Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Accurate Portrayal of the Coming "Austerity" Wars

Even as the country continues to slowly grind its way out of recession and deficit obsession, or at least tries to, some critical observers are projecting ahead to a not so nice future wherein the two political parties will become the ideological beach heads for a prolonged civil war. This will not be like the last Civil War, and may not even reach the stage of bloodshed, but it will be fought just as intensely and without remorse.

In his book, 'The Age of Austerity', veteran journalist Thomas Byrne Edsall has glimpsed the future by extrapolating rationally from the recent budget battles and deficit fights, and doesn't like what he sees. In particular, "a period of austerity markedly different from anything we have seen before...which will spark a resource war" between the Left and the Right. I must say that I myself have seen this battle looming, ever since the August, 2011 showdown over raising the debt ceiling in which the nation was essentially held hostage to Tea Bagger austerity and deficit cutting demands.

In his case, Edsall goes on to note that at the current time,

"The two major political parties are enmeshed in a death struggle to protect the benefits and goods that flow to their respective bases, with each attempting to expropriate the resources of the other."

This, of course, is one way to look at it. But based on my many prior blogs on this topic, the other way to look at it is in terms of one party - the Republicans - being taken over by extremely wealthy and powerful special interests, whose main objective is to impoverish the rest of us so they can maintain political and economic control. Thus, these interests incessantly inveigh against the welfare of the majority (as embodied within the "promote the general welfare" clause of the Preamble to the Constitution) to pad their own special agendas, including buying off our leaders and having them write laws to suit.

Hence, the only valid "expropriation of resources" is on the side of the Right and its wealthy purveyors, benefactors (Koch brothers, Richard Viguerie) and corporate interests at the expense of the rest of us. They want to therefore extend and enhance their tax cuts, and have much more defense spending in order to leave no money to support social welfare programs, or even domestic maintenance such as for our crumbling infrastructure.

They want us all stuck in a third world banana republic and with them pulling all the strings.

Because Edsall's take is more or less one of generic false equivalence, it makes sense he would see that austerity "raises the stakes of partisanship" with both Reeps and Demos cocooning themselves, and each party "believing its own facts and trusting its own sources".

However, this is much more true of the corporate Right and its lackeys than the left. For it is their lot who are so seduced by FAUX News they're unable to fathom or see the real facts. Indeed, many studies - including from The Columbia Journalism Review (e.g. May-June, 2003, 'Bias and the Middle East') have shown the Foxite side to be vastly less informed than the left watchers of MSNBC. (And indeed, to even remotely consider putting the Rachel Maddow show on the same plane as FOX's Bill O'Reilly is to reveal onself as a latter day journalistic Jacobin already brainwashed by rightist screeds.)

But I suspect that like most journalists, Edsall doesn't really buy into this (and I will get to more on this later) but uses it to try to show he's being "objective" as a journalist is expected to be these days and hence give roughly equal weight to both sides. Thus in vetting "conspiracy theories" he compares the anti-Obama Birthers against the Left's anti-Bushers and their claim of the Bushies having "foreknowledge of 9/11" - which - not to put too fine a point on it, is nowhere near as whacky as the Birther's claims - given how Bush's approval ratings soared and the military -national security state profited in the wake!) So never mind the two sides can never be weighted the same.

Because of not dispensing with false equivalence from the start, Edsall becomes the expected prey to the nattering nabobs of high finance, such as one W. James Antle III, who reviewed his book (WSJ, Jan. 10, ' A War of All Against All'). For example, Antle portrays Edsall's book as "one party protects tax cuts and the Pentagon's budget" while the other "fights to shovel money at social welfare programs".

Not one word here, not a one, that the former bunch has RAIDED the monies of the social welfare programs, namely Social Security, to pad its Pentagon budgets and off-budget war, supplementals funding. So who is being dishonest here? Meanwhile, as I showed earlier, both the tax cuts and the Pentagon spending and budgets were always devised by the Rightists to bleed social welfare monies dry by "starving government", see e.g. my earlier blog:

The point here, which Antle avoided? One party - the Reeps, protects tax cuts and the Pentagon's budget for the RICH! The other party, protects social welfare programs for the majority of the country who are NOT rich and will depend on those programs later. Let's get it straight once and for all here that the protected tax cuts and Pentagon budgets do not have benefits that redound to the many, but to the few. Nearly 75% of those extant Bush tax cuts go to the top 10%. NONE of the Pentagon budget increases go to the many, but rather to defense contractors, with maybe 100,000 odd jobs for defense (e.g. aircraft building) going to specific congressional districts that have always been in the maw of the military, like Colorado Springs.

But this is the sort of one-sided journalism one gets when the reactionary press gets its hands on a book that doesn't meet every one of its 1-percent stoking criteria. Thus, Antle III really lashes Edsall when he finally drops the pretense of false equivalence and writes:

"For years, conservatives have sought to chip away at the infrastructure of contemporary liberal democracy"

Which is exactly, spot-on true! They have done it since the Reagan era by using the combo of regressive tax cuts and military spending to decimate the domestic purse for any social use.

Antle III then excoriates Edsall for "holding Republicans to account for being routinely engaged in an assault on programs and regulations that Mr. Edsall holds dear".

What Antle III doesn't say, doesn't dare to - is a majority of Americans also hold those programs dear! Polls consistently find 80- 85% of Americans, of both parties (but the little guys not the politicos) holding dear Social Security. As for those "regulations", even higher proportions of Americans demand them to ensure their meats aren't contaminated with salmonella or E. Coli. or that their melons aren't full of listeria which can lay them low with perforated bowels or comas. (Such as occurred to several Colorado citizens). Similarly recent polls have found 80% or more of Americans demand EPA regs to ensure mercury isn't pouring out from coal-fired plants to contaminate their food, water and air and make their kids more prone to asthma attacks.

Yet Antle's precious Repukes want to dismantle most of those regs, for both the EPA and FDA to save a few million bucks. Think they care about the majority of Americans? Think again! So no wonder Antle III complains that "Edsall gives short shrift t the right-of-center positions about the virtues of free market dynamism or deregulation"

Well, even Edsall clearly has his false equivalence limits, and perhaps - unlike W. Antle III - he grasps that if the free market truly existed, and was dynamic, we wouldn't see the ever increasing inequality we behold as betrayed by the Gini index (now near to the Philippines and Mexico.) As for "deregulation" recent studies, including published recently in TIME (3 months ago) showed that European states that kept more regulations fared better economically than those that didn't. The reason was that their trade improved because buyers knew the regs meant higher quality goods.

The funniest attempt at take-down is when Antle III blabbers on Edsall's unequal treatement of the Tea Baggers vs. what he (Antle) calls the "extemist Left". He writes:

"More space in 'The Age of Austerity' is devoted to nasty slogans appearing on a few signs at Tea Party rallies than to the estremism of the Left"

Hmmmmm.....he conveniently avoids mention of the many hundreds of Tea Baggers that brought their loaded weapons to those same rallies, along with their signs! Nor does he mention the Tea Bagger "campaign maps" leading up to the 2010 mid-terms with rifle sights over Dem areas. Then three months later Gabby Giffords was shot. Not saying a Tea bagger did it, but her district was among those targeted with a rifle sight - so they certainly created the climate where a generic whacko, nut or extremist could pull a trigger!

Memory is indeed short, very much so, when convenient.

Finally, Mr. Antle III yammers, on the "left extremists":

"After all, where did we first see a sitting President portrayed as Hitler?"

Hmmmmm.....maybe forgetting that Gee Dubya had many commonalities with Adolf Hitler, which was what the more savvy Left was trying to indicate. These included:

1) Like Hitler, Bush was never formally and officially elected by a majority of voters (both the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen, though by different modus operandi)

2) Like Hitler, one of the first things Bush did after a "terror" attack, was to limit or repeal civil liberties. Hitler did it after the Reichstag fire, under an emergency 'Decree', Bush under the 'Patriot Act' (which was prepared BEFORE 9-11!)

3) Like Hitler, one of the first things Bush did is to wage all out war on unions, especially within Gov't. (‘Stomping Labor’, in The Progressive, June, 2002 ,p. 7.)

4) Like Hitler, Bush and his administration acted unilaterally -without any consultations in respect to international laws and treaties - from Kyoto to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.And just like Hitler, international treaty after treaty and concordance was violated, broken.

5) Like Hitler, Bush intimidated his opposition (e.g. using the "Patriot Act" etc) into political cowardice, thereby further reinforcing his bogus 'power with no mandate'.

6) Like Hitler - in invading The Sudetenland and Poland -and depicting 'terror' in those nations, Bush invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, and had at least early plans for Iran'. Hitler did it to neutralize 'Bolsheviks' and 'Jew terrorists', Bush to neutralize Islamic 'terrorists'.

7) Hitler had Josef Goebbels as “Minister of Propaganda” – Bush had Herr Karl Rove.

8) Hitler had the “Reich Courts” to hand down a host of deleterious verdicts on the citizenry, Bush had his self-crafted “Military commissions" which did away with habeas corpus and is now fully formalized whereby any American citizen can be indefinitely detained - say at Guantanomo. (Obama and his press assistant have, to their credit asserted they would never do that, but the worry of many is that an unscrupulous REPUKE with delusions of grandeur or dictatorship would!).

Mayhap, W. James Antle III needs to read a bit more, including of 20th century history, before taking to his ideological pseudo-free market -deregulation bollocks high horse.

In the meantime, let's hope the austerity wars aren't as terrible as Edsall believes. But that will depend on the tactics of the Right's deficit hawks, Repuke military promoters and deregulators....If they go too far, well......

No comments: