By George Gregoriou
Will the Obama administration follow the Bush policy? If he did, the Republican Party and those with a nostalgia for Cold War II will be very happy. The alternative is to accuse Obama of ʽlurching to the leftʼ! Leftists cannot be trusted, and the Republicans cannot live in a world, without war. War stimulates the economy. So do crime and prostitution. ʽStarve the beast (state) is the Republican motto, so there would be no money, for state ʽsocialistʼ projects. Militarism and wars may be a gigantic waste, in money and lives. But, the Republicans never did stomach the ʽpeace dividendʼ most Americans demanded with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991. Nor do they stomach anything the federal government does for those who fall through the cracks of market capitalism. Using the state to rescue banks and insurance giants (AIG), with taxpayersʼ money, is OK. Is this socialism for the rich, as it is called? It has nothing to do with socialism. At best, it is crony capitalism, stealing from the taxpayers and giving to the rich. When the market is in a crisis and capitalists go broke, bailouts are welcome, or at least they are not refused. The state comes to the rescue, even nationalize industry (as France did with the banks in the 1980s and the British in 2008 and the with coal and steel, after WWII). Each government paid good money, for the banks and the coal/steel industries, to save capitalism. The taxpayer pays for it, for the common good. This is how it works: when the citizen goes to the bank, which he/she bailed out, for a loan, the bank not only charged interest, it collects a fee, for the service. So does the citizen/consumer—he or she pays for coal to heat the house. In other words, the citizen/taxpayer pays twice, for the bailout or the nationalization (taxes) and for the bank loan (interest) or the purchase of coal to heat his/her house. What a deal! The money is recycled to the owners of the industries, via taxes or consumption, plus taxes.
I used the term ʽtrashcan socialismʼ to describe this scheme (con job?) in the 1980s. It is still a useful term, today. Whatever is not profitable in the free market economy, it is thrown in the trashcan of the state, make it work with taxpayers money, and dirty it up by calling it socialism! Such capitalist schemes will make socialists run for cover or turn in their graves. Socialists would prefer to socialize successful industries, for the benefit of society, not just failed industries, which are a financial burden to people, though they may be necessary, such as health, education, and shelter. The Republicans look at these successful projects (paid by working people), such as social security and Medicare programs, and they see socialism and want to privatize them—they want a profit on health problems and aging! If public bathrooms were installed in Manhattan, which are necessary, would they be labeled ʽsocialist bathroomsʼ, to be avoided? The market fundamentalists fear change, unless they control it, for profit, and for the benefit of those on Wall Street. Change can lead to more change, especially if people benefit and demand more of it. This is anathema to those who think only through the market box.
The market is dead, for ordinary men and women. The market can be restore, give it confidence with the infusion of money (Hoover suggested the need for a few jokes, to cheer up people, to end the depression), hoping to go move in an upward direction. There is movement, but where is it going? Market solutions have been tried since the days of Adam Smith. In the end, the same results. When the economy goes up, the rich get richer, and breadcrumbs fall from the table. When the economy is down, we all feel the pain of the greedy, we are terrorized by an imminent collapse, and we bail them, with billions of tax payer dollars, until the next cycle. When those in the middle, upper middle, and the upper/upper middle feel ʽwhere the nail pinches them in the shoeʼ (to use philosopher John S. Mills phrase), a recession or depression is announced. The whole world hears about it. However, when the nail is pinching those with worn-out shoes, permanently inside the cracks of the market, very few hear, notice, or give a damn for those men, women, and children who live a life in a permanent recession or depression.
This is how the market works today. We are in the midst of such a crisis. It always works that way. The future of the market will be a repeat of today, and the world will be divided between the forces of good ʽgood capitalismʼ (American?) and the forces of evil ʽbad capitalismʼ, the capitalism raging in Russia, China, India, and other developing countries, where the poor and the unemployed are in the millions, or live on a dollar a day, if they are lucky. The rest of the world, mostly in South America, the Middle East, and Africa, and the slums in ʽcivilized societiesʼ will have to take part in this feeding frenzy to survive, while most people on this planet, in developed and underdeveloped economies, will live from paycheck to paycheck or worse, without a paycheck, and scavenging for food. There is another alternative to this world.
If Obama rejects his predecessorʼs policies, all he has to do is to start engaging Russia and its neighbors, talk to them, and insist that the former Soviet satellites focus on their economic and social development (with help from the outside), and cultivate a democratic polity, with civil rights and living wages for all citizens. Even tell these leaders and people to stop being patsies to Russia, the United States, or any other power/hegemony. This will be good for Russia, the United States, and the world. Talk to other countries, Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba (give them back the base we stole from them). It would be less costly in resources, money, and human lives. Obama can do better. He can stop holding the Turkish and Israeli leaders by the hand, throw billions of dollars at them to sustain their illegal occupations of Palestinian land and northern Cyprus. The White House ʽcan forceʼ viable and acceptable solutions in both countries, by ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land (return to the pre-1967 borders), and by ending the Turkish occupation and ethnic cleansing in northern Cyprus, 37% of the island Republic. Only then can Israel live in peace with its Arab neighbors, and Turkey qualify to be in the European Union. This would be a real break with the failed policies of the past.
George Gregoriou, Professor Emeritus
Department of Political Science, Critical Theory and Geopolitics
The William Paterson University, Wayne, N.J. 07470