29 March 2009
25 March 2009
On this sixth anniversary of the terrorist attack on Iraq, let us all bring friends to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate that there is still a thread of sanity and resistance in the USA. The war agenda is an education agenda as well.
Please remember to spread the word about the Rouge Forum Conference, May 15 to 17, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The full conference schedule is now up here: http://web.mac.com/wayne.ross/Rouge_Forum_Conference_2009/Welcome.html You'll have a tough time deciding what outstanding sessions you want to attend. Be there---or square!
In a speech on March 18th, The Obamagogue declared forthrightly, as he has in the past, that he is for capitalism, for free marketeering, for pay for added value. That's a pretty clear statement about why it is he is for the spurious merit pay project as it fits neatly with the agonies of the failed system of capital, with obscuring the reality of a full scale attack of the rich on the poor using the government, now almost fully merged with corporations, as a weapon against children and teachers. The education agenda is a war agenda. http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0318/p01s02-ussc.htm
Here is what The Obamagogue, who now represents not only the seamless merger of corporate and governance life, but who obliterates the line between news and entertainment, said to Jay Leno that was actually significant http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/20/what-obama-said-last-nigh_n_177401.html
The Obamagogue, whose demagoguery is no longer an amusement, proposes to tax those who have health benefits in order to pay for those who do not: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/us/politics/15health.html
The Florida Education Association followed the lead of the California Teachers Association in demanding a state sales tax hike to pay for education, an opportunist move that pits one set of working people, educators, against the entire working class which carries the burden of sales taxes. http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/article984475.ece
As the economy presses down, resistance rises. At issue is whether people make any sense of resistance. The French General Strike of March 19th: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7951949.stm
Immanuel Wallerstein on the possibility of Civil War in the USA http://www.binghamton.edu/fbc/253en.htm
What happened to the economy? Easy. Micawber from Dickens' David Copperfield: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery." Joe Bishop, Rouge Forum Conference Coordinator, on inequality and education: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2009/03/accountability-legerdemain-and-the-intensification-of-inequality/
A survey on American Individualism in the midst of the crisis from Faith: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/17/surveys-americans-grip-to_n_175618.html
Closing with an excerpt from a note from Brazil: "In the history of crises of capitalism, the dominant classes, owners of capital, and their governments have adopted the same prescription to exit them. First, they need to destroy a part of (over-accumulated) capital (lacking demand) to make room for another process of accumulation. In recent months, over 4-trillion dollars in paper money have gone up in smoke. Second, they call for wars. War is a way of destroying goods (weapons, munitions, materials, facilities) and getting rid of the social tension of workers. And it does so in such a way as to also eliminate the industrial reserve army. Thence the First and Second World Wars, and then the Cold War. Now, given the fear of atomic bombs, they stir up regional conflicts instead. The attacks on the Palestinian people by Israel, the provocations in India, and the threats against Iran all fit in this strategy as well. The strategy is to increase military spending and destroy goods. Third, magnify the exploitation of workers. That is to say, in crises, lower the average wages, and bring down the living standards and thus the costs of the reproduction of the labour force, in order to restore the rates of surplus value and restart accumulation. Hence also the expansion of unemployment, which keeps multitudes surviving only on the basic baskets of goods, etc. Fourth, a greater transfer of capital from the periphery to the center of the system. This is accomplished by the direct transfer from enterprises in the periphery to their headquarters, as well as through the manipulation of the dollar exchange rate, the payment of interests, and the manipulation of prices of goods sold and bought in the periphery. Fifth, capital goes back to using the state as the manager of the savings of the population to shift these funds for the benefit of capital. For this purpose, capitalists again valorize the state, not as the caretaker of the interests of society, but as the steward of their interests, to use its compulsory powers and thus collect money from everyone, through taxes as well as savings deposited in the banks, in order to finance their way out of the crisis. We are witnessing the application of these classic measures, reported in the press every day – here in Brazil, in the center of capitalism, and in the rest of the world.But, as with everything in life, there are always contradictions. For each action of capital, the government, etc., there will be its contradiction, which society and workers can recognize and exploit to change the situation.The historic periods of crises are also periods of change. For better or worse, there will be changes! Crises create openings and rearrange the positioning of classes in society."
Thanks to Joe, the Bills, Faith, Wayne, Amber, Erica, Bob, Tobie, Sally, Sandy, Rudy, David, Sharon A., Carol Panetta and Bob too, Duke, Adam and Gina, Candace, Randy Matthews, Matt, Ken, Barb, Linda L. Gil, and Sherry.
Good luck to us, every one.
19 March 2009
Rouge Forum Conference 2009—Education, Empire, Economy & Ethics at a Crossroads (conference schedule)
The schedule for the Rouge Forum Conference 2009—Education, Empire, Economy & Ethics at a Crossroads—is now online. Check out the great speakers, sessions and events for the meeting at Eastern Michigan University, May 15-17.
Check out all the details for the conference at RougeForumConference.org
18 March 2009
As global capitalism implodes there is has been a marked uptick in social upheaval worldwide and now establishment analysts are expressing their concerns about "class conflict" and "civil war" in the USA.
The Economic Meltdown Sparks Global Unrest
The financial crisis has sparked unrest globally and particularly across Europe, with demonstrations, strikes, and protests in 16 European countries. Here are a just a few examples:
- Tens of thousands of workers marched in Lisbon, Portugal on March 13 against the policies of the Socialist government, which unions say are increasing unemployment and favoring the rich at a time of crisis;
- Hundreds of workers at Bulgaria's Kremikovtzi steel mill protested on March 9 over planned lay-offs and unpaid salaries, demanding the Socialist-led government find a buyer for the insolvent plant; thousands of police officers marched in Sofia on Sunday to demand a 50 percent wage rise and better working conditions;
- In Greece, the fatal police shooting of a 15-year old in December sparked the country's worst riots in decades, fueled by anger at economic hardships and youth unemployment. Anarchists and left wing guerrilla groups have followed up with a wave of attacks against banks and police; Greek unions, representing about 2.5 million workers, have also staged repeated protests against the government saying its measures to tackle the global crisis only burden the poor;
- Last month over 100,000 people marched against cutbacks in Ireland.
High unemployment rates have led to protests in Latvia, Chile, Greece, Bulgaria and Iceland and contributed to strikes in Britain and France.
Last month, a half-million Mexican truckers shut down the countries highways to protest high fuel prices.
In December, Russian riot police busted up protests in Vladivostok against new taxes intended to "help prop up Russia's domestic car industry and prevent people buying cheaper, imported products." BBC reports that the protests were fuelled by the severe impact of the global economic crisis on Russia. According to Newsweek, "the Russian Interior Ministry set up a special command center in Moscow, packed with surveillance equipment designed to deal with street unrest. The Duma, on Kremlin instructions, added seven new articles to the criminal code including a law that makes "participating in mass disorders" such as the one in Vladivostok a 'crime against the state.'" 800,000 Russians lost their jobs in December and January, making the total number of unemployed more than 6 million or 8.1 percent. Gennady Gudkov, former KGB colonel and current chair of the Duma's security committee, said, "We are expecting mass unemployment and mass riots. There will be not enough police to stop people's protests by force."
There a have been massive general strikes in the French territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Réunion. The general strike in Guadeloupe prompted the French government to fly in riot police (Guadeloupe is a French "overseas department" in the Caribbean). And while the general strike lasted 6 weeks—it ended on March 4 with an agreement among the strike collective, the employers federation and local and French governments, which granted 20 of the strikers primary demands and set out negotiations on a long list of remaining issues—strikes and protests continue, involving tens of thousands of workers.
The agreement to end the Gaudeloupe strike , called the “Jacques Bino Accord”, identifies the underlying cause of discord as “the present economic and social situation existing in Guadeloupe [that] results from the perpetuation of the model of the plantation economy”. An economy “based on monopoly privileges and abuses of dominant positions that generate injustices.” The accord calls for an end to these obstacles “by establishing a new economic order enhancing the status of everyone and promoting new social relationships”.
Just as the general strike ended in Guadeloupe, social unrest over economic conditions spread to Réunion (a French "overseas department" in the Indian Ocean).
There is a definite pattern developing world wide. And now, US elites are starting to worry about what might happen if the American workers take action as a result of their frustrations with massive economic inequalities.
USA Prepares for Class War
In his latest monthly commentary (Mar. 15, 2009, Commentary No. 253), sociologist and world-systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein discusses the breakdown of taboos as the world's economy continues to disintegrate.
He notes, for example, that "nationalization" of banks and industry is now being seriously discussed by establishment intellectuals and analysts such as Alan Greenspan, Senator Lindsay Graham, and economist Alan Blinder.
But Wallerstein's most dramatic example of the breakdown of taboos is the open discussion of the possibility of class war breaking out in the USA. Wallerstein says that "after hearing nationalization proposals by arch-conservative notables, we are now hearing serious discussions about the possibilities of civil war in the United States. Zbigniew Brzezinski, apostle of anti-Communist ideology and President Carter's National Security Advisor, appeared on a morning television talk show on February 17, and was asked to discuss his previous mention of the possibility of class conflict in the United States in the wake of the worldwide economic collapse."
In Brzezinski's interview with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC about his recently published book—America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy, co-authored with another former National Security Advisor (to Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush) Brent Scowcroft—Brezenzki was straightforward about the belief that class war in America is real possibility:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: You also talked about the possibility of class conflict.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I was worrying about it because we’re going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits. And we’re going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America…And you sort of say to yourself: what’s going to happen in this society when these people are without jobs, when their families hurt, when they lose their homes, and so forth?
We have the government trying to repair: repair the banking system, to bail the housing out. But what about the rich guys? Where is it? [What are they] doing?
Brzezinski went on to compare the current economic meltdown to the "Panic of 1907":
It sort of struck me, that in 1907, when we had a massive banking crisis, when banks were beginning to collapse, there were going to be riots in the streets. Some financiers, led by J.P. Morgan, got together. He locked them in his library at one point. He wouldn’t let them out until 4:45 AM, until they all kicked in and gave some money to stabilize the banks: there was no Federal Reserve at the time.
Where is the monied class today? Why aren’t they doing something: the people who made billions, millions. I’m sort of thinking of Paulson, of Rubin [former treasury secretaries]. Why don’t they get together, and why don’t they organize a National Solidarity Fund in which they call on all of those who made these extraordinary amounts of money to kick some back in to [a] National Solidarity Fund?
Brzezinski continued saying,
"And if we don’t get some sort of voluntary National Solidarity Fund, at some point there’ll be such political pressure that Congress will start getting in the act, there’s going to be growing conflict between the classes and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could be even riots!
Wallerstein points out that "almost simultaneously" LEAP/Europe a European agency that issues monthly confidential bulletins for its clients—politicians, public servants, businessmen, and investors—devoted its February issue to global geopolitical dislocation, discussing the possibility of civil war in Europe, in the United States, and Japan; and foreseeing a "generalized stampede" that will lead to clashes, semi-civil wars.
Wallerstein quotes the Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin as saying:
"If your country or region is a zone in which there is a massive availability of guns, the best thing you can do...is to leave the region, if that's possible."
And Wallerstein also points out that, "the only one of these countries which meets the description of massively available guns is the United States. The head of LEAP/Europe, Franck Biancheri, noted that 'there are 200 million guns in circulation in the United States, and social violence is already manifest via gangs.' The experts who wrote the report asserted that there is already an ongoing emigration of Americans to Europe, because that is 'where physical danger will remain marginal.'"
Wallerstein emphases that "these analyses are not coming from left intellectuals or radical social movements.…Verbal taboos are broken only when such people are truly fearful. The point of breaking the taboos is to try to bring about major rapid action - the equivalent of J.P. Morgan locking the financiers in his home in 1907."
And US elites are obviously fearful enough to start planning for military responses to potential social upheaval as a result of the collapsing economy.
Last November, the US War College's Strategic Studies Institute posited a number of “strategic surprises” that the country should be prepared for, including potential for disruption and violence caused by the economy's failure. The report Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development, says “widespread civil violence inside the US would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.”
And now, for the first time ever, US military units are staged and are training inside the country to address civil unrest rising from inequality. The Army Times has reported on the US Northern Command's (NORTHCOM) deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Combat Brigade Team (BCT) on U.S. soil for "civil unrest" and "crowd control" duties. The 5,000-member force was one of first units deployed in Baghdad.
The Rouge Forum Conference, May 15-17, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, is lining up to be a terrific event. Come meet friends, hear keynoters like Staughton Lynd ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staughton_Lynd) and get ready for a falling sky.
The RF conference link is here:http://web.mac.com/wayne.ross/Rouge_Forum_Conference_2009/Welcome.html Please help spread the word about the conference. It looks like our best yet. The lineup of presentations is terrific. You will have a hard time picking which ones you want to attend. The conference will set the north star for education resistance for yet another year. This is our eleventh conference. Time flies.
The Seattle special ed teachers who were suspended for refusing to give their students high-stakes exams that would invariably fail them are back in the classroom and working with a lawyer on their appeal. A note of encouragement would be more than appropriate---solidarity with the notion that an injury to one just goes before an injury to all. Juli Griffith firstname.lastname@example.org ,Lenora Stahl email@example.com
It was a loud and busy week in education. The One, who we dubbed The Obamagogue, in somewhat good humor, came out in favor of merit pay and a series of regressive educational measures (more regimented curricula, more sophisticated testing) summed up herehttp://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iT--F725ypsNTaNrulnuCGd8vt0QD96RAIQ00
The bosses of the National Education Association (paid upwards of $450,000 a year aside from expense accounts) joined their favorite bedfellows, the US Chambers of Commerce and the National Association of manufactures, to promote, among other things, a national curriculum. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/03/10/25nea.h28.html?tkn=QSBFnpGMU6Tfz%2B90MDHbx3VHgcuRaEAiouMd
The group hug of business profiteers, labor bosses, and government hacks went on to support what many people feel is the utterly out of date, pre-sky-falling, litany of what's been called the Tough-Tough Project http://www.skillscommission.org/executive.htm
Then Tim Geithner and Arne Duncan went on the road to promote The One's projects. Here is a report on The Obamagogue's Liars and Our Future http://susanohanian.org/show_commentary.php?id=649
Let us be clear. The education budget is a war budget. The core issue of our times is booming color-coded inequality challenged by the potential of rising mass class conscious resistance, in schools and out. There is continuing debate about the Employee Free Choice Act, now pending before congress and drawing about $200 million in lobbying money---both sides, labor and management combined--in a struggle that may not be exactly about the best interests of workers or the nation, though all the big players say otherwise. Here is a link to the discussion in the Historians Against the Warhttps://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=36687254&postID=5819545599056544064&pli=1
There are many demonstrations coming this week around the US and the world. This week marks the sixth year of the US invasion of Iraq, a failed adventure propelled by hubris, oil, regional control, and deception--a mix that could spell tyranny. All who can should be on the march, not only to raise a peace sign, a fist, or a finger, against this travesty, but to test our own strength and resolve.
Remember to spread the word about the conference in Ypsi!.
Want to explain Madoff and a Ponzi scheme to your kids? http://ukhousebubble.blogspot.com/2009/03/bernie-madoff-is-cookie-monster.html
$9.7 trillion to the banksters and still counting. Here are some good Great Depression Songs to get us through the week. http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/depress.html
Good luck to us every one.
Thanks to Joe B and C, Greg and K, The Bill's, Bob A and D, Erica, Donna, Shelly, Ann Arbor Ann, Candace, Niki N, Sharon A, Amber, Wayne, Perry, Kev, Curry, M...Y...,Hanna and Cal, Kelly, Elaine, Dominique, Luis, Tanya, Summer, Paul and Mary, Alex and Jeff, Gil G, Kirk, Jimmy B and G, Kathy Young, and Z's.
All the best,
11 March 2009
There is still time to submit a proposal for the Rouge Forum Conference. Come enjoy the company of sane people.http://www.rougeforumconference.org/
Is it trite to say that the class war that we noticed, among a very few others, years ago, rages now, in schools and out? Surely, elites know it, even if too many on our side don't.
Bloomberg News group seems to be the only section of the corporate press truly interested in tracking where the $9.7 billion(+) bailout went. They filed suit and came up nearly blank: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aG0_2ZIA96TI
Secrecy, as we know, is a cornerstone of tyranny.Here we see Oregon schools gutted by the collapsing economy (better termed as Their Economy) http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-oregon-schools9-2009mar09,0,3739238.story
California is, right now, issuing thousands of layoff notices to school workers. People will fight back. There is always resistance. Here are two Seattle teachers who retained their integrity by supporting their kids right to opt out of exams that were completely inappropriate for them. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2008819875_suspension06m.html
The teachers were suspended. You can email your thought to the Seattle Superintendent at Randy.firstname.lastname@example.org
After months of secrecy, NEA's bosses finally advised some members that they have been working behind the scenes, again, to merge NEA's 3.5 million members with the AFL-CIO and the splinter group, Change to Win. On the face of it, solidarity might be appealing. But neither the AFL-CIO nor the CTW has ever practiced solidarity unionism. To the contrary, the labor bureaucrats have systematically disorganized workers's job actions, as with the Detroit Teachers Wildcat, and they have used violence against labor reformers, as with the SEIU attack on Labor Notes in 2008. All NEA would get would be a more undemocratic structure, a la the AFT. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/09/us/09labor.html?scp=1&sq=%2b%22National+Education+Association%22&st=nyt
Meanwhile, NEA mis-leaders joined AFT, the Business Roundtable, and other employer groups to promote national teaching standards, Why national standards? It is not possible to split foreign policy and domestic policy. The education budget is a war budget. The crux of the US education project is to produce students so witless, docile, loyal, yet useful, they will support the poor of their home nation going off to fight and die for the rich. Bill Blum noticed this recently when he reminded us of this quote from the song about racism from the Broadway classic show, "South Pacific" "You've got to be taught" ...You've got to be taughtfrom year to year.It's got to be drummedin your dear little ear.You've got to be taughtbefore it's too late.Before you are 6 or 7 or 8.To hate all the peopleyour relatives hate.You've got to be carefully taught.http://www.nea.org/home/30696.htm
From the NEA press release: NEA partners to develop standards for measuring 21st century skills.Education collaborative strives to ensure global competitiveness for students:WASHINGTON - February 23, 2009 - NEA is pleased to announce its partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, Achieve, Inc., the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Hunt Institute, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the Business Roundtable, in a new state-led initiative to improve the access of every student to a complete, high-quality education that provides the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the 21st century. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is working to produce a common core of voluntary state standards across grades. The K-12 standards would cover English/language arts, math, and eventually science. The initiative plans to be an inclusive and transparent process that will include input from education, civil rights and business leaders among others. "NEA welcomes the opportunity to participate in this effort to provide manageable, high-quality standards for adoption by states to guide efforts to improve education," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "We are pleased that the voices of classroom educators will now be a part of this process. ..(full article is linked)
When the bosses say Cut Back. We must say Fight Back. No Concessions. No Layoffs. No wage or benefits cuts. Cap class size at 20 for everyone. Hire more people to combat unemployment. Go get us the Schools Tarp. Or we will shut your schools down and open freedom schools, teaching things that matter: Class struggle, love, sensuality and reproduction, rational knowledge in an atmosphere that promotes critique and freedom. All of that is illegal in California right now.
Meanwhile, AFL-CIO leaders cavort and bicker at the pricey Miami Fountainbleau Hotel http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/us/08labor.html
David Berliner has a new piece out, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success , demonstrating once again Jean Anyon's thesis: Doing school reform without social and economic reform is like washing the air on one side of a screen door. It won't work. http://www.greatlakescenter.org/
For those who enjoy irony, here is General Motors, long the siren of Buy American, demanding a bailout, from Europehttp://www.freep.com/article/20090303/BUSINESS01/90303019
What happened to the capitalist economy anyway? Here are two quick insights, this one from old Marx himself: For Marx, there was never any doubt about the root cause of capitalist economic crises. “The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their limit”
Here is an extension from John B. Foster, author of the recently released, Great Financial Crisis, responding to an inquiry: “No I am not equating stagnation, stagflation, and overproduction. though they overlap. Stagnation, i.e. slow growth, rising unemployment/underemployment, high excess capacity, etc. reemerged in the 1970s. Initially, there was a period of stagflation (stagnation plus inflation). The inflationary part was brought under control but not the underlying stagnation, which continued. Under monopoly capital (or monopoly-finance capital) actual overproduction is not the dominant tendency since the demand shortfalls show up in overcapacity rather than overproduction. Corporations cut back on output pretty quickly and lower their capacity utilization (fully competitive capitalism didn't work this way). You could say, though, that it is a case of implicit overproduction, so there is no real contradiction. Of course a build up of productive capacity, which is increasingly underutilized, fits just as well with Marx's statement, ‘the real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself,’ which you quote.”
All of which adds up to why you should book now to join us at the Rouge Forum Conference, May 15 to 17 in Ypsilanti! Keynotes: Staughton Lynd, Greg Queen, Rebecca Martusewicz.
All the best, r
Thanks to Gil, Bob, Susan and Susan, George and fam, Paul and Mary, Cindy, Amber, Della, Evan and Ethel, Tony H, Suber, Beau, Kelly, Jan, Dionne, Sandy and Sally, Shea, Holly, Peter M, Tom H, Cassie, Jean and Ken and fam, Jim the 3rd, Travis, Dan H, Gina, Sharon Ag, Carol Panetta, and Bobby.
01 March 2009
Rich has been providing us with several links over the last few weeks which help us make sense of the causes and subsequent devestation. He has offered the following links (among others):
- George Soros agrees the sky is falling: http://www.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idUSTRE51K0A920090221?feedType=RSS&feedName=businessNews&rpc=23&sp=true
- The auto bailout/UAW sellout amounts to what looks to be the coming end of auto-worker health benefits http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/articleAID=/20090223/AUTO01/902230395
- The large existing organizations that claim to defend working people and students, like the unions, are absolutely unprepared and unfit to meet this crisis. The UAW agreed to the 47,000 layoffs (having already lost a million members) and more concessions still--when concessions never save jobs, other than bosses' jobs. http://www.freep.com/article/20090217/BUSINESS01/90217064/GM+seeks+$30+billion+in+total+aid++plans+to+cut+47+000+jobs+this+year
- White recession, black depression: http://www.counterpunch.org/muhammad02162009.html
- Calvin and Hobbes : http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_djgssszshgM/SYXCzpR0MbI/AAAAAAAAAyY/VYle3udsueo/s1600-h/CalvinHobbs.BMP
- Marx: "The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself": http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch15.htm
I would like to add to this list some of my own reading over the last few months (Rich probably sent some of these, too), which include:
"Financial Implosion and Stagnation" from John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff (this is the final chapter from The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences): http://monthlyreview.org/081201foster-magdoff.php.
In this chapter, Foster and Magdoff lay out a compelling case of how we got to where we are and what we may need to get out of it. Quoting a few passages from the chapter, there argument is: "both the financial explosion in recent decades and the financial implosion now taking place are to be explained mainly in reference to stagnation tendencies within the underlying economy."
Illustrating via some fairly frightening graphs, they claim, "Over the years 1950 to 1970, for each additional dollar made by those in the bottom 90 percent of income earners, those in the top 0.01 percent received an additional $162. In contrast, from 1990 to 2002, for each added dollar made by those in the bottom 90 percent, those in the uppermost 0.01 percent (today around 14,000 households) made an additional $18,000. In the United States the top 1 percent of wealth holders in 2001 together owned more than twice as much as the bottom 80 percent of the population. If this were measured simply in terms of financial wealth, i.e., excluding equity in owner-occupied housing, the top 1 percent owned more than four times the bottom 80 percent. Between 1983 and 2001, the top 1 percent grabbed 28 percent of the rise in national income, 33 percent of the total gain in net worth, and 52 percent of the overall growth in financial worth."
Regarding our economics colleagues, they argue, "Having lost any meaningful roots in society, orthodox neoclassical economics, which presented itself as a single paradigm, became a discipline dominated by largely meaningless abstractions, mechanical models, formal methodologies, and mathematical language, divorced from historical developments. It was anything but a science of the real world; rather its chief importance lay in its role as a self-confirming ideology."
Pointing toward our response, they offer, "There is no doubt that the present growing economic bankruptcy and political outrage have produced a fundamental break in the continuity of the historical process. How should progressive forces approach this crisis? First of all, it is important to discount any attempts to present the serious economic problems that now face us as a kind of “natural disaster.” They have a cause, and it lies in the system itself. And although those at the top of the economy certainly did not welcome the crisis, they nonetheless have been the main beneficiaries of the system, shamelessly enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of the population, and should be held responsible for the main burdens now imposed on society. It is the well-to-do who should foot the bill—not only for reasons of elementary justice, but also because they collectively and their system constitute the reason that things are as bad as they are; and because the best way to help both the economy and those at the bottom is to address the needs of the latter directly. There should be no golden parachutes for the capitalist class paid for at taxpayer expense. But capitalism takes advantage of social inertia, using its power to rob outright when it can’t simply rely on “normal” exploitation. Without a revolt from below the burden will simply be imposed on those at the bottom. All of this requires a mass social and economic upsurge, such as in the latter half of the 1930s, including the revival of unions and mass social movements of all kinds—using the power for change granted to the people in the Constitution; even going so far as to threaten the current duopoly of the two-party system."
And, finally, " Still, there can be no doubt that change should be directed first and foremost to meeting the basic needs of people for food, housing, employment, health, education, a sustainable environment, etc. Will the government assume the responsibility for providing useful work to all those who desire and need it? Will housing be made available (free from crushing mortgages) to everyone, extending as well to the homeless and the poorly housed? Will a single-payer national health system be introduced to cover the needs of the entire population, replacing the worst and most expensive health care system in the advanced capitalist world? Will military spending be cut back drastically, dispensing with global imperial domination? Will the rich be heavily taxed and income and wealth be redistributed? Will the environment, both global and local, be protected? Will the right to organize be made a reality?"
"Stimulus is for Suckers" by James K. Galbraith at http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/12/stimulus-suckers.
In this short essay, Galbraith suggests five ways to fix the economy: (1) fix housing, (2) backstop state and local governments with federal funds, (3) support the incomes of the elderly, (4) cut taxes on working Americans, and (5) change how we produce energy, how we consume it, and how much greenhouse gas we emit.
"Why the US has really gone broke" by Chalmers Johnson at http://mondediplo.com/2008/02/05military, which brings to bear our military spending.
"Capitalist Fools" by Joseph Stiglitz at http://www.truthout.org/121008R
Here, Stiglitz chronicles 5 critical decisions that have led to the current crisis: (1) Firing Paul Volcker as chairman of the Fed in 1987; (2) Deregulation; (3) Bush tax cuts; (4) Faking the numbers; (5) The bailout package of 10/3/2008.
"Who are the Architects of Economic Collapse? Will an Obama Administration Reverse the Tide?" by Michel Chossudovsky at http://www.creative-i.info/?p=2059.
"Financial Meltdown and the Madness of Imperialism" by Raymond Lotta at http://www.revcom.us/a/143online/Excerpts_Meltdown-en.html.
And, "Inside the Meltdown" at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meltdown/view.
What other good pieces exist out there on the meltdown? (Did This American Life just run another show with the guys that did a pretty good job outlining the bursting housing bubble?) Where has your analysis taken you? What other proposed solutions have you seen? How can we stand in solidarity?
Would love to carry this conversation into the RF Conference in May (Ypsilanti--5/14-5/17: http://www.rougeforumconference.org/)