Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bush's Iraq War on America

Bush's economic policies are designed to move wealth from the large middle to the small top of the American social pyramid. I have blogged with charts on this before, and will do so again, but it's pretty obvious that these policies continue thirty years of attacks on what I call "majoritarian economics" and that they are succeeding at increasing the gap between the very rich and everybody else.

The war in Iraq has a similar effect, continuing the slow strangulation of the public services - health, higher education, long-term research, social security - on which the large middle classes depend. The occupation of Iraq has no achievable goal, except, that is, the destruction of a useful domestic government, both in Iraq and the United States. Federal uselessness was on grotesque display in Louisiana and Mississippi after hurricane Katrina, and milder, less visible declines in the quality of everyday life are as obvious as the growing wealth and income skew. It's not the Iraqization of the U.S., but it is the Brazilianization - a long, steady regression towards the old plantation ways of the region that continues to control U.S. politics, the American South. If you doubt me, look at income, wealth, health, and education indicators for the Deep South states that remain in thrall to the Republican Right. Hell, look at the indoor plumbing indicators. Back, back, back we go to the Middle Ages. And by the way, the Middle Ages lacked a middle class.

Why the middle class votes for the chuckleheads who undermine their conditions of life - well that's the vote against life and for death that gives title to this invisible blog. We will keep trying to explain it. In the meantime, what will we do in the wake of Bush's Little Surge speech this week?

The Surge is a booby-trap, but not for the Iraqi "insurgents." 20,000 more troops is about a 15% increase. Even if you captured 15% more snipers and bombers that would obviously not solve the problem. On top if this, the surge is actually a series of smaller incoming waves, a few thousand troops at a time. Even John McCain expressed doubts about the military value of this strategy, and the surge was basically his idea.

So who's the booby-trap set for? Congressional Democrats, of course. If they successfully oppose the surge, Bush-Rove will blame failure on them. This kind of fact-free finger-pointing works well in this undereducated country where a lot of people seem to believe their televisions. On the other hand, if the Democrats support the surge, they will squander the issue that gave them control of Congress last November. Since they ARE Democrats, they will dither and splinter and do little good for anybody here or in Iraq. We will get a better minimum wage and maybe some cheaper medications, and that's about it.

The reason is that the Democrats cannot take responsibility for the consequences of their values and choices, since these consequences generally contradict their values and choices. Democrats don't like to cut health care benefits and see mass layoffs - that's their long-standing pro-working class value frame. And yet they vote for forms of free trade, tax cuts, and fiscal austerity that do exactly that. The same is true of the war in Iraq, which the vast majority of them supported. They may not have wanted the invasion, but they felt they had to go along with it - support the president, fight terror, look tough, look good, not be called bad names by Republicans. The war - their Democratic war too - is a horrible failure. Actually leaving Iraq, and not just opposing being there, will make them look bad.

The pundit who faced this fact was, of all people, Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, writing on January 12th. Normally, Friedman is a cheerleader for American deindustrialization with a lemon-twist of safety net programs so the sinking middle doesn't feel so bad. But this time he faced a real reality, and not one he made up. He said Bush should set a firm deadline for withdrawl, and then wrote this:
Of course, just leaving would be bad for us and terrible for those Iraqis who have worked with us. We need to give them all U.S. passports. We have a moral responsibility to them. But it would also be bad for a lot of bad people. They would be left to fight it out with each other. And yes, Syria and Iran would “win” Iraq — meaning they’d win the responsibility of managing the mess there or have it spill over on them. Have a nice day.

Friedman also said some decent stuff about reducing the flow of oil money to oppressive authoritarian leaders in the oil states.

Forget the "make them fight all of us" bravado. Friedman offers two insights that would make the middle-class less self-destructive. First, follow the money, and then be ready to change its course. And second, face the effects of what you do.

The only hope lies in the economic and political majority of this country no longer pretending to look good, and learning to face the bad. Their bad.


Becka said...

Good post.

Chris Newfield said...

thank you! Cheers - Chris