Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Posts Tagged ‘riots’

Austerity And Its Discontents

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 9, 2011

Even as London’s eastern neighborhoods are in flames because of austerity, President Obama is using the S&P downgrade as a pretext for more economy- and grandma-killing austerity here:

Let’s note, at the start, that this downgrade was absurd. The credit rating of the United States is not in jeopardy. The U.S. government prints dollars — it can no more run out of dollars than a bowling alley can run out of strikes.

What’s really happening is an attempt by both parties to justify slashing Social Security and Medicare. Republicans have long wanted to roll back the New Deal. What is relatively new is that a Democratic president is now dead-set on cutting these programs as well.

President Barack Obama, in his speech Monday about the downgrade, used the market turmoil as an excuse to do just that. After a debt ceiling deal in which the Democrats argued that defense spending cuts – not entitlement cuts — could close the long-term deficit, Obama said Monday that there’s “not much further” he can trim defense. Despite the fact that defense spending has gone up on his watch. Instead, Obama said, we need cuts in social spending, or, as he phrased it, “modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare.”

In effect, there seems to have been a merger of both parties into a single force advocating for the interests of bondholders and the cutting of Medicare and Social Security. It’s why both Republicans and Democrats are now blaming each other for the downgrade — as if the downgrade is to be taken seriously.

[…]

Strange and ominous political eddies are already emerging. Congressional disapproval is higher than 80 percent. This could turn ugly – as it has before in U.S. history. While we’ve airbrushed the legacy of political violence out of U.S. history, it’s there. Labor conducted gun battles with Pinkerton private military forces in the late 19th century. Strikes often turned deadly in the 1930s. If there are serious defense cuts, the prospect of hundreds of thousands of war-weary former soldiers thrown into a terrible economy is not, shall we say, a recipe for social stability.

With proposals on the table to cut defense and social spending in a deflationary economy, maybe U.S. political leaders are just throwing one final, blow-out empire-ending party.

I don’t mean to push the panic button. After all, America has a stable political order that can handle a great deal of stress. This system, though, is rooted in a middle class that believes its interests are aligned with those running the country.

As the wealth, opportunity, social status and economic security of the middle class evaporates, so, too, could this belief.

We don’t not want to find out what happens if we should reach that point. But if politicians keep using S&P to justify bondholder-friendly policies that damage the interests of the middle class — we just might.

A word to the wise.

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