Obama and saving capitalism again

Published online 12 April 2012.

From my last diary:

There are obvious reasons for the privileged classes to be concerned about the future of capitalism, and these concerns are not merely limited to the fact that real-life economic growth has slowed to a crawl in the wake of the economic downturn of 2008-2009, perhaps peaking now and then but otherwise slow.  It’s also, I’m sure, a concern voiced in elite circles that the overall global economic growth rate of the past forty or so years has been slowing from decade to decade.In this light, we might expect the Obama administration to come up with new initiatives to keep the capitalist system on its positive course, to allay the nervousness of the investor class in an era of capitalism in decline.

This is the policy that I have been calling “corporate conservatism,” in order to inform the polite “leftists” here at DailyKos.com that the policies they have been supporting all along have in fact have been conservative ones, policies intent upon “saving capitalism.”  In the abovecited diary, I mentioned two important recent developments: the JOBS Act, obstructing the discovery of business fraud, and the EPA’s legitimation of the pesticide 2,4-D for use on Monsanto genetically-engineered corn.Perhaps even more important than these recent outgrowths of corporate conservatism are the secret trade deals currently being negotiated by the Obama administration, under the name of the “Trans-Pacific Partnership.”  Lori Wallach discussed the TPP late last month in a post up at HuffPo.  Here’s what she said:

Like NAFTA before it, the TPP would establish a two-track judicial system for corporations, giving them the right to attack our financial regulations before tribunals of three private sector attorneys operating under World Bank and UN arbitral rules. This “investor-state” system allows firms to skirt our courts and laws to directly sue our governments for cash damages over regulatory policies that they claim undermine their “expected future profits.” And, this is no hypothetical threat.

Do a Google News search on the “Trans-Pacific Partnership,” and you’ll find that all sorts of business section journalists are discussing this — with what they can get, which isn’t a whole lot (as the negotiations are being held in secret).  The FPers around here have been busy cataloguing Mitt Romney’s verbal missteps, doubtless a far more important topic.Anyhoo, that’s not what the Canadians think, and they’re not even in on the deal.  Here’s what it says in the Winnipeg Free Press:

So attractive is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a nine-country tariff-free bridge between this hemisphere and Asia, Fast (the Canadian Trade Secretary) spent time in Peru Thursday drumming up support for Canada’s involvement in the talks. Peru is already part of the exclusive TPP negotiating club.The United States has been the main obstacle in Canada’s way, taking issue with a supply management system that protects certain Canadian farmers from international competition.

So it isn’t just going to be eight nations anymore — all sorts of (corporate client) politicians want to get in on the action.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, btw, is a big defender of Alberta tar sands mining projects, fun projects which are America’s number one source of foreign oil.  After all, corporate conservatism and “saving capitalism” is a global business.At any rate, keeping those negotiations secret is a really fun way of making sure nobody talks about them.  Wallach again:

The TPP is being negotiated behind closed doors and the text is being kept secret. However, we know that U.S. negotiators are pushing to extend a ban on capital controls, impose limits on domestic financial regulation and again empower direct corporate attacks on these policies through the investor-state regime. The TPP (which now includes Vietnam, the U.S. and seven other Pacific Rim nations, but would be open for China, Russia and others to join) would outright prohibit certain types of financial regulations that countries would no longer be allowed to “adopt or maintain” even if they apply to domestic and foreign firms alike. If it sounds like the Bush administration is negotiating the deal, it is because the draft text was written during the Bush presidency.

Well, somebody has to pay for saving capitalism, y’know, and it’s not going to be the capitalist system’s primary beneficiaries.  So it’s going to be you.  After all, one of the primary results of free trade agreements is higher unemployment.  (David Bacon of Truthout knows that for sure, which is why he tells us all about it in a piece released Tuesday.)  We’ll take a peak at that situation below the fold.

If we are to take a look at one important cost of “saving capitalism,” we should go over that statistical graph from Joe Shikspack’s old diary again:

This is the BLS graph of the employment-population ratio for the last few years.  You can see, then, that over 2008 and 2009 the employment-population ratio, measuring that portion of the total population in fact employed, went from about 63% to about 58%, and stayed there.  My point is this: there is a certain population out there for which “saving capitalism” is just not working.  I think it’s called the WORKING CLASS or something like that.  As Joe Shikspack says, “The employment picture is not improving significantly for American workers.”

To recap: according to the alternative world-view I’ve been suggesting, Obama is not a leftist, but rather a corporate conservative, and corporate conservatism is one of two brands of conservatism which vie for power in the Federal government.  Corporate conservatism is mostly focused by “saving capitalism” by propping up the corporate profit rate in an era of steadily declining global growth.

But hey, at least Obama is better than Bush, right?  Well…

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Growth of Income Inequality Is Worse Under Obama than BushMatt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.  You can follow him on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/…

Matt Stoller, btw, is the guy who brought up the Trans-Pacific Partnership notice, the one which actually caught my attention.  It was in the post I cited above.  Here’s what Stoller said about the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

President Obama is on the verge of approving a Free Trade deal with Colombia, despite the murder of union organizers in that country.  Not content with establishing similar deals with Panama (which has to do with enlarging tax havens) and South Korea, the administration is now embarking on a much vaster Trans-Pacific Partnership deal with countries all over Asia.  And it’s being negotiated entirely in secret, with corporate and government officials the only ones allow to be in the room.  Trade is a significant driver of lower wages.

The corporate conservatives just can’t let democracy get in the way of saving capitalism, which is no doubt why the trade deals are being negotiated in secret.As far as the inequality that is the main topic of Stoller’s piece: it’s rising faster under Obama than under Bush.  But Stoller offers a valid excuse, a way of showing he’s not an evil Naderite, which the patrons of Democratic Party corporate conservatism should rejoice to read:

It’s not obvious that Obama’s policy framework is worse than Bush’s, only that the outcome is.  After all, the losses suffered by the wealthy during 2007-2009 recession were less severe than those it suffered in the 2000-2002 recession, and most of the Great Recession happened under Bush (with a Democratic Congress).  It’s possible that the Obama policy framework is a bit less bad, but he has been more successful at implementation because unlike Bush, he hasn’t faced any pressure from Democrats.

So it’s OK.  You can all breathe a sign of relief now — Obama is still better than Bush Junior.  He’s got to be; the Republicans are batshit crazy.  And that’s what REALLY matters — not corporate conservatism or its effect upon the public and the world.  Right?(h/t Joe Shikspack for diary assistance)


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