Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mainstream Schizophrenia

I am seeing a divergence of opinion on our economic future in the mainstream press, though when I say "mainstream" I do not include Television as I have no reception, but I do mean mainstream outlets online. In one school of thought the nascent recovery is real and the future will soon, not this year perhaps but soon, will return to the kind of growth and pace that we have enjoyed at home since World War Two. The other school of thought seems to be taking on the opinion that fundamental changes are underway and the future is not necessarily looking good, even as it looks very different. I find the shift rather disturbing.

Sometimes it seems like there is a conspiracy for every opinion, and no doubt there will be speculation that mainstream reporters have an agenda when they speak of a dark future that may not include an imminent recovery. or, the conspiracy could be that the optimists have an agenda of their own, that of keeping us comatose. Or it could just be that opinions are diverging. In any event if mouthpieces like MSNBC and The New York Times have columnists ready to suggest that all may not be well I rather tend towards the theory that they may be catching up with realists who make a great deal more sense to me.

Economics is offered to us as a science when it is in fact an art and a pretty sketchy one at that. An economist who isn't attached to one political school of thought or another is an economist without a following. An economist who subscribes to a political theory seems likely to skewer expectations to meet the requirements and expectations of that political theory. These days when Republicans are fragmenting thanks to the anti government fringe expressing total disgust, and Democrats are fragmenting thanks to those of us on the far left who are annoyed by their inability to accomplish anything, it gets more and more complicated to pigeon hole almost anyone except an economist. Thus we find ourselves in the odd position of swirling around trying to make sense of nonsense while the theorists, the studious "scientists" of the dismal science stand steady amongst us like rocks, on the one hand predicting a rosy future and on the other sucking air through their teeth in disapproval at theories offered by the opposing political grouping.

Chris Hedges

Then we have the cross overs. I was reading comments of one Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize winning writer for mainstream rags like the Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times where he worked, and won his prize for war reporting. His recent opinion piece on Truthdig is a portrait of the United States impoverished, fragmented and on the brink of Civil War. He quotes a colleague at the Times, David Cay Johnston at length, from which I excerpt this rather ghastly paragraph:

“If we see the end of this country it will come from the right and our failure to provide people with the basic necessities of life,” said Johnston. “Revolutions occur when young men see the present as worse than the unknown future. We are not there. But it will not take a lot to get there. The politicians running for office who are denigrating the government, who are saying there are traitors in Congress, who say we do not need the IRS, this when no government in the history of the world has existed without a tax enforcement agency, are sowing the seeds for the destruction of the country. A lot of the people on the right hate the United States of America. They would say they hate the people they are arrayed against. But the whole idea of the United States is that we criticize the government. We remake it to serve our interests. They do not want that kind of society. They reject, as Aristotle said, the idea that democracy is to rule and to be ruled in turns. They see a world where they are right and that is it. If we do not want to do it their way we should be vanquished. This is not the idea on which the United States was founded.”

It would be nice to be able to dismiss this as a rant from the Left or Right or whichever way you prefer, but it is strong language coming from the mainstream. The article is all over the web and it's titled "Calling All Rebels." This is one wing of the mainstream in the US, and this is what they are thinking. Out loud. Brr.


Danette said...

Nice post. I'm glad you added the comment on Conchscooter to let those of us (me!) who were not in the know that you had this blog and that you were planning on commenting on political stuff. And I would agree-- chilling stuff. I keep telling people that I think that we're going to see more and more of these terrorist type activities from the right. They are very much like the extremist muslims-- and for those who think that religion is a good thing- they need to see, really observe, how true believers behave. That should tell them all they need to know about what religion does for a society.

As far as out and out civil war? Scary. I hope not but with the other post you wrote at Conchscooter on the mayor who called in the military because the city lacks the money to pay their police and the additional knowledge that a town in Louisiana is actually recruiting volunteers for militia type duties-- well, there is scary stuff ahead!!!

On another note- healthcare: David Kucinich is standing up against the healthcare bill. He was on Keith Olbmermann last night and now has the interview on his website. I thought you might like to hear him. HE should be president!

davidcay said...

In re my comments, quoted by Chris Hedges and reprinted above:

Last night I gave a speech at Rochester Institute of Technology that was full of hope and ideas about "A Path Back to Prosperity for America." It comes from work on my next book, THE FINE PRINT, due out later this year.

Afterwards people kept me there for another 90 minutes with questions.

Some were about specific policies, but many were about the sense the questioners had that government responds only to what I call the Political Donor Class.

Some of the questions, and they were thoughtful, were about the fear -- and that word was invoked a lot -- that we will slip so far economically that we will have violence in the streets, even revolution.

The people who asked questions ranged from the left to the right, with widely divergent views. However all who discussed the possibility (note that word carefully) of civil strife indicated they believed it would come from the right IF it happens.

And these questioners cited the sorts of things I mentioned to Chris about wild accusations about our elected officials being "traitors" and the inchoate rants of Limbaugh and Beck and some current and former elected officials.

Fact: I am far from alone in pondering the possibilities of civil strife in a nation where many people reject outright anything that does not reinforce their biases and denounce anyone with different views as illegitimate, even a traitor.

Democracy cannot work if that attitude prevails.

As Aristotle taught us, democracy is government of the poor (meaning the vast majority who are not rich, which today would include the middle class and affluent) and that it means to "rule and to be ruled in turns."

Conchscooter said...

Danette- I had one of the only two Kucinich stickers on a car in the Keys...when he first ran.
davidcay (how did you find this place?), hearing it reasoned out loud makes the possibility of social failure very worrying. I feel like my own private conspiracy theorist as I zombie through daily life pretending not to think about the chance that we might become a Dark Angel republic but I when I see people of your caliber figuring the odds rationally and calmly I get quite a bit more worried. Among my friends only my wife shares my fear of a 1930s future. So I sit and type and mutter at my computer where they don't see me.

davidcay said...

To answer your question, Google blog search.
And the real issue we need to address is how no significant reforms are taking place, just talk.

Conchscooter said...

Corporate money trumps all - what else explains the Democrat inability to do accomplish anything despite their control of all power (except the Supreme Court)? It can't be incompetence or ignorance of the issues. Sherlock Holmes had it right, when all other hypotheses fall down the last one standing, nor matter how improbable is your answer. Corporate bribery must be the reason the dems are such slugs.

Danette said...

Paul Krugman reported today that Check into Cash-- the paycheck advance loan company is lobbying to try to keep the government from putting on a 36 percent cap on their interest rates! Does anybody really doubt what corporate money can do in Washington-- the corporations certainly don't!

At work, my progressive friends and I often talk (maybe obsess??) about politics while we're working in the back. When we get to that point-- the point we always get to- where someone says, "When is this ever going to change?" One particular friend says, "People aren't hurting enough." I think that is true where progressives and liberal are concerned. But the right (and I will say that I once was among them although always a pacifist) will fight. They have been fighting. But since they're "peaceful" means aren't getting them what they want I do believe that we will see violence and to me, the terrorism I think they are capable of, would be devastating. And enough to make the government call for martial law-- which is where we are probably headed. The rich will have security agencies and emergency plans and we'll be on the outside wondering what happened, hoping we're safe.

Conchscooter said...

So far thisdepression hasn't really sgtarted to bite. The Great Depression had an impact something like ten times worse in economic terms for average people. Imagine gas at $9 a gallon and brfead at ten bucks a loaf sort of thing.
Whatever happens the question becomes do we pull together or apart?
On the whole even though it is stressful I think it's healthy that people are trying to look the worst possible outcome in the eye. I don't see much talk like that anywhere around me. (They are tired of hearing me be the voice of gloom).

Danette said...

Well, Americans have bought into the whole positive thinking. They are afraid they'll make things worse by thinking realistically about how things are. And they do have a lot of stuff... They have plenty of stuff to anesthetize them from them their miseries. That is very different than in the 30s. I mean as long as it's not happening to THEM- I'm not sure they are ever going to give a damn. For an example: how many people die because they don't have healthcare?? and yet, there is no big outcry that this bill doesn't include any kind of public option for the poorest (even if it were an add-on to Medicare or something for those under a certain income for god's sake!). We're a selfish, selfish generation.

I just think that even if the misery index were higher, many people would be passive about it. We live in a world where television tells us all the time that things are not that bad-- but there are a few people who are very unhappy with things and they want to tear down the government altogether. We'll have to see how long it takes them to really organize I guess. I don't think it's going to be that long.

Christopher Shepherd said...

My experience thusfar is that people simply do not want to hear it. Even a relatively gentle fact such as: Foreclosures are only "leveling off" because banks are holding back inventory to put a bottom under house prices, even as defaults increase. I get called "crazy" and worse, as people only want to hear one line: This is yet another "routine" recession and things will get back on track in the next month or so. If the news isn't saying what you'd like (maybe it says that the Bush Tax Cuts are huge deficit drivers, or that heaven forbid, taxes in this country need to go up or we can't afford to keep bombing brown people half a world away), you change the channel to a different one until you can get nice and smug.

While I'm not willing to predict Guns 'N' Ammo days ahead, it seems reasonable that we're heading for a bite in the ass worth boring our grandchildren with someday. In so many ways, I welcome the painful scenario as a way that we might somehow collectively regain a meaningful sense of values.

Conchscooter said...

Christopher- I share that same sense of impending doom that danette expresses and like you I hope that good can come of bad and it seems impossible that we shall avoid the bad. I am astonished how people really do their best to imagine a return to the past. For that we'd need another impossible series of bubbles.