At the Boston Review, takes a look at arguments for increasing defense spending not just wanting, but spectacularly specious. He makes some points that are commonly absent from the discussion and deserve consideration. Here’s a snippet:
A larger flaw in McCain’s argument, however, is that, by historical standards, not much is actually burning. And, more importantly, the United States does not need to go looking for fires to extinguish. The world remains far more peaceful by various measures than at almost any other point, and the United States still enjoys a privileged position: militarily powerful and distant from trouble. U.S. enemies are historically few and weak; U.S. defense spending is more than double what Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea collectively spend on their militaries; and U.S. forces remain vastly superior. North Korea and Iran are troublesome, but incapable of posing much direct threat to their neighbors, let alone the United States, especially considering nuclear deterrence. Russia threatens its neighbors, but with an oil-dependent economy now about the size of Italy’s, it poses little danger to more economically stable nations further west.
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, declined to 245,500, the lowest since 1973, from 247,500 in the prior week.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits increased by 41,000 to 2.1 million in the week ended Jan. 14. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.
The four-week moving average increased to 263,750 last week, from 257,750.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 15,000 to 2.04 million in the week ended Dec. 10. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.
Claims have stayed below the 300,000 level for 93 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1970 and typically consistent with an improving job market.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 11,000 to 2.02 million in the week ended Dec. 3. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.
But the notion that campaign promises can revive the 20th century economy belongs on the pages of the National Enquirer at the supermarket checkout stand. It’s nonsense.
For every one manufacturing job we’ve lost to trade deals and government actions, we’ve lost seven to eight to machines, computers and robots. Governments don’t control technological progress, new inventions, time-saving devices and brilliant breakthroughs. Heck, government is usually the last place to employ those things. And technological progress is what’s costing us jobs. The sooner we understand that, the better off we’ll be.
What’s missing from the “jobs” equation is this: The wealth created by this “progress” is not being shared; it’s being hogged.
And, as George Orwell told us, some pigs are more equal than others.
Trump’s version of a political and financial establishment, just forming, will be bound together by certain behavioral patterns born of relationships among those of similar status, background, social position, legacy connections, and an assumed allegiance to a dogma of self-aggrandizement that overshadows everything else. In the realm of politico-financial power and in Trump’s experience and ideology, the one with the most toys always wins. So it’s hardly a surprise that his money- and power-centric cabinet won’t be focused on public service or patriotism or civic duty, but on the consolidation of corporate and private gain at the expense of the citizenry.
At the Boston Review, Alex De Waal remembers Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, which was written in 1944 and analyzed the events leading from the Napoleonic Wars to the World Wars from a social and economic perspective. De Waal applies that same analysis to the events since 1945. His conclusions do not give reason for optimism.
The article is long and densely reasoned and so depressing that it’s taken me three days to wade through it. I urge you to read the whole thing, even if it takes you three days . . . .
Here’s just a bit to either whet your appetite or scare you away (emphasis added).
So now—a winning minority of the electorate having lodged its protest and voted for its own gravedigger—the logic of today’s political economy is laid bare. What then can we take from The Great Transformation to deepen our understanding of our predicament? Polanyi’s central conclusion is that unregulated capitalism promised a “stark Utopia” of great wealth but destroyed the social and material basis of a humane society. Just over a hundred years ago, nineteenth-century Western liberal civilization reached its apogee, which was also the moment at which it could no longer contain the forces of disorder that it had unleashed. The massive destruction of the world wars, the communist revolution, fascist imperialism, and the Great Depression followed. Capitalism was reprieved by the political dispensation that followed World War II. John Maynard Keynes provided the intellectual capital for managing the market, and the victors of the war recognized that full employment, social welfare, and a good measure of equality were necessary to save civilization. But capitalism’s dangerous tendencies remained and, once freed from the challenge of socialism, its utopian dogma was again ascendant. The inevitable crisis is now here.
Claims have stayed below the 300,000 level for 92 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1970 and typically consistent with an improving job market. . . .
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 79,000 to 2.01 million in the week ended Nov. 26. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits declined to 1.4 percent from 1.5 percent.
That advice was too much even for Khrushchev, who subsequently told Fidel in writing that government leaders can’t allow themselves to be “swept away by the popular feelings of hot-headed elements…If we had refused a reasonable arrangement with the U.S., a war would have left millions of dead and survivors would have blamed their leaders.”
I remember the Cuban missile crisis, the press conferences on television, the pictures of missile carriers with their missiles at rest, the contemplation of death.