So-Called Democratic “Moderates” Are Actually Right-Wingers Who Have Always Thrown Up Roadblocks To Social Progress

CJ Polychroniou

The U.S. is the only liberal-democratic country in the world with a political system set up for two mainstream parties, a long and continuous history of union suppression, and without a major socialist party at the national level.

How is it possible that the world’s largest economy has a crumbling  infrastructure (“shabby beyond belief”  is how the CEO of Legal & General, a multinational financial services and asset management company,  described it back in 2016), and ranks in the lower half of second tier countries, behind economic powerhouses Cyprus and Greece, on the 2020 Social Progress Index?

It’s the politics, stupid!

The United States is the only liberal-democratic country in the world with a political system set up for two mainstream parties, a long and continuous history of union suppression, and without a major socialist party at the national level. Indeed, the countries that perform best on the Social Progress Index have multi-party systems, strong labor unions, a plethora of left-wing parties, and adhere to the social democratic model.

In other words, politics explains why the United States did not develop a European-style welfare state. Political factors also explain why economic inequalities are so huge in the US and the middle class is shrinking; why the quality of America’s health care system is dead last when compared with other western, industrialized nations; why there are millions of homeless people; and why the infrastructure resembles that of a third-world country.

However, for the first time in many decades, the country faces the prospect of the reshaping of federal government priorities, thanks to a large social spending package which includes an infrastructure bill with $550 billion in new spending and a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint intended for investments in social programs and combatting global warming. Sen. Bernie Sanders has described the $3.5 trillion budget plan as “the most consequential piece of legislation for working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor since FDR and the New Deal of the 1930s,” although it is highly questionable if the funding level of the reconciliation bill is sufficient enough to address the pressing needs of the country. There Is a Problem With the Infrastructure and Budget BillsThey’re Too Small (truthout.org)  More importantly, poll after poll shows that the majority of the American people support Biden’ social spending package, Most back Biden’s infrastructure bill and budget plan: Poll (usatoday.com), even though the President’s approval rating is slipping fast Polls show Biden’s approval rating sliding to new lows POLITICO and Republicans may very well flip the House in 2022.

But huge contradictions have become, after all, the centerpiece of US politics, as we will see below.

Now, in the event that the Democrats manage to pass the reconciliation bill (which they can do with a simple majority rule), America’s social safety net will undoubtedly be expanded, but it will still fall short of closing the gap with its liberal-democratic peers with respect to social protection policies. The reason is that the American welfare state is organized around different principles (it functions primarily around tax expenditures and public-private partnerships) than the welfare state in other advanced nations, thanks to the dominance of conservative modes of thinking with regard to the relationship between individual and society (partly due to the influence of the Protestant work ethic which looked with suspicion of anyone who is poor, and partly due to free-market economics which rejected outright the role of the government in promoting overall social well-being), but also due to the uniqueness of American federalism.

European governments, to be sure, and regardless of whether they are using the Nordic or the Christian-Democratic socioeconomic model, have far more generous social programs than those provided by the US government (total expenditure on social protection benefits in the EU is equivalent to approximately 27 percent of GDP, while in the US it is just over 18 percent of GDP) and they reach a significantly larger share of citizens. Europeans spend several times more on unemployment insurance, and their governments engage in more direct regulations in order to protect workers against business interests.

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De huurder als dividendvoer

 
In een land waar institutionele beleggers uit bijvoorbeeld de VS aan mogen schuiven op een ministerie om uit te leggen dat ze graag duizenden huizen willen overnemen van woningcorporaties omdat ze rente moeten betalen aan bevriende bankiers over hun miljarden en de Nederlandse huurwet garant staat voor een alleszins redelijk rendement, moet je niet opkijken dat huurders worden gezien als dividendvoer

Deze handelswijze is illustratief voor de denkwereld van Ayn Randadept Mark Rutte.
In die denkwereld geldt egoïsme, vermomd als objectivisme, als een deugd.
In tegenstelling tot het gedachtegoed van Max Stirner, waarbij het begrip egoïsme waardevrij moet worden gelezen, ontdaan van de negatieve connotatie, legaliseert de filosofie van RandRutte het recht van de sterkste. Kapitalisme als uitkomst van de evolutietheorie.

Aldus mijn tachtigjarige buurman vanochtend in een lange e-mail over de woningnood in dit land.

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There Is A Problem With The Infrastructure And Budget Bills — They’re Too Small

Robert Pollin

The United States is an outlier among advanced democratic countries in terms of societal well-being. In the 2020 Social Progress Index rankings, the U.S. is 28th, in the lower half of the second tier of nations, behind economic powerhouses Cyprus and Greece. The countries that perform best in the societal well-being index adhere to the social democratic model and have strong labor unions and a long tradition of left-wing parties.

The dismal performance of the United States in well-being, which includes having dilapidated and uneven infrastructure, could change in the next few years if the Democrats manage to get their act together and pass the infrastructure and reconciliation bills. These pieces of legislation, although hardly adequate in terms of size to address the country’s urgent needs, would be undoubtedly a step forward in terms of changing the federal government’s priorities, according to Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. But we have to see whether the so-called U.S. “moderates” (who would be seen as right-wingers in the European political spectrum) inside the Democratic Party can put the interests of the people ahead of those of big business, or whether the so-called “progressives” (who would be seen as “moderates” in most European multi-party systems) will even back the infrastructure bill if the accompanying spending bill fails to get the necessary support. In U.S. politics, change rarely, if ever, comes from the top.

C.J. Polychroniou: After decades of political inaction on a dangerously overstretched infrastructure which lags far behind those of most other advanced countries, the U.S. Senate has finally approved a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package which is on a path to final passage in the House. Lawmakers have also agreed to a $3.5 trillion budget process, although its status remains less certain as some moderate Senate Democrats find the total size of the budget to be too large. But let us first discuss the infrastructure bill whose current proposal targets spending over a five-year period. First, how does the world’s leading economy end up with such poor infrastructure, and what can we expect to be the economic impact of the infrastructure bill?

Robert Pollin: Let’s first be clear on the actual size of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. In fact, the version of the bill that passed in the Senate on August 10 allocates $550 billion over 5 years for the infrastructure investments, not $1 trillion, as widely reported. The bill mostly supports investments in traditional infrastructure areas, such as roads, bridges, airports, rail, ports, water management and the electric grid. It does also provide funds, if to a generally lesser extent, to high-speed internet, public transportation, electric vehicles and charging stations, and climate resilience.

Of course, the total price tag sounds gigantic, but in fact it is quite small, along multiple dimensions. First of all, spread over five years, the total spending averages to $110 billion per year. That is equal to less than one-half of one percent of current overall U.S. economic activity — i.e., U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In addition, this overall level of spending on upgrading the U.S. infrastructure falls far below what objective analysts have concluded is necessary to bring U.S. infrastructure up to a reasonable level. Specifically, the American Society of Civil Engineers recently concluded that the U.S. would need to spend an average of $260 billion per year for 10 years to bring the U.S. only up to a “B” level of infrastructure quality from its current “C-“ level. So the bipartisan bill provides only about 40 percent of what the leading professional society of civil engineers says is needed for the U.S. to maintain an adequate infrastructure in traditional areas. Without the full funding in the range of $260 billion per year, the civil engineers anticipate the U.S. infrastructure continuing its longstanding pattern of deterioration. Beyond that, this bill also provides only miniscule amounts relative to what is needed to advance a viable U.S. climate stabilization project.

The U.S. infrastructure today is in poor condition today for the simple reason that under 40 years of neoliberalism, the idea of undertaking major public investments in strengthening the domestic economy was pushed to the bottom of the federal government’s priorities. Virtually all Republican members of Congress have been doing this pushing, with enough congressional Democrats following along, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican was in the White House. The top priorities of these members of Congress have been cutting taxes for the rich and continuing to expand the massive military budget. The military budget for 2021, at $704 billion, is nearly 7 times greater than what would be allocated for all the infrastructure projects if the bipartisan bill were to pass. Passing this bill is certainly preferable than having no new support for infrastructure projects. It will also have a modest positive impact on jobs. But let’s also be clear that this level of funding will produce none of the pressures on the federal budget or on inflation, as is being charged by critics. The funding level is just too small for that.

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Noam Chomsky: The US-Led “War On Terror” Has Devastated Much Of The World

Twenty years ago this week, the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, whose origins date back to 1979 when Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the administration of George W. Bush embarked on a “global war on terror”: It invaded Afghanistan and, a year later, after having toppled the Taliban government, raised the specter of an “Axis of Evil” comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea, thereby preparing the stage for more invasions. Interestingly enough, Saudi Arabia, whose royal family, according to certain intelligence reports, had been financing al-Qaeda, was not included on the list. Instead, it was Iraq that the U.S. invaded in 2003, toppling a brutal dictator (Saddam Hussein) who had committed most of his crimes as a U.S. ally and was a sworn enemy of al-Qaeda and of other Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations because of the threat they posed to his secular regime.

The outcome of the 20-year war on terror, which ended with the Taliban’s return to power, has been disastrous on multiple fronts, as Noam Chomsky pointedly elaborates in a breathtaking interview, which also reveals the massive level of hypocrisy that belies the actions of the global empire.

C.J. Polychroniou: Nearly 20 years have passed since the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. With nearly 3,000 dead, this was the deadliest attack on U.S. soil in history and produced dramatic ramifications for global affairs, as well as startling impacts on domestic society. I want to start by asking you to reflect on the alleged revamping of U.S. foreign policy under George W. Bush as part of his administration’s reaction to the rise of Osama bin Laden and the jihadist phenomenon. First, was there anything new to the Bush Doctrine, or was it simply a codification of what we had already seen take place in the 1990s in Iraq, Panama, Bosnia and Kosovo? Second, was the U.S.-NATO led invasion of Afghanistan legal under international law? And third, was the U.S. ever committed to nation-building in Afghanistan?

Noam Chomsky: Washington’s immediate reaction to 9/11/2001 was to invade Afghanistan. The withdrawal of U.S. ground forces was timed to (virtually) coincide with the 20th anniversary of the invasion. There has been a flood of commentary on the 9/11 anniversary and the termination of the ground war. It is highly illuminating, and consequential. It reveals how the course of events is perceived by the political class, and provides useful background for considering the substantive questions about the Bush Doctrine. It also yields some indication of what is likely to ensue.

Of utmost importance at this historic moment would be the reflections of “the decider,” as he called himself. And indeed, there was an interview with George W. Bush as the withdrawal reached its final stage, in the Washington Post.

In the Style section.

The article and interview introduce us to a lovable, goofy grandpa, enjoying banter with his children, admiring the portraits he had painted of Great Men that he had known in his days of glory. There was an incidental comment on his exploits in Afghanistan and the follow-up episode in Iraq:

Bush may have started the Iraq War on false pretenses, but at least he hadn’t inspired an insurrection that turned the U.S. Capitol into a combat zone. At least he had made efforts to  distance himself from the racists and xenophobes  in his party rather than cultivate their support. At least he hadn’t gone so far as to  call his domestic adversaries “evil.”

“He looks like the Babe Ruth of presidents when you compare him to Trump,” former Senate Majority Leader and one-time Bush nemesis Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada) said in an interview. “Now, I look back on Bush with a degree of nostalgia, with some affection, which I never thought I would do.”

Way down on the list, meriting only incidental allusion, is the slaughter of hundreds of thousands; many millions of refugees; vast destruction; a regime of hideous torture; incitement of ethnic conflicts that have torn the whole region apart; and as a direct legacy, two of the most miserable countries on Earth.

First things first. He didn’t bad-mouth fellow Americans.

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Over vrijheid

Amsterdam, 5 september 2021

Deze zondag doet haar naam eer aan. De zon schijnt uitbundig en de stad ligt er gemoedelijk bij.

Tienduizenden demonstranten wandelen de Rozengracht op.
Gewapend met gele paraplu’s, vlaggen, stemgeluid en spandoeken pleiten zij voor vrijheid.
Begeleid door agenten te voet en te paard uiten ze hun ongenoegen over de meedogenloze dictatuur waaronder ze gebukt gaan.

Sommigen dragen gele sterren als verwijzing naar voorbije tijden. Tijden die zij terugzien komen door de vondst van een vaccin.
Anderen eisen dat de sado-pedofiele elite gestopt wordt. Daar is wel iets voor te zeggen natuurlijk. Al is de ruimte op een spandoek beperkt, een kleine verwijzing naar de samenhang met Covid-19 was handig geweest. Nu raakt her en der een toeschouwer de kluts kwijt.
Sommige borden laten zien dat een stoomcursus Vrijheid voor Beginners geen kwaad zou kunnen. ‘Mijn leven, mijn lichaam, mijn keuze, mijn vrijheid’, laat een wat eendimensionale visie op het begrip zien.
Het spreekt voor zich dat her en der de vlag van Forumlandaanhangers wappert. Het toekomstige land waar alles goed is en ziektes niet bestaan.
Dat er ook iemand met een Trumpvlag meeloopt, is wat wonderlijk gezien het gegeven dat de man heeft opgeroepen om je te laten vaccineren.
Net zo zonderling als die gele sterren is het merkwaardige fenomeen dat het blijkbaar cachet geeft aan demonstraties als er een groepje mannen verkleed als militair vooroploopt. Loop je te hoop tegen de dictatuur, marcheer je achter het symbool daarvan.
Dat de media de schuld van alles zijn, is geen verrassing. Ook sommige politici zijn niet populair, ook al niet opzienbarend.

Dat we in een land wonen waar je naar hartenlust mag demonstreren tegen tirannie is een groot goed, bedenk ik als ik naar huis ga.
In het zijstraatje holt de kat van de buren me vrolijk tegemoet.
Als ik het beestje groet, rolt ie op zijn rug.

 

 

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On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) IV – A Critical Project On Post-War Artist Joseph Beuys

Online soon – On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) IV – How to Explain Hare Hunting to a Dead German Artist  [The usefulness of continuous measurement of the distance between Nostalgia and Melancholia] (September 2021 – June 2022)

A critical project concerning post-war artist Joseph Beuys

Created by Joseph Sassoon Semah, curator Linda Bouws
© Stichting Metropool Internationale Kunstprojecten

Introduction
In 2021/22 the 100th anniversary of the birth of artist Joseph Beuys will be celebrated in Europe, among others with the special event ‘Beuys 2021. 100 years’. Twelve cities and twenty institutes in Noordrijn Westfalen in Germany will be organizing exhibitions, theatre and other activities to celebrate this anniversary. (see for more info https://beuys2021.de/en).

Joseph Heinrich Beuys (1921, Krefeld- 1986, Dusseldorf) is one of the most influential German post-war artists, who became particularly famous for his performances, installations, lectures and Fluxus concerts. But who was Beuys truly? Joseph Beuys mythologized his war history as a National Socialist and Germany’s problematic and post-traumatic past. After Word War ll Beuys transformed himself from perpetrator to victim. His service in the Luftwaffe did not offset his artistic practice. During this 100-years event none of these controversial aspects of Beuys’ work, values and ideas are focused upon. As part of this celebration it is high time to add a more critical eye on Beuys’ work and his relationship to Germany’s post-war history.

Project
On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) IV -How to Explain Hare Hunting to a Dead German Artist [The usefulness of continuous measurement of the distance between Nostalgia and Melancholia] (‘Hasenjagd’ is the code word for killing Jews during World War II) centers on Joseph Beuys and Joseph Sassoon Semah takes us on a journey of critical analysis of Beuys. Linda Bouws is the curator.

Art cannot be seen disengaged from society – which political, social and cultural implications does Joseph Beuys’ work show us?
How do work and politics relate in Beuys’ work, what is myth and what is reality? Did Beuys free art of power and financial gain or did he use his art with the purpose to forget or idealize his own war history and that of Germany? Does his transformation from perpetrator to victim fit into post-war Germany? How did Beuys use his ‘visual codes’, that have disappeared, and secret symbols? How must we interpret Beuys in this celebratory year 2021?

Joseph Sassoon Semah, has done extensive research into Joseph Beuys’ work, values and ideas and based on this research and texts he will analyse the deeper meaning of the (secret) symbols used by Joseph Beuys for ‘On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) IV- How to Explain Hare Hunting to a Dead German Artist [The usefulness of continuous measurement of the distance between Nostalgia and Melancholia]’. He will react to them using new monumental sculptures and a series of old and new drawings, performances, texts and meetings.

This project wants to raise public awareness about the missing information on Joseph Beuys. Information that has been disregarded during this celebratory year or has been evaded to avoid uncomfortable confrontations.
A new project about the reading of Beuys’ ‘shrouded’ art by the Jewish-Babylonian artist Joseph Sassoon Semah.

We will cooperate with among others with Gerard-Marcks-Haus Bremen, Goethe- Institut Amsterdam, Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam, Lumen Travo Gallery, Redstone Natuursteen & Projects, the Jewish Historical Museum and The Maastricht Institute for the Arts. After completion of the manifestation a complementary publication will be compiled.

Metropool International Art Projects
Contact: Linda Bouws
lindabouws@gmail.com
Mob +31(0) 620132195

The project is realised in part with the support of The Mondriaan Fund, the public fund for visual art and cultural heritage.

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