Trump And The Infrastructure Of Fascism


Prof.dr. Gerald Epstein

Infrastructure investment: it’s that economic policy sweet spot that everyone loves to love.

Fixing bridges, building roads, modernizing airports, improving mass transportation, keeping lead out of our water: nearly everyone can relate to the need for it and can imagine how much better their lives would be with more of it.  For years, most people have faced crazy-making delays in traffic, long lines at airports, and have seen pictures of bridges collapsing. And the experts agree. Economists and engineers have warned us about the problem for decades.  The most recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a D+ on its infrastructure building and maintenance, which means that, overall, our infrastructure is in critical condition. These civil engineers estimate that over the next 10 years, the U.S. will have about a $1.2 trillion in infrastructure financing shortfall unless something dramatic is done. Studies have confirmed that, properly done, infrastructure investment can generate millions of jobs, create big time saving efficiencies, and keep people safer. These infrastructure shortfalls, fed by years of Republican austerity initiatives at the Federal and State levels, too often aided and abetted by Democratic bankers and other Democratic “deficit hawks,” are much in the everyday texture of American life.

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump jumped on the bandwagon, decrying America’s “Third World” infrastructure and touting his ability to fix it in short order—as “demonstrated” by his “building prowess “in New York City and “around the world.” Trump promised to quickly fix the country’s decaying infrastructure and generate millions of good paying job with a $1 trillion program that will “Make America Great Again.”

That Trump had hit a political “sweet spot” was made clear early on by the number of prominent Democrats and labor leaders who announced not only an interest but real enthusiasm for cooperating with Trump on making a $ 1 trillion building-spree a reality. How could they resist? A true, well designed, well-implemented $1 Trillion government investment in infrastructure is a plan many Democrats, progressive economists and labor leaders had been promoting for years. As Richard Trumpka, President of the AFL-CIO explained: “During my January meeting with President Trump, we identified a few important areas where compromise seemed possible. On manufacturing, infrastructure and especially trade, we were generally in agreement. Mr. Trump spoke of $1 trillion to rebuild our schools, roads and bridges. He challenged companies to keep jobs in the United States. He promoted ‘Buy America.’ He promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.” Read more

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Is Capitalism In Crisis? Latest Trends Of A System Run Amok


To order the book: see below

Having survived the financial meltdown of 2008, corporate capitalism and the financial masters of the universe have made a triumphant return to their “business as usual” approach: They are now savoring a new era of wealth, even as the rest of the population continues to struggle with income stagnation, job insecurity and unemployment.
This travesty was made possible in large part by the massive US government bailout plan that essentially rescued major banks and financial institutions from bankruptcy with taxpayer money (the total commitment on the part of the government to the bank bailout plan was over $16 trillion). In the meantime, corporate capitalism has continued running recklessly to the precipice with regard to the environment, as profits take precedence not only over people but over the sustainability of the planet itself.
Capitalism has always been a highly irrational socioeconomic system, but the constant drive for accumulation has especially run amok in the age of high finance, privatization and globalization.
Today, the question that should haunt progressive-minded and radical scholars and activists alike is whether capitalism itself is in crisis, given that the latest trends in the system are working perfectly well for global corporations and the rich, producing new levels of wealth and increasing inequality. For insights into the above questions, I interviewed David M. Kotz, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism (Harvard University Press, 2015).

C.J. Polychroniou: David, corporate capitalism and the masters of the universe have bounced back quite nicely from the global financial crisis of 2008. Is this an indication of the system’s resilience, or do we need to think about larger considerations, such as the trajectory of the class struggle in the contemporary world, the role of ideology and the power of the state?

David M. Kotz: The severe phase of the economic and financial crisis ended in the summer of 2009. By then the banks had been bailed out and the Great Recession ended, as production stopped falling and began to rise in North America and Europe. As you say, since then profits have recovered quite well. However, normal capitalist economic expansion has not resumed, but instead, global capitalism has been stuck in stagnation.

Stagnation means no economic growth or very slow economic growth. Stagnation has afflicted most of the developed countries since 2010, with some countries, such as Greece, still in a severe depression. US GDP growth has averaged only 2.1 percent per year since the bottom of the Great Recession in 2009. That is by far the slowest expansion following a recession since the end of World War II. Even mainstream economists, such as Lawrence Summers and Paul Krugman, have recognized that the economy is stuck in a severe stagnation.

In the US, the official unemployment rate has fallen to a low level, but that is due to millions of people being dropped from the official labor force as a result of giving up looking for work after finding none for a long period. Most of the new jobs pay low wages and provide little or no job security. Meanwhile, the rich continue to get still richer.

The long-lasting stagnation has brought stagnating wages and worsening job opportunities. This creates a severe problem for capitalism, even with rising corporate profits and growing wealth for the top 1 percent. This problem has an ideological and a political dimension. While capitalism always brings a high degree of inequality, it is tolerable for those holding the short end of the stick as long as living standards are rising and job opportunities are good for most people. A long period of stagnation delegitimizes the existing system. As growing numbers of people turn against “the system” and the elites who run it, a political crisis develops. The bourgeois democracy that normally acts to stabilize capitalism turns into a source of instability, as anti-establishment parties and candidates start winning elections. Read more

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Financial Globalization Can Wreck Societies And The World Economy: An Interview With Political Economist Gerald Epstein


Prof.dr. Gerald Epstein

Since the outbreak of the ‘global financial crisis’ of 2008, there has been an explosion of interest in finance capital and on the so-called ‘financialization’ of the economy. Yet, there is no general consensus among scholars either on the causes behind the rise of finance capital or on the actual impact of ‘financialization’ on the economy and society. One of the leading scholars in the field of political economy interested in the ‘financialization’ of the economy and on the links between neoliberalism, globalization and ‘financialization’ is Gerald Epstein, Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In the interview below, Professor Epstein addresses several issues related to ‘financialization’, including it’s macroeconomics and impact on the world economy, as well as it’s links to instability and capitalist crises.

J. Polychroniou and Marcus Rolle: Professor Epstein, an increasing number of scholars have been turning their attention since the outbreak of the ‘global financial crisis’ of 2008 to the role of the finance sector in advanced capitalist economies. Can you give us a sense of how we should proceed to understand ‘financialization’, and address the question on whether it represents a distinct ‘phase’ in the evolution of capitalism?

Gerald Epstein: ‘Financialization’ is the latest, and probably most widely used term by analysts trying to ‘name’ and understand the contemporary rise of finance and its powerful role. The term had been developed long before the crisis of 2008 but, understandably, since the crisis hit, it has become even more popular. This vast and rapidly expanding literature on financialization has a number of important strands. Some of the literature focuses on clarifying the definition of financialization, and assessing whether it is a dominant cause of the ills confronting capitalism or is just a symptom of other, deeper causes; some asks whether financialization is a new ‘phase: of capitalist development, perhaps a new ‘mode of accumulation’, or considers whether it is just one among a number of important developments along with ‘neo-liberalism’, ‘digitization’ and ‘globalization’ that are arising in the contemporary world; other literature is focused on less theoretical and more empirical matters, trying to measure the nature and extent of financialization, however defined, and to describe its institutional and economic dimensions; and still other work is focused on attempting to analyze theoretically and empirically the impact of financialization on important phenomena such as financial crises, productive investment, productivity growth, wages and income distribution; and finally, other parts of the literature are more policy-oriented, trying to grapple with policies and structural changes than can improve the role that finance plays in the economy. There are still many conundrums and open questions about ‘financialization’ which means it will remain a fruitful area for multi-disciplinary research and an important arena for political battles and structural reform for the foreseeable future.

As discussed by Malcolm Sawyer, the term financialization goes back at least to the 1990’s and probably was originated by Republican political operative and iconoclastic writer Kevin Phillips, who first used the term in his book Boiling Point (New York: Random House, 1993) and, a year later, used the term extensively in his Arrogant Capital in a chapter entitled the “Financialization of America”. Phillips defined financialization as “a prolonged split between the divergent real and financial economies (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1994). (Sawyer, 2013, pp. 5-6).

Scholars have adopted the term, but have proposed numerous other definitions. Sociologist, Greta Krippner, for one, gives an excellent discussion of the history of the term and the pros and cons of various definitions. As she summarizes the discussion, some writers use the term ‘financialization’ to mean the ascendancy of “shareholder value” as a mode of corporate governance; some use it to refer to the growing dominance of capital market financial systems over bank-based financial systems; some follow Hilferding’s lead and use the term financialization to refer to the increasing political and economic power of a particular class segment, the rentier class; for some financialization represents the explosion of financial trading with myriad new financial instruments; finally, for Krippner herself, the term refers to a “pattern of accumulation in which profit making occurs increasingly through financial channels rather than through trade and commodity production”. (Greta Krippner, ‘Thought Financialization of the American Economy,’ Socio-Economic Review 3 (2), 2005, p. 174).

I have defined the term quite broadly and generally as: “the increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of the domestic and international economies.” (Gerald Epstein, ed., Financialization and the World Economy. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishers, 2005). This definition focuses on financialization as a process, and is quite agnostic on the issue of whether it constitutes a new mode of accumulation or broadly characterizes an entire new phase of capitalism. Broad definitions like mine have the advantage of incorporating many features, but have the disadvantage, perhaps, of lacking specificity.

Other analysts have used variations on the term financialization to refer to more or less the same set of phenomena. Tom Palley has used the term ‘neo-liberal financializaton’ in his writings to emphasize the importance of neo-liberalism as part and parcel of the rise of financialization (Palley, 2013a, p. 8) Eckhard Hein and Tom Palley have not referred to financialization but to ‘finance-dominated capitalism’. Read more

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Imperialism Is Alive And Kicking: A Marxist Analysis Of Neoliberal Capitalism


Prabhat Patnaik – Photo: wikipedia

The concept of imperialism has fallen out of the political lexicon of many leftists in the West, with some deeming the concept irrelevant for understanding the dynamics of contemporary capitalism.
Marxist economist Prabhat Patnaik has been one of the leading voices countering this trend. In A Theory of Imperialism, a book he co-authored with Utsa Patnaik, Patnaik explores how a new form of imperialism is at work in the unfolding of the capitalist system.
In this exclusive interview for Truthout, Patnaik states the case for the continuing relevance of imperialism as an analytical construct for understanding and challenging effectively the logic and dynamics of contemporary capitalism.

C.J. Polychroniou: How do you define imperialism and what imperialist tendencies do you detect as inherent in the brutal expansion of the logic of capitalism in the neoliberal global era?

Prabhat Patnaik: The capitalist sector of the world, which began by being located, and continues largely to be located, in the temperate region, requires as its raw materials and means of consumption a whole range of primary commodities which are not available or producible, either at all or in adequate quantities, within its own borders. These commodities have to be obtained from the tropical and sub-tropical region within which almost the whole of the Third World is located; and the bulk of them (leaving aside minerals) are produced by a set of petty producers (peasants). What is more, they are subject to “increasing supply price,” in the sense that as demand for them increases in the capitalist sector, larger quantities of them can be obtained, if at all, only at higher prices, thanks to the fixed size of the tropical land mass.

This means an ex ante tendency toward accelerating inflation as capital accumulation proceeds, undermining the value of money under capitalism and hence the viability of the system as a whole. To prevent this, the system requires that with an increase in demand from the capitalist sector, as capital accumulation proceeds, there must be a compression of demand elsewhere for these commodities, so that the net demand does not increase, and increasing supply price does not get a chance to manifest itself at all.

Such demand-compression occurs above all through the imposition of an income deflation on the petty producers, and on the working population in general, in the Third World. This was done in the colonial period through two means: one, “deindustrialization” or the displacement of local craft production by imports of manufactures from the capitalist sector; and two, the “drain of surplus” where a part of the taxes extracted from petty producers was simply taken away in the form of exported goods without any quid pro quo. The income of the working population of the Third World, and hence its demand, was thus kept down; and metropolitan capitalism’s demand for such commodities was met without any inflationary threat to the value of money. Exactly a similar process of income deflation is imposed now upon the working population of the Third World by the neoliberal policies of globalization.

I mean by the term “imperialism” the arrangement that the capitalist system sets up for imposing income deflation on the working population of the Third World for countering the threat of inflation that would otherwise erode the value of money in the metropolis and make the system unviable. “Imperialism” in this sense characterizes both the colonial and the contemporary periods.

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Racist US Laws Provided Inspiration To The Nazis: An Interview With James Q. Whitman


James Q. Whitman is the Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School

At a time when white supremacist ideas are thriving in the United States, a recently published book by James Q. Whitman, professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School, provides a chilling account of the way US race law provided inspiration for the Nazis, including Hitler himself, in the making of the Nuremberg Laws and their pursuit of a “perfect” racist order. In an exclusive interview for Truthout, Professor Whitman explains the connection between the centerpiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi regime – the Nuremberg Laws – and US race law.

C.J. Polychroniou: Professor Whitman, most scholars before you have insisted that there was no direct US influence on Nazi race law, yet Hitler’s American Model argues something quite the opposite: that the Nazis not only did not regard the United States as an ideological enemy, but in fact modeled the Nuremberg Laws after US racist legislation. First, can you briefly point out some of the evidence for your thesis, and then explain why others have failed to see a direct connection?

James Q. Whitman: The evidence is pretty much in plain sight. Hitler himself described the United States in Mein Kampf as “the one state” that was making progress toward the creation of a racial order of the kind he hoped to establish in Germany. After the Nazis came to power, German lawyers regularly discussed American models — not only the model of Jim Crow segregation, but also American immigration law, which targeted Asians and southern and Eastern Europeans; American law establishing second-class citizenship for groups like Filipinos; and American anti-miscegenation statutes. Some of the most dramatic evidence comes from a stenographic transcript of a planning meeting for the Nuremberg Laws in 1934. In the very opening minutes of that meeting, the Nazi minister of justice presented a memorandum on American law, and the participants engaged in detailed discussion of the laws of many American states.

As for why other scholars haven’t seen the connections: One reason is that they have focused too much on the question of whether the Nazis were influenced by Jim Crow segregation. The answer, for the most part, is no – though there were some Nazis, including some especially vicious ones, who did want to bring Jim Crow to Germany. Another reason is that America did not have law [specifically] persecuting Jews. That is true enough, but it did not prevent the Nazis from taking an interest, and sometimes a pretty enthusiastic interest, in the law that America did have. Maybe the biggest reason is that it just seems too awful to be true.
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“Trump Feels A Kinship With Authoritarian Leaders”: Richard Falk On Turmoil In The Middle East


Prof.em. Richard Falk

Since Trump’s visit to the Middle East, the region is experiencing new forms of turmoil, with the boycott against Qatar by several Gulf countries and Egypt reflecting the manifestation of geopolitical rivalries encouraged by Trump’s support for dictatorial regimes in the region willing to join the US in the fight against terrorism. For the latest developments in the Middle East, Truthout spoke with Richard Falk, emeritus professor of international relations at Princeton University, who is now in the region for a series of public lectures.

C.J. Polychroniou: Richard, you are traveling and lecturing at the moment in the Middle East. How are the media in countries like Lebanon, Israel and Turkey treating Trump’s policies in the region, and what’s your reading of the mood on the ground among common folk?

Richard Falk: I have just arrived in Istanbul after spending several days in Beirut. While in Lebanon, in addition to giving a public lecture at the end of a cultural festival on the theme, “The rise of populism, Trumpism, and the decline of US leadership,” I had the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people. As far as Trump is concerned, there was virtual unanimity that he is worsening an already volatile situation in the region. His trip to Riyadh was viewed in Beirut as a stunning display of incompetence and bravado, topped off by succumbing to a Saudi/Israeli regional agenda focused on building a menacing anti-Iran coalition and misleading publicity surrounding a nominal commitment to join forces to combat ISIS (also known as Daesh). Trump was viewed as a leader who did not understand the region and was more interested in pushing destabilizing arms sales than in genuinely promoting stability and conflict resolution.

Why is Qatar singled out on terror when it is a well-known fact that Saudi Arabia has been a chief supporter of the most radical ideological version of Islam, and Turkey’s President Erdogan has been accused of aiding ISIS and other extremists against Kurds and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?

The short answer is geopolitics. Saudi Arabia, like Israel, has a “special relationship” with the United States, meaning that in diplomatic practice, Washington adopts a subservient posture that includes seeing the world through a distorted optic provided by the Saudi monarchy. Trump did not initiate this American tendency to avert its eyes when it comes to the massive evidence of Saudi support for Islamic extremism, but he seems to be carrying further this form of geopolitical [ignorance].

When it comes to Turkey, the American attitude is ambivalent, regarding Turkey as a sufficiently important strategic partner via NATO, as well as the site of the important American Incirlik Air Base to justify looking the other way when it comes to indications of earlier Turkish support for ISIS in the context of implementing its anti-Assad Syrian policies. Of course, there is evidence of contradictions along similar lines with respect to pre-Trump US policies in Syria. All hands are dirty with regard to Syria. The Syrian people are continuing to pay a huge price for this mixture of internal struggle and a multilevel proxy war engaging regional and global actors.

Singling out Qatar is the strongest instance of the Saudi regional game. Saudi Arabia has long been bothered by the relative independence of Qatar in relation to a series of issues that have nothing to do with terrorism. These include the creation of Al Jazeera, a show of sympathy for the Arab Spring movements of 2011, asylum for the Muslim Brotherhood leadership after the Sisi coup of 2013, hosting Hamas leaders and tangible support for the Palestinian struggle — including aid to Gaza, and relatively friendly relations with Iran partly as a result of sharing a huge natural gas field.
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