Friday, December 03, 2010

Mark Twain on rhyming history

Thomas Palley in the Financial Times quotes from FDR's 1936 Madison Square Garden Speech:
“For 12 years this nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing government. The nation looked to government but the government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years with the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that government is best which is most indifferent.”
Doesn't that seem familiar? As Mark Twain put it: history doesn't repeat itself - but it rhymes. And the article makes the obvious, but widely ignored point:
"President Obama’s fateful decision to go with Clintonomics meant the recession was interpreted as an extremely deep downturn rather than a crisis signaling the bankruptcy of the neoliberal paradigm that has ruled both Republicans and Democrats for 30 years."
Timing matters, as Palley explains - and it wasn't on Obama's side. The problem is: the U.S. got the New Deal then, which was, along with similar things elsewhere, the underpinning for a gigantic surge of prosperity worldwide after the Second World War. Nothing of this kind looks likely now. Instead there is:
a vacuum that is being filled by dangerous unstable forces. This is the tale of the Tea Party, which is a tale that has resonance for Europe. The economic risk, already more advanced in Europe, is a doubling-down of disastrously failed hardcore neo-liberal economic policies. The political risk is a rise of intolerance and xenophobia.

These are not normal times. If the administration persists with its deafness to history it will surely hit the rocks and an historical opportunity for progressive change will be squandered. Worse yet, its deafness will leave the field open to the extreme right whose “blame-the-victim” social message and “liquidationist-austerity” economic policies clearly confirm that today’s rhyme is with the history of the 1930s.
Sigh. Offshore is absolutely essential to this story. It is, as we recently explained, the hardest nut to crack: the sector that feels it cannot be touched. And that is exactly why we have to crack it - because it is the greatest threat of all to democracy and our shared prosperity.


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