Shock Doctrine: How Conservatives and Corporate Elites Are Stoking Economic Hysteria to Force Catastrophic Cuts
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Global economic turmoil is getting worse. Europe’s financial crisis now imperils Spain and Italy. The folly of premature austerity savages economies in Great Britain, Europe and, increasingly, the United States. China and the emerging economies are slowing down. This economy seems stalled at best. People are sensibly scared, worried about their jobs, their homes, their lost savings, their prospects.
Conservative and corporate elites are stoking the turmoil, and using fear to panic a public into accepting harsh measures that would be otherwise unacceptable. The stock market tanks after the debt ceiling debacle. Standard & Poor's, the discredited and corrupted rating agency, rushes to downgrade U.S. debt, with such haste it doesn’t even get its math right. China’s news service announces the U.S. must roll back its bloated “welfare state” and its bloated military. The talk shows are inundated with pundits expounding the urgent need for the U.S. to get its deficits under control to regain its credit status.
One theme emerges; the Gang of 12 – the Super Committee created in the debt ceiling deal – is portrayed as our last hope. It is charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years by some combination of cuts from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and increased tax revenues. Only if it acts responsibly, we’re told, and the Congress passes its measures under expedited procedures with no amendments, limited debate, and no filibuster, do we have a chance.
Pressure builds on the congressional leaders to pick responsible legislators to the committee, like the previous Gang of Six in the Senate, who will combine cuts in Social Security and Medicare with increased revenues. Republican leaders pledge to appoint members who will oppose any increase in taxes on the rich or the great corporations. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – the core promises we make to the elderly, the disabled, the dying – in our society are at risk. In an era of Gilded Age extremes of inequality, the largest and most effective anti-poverty programs are targeted for deep cuts.
Ignore the hysteria. Fight back against the shock doctrine. All of this is utterly wrong-headed. America doesn’t have a serious debt crisis. We have a jobs crisis. We’re digging out of a severe financial collapse and need to build a new foundation for the economy, for we can’t go back to the old economy that was built on debt and bubbles.
In the long term, the scary deficit projections are almost completely due to our broken health care system. Make reforms that move us closer to the norm of industrial countries in health care costs and we have no long-term debt problem. That requires taking on drug companies, private insurance companies, hospital complexes, the inane way we let powerful interests rig the rules for their profit. We’ve got to get the costs under control, not push the rising costs onto the most vulnerable.
In the short term, we need a strategy for reviving the economy so that it works for working people. That requires a serious strategy for making things in America again, combined with a commitment to balance our trade, confronting the mercantilist nations like China that trample global trading rules. It requires incentives and investments to capture a lead role in the green industrial revolution, moving to clean energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil while addressing catastrophic climate change. It requires investment in strengthening the sinews of growth – investments in education and training, in research and development, in innovation, as well as building a modern infrastructure for the next century, updating the decrepit systems now crumbling around us. With interest rates near zero, despite the hyped rating agency fandango, there has never been a better time to borrow long term to build now.
The elite roll-out is clear. The gang of 12 produces a “deal,” combining a hike in eligibility age for Medicare, a cut in Social Security by reducing the inflation adjustment, caps on Medicaid and increased revenues from LOWERING rates on the corporations and the rich, while limiting deductions that reach middle-class families – on mortgages, employer based health care or retirement plans. They may well throw in the current scam – funding the infrastructure bank with proceeds from allowing multinationals who have secreted a trillion on profits offshore to bring the money back at a cut-rate 5 percent.
Yes, the panic will be used to cut the basic promises made to working families in order to pay for the deficits caused by the excesses of Wall Street.
Don’t fall for it. Fight back. On August 9, Republican state senators in Wisconsin who sought to trample basic worker rights are facing recall elections. On August 10, the American Dream Movement, supported by Moveon.org, the Center for Community Change, and the Campaign for America’s Future and others, will sponsor events across the country. Citizens will be taking the new Contract for the American Dream to their legislators, and demanding action on jobs, not on cuts.
Legislators across the country will face constituents saying, “We are all Wisconsin now. Start doing the people’s business or you too will face a challenge to your re-election." August must generate enough street heat to supplant the hysteria now coming to you wall to wall over the mainstream media.
The right and their corporate sponsors want to use the lousy economy to strike – to roll back the already inadequate supports that exist for working families. They are even aiming at Social Security, which is in surplus and contributes nothing to the deficit. Don’t let them destroy the American dream. Join the movement that will lead the fight back.