Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A feature, not a bug

I think one of the basic problems that the current crisis has revealed is that the set of instiutions we, the world, have, are not in any way commesurate with a global economy. Speaking as a historian in training, it's not an accident to me that the highest volume of world trade was 1929 right before the crash, a volume that only reached that level around the 90's and into the naughties.

You can see this in the failure of the euro for countries like Spain.  Krugman gets closer to the truth when he says it's a catotrophic success, i.e. that the elites saw the euro as a wya to force greater european economic integration.

My take is darker than that, actually.

Global capitlism is proven to work very well for economic and financial elites, and not so well for trade unions, socialized government systems, etcetera. In short, I think the world's elites quite simply don't care. They don't, per se want to stick it to poor people, but they pursue policies engineered with their own self-intrests in mind, and if these policies happen to hurt people poorer than them, oh well.

To take it further, its utterly predictable that greater eocnomic integration with low levels of political integration would result in a situaiton where elites can take advantge of regulatory arbitrage.  The very ineffectivness of our world governmental instituions is the veyr thing that makes it possible for them to be unaccountable.  Nation states find themselves more or less helpless in the face of a global dilemma, and the various western democracries have proven that the power of the elites to make government effective and responsive to their needs ahead of and even at the expense of others has also proven itself.  You see this is the German banking policy, in the fact that american programs whose primary benificires were corporations worked while programs whose primary benificiers were middle class individuals did not.

Add to this, in the american case, an amazing case of a populist right wing movement whose effective policy is to roll out the carpet for the corporate overlords they claim they are railing against.

It's really quite depressing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The ever changing middle

this post by Ezra gets at another aspect of the way our politics works that seems completely broken.  This dyanmic, fundementally, is what leads to the eternal lucy and the football meme that atrios and others point out.  To an outside observer like me, what's most surprising isn't that "moderate" compromises become controversial given the dyanmics of modern american politics, but rather that this development seems entirly surprising to democratic leaders. They keep engaging in good faith compromises and discussions hoping to create a "bipartisan" bill, where the current political and instituional incentives mean that republicans will be rewarded for causing democrats to not pass bills and that they have the power to do that very thing.

The frustating part is that I'm pretty sure that when democrats are in the minority, they won't play by these rules, much as they didn't during the Bush years.  Of course, given the still existant media bias towards republicans, its probable that if they attempted to play by republicans rules they'd be murdered by the media that has ignored the republicans doing the same thing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

You have to want it

A brief point that I'm not sure I've even seen anywhere, for one: when Al Franken was elected, the republicans dug their feet in and kept him from being seated for nearly half a year.  Meanwhile the democrats seem happy to let Scott Brown get seated as fats as huminly possible.

It's yet another one of the ways in which I can't help but feel that the Republicans are playing hardball while the democrats came prepared with nerf bats.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

If not now, when, if not like this, how?

Yglesias, in two posts gets at some of what is making me so pessimisitic about our situation in general.

I should make clear that this pessimism goes beyond health care reform. If we pass it, which is still possible, it will begin to combat some of the trends I'm trying to explain here without changing them.

The unique anti-majoritarian features of our constitution simulatniously make our government less effective and more suceptable to elite capture.  The first post by Yglesias gets at part of why this is on a federal level, the second at how it comes out at the local level.  This power of the elites has grown since Reagan, the growing inequality of the country has meant that their own economic power in comparison to middle class, much less poor voters, is outsized.  Over 30 years of this cultural rot, this Gorden Gekkoizing of America, has lead to a culture that celebrates wealth. If you are poor, in short, you deserve poverty. It has infected all our institutions, high and low.

If there's one thing Obama's eleciton has proved is that, while he is not a sell out, the interests of the rich and powerful still skew the practices and priorities of democratic administrations.  Bankers getting bailed out is an urgent political priority while jobs and stimulus are not quite as urgent.

Which leads to the question of this post.. the last eight years have been one long lessons to the american people of the problems with this world view and the political party that supports it. In 2006 and again in 2008 they voted said political party to within an inch of its life, democrats had majorities that no party has had in decades.

And yet, our nation continues its slow rot. Health care has been a stutterring uneven fight.  Banks have been bailed out even as unemployment at 10% is seen as normal and job reports that report a loss of "only" 100k are seen as signs that everything is fine now.  If what we have done cannot fix these things, what can we do? What more *can* be done?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Situational Pessimism

By temperment and general ideological inclination, I find I foten agree with the policy side of the liberal blogotubes, rather than the activist side.

I say this, partly by way of introduction and by way of clarfication and by way of disclaimer. The policy wonks appeal to me in a way that dailykos and FDL don't. This cleavature has become especially clear upon the Obama presidencny, and even more so during the inter-liberal healthcare spat.

Noentheless, part of me finds himself, as in other areas of my life, betwixt and between. The pessimism of atrios, for example, is definitly influential to me, altough it often leaves me unclear on what to do, what to say.

As I've mentioned before, partly through readings atrios, partly through reading other people, my pessimism in general, economic, political, social, often rises to the level of feeling futile. I can't help but see the many ways in which our society is really, truly broken, and I despair of our ability to actually fix what has gone wrong. The reasons behind this pessismism are worth unpacking, and I'll try to do so over the rest of this week.