Passionate conservatism?

January 27, 2008

Commentary by Steve Klinger
Commentary by Steve Klinger
Commentary by Steve Klinger

Passionate conservatism?

With all the talk about how to stimulate it, recipe
you’d think that the economy is a giant clitoris. Ben Bernanke may not employ this imagery, look
but the immediate challenge–and the issue bound to replace Iraq and immigration in the presidential race–is how best to get the economy engorged and throbbing again.

–Barbara Ehrenreich (Clitoral Economics)

By Steve Klinger

You’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical about the so-called bipartisan economic stimulus package that is supposed to buy the runaway corporatism known as the U.S. economy a little more time before the excrement hits the propeller.

Really, it’s hard to take seriously an election-year plan that essentially would print $150 billion to give most middle-income families about enough cash to buy a budget big-screen TV and expect that this will perform wonders on the economy – stimulate it into a metaphoric orgasm, or at least avoiding a recession.

One would first have to ask: recession for whom, the Fortune 1000 companies currently being battered on Wall Street or the vast majority of American households that have been squeezed for years now by outsourced manufacturing jobs, an unconscionable healthcare system and the inflationary spiral of rising fuel prices? You’d never know it from the presidential candidate debates, you might not be able to use the textbook definition that requires declining GDP for two consecutive quarters, but I’d submit that an alarming number of Empire-dwellers are already in a recession – or worse. They need a lot more than a rebate check to regain health and hope.

To believe further that the proposed stimulus package would help to any extent in recovering from the subprime mortgage fiasco and housing slump that is only the tip of our collective economic iceberg is nothing short of delusional. In fact, it seems a little like a hospital in equatorial Africa handing out boxes of bandages in the midst of an Ebola or dengue hemorrhagic fever outbreak — i.e., it may delay the debacle, but only until the next shift comes on.

It isn’t necessary to be an economist to understand that Bush-administration policies (“disaster capitalism,” according to Naomi Klein) that not only exploit but increasingly engineer public trauma events to further entrench the moneyed and empowered have exacerbated the critical illness of the patient that is America.

Cut (taxes), spend (on endless wars) and deregulate (banking, utilities, media, environment), and it isn’t long before the corporatist parasites start to devour the host. Just to ease the pain, distract the victim with spectator sports, addictive gadgetry and consumer pyrotechnics and the wretch won’t know what hit him, as long as he keeps getting his various fixes. (I know I’ve digressed from Ehrenreich’s lurid imagery, but that was heading in too graphic a direction, even for this rag.)

So, bring home that big-screen TV, tune in the Super Bowl, or whatever is on by the time the rebates come through, and you won’t worry about the next family illness wiping out your meager savings or your home heading for foreclosure. Spend that $600 each on an iPhone and you’ll be too distracted to care that the trade deficit, the weakening dollar and the burgeoning national debt are lapping at the financial underpinnings of the Empire. Of course since it’s all a pyramid scheme based on endless growth, we can prop it up a while longer if you’ll rush out and spend your rebate while we throw the business sector a few incentives.

In our quick-fix society, all that’s needed is the illusion of prosperity to keep the bears at bay on Wall Street. No need to tackle anything more fundamental, like the cultural model legitimizing perpetual debt as a way of life, or the relentless pillage of the planet. And no obligation to lend a hand to the poor, the unemployed or retirees on Social Security: If they don’t pay taxes they don’t deserve a rebate, and they can’t afford to spend it anyway.

That the Democrats, who hold all the cards, would go along with this pitiful and inequitable band-aid solution just shows how co-opted they are by the corporatism that drives our political system as well as our economy.

In a while it won’t matter, because as soon as we run out of new frontiers for growth and exploitation, the shoeboxes of money needed to buy the big-screen by then won’t power it up anyway, and we’ll have to go back to stimulating each other instead of the economy. By then it will be too late for passionate conservatism, or any other kind.

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