Archive | #OccupyWallStreet
Joss Whedon of “Buffy” and “Avengers” fame at ComicCon:
Toward the end of the session, one woman noted the anti-corporate themes in many of his movies and asked him to give his economic philosophy in 30 seconds or less.
“We are watching capitalism destroy itself right now,” he told the audience.
He added that America is “turning into Tsarist Russia” and that “we’re creating a country of serfs.”
Whedon was raised on the Upper Westside neighborhood of Manhattan in the 1970s, an area associated with left-leaning intellectuals. He said he was raised by people who thought socialism was a ”beautiful concept.”
Socialism remains a taboo word in American politics, as Republicans congressmen raise the specter of the Cold War. They refer to many Obama administration initatives as socialist, and the same goes for most laws that advocate increasing spending on social welfare programs. They also refer to the President as a socialist, though this and many of their other claims misuse the term.
This evidently frustrates Whedon, who traces this development to Ronald Reagan – the nominal hero of the modern conservative movement. Since then, Whedon believes the country has changed in way that has made it too difficult for regular people to succeed.
And what is the end result?
“We have people trying to create structures and preserve the structures that will help the middle and working class, and people calling them socialists,” Whedon said. “It’s not Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal […] it’s some people with some sense of dignity and people who have gone off the reservation.” Guess he’s not a Tea Party fan.
So Romney did that, and then the next night he went to Montana and he discussed the experience in front of a friendlier audience. And this is what he said:
When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s O.K, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine…
But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff.
So now this is the message: I tried to reason with the blacks, I really did, but it turns out they just want a free lunch.
How’s that for bridging the racial divide? Time to wake up the Nobel committee in Oslo!
As far as free lunches go, we of course just witnessed the biggest government handout in history, one that Romney himself endorsed. Four and a half trillion dollars in bailout money already disbursed, trillions more still at risk in guarantees and loans, sixteen trillion dollars in emergency lending from the Federal Reserve, two trillion in quantitative easing, etc. etc. All of this money went to Romney’s pals in the Wall Street banks that for years helped Romney take over companies with mountains of borrowed cash. Now, after these banks crashed, executives at those same firms used those public funds to pay themselves massive salaries, which is exactly the opposite of “helping those who need help,” if you’re keeping score.
That set of facts alone made the “free stuff” speech shockingly offensive. But the problem isn’t just that Romney’s wrong, and a hypocrite, and cynically furthering dangerous and irresponsible stereotypes in order to advance some harebrained electoral ploy involving white conservative voters. What makes it gross is the way he did it.
Romney can’t even be mean with any honesty. Even when he’s pandering to viciousness, ignorance and racism, it comes across like a scaly calculation. A guy who feels like he has to take a dump on the N.A.A.C.P. in Houston in order to connect with frustrated white yahoos everywhere else is a guy who has absolutely no social instincts at all. Someone like Jesse Helms at least had a genuine emotional connection with his crazy-mean-stupid audiences. But Mitt Romney has to think his way to the lowest common denominator, which is somehow so much worse.
Most presidents have something under the hood – wit, warmth, approachability, something. Even the most liberal football fan could enjoy watching an NFL game with George Bush. And even a Klansman probably would have found some of LBJ’s jokes funny. The biggest office in the world requires someone who buzzes with enough personality to fill the job, and most of them have it.
But Romney doesn’t buzz with anything. His vision of humanity is just a million tons of meat floating around in a sea of base calculations. He’s like a teenager who stays up all night thinking of a way to improbably what made him a great leveraged buyout specialist, but in a public figure? Man, is he a disaster. It’s really incredible theater, watching the Republicans talk themselves into this guy.
Taibbi really nails the guy – and the Republicans who support him, because there simply is no “there” there. He’s just a money-making hologram.
See, it’s never been difficult to get rich in America if you’re lacking in scruples and willing to break rules. If there’s one thing the 1% has in common, it’s their willingness to make their own rules – because they’re special, you see. (Including, of course, the ones who inherited their wealth and simply have to maintain it.)
Those of us who are hampered by middle-class values like honesty and integrity may not be rich, but we’re usually smarter – and a lot more fun.
The Guardian reviews Joe Stiglitz’s new book:
The ancient Greeks had a word for it – pleonexia – which means an overreaching desire for more than one’s share. As Melissa Lane explained in last year’s Eco-Republic: Ancient Thinking for a Green Age, this vice was often paired with hubris, a form of arrogance directed especially against the gods and therefore doomed to fail. The Greeks saw tyrants as fundamentally pleonetic in their motivation. As Lane writes: “Power served greed and so to tame power, one must tame greed.”
Given shape, fluency, substance and authority by Stiglitz. He does so not in the name of revolution – although he tells the 1% that their bloody time may yet come – but in order that capitalism be snatched back from free market fundamentalism and put to the service of the many, not the few.
In the 1970s and 80s, “the Chicago boys”, from the Chicago school of economics, led by Milton Friedman, developed their anti-regulation, small state, pro-privatisation thesis – and were handed whole countries, aided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on which to experiment, among them Thatcher’s Britain, Reagan’s America, Mexico and Chile. David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism describes how the democratically elected Salvador Allende was overthrown in Chile and the Chicago boys brought in. Under their influence, nationalisation was reversed, public assets privatised, natural resources opened up to unregulated exploitation (anyone like to buy one of our forests?), the unions and social organisations were torn apart and foreign direct investment and “freer” trade were facilitated. Rather than wealth trickling down, it rapidly found its way to the pinnacle of the pyramid. As Stiglitz explains, these policies were – and are – protected by myths, not least that the highest paid “deserve” their excess of riches.
I remember predicting this when talking to one of my daughter-in-law’s affluent relatives the night before their wedding, back in October 2008. He was skeptical, made some comment that anyone who really wanted a job could always find one. “You’ll see,” I said.
I wonder if he watched this.
After the victory in Wisconsin, many wondered where conservative interests would strike next to finish off unions and permanently alter the power relationship between labor and capital. It appears the next step is California. In November, voters will decide on an initiative, Prop 32, that would “eliminate unions from having any voice in politics whatsoever,” according to one labor official.
In its simplest form the measure, often called “paycheck protection” on the right, would stop unions from using automatic payroll deductions from their members for political activity. Similar measures have been on the ballot before in California, and have been beaten back both times. In 1998, voters rejected Prop 226, and in 2005, they similarly beat back Prop 75. But those were frontal assaults against unions. The difference here is that the supporters have dressed up this initiative as a campaign finance reform measure that affects corporations and unions in equal measure. Prop 32 supports call it the “Stop Special Interest Money Initiative.” Nothing could be further from the truth, says the opposition to Prop 32.
“The people who drafted this are the same people who twice before tried this and failed,” says Brian Brokaw, the communications director for No on 32. “They claim that it’s even-handed, in that it bans both unions and corporations from collecting political funds via payroll deductions. But corporations don’t use payroll deductions for political funds, they just use their own treasuries.”
It’s actually more insidious than that. The initiative has two parts. First, it bans direct political donations to state candidates from both corporations and unions. Neither side does a whole lot of that, as independent expenditures are more common in support of or opposition to individual candidates. But the definition of a “corporation” is made so narrow in the initiative language, granting a number of special exemptions to entities such as LLCs, limited partnerships, insurance companies, hedge funds, developers, Wall Street investment firms and more. “They carefully drafted this to exempt themselves,” Brokaw says. Any corporation could set up a shell company and continue the practice of direct political contributions.
And they wonder why we despise them:
WASHINGTON — The job market is stagnant and the GOP has the federal government tied up in knots, so the country’s short-term economic future is in the hands of America’s titans of industry and finance.
But despite having an unprecedented amount of cash on hand with which to create jobs — more than $3 trillion, nearly four times as much as the 2009 stimulus bill — the corporations aren’t spending and the banks aren’t lending.
“They’ve been making money, and they haven’t been spending it. So it sits there,” said Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama now at the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “The economy has been growing since the second half of 2009, and the vast majority of households have seen very little of that. It’s got to be going somewhere.”
Think of it as corporate austerity.
“In a more normal economic recession, you would expect business reinvesting to grow,” said Brandon Rees, deputy director of the office of investment at the AFL-CIO, the labor union federation. But instead, “that money just keeps piling up,” he said. “The CEOs just can’t figure out what to do with it all.”