Tuesday, May 31, 2011
We are being told that there is a recovery happening, but the only real evidence for that is a rise in the stock market. Meanwhile, the housing industry is in collapse, the auto plants are just making money on the pent-up demand, abut 15 million people who want real jobs on which one can raise a family are either jobless or do lower-level work that takes in no evidence that they are skilled workers, or work only part-time but have the training for an advanced job that they are barred from by the slack in the labor market. The rise in the stock market or similar deposits called “investments” are signs only of the purchase of securities by the minority that have money and are used to the expectation that they can increase their wealth not through genuine accomplishments but only through the fact that there are others who will pay even more to agglomerate wealth without making anything of value or inventing anything of worth. This motivation is so widespread that the demand for these supposed pots of gold keeps building up in a bubble until a wrinkle punctures it. We have seen from the New Deal how to get out of a depression caused by such a puncture, but now we have a new Keynesianism from Galbraith that points out that the draining of hot money into projects of genuine social need not only can spread health, wealth and prosperity but also reduces the apparent need of everyone with a bit of spare cash (Spare as shown by the ability to wager it in the Big Casino) in the search for reward for winning the gamble against others similarly ignorant and similarly driven. If we understand the motives that drive people to play in this game in which most are the rankest of amateurs compared with those with enough to bend the rules to their benefit, then we can see the shifting of funds from the feeding of the professionals to the People, in the form of health, education, justice and stability is to nearly everyone’s advantage.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
It seems to me that we are reaching the end of the Enlightenment. I had never heard of it until I reached literature in college German class, which now seems strange, since it was the moving spirit of the US Revolution and the intellectual life of the latter 18th Century in EU. In fact, as I later realized to my surprise, it was the Enlightenment that endeared US to the dreams of the educated people there in the 19th Century. The Enlightenment was the force of mind that led politics in UK, philosophy in France, and music and literature in Germany during that time, but only US was successful promoting it as a political philosophy, though France kept trying and falling back into autocracy. Still, there was enough of that outlook in US so that the attempt to believe in it kept Columbia as the Gem of the Ocean until it finally broke over the issue of slavery. What it had left behind was a beacon of hope in the practical policies of Democracy for almost 100 years and a very prosperous economy for most of its second century. But underneath there was always a strange mixture of the Wild West and peasant life in EU imperial life to undermine the glorious vision of a nation governed by the philosophy of Reason. By the early 20th Century, the cracks in the attendant belief in the perfection of the Free Market were challenging the rule of money that had been part of the credo of the Free Market for over 200 years. In the meantime, the Germans fleeing the crumbling of the Prussian Revolution in 1848 came to WI, bearing the Enlightenment with them and were the torch of Liberty for about 100 years until being swallowed by McCarthyism after WW II. Today we struggle to maintain the faith that made us the Capital of Reason during most of the US centuries until the class war of the billionaires has put our heritage in peril. The next few years will chart WI’s course for the next few centuries. This is a call to fight for the Light.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Today the Mississippi R is flooding again, as it does from time to time, but today it is within 2” of the record flood at Memphis in 1937. When I was a kid in the 1930s, the R flooded almost every year, as did its companion, the Tennessee. And the TN valley was a mess of swamps, malaria, and underdevelopment. But the New Deal changed that for them, as new dams converted the swamps into lakes, managed the mosquitoes by manipulating the water levels in them, and electrified SE TN into the industrial giant of that State. After being interrupted by WW II, the move to do a similar thing to the MO R was restored. Since that did not have the same geography, it would have involved diverting the R SE through many farm fields when necessary prevent the destruction caused in river cities. But after 1945, the anger of the corporate bureaucracy against what they called the Red Menace in the form of the TVA not only prevented the upper Midwest from profiting from TN’s example, but as soon as GOP got their hands on government, Eisenhower began to restrict the socially beneficial effects of the TVA, resulting on a stress on coal burning power plants which left a toxic legacy of coal ash in place of the long-past floods. MVA was out of the Q, and remained so to this day. Today 400 miles W of TVA in TN, Memphis is the victim of the lack of flood control while TX is consumed by a drought and could dearly love the MO R water if they could get it. Of course, TX leads the country in finding Reds under their beds, so perhaps it is plain divine justice that they are not getting the MO Valley’s surplus to wet their fields. But a week or so back one part of MO was flooded to save the city of Cairo IL, while MO raged and TX was bone dry. But just try to get the Senators from TX to see the value in MVA today, even as they thirst and pray for rain.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
As I listen to the ease with which the comfortable middle class tolerates the agonies of the jobless, I observe that many of the prosperous find the troubles of those who are without work, without income, often losing their homes, their marriages, their families, and often even their health, and even their lives. Often those who seemingly have learned that the least painful place to endure a beating is on someone else’s back may prattle about sharing the pain even when the pain is in many cases a temporary lack of what many of us recognize as a luxury will talk about the shared sacrifice as though the temporary absence of that luxury is somehow equivalent to the deep troubles being suffered by people who genuinely have to suffer privation of the deep needs of life. It seems that the President’s lack of urgency in pressing the needs of the needy indicates that he is indifferent to the pain of the jobless. In this he may be unconscious of the depth of the suffering of others, or he might be just genuinely indifferent to it. I remember that 18 years ago, I had an interview with Russell Feingold just before he left for DC. I had been a supporter of his from the day when he entered politics and I pressed upon him the position that the urgent needs of the jobless was more pressing than the accumulated debt. I could not manage to make my point. Feingold had been raised in middle-class comfort and, though he took on almost every protest against the treatment of the poor and powerless, it weighed lightly on his shoulders. He often voted for its amelioration, but it never seemed to have the urgency that its pain should carry. As a result, although he had the support of many unions, it did not turn out enough voters to carry the day when the fat was in the fire. Possibly Obama is tempting a similar fate, as many who should be supporting him register their lack of commitment.