With all the attention that Margaret Thatcher has gotten since her recent death, I have been reminded of my favorite cultural theorist in the UK --- Stuart Hall --- who has written extensively about Thatcherism. To shed light on what Thatcher's legacy means for the current political and economic crisis, I recommend a recent conversation between Stuart Hall and Doreen Massey published in Soundings.
Some have made fun of it as a sign of parochialism but “We are all Bostonians” feels like an appropriate sentiment to me right now. As I walked through the Boston Common and Public Gardens yesterday, I saw more press and police in one place than I’ve seen in a long while. I also saw lots of people being kind to one another. Some were giving out flowers or flags. That evening, as I attended a peace vigil, I felt pride and love for my adopted home.
Extraordinary times, such as a revolution, bring out talents and creative capacities that tend to lie dormant during more ordinary times. In the late 18th century, Thomas Paine believed the U.S. Revolution would lead to a new kind of democratic governance that “bring(s) forward, by quiet and regular operation, all the capacity which never fails to appear in revolution.” This vision of participatory-democratic governance that draws upon the experiences, knowledge and passions of every citizen has all but faded in contemporary U. S. society.
What the 1% is saying to the rest of us: you can keep your guns. We’re coming after your butter. Could it be that we are playing right into the long-term agenda of corporate-conservatives? Sequestration gives them a huge leap forward in their forty-year effort to dismantle the safety-net and syphon more of our common wealth into the hands of the few.
The ideological implications, in the long-run, also are clear: we have no alternative but to impose some form of austerity on the 99%. We all have to ‘tighten our belts.’
What a difference 40 years makes. The most progressive proposals in President Obama’s 2013 SOTU address --- raising the minimum wage, comprehensive immigration reform, clean energy, sensible gun control --- are the kinds of things a Nixon Administration could have proposed and supported in 1973.* I say this not to put the President down; he did a fine job, making a progressive-leaning, though pragmatic, speech. He signaled a willingness to take on the intransigent leadership of the opposing party.
On New Year’s Eve, Congress appeared to leap over their counterfeit cliff. One day later, they bounced back onto the cliff’s edge, but they did not step away from it. Their rebound took the form of a temporary agreement that sets us up for a continuation of unfortunate “cliff” metaphors as Congress bounces from one budget showdown to another.
Whether Congress sends us over the proverbial cliff at midnight or makes a last-minute deal, one thing is certain. We, as progressives, must resolve in the new year to shift the narrative away from ‘the debt is the biggest challenge we face today’ toward ‘the great challenges we face: unemployment, inequality and worsening ecological crises require that we work together to create a new economy.’ Okay, that’s a mouthful and not as catchy as ‘fix the Debt’ or ‘strike a grand bargain’ or whatever.
What does the latest doomsday obsession have in common with the so-called fiscal cliff? They’re both over-hyped myths. The former was cooked up mostly by misinterpretations of the Mayan calendar. The latter is promoted by fiscal hawks who want to get their hands on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while keeping taxes down for the wealthy.
In today’s column, Paul Krugman dispels the “terrible trillion” bogeyman. Does current deficit spending suggest we have an out-of-control federal budget? The current deficit is a side-effect of an economic recession. And the first order of business should be to end that recession. Yet, what’s under discussion during this trumped up ‘fiscal cliff’ debacle are things that would worsen the recession, and throw us off the road to recovery.
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