Posts Tagged ‘Great Recession’


(We ran an earlier, considerably shorter version of this post in September 2013. As you might have noticed, things have changed a bit since then.)

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REFERENCES TO FASCISM abound in American political discourse. Unfortunately, most of those using the term wouldn’t recognize fascism if it bit ’em on the butt, and use it as a catch-all pejorative for anything or anyone they dislike. But the term does have a specific meaning.

Very briefly, as exemplified in Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, fascism is an extreme right political-economic system (which Mussolini dubbed “the corporate state”), the key features of which are strident nationalism, militarism and military worship, a one-party state, a dictatorial leader with a personality cult, a capitalist economic system integrated with state institutions (to the mutual benefit of capitalists and fascist politicians), suppression of independent unions, suppression of civil liberties and all forms of political opposition, and an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy.

The racism, racial scapegoating, and racial persecution that permeated German fascism are not part of fascism per se, unless one wants to classify extreme nationalism as racism. There’s a case to be made for that, but for now let’s consider them as separate maladies. As well, since the topic of this post is the comparison of Nazi Germany to the U.S.A., we will consider racism as well as fascism in the comparisons.

Getting to the headline topic, just how similar is the present-day U.S. to Nazi Germany? Let’s look at specifics:

Nationalism

  • Nazi Germany: Deutschland Uber Alles
  • US.: “American exceptionalism,” “God Bless America,” “Manifest Destiny,” etc.

Corporate Capitalist Domination

  • Nazi Germany: The German industrialists (notably the Krup armaments company) were key Hitler backers, and benefited handsomely from his rule.
  • U.S.: Trump has filled his cabinet with people from the fossil fuel industries (Rex Tillerson, et al.) and big banks, notably Goldman Sachs (Steven Mnuchin, et al.); Obama’s primary 2008 backers were Wall Street firms and the pharmaceutical companies; Bush/Cheney’s were the energy companies’ boys, etc.

Militarism

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis  constructed the world’s most powerful military in six years (1933-1939).
  • U.S.: U.S. military spending currently accounts for approximately 43% of the world’s military spending; the U.S. has hundreds of military bases overseas; and Trump wants to increase military spending.

Military Worship

  • Nazi Germany: Do I really need to cite examples?
  • U.S.: “Support our troops!” “Our heroes!” “Thank you for your service!” Military worship is almost a state religion in the United States. Tune in to almost any baseball broadcast for abundant examples; this worship even extends to those on what passes for the left in the United States: Michael Moore, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow.

Military Aggression

  • Nazi Germany: “Lebensraum”–you know the rest.
  • U.S.: To cite only examples from the last half century where there were significant numbers of “boots on the ground,” Vietnam (1959-1973), the Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1970), Grenada (1983), Panama (1988-1990), Kuwait/Iraq (1991), Afghanistan (2001-present), Iraq (2003-2011). And this doesn’t even include bombing campaigns and drone warfare.

Incarceration Rates

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis built concentration camps holding (and exterminating) millions, and employing slave labor.
  • U.S.: In comparison, the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world, far outstripping China, with only Russia’s incarceration rate being anywhere near that of the U.S. Slave labor is routine in America’s prisons.

Justice System

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis had a three-tiered “justice” system: one for the rich and powerful (who could get away with virtually anything); a second for the average citizen; a third for despised minorities and political foes.
  • U.S.: There’s also a three-tiered “justice” system here: one for the rich and powerful (who can get away with virtually anything); a second for middle-class white people; and a third for everyone else. It’s no accident that America’s prisons are filled with poor people, especially blacks and hispanics. At the same time cops routinely get away with murder of blacks, hispanics, and poor whites. Obama’s “Justice” Department never even investigated the largest financial fraud in world history that led to the 2008 crash, let alone charged those responsible; prosecutors routinely pile on charges against average citizens to blackmail them into plea bargaining and pleading guilty to charges of which they’re not guilty; and the Obama Administration (and now the Trump Administration) viciously goes after whistleblowers and reporters, who have exposed its wrongdoing–Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, James Risen, et al.

Suppression of Unions

  • Nazi Germany: In Nazi Germany, the government tightly controlled the unions, and used them as arms of the state.
  • U.S.: In the U.S., the government merely suppresses strikes when “in the national interest” and allows corporations to crush union organizing drives through intimidation and by firing anyone who dares to attempt to organize. (Admittedly, the sell-out, visionless AFL-CIO unions bear considerable responsibility for this sad state of affairs.)

Free Speech

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression of free speech; direct government control of the media.
  • U.S.: There’s near total corporate control of the media, and suppression of free speech when it shows the faintest sign of threatening, or even embarrassing, the government or the corporations that control the government. Obama’s war on whistleblowers and reporters — and now Trump’s — is only the latest example. Of late, Trump has upped the ante, routinely attacking journalists who report anything even slightly embarrassing to him, or who point out any of his almost innumerable lies.

Other Civil Liberties

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression.
  • U.S.: Suppression when individuals exercising those liberties show the faintest sign of threatening the government or the corporations that control the government. The coordinated suppression (by the FBI, local governments, and corporate security agencies) of the Occupy Movement nationwide is the latest large-scale example.

Government Spying

  • Nazi Germany: The government had a massive eavesdropping operation. No citizen was safe from government scrutiny.
  • U.S.: The FBI, DHS, and NSA make the Nazis look like amateurs.

Free Elections

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression
  • U.S.: U.S. citizens have the opportunity to vote for the millionaire representatives (over half of congress at last count) of the two wings of the property party: one wing being authoritarian, corporate-servant, crazy theofascists (yes, they meet the definition), the other wing being merely authoritarian corporate servants who routinely betray those who elect them. It’s also pertinent that the Republicans are doing their best to destroy what passes for American electoral democracy through egregious gerrymandering and voter suppression on an industrial scale.

Racism

  • Nazi Germany: Do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: (We’ll restrict ourselves here to the present.) The “justice” system imprisons blacks at a rate over five times that of whites, and hispanics at a rate about 30% higher than whites. Cops routinely get away with murdering poor people, a disproportionate number of them blacks and hispanics. Median household wealth for whites is 13 times that of blacks. And median household income for whites is 60% higher than that of blacks and hispanics. Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and racial scapegoating of Mexicans is merely the cherry atop this merde sundae.

Personality Cult

  • Nazi Germany: Again, do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: Trump worship is rampant on the evangelical right, who see this steaming pile of hypocrisy and narcissism as the means to their vicious ends. And Trump encourages sycophancy. The cringe-inducing filmed cabinet meeting a couple of months ago in which the cabinet secretaries heaped fulsome (in both senses of the word) praise and thanks on the dear leader is but one example. Another example: Yesterday, presidential aide and Trump toady Steven Miller said on Fox “News” that Trump — who would likely flunk a fourth-grade English test — was the “best orator to hold that office [president] in generations.”

Yes, there are very significant differences between Nazi Germany and the U.S. But they seem to grow smaller with every passing day.

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by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

I’ve been putting off writing this post for some time, but last week a grotesque piece of political performance art jolted me into putting fingers to keyboard: Hillary Clinton declared herself part of the “resistance,” and announced the she was creating a PAC (!) to fund “resistance” groups she approves of (and that, presumably, approve of her).

Why is this grotesque? She’s the one-woman embodiment of the status quo, not “the resistance.”

Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger

Hillary Clinton with war criminal Henry Kissinger

She voted in favor of Bush’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq. She was the architect of the disastrous intervention in Libya (with no plan about what would follow Qaddafi’s overthrow). During the presidential debates, she even bragged about being friends with mass murderer Henry Kissinger.

And she takes money — lots of it — from the banks and corporations, including “pay” for three speeches to Goldman Sachs between 2013 and 2015 at $225,000 each, and another eight speeches to banks in the same period garnering her another $1.8 million.

Bill Clinton is no saint in this regard, either. In February 2016 CNN documented Bill and Hillary Clinton’s receiving, to that point, $153,000,000 in speaking fees. (Yes, $153 million.)

And like those of her husband, her campaigns (and PACs and SuperPACs supporting her) have been funded predominantly by the corporations, banks, and those who own them. One strongly suspects that the ultra-rich who fund Clinton aren’t doing so out of the goodness of their hearts.

It would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to prove that her (and her husband’s) positions are payback for that funding, but consider this: During her career in politics, she, like her husband, never even proposed any measures that would threaten her backers financially.

To cite the most prominent example of that, she has consistently opposed a “Medicare for all” single-payer system (supported by approximately 60% of the public), and instead has opted for plans which leave our healthcare in the hands of the big pharma and insurance industry vampires, whose goal is to deliver the minimum amount of healthcare for the maximum amount of dollars.

Which brings us to her predecessor. Barack Obama ran on a platform of “hope and change.” And then he systematically betrayed those who voted for him. He continued, and in some ways intensified (drone assassinations of U.S. citizens), George W. Bush’s disastrous, interventionist, neo-con foreign policy. He kept the wars going, and kept up American support for authoritarian Islamist (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey) and military (Egypt) regimes.

He also promised the most open administration in history, and then delivered the most secretive, with mass surveillance of all of us, and the persecution of whistle blowers — at the same time that he completely let the banking criminals responsible for the financial crash completely off the hook.

Domestically, he proposed a stimulus big enough to keep the economy from collapsing (thus saving the banks) during the recession, but nowhere near big enough to put the 8.7 million who lost their jobs back to work. Nor did he do anything to help the 7 million who lost their homes.

What did he deliver? A singularly inadequate piece of healthcare legislation that protected big pharma and the insurance industry, and left tens of millions uninsured and tens of millions more underinsured. Obama also delivered, to some extent, on social issues that did not threaten his ultra-rich and corporate backers: gay rights and reproductive rights.

Richard Branson and Barack Obama on Branson's yacht

Richard Branson and Barack Obama on Branson’s yacht

Now that he’s left office, he’s been cashing in on his celebrity and connections — including being paid a $400,000 speaking fee by a Wall Street firm — and hanging out with his natural constituency, billionaires (Richard Branson and David Geffen).

Which brings us to the present, the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” is currently trying to wrest control of it from the corporate lackeys personified by Obama and the Clintons (and Diane Feinstein, John Podesta, Chuck Schumer, Donna Brazile, Nancy Pelosi, et al.).

The corporatists recently won the first major battle, electing Obama’s Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee over Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison.

(This on the heels of the DNC’s rigging the presidential primaries against Bernie Sanders and for Hillary Clinton — by among other things drastically restricting the number of debates and by scheduling them at times almost guaranteed to deliver low viewership, thus throwing away tens of millions of dollars of free air time.)

This does not portend well. It portends more of the same: no real attempt to address the gross economic inequality in this country, no attempt to institute universal healthcare, and instead a continued focus on social issues (that are no threat to the rich), all under the stirring battle cry, “We’re not as bad as the Republicans!”

It’s time for people to wake up and realize that the Democrats (at least the Clintons, Obama, and the rest of the corporatists) are not their friends.

Instead, they’re the “good cop” in America’s perennial good-cop / bad-cop political extortion routine.

The “good cop” is not your friend.

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(Chaz Bufe is the author, co-author, or translator of 12 books. His latest work is The American Heretic’s Dictionary, which is the 21st century’s equivalent of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary.)


American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


As I write, fivethirtyeight gives Hillary Clinton a 64.4% chance of winning the election. This of course means that they assign Donald Trump a better than one-in-three chance of winning.

In the event that happens, prepare yourself for a slew of articles blaming Green Party and Libertarian Party voters for that horrifying outcome.

In its most naked form the argument runs as follows: “If you don’t vote for Clinton you’re voting for Trump.” Neglecting that something akin to transubstantiation would be required for a vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson to magically transform to a vote for Trump, those who make this particular argument ignore the fact that a Trump supporter could make essentially the same assertion: “If you’re not voting for Trump, you’re voting for Hillary.” Thus the achievement of perfect symmetry.

So, neglecting that weak attempt to shift blame, if Clinton loses who really would be responsible? Let’s hit only the high points (more realistically, the low points) here:

Neglecting recent history (we’ll get to it shortly), we need to go all the way back to 1972/1973, the years in which real wages peaked. It’s been downhill from there: wages have declined as productivity has approximately doubled, with almost all of the productivity gains going to the top 1%. Democrats have done exactly nothing about this.

In fact, Democratic policies, particularly trade policies, have made the situation worse. NAFTA is a case in point. Passed under Bill Clinton, with bipartisan support in Congress, NAFTA resulted in heavy losses of manufacturing jobs in the Rust Belt and at the same time devastated million of Mexican small farmers by opening up their markets to mass importation of cheap, agri-business-produced corn (which directly led to the “immigration crisis” as landless, income-less farmers streamed north due to NAFTA-induced economic desperation).

(Going back even further, bipartisan tax policies allowed [and still allow] corporations to transfer millions upon millions of American manufacturing jobs overseas, while paying virtually no tax penalties for doing so.)

Then there was Bill Clinton’s “welfare reform,” again passed with bipartisan support, which led to millions upon millions of our poorest citizens being plunged into utter destitution. Combine this with America’s disastrous mass-incarceration policies, and you end up with tens of millions living in utter misery, with little if any hope.

Follow that up with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, once more with bipartisan support, at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and you find the seeds of the Great Recession.

Getting back to Hillary Clinton, consider her cynical vote authorizing the catastrophic 2003 invasion and subsequent war in Iraq, a war which cost approximately 5,000 American lives, perhaps 1,000,000 Iraqi lives, the squandering, at absolute minimum, of at least one trillion U.S. taxpayer dollars, and the creation of ISIS.

Clinton isn’t dumb. Far from it. She had to know that the rationale for the invasion was phony and would at best lead to the loss of thousands of lives. But she voted for it anyway, almost certainly because she calculated that it was to her political advantage to do so.

Flash forward to the Great Recession of 2008,  in which the de-regulated banks (free of Glass-Steagall restrictions) gambled massively with depositors’ funds on CDOs (based on the issuance and aggregation of bad mortgages) and lost damn near everything when the housing market collapsed — until the federal government stepped in and saved them (but not us).

At that point, Barack Obama, the “hope and change” candidate was elected. He was elected in a near-landslide, and had big majorities in both houses of Congress. What did he deliver? A stimulus package that was large enough to keep the economy going, but not large enough to help the over 6,000,000 people who lost their jobs nor the approximately 7,000,000 who lost their homes.

He also delivered a grossly inadequate healthcare program–he didn’t even try for anything better–that left tens of millions uninsured and left the insurance companies and big pharma with their fangs sunk in the public’s jugular.

Beyond that, and the grossly inadequate stimulus package, he delivered virtually nothing to the people who had elected him.

Perhaps most maddeningly, Obama’s “Justice” Department, at the same time it was zealously persecuting whistle blowers, didn’t prosecute any of the top-level banksters responsible for what has justly been called “the greatest financial fraud in world history.” (One single mid-level trader was jailed, and that’s it.)

To put it simply, Obama betrayed the hopes of those who elected him, leading to the Republican takeover of Congress and many, many state governments in 2010, and in part to the formation of the Tea Party. (Racism alone doesn’t explain the rise of the Tea Party; you need to add in Obama’s economic betrayal of those who elected him.)

Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State during this time, part and parcel of the Obama Administration. During the time she was Secretary, she gave tacit approval to the coup in Honduras in 2009, was a leading cheerleader for/architect of the disastrous intervention in Libya (with no plan as to what would follow Qaddafi’s overthrow), and also went along, with evident enthusiasm, with Obama’s war on whistle blowers. While she was Secretary of State, she displayed terrible judgment.

Which brings up her use of a private e-mail server. The FBI investigation revealed that she did nothing horrible, but it was a prime example of her hubris and poor judgment — if she wasn’t so hubristic, she’d have realized that should word of the server ever become public, the optics would be terrible.

Fast forward to the primary campaign against Bernie Sanders.

Yes, it was rigged. Over 20% of Clinton’s delegates were “super delegates,” unelected party insiders. Donna Brazile, Clinton ally and interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, fed Clinton debate questions prior to her debates with Bernie Sanders. And previous DNC chair and Clinton ally, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, restricted the number of debates between Clinton and Sanders (thus throwing away tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of dollars of free airtime), and scheduled the debates at times that virtually guaranteed minimal viewership. (This allowed Clinton to capitalize on her name-recognition advantage with low-information voters; because of name recognition, Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy would have gotten votes simply because low-information voters recognized their names but couldn’t recall what they were famous for.) Add to that the mountains of corporate and big-donor cash that funded the Clinton superpac and campaign, and it’s fair to say that the primary election was rigged.

And all this to nominate a candidate most of the public disliked or despised –going back years — prior to her nomination. All of the empirical evidence, all of the polling, during the primaries showed that Bernie Sanders was running well ahead of all of the potential Republican candidates, while Clinton was neck and neck with them. The polling also showed that over 50% of the public disliked or despised Clinton, and that her unfavorability ratings had been remarkably high for years.

Clinton’s water carriers chose to ignore, and downplay, all of this evidence while making the bizarre assertion, with no evidence to back it, that Sanders would get beat in the general election because the Republicans would red bait him. And this despite Bernie Sanders having loudly proclaimed for decades that he was a socialist, and his proclaiming it at every stop on the campaign trail. All too many Democrats bought the Clintonistas’ line of b.s., and voted to nominate the candidate most likely to lose.

In a time of widespread disgust with the status quote, the corporate Democrats managed to nominate the status quo candidate par excellence. They were betting the bank that the Republicans would nominate someone even more odious than Clinton, and that they could then extort the public into voting for her.

So, if Clinton loses, who’s to blame? Clinton and her fellow corporate, status quo Democrats, or those who refuse to give in to blackmail, who refuse to vote for Clinton simply because her opponent is even more despicable than she is?