Saturday, March 14, 2009

No So Fast Father

Fr. Frank declares the culture wars dead and American religious fundamentalism in decline. Well it's true for some. But anti-gay-marriage is going strong, Limbaugh is still strong enough to fight for the entire Republican party. The real goal of the culture wars was the destruction of the social majority's economic stability and their sense of political authority.

The war has abundantly succeeded. The middle classes, broadly speaking, spent 20 years shifting attention from work to investment, led their wages stay flat (the bottom 80-85%) while their focused on stock and housing prices, saw incomes for the top 1% triple and thought that was OK because their investments were booming too.

The past six months has been not so much a downturn as a liquidation. You saw yesterday's 10 year Dow Jones chart. If you bought and held a DJ index like all the gurus back the were saying you should ("safe as savings"), in 2009 you'd be . . .back to 1997. Another examples is the Petroleum Fund that Norway has successfully used to store the saving from their windfall oil profits, and to use it for social development and future needs. In the past few months, the fund has lost ten years of interest gains.

The culture wars attacked every kind of activism in the face of market forces - racial civil rights, queer activism, but also union pension fund pools (remember Gov. Schwarzenengger's attempt to convert the California state employees fund into a 401(k) through a special election in 2005)? We stuck between worlds - between Reaganism and some "new deal." The constructive use of government, the putting of socially-defined needs ahead of short-term market pricing, the steering of research funds towards specific goals: at each one of these efforts, we need to expect that the cultural guns will come up one more time.

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