-New Masses. I have a tendency to relapse into simple minded Marxist explanations, a habit that has served me well as the Great Recession mangles on. One of Marx's contentions was that capitalism tends to immiserate the proles. This is an often laughed at contention - what ho, all the prosperity generated in the freemarket West lo these many years! And in fact much prosperity was generated when there was a strong union factor able to swing the government - naturally, the ally of the rich - into using its countervailing power. But as we look at the facts and figures that stream in about the Great Moderation over the last coupla decades, one thing is striking: the average household in America owes as much as it owns. Or in other words - in practical accounting terms, Marx scores! The great moderation is so called because the condition under which the regime in which credit substitutes for wage increases had to be moderate - a matter of slowly, deliberately constructing a system of pinches from the outside, no single one of which hurt that much. Oh, a little more unpaid overtime. Oh, a little higher insurance premium. Oh, a little change in the credit laws to the disadvantage of the borrower. And then of course we got the bump, and our pluto-presidents, Bush and Obama, made sure that the gigantic capitalists were helped, and basically pissed on the majority of Americans. So we are now on the downslope of the Great Moderation. And if Marx is right, the immiserative machinery is going to get a little more fierce. In spite of having had a bad night debating, really, Obama looks set to be re-elected, barring utter disaster, the GOP will still own the House, the Dems the senate, and we will play this game one more time.
But in the longer view - Karl has been right on the money. The neo-liberal dream, with its fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of capitalism, has been, on the other hand, absolutely wrong. That is, the sincere third way people - not the Tom Friedmans. The third way - which dominates the Dems and Labour - can be simmered down to this core principle: the guarantor state that arose in the thirties and provided social insurance for the populace can be replaced by a private sector version of the guarantor state, where the work of social insurance is performed by investment. The wage worker invests in capital and reaps the fruit of capital's growth and profitability. Of course, we overlook the fact that this profitability comes about by freezing the wage worker's wages and eventually shipping his job to someplace where it can be done more cheaply. The idea, here, has a utopian roots in various socialist schemes of the 1830s, which also wanted to put the prole on both sides of the table. The problem is that this ignores the fact that the money that is made on one side of the table - capital's profit - comes from the surplus labor that comes from the other side of the table. What the third way, or neo-liberalism is, is ... a Ponzi scheme. And that Ponzi scheme is the major determinant of our politics at the present time.