Beggaring Student Life

Why do we have a public education system? Why have youth gain college educations? We have forgotten the basics because of an obsession with money, specifically “not paying” for “socialism.” I do some venting on this theme in this latest article.

Beggaring Student Life
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci38.html

Recalling William Somerset Maugham’s account of his flight from France in 1940 led me into a reflection of the corrosive barrenness of the Libertarian view, as championed today by Ron Paul, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

Letter #2, “Being Attentive”
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/letter233.html

Where Did “the 99% vs. the 1%” Come From?

“What was the first appearance of ‘the 99% vs the 1%?’ Was it with the OWS or does it go back earlier to movements long forgotten?”

I don’t know, but here is an item from 25 October 2007:

All the fancy blather of all the talking heads is pure distraction from this simple fact: 99% of the American people (and of the world) are simply being robbed lock, stock and barrel. Their money, savings, pensions, livelihoods, homes, lands, jobs and career prospects, security, even their very food, water and air are being taken from them as quickly as the wheels of government, finance and industry can be turned to this task. We are taken to be crash-test dummies who can be hypnotized by televised images of Britney Spears underpants, and who won’t move our butts off the couch to keep our own homes and lives from being ripped off their financial foundations by the tornado-force suction of a rapaciously manipulated economy.

That excerpt is from: Homes Of The Crash Test Dummies
http://www.counterpunch.org/2007/10/25/homes-of-the-crash-test-dummies/

A few reminders of the times during which this was written:

June 2006 — U.S. housing prices peak.

February-August 2007 — subprime industry collapses (ongoing).

August 2007 — worldwide “credit crunch” as subprime mortgage backed securities are discovered in portfolios of banks.

September 2007 — Federal economists meet to address “housing recession that jeopardizes U.S. growth.”

October 2007
— U.S. backed bank consortium creates “superfund” to buy back, for detoxification and resale, the now junk subprime-backed securities (this effort is abandoned in December, there are no customers for 2nd hand junk);
— Federal Reserve Chairman Bernancke alarmed about bursting housing bubble;
— Treasury Secretary Paulson says: “the housing decline is still unfolding and I view it as the most significant risk to our economy. … The longer housing prices remain stagnant or fall, the greater the penalty to our future economic growth.”

The housing decline continued, the percentage of all households in some stage of foreclosure was more than:

1.03% in 2007 year-end
1.84% in 2008 year-end
2.21% in 2009 year-end
1.28% by mid-year 2010
2.23% in 2010 year-end
0.90% by mid-year 2011                                                                                                 1.45% in 2011 year end.

Percentages based on filings within the year (or half year). Data from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_United_States_housing_bubble

The global financial crisis (crash) occurred during September-October 2008.

Today, 1 in 5 U.S. mortgages is underwater (more owed than the market value of the home).

So, perhaps my 2007 CP article was one of numerous sources that eventually coalesced into the OWS “the 99% vs the 1%.” From the mail I got at the time, I know the paragraph quoted was the most popular one in the article.

[OWS = Occupy Wall Street]

What Next for OWS?

It is clear that OWS-type encampments cannot sustain long term occupations of public spaces; inclement winter weather and the even more hostile atmosphere of establishment reaction (e.g., police actions to deny access to port-a-potties) have dispersed many of the social democracy insurgents.

Should OWS become a political movement? Can it? What could it accomplish? How long would it take?

The endpoint or vision of OWS aspirations is probably best described in the 2010 book:

Ill Fares The Land
by Tony Judt, (Penguin, 2010).

Read this if you would prefer our future to be one of social democracy rather than corporate feudalism.

An inspiring vision is fine, but how do you get there? How do we fill in the blanks, write out the recipe? Realizing that we want to change EVERYTHING, and that we are in the minority as regards financial, physical and political power, where do we start?

I describe a suggested starting point and a procedure for advancing “a revolution,” which are fitted to each individual’s nature, and would be carried out empirically rather than dogmatically. My purpose is to encourage us all to maintain our shared social democratic vision, and to offer ideas that may stimulate your own thinking for better ways to actualize that vision. The new article making my case has just been published by SWANS:

What Next for OWS, Politics?
5 December 2011
http://www.swans.com/library/art17/mgarci34.html

You will do yourself a favor by reading Judt’s book. You would do Swans a favor by sending a letter to the editor if an article there moves you. You have already done me a favor by reading this far, but I’ll enjoy readers’ comments, too.

The 50% US GDP Heist, OWS and GIABO

Many of you will be very interested in the financial scandals that led to the 2008 economic collapse, and its social repercussions which include OWS (Occupy Wall Street). I have expanded some comments on this topic, which I posted at the Unrepentant Marxist blog, and present them here. I am posting this because it includes links to 2 video presentations (the first in three parts), which I think you will find interesting. The first 3-part video is of Christopher Hedges speaking to Harvard students, and the second video is Episode 217 of the Keiser Report, a regular commentary on the “Global insurrection against banker occupation, GIABO.”

Both of these video presentations suggest directions OWS can take, or evolve into, in answer to the question of “what next for OWS?”

For those who have not followed the financial news, the Keiser Report discusses: the recent scandal of MF Global, the European financial crisis and secret Franco-German machinations within the Fiscal World War III on the Continent (“Überdebten”), and the explosive revelations of the Bloomberg Freedom-of-Information suit to release Federal Reserve data on its secret multi-trillion-dollar lending (half the US GDP) to the insolvent big banks in 2008. The banks made $13B in profits “processing” these loans from the Federal Reserve (backing up the banks’ toxic worthless subprime “assets”), and which they distributed mostly as bonuses within their ranks. Al Capone only owned a few wards of Chicago, but these Wall Street banks managed to snag half the US GDP. Sustained moral outrage by the public would be a good thing, far more than just OWS; where is it?

Today, I finished reading Tony Judt’s book Ill Fares The Land (Penguin, 2010).

I highly recommend this book to everyone, and especially to anyone participating in the Occupy Movement (particularly the student-age contingent) and/or sympathetic to OWS aspirations. Judt’s book is like a blending of Keiser Report data into a Hedges exhortation to arrive at a seamless exegesis of this moment in history. This book is the moral equivalent in our time to Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” in 1776. Would that it was as widely read and taken to heart.

Christopher Hedges at Harvard on OWS:

Part 1: http://youtu.be/AlR9rMrYuHU
Part 2: http://youtu.be/ugU6ELwbi_o
Part 3: http://youtu.be/SKSUfCG7ax4

or

(for part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlR9rMrYuHU)
(for part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugU6ELwbi_o)
(for part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKSUfCG7ax4)

Thanks to Louis Proyect for posting these video links at: http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/chris-hedges-speaks-at-harvard-on-ows/

To complement these Hedges videos, listen to this Keiser Report (below) on the toxic entwining of:

— the Banksters (who are insolvent but want “unlimited” public bailouts with which to give themselves bonuses and build up big hoards of cash so as to keep gambling, instead of spreading capital throughout the economy, stimulating it and creating jobs — the economic purpose of commercial banks),

— the US Congress (which wants to spend more than available revenue), and

— the Federal Reserve (which is interested in enabling both pathologies to the tune of $7.77T — equal to 50% of the US GDP!!! — lent to the banks in secret before Congress created the one-tenth as large relief program, TARP).

The value and failings of OWS are commented on by guest Denninger near the end of this Keiser Report episode.

At the beginning of the program, Keiser and Herbert are discussing the latest financial scandal, of an investment firm (headed by a former New Jersey governor) that stole customer money. Brokers are not supposed to dip into customer accounts to make up their own gambling losses (especially when near $1B). This only works as comedy when done by W. C. Fields, in the Great Depression era film “The Bank Dick.” (The same title for a movie about banks today would convey a different connotation, which Fields probably intended as a double entendre.)

The Keiser Report commentators would like to see OWS take a more specific focus onto financial industry reform, which would require revising attitudes about federal oversight and monetary policy; and we know this economic concern would necessarily have to expand to include progress in reforming campaign financing, a.k.a. the corruption of Congress.

Chris Hedges, like Bill Moyers his elder contemporary, came out of divinity school and passed through journalism, so in their third chapter of life they preach to large secular congregations through the airwaves, and their sermons are based on moral principles. This is not a criticism:

“It is the gap between the inherently ethical nature of public decision-making and the utilitarian quality of contemporary public debate that accounts for the lack of trust felt towards politics and politicians…humans need a language in which to express their moral instincts.” — Tony Judt

The ideal follow-on political movement to OWS would combine the energy of moral outrage with a utilitarian specificity on financial reform (e.g., financial market taxes, banking reform, consumer & student debt relief, much more legal prosecution of fraud related to the 2008 financial collapse), similar to the reform movement represented by the Pecora Commission in 1932-1934. (My initial comments along these lines appeared in the UM blog at: http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/the-people-cry-out-against-the-new-great-depression/)

So, from Hedges I see the message to OWS being “get mad as hell.” From Keiser and company I see the message to OWS being “now that you’re good and hot, focus your fire into a laser beam to burn through the stranglehold of bankster fraud.”

See Episode 217 here (mislabeled direct link):
http://rt.com/programs/keiser-report/episode-216-max-keiser/

or

E217 at:
http://rt.com/programs/keiser-report/

GIABO is Max Keiser’s acronym for the idea of a global financial war between “banks,” or massive finance capital in speculation, and the commons within each sovereign state, also known by various labels: the welfare state, social democracy (Tony Judt), conviviality (Ivan Illich), or the social contract (MG,Jr).

An interesting presentation on the “European Debt Crisis In Eight Graphs” is given in the following article, which includes discussion and analysis:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/the-european-debt-crisis-in-eight-graphs/2011/12/01/gIQAsmR5GO_blog.html?wprss=ezra-klein

From the above article one can see that in Europe the war is between Northern European banks and Southern European (Ireland counts as “southern” because it is Catholic) social democracies. The “banker occupation” of a country is called “austerity.”

World War III is a post-nuclear financial war for control of the commons, globally.

A National Students’ Recovery Bank

Many self-occupied people are growing apprehensive about the potential disruption of their business activities, their family routines, and their leisure by the massed marches and encampments of the Occupy Wall Street, and now Occupy Public Spaces movement. Let’s just call it the Occupy Movement, or OM (“Om manipadme hūm”).

It is obvious that much of the energy and vibrancy of the OM comes from its young adult participants. Many of these are students, or former students, who have painful amounts of debt for education loans, which are difficult to pay off since good-paying skilled employment is not widely available. The laws establishing the federally-funded student loan programs prevent student borrowers from shedding this debt by declaring bankruptcy, so these debts are albatrosses (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) aborting careers or impeding their progress.

It is my belief that such debt should be cancelled, or at least partially cancelled and refinanced on much easier terms. This is, after all, what was done to “recover” the Savings and Loan Industry (1989) and the commercial banking industry (2008) after their respective bankruptcies. This same model was applied in Europe earlier this fall to stabilize the currency (the Euro): German Chancellor Angela Merkel forged an agreement with the European banks to write off 50% of the Greek debt, in exchange for recapitalizing these banks from the public coffers (mainly German) for the remainder.

Would cancelling student loan debt, or refinancing it on much gentler terms, solve Occupy Wall Street? That is to say “make it go away” as so many ruffled as-yet-uninundated petty bourgeois wish? No, but it would address the problems of a sizable portion of those in the OM. The complete solution to making the OM history is to undo thirty years of neo-liberalism. If one were to try to put that goal into a list of “action items” or “demands” it would stretch beyond the horizon, certainly one of the reasons the people of the OM have not been willing to be corralled by a few specific demands. What’s wanted is a transformation of political economy worldwide, and that must begin with a major shift of global public consciousness: how we think about society, economics, and “progress.”

Still, our inability to solve the root problem of generating popular prosperity globally, and quickly, should not prevent us from solving one small local manifestation of that problem, since we can. In this spirit, I propose the establishment of a National Students’ Recovery Bank, and I make my case in the following article.

A National Students’ Recovery Bank
21 November 2011
http://www.swans.com/library/art17/mgarci33.html

I believe this is a matter of inter-generational solidarity, and I hope you find the idea worthwhile enough to recommend it to others.

Afta’ NAFTA the Occupy Disasta’

I began writing political essays during the 1992 US presidential campaign. My first readers were members of a small local 3rd party discussion group. Writing was my way of clarifying my understanding of what the group was showing me about the American public mind. I then recycled my own analysis of these currently popular political attitudes into newsletters for the group. This effort only lasted for about six weeks, after which I focused all of my political energy into the tasks of the unionization group (Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers) at my place of work.

Three of my political essays from 1993-1994 seemed worth saving: “Life Among the Entitled”, “Don’t Get Passed”, and “An Ethical-Freedom Mapping of Political Hierarchies”, and I’ve collected them into one document.

NAFTA-&-Anarchism-1994

“Life Among the Entitled” includes a comparison of Japanese industrial expansion onto mainland Asia during the 1970s and 1980s, to American de-industrialization — “outsourcing” — as facilitated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law in 1994. I repeated the essence of this discussion in my just posted article on the Occupy Wall Street movement, “From Social Contract to Occupy Wall Street” (see Swans.com, 7 November 2011). A quip in 1994 was “afta’ NAFTA disasta'”, meaning an expected major loss of jobs in the United States, which Ross Perot predicted would be such a southward rush that it would create “a great sucking sound” in the American heartland. In 2011 we can see the fruition of US de-industrializaion: Occupy Wall Street.

“Don’t Get Passed” is a short meditation on the most popular goal of Americans when seated behind the steering wheels of their automobiles: don’t get passed!

“An Ethical-Freedom Mapping of Political Hierarchies” is a short discussion of ideal anarchism, and my presentation of a map, or graph, which displays the wide variety of political hierarchies that history has shown are possible, as characterized by two parameters: freedom and equality. In the article, equality is called “ethics” or the “ethical dimension”. This ethical dimension could also be taken as some indicator of the magnanimity of the social contract within the political entity being mapped. In an earlier post (about the Swans.com articles of 7 Nov 2011) I stated that political stability is a reflection of the balancing of political freedom and the social contract.

I should make a 3D map by adding a “political stability” axis out the the plane of the equality-freedom map. It may be that the peak of political stability is in the “parliamentary” and “populist” regions of the equality-freedom map, and falls off in every direction from there.

Dusting off these nearly 20-year-old essays, I am struck by how clearly my father foresaw the economic decline that would follow from NAFTA and American de-industrialization, and whose human face we see today as the Occupy Wall Street movement. I also notice how I always gravitate toward the socio-political dyad of “freedom and equality”, or equivalently “political freedom and the social contract”, to characterize and understand political fairness, which may be another name for political stability.

Political Freedom, the Social Contract, and Occupy Wall Street

On November 4, 2011, I put some thoughts about democracy into a short comment, which I posted at the web-site of Louis Proyect, a writer I respect.

The Unrepentant Marxist
http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/

The thread into which I placed my comment was a heated discussion between Marxists about the pros and cons of one Marxist academic and media hound called Zizek, and his recent article “Is Democracy the Enemy?”
(http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/is-democracy-the-enemy-a-reply-to-zizek/)

My first reaction was: democracy is only the enemy if the people are your enemy.

Later, I was reminded of some important history (noted below), and from this, and also reflecting on my own biases that show up in my writing, arrived at a conclusion about what “democracy” really means, or at least what it really should mean.

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November 6 is the 20th anniversary of the end of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, which itself was declared dissolved on December 26, 1991.

Here is a discussion about this at RT TV:

http://youtu.be/IuNe1DA4gnE

Two quotes from the show that I particularly liked:

“There are more communists in Berkeley than in Poland” — by a Communist Party official in Poland in the 1980s.

“The social contract was broken…” hence the people lost faith in the Communist Party (from the 1970s) and finally the state (the USSR).

I view Occupy Wall Street (OWS) as a popular reaction to “the social contract was broken” (from 1981 on) in the USA (as with the similar popular protests in the Euro-zone these days).

The Communist Party had ceased to be the exclusive holder of power in the USSR after 1989; Gorbachev had introduced/allowed multiparty parliamentary politics, though the CP retained much control. So, the USSR was a multiparty democracy between 1989-1991.

An interesting conclusion of the panel in this show was that the end/”collapse” of the CP/USSR was a contingent event, not an inevitable one. Had Gorbachev acted differently, there might still be a multiparty democratic USSR.

I think the social contract, and political freedom are the two essentials for any ideology to enjoy enduring popular support. Democracy is a political form that can facilitate the operation of the first and the experience of the second. But a hollow democracy, as we are increasingly experiencing here in the USA, is a form without substance if “the social contract is broken” (government fails as the steward of popular social goals and benefits), and if popular (as opposed to elite/insider or corporate) “political freedom” is disconnected from political power, so the “general will” (Rousseau) does not affect the course of government. Democracy alone, as an empty formalism, is not the real issue, but “democracy” spoken of as a label for an integrated procedural complex that expresses the social contract and mediates real political freedom.

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I am pleased to announce the Internet publication of two articles, which connect history to current events (OWS) and also probe the connection of our interpretations of current events with our own self images (OWS and Libya). I took my time to include a good amount of historical data in these articles, and to write them so they unreel smoothly. Also, I aimed for informative works instead of polemical ones.

Political Belief and Self Image: Aron, OWS, And Libya
7 November 2011
http://www.swans.com/library/art17/mgarci31.html

From Social Contract to Occupy Wall Street
7 November 2011
http://www.swans.com/library/art17/mgarci32.html

The article on political belief was inspired by my experiences arguing my case for support of the Libyan Revolution. I was led to do a great deal of reading, from early this year, and the incubated pondering on this topic was applied to describe how a personal self conception could express itself publicly as “political belief”, and how such subconscious extensions of personality can clash emotionally in what should be even-tempered discussions of political facts. I illustrate the general ideas with three examples: 1950s Cold War political argumentation among French intellectuals, the thinking of people in Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and the arguments pro and con over the Libyan Revolution.

What is Occupy Wall Street (OWS)? In order to know that, one has to understand where OWS comes from, that is to say what is it about conditions today that have led so many people to manifest as OWS? Part of my research to answer these questions was to review the history that led to the economic conditions of today. My views on OWS are presented in both articles, the second article being an effort to show the details of the shift from the 1945 international consensus for social contracts, to the post 1970s dissension of neo-liberalism and widening income inequality.

My own article on OWS is an attempt to provide a “complete package” in the sense of including discussion of: “where did OWS come from?” and “what are OWS individuals thinking?” with “how is OWS affecting mainstream/corporate political opinion?” plus “what public policies would answer OWS grievances?”, with a listing of some Internet resources presenting pertinent economic data.

Enjoy