Somnium Americanum certum est quia impossibile est
“I’m standing in this piece of shit goddamn rubble city and saying to you Americans, I’m going to hand over the 17 Trillion dollar national debt I racked up to you and all future generations once I end my tenure as president. This was my American dream, and it’s going to be your American fu**ing nightmare. Thanks for voting for me — twice!” the jovial president said chuckling like a hyena.
The president then went on to his usual diatribe about how he is being hindered by Republicans in Congress and how none of the mess the country is currently in is his fault in any way.
A homeless army veteran onlooker to the whole sorry scene quipped: “This is what happens when Marxism mixes with Capitalism. In the Marine Corp. we used to call it a ‘clusterf*ck’.”
Americans are now more likely to die by their own hands than from a car accident or a murder-related incident, a grim statistic that shines a light on abusive corporate practices.
Judging by the latest data by the Center for Disease Control, something is driving Americans to become their own worst enemies: From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among US citizens between the ages of 35 to 64 soared by about 30 per cent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people.
Suicide now ranks higher than death by automobile: in 2010, there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes compared with 38,364 suicides.
Although suicide tends to be viewed as a problem inflicting teenagers and the elderly, the recent study shows a marked rise in the number of suicides among the Baby Boom generation (a demographic group born between the years 1946 and 1964, when the annual birthrate rose dramatically in the US).
Suicide rates soared across all four geographic areas and in 39 states. The state of Wyoming recorded the highest increase in suicides with a 78.8 per cent jump (31.1 per 100,000). Even the paradise state of Hawaii witnessed a 61.2 per cent increase (21.9 per 100,000).
Yet some believe even these shocking numbers are too low since many deaths are not treated as actual suicides.
“It’s vastly under-reported,” Julie Phillips, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University, told The New York Times. “We know we’re not counting all suicides.”
What’s going on here? What is suddenly pushing so many Americans to take their own lives?
The striking thing about the data is that the suicide rates really began to surge just as the Global Financial Crisis was making landfall in late 2008. While suicide rates increased slowly between 1999 and 2007, the rate of increase more than quadrupled from 2008 to 2010.
“There is a clear need to implement policies to promote mental health resilience during the ongoing recession,” said Aaron Reeves of Britain’s University of Cambridge, who submitted his findings to The Lancet medical journal.
Reeves went so far as to suggest that the Democrats and Republicans are partially to blame for failing to mention the issue during the latest presidential campaign.
“In the run-up to the US presidential election, President Obama and Mitt Romney are debating how best to spur economic recovery, [but] missing from this discussion is consideration of how to protect Americans’ health during these hard times,” Reeves warned.
Where’s the democracy?
So what else is responsible for driving up American suicide rates? Could it be the loss of democratic representation inside our corporate fortresses, those medieval-style fiefdoms that are now working overtime to control the US political process as well?
Thanks largely to the passage of the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling (2010), transnational corporations are now entitled to donate unlimited amounts of hard cash to the political campaign of their choice without having to come clean on the expenditures. The ruling even applies to foreign corporations!
So great is the corporate footprint in the halls of power that I fear the day is close at hand when we will actually see a corporation make a run for political office. Why not? They have already been designated as bona fide individuals by our craven Supreme Court (In the book, “Unequal Protection,” Thom Hartmann persuasively explains how the 1886 US Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company case wrongfully granted corporations personhood).
“Businesses have won,” David Macaray, a labor columnist, wrote in his Huffington Post blog. “They’ve increased their production demands, they’ve extended employees’ work hours (after having-laid off a segment of the workforce), they’ve taken to issuing ultimatums, and they’ve done all of it while, simultaneously, having kept wages relatively stagnant.”
As for traditional benefits such as pensions, bonuses, sick leave and paid vacations, forget about it. Most of those have been abolished, Macaray added.
Did somebody mention a vacation? Despite all the hyped-up talk about freedom and liberty, American workers receive the stingiest vacation packages in the free – and oppressed – world. That is not because Americans have some sort of masochistic attachment to their desks, as some like to argue, but rather because we lack any sort of labor law that forces corporations to remove our chains more than once a year.
Incredibly, the United States is the only country in the world where corporations are under no legal obligation to provide their workers with a break from their jobs. Compare that sad statistic with any other country in the world, even the most totalitarian. This Scrooge mentality must change, or all of our boastful talk about democracy and freedom will be revealed as nothing more than a diversionary smokescreen to conceal what can only be described as an attack on human rights.
Why is it that other countries can readily afford to give their people a break from their jobs and still maintain high living standards?
“Germany is among more than two dozen industrialized countries from Australia to Slovenia to Japan – that require employers to offer four weeks or more of paid vacation to their workers, according to a 2009 study by the human resources consulting company Mercer,” reported CNN.
Still other countries, including Finland, Brazil and France, guarantee their workers up to six weeks off.
It seems fair to ask whether America’s lack of time away from the office is contributing to high stress levels and even sporadic episodes of domestic and workplace violence, up to and including suicide. Shouldn’t the world’s most heavily armed and medicated nation allow its people to hit the beach more than once a year?
This question brings us back to the issue of democratic representation in the workplace, which is presently missing in action.
Although organized labor is itself fraught with problems, it is nevertheless the last line of defense when it comes to protecting US workers against the insatiable greed of the corporate overlords. Thus, it should come as no surprise that US wages have been plummeting over the last 30 years at the very same time that unions are being decimated.
The total number of union workers fell by 400,000 last year, to 14.3 million, even though the nation’s overall employment rose by 2.4 million, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Just 11.3 per cent of the US workforce is enrolled in a union, the lowest recorded levels since 1916, when it was 11.2 percent, according to a study by two Rutgers economists, Leo Troy and Neil Sheflin, as reported in The New York Times.
Never before has the wealth divide been greater in the United States, a land that was built on the foundation of opportunity.
Between 2009 and 2011, the top 7 per cent of wealthy Americans saw their average net worth explode by 28 per cent, while the wealth of the remaining 93 per cent of the population steadily declined during the same period, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
The average net worth of the country’s 8 million wealthiest households surged from an estimated $2.7 million to $3.2 million, the Pew study said. For the 111 million households that make up the bottom 93 per cent, average net worth plunged 4 per cent, from $140,000 to an estimated $134,000.
In 2010, the first supposed year of economic recovery, 93 per cent of all pre-tax income gains went to the top 1 per cent of the American population (that is, any household earning more than $358,000).
Meanwhile, the most affluent 7 per cent of households owned 63 per cent of the nation’s household wealth in 2011, up from 56 per cent in 2009.
These mind-numbing statistics are a mere reflection of millions of individual cases of pain and suffering wrought by the economic crisis, which seems to have only affected the middle and lower classes.
One consequence of the economic fallout is the record number of foreclosures on homes. Since 2007, almost 4 million homes have been lost in the foreclosure crisis, according to Forbes. At the same time, US home prices – except in the most affluent neighborhoods – remain essentially flat.
On top of this pummeling, Americans must digest the incredible news that many US corporations, some of which were rescued by taxpayer-funded bailout, are not paying any taxes on their earnings.
General Electric, for example, reported global profits of $14.2 billion for the year 2010, with $5.1 billion of the total deriving from its operations in the United States.
So how much did the granddaddy of US corporations pay in taxes to Uncle Sam? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. In fact, GE actually claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.
How was GE able to pull off that disappearing act?
“Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore,” tooted The New York Times.
Is the rash of suicides across a broad spectrum of the American population a direct result of the wealth hoarding by the top income earners – many of them US corporate ‘individuals’? Since it is clear that Monsters Inc. have all but hijacked the American dream, not to mention the US political process, the evidence seems to point in that dark direction.
Clearly it is time for the United States to tame the beast of corporate power, and as was the case with the separation of church and state, we must prohibit business from unduly influencing our political leaders.
Our government representation is a precious and limited resource. It cannot be allowed to be squandered on entities that are already enjoying great wealth and power as it is.
Robert Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, which discusses the dangerous consequences of excessive corporate power in the United States.
Dr. Mason Jarvis, a leading researcher in the field, spoke by phone from his office in Cambridge, Massachusetts:
“Although we have documented cases of this debilitating condition in the occasional senator or representative, we’ve never seen the disease approach near-epidemic dimensions. We’re literally racing against time to curb this rapid spinal deterioration, which threatens to render most Democrats little more than babbling, floppy ragdolls by year’s end.”
Specialists are working tirelessly to find a safe antidote to the progressive condition. Initial symptoms include motor disturbances, such as a grimace experts call the “bowery-drunk simper,” and a compulsion to shake hands vigorously with lobbyists contributing vastly more to the opposing party.
Dr. Jarvis noted that many of the afflicted Democrats had already reached more advanced stages of the spinal disease. During examination, the lawmakers exhibited an inability to “stand tall,” and a helpless descent into the speech pattern known in the literature as “two-way utterance.”
Citing an example of the speaking disorder, Dr. Jarvis recalled examining one senator “who insisted we provide him with a podium. He then leaned heavily against it and repeated ad nauseum, ‘It is with great reluctance that I extend the Patriot Act, for I abhor its every tenet.’ I’ve seen many challenged patients over the years, but it never gets easier to watch a once-vital individual deteriorate in this manner.”
Because researchers are working within a critical time frame, several potential therapies have been fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration.
“One treatment has given us a glimmer of hope,” Dr. Jarvis said. “In an encouraging number of cases, our Democrats have responded fairly well to being slapped squarely in the face and told in a firm voice to ‘snap out of it,’ much as Cher did to Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck.”
Added Dr. Jarvis, “The slapped Democrats were not yet able to stand tall, but at least some of them lost that pathetic grin.”
BLOODY hell, New Mexico. In that corner of the land of the free, moves are being made to force rape victims to carry any resulting pregnancy full term. Abortion will be deemed “tampering with evidence”. If a mugger breaks your face, you should not keep it showing sings of brutality to please the judge when the trial comes up. In what demented mind is a pregnancy evidence of rape?
The bill is being brought by Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R).
According to HB 206, if a woman terminates her pregnancy after being raped, she and the medic who performed the abortion face 3 years in state prison:
Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.
So, rape victim, what’s it to be: prison or carrying the rapist’s child?
Aviva Shen notes:
While anti-choice advocates maintain that a fetus should be afforded the full rights of personhood, charging abortion as “tampering with evidence” effectively turns the fetus into an object. This isn’t the first time so-called pro-life supporters have dropped the fetal personhood crusade when it was convenient — last year, a Catholic hospital in Colorado reversed its stance on fetal personhood in a malpractice suit, arguing in court that the term “person” should only apply to individuals who have already been born.
One question: who the hell voted for
Cathrynn Brown, the pressure group Rapists for Dads?
For one reason or another, Santa Claus (or a masturbating lunatic dressed as Santa Claus) has decided to scuttle down our chimneys like a sleigh-riding murder goblin and stab us all to death this holiday season, instead of doing the whole “presents and whimsical obesity” thing we’ve gotten used to. Maybe it’s a subtle indictment of the commercialization of Christmas. But probably it’s because drunken fraternity sociopaths and/or irony-worshiping hipsters cannot resist renting DVDs that looks like these:
via Santa Claus Slays.
The ruling class has no alternative to austerity and the drive to create a pristine capitalism. Not only is that impossible, but, as shown by South Africa, the working class is beginning to revolt. This is an edited version a speech by Hillel Ticktin, editor of Critique, on November 17
Capital will kill and destroy: that is its nature
If one looks at the current situation, one would have to conclude not that we are coming out of a crisis, but that the ruling class is becoming more and more afraid. Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, says that the real position is getting worse. Why is he saying that? One could say, of course, that he is coming to the end of his term, and that he has to say how bad everything is. But it is clearly more than that. There really is a degree of pessimism now within the ruling class itself, which he is expressing.
The second aspect of the situation is that austerity has more or less become the dominant mode of discourse. Barack Obama represents the left wing of the ruling class, and even he frames his policy within it. Except that his austerity is not the same as the Tea Party austerity, which seems to rule in the Republican Party and would have been the policy if Romney had won. Nevertheless, there will be a form of austerity, whichever side you take in mainstream politics at the moment.
In this country it is obvious that Ed Miliband has more or less accepted that line as well. In fact it is the line that was set in the 1930s – the Austrian line, as it was called. Paul Krugman has said that austerity is in effect a means of control. Behind the word ‘austerity’ one can hide the form of control, hide the fact that there is a ruling class that is doing very well, and that society is, if anything, becoming more unequal, not less so. That can be hidden behind the word ‘austerity’ – that is what Keynes said and what Krugman has been saying.
One might have expected Keynes to have said that if he had been a reformist. But he was nowhere near the left, and was strongly anti-working class. However, one has to accept that the ruling class, in order to survive, has to make concessions at certain times. And in order to make concessions they have to recognise their own real position, and make it clear that by making concessions they are retaining control. It amounts to removing the veil of commodity fetishism and saying, ‘Yes, we are here in control, despite these concessions’.
However, the austerity line is the reverse: it amounts to a refusal to accept what is real. Yet it is the dominant viewpoint now. In 2007 I attempted to analyse the different forms of capitalist control – both those that are inherent in the nature of capital itself and the substitutes employed at this time – and see how far they could be maintained. Austerity is part of that.
At the present time no alternative policy is being put forward. Krugman is isolated and the Keynesian approach is not being advocated, except in a very limited sense. Obviously, it was used in 2008-09 to pump money into the system, and it did save the world economy from going into a bottomless slump. Without that taking place the system really would have collapsed. What would have happened afterwards we do not know. But they simply had to act, but, having done so, they are now reversing the line.
They are not prepared to countenance the Keynesian solution, and so the only place left is austerity. Various people, including Krugman, are saying that the policy is mad. It is mad because it is impossible. Welfare cannot simply be abolished, which is what it requires. Apart from anything else it would mean a collapse in demand, and at a technical level it would mean reintroducing debtors’ prisons. How else do you deal with a situation where millions of people are near to starving and where there would be riots? So, it is impossible, simply because the population would not accept it. Of course, the ruling class understands that, and a number of economists who advocate austerity are not that stupid either. But I have to say many of them are – much of what has appeared in the press is simply nonsense.
In attempting to balance the budget, they are actually restoring the reserve army of labour. In other words, they are returning to a classic form of capitalism, as outlined in Capital volume 1. This is particularly prominent in volume 3, where Marx examines the nature of crisis, although it is also present in volume 2 of Theories of surplus value.
However, there are at least some sections of the ruling class who see that it is impossible to actually do it. That if they try to do it, it will increase the momentum towards change, or cause riots; as in South Africa. The trade unions and working class may start to act as a unified class and that would be highly dangerous. This is the contradiction at the heart of capitalism itself.
It was not like that in 2007. They had not yet got to this point, and nobody knew people were quite so mad. That the Tea Party is mad is obvious, but that the mainstream ruling class would actually proceed in this manner – the Conservative Party in the UK and the CDU in Germany – was totally unexpected. That is a paradox and, of course, a weakness. It does serve the purpose of providing a cover, as it puts forward a false enemy. It appears to be a policy which can be reversed, but they do not want the alternative policy: that is to say, they cannot re-inflate the economy; they ruled that out from the 70s onwards.
Why was there a shift towards finance capital at that time? Some people argue in terms of the falling rate of profit, but there are many arguments against that viewpoint. I think that they simply ruled out reflation because it would lead back to the 70s. If the working class got back to anywhere near full employment, it would start being able to act collectively as a class again; it would become far too powerful. So it is not that they cannot do it: they will not do it. They simply will not take the Keynesian road.
One can also look at the question more generally. I am thinking in particular of what was said in 2007 by Bill Gross, head of Pacific Investment Management, which holds more than $1 trillion in government bonds. It may only be half of what the Chinese hold, but it is still pretty important. It was he who declared that British bonds were toxic, and it was this that justified the government’s policies of austerity. The influential viewpoint of that company was one of the reasons that the US credit rating was downgraded.
Speaking at the 2007 annual general meeting of his company, he said that it was “far better to recognise that only twice before during the last century has such a high percentage of national income gone to the top 0.1% of American families”. This was long before Occupy, and not from a person on the left. It was “far better to understand”, he continued, “that society should place an initial emphasis on abundance, and the state should continually strive to distribute the abundance more equitably”. One might think that the following might perhaps be a quote from Skidelsky, in his phase as a leftwinger, but it is still Gross: “… when the fruits of society’s labour becomes maldistributed, when the rich get richer, and the middle and lower classes struggle to keep their heads above water, as is clearly the case today, then the system ultimately breaks down”. He continues: “… boats do not rise equally with the tide; the centre cannot hold.”1
This from a member of the Republican Party who has to be considered an integral and central figure in the ruling class. But that was in 2007. The situation is clearly much worse today, in terms of income distribution, for example.
The most important aspect of the crisis is the fact that money is not capital. That is to say, there has been a build-up of money which cannot be invested, and when that happens value does not create more value. There is no self-expanding value and money which does not self-expand is not capital. This build-up of trillions around the world is obviously the problem today – the reason why things are getting so desperate and people are starting to demand the government adopts a different policy.
However, the level of unemployment has not risen in the way it did during the great depression. In America it may not be wonderful, but it is a lot better than it was in 1933. That is so precisely because of the policies adopted, which in part has meant that around the world, particularly western Europe and the United States, companies have tended to keep workers on, while effectively decreasing their wages, or have allowed workers to retire early.
The effect is that, although unemployment has risen, it has not done so as fast as it did in the great depression. That is why most economists do not refer to the current situation as a depression, although it does constitute one from Marx’s point of view – a point also made by Krugman. A depression is not a matter of one or two quarters without growth, but long-term stagnation, in which there are ups and downs.
The point is that in the recent period the capitalist class has been doing very well: profits have actually gone up during a depression. Well, that cannot last, but it is actually what has happened. So if Bill Gross were to repeat his remarks today (although I am not sure he would) he would have to go even further.
This affluence does not just apply to the top of the capitalist class; it also applies to managers. The income of the top percentile in Britain, the top 11,000 earners, has increased by 50%. As a result, top managers who were previously receiving, say, £2.5 million a year are now getting five million. Not bad. So for some people it has been a rather good depression.
There is increasing antagonism towards people who pocket so much money, although it is not class antagonism as such. Yet the whole argument around companies that are avoiding tax is really a blind alley. That is the nature of capitalism – companies and individuals must always strive to minimise their tax bill. Instead of making a big deal about a managing director who is making 10 million, why not just tax them at say 95% or even 99%? They would still be doing very well compared to most of us.
The reason that will not happen can be explained by the nature of capitalism itself. Obviously, the logic would not just be to tax the capitalist class, but for the state to redistribute their entire wealth to the working class. But that would not be capitalism. So campaigning on the basis of this or that company, or this or that terrible capitalist who does not pay their taxes is really just a way of avoiding fighting the system.
However, that is the kind of form that resistance has taken, and that clearly is where we are today. But the left just seems to go along with this miseducation of the population. In fact why is it ‘responsible’ to pay tax? Why do we want to pay for more wars?
An interesting aspect of this is that in the third world we can see control beginning to fray. There is an obvious case of this in South Africa, and I would like to say a few words about that. A central question is the crucial role of Stalinism in maintaining the system. Now obviously, the Soviet system no longer exists, and the Chinese Communist Party is a kind of afterlife – market Stalinism, Stalinist capitalism, or whatever one calls it. It is a form of derived Stalinism.
In South Africa, Stalinism is still playing a key role. The fact is – and I have to say this because people do not generally understand it – in 1994, the capitalist class preferred to put in a non-racist government. The whole concept of racial capitalism is simply wrong. The theory was that, in order for capitalism to develop in South Africa, the capitalist class had to use racial discrimination.
I do not intend to go on about this, as I have written a book about the question,2 but it does appear to me to be simply wrong. But it was the basis of the South African Communist Party’s ideology that took a nationalist line rather than a line against capitalism, putting off the day that capitalism could be overthrown to some time in the future. That, as you know, is the hallmark of Stalinism – there is always some reason why communism is always something for the day after tomorrow.
In South Africa the SACP adopted the line that the essential thing was to end racial discrimination, but the capitalist class would be unwilling to do so. In fact, it meant that they could stop paying white workers between 10 and 20 times what black workers were paid. From the point of view of the capitalist class, this was simply an incubus that they did not need. The result was that the rate of profit was not high and they regarded it as preferable to abolish the wage difference, which is what they did. As a result, profits have gone up, and so it was a successful change from the point of view of the capitalist class.
The South African government includes not only members of the Communist Party, but those who to a large degree they have been influenced, or controlled, by the Communist Party. The major trade unions have also been controlled by the SACP. So when there is an industrial dispute it has been compared to ‘playing tennis with yourself’ – on one side of the net there is a minister who belongs to the SACP and on the other an SACP union leader.
The unions are closer to Soviet-style unions, except that it is cleverer than that, because they do go on demonstrations, they do demand higher wages and they go on strike. But it is easy to put wages up every year because the real wage is something different. Although it is hard to work out the real figures, one could argue that sections of the workforce have either the same wage as in 1994, when the government came in, or a lower wage.
That is the way South Africa has been run for the last 20 years, and why people should have put up with that is not very clear. But things have finally snapped.
The point of going through this description is to show that the form of control rested to a large degree on Stalinism: the way they actually control the unions and the propaganda they are putting forward. When the government arrived in 1994, and before then, there were slogans all over the place calling for socialism – there was a level of socialist consciousness. But the overall understanding of what socialism would mean and how it would take place was very low, and a lot lower than it was in the 1950s. The level of understanding among the left was very poor.
Unless you understand the nature of Stalinism, you will not understand what has happened in South Africa. And unless you have a more general theory of the global economy, with Stalinism bound up in it, then you will not understand the current economic situation either. The world is in transition – away from capitalism, whilst remaining within capitalism – and there are three sets of laws in operation: the laws of capitalism, the laws of transition and the laws of decline.
In South Africa there are people now in power who talk about socialism, who have spent many years in jail fighting the apartheid regime and who appear to be honest. Some of them are honest and genuine, of course, although many are now millionaires. There is the wonderful example of Cyril Ramaphosa, the former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, who is now a multi-billionaire and director of the company against which workers in Rustenberg have been on strike. He is not the only one.
The point is that there is a highly complex situation, with obviously a very low level of education, including socialist education. The ANC government has one of the worst records on education. According to The Economist, it comes somewhere like 120th in the world. So it is not surprising that it has taken 20 years for people to react. It is little wonder that people do not understand socialism when there is a government of multi-millionaires proclaiming themselves to be communists and socialists, presiding over an economy where the majority have very low wages.
That includes the opposition within the African National Congress milieu. Even someone like Julius Malema, the expelled former leader of the ANC Youth League, who calls for the nationalisation of the mines, is simply an opportunist. He is personally very well off and in fact seems to act as a spokesman for outside interests.
Despite this complexity we are now seeing the beginnings of a revolt. So far it is taking a trade union form – demands for higher wages, for more workplace control and so forth; and concessions have been made. And it is not just in the mines. It began in the platinum and other mines, but now it has spread throughout industry and even agriculture. There is a generalised revolt of workers in South Africa, precisely because of the conditions they have to endure, and without there being any understanding, any theory whatsoever, about the underlying causes.
Since perhaps the 50s and 60s, there have been perhaps two countries where Trotskyism has been some kind of force. One was Ceylon, where a Trotskyist faction entered into government, and the other was South Africa. In the Western Cape in particular Trotskyism was dominant on the left, even when it was not dominant in the country as a whole. It is no accident that quite a significant number of Trotskyists come originally from South Africa. The late Neville Alexander came from that tradition, and was immersed in it in Cape Town. But now it has been degraded, and the level of discussion is very poor. So I do not think you can expect very much more to happen at this time, but it does give hope: if the working class is acting as a whole, then that provides impetus for a left to be formed. One that is to the left of the Communist Party, of course.
Global profits have tended to go up since 2009. But here you have an important source of those profits – the third-world extraction of minerals – being threatened. If you look at the FTSE 100, the Financial Times bellwether of companies, a large proportion of those whose profits are under threat are in mining. There is an acceptance that capitalism is in trouble, which is not surprising: they are in trouble and they are going to be in trouble.
Hence the importance of South Africa technically, politically and economically. The interaction between South Africa and other countries on the continent means the revolt will spread. There are many migrants in South Africa because even the low wages paid to workers there are higher than in other African countries. So it is not surprising that workers try to get into the country, and that is why the population has grown so fast in spite of the Aids epidemic. In the 50s, the population stood at around 12 million, and now it is over 50 million. Life expectancy went down under president Thabo Mbeki, dropping to something like 45, but, now that proper HIV medicine is available, it has gone back up to 51.
South Africa is an example of what is happening, and the degree to which they control is being challenged. What I have argued is that, on the one hand, there are the classic means of control: commodity fetishism and the reserve army of labour; on the other hand, they have already been partly shot through. In the period from 1945 to, say, 1972, there was no reserve army of labour in Britain: it is hard to talk of what existed as a simple reserve army, when there were welfare benefits and what Marx would have called a surplus population. But now the intention is to fully restore the reserve army of labour – and for that the reduction of welfare benefits to the absolute minimum is necessary.
Any such attempt will, of course, result in big problems for the capitalist class. Workers will fight for their rights and the fact that capitalism has been overthrown, even if the result was Stalinism, has meant that it can be seen through and exposed, and this will continue to happen as long as capitalism exists. Anyway, the point is that the revolt will spread – it must spread. The stories of what happened, that people were shot down and tortured, are well known. So we can expect the revolt to spread to other countries on the continent – and I would think to other continents too.
Speaking from the White House, President Obama said that economic well-being in the United States was only a minor concern for the Democratic administration, which recently won a second term after the U.S. elections.
“The economy to me is not a serious concern. As long as Michelle and I can have multi-million dollar taxpayer funded vacations we do not care what is happening to the economy out there amongst ordinary people. Our main concern is how there should be more abortions and mandatory homosexuality for everyone in America. This is our goal, for every American and is a serious pledge from the Democratic party. We urge you all to embrace our ideals and we will implement a five-point-plan to put these serious pledges into force by next month.”
Obama and the Democrat party are determined to make the new pledges stick even if the Republicans oppose the new laws.
“If we cannot have bipartisan endorsements of our new laws we will simply veto the Republicans and force our hands up their butts with the new legislation. We won the election so get over it, for the next four years homosexuality and abortions will be mandatory. Forget food stamps, we want lube stamps. Don’t bother having kids either, that is unless you want a government endorsed session with a coat hanger,” an Obama worker told the Capitol Hill Post.
Even after the election, the Romney campaign still doesn’t get it. Mitt Romney’s 47% remark at a fundraiser haunted his campaign more than any other issue. Matched with similar remarks that he liked to “fire people” or that “corporations are people,” Romney constantly confronted the belief that he didn’t understand the problems of ordinary Americans. The Romney campaign could never overcome that obstacle. Now it appears that was because they didn’t really understand it.
Stuart Stevens, a top strategist for Romney, wrote in the Washington Post how wonderfully transformational the Romney campaign was. Stevens tries to present Romney as a dark horse for the nomination because the Republican Party elders never liked Romney and Romney trailed in the polls to about every Republican presidential candidate at one time or another.
Was Stevens in the same campaign that the rest of us remember? Romney was the favorite for the nomination from day one after the 2008 election. He raised far more money than his rivals and lead in the polls regularly. The only reason that the polls briefly gave candidates like Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann and Santorum boosts was disatisfaction with Romney. A disatisfaction in hindsight that that was well placed. Failing to seal the deal is hardly something to throw laurels at.
Stevens suggests that the selection of Paul Ryan was brilliant because it forever changed the way that America looked at Social Security and Medicare reform. He must be joking. Does anyone remember anything memorable that Ryan did in the campaign? That’s not to say Ryan was a poor choice. He just wasn’t a gamechanger.
Stevens points to Romney’s 8-point victory over Obama as proof that Ryan’s entitlement reform ideas went over well. Stevens should look at the 2008 demographics. John McCain carried senior by 8 points too. 2012 was a closer election. The numbers improved for the Republicans from McCain’s run in 2008. When a demographic doesn’t follow that trend, it takes a particularly strong dose of chutzpah to claim it as a victory.
None of that comes close to this piece from Stevens’ reflections:
On Nov. 6, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters younger than 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift. Obama received 4½ million fewer voters in 2012 than 2008, and Romney got more votes than McCain.
All that is true, but Romney’s only got 54% from those receiving over $100,000 a year. Obama carried those making under $50,000 with 60%. Romney did get 52% of those making between $50,000 and $99,000. That doesn’t mean that once someone makes $50,000, that person is more inclined to back Romney. Romney might have won those making over $40,000 or lost those making under $65,000. The $50,000 mark is an arbitrary drawing line.
What can be assumed comfortably from the exit polls is that Romney lost the 47% that he decried by a comfortable margin. Those are Americans making significantly less than $50,000 a year. They are often the young and minorities. These are the very demographics that the Republican Party needs to expand and embrace if it is going to compete in future elections.
Yet Stevens dismisses all that in his proud declaration that Romney won the voters who really matter: the rich, old and white voters. I’m actually surprised that Stevens didn’t pound himself on the chest and declare Romney won the majority of the male vote too.
No wonder Romney never comprehended the image problem that he had with a majority of Americans. He had people like Stevens telling him that the important voters are those who dominated America’s past.
The Republican Party’s challenges are going to be more difficult than just rebranding. It has people like Stevens who are entrenched in the twentieth century thinking that they can still bring together the coalitions of Nixon and Reagan. Someone needs to tell them that the silent majority is no more.
Rich, older, white male voters are not going to dominate politics like they once did. Yet Stevens really thinks that Obama’s campaign was the aberration and the Democrats will not be able to replicate it.
There was a time not so long ago when the problems of the Democratic Party revolved around being too liberal and too dependent on minorities. Obama turned those problems into advantages and rode that strategy to victory. But he was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical. How easy is that to replicate?
There is Stevens trying to make the argument that an African American candidate is nearly invicible, especially with a billion dollars in the bank and the media in his back pocket. If Stevens really believes that there is no racism left in America, then he is further delusional than I am imagining. Maybe he is. Take a look at his conclusions.
Yes, the Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let’s remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right. When Mitt Romney stood on stage with President Obama, it wasn’t about television ads or whiz-bang turnout technologies, it was about fundamental Republican ideas vs. fundamental Democratic ideas. It was about lower taxes or higher taxes, less government or more government, more freedom or less freedom. And Republican ideals — Mitt Romney — carried the day.
Mitt Romney carried the day? Mitt Romney performed better than only four other Republican candidates in the last 15 elections. Stevens had better looked at the election results again. Romney received 47% and 206 electoral votes. He did not carry the day. He lost the election in what may be the last attempt to forge a coalition of the older, white and wealthier voters that Stevens admires.
John McCain Explodes After CNN Reporter Asks Him Why He Didn’t Attend Benghazi Briefing: ‘Who the Hell Are You?’
Earlier today it was revealed that Senator John McCain, along with several of his fellow Republicans, skipped a classified Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee briefing on the Benghazi consulate attack to hold a press conference about the lack of information on the Benghazi consulate attack.
CNN wanted to know why Sen. McCain decided it was more important to complain about “many unanswered questions” about Benghazi rather than, say, go to a committee briefing where those questions might be answered, so they sent a reporter to ask him.
But, ironically, McCain was in no mood to answer questions.
“I have no comment about my schedule and I’m not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media,” he told CNN’s Ted Barrett. Pressed on why he had no comment, McCain barked back, “Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?”
When CNN noted that McCain had missed a key meeting on a subject the senator has been intensely upset about, McCain said, “I’m upset that you keep badgering me.”
McCain’s spokesman Brian Rogers later told the media McCain missed the Benghazi hearing “due to a scheduling error.”
It’s worth noting that McCain was in a pretty foul mood yesterday as well, lashing out at a reporter who asked him if the national security threat from the Petraeus scandal was comparable to that of the Benghazi attack by calling the query “one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard.”
Mitt Romney didn’t lose because he was awful and the GOP message was awful and the rest of the Republican Party was awful. No, it was because President Barack Obama gave people free shit.
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.
”The president’s health care plan, he added, was also a useful tool in mobilizing African-American and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers — 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics voted to re-elect Mr. Obama.
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”
Phew! He no longer has to pretend that his 47 percent remarks were “just completely wrong.”
He can go back to his belief that 47 percent of Americans are leeches on society. And bragging to his country club friends about all the NASCAR team owners he knows, as if anyone gives a shit.
President Obama, exercising his new mandate, declared a new national holiday honoring his election to a second term in a press release titled Up Yours! The President kicked off the new day of reflection and celebration in Washington by continuing his castigation of the rich, for “not wanting to pay another dime” in taxes and for seeking to “pay down the deficit” on the “backs” of his constituents.
In reply, Congressional Republicans issued their own press release ridiculing the new holiday as National Sarcasm Day. Americans earning $250,000 a year are not all that rich, they claim, at least not filthy rich. But one more dime, they concede, tongue firmly in cheek, is not too much to ask in order to avoid the fiscal cliff. They invite every American, in a sarcastic initiative of their own, to send a shiny dime to the White House.
The White House, in reply to the Republican reply, points to its previous press release, Up Yours, which reminds those still waiting for the Florida election results that the President won and that people have given him a broad mandate to do pretty much whatever he wants.
US Election day live:Its on Twitter, so it’s official? @BarackObama Four more years – Latest updates
|OFFICIAL: FOUR MORE YEARS
• Obama wins New Hampshire and leads in swing states
• Both campaigns watch as Florida goes to the wire
• Exit polls put Obama ahead in Ohio and Wisconsin
• ‘Firewall’ holding as Obama wins Michigan, Pennsylvania
• GOP to hold House, Democrats on course for Senate
• Live video from campaigns’ headquarters
04.06 (23.06) CNN is now calling Wisconsin for Obama. The entire Midwest is now blue except for the state of Ohio.
04.05 (23.05) Polls close on the West Coast and with that California’s 55 votes have marched into Obama’s column. There are huge cheers at Obama’s rally in Chicago as they his electoral vote tally surges forward.
04.00 (23.00) Al Gore, a man has who spent more time thinking about the importance of Florida than anyone else, predicts it will go for the President. If you were a Democrat would you welcome a prophecy like that? Not sure.
03.55 (22.55) Obama has left his home and driven to the Fairmont hotel, where and the First Family will wait in one of the suites and continue to watch the results flow in. There’s only one more stop after this – the convention centre where his increasingly hopeful supporters are waiting.
03.50 (22.50) Will it all end in Florida? 88 per cent of the vote has been counted and Obama is up by 16,000 votes. There are still ballots to be counted but right now they look to be in Miami-Dade, a Democrat county.
03.45 (22.45) The Democrats have won the Senate’s marquee race in Massachusetts and Elizabeth Warren will replace Scott Brown as the Bay State’s junior senator. Brown, who upended the political world by winning Ted Kennedy’s old seat, is conceding in Boston now. Not far away Romney’s staff must be watching him concede defeat and wondering how their own night is going to end.
03.40 (22.40) For months and months and months we have been told Ohio was the centre of the political universe and would crown the next President of the United States. That may still prove true but there is a distinct possibility that Florida may steal the show. If Obama wins there then suddenly the Midwest may not matter.
03.10 (22.10) Two new battleground exit polls and both spell more gloom for Boston.
So far, Romney has only taken one of the states that Obama won in 2008 – Indiana, which the Democrats didn’t contest this year. Romney needs some good new – any good news – soon.
03.05 (22.05) We are at 86 per cent of votes counted in Florida and Obama is still ahead. As I said in my list of things to watch – if the Republicans are defeated in Florida then they fall at the first hurdle.
02.57 (21.57) Multiple networks are now calling New Hampshire for Obama, meaning Romney has lost the state where he launched his campaign and where he owns a summer home. The walls are beginning to close in on Romney and very soon he is going to have no path left to 270.
02.55 (21.55) Mark Hughes reports on the chaos in Florida.
With more than 80 per cent of the vote counted in Florida, the lead is continually changing with neither candidate leading by more than a few hundred votes at a time.
At times the margin has been fewer than 200 votes. It’s worth remembering that The Gore v Bush 2000 debacle was a 537 vote margin. Under Florida law a recount will be triggered if the margin of victory is less than a half of one percent which, going by the numbers at the last election, means one candidate needs to win by a margin of at least 40,000.
The latest numbers show Obama up by about 20,00 but you would be crazy to call it now.
02.45 (21.45) Rob Portman, the Republican Senator from Ohio is addressing Romney’s Boston supporters by video link. He says that the campaign’s efforts in the Buckeye State have been beyond anything Republicans have ever done before. But there’s no mistaking the heaviness in his voice – it’s not looking good for Team Romney in Ohio.
01.40 (20.40) We have 60 per cent of the vote counted in Florida and Obama is leading 51-49. That’s a tiny margin and there’s time for Romney to close the gap but it will have to come soon. In Chicago they may be beginning to indulge in the idea that they win Florida and end election night almost before it begins.
01.35 (20.35) Could the deeply-divided US bear a repeat of the Florida 2000 recount?
Romney: ‘I’ve written my victory speech’ 07 Nov 2012
01.30 (20.30) More bad news for Republican Senate hopes: the Democrats have held off a challenge from Linda McMahon, the former wrestling executive who poured $100m into her candidacy, are going to win in Connecticut, the AP reports.