Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama: Old Wine In New Bottle

As I observe the moral implosion of the Democratic leadership, I keep thinking of an essay by Noam Chomsky commenting on the Clinton presidency. In the 1996 essay, titled "Old Wine in New Bottles: A Bitter Taste," Chomsky expands on Paul Krugman's assumption that "bad ideas flourish because they are in the interest of powerful groups." In this case, Krugman was talking about international economic development and specifically about New Zealand; but Chomsky extrapolated this conclusion and applied it to corporate capitalism in general.

In a way, Chomsky's insight presaged Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine," and today, it is easy to see how Obama is simply continuing the regressive policies systematized by Clinton, and put on hyperdrive by Bush. In the essay, Chomsky restates Krugman's conclusion by saying that "the "bad ideas" may not serve the "expressed goal," but they typically turn out to be very good ideas for their proponents." The current health care reform bill is a perfect example of such bad ideas.

The left is understandably dismayed at the form this health care bill is taking, but if we look at its unfolding under the prism of Chomsky's and Klein's analysis, we can see how, in the end, it is all according to plan. Sure, the "realists" will tell you that this is the best thing we can get in the current climate, but their thinking is predicated on an old dichotomy that sees the Democratic party leadership in opposition to the Republican leadership.

Unfortunately, such dichotomy is all for show and nothing more. And all we really need in order to expose the theatrical aspect of this purported opposition between the Republican party and the Democratic party is the following picture:

This is not a portrait of people who disagree with each other. This is the portrait of five masters of the universe showing unity of mind and purpose.

Returning to the health care bill and Chomsky's analysis, he goes on to point out some regularities in the policies imposed by international capital onto unwilling populations around the world, the first being that:

[T]he designers seem to come out quite well, though the experimental subjects, who rarely sign consent forms, quite often take a beating.

The current health care bill will do just that: let the designers (the health insurance companies) come out quite well with the government mandating 30 million new customers to purchase unregulated products from a cartel of colluding private corporations. In this case, we the people are also one of the "rare" examples where we did sign a consent form in the form of a ballot. Unlike other countries around the world who have no say in what the World Bank tells them to do, we actually put the people who are screwing us, and the rest of the world, in charge.

The fact that the current bill does not guarantee any real form of competition in the health care system brings me to another point that Chomsky makes later on in the essay:

Free market doctrine comes in two varieties. The first is the official doctrine that is taught to and by the educated classes, and imposed on the defenceless. The second is what we might call "really existing free market doctrine": For thee, but not for me, except for temporary advantage; I need the protection of the nanny state, but you must learn responsibility under the harsh regimen of "tough love." Those in a position to make choices typically adopt the second version of free market doctrine, the one that has been a prerequisite to development, so the historical record suggests, though not a sufficient condition for it.

This is not only what is happening now with the health care bill, but also what has happened with the TARP bill and the rescue of big banks. The common term would be corporate welfare, or corporate socialism, or corporatism (can you say, fascism?). Maybe, but you get the point. International corporations are getting their way in the world, and while until Clinton the American people where under the assumption that this system also benefited them, now it is clear that those days were simply a rehearsal for what is coming to pass now.

Once these bait and switch techniques have been refined in New Zealand, Latin America, Africa and such, they can be applied to the much more sophisticated western populations. And so, today we see Obama and the Democrats touting this health care bill as a great thing, when they can't even look at the camera with a straight face because they know that this will only drive more people into bankruptcy and destitution. Matt Taibbi has done a great job in this regard by exposing Obama and the Democrats in "Obama's Big Sellout."

This type of attitude of our political class goes also to show their hubris. The Democrats believe that working people and progressives have nowhere to turn to, and thus they are confident that no matter how bad they behave, people will eventually hold their nose and vote for them as the lesser of two evils. As Chomsky points out:

[D]emocracy is a nuisance to be ignored as long as possible, and that free enterprise means that the public pays the costs under various guises, bearing the risks if things go wrong, while profit is privatized. And in pursuit of these ends, decision-making is to be transferred as much as possible from the public arena to unaccountable private tyrannies, and "locked in" by treaties that undermine the potential threat of democracy.

AIG bailout, anyone?

This is exactly what is happening today, and while under Clinton it was still under most people's radar, and only perceptive people like Chomsky and some other few could see it, today is all done in the open, by dangling the specter of Depression in front of the American people. In the meantime, we are in a Depression; at least those of us who live in the real world. The real unemployment is probably close to 20% since the government, from Clinton onward, has been fudging the figures to the point that they are meaningless. The term jobless recovery is also something that is becoming an euphemism for the government bailing out the rich while letting everyone else hanging out to dry.

In conclusion, Chomsky's essay shows us how Clinton then and Obama now are simply new bottles for the same old wine. And if this wine tasted bitter in 1996, now it makes people want to puke. That's why people are getting mad, and throwing things at the likes of Bush and Berlusconi, or why there are clashed in Copenhagen as I write. People are sick and tired of vampire like corporations sucking them dry and they are speaking out. For this reason, while things seem to be going from bad to worse, and even though the political process is deadlocked, I see hope for the future. Not the Obama empty promise type of hope, but the hope that people are once more taking their destiny into their own hands as it happened during the Vietnam war.

On this, I'll leave the last word to Howard Zinn, who on Bill Moyers last week so eloquently said:

[T]hink for yourself. Don't believe what the people up there tell you. Live your own life. Think your own ideas. And don't depend on saviors. Don't depend on the Founding Fathers, on Andrew Jackson, on Theodore Roosevelt, on Lyndon Johnson, on Obama. Don't depend on our leaders to do what needs to be done... [P]eople should defy the rules if they think they're doing the right thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment