Friday, January 11, 2013

The Problem With Borosage, He Say

In his widely touted "Budget Bedlam" piece over at Campaign for America's Future, Bob Borosage has written the kind of piece that roils the waters but confuses the issues in such a way that one can be certain that nothing will be done. Apart from relentlessly pointing out the obvious, he provides no real prescription for action -- almost as if he might not want anything to be done about the "bedlam" except continuation of the argument.

His bullet points are self evident:

  • 1. The economy is still broken. 

  • But let's be clear. Broken for whom? Stipulate that the economy is not working to the advantage of the those whose incomes are derived from their labor, but isn't that how it is designed? And don't the policies of the government since the outset of the Perpetual Recession all those years ago ensure that workers' incomes will continue to fall, middle class wealth will continue to erode and evaporate, and unemployment will continue to be scandalously high essentially "forever?" But if this situation is maintained by policy, doesn't the economy work just fine for someone or some class of someones? Of course it does. The economy is working just fine for what's commonly known as the Rentier Class, the exploiters, predators, looters and plunderers who have amassed ever greater portfolios of assets and resource control as the middle and working classes have seen their assets (if they had any) stripped and natural resources have been plundered at an ever greater rate. The economy "works" for those at the top of the heap better than it ever has, something Borosage and his ilk are loathe to admit.

  • 2. You can't "fix the debt" without fixing the economy.

  • Oh? Is there someone who wants to "fix the debt?" Or is there someone using "Fix the Debt" as a marketing slogan for a cabal of bazillionaires intent on ensuring their perpetual low taxation and their looting and plunder? By now, isn't it obvious that The Debt is NOT the real issue? Perhaps it's time to acknowledge that Nobody Who Matters cares a whit about The Debt; what they care about, really care about, is that their ability to loot and plunder and accumulate assets not be interfered with in any way and that their tax burden not be adjusted upward unless every dime of such adjustment is distributed at the Top. Again, nobody Who Matters cares about The Debt. Going into perpetual debt (as the United States Government has been doing) is not The Problem. The Problem is Who Pays and Who Benefits. As long as the working and middle classes, as well as the non-working parasites and drones, are benefiting but not paying the majority of taxes to pay for their benefits there will be pitiful complaints about The Debt and attempts to bamboozle the rest of us to "do something" about it. The economy works just fine for the High and the Mighty; it doesn't need fixing. What's being demanded is that the Low and the Miserable pay for everything -- including The Debt.

  • 3. You can't fix the economy by "fixing the debt."

  • Again, whose economy for what purpose? The point of all the yowling about The Debt is ultimately to shift the burden of carrying The Debt onto the already groaning shoulders of the working and middle classes and to eliminate insofar as possible the benefits said classes derive from shouldering a substantial portion of the burden. Look at Europe or anywhere that neo-liberal policies are being or have been implemented with a vengeance. The whole point of the neo-liberal program is to ensure the betterment of the High and the Mighty and to diminish the potential for the Lesser People to rise -- or do anything about it.

  • 4. You can't "recover" to the old economy.

  • This is the tell to me that Borosage and his outfit exist to keep the "left" as tame as possible while the looting and plunder by their Betters continue unmolested. This is as pure a statement of the necessity for economic "restructuring" -- ie: redistribution toward the top -- as any I've seen in the ::Left-o-Sphere::. Most of those who think about these things and practically all of those who are acting on the "left" have no interest in recovering to the old economy of bubbles, boom, bust and recovery to the top.

    Restructuring by redistribution from the top is part of what's required, but getting off the bubble, boom, bust cycle is even more important. Renovating infrastructure is all well and good, but to what object? To address climate change? Really? How so? Describe it. Unfortunately, Borosage and most of his colleagues write dandy platitudes, but when it comes to specificity, they grow mute. It's not that they don't have ideas, they do. Their muteness is due, in my view, to the fact that their ideas either support the return to a bubble economy, or they support redistribution to the top. In other words, recovery to the old economy, with a slightly improved sense of responsibility.

  • 5. You can’t build by focusing on what to dismantle.

  • What does that even mean? Building and dismantling are two distinct functions, but sometimes dismantling is necessary before the rebuilding can commence or sometimes they need to happen simultaneously. It's possible to do both at once.

    "Rebuilding the middle class" is almost meaningless as well. It's a political slogan, but what constitutes "rebuilding" in the case of the middle class? Borosage doesn't say. What he does say is "rebuild infrastructure." How that rebuilds the middle class is left to the imagination.We can fill in the blanks and connect the dots if we want, but when we do, we're right back where we started from, a restoration of the status quo ante (with a somewhat greater sense of social responsibility), which can be practically guaranteed to get us to where we are today.  This is not what we really need. But if the goal is to rebuild the middle class as it was (more or less) during the '50's and '60's, we're going to wind up in the same pickle.

    How about reconception? Dismantle and build at the same time?

  • 6. Washington needs more Hippocrates and less hypocrisy.

  • Really? And what's that supposed to mean? Get rid of politicians and substitute technocrats? That's what it says to me. We need a different kind of politics to be sure, but the technocratic solution, the top-down authoritarian response that is destroying social, economic and political systems all over the world in order to substitute the neo-lberal theology/ideology of redistribution to the top. It's always sold as being good for the People in the long run.

    The political system is broken in part because it cannot be responsive to -- or responsible to -- the People except in the abstract. It is fully captured and beholden to a handful of increasingly irresponsible billonaires who simply don't care what happens to the People -- when they're not being intentionally cruel just for the hell of it.

    It's useless to say what the government should be doing -- we know what should be done. We also know it can't be done by this government under the current political and electoral rules. We need systemic reform, and that's not going to happen so long as the focus is on trying to make a broken system "do the right thing."

  • 7. Focus on the predators not the prey.

  • This means what? In the Borosage world, it means focusing on cutting back health care costs. Really. While I would never be one to assert that the health care field isn't full of predators, that's not what he's getting at. He wants systemic reform of health care costs to bring down the debt. 

    "The Debt" is a marketing slogan, a con in other words, wielded for whatever slight of hand is necessary to continue the looting and pillage without interference. The predators are the ones who profit from the looting, and for the most part they are not the health care professionals that will face cuts -- in staffing levels and salaries -- which are already taking place in an effort to keep healthcare costs down in order to enhance profits.

    Anytime someone talks about reducing health care costs, what they are generally talking about is restricting access, limiting treatments, reducing staff levels, reducing salaries and payments, increasing co-pays and so on.

    The focus needs to be on improving care, access to care, and utilizing preventative care. Most of all, we need a single payer health care system modeled on those already in operation.

    Borosage is someone who really wants to preserve the status quo in the short term and revert to the status quo ante (pre-2008) over the long term. The status quo cannot be preserved in the face of the successful ideological/theological economic revolution of the neo-libs. What we need is something else again, something better, not a restoration of what used to be.


    1. "You can’t build by focusing on what to dismantle."

      They do this in industry all the time, calling it "disruptive technology." Sometimes when the technology isn't disruptive enough on its own, but those pushing it have political juice, they get the government involved in helping to dismantle the old system.

      A good example is the old documentary, "Taken for a Ride," which details the destruction of mass transit by the auto industry and its allies. Oh, and for a more recent example, try the Post Office or the school system, both of which are on the chopping block because "Sorry, but there is profit to be had." (Yes, there is going to be something built to replace both the Post Office and the school system, just something that will cost the tax payers more and provide inferior service.)

      However, much like the "run government as a business" mantra, the rules these people want to apply to government are different than the rules they'd apply to business. Imagine a predatory Post Office that was a low cost, quality service competitor to some other business (providing Internet access, for example. Or banking services is another idea I've heard floated). The business sector predators would howl bloody murder, even though they'd operate the same way if they could profit from it.

    2. "Creative Destruction", which has been completely turned around (revolutionized?) by the neo-cons and neo-libs.

      At any rate, Borosage is not even being disingenuous with his statement, he's being dishonest, in the same sense that marketers are dishonest. Nothing new about that, though.

      The deliberate destruction of the public transportation systems this country used to have is one of those stories that should be told more often and more honestly, but I wouldn't say that system was all that much heaven when it existed. The point is that it was deliberately destroyed in order to build up a private automobile-long distance trucking-public highway system that is a lot more profitable for a somewhat different segment of predators -- as well as what is sold as a better system of getting around for the multitudes. Oh, but now the crusade is to privatize those highways. Yay!

      The deliberate destruction of the post office and the public schools aren't really being sold as enabling something better, though. It's more like punishment. Same with the proposals to destroy Social Security and Medicare.

      Someone who believes he isn't profiting enough is demanding more and ever more...