Globalization And Economic Meltdown

Posted by Alan Gillis | 12/28/2008 10:24:00 PM | , , , , , , , | 0 comments »

Now we get the news. When there's a fire the media descend. No one blames them because after all they didn't start it. Just reporting the news. Looks like we need a new kind of journalism if we're to understand and avoid man-made disasters. Enter NewsHammer.

One thing about the meltdown is that it was engineered by professionals like economists and bankers and government watchdogs. As it wasn't deliberate, it means these people really didn't know what they were doing. Small comfort for the rest of us. It starts looking like we don't have an economy that can be understood in conventional expert terms by the professionals responsible for it or the media that claims to be following it closely. So closely they all missed it until it bit us and them in the ass. The best way to appreciate the new economy is to forget all the bull from the experts and consider Las Vegas as our probable current economic model.

Modern capitalism turns out to be gambling by another name. Investors and investments? Gamblers and systems to beat the odds in Vegas. Unlike other games, people get hurt in this kind of capitalism. They not only lose their shirts as they do in Vegas, but their jobs and their future. The only way out of this mess is to understand how it happened. Throwing money at it in the U.S. and about everywhere else as a bailout of Vegas, so far hasn't worked and can't work if the rules of the game don't change.

Considering investing as a game is the first problem, but the major players with the money and credit won't be persuaded that this is about the life of the people and the planet. Unlike most of us they are corporations. They're the ones governments are supporting through bailouts. So they're vindicated again, smug in their professionalism with their boards of directors and major shareholders safe in numbered bank accounts and precious metals. If we lose everything, the suits still have enough to smile through the economic meltdown while we burn.

If corporations are the major force in capitalism, it wasn't always the case. The first corporations going back to ancient Rome didn't catch on in a big way until the U.S. Supreme Court awarded them a plethora of rights in 1819. Then they caught on everywhere. An odd fact and a blunder awarding a faceless entity the rights of a human being that isn't human at all and for all intents and purposes is in fact under law an immortal entity and by inference nearly divine. We all know that. Sometime or other we've all worked for some corporation from dumb job to dead end and some of us still might have that great job we dreamed about while we shudder at corporate ethics and their means to an end, the end being more power and money at any cost.

As the greatest risk to individualism and private enterprise, you think we might have done something about this. After all corporations failed big time in 1929. Resuscitated somehow or other through faith in FDR's New Deal, corporations and now corporate gambling go on unchecked because governments nowadays are defacto corporations themselves. These are the masters of world capitalism today and making significant changes to their system isn't likely when they agree there is no alternative to corporations and greed. With no strings attached to billion dollar bailouts, governments are insuring there will be no change. Worse still the money isn't even going where it should. Instead of freeing up credit as credit markets had seized so the story goes, banks who got our money are simply banking the money or buying out and buying into believe it or not smaller banks that were their competitors or expanding into other fields. The colossal Bank of America which received $15 Billion in bailout money later announced a $7 Billion increase in its stake in a Chinese bank, then a takeover of Merrill Lynch for $50 Billion.

Corporations won't even admit they're using bailout money for takeovers or for anything else they're doing. It's trust us all over again, we're the professionals. Try that tack next time you're looking for a bank loan. But in any case why should any corporation have the right to buy out their competitors? Isn't that the first rule of corporations, competition is good? But off the books, there's another: a monopoly is way better.

If it hadn't been for Globalization, maybe the economic crisis would have been contained and short-lived though 1929 style globalization was enough to do us all in back then. Anyway as something hatched by U.S. corporate greed always in the lead, and pension fund managers and other greedy bastards in mutual funds or the army of investment advisers and stock brokers and all the other get rich quick guys playing the market on their laptops, and flip this house or mortgage for the rest of us, it could have been speedily remedied by a sane and practical democracy.

The Enrons and the Madoffs out of business, some white collar jail time and old regulations that worked back on the books. But it's too big a game now. Obama the new kid on the block might be able to FDR his way out of this one, but he gets what Uncle Bush left him, a burned out economy that might have been torched for the insurance. Obama should have protested, but would anyone have listened while the experts were in panic mode? It's Vegas on a global scale and when you're down and bleeding from two Arab wars and the War On Terrorism, double your bets.

The $700 Billion Bailout and what's a few billion more for the Big Three in Detroit. Especially desperate times when three wars aren't enough to stimulate the economy after 9/11. Usually one big war works like a charm in macro-economics. The irony at least in part wasn't lost on President Bush who tried all three and then doggonnit had to rethink capitalism maybe from square one and write some checks.

A few days ago airing December 24 in an interview with Candy Crowley on CNN, Bush admitted he had to abandon free market principles to save the free market with $700 Billion. Like FDR but Bush didn't say that. And the media has been accusing Obama of being the socialist. The Washington Times even branded him a Canadian *********. Had the market been free in the first place, maybe it would have saved itself. Bush forgot that the American free market is wholly controlled by corporations he so vigorously supported against the interests of working people and the poor, the same corporations who have been downsizing since the Oil Shock of 1973 and exporting jobs especially since Bush came to power. Those hanging on to good jobs still, are crippled with more work and less money and benefits. The rest of us aren't just eating at McDonald's, we're lucky if we're working for McDonald's.

It's looking more and more like a neo-feudalism in America and it doesn't matter this time if the peasants are educated. Without governments backing the people, who cares? Did Bush or any government bailout the homeless when they could have easily? Looking back in hindsight on the massive corporate welfare delivered worldwide in record time, some political will could have done the same thing for the homeless and the poor at home. For clean water in Africa. What will democracies do now? Write more checks? Obama will certainly. He's got no choice.

Here's a good question you never hear asked. Where is that $700 Billion coming from when the U.S. has a Trillion deficit? I wish some economist would explain this. Or does Bush have a giant CIA hacked Lexmark in the White House basement?

Perhaps underneath it all is Globalization. We're all Americans now. What happens in America happens everywhere. It's not exactly news. It started a long while ago with gunboat diplomacy and American corporations and American dollars overseas, American know-how and the American way of life exported from Hollywood. It's been so remarkably successful that although countries and people have benefited and been bruised by it everywhere including in America, no one seems to be particularly critical of the global status quo, even when America fails threatening to go bankrupt and take the world with it.

Only some kids and intellectuals have been concerned enough to protest since Communism died and Globalization was institutionalized by the IMF, the World Bank and World Summits like the yearly G series or Group Of and the latest G8. Before the financial meltdown it was only these media event troublemakers, students and teachers and street people mostly, who protested out of an instinctive sense of some danger haunting every one's liberty and well-being. Because they couldn't articulate their concerns clearly, host governments for these summits wouldn't even allow them to protest in earshot of world leaders like they had nothing to say anyway and no right to be heard. When the big city destinations became more and more problematic and unfriendly places to meet, the next step was isolating our world leaders further with mountains of security and then away from the cities to small towns and resorts where armies could better protect them. Not what you'd call a democratic environment and this in democratic countries. More like Hitler and Friends at the Eagle's Nest. Now G8 Summits aren't even real meetings of Heads of State, just press releases, speeches and photo ops, and a chance to binge at somebody else's expense or make a faux pas when you thought the mic was dead. Anyone ever hear of anything accomplished since they started these summits in 1975?

The media didn't much care either beyond the free buffets and drinks, certainly not that interested in press releases and more talking heads. Like daytime TV you can only take so much if you're human. Not really keen either after a boozy lunch at looking beyond an easy story of another routine mass demonstration against big governments in general. The fringe element was out on a field day. Nothing important to cover there, no real sign of weakness in Globalization, just the usual demonstrators with nothing else to do who didn't understand the accepted wisdom and faith of world leaders in their pet project. Demonstrations of no more interest than a rowdy rock concert with pepper spray, tear gas and water cannons. Hardly worth reporting unless an angry mob like at Hieligendamm 2007 knocked down 146 burly German police officers.

Perhaps bigger isn't better. Perhaps countries should mind their own business and stand on their own feet before sucking up the world into a giant mismanaged global business no one can get to work right. That would mean going backwards in time when most of us were a lot happier and a great condo in Barcelona was $30,000.

Not a bad idea. Unprofessional though, not savvy enough for a big political soundbite. And progress, the best friend a dollar ever had, won't have it. Progress means no going back.

And that was the Top Story of 2008. If we had a sense of history or some common sense, we just might do something about it in 2009.

--Alan Gillis