Article 43

 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking To 2019

image: dying america

We Need a More Humane Economic System
Not One That Only Benefits the Rich

By Richard D. Wolff
December 27, 2018

Prof. Wolff joins Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now to discuss the current economic crisis, from the stock market fluctuations to the partial federal government shutdown.

The partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government is entering its fifth day after a political impasse over President Donald Trumpגs contentious demand for border wall funding. Funding for about a quarter of all federal programs expired at midnight on Friday, including the departments of Justice, Agriculture and Homeland Security. On Christmas Day, Trump said the shutdown will last until Democrats agree to fund his $5 billion U.S.-Mexico border wall, despite previously repeatedly claiming Mexico would pay for the wall. The shutdown is occurring as concern grows over the U.S. economy. U.S. stock markets are on pace to suffer their worst December since 1931 during the Great Depression. In response, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held an emergency meeting with top financial regulators and also convened a separate call with top executives of six major banks.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! Im Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government is entering its fifth day after a political impasse with Congress over President Donald Trumps contentious demand for border wall funding. Funding for about a quarter of all federal programs expired at midnight on Friday, including the departments of Justice, Agriculture and Homeland Security. On Christmas Day, Trump said the shutdown will last until Democrats agree to fund his $5 billion U.S.-Mexico border wall, despite his previously repeated claims that Mexico would pay for the wall.

The shutdown is occurring as concern grows over the U.S. economy. U.S. stock markets are on pace to suffer their worst December since 1931 during the Great Depression. In response, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held an emergency meeting with top financial regulators and also convened a separate call with top executives of six major banks.

AMY GOODMAN: This came as President Trump renewed his attack on the Federal Reserve, openly criticized its chairman, Jerome Powell, whom he appointed. On Christmas Eve, Trump tweeted, ғThe only problem our economy has is the Fed.

Well, for more, weԒre joined now by Richard Wolff, emeritus professor of economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst, visiting professor at The New School, founder of Democracy at Work, hosts a weekly national television and radio program called Economic Update, author of many books, including Capitalisms Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown.

Richard Wolff, welcome to Democracy Now!

RICHARD WOLFF: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’ve got, before this, the capital gains tax break, the break for the richest Americans, and President Trump says hes improving the economy, and now the stock market has plummeted back to the Depression times. Explain.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, you know, we’ve had an economy that never really escaped the crash of 2008. In a way, the last 10 years have been an economy on life support: vast amounts of money pumped into the economy; record drops in interest rates, inviting everybody - business, individuals, governmentsחto borrow moneya debt-sustained situation. And after a while, you canגt mount up the debt on the basis of an economy that hasnt really gotten going. And we’re seeing the eventual break.

You know, the capitalist system has a downturn every four to seven years. Its had that for centuries. And the last big downturn was 2008 and ‘09. So, if you do four and seven, and you add it to nine, we’re due for one. And every major stock market observer, bank and so on predicts that we’re having a downturn. So its really only a question of exactly when. And the stock market anticipates this. And so we’re having, in a way, economic chickens coming home to roost. And the notion that its just the FedҒs policy that explains this is really the kind of remark that would get a student a very low grade in any economics course.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Richard, why - if over the last 10 years the Federal Reserve kept interest rates so low and provided so much cheap money, why hasn’t inflation increased dramatically in the U.S. over this period of time?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, you know, the irony is, it’s one of the bizarre ways an economy works. There was no incentive to take all that money and go in and produce things that might have driven up prices and so on, because the people in America can’t afford to buy it. Our wages have been stagnant. The debts have been so big that people are afraid to borrow the way they once did, even though they still do, but not at the growing scale as before.

So, all that extra money kind of went into the stock market to make itself make quick money by buying shares, hoping that they would go up. And if all the rich people who get it into their hands do that kind of thing, you see the stock market go up, but the underlying economy doesn’t go anywhere. And again, after a while, that’s not a sustainable arrangement.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the other thing that happened, though, after the Trump tax cuts, there was all of these companies buying up their own shares, seeking to drive up their prices, right?

RICHARD WOLFF: Exactly.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now all that money has been lost?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, basically, yes, because it was funny money to begin with. It was money that was not used to hire people, was not used to raise people’s wages. All of those promises were never delivered on. Instead, it rushed into the stock market or buying back shares, which is another way of playing the market. So the market prices went up. The mainstream media tended to say, See, the economy is in good shape. It’s strong, because the market went up.

But the underlying reality of most people, which is reflected in our politics, is one of bitterness and anger and resentment that they are not participating in this so-called recovery. And now the rich are also facing the falling apart of this house of cards as the market tumbles down. And poor Mr. Trump, having staked his reputation on a rising market, is now confronted with a declining one and is looking for a scapegoat, which Mr. Powell, his own appointee, is providing to him.

AMY GOODMAN: Who I always thought wrote that op-ed piece for the Times. But I do want to ask about this Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s secret meeting - emergency meeting, I should say - with top U.S. financial regulators, after hosting a call with executives from six major banks on Sunday. You have him meeting with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Bank of Americas Brian Moynihan, Goldman SachsҒ David Solomon, Morgan Stanleys James Gorman, Tim Sloan of Wells Fargo, Michael Corbat of Citigroup. What message did he convey to them? And what about the meeting with the regulators?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I think the basic plan here, no one knows the details, but most of us think this was not a leak. This was a letting us know that the government is busy fixing all of this. The hope is that by promising everybody’s on board to fix it, that the market will somehow come back. Its the easiest, simplest first step.

But the irony is, it didn’t play out very well, because the mass of people saw it for what it was: a ploy, an effort to verbally shore things up - which makes you wonder about how bad it really is, having pretended there was no problem, having pretended we have a strong economy. We don’t have one, so now you have to kind of talk it up.

My guess is, it wont make a big difference. We have a long-term instability built into this economic system, and we look to be on the verge of doing just that kind of downturn that history suggests we ought to expect.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is Trump so angry at Mnuchin right now?

RICHARD WOLFF: Basically, he’s looking for scapegoats. I think if he can’t use Mr. Powell - there’s some evidence he tried to figure out whether he can fire him. He was told, apparently, he cannot. OK, he can fire Mr. Mnuchin. That’s for sure. So maybe he has to shift his focus of whose the bad guy here, against = so he isnt the bad guy, so the system is never questioned. He’ll find somebody who he can fire to do the theater that he seems to like to do to solve problems by pointing to a scapegoat.

JUAN GONAZLEZ: And to what degree does TrumpRs continuing trade war battles with China have an impact on the U.S. economy and where people think its heading, not where it is right now?

RICHARD WOLFF: Mostly, at this point, it’s terribly uncertain. Companies around the world cannot make plans, cannot make investments, cannot make assumptions about whats going to happen, because we don’t know what hes going to do, we don’t know what the Chinese are going to do.

But, you know, theres a more deep historical problem here. And itҒs really American history. When we became an independent nation, it was partly because we were held backtea party, remember?חby the British. They had a rule: They wanted the colony to be subordinate. We didnt want to do that as Americans, and we ended up pushing back against the control, the effort to hold back American development. We went to two wars: the Revolutionary War and, again, the War of 1812.

The history records are not good about trying to squelch an upcoming economic power. China is todayҒs upcoming economic power. The effort to squelch and stop it is both likely to fail and extremely dangerous, because these trade wars have a nasty habit of becoming military.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, what about this government shutdown and who it hurts? I couldnt help thinking about the fact that so many hundreds of thousands of workers will not be paid. Of course, itҒs particularly painful through the holidays. Many other hundreds of thousands are being furloughed. You have those in the private sector who rely on the government jobs for their jobs. They will lose their jobs or not be paid. I mean, President Trump, before he was president, of course, we know that he didnt pay many of his own workers. But this idea of who is hurt during a government shutdown and who continues to get paid?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, for me, this isҗas Senator Corker said, this is theater. This is Mr. Trump producing a big news event. He is in charge. He is acting. And for him, the cost of these hundreds of thousands without incomeand, by the way, all the people they canגt spend on, who are losing an income indirectly, when you multiply this out, as we do in economics, the impact is very severe. And Im not even talking about the services they canҒt perform and the long-run effects of the services not being performed by the government. The IRS is cutting back at a time when we are desperately in trouble with our revenues anyway. So, yeah, its a crass, self-serving, political ploy, the costs of which, like in the tit-for-tat war with China, are huge but are not being counted, because they donҒt calculate in to the self-promotion of our leadership.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But this is all coming, supposedly, in a time when we have the lowest unemployment record in decades, supposedlyunemployment rate. Yet, of course, many of those who are employed are severely underemployed. But Iגm wondering what your sense is of the actual economy itself?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the reality is that we are - we have a lot of employment, but the quality of the jobs has collapsed over the last 10 years. The people who work now used to be people who had a job with good income, good benefits and good security. The jobs, overwhelmingly, created have none of those things: low wages - that’s why our wages have gone nowhere; bad benefits - those are shrinking, pensions and so on; and the security is virtually gone. One of our biggest problems in America is people don’t know one week to the next what hours they’re working, what income they’ll get. You can’t have a life like this.

So, what weve done is we’ve ratcheted down the quality of jobs. We’ve made people use up their savings since the great crash of 2008, so theyҒre in a bind. They have really no choice but to offer themselves at lower wages or at less benefit or at less security than before, which is why there’s the anger, which is why there was the vote for Mr. Trump in the first place, because this talk of recovery really is about that stock market with the funny money that the Fed Reserve pumped in, but is not about the real lives of people, which are in serious trouble, hence the numbers, like a average American family can’t get a $400 emergency cost because it doesn’t have that kind of money in the background. So, you’ve undone the underlying economy, you have this frothy stock market for the 1 percent, and this is an impossible tension tearing the country apart.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the Democrats will be taking officewill be taking over the House next week. And itגs not only the Democrats, but you have this whole new generation of progressives that are moving in. What do you want to see happen? What can they do?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the first thing is, they have to get strong enough, which may take a while, to have the numbers able to fundamentally change policy. Thats what I want. I want them to recognize that our economic system is a problem, that there ought to be a national debate, which theyҒre in the best position to start, that we stop looking for this scapegoat or that onenot just Mr. Trump with Powell or with Mnuchin, but the whole mass media effort to see a problem everywhere but in the basic economic system. We have to get over that. For half a century, weגve been afraid to debate those questions, because of the Cold War and everything having to do with it. Lets do that.

Let’s ask, for example, whether the best way to organize our enterprises is to have a tiny group of people - board of directors, major shareholders - make all the decisions, so that the rest of us have to live with the results, but we have no input. You know, a country that promises it is committed to democracy has never faced the fact that in the enterprise we don’t have democracy. We have a tiny group of people making all the decisions. And that’s not a good idea. And maybe now we can face that the decisions they’ve made, individually and collectively, have plunged us into a situation where we cannot afford the luxury of not facing basic questions about how our economy is organized. We should have done it for the last 50 years. Maybe this new generation of young people coming into the Congress will begin that conversation and, hopefully, bring us along into a national debate on these subjects, which is long overdue.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, but beyond the debate, what kind of legislation do you think that the House should be seeking to pass?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, you know, easiest way to summarize it: We have been following - and, unfortunately, Democrats, too - something called trickle-down economics. We do economic policy where we help the folks at the top - we bail out the big banks, we give a tariff benefit - and we hope it trickles down, which it rarely does.

First thing they can do, reverse it. Lets do trickle-up economics. You help the people at the bottom, in all the different ways that we know how to do because the FDR regime back in the ‘30s did a lot of that. So we know how to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Like?

RICHARD WOLFF: Do it well, put people to work. Put people to work doing socially useful things at a decent income, not working in a fast-food restaurant under unbearable personal situations. Here’s another one: this greening of America. There’s a project that could help millions of people in a direct way. Let’s kind of do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Put forward by a Democratic Socialist, a Socialist like yourself.

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. And thats where we’d expect it to come from, because we haven’t been willing, outside of the mainstream, to have the debates, so - excuse me, in the mainstream we haven’t had it. So we need the folks coming in, that are new and different, to talk about all of those things.

We did them before. The minimum wage should be raised, and dramatically. We should be helping all the kinds of people who have been denied help. We should be making sure that jobs are secure, that jobs have proper benefits, that we’re enhancing the benefitsall the things that could help the folks at the bottom have the money to spend, that will trickle up into the profits and revenues of business. That’s a more humane system.

And, you know, even if it doesn’t work as much as we want it to, at least we will have helped the majority of people. What we have now is trickle-down, that helps those of the top, and then, when it doesn’t trickle down, what have we got? We’ve helped those at the top - again. The focus on trickle-up would be an alternation in our policy that’s long overdue.

AMY GOODMAN: Are we in the midst of a recession, or is it just about to hit us?

RICHARD WOLFF: It’s just about to hit us. Goldman Sachs is literally predicting it. JPMorgan Chase - you mentioned these institutions before - they’re all saying in their newsletters - if you read the financial press, its not a question of whether, it’s just a question of when. And its sort of within the next six to 18 months. So, yes, it’s possible those will be wrong, but, you know, its been that way for a couple of centuries. It’s a good bet. And so, yes, were going to have one.

And Mr. Trump is in the very dangerous position of having two years to go before he has to run for re-election, at a time when the one thing he can point to, which is economic something, is going to disintegrate, as it has in the last several weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: Richard Wolff, we want to thank you for being with us, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, visiting professor here in New York at The New School, founder of Democracy at Work, hosts a weekly national TV and radio program called Economic Update, author of a number of books, including Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown.

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The Year of Fascism
Ten Lessons We Should Learn From 2018

By Umair Hague
Eudaimonia
December 30, 2018

Theres an open secret that too many of us donҒt want to admit right now, at the end of a long, ugly, emotionally bruising, psychically battering year. Yet if were going to learn anything from the mess weҒre in, it starts with just that open secret.

This was the year of fascism. The year that bona fide fascism  replete with demonization, dehumanization, demagogues, camps, show trials, and hints of genocide ח made a dramatic, shocking return to the global stage. Do you think I exaggerate? What other system, way, attitude, puts toddlers on trial? cages infants? Calls them vermin? Does literally unspeakable things, things for which we have no words, like killing them by denying them water and medicine, or freezing them to death? This was a year defined by the resurgence of fascism, if only we are brave enough to admit it. I wouldnt blame you if җ like many people  you canגt quite bring yourself to do so. After all, doing just that brings up tough, unforgiving questions. Was I complicit? Am I? Arent we better than this? DidnҒt we learn anything from history?

The year of fascism began in America. It skyrocketed to the heights of power, and then spread through the world like a terrible epidemic. Soon enough, Europe was infected. Paris was on fire. There were neo-Nazis in the Bundestag. Italy was gripped by its own ugly bout of what looks a lot like national socialism. And so on. Now, it was utterly predictable that America was going to implode into fascism (no, that doesnt mean youҒre a fascist, it just means that there are supremacists in high office, doing terrible things, which are slowly normalized.) Not just because fascism was invented in America  the Nazis, after all, studied Americaגs race laws, great admirers of its system of slavery and segregation  but because political economy said so. That brings me to my second lesson.

Economics was right, but American economics was wrong. Was it the one of historyגs greatest, weirdest coincidences that nations as different as America, Italy, and Austria all melted down into different degrees of fascism? How can the cause of fascism be cultural when these nations dont share cultures? But wait җ wasnt economics wrong? IsnҒt the economy booming?

Its baffling җ and nobody explains it well, mostly because almost nobody remembers how to think about it well. I dont blame you for being confused. The confusion arises from the a simple problem.

American economics was wrong. About what? About everything, more or less. Capitalism - by way of slashing social investment, privatizing everything, making corporations people, and cutting taxes for the rich - wasn’t the answer to everything. Wealth and income and prosperity didnt trickle down from billionaires to average people. Instead, the rich turned into the super rich, while the average American went deeper and deeper into debt, unable to afford basics like healthcare and education and a home on his stagnant income.

(American economics is so badly wrong that it says absurd, bizarre, hilarious things like: “the economy’s booming!!” at the precise moment that life expectancy is cratering, suicide and depression are skyrocketing, young people cant afford to start families, old people can’t afford to retire, and average incomes have barely budged for half a century. LOL So when people living shorter, unhappier, grimmer, poorer lives, to the point that they kill themselves in despair, have become a “booming economy,” then, my friends, a theory of dunces has replaced reality with a grotesque and backwards illusion. The earth isn’t flat - though American economics would like us all to believe it is, in a weirdly Soviet twist.)

But American economics is not all of economics - its just a weird, cultish subset, its own strange discipline, which is at this point, so badly wrong its somewhere between absurdly hilarious and tragically gruesome. That’s because 1) it didn’t study the world 2) learn anything from history 3) think very hard about whether it’s conclusions are backed up by the most basic empirical reality (like - wait, how can an economy be booming when life expectancy is falling? Isn’t life the point of money, not money the point of life?)

EconomicsҢ  not American economics, but the real thing - said exactly the following would happen  exactly what the great economists of the past, like Keynes, would have predicted: because the average Americaגs life had fallen apart, because he was so deeply indebted, society would destabilize, and a fascist-authoritarian wave was likely to roar. Keynes, after all, was the one who pointed out that is precisely what happened in Weimar Germany. In todays context, it goes something like this: when there isnҒt enough to go around, and there is no way to ever get or have or be any more, people define the weakest among them as nonhumanӔ or subhumanӔ  precisely so there is more for them. That brings me to my third lesson.

Fascism is a way to ration a stagnant economy. It is what happens when a collapsed middle class punches down, instead of lifting up. Imagine that the pie is shrinking for a moment. But our bills are going up, year by year. What are we to do? The easiest solution is to exclude some people from having a share. That is what fascism really is. We define some people as inhuman, so that they do not belong anymore ח and then there is more, suddenly, finally, for the true peopleӔ, the volk, the real ones. In Weimar Germany, that is exactly what happened. Spectacular economic mismanagement led to runaway inflation, living standards cratered, there wasnt enough to go around җ bang! Fascism.

But thats what happened in America, too җ only in a less obvious way, at least to pundits, who never leave the DC/NYC bubble. Prices for the basics of life  education, healthcare, even food, rose by thousands of percent. But incomes didnגt. The average persons living standards cratered. There isnҒt enough to go around  enough healthcare, education, incomes, jobs, money, retirement, childcare, maternity leave ח all these things are in chronic, constant shortage, thanks to predatory capitalism, which needs those artificial shortages to boost its profits. So peoples share of the social surplus has declined sharply. That alone predicted a sudden tidal wave of fascism җ and then there was the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which made it more or less inevitable.

Let me give you a concrete example so its clearer. There was a nobody җ a man who used to be a machinist, unemployed now in Weimar Germany, drunk every day, wth no hope in the future. Along came the Nazi party. He joined it, out of hope. And he found himself living in a fine riverside mansion, filled with grand art and furniture. Suddenly, he had power, money, respect, belonging, an address. He was someone. But the mansion was seized from a Jew  and given to him because he was an SS officer. And so, really, was the respect, money, and belonging, too. Do you see what I mean? Itגs often said that national socialismӔ is just a label without a meaning, but that is wrong. It is the act of taking the possessions, belongings, wealth, incomes, jobs, homes, and ultimately, the personhood of those who are even weaker than the middle class who has collapsed into new poverty  by defining them as impure, as unreal, using the state to do it ח creating whole new industries and jobs (not to mention norms, values, and ideals) along the way.

But thats what began to happen in America җ a collapsed middle class, suddenly lurching into new poverty, began punching down, hoping to seize prosperity from those even weaker than it, Mexicans and blacks and immigrants and so on, by taking away everything from them  beginning with their personhood. Stagnation lights the spark of old bigotries. But the lesson is this. Middle class collapse is the strongest predictor of fascism there is ח it tells us a society cant punch up, climb up, lift up anymore, and soon enough, it will begin to have to punch down.

Fascism is always a depression away. What does it mean for a middle class to collapse? Where are the good jobs left in America? The truth is there arenҒt many. Sure, the unemployment rateӔ is low  but the average American is living paycheck to paycheck, unable to muster $500 for an emergency. That tells us in no uncertain terms that the jobs he is doing are low-wage, dead-end ones ח essentially, he is a servant to the new rich, whether he drives their cars, or delivers their fineries, and so on. America has undergone several decades now of hidden stagnation  itגs economics statistics only tell us about the health of capitalism, but when the stock market booms, average people get poorer, not richer, because those profits are had by cutting away their incomes and wages and raiding their pensions  all while charging them higher prices every year for the very things they produce.

But when people cannot make ends meet, then the problem of allocating a stagnant social surplus arises. And yet, just as in Weimar Germany, the capitalists, who are profiting massively by driving the average person into stagnation, cannot be moved - they will not budge an inch, or give a dollar, to lift living standards up. They simply don’t care What is a society to do? There is no solution left, apart from excluding some, so that the illusion of prosperity for the true volk can appear. Bang! The fascist implosion begins. Germany 1934. America 2018. But the lesson is: fascism is always a depression away. It is a solution to a very real problem - a bad one. The problem of depression, of stagnation, of stuck or declining living standards, and no resources or mechanisms available with which to reverse them. What is left but to turn on ones neighbour, and take his bread, then? A starving man will do anything to feed his kids - including believing a bellowing demagogue when he shouts those other kids, the strange-looking ones, are parasites and vermin.

Fascism was predictable. So how come nobody predicted it? The sequence above  stagnation, middle class collapse, simmering rage, implosion ח should have foretold a fascist wave in gigantic blinking red letters blaring air-raid alarms. It did, to those of us who are versed in history, economics, and politics (after all, greater minds, from Adorno to Fromm to Bourdieu, have spent decades explaining how capitalism implodes viciously into fascism  not the Marxist revolution that once was hoped for.) Those of us who did see it coming tried warning of it as desperately, urgently, and loudly as we could. But Americaגs class of leaders  politicians, academics, intellectuals, columnists, pundits - didn’t just refuse to listen. They made us pay a steep price - we were shunned, mocked, reviled, and taunted. Those of us who saw it coming were women and minorities, mostly, or both, and we have lived this before - but those who didn’t see this coming were those who couldn’t. That is because they were all one kind of person: comfortable, upper-middle-class, Ivy League, white, who’d never really lived anywhere but the East Coast of America. No, its not that they;re all bad or inherently bad - it’s that a kind of predictable group think emerged, just like in a frat-house: hubris, arrogance, willful blindness, a closing of the mind - and a backlash against anyone who tried to open it.

דLOL  fascism? Those people are weirdos! No matter how accomplished they are, theyגre nottheyŒre not us! Theyre women and minorities! Come on. WeҒre right  we always are! There are more of us than them ח and were stronger!!Ҕ They were right  there were more of them than there were of us. They were stronger. But that didnגt make them righter. It only made them, sadly, a little deafer, dumber, and blinder. They failed at job one of any leader  protecting their society from turning on itself.

It happened here, and it still is. Because of the comfortable atmosphere of hubris, arrogance, and ignorance among them - America’s politicians, intellectuals, and pundits spent all of 2016 and 2017 lost in a fog of denial, wandering in circles like the blind. “How bad could it possibly be?” A lot, lot worse than they thought, it turns out. They spent that vital time minimizing, denying, and erasing the possibility of implosion - instead of reflecting on it, considering it, understanding it, grappling with it. The New York Times and Washington Post profiled Nazis as handsome, charming rogues, over and over again - while warning their readers never to bring to use words like fascism and authoritarianism, because it couldn’t happen here.

And that is exactly how in 2018, it did, with a vengeance. Bang! Those of us who warned of it were dismissed, taunted, mocked, and sneered at  and we still are. It would be wise for those who made the fatal mistake of not seeing fascism coming when it was eminently predictable to admit it, to learn something from that mistake. But I donגt see any evidence of that. Morning Joe, who supported Trump all election long, is now a vicious enemy of his. But he never examines why, is open enough with his viewers, to say, I was wrong, and that is how we got here. Why was I wrong? Doesn’t it matter? You see, unless there is responsibility amongst leaders - then there will irresponsibility. Until there is accountability, then there will be failure. Not to take responsibility for I failed to protect my society from fascism, and that was my first jobӔ is to add insult to injury. That brings us to my next lesson.

Fascism takes us by surprise  happens faster, harder, and worse than we think because we try very hard not to think about it at all. Weגre in denial  but denial is fascismגs best friend. America spent so much time it-cant-happen-hereing that it did. That is one part of the story in a nutshell. ItҒs difficult to admit that fascism is a thing that hasnt ғgone away, died some kind of natural death. But fascism is more like a plague, which can strike at any time, if you understand the above, than some kind of episode in distant history. ItԒs always just a depression away. And yet when we waste time it-cant-happen-hereing, like AmericaҒs leaders all did, for crucial, vital years, then how can we prepare for it? Fight it? Prevent it? We cant. We disempower ourselves, as we always do, when we make ourselves blind. America was caught totally by surprise by its fascist implosion. Most people, IҒd wager  who are good and decent people ח are still in shock, though they might not know it. Theres a lingering hangover of disbelief, of confusion, of bewilderment. Wait җ were killing kids? What the? How is this happening? Yet shock is what happens when you spend so long in denial, reality comes as a jolt.

NobodyҒs immune from fascism  itגs only cure is prosperity. Fascism spread to Europe, too. Nobody is immune from it. And yet the spread of this latest fascist wave tallies with what the economics predict: those societies where middle classes have done better see less of it (not none of it). Sure, France and Germany and Sweden all have their extremist fringes  who have risen to power. Yes, the Gilets Jaunes are setting Paris on fire. But these nations arenגt headed by supremacists. They arent nearly as badly affected by neofascism as America is җ and that is because America is where the middle class collapsed the most.

Fascism is a disease of modernity  itגs cancer. It happens when middle classes implode into sudden poverty  thatגs a curse of prosperity, because middle classes are a new phenomenon in history. When they cant make ends meet, when they grow desperate, enraged, when they lost trust and faith in society җ then they turn on those below them and beside them. A man who has been lifelong friends with his neighbours will take all that they have if he sees his children starving. It is the simplest and greatest lesson of the 20th century. For that reason, peace amongst people is the most fragile and tenuous victory of all  it only becomes possible through shared, enduring, growing prosperity. Why is it that a century later ח we still havent learned it? And that brings me to my last lesson.

Social democracy insulates societies against fascism. Fascism is rising hardest and fastest in countries which have failed the challenge of really modernizing. Of giving people a fair chance at a decent life. Foremost amongst these is America җ where people must make grim, terrible choices, like chemotherapy, or feeding my kids?Ӕ, my life ӗ or my life savings? But there are many more. EuropeԒs peripheral states, too, are failing to modernize. Russia has descended into nationalist fervor since it failed to modernize. And so on. The lesson is simple. Fascism is a kind of reaction to a society being stuck at a certain stage of development  it is what happens when a society fails to make the transition from capitalism to social democracy. Or, worse, regresses from social democracy to capitalism. Fascist pressures are emerging in Europe precisely because a foolish policy of austerity is turning social democracy back into capitalism. You can think of it like falling into a chasm, if you want.

Capitalism is not meant to last forever. It is meant to evolve into social democracy. Society is meant to transcend capitalism, to go beyond it, by investing the social surplus it creates in things like hospitals, schools, education, media, retirement, for all. If a society doesn’t do that - then the rich will become ultra rich, while the middle implode into the new poor, and that new class of poor will grow resentful, enraged, embittered, and punch down, hoping to seize what they can from those even more powerless than them. Bang! Thatגs the fascist implosion. Its what happened to the world in 2018. Economics has everything to do with it. It’s not a coincidence that so many countries turned so hard towards fascism so fast.

The question in 2019 is whether we are wise enough to begin understanding it.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/31/18 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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