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If the median household’s income is heading upward, the economy is in good shape. If it’s heading downward, as it’s been for this entire recovery, we’re all in deep trouble. Advocacy groups who sought a moratorium on shutoffs testified last week that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s policies of mass shutoffs — 19,000 in recent months — are leaving low-income households with seniors and children without water service. INTERVIEWER: Do you think of yourself as a feminist? SONTAG: That’s one of the few labels I’m content with. But even so…is it a noun? I doubt it. In the current recovery, at least through 2012, the bottom 90 percent actually lost ground, with all of the income gains being grabbed by the wealthiest 10 percent of American households.

Yet another expert on finance sounds the alarm bells about wall st.

Read more at BillMoyers.com

Anat R. Admati is a finance professor at Stanford critiquing the financial system. That she is at Stanford is not insignificant. While not a big “player,” she is near the core of the establishment. As you can see in the video, Joseph Stiglitz, who was a key player in the establishment for decades, has been beating a similar drum for quite a long time. Robert Reich is another former insider who has been on the forefront of insider critics. In fact, they are all standing in a long line of “dissenters” who came from, or find themselves near, the establishment.

I put dissenters in quotes because there is a big proverbial fly in the ointment when it comes to how far their critiques actually go. While they all differ in their analysis and recommendations, all of them stop at condemning capitalism. In the end, all of them are essentially pro-capitalism liberals – though if you start digging you can find a few pro-capitalism conservatives as well. A pro-capitalism critique – no matter how scathing – will never have the force to compel change at the root. In fact, it doesn’t want radical change and even if every proposal was enacted, the system would remain in place.

When we talk about “The System,” fundamentally we are talking about capitalism. There are a few things we know about capitalism that ensure it can never work for humanity. It is built on exploitation, ceaseless accumulation, and the commodification of all things (for simplification’s sake, think of it as privatization).

Even though all of these establishment critics are sounding the alarm about finance capital (often referred to as “Wall street”), none of them will say capitalism is at the heart of the problem. Most of them fundamentally believe in capitalism and I don’t question their sincerity. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how the fact that they lead privileged lives intimately entwined with and reliant on “the system,” factors into the formation of their beliefs. Of course the reforms they are proposing are better than nothing, and it’s important to evaluate them on their own terms, but as long as capitalism is the underlying logic that determines how we organize societies, we are guaranteed to end up in crisis again and again.

Our chances to stop reforming (which mostly seem to amount to proposing reforms) and focus on replacing a fundamentally corrupt exploitative system are rapidly running out. One need only look at the rapidly expanding crisis of climate change to see it. And don’t think for a second that the crisis of climate change is not intimately tied to Wall street. Food and energy are two major sources of climate change – or more exactly, the industrialization and corporatization of food and energy are major contributors to climate change. They were commodified long ago and are now commodities, traded on stock exchanges. They also happen to be the products of some of the biggest corporations in the world. They are literally fueling climate change (and, not insignificantly, fighting attempts to slow it). In the face of something that large, a liberal, pro-capitalism reform seems ludicrous.

Of course it’s more ludicrous than that, because the actual people in power – corporations and the politicians they’ve purchased – have no interest in reforming the system they built. It is serving them better than ever. They have stolen or “made” the most money in history and it is consolidated in the fewest hands ever. No king or sultan has ever even come close to the wealth and power these few people wield.

In the final analysis, critiques from or near the core of the establishment do offer us something. They are fissures in the facade the power elite have constructed. Voices from within the walls that rise above the din of lies and propaganda. While they will never offer solutions that address more than symptoms, we should acknowledge and evaluate them anyway. We should learn how to engage them and challenge their fundamental acquiescence to the rule of capitalism and the system its cruel logic created. The number of critics has increased rapidly since the last manufactured crisis. We should see their growing number as a trend indicating the relatively immediate dire situation we face: a great depression orders of magnitude worse than the last one.

In the long run, the only answer is to break up unaccountable transnational corporations and replace capitalism with a system of distribution that puts people before profit. If we’re not collectively working toward that goal, well…

– Peace

Robert Reich interviewed by Bill Moyers about his new film “Inequality for All”

As usual, Reich’s analysis of our situation is sound, but because he is a liberal, he is loathe to question the core tenets of capitalism.  The logic of capital is to concentrate wealth and power.  It makes everything a “resource” to be exploited, from the natural world to human beings (also part of the natural world, but that is another -related- discussion).  Capitalism works to commodify the entire world, i.e., put a price on everything and bring it into a market.  You can see this happening to education now with horrific effects.  It also demands ceaseless accumulation.   An example of that logic is embodied in the creation of corporate business cycles where each one has to be more profitable than the next, forever – by any means necessary.

The idea that we can’t have total equality because everyone would sit around and feed at the trough of the state is joke.  What do you do when you are relaxed and have time to yourself?  What happens when you get together with other people with a common goal? What would happen if you had the opportunity to create something and pursue your interests?  That we need fear or greed to motivate us is another sick myth perpetuated by capitalists because they don’t want us to have agency, control of our own lives. They don’t want us to realize we have the power to create a system without them – and they definitely don’t want us to be angry at them, much better to blame ourselves.  We have been so propagandized, we have internalized our corporate master’s attitudes.  Yes, you’re working two jobs and can’t make ends meet. Well, blame yourself.  This is bullshit.  One of the good things this film does is show how wrong that propaganda is, but Reich constantly falls down when he continues to put his faith in capitalism.  Of course, I don’t expect him to do anything else.  He is a liberal and the modern american liberal is afraid of radical change. He is an advocate of tweaking the system we have to make it more equal.  Unfortunately – and we can look back over more than 100 years to show this conclusively – the system we have is capitalism and for the reasons stated above, its logic is faulty and it progressively makes things worse.  The roller-coaster of change under capitalism can make it seem like some things are better, but the highs and lows get lower as time goes on and it is fueled literally and figuratively by exploitation.  It constantly works toward inequality and concentration of wealth and power through exploitation.  I won’t even begin a discussion of the psychological devastation it has caused because that would make this comment book-length.

Reich is correct, there is nothing wrong with globalization – but there is something wrong with corporate globalization.  Creating NAFTA and bringing China into the WTO decimated our economy.  Corporations (while they were making huge profits incidentally) wanted to rip our jobs from us (no, we didn’t “lose” them, we were bashed over the head and they were stolen) and exploit poor people in other countries, all just to make more, and more, and more…Neither Clinton nor Reich invented trade or trade organizations.  Corporate interests got Clinton elected, wrote the legislation, and served on the boards that made it all happen.  Yes, there are bad guys.  Moyers has been good about naming them for years. They are members of ALEC, they are the walton family who almost single-handedly created the system for our goods to be made in China, they are the koch brothers, GE, coke, mcdonald’s, big oil, monsanto, bankers, apple (yes, apple), microsoft, and the gates foundation…the list is long.

I’m sure Reich wants to be diplomatic and keep his friends in high places, most likely so he can try to convince them to change, but it is also because he has been paid by the elite and/or their institutions his entire career: public service is never wholly public and rarely is it service. Also, elite schools have always been a part of the power structure and as far as I know, Reich has spent most of his time at those institutions since leaving “public” “service.”  That being said, his heart is in the right place and his analysis of how we got here has a lot to recommend it.  Some of his prescriptions aren’t bad and some are downright necessary; so, I will probably see his movie and continue to post info from his site – and I will continue to insist that capitalism is a doomed course.  We need to organize to fundamentally change our system at the root.

Trailer for Robert Reich’s new film Inequality for All

Reich consistently has a solid analysis of economic problems. His only problem is that he is still a liberal democrat. Over the years he has been moving left, but he has to keep going. Left-leaning liberal democrats are in a bit of a catch-22. If they tell the whole truth and say we need some kind of socialism, they alienate huge swaths of people and endanger their careers. Of course, by definition they aren’t socialists, but if you listen, they always couch their arguments in safe terms: “we can be great again, etc…” If they toe the party line (though there is no such thing as a liberal democratic party), they are seen as essentially supporting the dominant power structure. The flaw in their thinking is underestimating the viciousness of our corporate masters and the institutions they control. In other words, everyone with a critique and voice should have the same sense of urgency as someone like Chris Hedges. There is a horrific new brand of neo-liberal (look it up) techno-fascism gripping all of our necks like a hungry vampire (and many fangs are well sunk and the blood is flowing). We should be afraid, then we should organize- and not just to vote. While voting for “the right” (correct) people is nice and we should do it when possible, we are far beyond that at this point. The system cannot simply be tweaked to set it (back?) on the right course. This is the biggest problem with liberal thought. Yes, organizing and actually putting forward candidates for office at every level is good too, but even that will not stop the vampires. To generalize in an extreme manner to make the point: about half the country thinks they’re doing fine – even if they happen to be a few paychecks from the street. The other half thinks they are fucked and nobody give a shit about them. And they seem to be almost totally correct. In the meantime the super rich continue to steal our wealth and figure out new ways to control every aspect of our lives. Well, as always, we’ve got a long way to go.

The hoax of “entitlement” reform

Important information – and remember: while this is Republican led, every single negotiation, giveaway, “reform,” made by the Democrats makes them just as complicit. When the so-called “Grand Bargain” is struck (which is what a lot of this so-called “reform” is leading to) we can blame both parties. This will be the nail in the coffin of the New Deal and the Great Society programs. It is the unadulterated class war of the wealthy against everyone else. Oligarchs and plutocrats are dragging us toward a new feudalism.