Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bi-Curious

Do as I say, not as I do...

What the Obama team fails to realize, or simply pretends not to, as they stumble and stutter about trying to get their stimulus package off the ground, is that the term "bipartisan" does not mean cooperation between the two parties, or "bringing people to the table", or "hearing out both sides", or "finding common ground" or any other feel-good pabulum. Quite simply, being "bipartisan" means doing whatever the elites of the economic and foreign policy "establishment" and by extension their surrogates, the media--you'll notice I don't say "in the media" for good reason--demand of you. As far as economic policy goes, this basically entails slavish adherence to a neo-liberal, neo-conservative, classical liberal, Chicago deep-dish, or any other euphemism you can think of for an ideology as discredited as Soviet Communism. I suppose one can accurately call this ideology "bipartisan" in the sense that politicians and presidents both Democratic and Republican have followed it to the letter for the last thirty or so years, and a brief glance at the economic team put together by Obama, including geniuses like Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and practically a "who's who" of former CitiGroup CEO Robert Rubin's stable of the best and brightest, shows not a single sign of slowing down.

It goes like this: any federal money spent on infrastructure, health care, education, welfare, the environment, technology, research and development, or basically anything that could tangibly increase not just the quality of life of your average person, but the level of control they are able to exert over it, is "wasteful" and pure heresy. Sums of money similar to or greater than what this stimulus package will cost that are spent on our galactic size defense budget, the added trillions it costs to simultaneously wage two wars/occupations, fun stuff like this, foreign aid to Israel or dictators we like, or just tax cuts which will sap the treasury thus making it "impossible" to fund undesirable but broadly popular government programs are all double-plus good. We are assured that the very same people that established the Rubinomic model of balanced budgets above all else, expanded free trade and near total financial deregulation that has just about finally and completely euthanized any notion of the"common good" in our public discourse, are now willing to alter their cherished orthodoxies according to the wishes of Obama. I won't be holding my breath.

I've said before, I have no idea whether this "Stimulus" package stands any chance of jump-starting our economy, and in the long run I hope it doesn't, at least not in the sense that most people imagine. Let me explain, it seems to me that the dominant ethos of our economic high priests right now is that everything will be all right if only we could just set the clock back seven months and get right back to the state the economy was in right before it shit its insides out: namely a consumer driven "recovery" powered by easy credit that is a debtor's fantasy made real. Mix in with outrageous stock and real estate speculation, and you have the recipe for a "bipartisan" economic wet dream: private profits, public risk.

More than anything I want the stimulus package to pass because, while certainly imperfect, it represents an opportunity to spend money in this country on things we desperately need, you know wasteful "pork" like health care, energy and education worthy of the wealthiest nation on earth. If we keep going on the track we're headed down, it's not unlikely that within a decade or so, America will look not too different from what Brazil or India currently resembles: a small elite who owns and controls everything and is able to live in splendor and luxury, with all the benefits and comfort provided by 21st century technology, surrounded on all sides by an endless sea of shanty towns, urban blight, decaying infrastructure, and environmental collapse populated by a vast and permanent underclass, the luckiest of which are able to scrape by in pseudo-indentured servitude. The ruling class will be protected by both private and public armies whose sole purpose is to guard the people who pay their salaries against the teeth of the starving and vicious. So basically, just like now, but with spicier food and sexier dancing. There won't be clean drinking water, at least not that you can afford, and we may have to switch to a "Road Warrior" style economy, but at least both parties can agree on something for once and git r' done.

Update:
Last night's Daily Show says it better than I can...

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