Excerpts From A Brilliant Essay by Joe Bageant

The stimulus money will work if enough suckers believe it will work. But it’ll only work for a while, until we run out of stimulus money. Then somebody’s got to print some more and get ‘em to believin’ again. It’s like poking a frog in a frog race for one jump at a time. You ain’t gonna ever see the finish line. . . .

The petty right and the bumbling left find themselves unexpectedly meeting one another these days, as they navigate the craters of our bombed out economic landscape. Were it not for the ideological war in progress (it’s not a cultural war, no matter what the university pundits say, it’s a capitalist state sponsored ideological war), they would probably form a powerful combined populist movement that would scare Washington right out of its silk shorts. Naturally, political strategists on both sides do everything possible to keep the rank and file from discovering the growing overlap of liberal and conservative thinking (or in some cases, nonthinking). . . .

Not many working people on either side still believe that what is good for Wall Street is good for Main Street, or that very much trickles down from Wall Street to our level. No matter how much money we sweat for, or borrow–or Congress borrows in our name without ever asking us–and throw at Wall Street, the money sticks up there on the fortieth floor. Then it disappears into that bizarro funhouse mirror of the real economy, the virtual economy–euphemistically called banking and investment and the market. Our market system of “investment” is based upon getting in at the right moment, grabbing other people’s money, then getting out fast . Which pretty much describes the key elements a bank heist. . . .

And extreme wealth cannot be accumulated by individuals, except by extracting it from the multitude of other individuals—a little or a lot from each member if the working masses. . . .

For now though, the capitalist growth-bot will march on unimpeded by the greater mass of Americans. Until it crashes. It is very hard to imagine capitalism being brought down by the uncomplaining masses below, who draw sustenance from it and offer their sons and daughters to its wars without complaint. . . .
the inevitability of [capitalism’s] collapse from within, due to its utter unsustainability. Billions will suffer. It seems the faceless laboring masses never make a gain, even an inadvertent one, without immense suffering. And even when they do, any advantage they gain is financialised in the virtual economy by the elites, and loaned back to them at compound interest, then tranched for more virtual profits, and on and on and on. Such is the architecture of our sickness.

Defenders of capitalism claim that there can be no real economy, no real material value created by the real people on Main Street, without the financing of Wall Street’s virtual economy. Allegedly, they are so intertwined as to be the same thing, which they are, and that no other way of doings things is possible, which is patently untrue. The storyline goes that without virtual economy financing from Wall Street, without the ever-expanding debt that drives the quest for limitless growth, the world would end. So strong is this hallucination that capitalist theoreticians such as Guy Sorman say, “even in this time of financial crisis, the global benefits of the new financial markets have surpassed their costs.”

What the fuck globe are ya living on Guy? Have you looked around lately? The global financial crash, which continues to cause world wide misery, is a benefit? . . . .

The Nobel Prize winning economist also declares, “Market mechanisms are so efficient that they can manage threats to long-term development, such as the exhaustion of natural resources, far better than states can. If global warming does become a real problem for example, price mechanisms or a carbon tax pollution [making the right to pollute sellable for profit] would easily encourage a more efficient use of energy [ only the rich and corporations will be able to afford energy]. But then, I’m not too surprised at Sorman’s remarks. Economists have jobs only by serving the economic regime in power as court eunuchs. . . .

Goods and services have at least two values. The first is their use value, the value of a commodity or service in real on-the-ground terms, such as useful value of a tool, or shelter or food, or worth as a service, such as transport. . . .

The second is their transactional value: how much money banking and “investment” can make controlling the money involved in the transactions surrounding those goods or services, or financing the creation of new ones through loans, marketing and institutionalized capital control. . . .

The consequences, even in creating unneeded services and products for the sheer sake of growth, are enormously profitable. For example, water, is bottled at a cost of a few cents and sold for a buck. Much of it is just bottled water from a municipal source. The consumer has already paid for such water twice, once in taxes and again as a utility bill, but nevertheless buys bottled at a little over 10,000 times the municipal cost. Of course not all of that difference is profit. Some of it goes into petroleum based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, boosting the oil industry and contributing one third of our national waste stream. Bottle production and bottle recycling both pollute our water supply, helping push us to that day we will all eventually be forced to buy bottled water. Until then, our commodity fetishism will suffice; we can buy “Boulder Water,” bottled tap water from Boulder CO, at 11,000 times the cost of the tap water, because, well, it’s from Boulder. The glories of commodity capitalist productivity! . . . .

There is no arguing that there is no greater method of creating economic growth than capitalism. Even Marx had no qualm with that. But growth is like crack cocaine for bankers and economists, both of which see the world purely in terms if wealth accumulation and production. For we who do the producing (or once did the producing back when workers were still considered a necessary evil) the truth is that American capitalism is like a wine press. It squeezes the masses for the money representing their productivity, in a process otherwise known as the virtual economy. A few people in the virtual economy become multi-millionaires. The rest of us pay the in a big way for another jump. . . .

Meanwhile, the “real” economy as most of us experience it, is stretched out dead as a day old codfish down there on Main Street. And all Obama or any other politician stewed in the super-capitalist ethos can do is pump money into the banks, and then beg the bankers to come out of their gilded lairs and trickle on the corpse. That’s the problem with capitalism– capitalists. . . .

When it comes to the choice of capitalism vs. socialism, I do believe it’s over in America. Time to choose came and went a long time ago. And we chose a system that, essentially promised something for nothing. Making money off money. As Dire Straits put it, “Money for nothing and your chicks for free . . . .”

Now we find ourselves flattened again, begging the financial elites to come piss in our ear one more time. As if they could hear us from their Manhattan townhouses, vacation homes in Provence or their yachts off Martinique. . . .

What would happen if America had leadership that stood up and coolly, intelligently described the economic and ecological peril we face, both of which are completely interrelated. What would happen if a president told the people, “What we have been doing has obviously not been working [they’d sure as hell agree on that], so we are going to have to remake America to save it, and it’s going to mean real sacrifice.” And what if he could do so without capitalist forces sending out ideological swiftboats to blow him out of the water, or launching hate campaigns against him, branding him as an evil fascist eco-socialist, or whatever. . . .

Maybe next time — even though there can be no next time in the usual sense, because the rip-off is in and it is total — we will choose better. The planet and the resource base that creates all wealth is pretty much shot, or soon will be. Over six billion people, otherwise known as the masses — though we are not allowed to use that commie term in America — are closing in to finish off what is left. . . .

America and the industrialized world as we have known it are unrecoverable. Some of us find a certain kind regrettable of justice in that. There will be no recovery, but there will be numerous manufactured illusions of recovery. . . . we will poke the frog for one jump at a time. Deny the obvious limits of the earth’s sustenance, dry hump the ghost of a sick and unjust prosperity and pretend the thrill ain’t gone. . . .

What little will remain of sustenance on the planet will have to be distributed by the state, simply to prevent riot and warlordism, but not until the nations have finished warring against one another for resources. What kind of state we end up with between now and species extinction, will be determined by the quality of our own character, the courage and moral stamina of the people. . . .

Turn off your computer, go outside, and look around you. Everything looks normal, doesn’t it? Because everyone’s average opinion of everyone else’s average opinion is that things will somehow work out. We’ve placed out bets, and then gone about business as usual, safe in the belief that sooner or later there will be a recovery, a return to things as they were. Most Americans assume that, yes, everything will be OK.

Which is exactly why it will not.

http://counterpunch.com/bageant03122010.html

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