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18 February 2011


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William R. Cumming

Great post! Ignored another factor that may exist here and abroad in the ME. Specifically "corruption" which I discussed on one of my blogs this AM and labeled a WMD!
But there is more flexibility in American culture, religion, education, and economy. So probably taking to the streets will be de minimus until the passage of the next decade. Yet I do think that Americans have little understanding that the other nation-states of the world will no longer tolerate our (US) consumption each year of 25% of the world's resources. This is the ticking time bomb.
We may get pushed much harder to make changes than we think possible by the rest of the world. The impact of that politically is difficult to predict.


Every economic sea change produces a new "-ism." We are entering "unknown unknowns" territory.



Yes, it will happen here. I’ve lived through the Reagan Revolution, the Gingrich Shutdown and now the Tea Baggers. Each incarnation is more radical. Wisconsin shows just how radical these new guys are because the last thing you want to do is piss your workers off unless deep in your heart you know that “government is evil” and your goal is to bust their Unions.

In Wisconsin on NBC Nightly News a woman said she is protesting for the same reasons as the Egyptians. There is a common cause between Egypt and the USA. The neo-liberal globalization is screwing the young, the educated and the workers in both countries and across the world. The young can’t get good jobs and have nothing left to lose. The governments could care less about them or its civil servants. All that matters to them are getting it while they can and forever wars; in other words, Power.

The deficit problems will go away with three simple steps; tax the wealthy, end the wars and a single payer health plan. The current government cost cutting is ideological clap trap. Rather than these three steps to solve the deficit problem, they would much rather screw American Workers and the future of our Youth.


Mr. Lifton:

"It is true that there is no autocratic rule or pervasive corruption here as in Egypt and other of the Middle East countries."

I, and many others, would beg to disagree. The American system of "revolving door" Government appointments that allows people to shuttle from the private sector to Government and back again multiple times guarantees corruption at the policy level through the well studied phenomenon of regulatory capture.

Financial markets are thoroughly and deeply corrupt from top to bottom because again, the supposed industry watchdog makes use of revolving door appointments.


We can then look at the entire American economy and discover the massive regulatory burden placed on it by the defence of special interests.

The mechanisms include not just the usual burden of special interest tariffs and subsidies, but highly skewed intellectual property laws that stifle innovation, and each and every one of these measures costs jobs.

Furthermore, the entire edifice is propped up by a corrupt judiciary and legal system that distinguishes between classes. If this isn't autocracy then I don't know what is.

"we now have a multi-tiered justice system in the United States where citizens have their legal rights, obligations and punishments determined exclusively by their status and class. Thus, someone like Jose Padilla, in the lowest class of literal non-person (accused Terrorist), has virtually no chance regardless of the merits of his claims against someone like Donald Rumsfeld, who resides in the highest and most privileged class (high-level political official). As Padilla's counsel, Ben Wizner, said, the court yesterday ruled "that Donald Rumsfeld is above the law and Jose Padilla is beneath it." That's just what the American justice system is."


Multiple examples on request.

In my opinion, the net effect however is unlikely to be a "Egyptian moment" because Egyptians were not armed like Americans.

I believe that Robert Paxton was right, and that the slide into Fascism is already too late to stop. All that is required is for a Republican Presidential candidate in 2012 to "channel" the Tea Party folk and spread a backwards looking meme about Americas glorious past and how all our problems are caused by "socialism" and the enemies of the Republic who encouraged us to stray from the words of the Constitution.

You all know how such speech sounds. You all know that there are any number of Senator McCarthys just waiting in the wings.

William R. Cumming

If the TEA PARTY focuses on corruption of the political leaderhsip both DEMS and REPUBLICANS in big trouble. The Independents will determine the outcome in 2012 not the major parties.


It is already happening. In Madison Wisconsin the Governor is threatening to call out the national guard to crush protests about a legislative act to eliminate collective bargaining rights. In Michigan you are seeing a budget proposal that will eliminate significant portions of state funding for local schools, effectively bankrupting a number of school districts. Similarly to a number of cities in Michigan. The next step is reducing, eliminator or shipping to the pension benefit guarantee corporation (the federal taxpayer) the pensions of city retirees. This all at the same time further reducing state incomes by further corporate tax cuts. It is going to be effective in crushing the unions. It won't balance the budget or improve school or city quality a damn bit.

Raising taxes, that won't happen. The only people who have forbidden raising taxes are the corporate lobbyists and the recently elected politicians whose offices they bought. Do you really think a hedge fund millionaire, a mega-church millionaire, or any other millionaire couldn't pay an extra 1 or 2 percent on the SECOND million of income? How about the Trust Funds that pay no taxes at all? How complicit are they in abetting corporate America shipping jobs to communist China in the pursuit of a few more dollars? What percent of the fund are they required to spend in the US? Do they even touch their capital? How much direct employment is there for all that capital?

These are the actions of our recently elected political leaders. The avarice of their ideology knows no limit. These actions are unjust, un-American and un-Christian. These politicians, lobbysist and supporters are CHRINOs, Christians in name only.

Sidney O. Smith III

Insightful. Thanks.

I am struggling with a slight pronoun problem. When the author writes “it” in his title “Can it happen here?”, what does he mean?

Does “it” mean societal disintegration? If so, what follows the fragmentation? The path towards decentralization of government powers or increased power given to a centralized government?

If FDR and Huey Long (Every man a King) act as historical precedent, then the trend line would seem towards the latter.

If true, one cannot help but think of the work of F. Hayek and then wonder when, in all of history, has economic central planning as well as the growth of a centralized government not resulted in the death of innocents.

But there is a new factor to consider in the 21st century. The rate of historical change has reach such a high velocity that its speed may shatter all traditional paradigms.

Seen in that light, "Can it happen here?" may mean that's what is happening now.


Another proud day for America at the UN. See http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/watch-live-un-security-council-vote-on-settlement-resolution-1.344331

We condemn settlements...until the condemnation has a consequence.

John Kirkman

Hitler was a gifted orator that nearly destroyed the world. There are always the weak, stupid, and disillusioned ready to believe each new messiah, and they may now outnumber those represented by the ones who fought their way into Arlington. Today’s vote in the UN along the party lines of AIPAC demonstrates the slime and dishonor endemic to our leading “class” of politicians, and how they have isolated us in the world. A long line of stupid and senseless wars that demonstrate how absolutely correct Eisenhower was to warn us of the danger within could not be more obvious than it is now even to the mildly curious.
We need a leader, and there are none on the horizon. I fear for my country.


I live in Delaware. During 2010, my state witnessed the closure of a GM plant and a Chrysler plant. There was not a peep from the media or national politicians.

Why so much concern for teachers, toll takers, county clerks, and DMV clerks while so little fuss about the losses of our industrial jobs?

Blue collars don't count?


Specifically "corruption" ...said William R. Cumming.

Exactly. The biggest problem for Americans is that 'corruption' has been institutionalized by politicians in to the political system and every critical sector in the US. They've made it legal.
So there's little likelihood we can change it working 'within" the political or legal system.
Which leaves what?..Some miracle candidate gets elected and changes everything? LOL...or we do an Egypt on DC?...or we form a committee of lesson teaching assassins to weed out the corrupt?

The only thing I am absolutely, positively sure of is that Washington will never voluntarily reform itself.

R Whitman

There sure is a lot of America bashing here. Stop and reconsider, this is still a very pleasant country to reside in.

Most of our so called troubles now will be resolved one way or the other during the next few years and we will have other problems to contend with. Thats the American way.

The worst domestic crisis in my lifetime (75+ years) was during the Vietnam era when pictures were published of machine gun emplacements around the White House. What we have now is minor league.


"It behooves all of us, politicians, business people and those still fortunately employed to do far more to ease the plight of our fellow Americans who are jobless and suffering"..Lifton,

Let me add to this.
To help suffering Americans and the jobless means more than throwing crumbs to them with unemployment payments.
Since the GATT agreements in the sixties the US has lost the bulk of it's manufacturing industry and therefore jobs.
There is nothing 'new", not IT, not 'Green", nothing that is going to replace all those blue collar and semi skilled and lower to middle class jobs.
The US has to recreate it's industrial base and revise it's trade agreements to make the US competetive with cheap labor countries.
One way to do this would be a simple sliding scale of tarrifs linked to the average wages paid by the entity importing. If GE was subject to import taxes on products made in a country where the hourly wage was $2.00 in order to bring their imports closer to the cost of US produced goods we would see a market grow for domestically produced goods. This could be done without improvishing the off shore countries multi national operate in...GE would have the option of raising the wages they pay to lower their tariffs, an option they would probably take to avoid the regulation and taxes of US operations...but the effect would be the same...the retail cost of imports would come closer to the US product cost.
BUT...congress will never do this for reasons we all know.


The Tea Partiers are sending bus fulls tomorrow to Madison to counter-demonstrate. Will they play the part of Mubarak's goons or demonstrate peacefully?

The Madison rallies are increasing numerically every day and in fact are spreading to Ohio, Missouri and a few other places. The heartland is tired of losing ground.

Medicine Man

After reading Yusuf's post earlier today and Taibbi's article in the Rolling Stone magazine the day before, I was strongly tempted to comment along these lines; something about the "common face of corruption...". Remembering Dr. Brenner's admonishments against halo-ing ourselves onto other nations, I demurred. (It also seemed bad taste, at the time, to treat a post about Egypt as an occasion to naval gaze.)

Now Mr. Lifton has spoken my mind for me; better than I would have, no doubt.

Reading Yusuf's missives, I get a clear image of an Egypt saddled with corruption. The governing and business elite in the country conspire to maintain a status quo that benefits them while impoverishing the country and its people. Should the people lose their vigilance or drowse off to sleep, the boosters of the old government will roll back their expectations, perhaps violently, as much as they are able.

Reading Taibbi's explanations of how Wall Street has avoided prosecution in the aftermath of an era of brazen criminality I have to wonder if the government/business relationship hasn't progressed in a similar moribund direction in the US.

Could the US see a popular backlash like that seen in Egypt? I don't know. But I've long thought that the emergence of the Tea Parties was fundamentally a result of Americans realizing they're getting screwed. They may not be able to accurately identify why, how, or by whom, but Americans can tell the difference between rainwater and urine.

Norbert M. Salamon

I do not think that the USA protest movement will imitate the one in Egypt, except in small scale as in Wisconsine today.

Far more dangerous waters lie in wait for the once greatest democracy on Earth, the acknowledged possession of the citizenry of approx. 300 million fire arms, with unknown number of more devstating weapons.

While I have maintained that the USA has a form of facism [in previous notes on this blog], the comparison to the rise of Hitler's is not applicable to the present circumstances:
1., The amont of armament in citizens' hands;
2., the problems can not be ascribed to foreign powers, a la the debt incurred by germany due to the various peace treaties after WWI.
3., There is no manner of possible rebuilding of the USA industrial economy as was done in Gemrany by Hitler, the military industrial complex is about the only productive industry [through totally based on misappropriation of scarce natural resources and scarce capital].
4., Peak oil, peak natural resources and Global warming will increase the speed of decline in an unstroppable manner, regardless of the machinations of the elite political/judiciary/moneyed/corporate MSM cohort.
5., the postpone and pretend nnsense with respect to Finacing of accumulated debt, insolvency will increase the financial crisis within a very short time for the USA, especially as so many decisions arte made based on CORRUPT ECONOMIC DATA propaganda by the various governments within the USA [unemployment, public debt, GDP, etc.
6., Most pertinent, the USA citizenry has the furthest to fall relatively speaking among all the citizens of the world [some of whom are barely surviving without reference to Global Warming and or Peak oil and peak natural resources], so the real decline will be felt the most, with ungodly consequences.

The future, as the Combined USA Forces analysis pointed out, effect of peak oil is within the next couple of years, not leaving room for manuvering to lessen its inmpact, even if all the resources given to the DoD and military indutrial complex were devoted to this one problem [aside from the fact thqat the political elite will defend DoD expenditures to their death].


Paul Ryan (R-WI): "It's like Cairo has moved to Madison these days."


Self-parody at its finest.

If you pull enough string on any of this you hit campaign finance laws that foster a level of corporate corruption that is quite exceptional to America. I don't think it's impossible that the disaffected wings of both parties could find meaningful common ground on this issue. They both agreed to audit the Fed, for example. America has nothing if not a great capacity for self-correction (after exhausting all other options, etc).


"At the same time, the political focus is on reducing the budget deficit and the national and state debt load." - Lifton

It seems that the "political focus" has not yet resulted in tangible debt reduction. Rhetoric vs reality. State and Local government debt as well as federal government debt continue on curves with steep slopes.


What is your definition of wealthy and what do you think their marginal tax rate should be?

Medicine Man

The decisions that have led to the decimation of American industry were made decades ago, psc. I'm led to understand that the US's move to a service-based economy powered by the production of complex financial instruments is what makes it prone to instability (bubble-bust) and slow to recover.

My (depressing) opinion is the ship sailed so long ago that the hollowing out of American industry is the new normal; perhaps intentionally, though I don't want to trade in conspiracies.

Stephen Colton

Unfortunately, for the last 30 years, the American blue-collar worker has voted directly against his own best interests in supporting the Republican economic agenda. And they continued to do so in the 2010 mid-term election.

frank durkee

Gailbreadth used the reality of "countervailing power" as a lens to look at much of the US economic system in the '30's--'60's.
We are looking at the latest attempts by business to remove some of the last vestiges of Union Power in the us, they are a countervailing power to business and the government.
As these elements became weakened with Reagan and those following the situation described above became worse due to other factors also enumerated above { globalization etc }. Where the new countervailing force is going to arise from, who will comprise it, how will it become a selfaware entity etc are all organizers questions. the Teaparty types reearch shows are beholden to SSI and Medicare so they're not it.
So far we have,perhaps potential crowds but nothing beyond that. {Wisc. is a set up, reduce taxes and then say we have break unions to pay for our services} We are looking at the conservative end game to attempt to undue the New Deal in a very different political environment.
there as of yet few honest voices. Ubtil there are we really are screwed.


Interesting range of comments, most from the same sad songbook.
TeaParty types are primarily disgruntled white folks, appalled that "one of them" is in the WH. Their costumes evidence a fundamental lack of seriousness. They will be betrayed by their masters, whipped into submission and told "go home" until needed again.
Those experienced in the street theater of Latin America or Southwest Asia rank TPrs up there with "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" as distractors, as the god of Blowback comes home to America. We've drunk too much corporate koolaid to believe other than "our cause is just" (remember Plano, Col.?) and "the business of America is business." Once you internalize the social darwinian model, there's nothing left but to worship the winners and cull your fellow losers of those who ask too many questions.

ex-PFC Chuck

Per R. Whitman:

Stop and reconsider, this is still a very pleasant country to reside in.

For some of us, yes. But for increasing numbers, not so much. And you can argue that the rate of increase is accelerating.

Estella Sakultanapanich

The Tea Partiers are sending bus fulls tomorrow to Madison to counter-demonstrate. Will they play the part of Mubarak's goons or demonstrate peacefully?

I would appreciate a link for this. Thanks,

Mrs. Chang

ex-PFC Chuck

Per Optimax:

But I've long thought that the emergence of the Tea Parties was fundamentally a result of Americans realizing they're getting screwed. They may not be able to accurately identify why, how, or by whom, . . .

I agree. What the TPers don't understand is the "by whom," which happens to be those who are funding their movement. The right is very skilled at manipulating Authortarian Followers into p**sing into their own pockets. http://tinyurl.com/ys2j6o

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