Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Few Numbers In A Capitalist Economy

Capitalism in the US is exposing itself with renewed force as it invigorates self-contradictions and faces fracases with appearance of farce, and it fails to resolve these. One of the matured capitalist economies, and the Lord of the World, is presenting the show.
Partial shutdown of the US government is now old news. Near to a million people is out of work. Probably these employed-without-pay-people include the diplomats providing sermons to friendly politicians and poor people in poor countries. From one of NASAA websites to a newspaper clipping board and reduced menu in the White House, the nerve center of the federal machine, to reduced number of staff to the US vice president and untrimmed Washington DC lawn bear the stamp of the failing politics and economy. A deadlocked legislative assembly is failing to come to an agreement. And, the assembly represents the people!
There is the threat of the US defaulting on its debt for the first time in history. If the state’s debt limit is not increased one week from now, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warns, the entire global economy could be in peril. The debt ceiling deadline is October 17, 2013. And, Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank president, has issued warning: The US is just “days away from a very dangerous moment” because of the borrowing crisis.
In the background, there is a market with competition. And, the competition is in all its senses and forms: from money to politics. And, the competition is for profit: in terms of money and in terms of political gain; and political gain is for economic interests.
President Barack Obama knows, as a Bloomberg report says, the bond market is the boss. Obama expressed the fact of the economy while discussing with reporters the threat of a historic default. (David J. Lynch and Cordell Eddings, “Obama Says Real Boss in Default Showdown Means Bonds Call Shots”)
Journalist Bob Woodward has an interesting story in “The Agenda”, an account of his economic policy-making: president Clinton once said: “You mean to tell me that the success of the program [Clinton was planning to initiate] and my re-election hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of f------ bond traders?” (ibid.)
Yes, in the economy, market has almost mythical power. And, it’s the skipper.
After witnessing the bond market’s power, James Carville, Clinton’s top political operative, joked to the Wall Street Journal at the time: “I used to think if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or a .400 baseball hitter. But now I want to comeback as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.” (ibid.)
Yes, market intimidates many. Market often doesn’t allow some politicians to act the way they planned if they don’t dare to defy or challenge it. And, their desire and courage to throw challenge is not entirely a subjective force. It’s not their personal choice. Reliance on market doesn’t allow mobilization of social forces that can extend support to challenge market.
In the matured, but troubled economy, market is the disciplining force, and the disturbing force. It’s a cruel creditor also although the creditor has history of failures. It fails regularly although a section of pundits try their best to hide the failure-fact.
The US gov. was forced to pay 0.35 percent for four-week borrowings, up from 0.12 percent. And, in this fiscal year, the US gov. will need to borrow an average of almost $11 billion each week. This borrowing reality makes Obama so sensitive to investors. Moreover, under current law, debt held by the public would exceed annual output by 2038, and this borrowing would be unsustainable. (ibid.) And, this again shows creditors’ crushing power.
However, these will be resolved at the 11th hour. The factional fight, conflict of interests, will come to a compromise as there is election and the discontent electors and as there is common interest. It’s the interest of the ruling elites. A different outcome will be historic.
But the US voters’ mood has already been expressed: An intense aversion, a stronger anger.
Sixty percent of the Americans, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds, would have defeated and replaced every single member of the Congress including their own representatives if they had the opportunity. Only 35 percent had the opposite opinion. The figure, 60 percent, is the highest-ever on the question. The poll shows the voters don’t even prefer own representatives. In August 2011, it was 54 percent; in January 2012, it increased two more percents; and in July, it increased to 57 percent. So, there is a consistent rise. Moreover, 47 percent of the respondents do not strongly identify with either party. A respondent from Mississippi, a strong Democrat, said: “I am prayerful for a revolution.” (NBC News and CNBC, Oct. 11, 2013, Domenico Montanaro, “Fire 'em! Majority want to toss entire Congress: Poll”)
And, a record-low – 14 percent – perceive the economy is headed in the right direction. It was more than double – 30 percent – in last month, the biggest single-month drop since the 1990-US gov.-shutdown. (ibid.)
More data are there: 78 percent of the respondents perceive the economy is on the wrong track, and, to 42 percent, it will worsen, and 63 percent feel less confident that the economy will get better. To some concerned, the figures “are associated with historic lows in public confidence.” (ibid.)
Sometimes, data are disturbing to somebody. It makes one dumb or angry if it’s found: In the richest economy of the world, 146 million or half the population is in poverty (49 million) and near poor (97 million), 18.4 million homes are empty although there are 842,000 homeless in a given week, 22 empty homes for every homeless person but they can’t find homes, wages are stagnant although workers produce more than ever; if McDonald’s can afford to pay its CEO $15 million per year it can afford to pay its workers a living wage of $25K, the contradiction that an Occupy Wall Street journal termed, citing, “The Absurd Contradictions of Capitalism”.
Citing the same source the journal identifies the Largest Low-Wage Employers: WalMart, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, KFC, Staples, Target, Outback, Red Lobster, Subway, Olive Garden, McDonald’s. Then, it says: “They can afford pay better”, and, “78% of the 50 largest low-wage employers have been profitable every year for the past 3 years”.
But the contradictions are not absurd. These are the contradictions the economy normally generates. These are only a few of many such seeming absurdities.
Even, the factional fight and the partial gov. shutdown, the factional fight in home and interferences in other countries to resolve factional fights among the ruling elites in those countries, the factional fight and the possible threat to the global economy, the fight to secure factional interests although the fight threatens bigger interests seem absurd, but normal at certain stage of maturity and abundance.
These absurd-seeming-normal contradictions bring workers and Occupy Wall Street participants and others in protest marches and mobilizations, inspire to initiate alternatives and create spaces and gather knowledge and experience. It is neither a foray into the domain of finance-lords nor an oddity of a few.
These contradictions mobilized protesting people at New York’s Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement, on September 17, 2013 to mark the second anniversary of the movement that blossomed around the country and inspired people around the world and influenced movements in countries. On that day, Occupy Wall Street protesters stood in front of a barricade at Zuccotti Park.
The OWS protesters, the people, marched around the Wall Street. They marched to Washington Square Park. Protesters marched through Soho. Rallies and events across the city were organized.
The socially embroidered movement drifted into wider activities: Feed the hungry in respective communities, mobilize 70,000 volunteers to assist the superstorm Sandy survivors, protect debtors from predatory lending, buy up distressed debt and cancel that, occupy homes for people threatened with eviction, put pressure on banks to renegotiate loans, protest GM crops, support farm workers, occupy farms with demand for fair pay and safe food, organize new economic models that include Occupy Money Co-operative and Alternative Banking Group, which will provide low-cost financial services and return profits to communities, trying to shift the balance of power from bankers to depositors, raise fund for Bangladesh garment factory workers, open artists’ studios to the members of public, sell the book Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World, join struggle for a fair and living wage, march against corruption (Occupy Wall and ALL Streets against Corruption). Alternative Banking, a project of Occupy Wall Street, is dedicated to the proposition that citizens are capable of and entitled to an understanding of how the financial system under which they live operates.
The absurd looking numbers, rational to the system, expose a lot of the system that propagates self-superiority while the numbers teach lessons, enrich experience. This lesson is not only for a single society. The numbers from one of the most advanced, matured capitalist democracies appear as learning materials to others also.
The numbers expose limitations of power of the richest capitalist economy in the world: It fails to eliminate poverty despite having a lot of riches; the ruling elites’ maturity of hundreds of years doesn’t make it capable of not endangering its own ruling system; the system’s all manipulation powers, seemingly magical, that take into service of media, amusement and porn industries and of sciences including psychology are incapable of keeping people always busy with games and porno and baseless dreams and trifling issues including tattoo on this part of human body or on that part; all surveillance and control mechanism at mass scale can’t always restrain people from getting disenchanted and dissatisfied and angry.
Amazingly, despite the failures, the system charges people for its survival: the melting down of financial institutions including banks, the bail out money, the evictions from homes, the unemployment, the failing health care system, the hunger, the closed down schools and jobless teachers, the cut down budget for scientific research, the gov.-shut down, the debt. People pay, in one way or another, for all these. And, that’s the efficiency of the system: It can hide its failures and charge the people. It can hide its failures to a lot of persons, actually a crowd of millions, in home and abroad.
But this efficiency is getting diminished. Incidents, in home and other countries, appear as examples of the diminishing power. Obviously, there are personalities trying to sell the system’s appearance as unchallenged one. But fractures in the torso and weaknesses in the limbs don’t miss many eyes.
Shrewd ruling elites even in some poor countries can take advantage of the reality. Instead, it’s their stupidity if the elites in poor countries are cowed down by blank sounds. This is an opportunity or failure in the camps of the elites in poor and rich economies.
But people in all lands can find shining lines over dark clouds as the numbers turn striking. New political debates and conversations can be initiated, and new approaches can be devised. People in many lands can find and create spaces for forward movement as the Occupy Wall Street moves forward despite its stumbles, failings and fallings.