Despite all of the talk and promise of hope and change, it is now apparent that President Obama plans to try to restart capitalism as it was prior to August 2007. He proposes to try to restore the status quo just prior to the present crisis. He also plans to use public funds, our tax money, “as much as is necessary” for this purpose. The total already promised is $7.3 Trillion for Wall Street. This is $28,000 of debt for each one of us, our children and grandchildren. If Obama goes ahead with his proposed stimulus package for Main Street, it is estimated that will cost at least $7 Trillion more. That will be a debt of $56,000 for each of us. Obama promises to help both Wall Street and Main Street, both the wealthiest 1% and the “middle class,” a classification that contains ever diminishing numbers. Those of us who are not a part of the wealthiest 1% are typically economically insecure, worried, poor, and getting poorer in terms of medical care, housing, and even adequate nutritious food, and the new taxes necessary to pay off this tremendous debt. There is an irreconcilable conflict of interest between the top 1%, Wall Street and the very rich, and the bottom 95% consisting of Main Street, the Middle Class, the poor, the homeless and the destitute. Obama now seems to be a servant of Wall Street. We hope that he is a wise prophet with secret future plans, when he promises that we are all united Americans with a common need and a common goal.
President Obama does not now acknowledge how very sick and fragile our capitalism was in August 2007. We were overburdened with credit debt. The economy was kept going by tempting us into more debt by issuing multiple credit cards, and by selling us overpriced subdivision houses with mortgages that we could not afford. As we shall show below, the subprime mess was a natural mutation of the dynamics of our capitalism.
However, most of us continue to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. We have no other choice. We hope and we pray that he, like Lincoln, is making every possible effort to harmonize profoundly conflicting ideologies and levels of wealth, and that he will ultimately do what is right and possible for mankind and fulfill our yearning for hope and healing change. We hope that he will do this without another Civil War, and without the loss of our liberty.
All we can do right now is to raise questions: Will Obama’s present plan to give Wall Street $7.3 Trillion without effective conditions really stimulate the whole economy? Will Obama’s efforts, priorities, and huge bailouts rescue Wall Street and the top 1% so that capitalism will be jump started for them and for all of us?
President Obama’s selection of University of California Professor Christina Romer as his head economics advisor gives us a hint of what he plans. She, so far as we can tell from her writings, has never studied nor even acknowledged the existence of capitalism’s inner dynamics. She seems to assume that capitalism, if left to itself, will work smoothly and permanently with full employment. The insight that we now have as to her interests and beliefs comes from her entry on “Business Cycles” in the Library of Economics and Liberty.
As to the causes of business cycles, recessions and depressions, she writes:
…there is no reason why business cycles have to occur at all. The prevailing view among economists is that there is a level of economic activity, often referred to as full employment, at which the economy could stay forever…. If nothing disturbs the economy, the full employment level of output, which naturally tends to grow as the population increases, and newer technologies are discovered, can be maintained forever.
She seems to believe that our capitalism can be controlled simply by tweaking the money supply and the interest rates. If these cycles cause pain among us, she writes: “The advent of unemployment insurance and other social welfare programs means that recessions no longer wreak the havoc on individuals’ standard of living that they once did.”
In her view of our capitalism: “Everything is grand in Kansas City. Everything is good as it can be.”
Although she is said to be a specialist in the causes of the Great Depression, her academic work and writings seem to reflect her interest in simply uncritically and non-judgmentally observing capitalism, and measuring its external movements and tendencies. She assumes capitalism is at least potentially a stable, socially useful system for all of us. She seems to assume that only minor tweaking is needed to keep it going. She does not show interest in the inner workings of capitalism, its tendency toward monopoly, overproduction, and imperialism, in its creation of a tremendous disparity between the rich and the poor and the resulting political power, and its longstanding need for ever increasing public expenditure to avoid economic depression.
She thus assumes a capitalism that has never existed anywhere, at any time. No manipulations of money supply and interest rates have ever made capitalism work with full employment. Born in 1958 and coming of age in 1978, she has never personally experienced or witnessed the pain of the Great Depression. She has apparently not been much influenced by John Steinbeck’s book, Grapes of Wrath whose main character Tom Joad says regarding our capitalism: “There is food to eat and people to eat it, but them two cannot get together. There is work to do and people to do it, but them two cannot get together either.” Professor Romer thus deprives herself of much relevant data, insights, and actual experience of the real workings of capitalism during strikes, on the picket line, in the legislative halls, among the victims of industrial pollution, with the sick whose only source of care is the hospital emergency room, and among the homeless, unemployed and underemployed. She apparently has not read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed about a woman’s unsuccessful effort to survive in our real economy. She also deprives herself of those who have studied the real inner workings and dynamics of capitalism, or she finds it professionally advantageous to ignore them. (No capitalist business or corporation has ever provided grants to professors or graduate students to study the defects of capitalism.)
The point of all of this is that neither Professor Romer nor President Obama can devise remedies and solutions for the great crisis of our capitalism unless they know the real causes of the crisis.
Feeding more hay to a sick elephant will only make it sicker if the elephant has cancer in its digestive tract. The evidence shows that our capitalism has “cancer of its metabolism.” The evidence shows that ever since 1980, capitalists could not make a profit producing things that people really need. The fact that capitalist employers draw out tremendous salaries and dividends from the production our labor creates and the fact that investment banks draw out more in interest, leaves us employee-consumers with insufficient wages and salaries to buy the goods our labor has produced. So the employers have “overproduction.” We still have needs, but there is no profit for capitalists in meeting our needs. They fire us and move on to some other activity where they can make a profit, first overseas in economic imperialism by hiring employees to produce there, at even lower wages.
When even imperialism produced more goods that could be sold, capitalists turned in 1980 to what has been named Financialization. Desperate for new sources of profit, capitalists began to buy and sell each other’s companies using the easy credit from investment banks to do so rather than their own accumulated profits or issuing stock. (Interest is tax deductible, while dividends are not.) They also began to invest in subprime mortgages, and then in the many levels of collateralized debt obligations based on these new mortgages. These three or more levels of collateralized debt obligations provided quick Ponzi scheme type profit for Robert Rubin and his investment banks, but produced absolutely nothing that human beings needed. This is how capitalism actually has worked during recent history. This illustrates the inner dynamics of capitalism. As we see, capitalism was very sick even in 1980 in that there was insufficient profit making opportunities in producing what people needed. Every year from 1933 to date, capitalism has needed tremendous contributions of public money to stay out of depression. Capitalism has never been robust on its own without public money. It has always been fragile. Our capitalism’s mutation from one level to the next is set forth in detail in my previous article, “Why is Our Capitalism Failing Us?” published in Dissident Voice.
There simply is no credit crisis. There is a demand crisis, a crisis among us voter consumers consisting of our inability to buy what we need. We need more credit like we need a hole in the head. We are already maxed out on credit. The real problem is that people do not earn enough from their labor to buy what capitalism produces. There is an “overproduction” of things that can be sold at a profit, but there simply is not an overproduction of things we really need. So it is a pure criminal theft of our money to give $7.3 Billion to investment banks, their CEOs and shareholders in the hope that they will again make credit available. This scandalous gift of public funds is aimed at a problem that does not exist and will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem that does exist. A policy that is aimed at providing profit making opportunities for investment banks on Wall Street will not even produce profit for them. It does absolutely nothing to increase our purchasing power or our earnings or our well being. If we were eagerly ready to pay for more cars and houses, you may be sure that Wall Street banks would find a way to finance them. We are not. We cannot. We have no earned money with which to buy. THAT is the problem. The current strategy involves spending $7.3 Trillion in an outright gift to bankrupt ineptly managed investment banks and insurance companies to relieve them of the liability of now worthless collateralized debt obligations. It is then hoped that they will again extend credit. This is not working, it could work for us if at all only by trickle down, and it cannot work even for Wall Street. Even if the banks are forced to lend money to businesses and credit card holders, there is no way to force anybody or any company to borrow. There is no way this trickle down will create adequate purchasing power among those with needs. It does nothing to solve the inner sickness of capitalism. There is absolutely no reason why we the public should bear the cost of Robert Rubin’s stupidity and take over the massive liabilities of the investment banks in these worthless collateralized debt obligations. In order to qualify to invest in those, one had to be a sophisticated wealthy investor. Let Robert Rubin and other investors like him bear the loss of their stupid investments. It is idiotic to let Robert Rubin and his protégés now influence the policy of bailing them out when they are responsible for the problem.
With an accurate and realistic analysis of the dynamics of capitalism, one can then fashion pragmatic reforms or substitutes as circumstances demand, a Plan B.
We have plenty of humans willing and anxious to work. We have immense human needs, many of them unmet. We have thousands of businesses ready and willing to meet those needs, although some needs like medical care cannot and should not yield a profit. What is missing is a source of earned purchasing power. Instead, to get things going why not set up a Federal Loan Bank and provide the necessary credit at low interest rates directly to local healthy banks so that they can function normally? These local banks can then meet the routine needs of business for flooring loans, seasonal loans, and other normal long and short term loans. Spend the $7.3 Trillion on extending and increasing Unemployment benefits, in retraining, building new sources of energy, and rebuilding our bridges and levees. Let’s spend it for Universal Health Care. If necessary let our government be the employer and the lender of last resort. Let Robert Rubin’s investment banks go bankrupt. Once things are going, we can then consider further steps to solve capitalism’s inner sickness. For those human needs that capitalists cannot meet adequately and still make a profit like universal health care, our government can become the employer of last resort. For example, our government can hire doctors, nurses and physician’s assistants. It can place a physician’s assistant in a drop in clinic in the corner of drug stores to provide immediate health care. We can then relieve our employers of the expense of providing health care and Worker’s Compensation Insured medical care for job injuries.
Since our government is not choosing direct solution, it is apparent that this is a class issue. Wall Street, Robert Rubin and the top 1% naturally prefer that the $7.3 Trillion be given to them to compensate them for their stupid investments. We do not need to yield to these outrageous demands. Our President and our government are so far demonstrating that they are subject to the control of Wall Street. Our alternative is to let the investment banks go bankrupt and not us. They created their own problem. There is no sense in letting them take us down with them.
It is also obvious that President Obama, at least for the present, is adopting as his very own, and trying to refuel, the already existing class war of Wall Street and the very rich against the rest of us to convert every minute of our existence into a profit making opportunity. This is obvious from his priority of helping Wall Street first and asking absolutely nothing substantive in return. It is obvious from his support of the Wall Street policy of helping investment banks and insurance companies, but not Ford Chrysler or GM. The Wall Street policy is to let the auto companies go through bankruptcy to escape their union contracts and health insurance commitments. Wall Street will then help these companies after bankruptcy. The current policy will not work. A Great Depression will soon be upon us. We hope that brilliant, pragmatic, compassionate President Obama and his economic advisor Professor Christina Romer will then stop listening to Robert Rubin’s “solutions.” We hope that they will then use our public money to solve the inner sickness of capitalism, and to meet our needs. We will then be truly united Americans with common needs, dreams, and more equal political power.