A Citizen’s Synopsis
Every SPIN Report proceeds from the assumption that a revitalization of democracy—meaning, readers might recall, citizen rule—is a sine qua non not only of solving present problems but also of giving people generally their best shot at collective survival. Thus, in place of an ‘Executive Summary,’ intended to give busy rulers a bottom-line peek at important data, the SPIN Report begins with a Citizen’s Synopsis, meant to break out overarching elements for the overburdened believer in majority rule. This introductory overview provides a précis of the SPIN Report in its entirety.
Every SPIN Report follows a similar format, although each initial summation may vary in its organization. A useful way to begin today’s examination of ‘dollars and sense,’ in this first of what SPIN intends to be an ongoing series covering all aspects of contemporary life, is to note that a fairly extensive bibliography and set of further citations accompanies this and every other SPIN Report. As SPIN readers will come to understand, almost all of these works originate in corporate sources. Overwhelmingly, they exist in order to distract and mislead average people, or to provide false and irrelevant information to them, or for some combination of these purposes.
The absolute best that one can expect from such materials is extremely partial coverage. This partiality includes both senses of the word. On the one hand, they are exceedingly incomplete, especially in regard to historical and political economic components of the issue at hand. On the other hand, often while propounding a fatuous ‘neutrality,’ or ‘objectivity,’ they lean over backwards to develop arguments and ideas, and to choose facts, that support the current rulers of the world, the financiers and industrialists and other money-bags that ‘pay the piper’ nearly everywhere on Earth today.
Of course, SPIN has its own biases. However, it does not ever seek to cover them up. It stands squarely behind perspectives and tactics that provide succor to wage-earners, to people whose only or primary equity in the economy is their labor and their brains and whose only or primary stake in the polity is their citizenship and their capacity to act collectively.
Just as obviously, SPIN can advance no credible claim of comprehensiveness. Still, one clear purpose of every SPIN Report is a narrative as complete as possible without writing a book or a series of volumes on a topic. Deep background, recent history, varied political and economic interconnections, all this and more appear in every presentation that SPIN promulgates. This means that these texts are vastly more extensive than most of what readers see. At plus-or-minus ten-to-twenty thousand words, a SPIN Report contains as much information as a week’s worth of business sections, or a week’s worth of national news, and so on.
The point of this intellectually forthright, in-depth evaluation is simple. Citizen empowerment, or more purposefully a strategy for gaining democratic power in the hands of working people, is impossible without knowledge and analysis to back up potential strategy. SPIN intends to act as a counterweight, no matter how minimal in comparison, to the vast moneyed behemoth of capitalist media that currently predominates around the planet.
- The budgetary and debt morass on the radar screen now reflects the millennia-old life-cycle of ruling elites, which began in the foggy prehistory of the agricultural, metallic, and military revolutions that led to class societies in the first place.
- More recently, in the five centuries or so that the bourgeoisie has vied for dominance, its agenda has revolved around budgeting debt for purposes of conquest or other forms of military expansion and control.
- This manifestation of military imperialism especially characterized the North American colonies of Britain and the early United States, although always countercurrents more democratic and socially kind competed with the itinerary of empire.
- At the heart of these relatively recent expressions of imperial hegemony have always stood questions of commodity production, access to raw materials and markets, and trade.
- At the same time that all of these issues intertwine with one version or other of monetary crisis, the issue of money itself is generally poorly understood or hidden, even though comprehending it clearly is critical to any useful apprehension of the main components of the issues at hand.
Half a hundred more points might further flesh out this provision of a basis for deep thinking about budgets and debts. Later Reports will undoubtedly generate some of these; others will be welcome as links through SPIN’s portals of one sort or another.
Every SPIN Report presents a century or more of historical and political economic underpinnings to an issue. Three of these appear in starring roles in the present Report.
- The United States Civil War served as a benchmark for initiating core components of the Federal Government’s monetary, banking, debt, and military practices that continue into the current phase of things.
- The so-called ‘Progressive Era,’ in response to a legitimate Populist upsurge, stands as the consolidating point for the ‘Executive Budget’ management and other accounting practices that remain the undergirding of government spending to this day.
- The policy face of these elements of ‘scientific management,’ the point of which was centralizing control of all political and economic decisions in a plutocracy of corporate governance, was the extension of the Fourteenth Amendment to include corporate persons, the formation of the Federal Reserve, the inauguration of a national income tax, and the general promulgation of an ‘open-door’ approach to trade.
Again, a detailing of the plus-or-minus hundred years of capitalism that formulated the present era would encompass dozens or scores-of-dozens more ideas. However, these few are especially pertinent for what is transpiring today and might stretch adequately to include many of the notions nominally missing in action at this particular juncture.
THE NEW DEAL, KEYNSIAN METHODS, & REACTIONARIES CRAZY LIKE FOXES
While every SPIN Report has one or more body sections that dissect and consider the nature of the problems under review as a contemporary, day-to-day matter, different Reports will organize this in different ways. Today’s ‘dollars and sense’ material begins with the apparent inescapable slipping and sliding of capital into periodic crisis, from which a series of especially relevant observations follow.
- The first is that FDR ‘saved’ capitalism in America from itself and thereby inaugurated the modern period of financial capital’s predominance.
- The second is that the thinking of John Maynard Keynes, whose The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money is nearly as little read, and as widely misread, as is the work of Karl Marx, has underpinned eight decades of economic policy but is under challenge now as unworkable, inadequate, and generally ill-advised.
- The third is that the militarization of American society that occurred in World War Two has consistently acted as the locus of Keynesian constructs, through the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and otherwise.
- The fourth is that behind every manifestation of world economic operations has lurked a cabal of American Federal and corporate leaders, whose ‘revolving door’ interchange remains the guiding infrastructure of overall world political economic management.
- The fifth is that, from the outset of this definable big-business program, angry reaction has characterized the response of major elements of American capital; these naysayers have long planned and recently succeeded in beginning to operationalize a demolition of social components of the New Deal paradigm.
- The final element of this recent background is that, since the 1940’s no cohesive coalition has come to the fore to represent the interests of American workers, who remain the least organized, the most divided, and the generally closest to powerless working class anywhere in the world.
The second section of this assessment examines particularly the present unfolding of things. It too consists of a series of pertinent contentions.
- The formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the seeming centrality of an energy crisis, both at the initiation of this period of crisis, and throughout the nearly forty years of its existence, is a twofold dodge: first, in that the causes and results of the problems had little to do with energy as such and everything to do with monopoly control and profitability, and second, in that the prime mover of much of this brouhaha was the already decided primacy of a Uranium economy for the 21st Century.
- The ‘Reagan Revolution’ was merely the first stage of bubble-and-credit economics as a rescue plan for Keynesian capitalism, one that always sought further militarization and centralization at the expense of social expenditure and popular control; Clinton, ‘W,’ and Obama represent further expressions of this process.
- The savings-and-loan collapse, the dot.com bubble, and the present slippery slope toward depression were merely major steppingstones on a single political economic path, at each juncture of which similar controversies emerged over debt, deficit, and Federal spending.
- Behind all of these surface controversies lie the actual polarities engendered by ‘neoliberalism,’ empire, war, and trade disparities, among other social, political, and economic factors.
The depth and intractability of this forty years of chaos and catastrophe, shot through with what stockbrokers celebrate as “the largest creation of wealth in history,” means that any mere compilation, such as this Report, will include only smatterings of all that comprise the problems that we face. However, that ninety-five per cent or more of ‘established’ media outlets—which is to say for-profit and most not-for-profit media today(and those in-between, like Huffington Post)—have literally zero to say about the factors listed above attests to the poverty of the current conversation and the degree of both fatuousness and concerted misguidance ubiquitous at the present time.
The final piece of this middle portion of today’s SPIN Report investigates the basis for thinking either that the present pass will end up as more of the same fiscal machinations that have characterized a continuing crisis since the early 1970’s, or that the situation now will lead to a fundamental amping up of the possibility for cataclysm and devolution. The extant narrative looks at both possibilities—in other words, that things might continue as before, or that some fundamental shift must soon, as in the next few years, take place.
The Southern Peoples Information Network has regularly and stringently argued that nothing in the past decade has evinced any demonstrably new development of class conflict, whether in budgetary or other forms. However, the deductions now most persuasive about what is likely to happen in the immediate future may indeed be one sort or other of ‘doomsayer.’ The capacity of capital to create another bubble and, through the legerdemain of fixed investments and credit, keep the logrolling and pork-barrel policies in motion, seems at the very least highly suspect.
Every SPIN Report offers its readers a minimum of four or more pragmatic, eminently practicable conclusions. These often center around, and always include, participatory and grassroots mechanisms for addressing difficulties that represent innovative and little discussed or unmentioned approaches to defusing crisis. So too, today’s Report proffers the following points, which themselves revolve around the fact that no ‘mainstream’ organization that purports to support the needs and strengthening of working people—not the AFL-CIO, any of its component unions, or any other trade union; not any church that calls itself ‘progressive;’ not any agglomeration of identity politics, non-profit NGO’s, or other manifestation of ‘protest politics’—has anything akin to a strategy, let alone a plan, to vault U.S. average citizens toward a powerful role in the political arena that will determine the nature of their lives, or even whether they live or die.
- Popular Education about these issues—money, credit, the corporate/Federal economic colossus, etc.—is a past-due priority; failure to accomplish a raising of the level of citizen comprehension about these matters means that horrifying results will ensue.
- The only way to enable such grassroots learning initiatives is through a ground-up engagement process, one that both starts with asking community leaders for input and encourages an open-ended agenda that communities help to shape.
- Politically, the ‘two-party-system’ is a fraud, with both major formations financed by and representative of corporate capital’s primacy; thus popular political organization, one way or another, will happen, the only issue whether a further fraud—in the form of such fanciful celebration of the false as the ‘Tea Party Movement’—or a genuinely community-based politics emerges.
- Amazingly enough, substantial elements of the capitalist class could also be primary beneficiaries of the sort of popular upsurge as the nation, and the world with it, needs; a huge basis for much of the present bitter invective about debts and budgets is that present power relations absolutely prohibit creative and viable solutions.
Every SPIN Report finishes with a key indicator, which a political participant might reasonably expect to play a central role in how an issue continues to develop. In this Report about budgets and debt, this mainstage production concerns the likely political victory of either such so-called Libertarian ideas of a leader like Ron Paul, or the total evisceration of the remaining New Deal social welfare aspects of the Federalized economy.
In either case(and these two reactionary ideologies are by no means mutually exclusive), a reiteration of nationalism and protectionism will become politically irresistible. Whether such cretinist chants are potent or to a degree paltry, they will unravel the basis for the world’s economic operation according to the Bretton Woods and subsequent protocols.
In such circumstances, the warnings of those who formed the United Nations, the World Bank, and so forth will prove not only likely, but in all probability also inevitable. These spokesmen were, clearly, the denizens of finance and those sections of industry that foresaw a continued unfolding of ‘the American Century’ under bourgeois auspices. Nevertheless, the whirlpool of social calamity that they predicted if ‘free-market’ economics continued untrammeled—cascading unemployment, trade wars, uncontrolled migration, and armed conflict, culminating in a worldwide war of one kind or another—are as clearly persuasive now as they were in the 1940’s.
Like World War One, World War Three “can’t happen.” But it will come to pass unless certain conditions prevail. The only things that can avert it are a further castration of working class power, with the concomitant enslavement of untold generations of poor people to a monopolistic monstrosity, on the one hand, or a renaissance of working class organization and consciousness, on the other hand, accompanied by a strategic popular program for the planetary enactment of the strongest possible forms of democratic engagement, power, and policy.
This Report, whatever its strengths and weaknesses, exists to support the latter potential. These sorts of choices are the hidden agendas and buried possibilities of the contemporary façade of debate about budget reform, debt ceilings, and corporate socialism of the economy today. Nowhere else does a reader have a chance to contemplate this, which is the purpose of both this précis and the larger Report that it introduces.