Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Death of Electoral Politics in the United States of America - Part IV


Part I of this series looked at the sickening reality that the 2020 US Presidential Election is going to be between two utter travesties of humanity, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. It then discussed how the Democratic Party rigged the primaries against social democrat Bernie Sanders because the Democratic Party is a tool of the oligarchy and the oligarchy is bitterly opposed to any viewpoints outside of the extreme corporate toadying that Biden has followed his whole career. (Early on he admitted to wanting to "prostitute" himself to wealthy benefactors.) Furthermore, this subverting of party democracy was displayed in the behaviour of another neo-liberal/pseduo-leftist party, the UK's Labour Party when it sabotaged the leadership of genuine leftist Jeremy Corbyn.

Following that, I discussed the political-economy of representative democracy in the USA up until the Great Depression, showing how various demographics aligned themselves (usually) with either the Republicans or the Democrats, and I identified which aspects of both parties could be held to have been "progressive" or forward-thinking.

The middle section looked at the impacts of two world wars and a great depression on the political-economy of US representative democracy. Especially how the ideological failure of capitalism in the 1930s made Keynesian reforms realizable and how the pressure of World War Two revealed the till-then denied organizational and productive capacities of the state. These crises produced the capitalist "golden age" from 1945-1973, and why the fuck am I writing all this? Just read the post if you want to know what was said!

Here's Part II and here's Part III you lazy fucks! (I'm just kidding. You know that I love all five of you, my readers.)

DEALING WITH the 1990s

So, last time, talking about the austerity policies of Anglo-American politicians, I neglected to talk about President George Herbert Walker Bush's "Gulf War" and President Clinton's war in the former Yugoslavia. I did mention the quick disappearance of talk of a "peace dividend" after the Cold War ended, but I honestly forgot about the contribution of these wars to the death of the "peace dividend."

What I will from here on out refer to as the FGW ("First Gulf War") was actually very significant because it showed the new hubris of US policy elites at the demise of their only serious rival, the Soviet Union. And, economically, "military Keynesianism" has already been identified as one of the main props of the post-1945 economy. It's a guaranteed source of profits for capitalists and it produces the tools whereby capitalist elites can enforce their domination of the planet.

Before the USSR's demise in 1991, US foreign-policy elites had to be circumspect in their foreign interventions because orchestrating a rebellion in a troublesome LDC could lead to the government of that LDC turning to the USSR (or maybe China) for armed assistance and end up giving those rival powers more influence in the region than they'd had previously.

But with the end of the Cold War, G. H. W. Bush articulated a "New World Order" of "What we say goes!" (Very sophisticated, I agree.)

In hindsight, one can only see the FGW as a display of breathtaking cynicism and cruelty. Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, had adroitly straddled the Cold War superpower rivalry, by embracing quasi-Stalinist industrial development strategy while using CIA assistance to destroy genuinely socialist movements within his country. When neighbouring Iran threw-out US puppet the Shah of Iran and occupied the US Embassy in Tehran, thereby going from trusted ally in the region to pubic enemy number one, Saddam attempted to use the cover of US hostility to Iran to attack Iran and rectify some border disputes by force.

The Reagan Administration rolled out all the stops to help Saddam against Iran (who had previously been armed to the teeth by the USA up until 1979). Iran was able to withstand Iraq through using conscripts and volunteers as cannon-fodder. But given that Iran was now being treated as an enemy of the USA, Saddam Hussein was being made to believe he was a friend and ally.

After the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq was economically in dire straits. But he was getting infuriated with Kuwait. Kuwaiti creditors were pressing him for repayment while at the same time they were slant-drilling into oil fields on the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Kuwait border, flooding markets with this stolen oil and thereby driving down world oil prices making it harder than need be for him to repay his loans. The way Saddam saw it, Iraq had protected the decadent feudal monarchies of the Gulf from the revolutionary threat from Iran and all he was getting for it was betrayal and grief.

I really think the depths of US complicity in Iraq's invasion of Kuwait can only be appreciated by a direct, detailed quote of the crucial discussion between Saddam and US Ambassador April Glaspie:

July 25, 1990 – Presidential Palace – Baghdad
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie – I have direct instructions from President Bush to improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait. (pause) As you know, I lived here for years and admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. We know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. (pause) We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your threat s against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship – not confrontation – regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait’s borders?
Saddam Hussein – As you know, for years now I have made every effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait. There is to be a meeting in two days; I am prepared to give negotiations only this one more brief chance. (pause) When we (the Iraqis) meet (with the Kuwaitis) and we see there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death.
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie – What solutions would be acceptable?
Saddam Hussein – If we could keep the whole of the Shatt al Arab – our strategic goal in our war with Iran – we will make concessions (to the Kuwaitis). But, if we are forced to choose between keeping half of the Shatt and the whole of Iraq (i.e., in Saddam s view, including Kuwait ) then we will give up all of the Shatt to defend our claims on Kuwait to keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be. (pause) What is the United States’ opinion on this?
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie – We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960’s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America. (Saddam smiles)
On August 2, 1990, Saddam massed troops to invade and occupy Kuwait. _____
Baghdad, September 2, 1990, U.S. Embassy

One month later, British journalists obtain the the above tape and transcript of the Saddam – Glaspie meeting of July 29, 1990. Astounded, they confront Ms. Glaspie as she leaves the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Journalist 1 – Are the transcripts (holding them up) correct, Madam Ambassador?(Ambassador Glaspie does not respond)
Journalist 2 – You knew Saddam was going to invade (Kuwait ) but you didn’t warn him not to. You didn’t tell him America would defend Kuwait. You told him the opposite – that America was not associated with Kuwait.
Journalist 1 – You encouraged this aggression – his invasion. What were you thinking?
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie – Obviously, I didn’t think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait.
Journalist 1 – You thought he was just going to take some of it? But, how could you? Saddam told you that, if negotiations failed , he would give up his Iran (Shatt al Arab waterway) goal for the Whole of Iraq, in the shape we wish it to be. You know that includes Kuwait, which the Iraqis have always viewed as an historic part of their country!
Journalist 1 – American green-lighted the invasion. At a minimum, you admit signaling Saddam that some aggression was okay – that the U.S. would not oppose a grab of the al-Rumeilah oil field, the disputed border strip and the Gulf Islands (including Bubiyan) – the territories claimed by Iraq?
(Ambassador Glaspie says nothing as a limousine door closed behind her and the car drives off.)

Anyway, what's done is done. Iraq was an LDC with considerable oil wealth and recent access to sophisticated weapons systems. The USA was (and remains) a military and economic super-power (and the coalition it gathered around itself included many wealthy, powerful countries with cutting-edge weapons systems). Of course Saddam was defeated. But what was important for the military-industrial-complex was that it had "justified" continued military Keynesianism. During the Clinton years it was the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia. Plus, with the break-up of the Warsaw Pact, there were potential new customers in Eastern Europe. Finally, thought it wasn't pushed as hard during the 1990s as it was after 2001, terrorism was provided as another excuse to justify US militarism and overseas meddling.


This whole series about the death of electoral politics shows how capitalist pseudo-democracies are abandoning even the pretext of doing things for their electorates. The modern era was about societies transforming from feudal-agrarian to capitalist-industrial. For this to happen, countries had to build states that could provide mass education, build transportation and communication networks, direct the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, and all sorts of things (manage cities and all they require). As economies became more centralized they were more liable to cycles of boom and bust. Furthermore, as they became industrialized, populations became more liable to absolute destitution if their access to food and fuel was weakened. Lastly, if political and economic power is concentrated in cities, they became more vulnerable to masses of angry urban populations.

It was only for reasons of social, economic and political stability that capitalist governments provide social services to their peoples. And it was only the catastrophe of the Great Depression, and the economic pressure of mass production needing mass consumption, and the threat of a socialist alternative, that ever compelled capitalist political systems to provide universal education or universal healthcare or unemployment insurance or affordable housing. To the extent that these lazy-assed, greedy, selfish, amoral, power-hungry parasites think they can get away with not having to provide these things, to that extent they will. And that is what we're seeing today and have been seeing since around 1980.

Well, under the pressures of the globalization of labour markets, and the exporting of manufacturing jobs, and the automation of those that remained, and the culling of white-collar jobs in both the private and the public sectors, and the weakening of trade unions, and the rise of precarious jobs, and the gradual privatization of public sector services (and the subsequent rise in the costs of those services) and the resultant income stagnation that has resulted from these policies, ... household debt levels have increased year after year. (In Canada they have. US households began to lower the annual deficits after the 2008 economic crisis.)

[I was looking for links to back-up my arguments, but I think something's happened to the algorithms of search engines that I'm only getting the same shitty sources over and over. Here's a suggestion: Search "household debt" on my blog. Once upon a time it was easier to get things to buttress my arguments and there are numerous links at my old posts.]

The extent to which our bloated, financialized Wall Street/City of London/Bay Street economies remain dependent upon the continued spending of regular chumps can be seen in this article bewailing the increased savings US households have undertaken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dramatic shifts in consumer behavior reflect the unprecedented turmoil in the US economy caused by the pandemic. Although caution is a logical response to that uncertainty, hunkering down also poses a risk to the recovery in an economy dominated by consumer spending. A so-called V-shaped recovery can’t happen if consumers are sitting on the sidelines.
“Consumers are very cautious,” said Russell Price, chief economist at Ameriprise Financial. “We’re right in the middle of the storm.”  
But consumers are also becoming more frugal and reining in their borrowing in case their income is wiped out.
The NY Fed survey found that the perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months rose to 16.2% in April, well above the 12-month trailing average of 11.9%.
“People have seriously reined in their spending. You have to wonder when they will feel comfortable splurging,” said Booth.
“The consumer that constitutes the beating heart of the real economy is preparing for a much longer slowdown than what policymakers are telling them,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, a consultancy.
For now, Americans are building cash reserves to help them get through the storm.
The savings rate in the United States climbed from 8% in February to 13.1% in March. That was the highest savings rate since November 1981. And given the disastrous economic news, the savings rate will likely go even higher when April statistics are released.
“When you have a depression-like shock, households will increase savings,” said Brusuelas, who called the March spike in savings rate “insane.”

So here we see another element of the story of dismal failure of mainstream economic wisdom that governs us to the present day.


So, the MIA got their wars to justify continued excessive Pentagon spending (and private sector profits); and industrialists got to shed their unionized work forces and obtain slave labour in LDCs; and wealthy people got their tax cuts; and everything was done to "free" enterprise. And it hasn't worked out the way they said it would. What has happened (and what was the original point of their policies) is that wealthy people got to keep more of their money.

In his book Killing the Host, Michael Hudson describes how this neoliberal policy strategy is the only real way that the rich have to grow their incomes. The economic growth caused by industrialization and global markets is over and working people's incomes and savings have to be cannibalized to provide sustenance for the wealthy. Hence, rising tuitions, healthcare costs, consumption taxes, stagnant wages, etc. But all of the money going to the wealthy has to be "invested." And productive investment for TRILLIONS of dollars is hard to come by. Before computer processing speeds became fast enough, the Japanese capitalists threw all their money into real estate, creating a bubble that eventually burst (as all bubbles inevitably do).

Increasingly powerful computers eventually made complex "risk management" strategies viable. Wealthy people were able to put their money in derivatives, swaps, hedges, ... all sorts of financial products. There were some hiccups along the way, like the debacle with Long Term Capital Management, ... and finance still relied on some sort of tangible "real" investments (before it was tulips, then it was new internet start-ups - "dot-coms" - , and then, sadly, it was real-estate again, which was used as the basis for "mortgage-backed securities" and these led to "collateralized debt obligations" all based on fraud, which exploded in 2008. There as also the oceans of loose money sloshing around the world destabilizing currencies, especially in Latin America and Asia.

The long and the short of it is that our societies are run by and for capitalist oligarchs. By the final quarter of the 19th Century, up until 1914, the trajectory was for an increasingly entrenched oligarchy, with massive social-economic inequality. The crises of two world wars and a Great Depression destabilized the oligarchy and for a few decades afterwards they were forced to (and some capitalists might have even agreed with policies at the time) accommodate policies that lifted the material standards of ordinary people. Universal suffrage only became widespread in the 1920s. Taming the "great beast" of democracy has been another challenge for capitalists and the public relations industry while all this was going on.

But, as I've said, since 1980, these policies have been abandoned. We are back at plutocracy. Back at naked oligarchic rule. The 1990s was only the second decade of this oligarchic counterattack against the compromises after 1945. I'll detail the process this took in the 21st Century next time.


Unknown said...

Nice to see you still here, thwap. l'll come back and read when l have more time. nothin' BUT time lol

thwap said...

Thank you secret admirer!

Unknown said...

Well, l been runnin' some words for a cat at The Blue Jay Times on twitter. She got GUNS! lol.

l leaned way back on my 'swearing in outrage' and finally acheived SERENITYNOW!

Came to the conclusion you were mostly right most, of the time. And there IS no Date with Tad Hamilton, is there? lol

l keep waiting to run out of characters here. And no poop emoji which l don't use anyway.

Blue Jay

thwap said...

Well Blue Jay (formerly LALI?),

If I understand you you've been following/arguing with a female sports columnist on twitter? And now you either swear much more than previously, or much less, and you've achieved a comic form of nirvana.

I'd like to think that I'm mostly right about the stuff I've put up here. It was written in a half-assed fashion but I always believed in what I was saying.

And as you can see, I've descended into bitter cynicism. It's only alleviated when I feel like inflicting extreme violence on the snickering shit-heads who pollute our planet and contribute to the mental degeneracy of our race.

I'm thinking of becoming a hospital orderly in real life.

Unknown said...

l don't know a female sports journalist and l argue not, on twitter. l don't think l mumbled.

Former Liberal, with a vote.

Unknown said...

l may have missed the joke. lf so, sorry.
Good career choice, l worked with seniors for many heart-rending years. During the Harris fuckery. l became an alcholic.

l use the small L for capital l. lt looks funny here. lt doesn't show up on twitter, that l'm aware of.

thwap said...

The provinces should take over senior care. And any capitalist stooge, stupid asshole, who sees all public services as sources for cuts, in order to lower the taxes of selfish pricks, should never be allowed into power.

Unknown said...

Especially when, as Harris, his wife, doctors and other assorted Conservatives, own shares in or outright own LTC homes.

l thought you may have done me the slight honour of checking my page - The Blue Jay Times, out.

Unknown said...

Yes, formerly LALI. I was deep in one of my illness', which l don't say to excuse my former liberalness, but to excuse my lack of control and composure.

thwap said...

All water under the bridge. Especially when i can be cantakerous myself.

I googled "The Blue Jay Times" and just got lots of pages of baseball schedules and newspaper articles about the Blue Jays.

Is it something on "twitter"? I'm not on twitter.

Currently I'm trying to finish my summary of capitalist pseudo-democracy so that I can move onto other things.

Unknown said...

Cool. How's your cartooning?

ps try @BlueJay5523226. my 'prison' number.
Hey, l followed CC on twitter for a good long while without an account. God, too. A guy and a diety, both hilarious. CC's different now. Still funny as fuck. Uses his real name. l can't. God has remained unchanged, lol

Unknown said...

My grammar isn't good enough for long-form writing, but l sure love reading it. Didn't help that my grade nine english teacher thought a good first study of Shakespeare for a group of small-town scruffy stoners was The Merchant of Venice. She loved it though. I dropped out. It was a 'combination' of factors, lol

thwap said...

I found your twitter handle. I remember "God" showing up in screenshots on blogs. Cartoony white bearded guy. Funny.

And I've seen people quoting CC's twitter account on facebook.

I've been on twitter when there's a link to it but I just don't go there on my own. I'll explain, ...

My cartooning is going well. I was just about to get serious about printing and selling. Had a kickstarter and everything. I have an Instagram page, but you'll have to search it out and never know if you actually found it because i want to keep this blog separate from that.

And just like with Twitter, I don't do much on Instagram. All these little snippets of "content" from an avalanche of sources, ... it sounds exhausting.

Unknown said...


- wrote you several paragraphs. In a row. Did my best

- got an ERROR page and lost every word

- fer fuck's sake

- where can l go to hit your cartoons out?

thwap said...

Always copy and save before pressing "send."

If the next post has cartoon images in it then you'll know. If it doesn't it's because I was unable to post them.

Stay tuned.

Waitaminnit. There might be some older comics from the old EnMasse homepage.

No. There aren't. I just checked.

Unknown said...

"Copy and save" wha? Derpish with tech.

Blue Jay

thwap said...

But somehow you've kept up with everything and are now a "twitter" celebrity.