20 July 2006


The W. Decade Deconstructed

Over at TPMCafe, Stirling Newberry has this long, rambling, somewhat incoherent analysis of what he doesn't call but implies is "The W. Decade." For all its faults -- and the analysis has faults aplenty as you can see in the comments -- it's a thought-provoking thesis on the broad strokes, the symphonic gestures, of the Bush (43) administration.

He takes apart its What, How, and Who: "What" is to flood the world with cheap dollars, so the monied interests (worldwide, apparently) can make a quick buck. If in the process it puts governments in a position where they have less influence, all the better.
Bush promised to give financial elites a huge hit of money, and promised, more or less, that this would bankrupt the state that was capable of regulating them. Neo-gilded age economics would return, and he surrounded himself with advisors who were intended to ressurect that period. It is why I knew in 2001 that Bernanke would be made Federal Reserve Chair after Greenspan, his academic work is about how that world could have saved itself, and his answer was that it could have suspended the rules long enough to get over the temporary disequilibrium, and then there would have been no Great Depression, and therefore, no FDR, and therefore, no New Deal. This was done – massive revenue reductions created a growing federal deficit wave, and the promise of the bankrupting of Medicare and Social Security. Interest rates were dropped through the floor. Money at the top, became very easy to come by fairly quickly, as "the carry trade" – borrow short and lend long, became the escalator that dragged the wealthy out of the pit that a falling stock market was threatening to hurl them into.

Even on its face one can see why global elites would accept this project, because even if it went badly, they would be the winners of it while it lasted. Against the backdrop of the 2000-2002 stock market crash, a no strings attached bail out of the very people that had blown the dot com bubble was going to be almost irresistible. The rich went along, because nothing looks as good during a crash, as free money.

"How" is to use military force to prevent an abundance of cheap money from being able to harm the interests of the USA. Instead of using military action to destroy excess production capability, military action would be used as a threat to excess purchasing power.

But once they are running long enough, there are well known effects: resource nationalism, rising autonomy of the peripheral states, socialism in Latin America, Islamic militancy becomes a more open force. When people are parched for money, they dance to the tune that comes from Washington DC. When they are fat with it, they begin to want to call their own shots. And many of them are with live rounds.

Thus Bush promised that the second part of his dollar gusher would be the United States using aggressive military force – let us not try and find circumlocutions like "preventative" – to nip any place where the dollar glut was threatening to rattle loose. The Cowboy Diplomacy which Time just declared an end to, was credible in the face of 9/11, but it found its expression in the invasion of Iraq.

Iraq was invaded not because Saddam had WMD, but because he did not. It was to be an example to all of the states who wished to acquire them. In the days of dollar drought, the US could buy the atomic aspirations, or at least rent their manifestations. In the days of dollar glut, this would be untenable. The second part of the product that Bush sold was that an aggressive America could restrain the centripetal forces that a dollar glut would unleash. Despite academic and financial misgivings about his policies, 9/11 and Saddam seemed to argue the other direction: everyone knew that even if he had nothing, Saddam would reacquire WMD ambitions as soon as he had the money to do so. And with oil marching upwards in price, everyone who thought about it knew that day would come.

"Who" is instead of the Republican operatives of the Nixon-Ford-Reagan years ("strong jawed ex-military men combined with sleazebag greasy arrogant used car salesmen" -- a great turn of phrase), a corp of Christianist yahoos who will fix the books rather than use honest measurements of status and progress or the lack thereof.

And this is why there has been, from America's technocrats, meritocrats and ground level intellectuals, such a ferocious and visceral hatred of George Bush and his ism – because Bush intended, deliberately, to replace the meritocratic technocracy – the very class whose rise defines the rise of the West – with true believing fanatics, who believe that ideology is definitive, while reality is frequently inaccurate. It manifested in obvious ways – such as the NASA appointee who edited releases to conform to Creationism. It showed up in the Air Force Academy, where fanatics have driven others out of the hierarchy. It showed up, most importantly, in Iraq, where biblicalist functionaries would rewrite wholesale technical reports to conform with the revealed world of an entire counter universe of counter-fact which has been created to fill the empty minds of the fundamentalist wing of American society.

There has been, in otherwords, the creation of a whole parallel world, filled with parallels to science, popular culture and scholarship. In no small part it has been funded by the loose dollars created by 37 years of reactionary government – give crazy rich people money, and they will start funding other crazy people to create a tapestry that conforms to their tastes of the world. The Medici's state built cathedrals and funded the resurrection of the West, along with the beginnings of what we now call "physics", but the work of art of the Bushite state is Left Behind and "Intelligent Design" and biblical literal reading of the history of the Fertile Crescent.

Consider, if you will, that the first veto of Bush's tenure – after having gone longer than any modern President in wielding the veto pen – is of money for stem cell research.

Since I spent a short period of my life in the company of Pentacostal "Full Gospel Business Men's Association" types, as well as a few just plain old old-fashioned redneck Holy Rollers, I've felt like I know these Bush people for a while. To the degree that they are not tempered by simple love of their families, friends, communities, and nation, their zeal towards obeying what they take to be God's instructions is a matter of concern. Fanatics are not to be trusted, whether Islamist, Christianist, Atheistist, etc. Their belief-based self righteousness makes them a threat to all.

The piece finishes with an homage to The Net as some kind of reality-based corrective, something too many bloggers are all too happy to buy into, because they believe themselves reality-based, a statement made by many as much in the mode of the Bushite believers as because of true self-reflection, self-criticism, and self-awareness: A self-fulfilling prophecy of Netroots Power as much as cooking the books on Iraq. It would've been better off without this sucking up to its readership. But, then, the author probably blieves it.

Still, for its problems -- long, directionless, lack of evidence, homage to the web -- the piece is challenging. I think it deserves some thoughtful reads, analysis, and response. Check it out when you've got a few minutes.

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