Tag Archives: far right

The Federal Reserve vs. the Tea Party

The Federal Reserve turned down its invitation to a Tea Party.  The Fed looked at the havoc Tea Party Republicans want to create with the U.S. budget and decided to put more sand bags in the economic dike.

Ben Bernanke and his fellow bankers decided on September 18 to keep buying $85 billion in mortgage bonds and treasury bonds, hoping they can keep the feeble economic recovery from collapsing into recession when the Tea Party Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling.

The good news is that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is trying to keep the economy on track as we head into a serious collision between the Democrats and the Republicans over the federal budget and the debt ceiling resolution – both of which have to be resolved in October.  The bad news is the economic expansion is so weak, a few weeks of political confusion might plunge us back into recession.

Buried in the back part of stories about the Federal Reserve’s decision was the grim news that the Fed’s economists have lowered their predictions for economic growth.  The new prediction is for tepid growth of 2.0 to 2.3 percent this fall – a rate that will not put many people back to work.  The Fed and the mass media have finally noticed what I pointed out last spring in this blog – much of the fall in the unemployment rate is coming from people dropping out of the labor force.

Look at this, the number of people in the labor force, that is, working full or part time or looking for work, fell by 312,000 in August.  As a result the labor force participation rate fell to just 63.2 percent – the lowest it has been since 1978, back when it was pretty common for only one adult in a household to be working.  The impact is staggering – the unemployment rate has fallen 2.7 percentage points from a peak of 10 percent in 2009 to 7.3 percent in August.  The majority of that decline, 1.8 percentage points is from the drop in the participation rate!

Enter the Tea Party/Republican Party.  In utter disregard for the spreading poverty around them, the House of Representatives voted 217 to 210 to slash $40 billion from the Food Stamp program.  This is the latest round in the right’s relentless push to re-distribute income through tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor.  As usual, this subversive program is obscured by a fog of words proclaiming a moral crusade against deficit spending and the undeserving poor.  For example, Representative Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, who led the Republican push for the cuts, said “This bill eliminates loop-holes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path.”

What nonsense.  The 44 million Americans, one in every seven of us, who have their income supplemented by food stamps and the 48 million Americans without health insurance are not causing our economy to stumble along.  The Republicans have been using this “blame-the-victims economics” for over a generation.

It only works if the rest of us are unable to see that the root causes of our problems lie in the selfish decisions being made by bankers, hedge fund managers, right-wing CEOs, and the political leaders they support with millions in political donations.  Don’t take my word for it, ask Ben Bernanke.  If the Federal Reserve Board is afraid of the political plans of the Republican Party, then we should be too.

Reversal of Fortune

The last post on this blog was in November of 2008.  In it, I compared Obama to Quinn the Eskimo in the famous Bob Dylan song.  At that time a giddy euphoria swept much of the country and there were pundits calling for President Bush to resign so that Obama could take office immediately.

At the time, I felt there was no longer a pressing need for a blog about the American empire; a systematic, historically-based criticism of the wars and hardships that accompany the country’s restless urge to control the earth’s resources and destiny.  Deep down, I had been rooting hard for Obama and, like many others, projected my hopes and dreams of reform onto his candidacy.  I also thought that he understood the urgent need for change and would be eager to seize the moment.

Most ironically, about the time of my last post it was becoming clear that Al Franken was going to eventually win the Senate seat in Minnesota, giving the Democrats 57 seats along with two Independents – even if one of them was that miserable tool Joe Lieberman.  With the help of the remaining moderate Republicans like Snow and Collins from Maine and the political weathervan Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania, a series of reforms would wash away eight years of awful rule by Dick Cheney and his amiable sidekick.

How misguided that whole mood seems today!  The 60-40 split in the Senate morphed with President Obama’s odd desire for bi-partisan legislation, giving enormous power to the most conservative Democrats in the Senate.  Combined with the “filibuster everything” strategy followed by all of the Republicans, the Senate has become a bastion of reaction.  Just as Cato and his faction in the Senate of the Roman Republic were willing to risk civil war in order to crush reform politicians, the hard-line conservatives who control the Republican Party and much of the media are will to bring Obama’s government to a halt.

Disheartening as these events were, the real shock was President Obama’s willingness to pump up the defense budget and expand the war in Afghanistan.  These actions confirm the thesis presented in my book – that the American empire is a deeply bi-partisan effort to dominate political and economic affairs in every part of the globe.  Thus, the blog is back and I hope that people of good-will all over the U.S. turn their efforts toward restoring the vitality of the American Republic before it is too late.

Darth Vader Visits Georgia

Under cover of the Republican convention, Vice President Dick Cheney journeyed to Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan during the first week of September, hoping to stir the pot and whip up a new cold war for the next president.  Cheney made a joint appearance with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and was as provocative as possible.  “Russia’s actions have cast grave doubt on its intentions and on its reliability as an international partner, not just in Georgia, but across this region and indeed throughout the international system,” intoned the man who masterminded the unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq.  Saakashvili, a vocal U.S. ally, whose surprise attack on the break-away province of South Ossetia triggered a devastating Russian counter-attack, needs support from Washington because he is now under attack by Georgia’s opposition parties.  For example, David Gamkredlidze, leader of the New Right party, said last week, “Despite numerous warnings Saakashvili unilaterally took the criminal and irresponsible decision to shell (the South Ossetian capital) Tskhinvali, which led to catastrophic consequences for the country.”

Saakashvili seems to have been lured into initiating the war with Russia by the Bush administration’s push for Georgia to be admitted into NATO.  If so, the war and its aftermath are the result of a series of aggressive U.S. moves since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990.  While dragging his feet on a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Boris Yeltsin, President Bill Clinton initiated a policy of offering NATO membership to the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.  The Bush administration enhanced this policy by pushing for NATO membership for former Soviet Republics, like Ukraine and Georgia, on Russia’s borders.

It is here, as with the situation in Iraq before the invasion, that national security policy intersects with oil.  The Clinton administration and now the Bush administration have been pushing for the building of pipelines from oil-rich Azerbajain (Georgia’s neighbor to the east), Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan through Georgia to the Black Sea.  This would by-pass the largest existing pipeline route to the large European market.  That pipeline runs through Russia.  Once again, Cheney is working toward an expansion of the American empire into an unstable oil region through armed diplomacy.  In fact, as Sarah Palin pointed out last week in her TV interview, if our European allies had given in to Bush administration pressure last spring and admitted Georgia into NATO, then the U.S. would have had a treaty obligation to send soldiers into Georgia to confront the Russian threat.  “Asked whether the U.S. would have to go to war with Russia if it invaded Georgia, and the tiny country was part of NATO, Palin said, ‘Perhaps so.”

Into this potent mix of military treaties and oil scheming steps John McCain.  The Republican presidential candidate was quick to support Saakashvili, telling an audience, “I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, ‘Today, we are all Georgians.'”  McCain has already signaled his intention to take an aggressive stance against Russia, proposing last spring to evict Putin’s country from the Group of Eight industrial nations that meet yearly to discuss the world economy because Russian is not a functioning democracy.  Thus, election of the McCain-Palin ticket is likely to mean a return to a confrontational cold war relationship with Russia – just as Cheney has planned it.