Ever since Obama took office, the power struggle in Washington has been escalating. Political competition is no longer reserved for official political parties that vie for votes with policy proposals and candidates, and that after counting up the votes fight and negotiate with each other — the one side as the administration in power, the other as the opposition — over how to manage the country. That is precisely what a fundamentalist popular movement is no longer willing to tolerate, and its very name conveys its conviction that a new American revolution is necessary. Just as the Boston Tea Party sparked a revolt and a war of independence against the British Crown, the descendants of these early American revolutionaries seek to take back America for Americans, freeing them from an un-American oligarchy that has usurped power over the country, suppressing freedom and ruining the land: “We must take back our nation!” Crisis, rising debt, unemployment, lost and unwinnable wars, as well as the country’s diminished capacity to dictate American playing rules to the rest of the world — the movement views all these phenomena as representing a widespread decline of “God’s own country” owing to a betrayal of American virtues. But it is not only the ruling party and its president that have been accused of betrayal; the entire political establishment is under suspicion. Whoever wants to be cleansed of this suspicion must submit to a “purity test” to determine whether they have the proper ethos. So the Tea Party sets off on its quest to rescue the country. It is in the process of thwarting Obama’s healthcare reform; recently, their members in Congress nearly forced the government into default. In a number of states, they are demonstrating what the nation can expect in terms of policies toward immigrants, unions, and schools once they come to power. In the Presidential election campaign that is currently underway, movement activists are fighting to make the Tea Party program the official Republican party line. They have been turning Republican primaries into an opportunity to pressure candidates to commit to the movement’s core beliefs, promising support in return while issuing the warning that all candidates will be placed under strict supervision and voted down at the earliest opportunity in case of betrayal — that is, in case the politicians they have brought to power end up making compromises after all with those who are ruining America.
A. Conflicting ways out of the recession
I. Culture War in America
II. Obama’s economic and financial therapy for the nation’s ailing economic base
III. The Republicans’ counterplans
IV. Worries and warnings about the catastrophic consequences of the political dispute help to intensify it
B. The U.S. has to be concerned about its money
I. The U.S. economy is the major exception in global capitalism
II. The identity between America’s national credit and the world’s capitalistic wealth has a price that has fallen due in the wake of the recent financial crisis
III. And the competitors are no longer the same either
Conclusion: New steps in implementing the crisis through the states’ crisis policies
Since its beginnings in the markets for American mortgages, the great financial crisis has gone on for over three years now, and for the moment, those in charge are rather satisfied with themselves. A number of bankruptcies have been wound down or prevented by the state. Masses of worthless financial assets have been stowed away in bad banks or carefully written off, with state license and assistance. The ultimate powers have boldly intervened, preventing a massive financial meltdown by having their central banks provide liquidity and by granting loans from special government funds. Speculation against particularly heavily indebted eurozone countries and their common currency has been averted. After the deep recession of 2009, good money is being made again in the financial industry and the real economy — at least as far as German exports are concerned.
On the other hand, that mustn’t fool anybody into thinking that the crisis is “already” over. Experts are warning against announcing prematurely that all is clear and interpret “market signals” this way: from the money markets, which speculate on and then against the dollar and the euro; from the capital markets, which spurred on Greek bankruptcy while at the same time buying low-yield German bonds; from the global commodity markets, on which German firms are enjoying unexpected export success while America is failing as an “economic locomotive”; from the Chinese market, too, whose welcome boom is now suspected of crumbling soon. These are all reasons to worry — but about what exactly? Is inflation looming because of the masses of state-created liquidity? Or is deflation to be feared instead because of the weak U.S. economy, a lack of economic growth in Japan, and austerity policies in Europe? Will the crisis be followed by another bubble inflated by state credit, cheap money, and dyed-in-the-wool speculators? Or should one brace for longer-term stagnation and, at best, a dual-speed world economy? What kind of a risk does rapidly rising government debt pose? Or is there still too little of it to promote a sustained economic upturn? Is the speculation against Greece and the euro a scandal? Or do the speculators only bring up a painful subject, exposing the common currency as a misconstruction that cannot cope with the crisis? Is the credit guarantee for over-indebted eurozone countries a step toward regaining fiscal stability — or toward abandoning it once and for all? And so on, and so forth.
Everywhere, there’s trouble with foreigners — more so than has been the case in a long time: in Germany and Austria, the United States and Canada; in France, which is deporting Rumanian Romanies; in England, where a British National Party is organizing campaigns to ban the employment of East European EU-citizens; and in a lot of other European countries, where xenophobic parties are winning elections. More and more often, and ever more strongly, political parties and governments are bothered by the existence, the number, or the state of parts of their population that they identify as not belonging and differentiate from their own people. This differentiation and exclusion comes from a distinction between two sorts of people that none other than the state brings into being. There is the one kind that belongs to it and is completely subject to its exclusive sovereign power, and so is required to serve its demands — as citizens, they enjoy the interesting right to be allowed to live within the territory of this sovereign. And there is the other kind: all those who belong to other states and who have no business being in the country, unless the state has particular reasons to permit them to live there — because and as long as it can make use of them. Whether and when they are a bother therefore does not depend on them.
A movement of the aggrieved wants its democratic government back
In the fourth year of the global financial crisis, demonstrators gathered first in New York, then in other cities throughout America and Europe, protesting against the agencies and institutions they hold responsible for the financial crisis and its consequences: “Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Frankfurt! Occupy London!” They declare themselves to be “the 99 %” and even “the people,” who “feel wronged” by 1% of the population and “express a feeling of mass injustice.” They demonstrate in front of local stock exchanges, suspecting that the harmful minority of corporate and financial managers have their real and symbolic home in the financial centers of the world, but they also show up in other public places, set up camps, and encounter much, often extremely positive, attention in the media.
The leaders of the Western world are caught off-guard by a people: even though the West did not order it, the Egyptian people refuses loyalty to its authorities! Wherever the ruling friends of freedom call for a refusal of obedience that leads to an overthrow of a regime, they themselves get the appropriate “revolutions” with their pretty nicknames underway. But no one in the political centers from which the free world is ruled reckoned that the masses in a country whose established, sovereign, domestic affairs are exceedingly interesting for a number of reasons would, on their own initiative, get out of hand in such a way. Hence, forming an opinion about the national uprising in Egypt takes a while, but then turns out to be all the more clear. The unanimous commentary is that it is a great thing that — and in particular how peacefully — the people on the Nile have initiated a “movement for freedom and democracy” (Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s foreign secretary); and the patrons of these high values are by no means content with a mere message of greeting to the freedom fighters. They intercede by making use of the political influence they have for the good cause that they see the Egyptians having brought under way. First, they strongly advise the ruler to practice “non-aggression” towards his rebellious subjects — and shortly thereafter declare him to be as “intolerable” as does the crowd on the Tahrir Square. Admittedly, not for the same reasons. The protesters had hardly begun to somewhat destabilize the prevailing forces of power and already the ruling friends of freedom in the capitals of the world interpreted their distress as a desire to “return to stability.” And why this return is necessary is not kept a secret: the range of interests for which the Egyptian people has functioned so well and the reason why it definitely has to continue to function well in the future, too, stretches from its role in keeping peace in this well-known problematic “crisis region” to its secure supply of oil and car parts to the conservation of cultural goods and diving sites.
In the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explodes. For months, huge amounts of oil flow out of the borehole into the sea, reaching the American coast and in effect ruining the environment in several states, together with the livelihoods of large parts of the population. According to experts, this is the biggest environmental catastrophe in American history — and in view of this occasion, the country’s president, in his speech to the nation, draws attention to the importance of what is happening on the Gulf coast.
Preface on the objective role of consumption in capitalism
Curious but revealing messages are in circulation about consumption. For example, it often must be “stimulated.” Consumption is actually demanded to get growth going. That already says a lot. Under capitalism, supply is obviously not the purpose, nor is production the means to provide needs with the desired goods. It’s the other way around: consumptive need is the means to advance the purpose of corporate growth.
One thing is clear to states as a result of the destruction of all sorts of capital, on whose success they and “we all” live: the services of financial institutions terminated through mismanagement are one, if not the, pillar of the common good. The economic capacity of the financial sector is to be maintained or, as the case may be, restored; the banks are to be enabled to use their financial power once gain. Their rescue is being carried out by the authorities providing the funds that the banks are authorized, and usually also able, to generate.
Caution is in order when world leaders find an idealistic motto for their plans for world politics, announcing a dream for a better world or a mission for humanity. The submissive habit of checking the leading personalities for credibility — whether they honestly mean what they say and have the means to keep their fine promises — doesn’t do. However hopeful or skeptical, however quickly or deeply disappointed civic-minded souls may be, they are all credulous.