Tag Archives: Collapse

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why I Miss the Berlin Wall

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This week’s coverage of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall brought me back, not to warm fuzzies about peace and freedom and Gipper Ron Ron and winning the Cold War, but the reaction of my former BFF Dan (whom I miss for his talent for lightening-quick, wicked-brilliant repostes).

The Berlin Wall has fallen, I informed him. Germany is reunited.

Thoughts?

“This,” he replied as usual without missing a beat, “is like the reunion tour recently announced by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I didn’t care for any of their previous collaborations, and I’m not looking forward to the next one.”

The former two Germanies haven’t given us another Hitler. Not yet. But Germany 2.0 did revive and realize the Führer’s dream of uniting Europe into a unified trading bloc, with a common currency, big enough to give the United States a run for its devalued money. The new euro was, naturally, pegged to the old Deutsche Mark. Germany is by far the most powerful nation in Europe.

Which is a good place to start my List of Reasons I Miss the Berlin Wall.

As usually-correct economist-professor-columnist (and usually ignored) Paul Krugman has pointed out over and over, the German-dominated European Union — which would never have come into being had the Wall remained standing and the Soviet bloc continued to exist — has been an unwieldy amalgam of political autonomy and fiscal union, dragging relatively poorer nations like Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (“PIGS”) into a vicious cycle of austerity, budget cuts and seemingly endlessly rising unemployment. “The creation of the euro was about politics and ideology, not a response to careful economic analysis (which suggested from the beginning that Europe wasn’t ready for a single currency),” Krugman wrote in May.

Why should hard-working Germans bail out lazy, corrupt Mediterranean nations? Protestant pundits ask. Scratch the surface of the Eurozone crisis and you find that the Germans aren’t the victims here. Far from propping up their swarthy southern partners, Germans are using their control over the euro to turn the PIGS into trade debtors.

Adolf blew his brains out but Germany won the war. Cuz: reunification.

The most important consequence of the fall of the Berlin Wall was, of course, the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. “Economic shock therapy” — U.S.-backed Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s misbegotten attempt to convert the USSR’s state economy to neoliberalist capitalism overnight — led to the infamous Russian Mortality Crisis, when death rates soared 40% in Russia, and even higher in other former Soviet republics.

It has been estimated that 30 million people either died or will die as the result of the catastrophic dissolution of the USSR.

Socialism was destroyed but not replaced. The power vacuum opened by the collapse of the Soviet system was quickly filled by gangsters. Corrupt former factory managers forcibly seized state property and industries whose profits might otherwise have been used to create a blow-softening social safety net for the millions who lost their jobs. Hard drugs from Central Asia and Afghanistan, set free to fall apart after Gorbachev stepped down, supplemented rampant alcoholism. The infamous Russian oligarchy rose during this period, widening the gap between rich and poor, and set the stage for Putinism supported by traumatized Russians who happily chose authoritarianism over the anarchy of the post-Soviet period.

No wonder most Russians tell pollsters they miss the Soviet Union.

Former Soviet client states lost their financial and military backing. Nations like Somalia and Congo disintegrated into bloody civil conflict.

But hey. The demise of the Evil Empire was good for the United States, right?

Not really.

American and European citizens paid trillions for the Cold War. After 1991, pundits promised a “peace dividend” — lower taxes, more public spending on infrastructure and social programs. Barely two years later, the peace dividend was gone — spent, ironically, on the high costs of the Soviet collapse.
“Defense cuts and reductions in military forces have brought in their wake a series of job losses,” Britain’s Independent newspaper reported in 1993. “The transitional costs of the end of the Cold War, combined with the inadequacy of government responses across Western Europe, have meant that we are worse, not better, off.”

You’d think that, as believers in the magic of the marketplace, Americans would see the value of competition in the world of ideas, militarily and politically, on the international scene. Whether or not they admit it, however, citizens of the United States have gotten softer and dumber after assuming their status as the world’s last remaining superpower. Unchallenged ideologically and otherwise, Americans questioned themselves and their beliefs in capitalism and American exceptionalism even less after the 1990s than before. But now, as de facto rulers of the last empire, Americans became the obvious targets of choice for opposition forces that want to change the new order, like fundamental Islamist movements.

It’s tough to disagree with the French writer Nicolas Bonnai, who noted in Pravda in 2012: “The US oligarchy [went] berserk, started new wars everywhere with the Bush dynasty and ruined [its] finances. Drastic inequality became the lemma of this crazy society driven by lunatic leaders and wars. Today America leads to nowhere; America is just a [locus] (Al Qaeda) of the new global matrix made of wars and terrors, manipulation and deregulation.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall created at least as many hardships as blessings.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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HARRISBURG PATRIOT-NEWS CARTOON: The Decline and Fall of Great Powers

This cartoon is for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Experts say there’s absolutely no way anyone can scrape up the $1 billion it would cost to fix the endemic congestion of traffic on Interstate 83 outside Harrisburg. Yet there’s always money for wars.

The Decline and Fall of Great Empires

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With Recoveries Like These

The bottom 99% of wage earners in the United States lost 0.4% of their income between 2009 and 2011. The top 1% gained 11.2%. So the one percent grabbed 121% of the income gains from the so-called recovery. Can America afford much more recovery like this?

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Stuck

Why Can’t the U.S. Move Forward?

“Your dearest wish is for our state structure and ideological system never to change, to remain as they are for centuries. But history is not like that. Every system either finds away to develop or else collapses.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote that in 1974, in his famous “Letter to the Soviet Leaders.” But it could just as easily be addressed to President Obama, Congress, members of the media, corporate chiefs, and others who lead and maintain the power structure in the United States.

The United States is as ossified as the USSR was before its collapse.

Shortly after the start of the financial meltdown which began in 2009, polls found American citizens disgusted with the capitalist system. Tens of millions said they would prefer socialism. When the Occupy Wall Street movement took off in 2011, mainstream pundits began using the “R” word, revolution – but only to ask a question with a predetermined answer. Regime change, they said, was neither desirable nor possible.

Too bad.

We used to be a growing country. Not any more. We used to welcome new states into the Union. It’s been 53 years since we added a star to Old Glory; Puerto Rican statehood isn’t a subject of serious consideration. We used to amend the Constitution to suit changing mores. The last major amendment, granting the vote to 18-year-olds, was ratified in 1971. Apparently equal rights for women is too much to ask.

We don’t build anymore. Think about infrastructure. The last major public works project in U.S. history was the Interstate Highway System, built in the 1950s – not coincidentally when the economy was booming.

Our political system is ossified too. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut prompted calls for tighter gun control. But nobody – not even liberals, the traditional enemies of gun rights – argued for getting rid of the Second Amendment which, depending on your interpretation of the prefatory comma, allows us to join a militia or carry guns in our waistbands. “I have no intention of taking away folks’ guns,” President Obama has said.

Well, why not? Personally, I’m against gun control and I’m glad that very little is going to change. Yet I find it disturbing that the Second Amendment is considered sacrosanct, even by the 24% of Americans who want to ban handguns. Pointing out that the country is very different now than it was in 1789 seems reasonable. Maybe we don’t need guns any more. A smart country, one willing to weigh the alternatives when trying to solve a problem, should be able to discuss the possibility of repealing the Second Amendment.

Look at our national political dialogue, which ranges from center-right (Democrat) to right (Republican). Whole strains of ideology – communist, socialist, nationalist, libertarian – are off the table. We pretend most of the ideological spectrum doesn’t exist. Not smart.

Our national unwillingness and/or inability to have a wide-ranging debate reminds me of New York City, where I have lived for many years. There are no public restrooms. Restaurants and other businesses post “Restrooms for Customers Only” signs on their doors. Yet peeing outside is against the law; in fact, it’s public exposure, a sex offense that can land you on a Megan’s Law-style pervert registry. So where are you supposed to go?

A child could tell you this is insane. You know what’s even more insane? That we New Yorkers don’t even talk about it. Like Germans on their way to work in the early 1940s, wondering what that funny smell coming from the camp down the road might be coming from, we pretend that this is all perfectly normal.

As a recent New York Times article by Louis Seidman pointed out, we have foolishly elevated the Constitution to the status of a sacred text, fetishizing a supposedly “living document” that in truth has been dead for years. (Congress, for example, has the sole right to start wars. President Bush ignored the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions concerning POWs at Guantánamo. And so on.) The result, Seidman argues, is endless petty bickering about what the meaning of “is” is – and what that stupid comma was supposed to be for.

The question for any society is not how to figure out how to conform ourselves to rules and assumptions laid down by our forebears, but to come up with the smartest solutions to our problems and the best systems to make things run smoothly now and in the future. If we were revolutionaries, if we were inventing the United States from scratch, would we create the Electoral College? Doubtful.

The people of the United States are changing all the time, but the United States government and power structure are stuck. The political “culture wars” date to the 1960s and 1980s. Our military thinks the Cold War is still going on.

Our economy reflects our national congealing.

Once a “land of opportunity,” the U.S. is now anything but. If you’re born into a poor family, your chances of elevating yourself into the middle or upper class are lower in America than in other industrialized countries. “It’s becoming conventional wisdom that the U.S. does not have as much mobility as most other advanced countries,” says economist Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution. “I don’t think you’ll find too many people who will argue with that.” Aside from the unfairness and the instability caused by inequality and lack of social mobility, we’re losing the talents of tens of millions of Americans who will never be able to live up to their potential, share their ideas and contribute to the making of a more perfect union.

We haven’t had a major social or political revolution since the 1960s. It’s been too long. Like the Soviet Union, we must develop – scrapping long-held assumptions and reconsidering everything from scratch – or collapse.

I think we’re headed toward collapse.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Is America’s Decline Inevitable?

This November: The Pessimist vs. the Cynical Pessimist

This week, decline is on my brain. Specifically, the decline of America.

“There’s not a country on Earth that wouldn’t gladly trade places with the United States of America,” President Obama says, denying Republican assertions that the U.S. is in decline.

(I don’t know about that. Would sick people in the 36 nations that have better healthcare systems than the U.S. want to switch places?)

Clearly we believe our country is in decline—polls show that Americans think that the next generation will live worse than we do. Pessimism about the future is reflected in a 2011 survey in which 57 percent of the public identified the U.S. as the world’s most powerful nation, but just 19 percent thought that we’ll still be #1 20 years from now.

Now The New York Times reports that life expectancy for white people without a high-school degree fell precipitously between 1990 and 2007. It’s shocking news. “We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” the newspaper quoted John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging.

“The five-year decline for white women rivals the catastrophic seven-year drop for Russian men in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity in London,” reports The Times.

Bear in mind, the study includes the Clinton boom of the 1990s. And it doesn’t include the period after 2007, when the global fiscal crisis set off the current depression. It’s almost certainly worse now.

Even the two major presidential candidates seem to think that the U.S. doesn’t have much of a future. During his “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday, President Obama was asked what his big idea was for his next term. Interviewer Steve Kroft mentioned the Marshall Plan and sending a man to the moon as examples of big ideas.

Obama ducked.

“I think there’s no bigger purpose right now than making sure that if people work hard in this country, they can get ahead,” replied Obama. “That’s the central American idea. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. Because there was an economy that worked for everybody and that allowed us to do that. I think what Americans properly are focused on right now are just the bread-and-butter basics of making sure our economy works for working people.” A nonsensical answer. Yes, we should strive to get back to the lower gap between rich and poor that existed during the 1960s—but lower income inequality didn’t create the space program.

All Obama has to offer is a vague desire to restore the American Dream. Sorry, Mr. President, but getting back something we used to take for granted is the opposite of a big idea.

Though depressing, Obama’s pessimism is dwarfed by Mitt Romney’s.

Romney’s 2011 tax returns reveal that not only did he bet against the value of the American dollar—a staggeringly unpatriotic move for a presidential candidate—he received a quarter of his income from investments in other countries.

Romney, putting his money where his mouth isn’t, is literally betting his millions that the U.S. economy will head south. That the dollar will lose value. That foreign equities will outperform U.S. stocks. He even bought shares in the Chinese state oil company, which has contracts with Iran

He’s worse than a hypocrite. He’s an economic traitor.

Whether better, worse, or the same as today, the U.S. has a future. Who will lead us into that future? The person or movement that can credibly articulate a positive vision of a United States that doesn’t stand still, but actually moves forward–you know, like Obama’s campaign slogan. But who and where are they?

This presidential campaign is shaping up as a race between a pessimist and a cynical pessimist, and in such a contest the mere pessimist is likely to win. But it isn’t good for us in the long run.

“Never have American voters reelected a president whose work they disapprove of as much as Barack Obama’s,” observes the Associated Press’ Bill Barrow. “Not that Mitt Romney can take much comfort—they’ve never elected a challenger they view so negatively, either.”

Obama has the edge in the polls, partly because he presents a less somber vision despite his lack of big ideas. (It helps that Romney is a terrible politician.)

“This is America. We still have the best workers in the world and the best entrepreneurs in the world. We’ve got the best scientists and the best researchers. We’ve got the best colleges and the best universities,” said the President in his “not in decline” remarks.  (Never mind that there’s no point going into debt to attend school if there aren’t any jobs when you graduate.)

Well, the United States IS rich. Staggeringly so. The problem is that our wealth has become so unevenly distributed that there is no longer enough consumer demand to support the population. It’s a like a marriage in which both spouses can make it work—if they change their attitudes. If we began focusing on the problems of poverty, unemployment and underemployment, as well as rising income and wealth inequality—i.e., economic injustice—and then fix them—we’ll be OK.

I don’t think we’ll be OK.

The U.S. doesn’t have to be in decline. Some liberal elites, like Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and investor Warren Buffett, understand the need to redistribute wealth. They’re one side of a split in the ruling classes. Unfortunately for the system and for many Americans, they’re losing the argument to greedpigs like Romney.

(Ted Rall‘s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com. This column originally appeared at NBCNews.com’s Lean Forward blog.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Customer Service is a Right

Congress Should Mandate Minimum Number of Phone Reps

I don’t know if Mark Zuckerberg suffers from agoraphobia, but his company seems to have missed the jet age.

If you’re like me, you travel a lot. And if you’re on Facebook, odds are that you’ve been locked out of your account—even though you entered the correct password—because you logged in from an “unfamiliar location.”

Facebook’s test to make you prove you are who you say you are is bizarre: they show you randomly selected pictures of your Facebook “friends” and ask you to identify them. But most of my “friends” are readers and fans of my cartoons and books. I don’t know their faces. Moreover, not all of my “friends'” photos are of themselves. One Facebook test—I kept failing—presented me with pictures of potted plants.

It’s an idiotic test, one that trips up a lot of people. David Segal, who writes The Haggler consumer advocacy column for The New York Times, quotes Bryan Dale of Toronto: “Given that I use Facebook for networking and had never met most of my ‘friends,’ [Facebook’s ID test] was difficult. It was made impossible, however, because most of my Facebook friends are connected with pit bull advocacy and many of their pictures presented to me were actually pictures of their dogs.”

Why does Facebook freak out when I log in from San Diego while Citibank allows me to move thousands of dollars using no more than a password—from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan?

During my third week of Facebook Lockout Month I tried to call the company to ask that question and plead my case.

I couldn’t.

Facebook doesn’t have a customer service telephone number.

This, incredibly, is normal in the technology sector. A transnational corporation valued at tens of billions of dollars, with hundreds of millions of customers, has no way to get in touch with them in a hurry. Even if you’re a would-be zillionaire investor, you can’t call. You have to know someone inside.

What if someone is posting pornographic photos of your child via Twitter? What if someone has hacked into your account? What if you’re in San Diego and can’t figure out which of your Facebook “friends” owns that white pit bull with the black spot?

Some tech companies have phone numbers, but there’s no way to talk to a live human being. “Twitter’s system hangs up after providing Web or e-mail addresses three times,” Amy O’Leary reports in The Times. “At the end of a long phone tree, Facebook’s system explains it is, in fact, ‘an Internet-based company.’ Try e-mail, it suggests.”

Tried it. Repeatedly. Never heard back.

This is standard practice with tech companies. I’ve left customer service request messages for Apple, Adobe, Google and countless other firms over the years. I heard back maybe one time out of ten.

“LinkedIn’s mail lists an alternate customer service number. Dial it, and the caller is trapped in a telephonic version of the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ forced to work through the original phone tree again and again until the lesson is clear: stop calling,” writes O’Leary.

It was easier to get in touch with Osama bin Laden. Still is, probably.

This screw-the-customers crap began in the 1970s, when America began falling apart. First they made us pump our own gas. Then they made us bag our own groceries. The Better Business Bureau stopped accepting complaints. Finally, corporations started charging us for services—the phone company’s automated 411 information, automatic teller machines, electronic airline tickets—that, even before fees, had saved them money, increased their profits, and put thousands of workers out of work.

Still, when tech companies worth $10 billion don’t have a working phone number, you know they’ve taken “drop dead” to a whole new level.

“A lot of these companies don’t have enough employees to talk to,” Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster in Silicon Valley, told The Times. “Facebook, for example, has just one employee for every 300,000 users. Its online systems process more than two million customer requests a day.”

Indeed, one of the more troubling aspects of the Internet revolution is that the new tech sector employs far fewer workers per dollar of capitalization than the older industries, such as manufacturing, that it is replacing. Big banks like Goldman Sachs may be profit-sucking vampire squids bleeding American dry, yet they’re not nearly as destructive as high-valuation, low-payroll leeches like Twitter and Facebook.

General Motors, a company with $39 billion in equity value, directly employs 207,000 people, plus many more indirectly through its suppliers. Facebook has nearly twice the market capitalization ($67 billion) but employs a miserly 1,400 workers. On Wall Street, Facebook is worth more than GM. On Main Street, GM is worth 250 Facebooks.

It should be obvious to everyone that companies have a moral obligation to be responsive to the public, and that their duty to provide high-quality customer service increases exponentially as they grow in size. It should be equally obvious that companies that extract billions of dollars in profits from the American public have a moral responsibility to hire members of the American public. We’re not talking “make work”—but the minimum number of employees needed to conduct business in a responsible, professional manner.

Clearly the big tech companies are refusing to meet these minimum standards.

We should demand, Congress should pass, and the President should sign a law that sets clear standards for customer service by large corporations. For every x number of customers and/or every y million dollars of capitalization, there should be one U.S.-based, native English-speaking, professional customer service rep waiting to take our calls and help us.

Right away.

No phone tree.

No waiting.

It isn’t free speech, or habeas corpus, yet surely the Founding Fathers would agree: hard-working Americans have the right not to be driven crazy because boy billionaires are too cheap to hire some help.

(Ted Rall’s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com.)

(C) 2012 TED RALL, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Republican Socialists, Democratic Capitalists

GOP Pols Exploit Anti-Wall Street Rage

Newt Gingrich made a name for himself as the right-wing ideologue who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution.”

What a difference the wholesale collapse of international capitalism makes.

Forget 9/11—everything changed on 9/14/08, when Lehman Brothers hit the skids. Millions lost their jobs. Millions more lost their jobs. And the government refused to help them.

The government’s masters, the bankers, wouldn’t let them. They wanted all that taxpayer money for themselves.

The system was finally exposed as the corrupt, inefficient, cruel pseudodemocracy that we on the Left had always known it was. More than three years have passed yet neither the political class nor its corporate bosses have found the wherewithal to sate the anger of America’s roiling masses with the traditional bundle of social programs. To the contrary, the powers that be are calling for austerity, for gutting what’s left of the safety net.

They’re stealing the rope with which we will hang them.

Political disintegration is disruptive and painful. But it sure is entertaining.

The rise of the Republican primary season’s Anti-Capitalist Brigades is the center ring of this circus of death. At the head of the anti-Romney cadres is one of Newt’s well-heeled supporters, who is dropping a cool $3 million on an ad blitz that denounces Mitt Romney for engaging in slash-and-burn capitalism. (Is there another kind?)

“There’s a company in The Wall Street Journal today that Bain [Capital, Romney’s company] put $30 million into, took $180 million out of and the company went bankrupt,” Newt Gingrich said on January 10th. “And you have to ask yourself: Was a six-to-one return really necessary? What if they only take $120 million out? Will the company still be there? Will 1,700 families still have a job?”

Good questions all. But the heartless beasts who populate Wall Street venture capital firms don’t worry about the blood and tears they leave in their wake. Like all vampires they feast and flee. Their pet Republicans don’t care either. Not usually.

“I think there’s a real difference between people who believe in the free market and people who go around, take financial advantage, loot companies, leave behind broken families, broken towns, people on unemployment,” the former speaker continued.

Not much difference. Not when you think about it. Still, this is a serious slap-the-forehead moment.

Bear in mind, Gingrich is still a man of the Right. A few weeks ago his proposal for forced child labor of impoverished waifs marked the Dickensianest moment of the 2011 Christmas shopping season.

Newt isn’t the only Republican presidential candidate attacking capitalism’s sacred right to loot and pillage. Texas governor Rick Perry, whose brain freezes and loutish yucks over his role as the nation’s top executioner of lower-class misérables (and at least one innocent man) make his predecessor George W. Bush look like Adlai Stevenson, calls buyout specialists like Romney “vultures” who “swoop in…eat the carcass, and…leave the skeleton” of companies they target. Romney, he said, is a “buyout tycoon who executed takeovers, bankrupted businesses, and sent jobs overseas while killing American jobs.”

“Governor Romney enjoys firing people—I enjoy creating jobs,” added Jon Huntsman.

These are Republicans?

What’s up?

“For all the talk about this being a center-right nation, there’s a realization that Americans are uncomfortable with excessive greed and the kind of ruthless, screw-the-workers style of capitalism Romney used to get rich,” Steve Benen writes in Washington Monthly.

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post chimes in: “The leading GOP candidates are on record arguing that Romney’s practice of [capitalism]—which he regularly cites as proof of his ability to create jobs, as a generally constructive force and even as synonymous with the American way—is not really capitalism at all, but a destructive, profit-driven perversion of it. Thanks to them, this is no longer a left-wing argument.”

(Actually, destruction and profit-taking are the essential cores of capitalism. But why quibble? Everyone agrees that capitalism sucks. Yay!)

Times are changin’. According to polls, communism is more popular than Congress. So why isn’t the party of the left jumping on the Wall Street-bashing bandwagon?

Throughout the 2008 campaign and his presidency Barack Obama has taken pains to reassure the 1 percent that if he’s not exactly one of them he’ll look out for their bank accounts. Certainly he has enacted policies that have increased the gap between rich and poor while sucking the life out of the dry husk of the middle class.

Meanwhile, revolution looms.

Why don’t the Democrats see it? Don’t they understand that capitalism is discredited? Newt Gingrich does. So do most Republicans.

It comes down to a simple explanation: Everything has changed, but not the Democrats. They’ve always been slower than the GOP to recognize the shifting winds of American politics, slower to respond, inept when they try.

We used to be a center-right country. Now we’re left-right. Soon we’ll be left-left. Both the Dems and the Reps will be left behind. In the meantime, watch the dying Republicans make the most of an agenda that ought to belong to the dying Democrats: bashing the rich and greedy.

If nothing else, it’ll be entertaining.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Boycott the 2012 Election

Hey Liberals! Time to Stop Getting Rolled

We might as well have defaulted.

Regardless of where you stand politically, the deal to raise the federal debt limit came too late for the U.S. to achieve its main objective, avoiding the downgrading of debt issued by the U.S. Treasury that would have followed a default.

“The political and financial world surely thinks less of us now, and one demonstration of that will likely be a downgrading of the credit rating of the U.S., probably imposed in the next few months,” writes John Keefe of CBS’s Moneywatch. “The net result will be higher interest rates on U.S. government debt, which is likely to bleed through ultimately to higher costs for all sorts of other interest rates.”

The buzz on Wall Street says that Standard & Poor’s will soon downgrade T-Notes from a sterling “AAA” either to “AA+” or “AA”, the same as Slovakia. That’s exactly what would have happened had there been a default.

It is true: Our leaders are idiots.

“I have a home in Nevada that I haven’t seen in months,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid on the floor of the Senate. “My pomegranate trees are, I’m told, blossoming.” Too bad. He missed his pretty flowers for nothing.

Liberals got rolled.

Just like on healthcare.

Just like on everything else.

Everything about the way this deal went down, from the initial posturing to a compromise that will make the Great Depression of 2008-? even worse, along with Congress’ total lack of concern for the hardships being faced by the 20 percent-plus of Americans who are unemployed, has people disgusted.

“The big loser after this exercise is Washington,” Republican strategist Scott Reed tells The New York Times. The 2012 election “has the potential to be an anti-incumbent feeling in both parties.” Gee, ya think?

If any good comes out of the debt limit fiasco, it’s that this embarrassing showdown could serve as a long overdue wake-up call to liberals who still have faith in the Democratic Party. Maybe, just maybe, these ideological rubes will finally accept the obvious truth:

Those corrupt corporate-backed pigs just aren’t that into us.

So boycott the pigs. It is time for Real Liberals to kick Team Democrats to the curb. It isn’t hard. Next November all you have to do is…

Nothing.

Just.

Don’t.

Vote.

In other countries voter boycotts have a long and proud tradition as a way to effect pressure on a non-responsive political system. Think the politicians won’t care if you don’t vote? History proves you wrong. Even in dictatorships where only one candidate appears on the ballot, regimes go to desperate lengths to get people to turn out to vote. Why? It proves the government’s legitimacy.

Samuel Huntington cites the example of apartheid-era South Africa in his book “The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century”: “In the 1988 municipal elections, the [pro-apartheid] South African government…clamped down on pro-boycott opposition groups and made it unlawful for individuals to urge a boycott.” The African National Congress then upped the ante, declaring its intent to “use revolutionary violence to prevent blacks from collaborating [by casting a vote].”

Extreme, perhaps. Effective, definitely. The ANC is now the majority incumbent party in post-apartheid South Africa.

Are you Real? Or do you play for a Team?

If you’re a Real Liberal, you espouse liberal values and policies that you think would make America a better place. If you’re a partisan of Team Politics, you only care about one thing—whether the Democrats get elected. You couldn’t care less about policy.

Which side are you on?

Like Clinton and Carter before him, Obama has sold out core liberal Democratic principles, such as fighting for the weak and poor and expanding the social safety net, as well as civil liberties. He can’t point to a single major liberal policy achievement. Heck, Obama hasn’t proposed a major liberal bill. Even so, Team Democrats will vote for Obama in 2012. Team Democrats are Democrats first, liberals last.

Real Liberals, on the other hand, have no reason to support the Dems. The debt limit deal makes this painfully clear.

Paul Krugman, the only reason to read The New York Times op/ed page, calls the debt limit deal “a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.”

Krugman is a Real Liberal. Real Liberals care about liberal policies—defending old liberal victories such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as struggling to achieve new gains like a public-works program to put the unemployed to work.

Real Liberals give Democratic politicians the benefit of the doubt. But after they prove themselves to be a DINO (Democrat In Name Only), Real Liberals withhold their support. Classic example: Joe Lieberman, the senator from Connecticut. Current version: Barack Obama and his allies.

Obama has been locked in an epic showdown with House Republicans for weeks. Matador vs. bull. Scary and exciting.

First and foremost, the debt ceiling debate was ridiculous from the start. The economy is at a standstill. Recent GDP numbers came in at a sub-anemic 1.9 percent, so low that the real unemployment rate of 21 percent will continue to increase. Foreclosures are emptying out whole neighborhoods.

The traditional, historically proven Keynesian response to Depression is for the government to spend more. Members of both major parties know this. Yet here they were, both agreeing to spend less, indeed to slash the budget by historic amounts. If the Democrats had an ounce of sense, much less principle, they would have refused to discuss budget cuts at all. (Although an end to the wars would be nice.)

Obama and Congressional Democrats went along with trillions in cuts, cuts that may lead to Soviet-style collapse. The Dems’ only demand was that a final agreement include tax increases on the wealthy.

In the end, the Hopey Changey matador hopped the fence and fled the stadium. The GOP got their cuts. The Dems didn’t get a cent of taxes on the rich.

OK, Real Liberals. It’s been three years. You know Obama’s record. Obama never fights. When he does, it’s for conservative values, like slashing the federal budget and giving our money to millionaire bankers.

Why would you vote for him, or any Democrat, next year?

I know, I know: the Even More Insane Evil Republicans would take over. Après nous, la deluge. To which I ask, really, truly, no sarcasm—what difference would it make?

What if John McCain had won in 2008? Do you think we’d be at war in more countries than Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Libya? Would the Republicans have done less than Obama for the unemployed and homeowners getting evicted from their homes?

How much longer are you going to tolerate the sellout Democrats? How many more times are you going to stand in line to cast a vote for these treacherous scum?

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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