August 04, 2011

Debt deal: should not be a surprise Excerpted from here (The Current Moment): An excellent recent piece by Glenn Greenwald reminds us that Obama has always wanted significant cuts in social spending, and more generally been a champion of ‘entitlement reform.’ (Greenwald supplies the bulk of the evidence here). The key point is that Obama was not just pushed by nutty right-wingers, he has been a supporter of significant revisions to social programs for a long while. Of course, the plan may not exactly have been to Obama’s liking. And we can debate just how much Obama conceded versus got what he wanted (the best version of this debate is here), but most of this debate is besides the point. This budgetary compromise did not come to be in a vacuum. It is not just Obama but the entire Democratic Party that has been unable to provide convincing responses, and for good reason. For the past twenty years, the Democratic Party has been the part of austerity. The Clinton years have been celebrated as years of fiscal responsibility, whose crowning achievement was a balanced budget. The 1996 welfare reform entrenched the view that Democrats, too, thought there was a problem with the ‘culture of entitlement,’ and that individual households need to be more ‘responsible.’ The New Democrats also attacked the ‘old left’, echoes of Obama’s recent attack on the ‘professional left,’ and especially their tax and spend attitudes. Additionally, although it was Clinton who said ‘it’s the economy, stupid,’ it was the New Democrats who argued for...
Contraction I'm no economist, but my understanding of the recent analysis of employment data from Dean Baker is that the contraction in the labor market is structural. That is, the problem is not just that companies are getting workers to do more or work longer hours. Companies are also not just switching their labor force to temporary workers. Rather, companies are doing less and need fewer people. The contraction is real; the economy is actually smaller. The repercussion, then, is not just that capitalism in the US is experiencing a crisis (since capitalism always experiences crises). It's that capitalism in the US is changing, devolving. It is ever more a system that not only treats people (in production and consumption) as disposable in the sense of replaceable, but that disposes of people in the sense that it can do without more and more of them. At the same time, Baker notes the addition of jobs in the goods producing sector (mining, construction, manufacturing). This suggests that "really making things" still matters, that it's a dimension of the economy that hasn't been "postmodernized" away. It suggests in other words a continuing core of economic activity that persists even as service and knowledge sector positions in the post-Fordist economy fade away because they don't make anything real. From Dean Baker: The temp sector added just 300 jobs in July. Employment in the temp sector is down 17,700 jobs since March. This is noteworthy because it directly contradicts the business uncertainty story. If businesses...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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