Friday, October 04, 2013

Just When the Left Has Fallen Silent

Across North America, people need a strong voice from the Left more than they have at any time in the last half century.   America's society is crumbling and Canada is inexorably drawn along in its wake.

In the United States we have witnessed the ascendancy of an imperial presidency, outside the law, above it, supremely extra-constitutional.   They have literally rolled back Magna Carta.  Presidents, Republican and Democrat, commit heinous crimes with impunity, ignore habeas corpus, imprison people - even their own citizens - indefinitely and without charge, spy on all even without cause, monitor and track and even order execution,  without charge or trial.

We may like the current guy, he may say to us things we want to hear, we may need to think of him as one of us but he's not, not at all.

Liberals and Conservatives today loosely resemble the dynamic between Democrats and Republicans. They have their distinctions but they're mainly symbolic and of no real moment to the electorate.   They all support the same corporatist ideology.

Every summer, Jimbo Flaherty gets together with Canada's titans of commerce for a social at which they get to tell him what's on their collective mind.   One of the points they keep making is that he has to get Canadian wages in line with American pay levels which, in case you haven't noticed, have been going steadily downhill.   And the Harper government, in its relentless attack on labour, is plainly doing their bidding.

America's economy was more heavily manufacturing-oriented than Canada's and so the loss of its industrial base to globalization outsourcing has been more devastating on American prosperity.   Even prominent economists are finally coming to admit that globalization was a ruse to advantage capital at the expense of an entire nation.

A ruse, a lie?  Of course it was.   Remember the promise of a new economy - a knowledge-based economy which would far more than make up for the lost industrial base.   They weren't taking, they were giving.   Only what they actually gave was an I.O.U., a worthless scrap of paper, a hollow promise.  The perpetrators of this grand fraud have never been called to account.  Reagan and Thatcher have slipped, unpunished, to their graves.  Mulroney, already disgraced, is laying low.

In a corporatist world, the well-being of corporate interests becomes paramount to the welfare of the people.   For corporate prosperity must work to the benefit of all, right?   No, not for sheeple.  The avaricious do not part with their wealth to those who don't demand it.  Why should they when it is so much easier to capture the political classes to do their bidding?   As J. Stiglitz shows in The Price of Inequality, most inequality is neither market nor merit-based but the product of political intervention to benefit the advantaged at the expense of everyone else.   Our political classes, through deferrals and grants, subsidies and unearned privileges, transmit the wealth of inequality from the many to the few.

In the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown, the myth of recovery has been catalogued by Paul Krugman and others.  They have shown that, what recovery there has been, has gone almost entirely to the richest of the rich, the very charlatans that caused the 2008 recession.  That's why it has been a jobless recovery in which the precariat remain as vulnerable as ever, perhaps even worse off.

Slowly the myths of globalization are being picked apart, shown for the utter fraud that has been perpetrated across North America and most of Europe for the past two decades.   This has been powerfully canvassed by Paul Craig Roberts in The Failure of Laissez-Faire Capitalism.  Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources, Roberts explains how blue and white collar Americans have been dispossessed economically, socially and politically.

Americans  have \been dispossessed politically, because (1) they have lost representative government,  (2) they have lost the accountability of government to law, and (3) they have lost their civil liberties that protected them from a police state and the use of law as a weapon by government.

Americans have been dispossessed economically, because (1) millions of middle class jobs have been moved offshore to China, India, and other low-wage locations  (2) the burden of massive losses in the financial sector has been placed on taxpayers and on the US dollar's credibility As the world reserve currency, and (3) continued high immigration And work visas for foreigners further impair the ability of unemployed Americans to find a job.

Americans have been dispossessed socially, because (1) the ladders of upward mobility have been dismantled  (2) a university education is no longer a path to a middle class existence, (3) millions have lost their homes and careers, (4) median income has been falling for a number of years, and (5) the income and wealth distribution is so skewed toward the top that a small number of people control the wealth, the income that wealth produces, and the political power that money buys.

Roberts, a professor, former assistant treasury secretary and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, laments that Richard Nixon was "the last American president to be held accountable to law. ...By failing to hold Bush And officials of his administration accountable for their unambiguous violations of law, the Obama administration has, in effect, accepted the constitutional coup that has elevated the president above the law.  The American president is now a Caesar."

Couple an imperial presidency with a corporatist high court and a bought and paid for Congress and you're left with a government in which all branches are in service to a group other than the people. This is not a government that would reverse the dispossession of  the public it is sworn to serve.

There is little reason, then, to believe that the American economy will recover in any form that is restorative of the middle class.  In Robert's assessment, America's middle class is finished and the nation will become. by 2020, a true Third World nation.  He focuses on the false promise that high-paid jobs in a knowledge economy would replace lost industrial jobs.

The new high-tech knowledge jobs are being outsourced abroad even faster than the old manufacturing jobs.  Only a few establishment economists are beginning to see the light.  ...former Federal Reserve vice-chairman Alan Blinder ...estimates that 42-56 million American service jobs are susceptible to offshore outsourcing.  Whether all these jobs leave, U.S. salaries will be forced down by the willingness of foreigners to do the work for less.

...Jobs offshoring, which began with call centers and back-office operations, is rapidly moving up the value chain.  In 2005, Business Week's Michael Mandel compared starting salaries in 20905 with those in 2001.  He found A 12.7% decline in computer science pay, a 12% decline in computer engineering pay, and a 10.2% decline in electrical engineering pay.

Roberts zeroes in on the shift to service jobs from 'tradable' services - jobs entailing the production of commodities for trade.

A country whose work force is concentrated in domestic nontradable services has no need for engineers and scientists and no need for universities.  

No one seems to understand that research, development, design and innovation take place in countries where things are made.  The loss of manufacturing means ultimately the loss of engineering and science   The newest plants embody the latest technology.  If these plants are abroad, that is where the cutting edge resides.
As for the myth of globalization floating all boats, Roberts adds, "Economists need to inject some realism into their dogmas.  The U.S. economy did not develop on the basis of free trade.  the costs that free traders attribute to trade protection are real, the costs did not prevent America's economic rise.  Indeed, much historical research concludes that trade protection was the reason for America's rise as an industrial and manufacturing power.

As for solutions, Roberts falls well short of calling for revolt.   He does, however, advocate an abandonment of laissez-faire capitalism and its replacement by 'full Earth' or steady state economics.  To Roberts, our ability to make this transition is critical and nothing less than democracy and sovereignty hang in the balance.

Globalism is anti-democratic.  Corporatism is anti-democratic.  The challenge we face is to get past both of them.  We cannot do that with corporatist politics, especially at the federal level.  That means replacing corporatist parties whether they be Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat.   There's a dangerous vacuum in our political spectrum and it is the Left.   Just when we need it most, the Left has fallen silent.


Anonymous said...

P.S. Personally, I would avoid term 'left" which carries a lot of misundestood "baggage."
P.P.S. People usually wake up when it hurts. Canada is still too prosperous, unfortunately ;-( A..non

The Mound of Sound said...

Well it must be called something to distinguish it clearly from the three mainstream political entities. Perhaps something that embraces progressivism and restoration.

Anonymous said...

Jumobo Jimbo has been given his marching orders by the party sponsors. And he better deliver or things will get difficult for Steve.

More attacks on wages, more attacks on health care, more attacks on old age pensions and more subsidies for the fossil fuel industries.

O brave new world
That has such people in't

Anonymous said...

You don't get paradigm shifts when problems accumulate with the current one, that's only a necessary precondition. Paradigm shifts happen when an alternative means of organization represents itself as the logical alternative improvement of least resistance.

The writing is on the wall for capitalism perhaps, but it will be a long long long time yet.

Doesn't change what we need to do here and now though.

The Mound of Sound said...

I don't know, Anon. I see the existing order as far more fragile than you do apparently. The more I learn the more clear it becomes that we're entering a confluence of environmental, social, economic and security challenges that, together, expose the inflexibility and over-extension of our society.

History has repeatedly demonstrated that societies collapse at their zenith and it's a sudden process.