September 07, 2007

Somewhere Over the Benchmarks

The Labor Department reported today that the U.S. sustained a net loss of 4,000 jobs last month, despite an earlier estimate the economy would increase payrolls by 100,000. The unemployment rate stayed the same, since 600,000 people "left the job market," whatever that means. Lost their minds? Turned to a life of crime? The stock market reacted by plunging about 200 points on the bellwether Dow Jones. Financial experts with a vested interest in pimping the vitality of the levitated economy, which depends entirely now on a positive outlook among American consumers (as does the rest of the world's economy -- it's all up to you Mr. & Mrs. Smith: are you going to buy that four-piece sectional or not?), were quick to point out that none of these numbers means anything, that all is well, that the economy is strong and "robust" (everything these days is robust), and we should not panic and think that the American economy (and thus the world) is headed for a Depression, because Bernanke may lower the discount rate by 50 basis points later this month and that should take care of everything.

I don't see how there can be any inherent strength in the American economy left, in my admittedly undegreed opinion (I mean, I have a couple of degrees, but they're not from the Stanford Business School). The USA built a Potemkin village of an economy by mortgaging all of its real estate through the use of recycled dollars returning from China, but I'm wondering if Bernanke can actually resort yet again to the same strategy in the face of a cratering U.S. currency. He may have no choice, of course, because Bush, who hit the 500-day mark today (so my National Nightmare Clock tells me), is going to look more ridiculous than usual asking for another $50 billion to invest in Iraqi oil futures on behalf of Exxon, Texaco, et alia, if it appears that the U.S. is about to go belly up. Not that it would deter him in the slightest, but I'm thinking that even this most unconscious of leaders (who apparently thought, while he was in Australia addressing APEC, that he was in Austria speaking to OPEC) must have some sort of upper limit for cognitive dissonance. You have probably noticed by now that Bush is not the most original of thinkers. If U.S. military occupation in Iraq is not working, his go-to solution is to increase the size of the U.S. military occupation. Thus, flooding the economy with cheap money by means of running $800 billion trade deficits in tandem with half-trillion dollar budget deficits, all against a national debt of about $9 trillion, is Bush's sole economic initiative for what you might call the American People. The upper echelons of large American transnational corporations, which are Bush's actual constituency, are interested also in the American populace as a segment of their world market.

I don't know what you call this system of government we've evolved into (even though I do have a degree in that subject). "Fascism" gets thrown around, but I've never thought that was apt. That's just American overreaction, a precious tendency to overvalue our troubles. Fascism, in the good ol' Hitlerian and Mussolinian way, always involves guys with thick necks and big boots beating the crap out of the domestic citizenry. I'm reading the second volume about the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans, Cambridge historian and personal hero (he was the principal defense witness in the David Irving trial), and he makes a very interesting point. Up until the Great Depression of 1929 and following, the Nazis were a marginal political party in Germany, controlling less than 3% of the seats in the Reichstag. After the bottom fell out of the German (and world) economy, the Nazis made their move, and Hitler complemented his political intrigue in Berlin by rounding up the Communists, Social Democrats and Centrists, beating and torturing them, and cramming them into concentration camps. Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

From a historical perspective, the acute danger to the United States probably will follow in the wake of Bush's misrule in the U.S. His indifferent approach to America's real problems, which are now beginning to surface definitively, has laid the groundwork for a very regressive and authoritarian regime. I will credit Bush with helping us get used to the idea of disappearing freedoms. The middle class is sinking beneath a tsunami of debt, our educational standards are going to hell, more and more people lack healthcare, and the looming nightmare of Baby Boom retirement en masse, seen against a backdrop of unsustainable debt, means the entitlement programs, on which most retiring Americans will depend for basic solvency, may evaporate.

When and if those distressing trends reach full materialization, we will see just how "resilient" our constitutional form of government is. I suspect there is going to be the same sense of injured pride and resentment as was found among the Volk in Deutschland in the early Thirties. A once-great power, still armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, now humbled by a failed war and a rusting economy, will look around for scapegoats. That could get very dicey. Anyone wishing to write a dissident blog under those conditions might want to reconsider. Bush is not Hitler, after all. Bush is a spoiled dilettante with no sense of mission and no real agenda, except for self-aggrandizement. Hitler was the real, horrific thing, and the possibility exists that somewhere out there in the vast American hinterland there is a charismatic lunatic with just the right combination of ruthlessness and fanaticism to take advantage of what America may become, and to summon the aggrieved populace toward a dark future.

No comments:

Post a Comment