FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Dogs of War, the Bears of Wall Street

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

The higher Bush tries to loft himself with war talk, the darker grow the economy’s dire responses.

On Tuesday the Dow Jones industrials dropped nearly 190 points to hit a four-year low. The broader market also finished down. The Nasdaq composite index, homeport for the New Economy, set a new six-year low. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 14.45, or 1.7 percent, at 819.25.

The Fed’s Open Market Committee chose to leave rates at 40-year lows at its meeting Tuesday, saying bravely that consumer and business demand is “growing at a moderate pace.” But it also noted that considerable uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of an economic recovery,

Meanwhile, leading economic indicators and housing starts have fallen for three months in a row. Oil prices are up 40 per cent since the start of the year.

Last week we wrote here that we’ve now seen seven straight quarters of declining investment on plant and equipment and a sharp drop of the growth of consumer spending over the past four or five months. Suppose, we asked, there’s another drop in equity prices, reflecting dawning awareness that the performance of many of America’s mightiest corporate names has been based entirely on fraudulent numbers.

So now equity prices have dropped again and federal prosecutors have announced they’re opening a criminal probe into Xerox’s accounting practices. Xerox stock promptly fell 71 cents to $5.96 after the company said federal prosecutors were opening a criminal inquiry into the company’s accounting practices. WorldCom revealed that it probably misreported $9 billion in revenue, not $7 billion.

The official rate of profit on capital stock in the non-financial corporate sector as a whole is now) at its lowest level of the postwar period (except for 1980 and 1982).

If this was Bill Clinton, the commentators would be flaying him alive for Wag-the-Dog attempts to use war talk as a way to distract attention from economic bad news. Thus far Bush has remained aloft on his magic carpet, but he’s losing altitude steadily while Wall Street chews its lip, foreign denunciations pour in, and the German Social Democrats and Greens exult in the way Bush handed them an entirely unexpected victory last weekend.

America no longer has Senior Reps of the Ruling Class like John McCoy or “Wise Old Men” like the infinitely tacky Clark Clifford. At moments like this, such Senior Reps would step forth with measured warnings to Bush about his reckless path. These days we’re left with Henry Kissinger.

Probably the nearest thing we have to a senior statesman is that brilliant Democratic politician, Senator Bobby Byrd, whose monuments strew West Virginia.

The only opponent Senator Bobby Byrd of West Virginia has to fear is death itself so in Congress he speaks with a frankness rivaled only by the Texan libertarian, Rep Ron Paul. In the last week Byrd has excelled himself in speeches on the senate floor.

Byrd denounced Bush’s proposed Homeland Security Agency as a ramshackle, hastily conceived outrage to constitutional protections, a way of undercutting the hard rights of federal workers, all in a mission thus far entirely undefined. Byrd made particular reference to Bush’s contemptuous dismissal of criticism of the proposed Agency as Lilliputian. The venerable, but frisky senator riposted by deriding Bush as a Caesarist Gulliver impatient with the restraints of democratic constitutional government.

In another speech Byrd gave Bush some derisive whacks on the topic of his warmongering against Iraq: “The president was dropping in the polls and the domestic situation was such that the administration was appearing to be much like the emperor who had no clothes.” Byrd described the coming of “the war fervor, the drums of war, the bugles of war, the clouds of war.”

“I sat in on some of the secret briefings,”, Byrd said, “and nobody from the administration has been able to answer the question: Why now?”

A few days later in San Francisco another prominent Democrat, Al Gore, lacked Byrd’s fizz but still wagged an admonitory finger at Bush. Gore’s weekend speech to the Commonwealth Club was widely billed as anti-war. Gore did issue some strong language denouncing Bush’s onslaught on the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Beyond that the speech was in fact a measured, fairly well-written advisory on the pretenses and postures appropriate to the world’s premier imperial power.

Gore echoed Henry Kissinger in saying that an attack on Iraq had to be properly justified, not by bluster about a “regime change”, and by hot talk about America’s right to wage “preemptive war”, but by traditional rhetorical escalation within the grand tradition of such rationales, stretching back to the dawn of the Cold War.

There’s probably not been a president since the Second World War held in such low international esteem as Bush. Mark how Gore felt it safe to play on this theme in his San Francisco speech. Six, even three months again, Gore would never have taken such a risk: “In just one year,” he said, “the President has somehow squandered the international outpouring of sympathy, goodwill and solidarity that followed the attacks of September 11th and converted it into anger and apprehension aimed much more at the United States than at the terrorist network.”

If the economy continues to slide, Bush and his circle will face a truly desperate gamble, trying to figure whether a $200 billion war on Iraq will save them, or just plunge them into the mother of all messes.

 

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail