An Evasion of the Key Issue of our Times

William Krehm

Interbreeding disasters strain our ability to keep track of their progeny. Economic and monetary theory, budgetary policy, accountancy, and much else have been shaken to their moral foundations. For moral footings each of these must have if society is not to be plunged headlong into the chasm. Quite literally headlong, since it was our minds that failed us first.

Our economists operate with a model that sees mankind’s future depending on absolute freedom for the movements of speculative capital and little else. So long as the stock market continued on its way up, we were assured it “worked.” But now that the stock market has collapsed in clouds of corruption, long overdue reassessments have been sidetracked by piercing martial bugles.

Lewis H. Lapham in Harpers (“Notebook American Jihad”) starting from a different port, arrives at a similar conclusion:

“Three months ago I thought we’d been given a chance for a conversation about the future of the American political idea, the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center providing an impressive occasion for timely remarks on the topics of our foreign and domestic policy: informed argument about why America had come to be perceived as a dissolute empire, instructive doubts on the supposed omniscience of the global capital markets, sustained questioning of the way in which we divide the country’s wealth.

“By December I knew that I’d been barking at the moon. The conversation maybe had a chance of taking place in magazines of small circulation or possibly somewhere in the distant reaches of C-SPAN, but not in the chambers of Congress, not under the circus tents of the big-time news and entertainment media.”

“The Editor of The New Republic, outraged by the noise of protest in the streets, wrote: ‘The nation is now at war. And in such an environment, domestic political dissent is immoral without a prior statement of national solidarity, a choosing of sides…. Caught up in the memory of a tale told by Homer or Rudyard Kipling, the keepers of the nation’s conscience gladly smother the peepings of dissent and quickly learn to stuff a sock in the mouth of an impiety. Show them a cruise missile or a map, and they become more ferocious than the generals. The eagerness to enlarge the theater of military operations – a strategy endorsed not only by the regimental commanders at Fox News but also by Newt Gingrich, Henry Kissin¬ger, and Senator John McCain – seemed as senseless as the elevation of Osama bin Ladin to a world figure.’”

The declaration of war in fact was an evasion of crucial issues that have clearly fuelled blind terrorism. It sidestepped serious assessment by transforming a clueless President overnight into a Commander-in-Chief who must be saluted rather than questioned. The greatest debt default ever in the Argentine is just the latest sign that the combination of financial deregulation with the privatization of the sovereign powers of money creation is arriving at the road’s end. During a full decade the mésalliance of its peso with the US dollar, the Argentine had been held up as the role model for emerging and even developed countries like Canada. Declaring war against a private band of terrorists was seizing opportunity by the forelock. Continued long enough, the state of war, shifting to other “rogue states” of Washing¬ton’s choosing is the ultimate ducking of Washington own dilemma. Not only will “military Keynesianism” (for which Keynes of course bears no responsibility) revive the economy, but gag any serious questioning of the official line. By now that line is in an extremely dotted condition, calling for signing rather than analysis. Since the demise of the Soviet Union the American administration has sorely missed a rival superpower. That is clear from its rush to declare war on a faceless enemy lacking even a fixed address. That leaves a convenient blank for the enemy country to be filled in at Washing¬ton’s pleasure. That could keep the economy purring so long as victories, virtually bloodless for the victors, roll in. But it won’t make US better loved internationally.

Instead of our focusing on the core problem of our times, we are left talking about a host of issues, trivial or important, but powerless to really do much about. That is because the core problem, discussion of which is taboo, guarantees that the resources for dealing with them will be preempted for unavaow¬able goals, and government treasuries will always appear as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. That certainly takes care of child poverty with a bang. What is needed is public debate on our core problem, that makes all other problems derivative.

Historical Precedents

There is plenty of historic precedent for this concept of a “core problem” that literally paralyzed society from doing anything about its survival. The Great Depression of the Thirties was a case in point. The private sector had gambled itself into bankruptcy by 1929, and the breadlines circled city blocks. People starved while the government was ever further from its goal of balancing its budget. Its answer was cutting public services, which increased unemployment and added to the government deficit.