The world burns as Obama “debates”
Two conservative op-ed writers in today’s New York Times write on similar themes and give us a pretty clear view of the catastrophic direction we’re headed.
Thomas Friedman observes the massive demonstrations in the Arab world, Israel, and Europe against “unemployment and the injustice of yawning income gaps” and correctly notes that “technology and globalization are eliminating more and more “routine” work — the sort of work that once sustained a lot of middle-class lifestyles“. “We are increasingly taking easy credit, routine work and government jobs and entitlements away from the middle class — at a time when it takes more skill to get and hold a decent job…“. This is a familiar Friedmanite idea but he never explicitly writes on what it means for the future of our world. The end point though is obvious: extremely high un/under employment and a class society as stark as any in human history.
Roger Cohen in a piece called the “Age of Outrage” similarly notes the global protests and “diffuse anger rooted in a shared conviction: things can’t go on like this.” “The gap between rich and poor has become a gulf”, and “a time of outrage is upon us”.
What a contrast, then, when we turn from these conservative commentators, go to the front page of the Times, and find the heading “White House Debates Fight On Economy.” Here we’re offered a report on an apparently serious “debate” inside the Obama administration.
What an incredible disconnect from reality and what a fraud on the American people! Here’s the debate playing out amongst the patricians of modern day Rome as the empire crumbles: on one side we find those in the administration who want to limit options to those favored by “independent voters” “even if they may not have much economic impact.” “These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.” And opposing this sterile and useless conservative agenda we find others who are pushing for an ever so slightly different sterile and useless conservative agenda. They see “an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers”.
What impotence from the halls of what’s called democracy! The only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn is that the American government is completely in cahoots with the forces that seek no change. It’s clear to all honest observers, and even to the likes of Friedman and Cohen, that the world is headed in a very dangerous and unsustainable direction. It’s a crisis of the system and that system is capitalism. We’re in a crisis of capitalism but liberal capitalist democracy, captured by money, is utterly incapable of doing anything but defend the status quo. The very concepts of capitalism, in practice a system of private economic dominance over society by the very few, and democracy, the rule by and for the majority, are irreconcilably in conflict. The logic of capitalism is what’s driving the “age of outrage” but the forces of democracy are completely absent from the marble and gold palaces of high government. We’re facing both a crisis of capitalism and a crisis of democracy and it can only play out from below – on the streets.