Take it to the limit

It’s been fashionable for the smart and smug to dump on Trump – much like the English sneered at the Afrikaaner under apartheid while dining at the same table. But the precariat should be encouraged by the election of a US president who threatens to expose the insanity of the system, spread misery and insecurity to the better classes and unveil capitalism as a feast of vultures. There is no downside to confronting reality.

Endorsing Hilary Clinton, The Atlantic, an influential voice of liberal sensibility, described Donald Trump as “a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar… spectacularly unfit for office.” In the wake of Trump’s victory the UK’s progressive New Statesman wrought a lecherous remark made in 2005 into metaphorical copy. “Donald Trump has grabbed America by the pussy. The choice was between a good women and a terrible man, and the terrible man won”.

In Westminster MPs noisily scraped their bottoms on the high moral ground, ostensibly anguished by the government’s decision to honour a celebrated bigot with a state visit. The real reason for the hypocrisy on both sides of the Atlantic is that Trump has clumsily turned over the stone. Here’s  Richard Lichtman.

Capitalism is an economic system based on institutionalized greed, self-interest, accumulation, expansion, domination and disregard of the lives of others. It is a system of power in blatant opposition to democracy, which is an order of values that exalts simultaneously the individual’s uniqueness and capacity for cooperative relationships organized on behalf of justice, equality, dignity and universal freedom…Since its earliest history and with growing force and increasing speed, the United States has embraced the elitist domination of capitalist power and cloaked itself in the illusion of democratic self-righteousness. “Democracy,” or its semblance, has been shaped to support the ravages of capitalist exploitation, while providing the illusion of its devotion to restraining and remaking the ills of economic malice.
Innocence on the march. London, 30 January 2017

It’s the same story in the UK. For the organisers of the London protest against the Muslim travel ban, the real motive was to defend the European Union wracked by resistance to globalisation, severely wounded by Brexit and now threatened by Trump.The fascist surveillance of Muslims under the Prevent strategy, the British bombs raining down on hapless Yemenis and the government’s obsession with regime change in Syria are not ’causes’. These are the dying days of liberalism, says Maximilian Forte.

Liberal democracy has been reduced to a shell, more a name than a fact that deserves the name. For many years, liberalism has been liberal authoritarianism or post-liberalism or neoliberalism, with a high elitist disdain for democracy and a fear of the masses everywhere. Promises of inclusion, fairness, and welfare, were replaced by sensitive-sounding rhetorical tricks and tokenism. Moral narcissism, virtue signalling, identity politics, and building patchwork quilts of diversity were the order of the day… It’s not a small thing that has fallen here, not merely the defeat of Hillary Clinton and Americans rejecting Obama’s “legacy”. We are dealing with a series of institutions, an expert class, and a network of political and corporate alliances, that is being shaken beyond repair.

Even the New York Times bemoans the futility of identity politics. Mark Lilla writes:

The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good… A convenient liberal interpretation of the recent presidential election would have it that Mr. Trump won in large part because he managed to transform economic disadvantage into racial rage — the “whitelash” thesis. This is convenient because it sanctions a conviction of moral superiority and allows liberals to ignore what those voters said were their overriding concerns.

Liberals, says Michael Rectenwald, remain wilfully blind to the fact that capitalism has been decrepit for forty years and that a falling rate of profit has led to an effective ban on investment. Since the 70s the world-wide rate of growth has halved while unemployment has soared

Leftists mistakenly imagine that “neoliberalism” has merely been the desideratum of wicked politicians, who under the influence of their Wall Street and corporate donors, have maliciously manufactured current economic conditions. But the reverse is actually the case; neoliberalism is a set of policies and an ideology that the ruling class and their political proxies developed in response to the underlying and enduring economic malaise of capitalism. That is, underlying economic conditions have been the driving force of neoliberalism, not politics and ideology…Isn’t it about time to tell the working class the truth?

Apparently not in Britain. Here the public is expected to hold its breath while knight errant and PM, Theresa May goes in quest of the chimera of comparative advantage – a post-Brexit free trade deal with the EU.  This is entirely a charade. Valentin Katasonov says:

The financial crisis of 2007-2009 effectively terminated the process of globalization. In 2015 world trade suddenly dropped by more than 10% for the first time since 2009. Nothing like this has been seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s… One important hallmark of this era is the strengthening of protectionism in international trade and investment… and even the move to regulating trade on a bilateral basis. According to the WTO, just in the period between October 2015 and May 2016 the G20 countries adopted 145 laws aimed at strengthening trade barriers, and over 1,500 such laws have been adopted since 2008. In total, according to estimates by the renowned British economist Simon Evenett, there are close to 4,000 protectionist laws and regulations on the books around the world. And the countries of the G20 – where over 90% of global trade originates – are responsible for 80 % of those trade barriers.

Evenett adds:

As anyone who really watches commercial policy knows, the action these days is almost entirely taken at the national level. From new “Buy America” provisions to “Make in India” to Russian and Saudi “import substitution” initiatives, for better or for worse, 21st century trade policy has been principally about what commercial policies nations implement outside of trade talks. What matters more for British living standards is the terms that London sets for access to and operation in UK markets than the terms it wrings from others during a dash for foreign trade deals.

What alarms the bipartisan US establishment is that a return to protectionism under Trump could destroy the dollar-centred ‘international order’ dominated by the US since the end of World War 11. Under this arrangement America keeps the ‘peace’ by guaranteeing access to  markets (including the U.S. home market) and raw materials. All that is required from foreign governments is subservience to US foreign and military policy. The US basically runs a protection racket. Sam Williams explains:

The U.S. is able to run trade deficits year after year without a collapse of its home market because of its unique ability to borrow made possible by the dollar system. When the central banks of other countries buy dollars, they do not build up a pile of green paper dollars in their vaults. If they did, the U.S. home market would rapidly shrink in the face of continuing U.S. trade and payments deficits. Instead, they loan the money back by purchasing short-term Treasury bills. In this way, money—and monetarily effective demand—that flows out of the U.S. as the U.S. purchases foreign-produced commodities flows right back into the U.S. as the central banks purchase U.S. Treasury bills. As a result, effective monetary demand is maintained within the U.S. market despite the huge U.S. trade deficits.

US deficits – which underwrite middle class comfort in a militarised state – are essentially financed by other nations desperate for access to the world’s largest consumer market. Preserving the value of the dollar is crucial for the picnic to continue. Williams says interests rates were suppressed during the election campaign to delay the onset of a recession that would give Trump an advantage. Now his ambitious economic policies “increases the chances that an expansionary fiscal policy—a combination of tax cuts, war spending, and perhaps some public works spending—will collide with a tightening money market presided over by the Federal Reserve System.”

Trump’s attempts to force China (and Germany) out of the US market, destroy the Euro as a competing currency and return US capitalism to its robber baron and frontier era only risks undermining a world order carefully calibrated to ensure US supremacy. The US no longer has the military or economic clout to crush the rebellion Trump’s brand of protectionism will inevitably trigger.

The humanitarian rant is cant.  All US presidents have presided over a system in which exploitation, racism, environmental destruction, the suppression of dissent and wars of aggression are structural features. Targeting Islam as the enemy in a clash of civilisations, promoting a bogus war on terror, establishing full spectrum dominance, hobbling China and baiting Russia, looting the Global South, pampering Zionism and razing the Middle East are all policies that pre-date Trump. The most important bits of mainstream news have always been propaganda.

Trump has no hope of appeasing the discontents of globalisation. Like previous occupants of the White House he will promise peace and security and deliver war and inequality. Trump neither understands the source of his wealth or the poverty of others says Michael Roberts.

The IMF and other agencies like the World Bank like to argue that economic growth has picked up so much under capitalism that millions have been taken out of poverty. But economic experts in the field of poverty and global inequality reveal from their figures that official ‘poverty’ has declined for just two reasons.  The first is that the definition of poverty of those living on less than $1 a day is out of date; and second because nearly all the decline has been in China due to its unprecedented economic growth under a state-controlled and directed economy, still far from market capitalism seen in 19th and 20th century capitalism… In most low income countries inequality has hardly changed from very high levels. And the main reason is the control of wealth.  A very small elite owns the means of production and finance and that is how they usurp the lion’s share and more of the wealth and income.  The US Economic Policy Institute found that the top one percent of society derives an increasing portion of income gains from existing capital and wealth.  It is not because they are smarter or better educated.  It is because they are lucky (like Donald Trump) and inherited their wealth from the parents or relatives.

Donald Trump bites the hand that feeds him. He is a threat to the survival of the Empire and the hegemony of the dollar. The coordinated campaign to run him out of the White House is no surprise. Hopefully the Beltway self-harms to the hilt before he goes.

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