Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Shredding of the Social Contract (2)

"I see no need to get the wages of (bond) traders down. But the need is to get the cleaning workers' wages down, and to widen the spread between them." - Goldman Sachs economist quoted in 1993, from Steven Solomon: 'The Confidence Game: How Unelected Central Bankers Are Governing the Changed World Economy', Simon & Schuster, 1995, p. 365.

In his recent WSJ piece (Nov. 2, p. A15), investor and former Democratic candidate (FL) Jeff Greene ('We Should Listen to the 99%') bemoaned the plight of the 99%. He bemoaned for example, that 'everywhere I went' in Zucotti Park, all that was heard were tales of woe and fears concerning a future in a world "where 99% of the people seem to be losing opportunity, power and security while 1% are gaining wealth and influence at a rate not seen since the Roaring '20s"

In this sense, Greene is correct about the nature of the fears, and I would also add that they're totally justified. Where he is incorrect, is in assessing the putative solution to the problem:

"In today's global economy, our future depends not on subdivisions and cheap gas but on education and training for people to the skilled trades that still command good wages."

And what pray tell, are these jobs that still command good wages? Well, they were listed on the ABC Evening News some two nights ago: carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. THESE are the jobs that are most likely the ones to be in demand over time, and exist despite the pressures of globalization.

For all other jobs, globalization and outsourcing have ensured it doesn't make a dime's worth of difference what degrees you have or how many. Given a choice between paying an American college-educated person $45,000 starting salary - with benefits tossed in, and an Indian only half that and zero benefits, what do you think the big cheese in a global company is going to do? With no penalties for sending jobs to Indians (i.e. a tax surcharge of 10% on every job dispensed there) that's where the jobs will go, the lowest priced, least regulated markets! This stuff isn't rocket science, and it's thus not surprising that companies like GE and Cisco have dispatched up to four times the jobs -including tech - to oversease markets like Bangalore, than to the U.S. - where they've actually pared jobs.

This is the 'new normal' that Mr. Green seems to opt not to think about.

As for what kids are getting from U.S. colleges, universities, William McGurn in a WSJ article the day before Greene's ('What's Your Kid Getting from College?) noted a New York University study by Richard Arum, conducted into the benefits of "practical majors" - which disclosed that more than a third of seniors leaves their respective campuses with no improvement in critical thinking or analytical thinking skills and worse (also counterintuitively) the "practical" majors chosen (business, education, and communications) proved to be the least productive of gainful employment that also remunerated at a rate whereby college loans could be most expeditiously repaid (e.g. within 10-12 yrs.).

But again, why should this be any kind of mystery to anyone paying attention? That there has been a glut of business majors, and especially MBA people, has been known and circulated for some time. Also the fact that in our pathological "Winner Take All" culture, the only ones who make their marks are either coming out of the Ivy League or are in higher echelon public universities (e.g. Berkeley) with stellar 4.0 averages!

Educational opportunities gone? Also no mystery, given massive state budget cutbacks! Many haven't heard much about it, but states have ditched more than 300,000 teachers in the past 6 months alone, and the job losses stand to get much more severe as penny pinching fever grows - thanks to no tax support. (In a just finished CO election, for Proposition 103 - to slightly raise state taxes by 0.42% to help pay for education- the measure failed by more than 2 to 1.)

Communications? Please! Given the monster mergers of the corporate media giants, who can be surprised at job attrition? Along with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 the drive has been to cut and pare to "become more efficient" even as people have nearly stopped reading newspapers and many magazines - at least in paper versions.

But all of these are just tiny ripples on a much more disturbed sea that promises an ever declining number of jobs not just over years - but decades! We are looking in fact, thanks to globalizaton, at an environment where more people are actually not working than working. This is the trend, and has been as the new global efficiency of markets have been proclaimed from the mountaintops of places like the G20 meetings, central banker fetes, and of course, the OECD meetings - along with the usual suspects (the IMF).

How did this come to be? How did we get here? Well, by a number of mutually reinforcing dynamics that ultimately synergized....then on doing so, cluster-fucked the majority of people on planet Earth! Let me recite a few of the major influences below:

1) The extirpation of the Bretton Woods agreement

Bretton Woods was not perfect by any means but it did preserve human balance within a global trade network, i.e.without sacrifice to private monopoly or multi-national power. This was first recognized by President John F. Kennedy in late 1962 and 1963. Once Bretton Woods was killed, private power as wielded by unchecked multinationals could grow to rival the power of states.

People under the new WTO-GATT-NAFTA etc. hegemony were thereby rendered pawns and serfs to global capital.

So, one could say that within 10 years of JFK's assassination, the global tableaux had been set for eventual market domination of the world. WIth markets now substituting for genuine citizen action and democratic initiative. How better to achieve this than to mutate everyone into a "consumer" or herd animal? (Always re-stated in media reports, as opposed to the term "citizen" which gave the elites headaches. I mean how could a future serf be a citizen?)

2) Massive de-regulation, vastly reduced tax revenues

This likely began in the Reagan years, with the Bank Holding (De-regulation) Act of 1984, which sped the way to speculative excesses resulting in travesties such as the S&L scandal in the late '80s. It also preceded the securitization of U.S. mortgages to make them easier to offload to global speculators - while removing them as liabilities from banks' books. Thus, a million or so mortgages were now compiled into a vehicle known as "collateralized mortgage obligation" and sold off to global investors in bonds. In effect, unless people paid off their mortgages rapidly, they became hostage to spculative markets.

The reduced taxation likely emerged after a certain Neo-liberal elite (probably a cabal of central bankers, politicos, investment firms and financial renegades)decided that from now on the economic commons was on its own, and would no longer be supported via taxation, but by leveraging DEBT. They thereby jacked up the rates on everything from mortgages to credit cards. Meanwhile, the inadequacy of state taxation meant college fiscal support from states would be cut leading to colleges having to increase tuition etc. on their own to compensate for the loss of their tax support.

3) The circulation of "free market" Bullshit by Think tanks and the Media

This helped to instill false consciousness until almost every halfway intelligent American began blabbering about the need for low taxes based on a free market myth that was confabulated in wingnut thinktanks, then fed to the corporo-media to publish in syndicated columns (e.g. by Thoams Sowell, George Will, David Harsanyi and others)

In his book, False Dawn, John Gray documents how the so-called "free market" is a total set of bollocks and codswallop. In America, markets have almost never been free - and even up to a few years ago, other nations (e.g. Canada, Germany, France) were harping on the U.S. for preserving high tariffs for incoming goods from outside markets. As Gray puts it (p. 104):

"American government has never observed a rule of non-interference in economic life"

Hell, even as I write this, medical marijuana dispensaries in California are under threat of being shut down by the over-aggressive feds. This is certainly interference in the state's economic life especially when those dispensaries help defray the red ink in the state's budget by their paid state taxes. But this shit isn''t new. As Gray also remarks regarding Prohibition (ibid.):

"Outside the economic sphere, American government was more invasive of personal liberty in the pursuit of virtue than almost any other modern western country. No other western nation, for example, has attempted the enforcement of Prohibition"

Thus, the claims of laissez-faire going hand in hand with the need for low taxation and "freedom" and "liberty" and being circulated for two decades and more is total horse shit. It is an invention of mainly right wing think tanks and their hacks, in places like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Isntitute, the Hudson Institute, the Hoover Institute, the CATO Institute and their many offshoots and clones. As Gray puts it (p. 105):

"In this Right wing rendering of the American creed a surreal inversion of history has been quietly accomplished".

And also, way too many have bought into this bullshit!

4) The metastasis of the "free market" myth to the global level

This is above all the basis of the current paradigm for leveraged debt, and rendering all peoples as nothing more than corporate serfs. (And if you don't think the elites don't believe most of us are serfs already or want to make us so, read the quote from the Goldman-Sachs asshole at the top!) Make no mistake these dicks wants us at the bottom and plan to keep us there! As John Gray puts it (ibid.):

"If the authority of American insitutions is universal and the 'free market' is at the heart of them, the reach of the American free market must be global. Free markets are not seen as merely one way of organizing a market economy...they are understood as a dicate of human freedom everywhere."

Indeed, in their Chapter 9 ‘The Rhine Model in Retreat’, the authors of ‘Capitalism vs. Capitalism’ notes that the socially aware Rhine model of capitalism (which too many Americans mistake for "socialism") is being undermined precisely because citizens, governments are allowing American neoliberal idioms and corruption of language to infiltrate their systems without critical inspection. As a result of this insidious cultural and language debasement (p. 169):

"Given their success in so many areas, the Rhine countries should be fairly resistant to outside influences, and more especially to the siren song of the USA and the superficial glitter of its casino economy. Incredibly the reverse is now true.

By allowing their concepts and language to be altered, the Rhine economies are increasingly falling under the spell of American politics, culture and media. America’s seductive powers are such that even all those societies which embody all the virtues of the Rhine model seem to be succumbing to her charms. In other words, they are in grave danger of becoming the latest victims to the neo-American illusion"
Thus, this Americanized pseudo-free market meme is really out to limit individual financial security for the mass of people - not support or enhance it! The agenda was nicely summarized in the article 'The New World Disorder Evident Here, Abroad', appearing in The Baltimore Sun back in 1997:

"The global economy has been constructed on the premise that government guarantees of security and protection must be avoided at all costs, because they discourage personal initiative. In times of crisis, however, that premise cannot be sustained politically. In times of trouble it is human nature to seek security and protection and to be drawn toward those who promise to provide it. That is how men such as Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin came to power, with disastrous consequences. "

Note that it is precisely this which defines and parameterizes the Neoliberal idiom. THIS is why its Overclass adherents and hacks want to demolish Social Security in the U.S., as well as Medicare, even as they wish to do the same for the National Insurance system in Barbados and its pension system. NO one must have any security, because to have such means that markets are "disabled" and not really Pareto efficient or optimal. Milton Friedman would have a shit fit, and Ayn Rand would ....turn over in her grave.

On the global scale, corporatization is the practical vehicle for the spread of this specious free market fundamentalism. It thereby also assumes the guise of transnational bodies, such as the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the IMF, OECD etc. that are, in fact, vehicles for multi-national corporations to advance their interests. Thus, labor protections – say enacted in small Caribbean nations like Barbados or Trinidad, are challenged as ‘trade impediments’, even as an environmental regulation say in Canada is challenged as a ‘trade obstacle’ by a U.S. company. In this way, a race to the bottom is established, with no one benefiting but multinational corporations.

The trends driven by the mechanism of global capital are easy to see, and no one paying attention can miss them. What they call for is mass unemployment and effective destitution in the more advanced western nations, at least to the level of the poorer nations such as Mexico, the Philippines and India. In this way, an economic global hammer ensures that elite, Overclass rule will prevail even as a number of horrific catastrophes unfold, starting with Peak Oil and extending to climate disasters.

Even now, as I write, new methods of crowd control are being perfected by the defense- law enforcement security establishment, which I will examine in the next instalment in the context of why the elites detest protests like Occupy Wall Street!

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