Saturday, 20 December 2008

Perfect Metaphor indeed

Up, Down.

as we get towards the roots of language, begin to talk in terms (however besmirched by the deconstructivists) of 'master narrative' ... all good ... unfortunately for me it mostly fuels my frustration & anger (turned carefully inward y'unnerstan), but it reminded me of Social Imaginary this morning, leaving me briefly hopeful

Ronald McDonald, GluttonyGeorge Bush, Sapatrix, Matrix, Asterix, SapatãoThere is much pain in the United States today, but not much humility. Nor is there prudence.

Sapatão / big shoe, Brasilian slang for 'lesbian'.

Greed grab and Bush's triumphalist national narrative, Jeffrey Simpson, December 19, 2008.

The economic tsunami now battering the world began in the United States, where it has supplied a perfect metaphor for the Bush administration.

Maçã do AmorAmericans have overwhelmingly passed judgment on George Bush, consigning him to the dust heap of awful presidents. But have they passed sufficient judgment on themselves? Americans elected Mr. Bush twice and, even today, amidst the economic ruin of his policies, still seem wedded to the triumphalist national narrative he evoked.

There is much pain in the United States today, but not much humility. Nor is there prudence.

Had prudence been America's guide, the credit-card splurges, the bingo capitalism, the Wall Street greed, the executives' grotesquely inflated payments, the personal and national indebtedness, the fiscal deficits and all the other symptoms of a society living beyond its means that marked the Bush years would never have occurred.

There was a time, back in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Republicans believed in prudence, or at least thought they did. In those years, they stood for a strong defence, anti-communism, small government, low taxes and a balanced budget. Spend what you have, and no more, was a bedrock Republican idea.

Then came the intellectual revolution of Barry Goldwater's rage against the state, social conservatism, Arthur Laffer's curve, and the idea that ever-lower taxes would bring ever-higher revenues, so that budgets could and would be balanced by some miracle that had previously escaped economists and, indeed, previous generations of sound-money, balanced-budget Republicans.

Mr. Bush epitomized and practised all these ideas, with the result that he presided over tax cuts that disproportionately favoured the already wealthy, deficits in every fiscal year, more national debt, and wars abroad without revenue at home to pay for them. His answer, after 9/11, included the advice to Americans that they could fight terrorism by going shopping.

As the rich got richer, some got more venal, or at least practised venality on a vast scale. On Wall Street, and beyond, the prevailing attitude was to get rich as quickly as possible, since everybody else was doing it, and tax rates were so low on the wealthy that you really could - and should - keep almost all of what you earned.

The greed grab led to hedge funds, demand for instant returns, cutthroat attitudes and executive compensation of breathtaking size - while the wages of ordinary Americans stagnated. The resulting inequalities were staggering, and the debt loads immense, but entirely in keeping with a trickle-down theory of economics that had implanted itself in Republican theology once prudence and balance were abandoned.

In the Bush narrative, everyone would get ahead in the transcendentally powerful United States, the envy of the world, whose economy could not fail and whose houses and stocks and investments of all kinds would just keep rising. The country could fight two wars without taxing itself to pay for them, and spend at home far more than it earned, and borrow from the Chinese, who depended on the U.S. consumer to buy China's products.

As the debts grew, rather than whistles being blown at the White House and the Federal Reserve, new and increasingly incomprehensible financial devices were invented to bundle debt and sell it to someone else who might, in turn, repackage and sell it, so that the financial services industry increasingly defied transparency and took on the shape of a vast pyramid scheme. But the United States, Mr. Bush kept saying, was the land of freedom and free markets, a light unto the world, even though in most corners of the planet, the country's reputation had darkened under the Bush presidency.

Seldom, if ever, has one president so damaged his country's international profile; and seldom, with the possible exception of Herbert Hoover, has one president's economic policies so damaged his country's domestic capacities. But remember that George Bush merely practised a certain set of policies, and pursued a certain set of approaches, that reflected the intellectual revolutions that had transformed the Republican Party and, because it was the dominant party, transformed the United States into a debtor nation at home and a disliked one abroad.

Having bequeathed such a disaster to the country, the unsuspecting might assume that Republicans would embark on a wholesale self-examination.

Instead, the last election so shrank the party that its core of the elderly and the angry and the devoutly religious now control the intellectual and political leadership. The heirs of Mr. Bush, and of the thinking he practised, are in charge, having learned and forgotten nothing.

The opponents of Mr. Bush, soon to be in charge, must add trillions to the country's existing debts, hoping to begin what must at some point, necessarily, be a return to some semblance of prudence and moderation and limits, or what we might call good old-fashioned, although recently out of fashion, pragmatism.


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