Not so long ago I distinctly recall hearing that President Obama’s most trusted advisors, left behind at the White House while he made an overseas tour, reached the conclusion that the Democrats received a shellacking (not my word) in the mid-terms because they had wasted time and political capital on passing health care reform when what the country really wanted was an economic fix to create jobs. Therefore, the administration announced that jobs and the economy would be the focus in 2011. Also, was not Virginia’s Governor, a Republican, elected with the slogan “Bob for Jobs!”? In fact, jobs was the theme pushed in most states in 2010, too, regardless of party…. wasn’t it?
I confess, I must have dis-remembered (not my word, either). It seems that as soon as the polls closed, the cry of “jobs!” disappeared as if it had never been uttered; not even an echo remained. Within a nanosecond, deficit hysteria became The Immensely Serious Crisis which demanded immediate action in almost every statehouse, and most especially in Washington, D. C. Even the Oval Office suddenly had amnesia, and began agreeing with the Republican victors flooding into Congress. When the new Republicans in Congress clamored for immediate budget cuts, even under Continuing Resolutions (CRs normally simply extend federal spending as-is until the new budget kicks in), the White House response was not “no, let’s talk job creation,” but “cuts? yes, yes, how much?”
It turns out that the one-sixth of America’s workers, those who either cannot find any kind of a job or who have had to accept part-time employment when they really want to work full-time, are in the same predicament as the severely wounded warrior with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome): they are ignored. Used as an election slogan, or ostentatiously lionized for their patriotism, but then discarded once they had served the political purposes of the political class, the veterans and the permanently unemployed (sometimes actually one and the same) have become invisible. As Paul Krugman says in today’s New York Times: “Washington has lost interest.” Boy, was that quick—- but one has to ask Why? Why now?
Mr. Krugman says one reason is that the economy has improved enough so that “those who still have jobs are feeling more secure… layoffs… have fallen sharply,” taking the edge off the panic, but that meanwhile the long-term unemployed have simply stayed jobless, and just sort of faded into the background. Writes Krugman, there are “five times as many unemployed workers as there are job openings; the average unemployed worker has been jobless for 37 weeks, a post-World War II record,” yet everyone else has begun to feel better. Speaker John Boehner, (R,OH) apparently felt comfortable enough to say “so be it,” when he was told hundreds of federal workers might lose their jobs if the surprise draconian Republican budget cuts were imposed. Indeed, he and his Republican caucus appeared pleased to contemplate adding to the ranks of the jobless, so long as they were government workers at least, and allowed as how this would be only the first of many such permanent layoffs in the next budget, which is going to slash the deficit. “Yet polls indicate that voters still care much more about jobs than they do about the budget deficit. So it’s quite remarkable that inside the Beltway, it’s just the opposite,” writes Krugman.
I do not find it remarkable at all, Mr. Krugman. What is happening inside the Beltway is also happening in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and other states under newly installed or energized leadership, mostly Republican. We are witnessing a slow-motion coup d’etat based on the Shock Doctrine of Friedman economics, as imposed on countless third world countries by the World Bank and the IMF during the 1980’s and 1990’s, and finally enabled here in the United States by the January 2010 Citizens United 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court, which freed corporations (and unions) of almost all restraints on the use of unlimited amounts of money as political speech.
Money talks. Oh, how does it talk, setting the political agenda, and controlling the outcome of the dialog. While it may be true that the most money does not always win an election (think Carly Fiorina or Meg Whitman in California), it is also true that money provides a megaphone which drowns out opposing views, and browbeats any elected official into going along with whatever policy or project makes the most noise and whips up the loudest adherents. The outcome of an election can be, and has been, over-ridden by that megaphone—- and, I suspect, that was the plan. The “jobs” mantra was nothing more than a cover to seize power and begin the coup. It is a method reminiscent of the “Power to the People” and “Bread and Land” slogans of the Communists when they overthrew the Kerensky moderates in the Russian Revolution of 1917.
It is in the perceived best interests of the global corporations and the mega-rich that America’s political leadership ignore jobs and unemployment, and concentrate on the deficits and public debt. The agenda is “Austerity” and “Sacrifice,” under the noble flag of saving our grandchildren from the crushing burden of our public debt, with the promise that this is the only way to heal the economy and create jobs. We’ve been snookered. This is how the corporotists plan on defunding and breaking any opposition; it is intended to divide and fragment possible resistance, and to suck more money and power into their hands, thus changing the political and social system of the country forever—- regardless of the social and economic cost, and with not the slightest concern about what the subject population might really want. No help for the vulnerable is too picayune to avoid the budget axe. Father Knows Best, children, this may hurt, but we’re doing it for your own good. Hapless local jurisdictions are now being dis-incorporated and their tax-payer built institutions (like water works) turned over to corporations; state infrastructure (like highways, bridges, even universities) will be “sold” in no-bid contracts to companies, or otherwise privatized. So much for democracy and self-government, once you vote Republicans into office.
In Washington, progressives are treated to the sight of their own party in a bargaining dance of death about how many and how big the budget cuts are going to be—- the battle is entirely conducted on the chosen terrain of the corporotists.. Unfortunately, as Krugman points out, “…the economic arguments used to justify the D. C. deficit obsession have been repeatedly refuted by experience.” I pointed out the same thing, with examples, in Austerity Gets an F. As for saving our grandchildren, says Krugman, consider how, in past recessions, the long-term unemployed, especially the new graduates looking for jobs, never ever caught up to the life-time incomes and life-styles of those who did not start their employed lives in a recession—- in other words, creating jobs now is the best thing we can do for our grandchildren, rather than worrying about the debt.
Bringing a budget deficit under control must include discussions of increasing revenue: i.e., t-a-x-e-s.Representative Jan Schakowsky, (D, IL) has proposed exactly that in her Fairness in Taxation Act. It would create new tax brackets starting at $1million income up to $1billion income:
*$1-10 million: 45 percent
*$10-20 million: 46 percent
*$20-100 million: 47 percent
*$100 million to $1 billion: 48 percent.
*$1billion and over: 49 percent
Currently, all of these super-rich are taxed at 35 percent, far, far below rates in our not-so-distant past. Scharkowsky also proposes to tax capital gains and dividend income as ordinary income, but only for those with incomes over $1million. She points out that
“…the richest 1% owns 34% of our nation’s wealth…. the entire bottom 90%…29%… the top one-hundredth of 1% now makes an average of $27 million per household per year. The average income for the bottom 90% pf Americans? $31,244. It’s time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share…This isn’t about punishment or revenge. It’s about fairness.”
Exactly. These mega-rich made, and are making, their fortunes because they live in the U.S., under our system, using our resources. They cannot continue to prosper so handsomely if, for example, public schools do not continue to graduate students who learn skills necessary for work on Wall Street, or the skills to innovate in science and business, or to earn money to buy the goods the mega-rich manufacture. We cannot continue as a successful system one percent super-rich and ninety-nine percent abject poor, just as, in the 19th century, America could not continue half slave and half free. “Spread the wealth around?” No. Nor is it “Redistribute Wealth Only Upward,” either.
All this Deficit Terrorism is a distraction, intended to deflect attention from the real objective: to finalize the morphing of our society into corporate feudalism, thus ensuring that the privilege and wealth of the global corporate elite are protected and inherited—- just as the barbarians who overran the Roman provinces at the collapse of the Roman empire turned themselves into the barons and kings of feudal Europe. What we are facing now is a moral question of fairness, also discussed here.