalable political agenda would tip the political balance of power to that agenda’s favour. The terms “silent majority” and “moral majority” were such political use of “herd terms” that persuaded enough to surrender their independence and render their support.

    The marketing of politics was made easier by a popular culture (a misnomer, if ever …) that was shortchanged in their education, misguided by their limited knowledge, persuaded their beliefs were superior to fact, taught to value ignorance over knowledge and surrender their intelligence for social acceptance. Excellence is tagged as “elite” and heavily discounted for esteem; dumb is prized instead, being more amenable to the herd instinct. Likewise growth from jejune adolescence is stillborn, maturity of the adult is always the existential threat to their being, leading to a stupefied existence of eternal adolescence.

    Complexity is the state of the world, complex questions require complex answers, none of which is available to the country’s electorate, by education, by experience, by knowledge or by information. Least of all, political leadership capable of complexity is non-existent. The delusion of popular culture accepts the demagogue and discounts the knowledgeable and discredits any who would know the difference. This will continue until some tipping point is reached and systemic failure becomes unstoppable. Once systemic failure happens, there is no antidote to forestall the process, collapse will continue until complexity is reduced to manageable levels or until some other power base is capable of managing, not necessarily one based upon the country’s historical experience.

  43. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 23, 2011

    Of course not. It’s “defense.” Who could be against “defense?”

    And, of course, we all know that the best defense is a good offense….so long as we continue to call it “defense” so as not to shake the banana trees of the barely sentient.

  44. Sam Adams permalink
    January 23, 2011

    Formerly T-bear,
    I am going to the bathub now and will get a razor. Thanks for that depressing (but spot on) analysis.

  45. cathyx permalink
    January 23, 2011

    The reason someone like Kucinich wouldn’t get a nomination has everything to do with our media not allowing it. Where does everyone hear about any candidate? On TV, newspapers, and radio. Who has a stake in not having a candidate who could make real change happen? Our media. Someone like him could threaten their power and influence.
    No candidate who can really rally the population will ever get a chance to voice his/her opinion and have any kind of public forum will get one. They will shout him down and make him appear crazy, saying that that candidate is too radical to lead this country and doesn’t speak for the majority. And no candidate can become viable without that forum.
    I can just hear every interview and discussion where they laugh and joke about that candidate. The grown-up serious people will not even waste time contemplating it.

  46. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 23, 2011

    Mandos, I don’t believe the electorate can be blamed. Social engineering and indoctrination have rendered this so-called “electorate” incapable of voting intelligently. Note that I said voting, and not choosing candidates, because they have no choice in the options availed to them for which to vote. Hell, the “electorate” can’t think critically, and that’s by design. You can’t have a functioning democracy, let alone a Democratic Republic, with an “electorate” that both, cannot think critically, and is severely uninformed and misinformed. And all that’s aside from what T-Bear said above. This thing here in the U.S., although labeled a Democratic Republic, is really a Plutocratic Oligarchy in disguise. The last banker bail-out was a great example of how the system was designed to work when the REALLY IMPORTANT matters come up for vote. Despite the wishes and sentiments of an otherwise incapacitated “electorate,” the Plutocratic Oligarchs used the Senate as a stop-gap, fail-safe to push through their corrupt legislation. That’s been going on since 1787, and it will continue unabated for the foreseeable future.

    I have to say, I agree with Vidal in his description of what America really is, although Gore (Al, not Gore Vidal, to whom Gore Vidal is related), for whom Vidal is advocating here, is every bit as much a member of the that Plutocratic Oligarchy as Dubya.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/gore-vidal-the-iron-law-of-oligarchy-prevails-629171.html

    American politics is essentially a family affair, as are most oligarchies. When the father of the Constitution, James Madison, was asked how on earth we would be able to get any business done in Congress when the country contained a hundred million people whose representatives would number half a thousand, Madison said: “Never fear. The iron law of oligarchy always obtains.”

    Finally, those founders, to whom we like to advert, had such a fear and loathing of democracy that they invented the electoral college so that the popular voice of the people could be throttled, much as the Supreme Court throttled the Floridians on 12 December. We were to be neither a democracy, subject to majoritarian tyranny, nor a dictatorship, subject to Caesarean folly. John Adams said we were to be a nation of laws, not men, which has since boiled down to a nation of lawyers, not people… or, at least, of people who count or get counted in elections.

  47. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 23, 2011

    The left, sadly, doesn’t breed in comparable numbers.

    I agree with everything you said, jcaplan, except this. First, we could argue whether there is a true “left” to be counted, and second, what is representative of the so-called “left” is very much as barely sentient as the so-called “right,” with the exception that they are a bit more stylish (metro-sexual is so hot right now) and can articulate their ignorance much more eloquently.

  48. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 23, 2011

    We’re not talking about water. And many many people *are* convinced Sarah Palin would be a great president. Even more were convinced Bush would be and was one.

    At this stage of the game, if the so-called “left” cannot agree that, systemically speaking, the President is irrelevant and, if that’s your focus, you’re missing the forest but for the trees, then one can only conclude that all hope is lost. I therefore conclude that all hope is lost because that is exactly what I’m witnessing.

  49. January 23, 2011

    While no doubt media money has something to do with it, it is often overused and overemphasized as an excuse for, dare I say it, learned helplessness. You can spend billions of dollars but you will not convince anyone that water is dry. The media money works because the American electorate has a predilection to believe certain things over others, for a variety of reasons. And they are very relieved to be given superficial reasons—like the Dean Scream—to dismiss something they wanted to dismiss anyway.

    I must say I don’t see how that comment by Mandos is controversial or how it’s “highhanded” or “sanctimonious.” If anything, it perfectly captures not only why Dean was dismissed, but why so many supposedly educated, privileged, well-informed people deride WikiLeaks. I already told the story about being shunned at a dinner party of highly educated, accomplished women because I dared to defend WikiLeaks and Assange. These are people who’ve had every break in the book, they read constantly, they work in all kinds of professions doing “good” work, including civil rights, yet they’ve swallowed hook, line, and sinker the MSM narrative about how WikiLeaks is evil. You can bet they wouldn’t have had that opinion under Bush. They’re just as subject to herd instinct as the Palinbots.

    Same with their opinions on the TSA abuse, or the random bag searches in the NY and DC metros. Totally passive. “Oh, what’s the big deal?” “So what? As long as I’m not inconvenienced.” “As long as I can get where I wanna go.” It’s nauseating. They’re fashioning their own chains. And these are people with all the metaphorical weapons in their arsenal. They aren’t the downtrodden. They have the intellectual, financial, and emotional wherewithal to fight these security state encroachments. But do they? No. They can’t be bothered. Yes, they are sheep, and we can’t blame the media for that.

    Quick story re Dean Scream: I was in Kenya when it happened, far from any news outlets, so I missed it. Two days and continued jet-lag later, I was on a panel about an unrelated subject. An audience member brought up the Dean Scream in the Q&A. I obviously stayed silent. My two colleagues, who shall remain nameless, both big media people, had the same opinion: “He sounded insane.” That’s a quote. “He sounded insane.”

    Later, I went online to listen to the brouhaha myself. I couldn’t believe it. That little “scream,” that little nothing, had everyone in the media circus frothing at the mouth. And most of the good liberals, so stylish, so adept at abstract conversation, fell right into line. They, too, walked around talking about how “insane” Dean was.

    I have very little hope for this country, certainly on the national level. I do believe, however, that we still have power at the local level, and that’s where I’m concentrating my efforts.

  50. January 23, 2011

    You know, The Establishment has had large scale-control over the means of information-dissemination for a heck of a long time. In fact, that’s what “The Establishment” means, and no matter where you go and what time you look at, there has always been a The Establishment. Those times in which some changes/reforms/revolutions where made, well, those too succeeded when they started from a position that most of the resources were still controlled by The Establishment.

    If there’s anything different about this point of crisis, it’s the level of complexity that FTB refers to above. Counter-establishment movements have not yet shown themselves able to respond to the scale and level of complexity that this particular The Establishment has built, some of which is actually beneficial to the people at large and on which those people who would become part of the counter-establishment movement depend. As I suggested above, this is not just a question of money, but in a broad sense, a question of temperament.

    We also have the “problem” of a number of other kinds of social liberations having happened at roughly the same historical time, and those liberations having complex interrelationships with the economic and environmental issues. The corollary of intersectionality is that any large scale organized movement for improvement economic conditions is likely to end up, whether it likes it or not, throwing someone under the bus, at least for a time. You can’t treat culture and the “frivolous” issues as a distraction to your quest for economic justice.

  51. January 23, 2011

    One thing about the Dean Scream: the day after Dean closed up his campaign, Diane Sawyer had a piece on the evening news, explaining in detail how, by clever sound-editing to eliminate the overwhelming noise in the hall where he was speaking (and over which he was trying to make himself heard), Dean had been made to seem insane. Note well, that Diane Sawyer, herself, had been among the leaders, if not “the” leader, in pushing the Dean scream into the spotlight; for a long time, it was her particular Media niche, to do confessional interviews with the candidate and his wife, whenever some brouhaha threatened a candidacy with sudden death.

  52. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 23, 2011

    Dean scream, or not, do you really think the outcome would have been that vastly different with, or without the scream? How about if Dean was elected by some impossible chance? Do you really believe that’s how it works? I, personally, don’t think Dean, regardless of his rhetoric, would have posed any threat, ultimately, to the Plutocratic Oligarchy. He has shown himself to be a capitulator on many occasions.

  53. January 23, 2011

    What MB said here:
    “Social engineering and indoctrination have rendered this so-called “electorate” incapable of voting intelligently. . . . Hell, the “electorate” can’t think critically, and that’s by design. You can’t have a functioning democracy, let alone a Democratic Republic, with an “electorate” that both, cannot think critically, and is severely uninformed and misinformed. . . . This thing here in the U.S., although labeled a Democratic Republic, is really a Plutocratic Oligarchy in disguise.”

    Mandos: “no matter where you go and what time you look at, there has always been a The Establishment. Those times in which some changes/reforms/revolutions where made, well, those too succeeded when they started from a position that most of the resources were still controlled by The Establishment.”

    The opening to change usually requires a productive split in the Establishment, that leads to various elite factions seeking mass support.

    The current American Plutocrats are so scary because their elite has become so homogenous. Everything, apparently, is driven by a Corporate/Financial Elite, who have formed a self-conscious political and social class with common interests and ideology. The Corporate CEO-types, in particular, are heavily invested in building giant corporate conglomerates, in which competition and conflict are submerged, so that the CEO can harvest rents, which would otherwise be the subject of productive conflict and competition.

    The growing dominance of Professional Managers over Capital has created this homogeneity, and it is this homogeneity, which is the foundation of the consolidated Corporate Media, whose poor performance is choking off the role of Public Opinion in our democracy.

    We have no integrity in our economy or our politics, because there’s no real conflict. And, there’s no conflict, because the professional managers, driven by rapacious CEOs eliminate the conflict, to collect the Rents, which would ordinarily be the subject of competitive conflict.

    That’s most true in Banking (where Universal Banks have replaced the diversity of Thrifts, Insurance Companies, Investment Banks, Brokers, etc.) and in Media, where a relative few own, or by means of networks dominate, all television, radio, content production, distribution and publishing.

    It makes our whole economy increasingly dysfunctional, even as it prevents adaptive change. In fact, the inability to invest productively and adapt is the dysfunction, and is due to the lack of integrity.

    Change, if it comes, will come from catastrophic failure, which is why there’s so much apocalyptic thinking hereabouts.

  54. January 23, 2011

    “Americans will not accept any politician who would even talk about doing any of the right things.”

    Again, I’m not sure of that. In 2008 we thought we were voting for such a politician for president.

  55. January 23, 2011

    Morocco Bama,

    No, I can’t say that Dean would’ve been able to make any difference in what people here are rightly calling the Plutocratic Oligarchy. I was just responding to the comments about the lack of critical thinking, about the MSM putting a narrative out there and most everybody falling for it. I do think, as Bruce Wilder says, that the moneyed elites, no matter their political affiliation, are homogeneous. They do appear to have us by the balls. (And yes, Bruce, re the audio trickery, even if it wasn’t deliberate — just by virtue of a person’s mouth being close to a microphone, one’s voice is amplified — people seem to forget about that.)

  56. grs permalink
    January 24, 2011

    So you’re saying I have a good six months to try to make some cash in the market, then gtfo. Will do. I see the market dropping off relatively soon too. There is nothing holding it up right now expect pure speculation. Jobs, labor, services, goods aren’t there to support it. Just investors looking for the next bubble to cash in on before it bursts.

  57. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 24, 2011

    No No No.

    This is NOT a market prediction, it is a prediction for the general economy. I do not know what the market as a whole is going to do, I have not been analyzing it lately and am out of touch. My impression right now is that market risk is very high for not very good returns, but I don’t know how much longer it has. It is also not a free market in any shape or form, but a creature of various large actors, and as such is particularly opaque right now.

  58. January 24, 2011

    I once had some hopes that Dean would leave the democratic party and run as an independent … especially after he got the blame from assholes like carville for not winning more seats in the 2006 mid-terms when he was the one who was the most responsible for that historic democratic seat pick-up IMO … but when I hear him talk up william daley as the cos, it’s pretty clear that he’s too coopted. He also turned face on the health care bill too, among other things.

    IMO, it’s better to be irrelevant and principled when you are only “relevant” if you support policies that you don’t agree with and are often immoral.

    Z

  59. Morocco Bama permalink
    January 24, 2011

    The Market is now comprised of mostly Program Trading by the big Investment Banking Houses. They happen in an instant based off of coded algorithms. It’s basically one big software program right now. It’s no longer a gauge of anything except the delusion of those who have their money in it.

  60. grs permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Ian, from what you (and others in the same vein) are saying, I’m thinking the governments moves are going to be the proverbial straw that broke the market’s back. The market is just waiting for another reason to crash. There is no service or commodity bubble right now, just an artificially inflated market.

    I understand that you’re not speaking about the market in your original piece, but they sure are connected. As revenue of the supposed job creators who we apparently can’t afford to tax starts to wane, the government won’t have much to fall back on. My only hope is that the U.S. doesn’t try to model the European austerity measures and we seriously tax the hell out of the upper 1%, hell, 5%.

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