FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Spreading Financial Rot

by SERGE HALIMI

The US financial rot spread, causing a global economic crisis with catastrophic results: no jobs, millions of property owners bankrupt, waning social security. That was five years ago. Now it is quite possible that the next incumbent of the White House may be Willard Mitt Romney, who owes his immense fortune to financial speculation, delocalisation of jobs and tax havens in the Cayman Islands.

His selection of Paul Ryan as Republican vice-presidential running mate offers a glimpse of what the US might look like if voters opt for the greater of two evils on 6 November. Barack Obama has already accepted a plan to reduce the budget deficit by cutting spending on welfare without raising the extraordinarily low level of tax on the highest incomes (1), but this Democratic surrender does not go nearly far enough for Ryan. Under his programme, supported by Romney and endorsed by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, there would be further cuts in the 20% tax rate, the tax ceiling would be brought down to 25%, the lowest since 1931, and there would be an increase in defence spending between now and 2017; all this would be achieved by reducing the ratio of the budget deficit to GDP to 10% of the present level. How does Ryan expect to do this? By handing most of each state’s civil responsibilities over to the private sector or to charity. Spending on Medicaid, the state-federal programme for the health of the poor, would eventually be 78% lower (2).

Since early last year, Obama has pursued a policy of austerity which has been both ineffective and extremely harsh, in the US as elsewhere. He takes credit for (rare) good news on the economic front, which he attributes to his presidency; and he ascribes bad news (including the lack of jobs) to Republican opposition. Insofar as these arguments are unlikely to mobilise voters for him, Obama is counting on fear of Republican radical rightwing views to get him elected for a second term. But what would he do with it, when the promises of his first term are in shreds and the Congress elected in November seems certain to be more rightwing than the one Obama faced when he took office?

Once again, with a political system operating for the benefit of two parties falling over each other to grant favours to the business community, millions of Americans disenchanted with Obama’s weakness will still be forced to vote for him. So they will resign themselves and make the usual choice offered in the US, that between bad and worse. But their decision will have wider repercussions: victory for a Republican Party that is determined to demolish any last remnant of a welfare state, devoted to a Christian fundamentalist line and driven by a paranoid hatred of Islam would set an example for the European right which is already tempted to go the same way.

SERGE HALIMI is director of Le Monde Diplomatique. He has written several books, including one  on the French press, Les nouveaux chiens de garde and another on the French left in the 20th century – Quand la gauche essayait – both are fine works.  He can be reached at Serge.Halimi@monde-diplomatique.fr

This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

Serge Halimi is president of Le Monde diplomatique

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail