Saturday, July 28, 2012

Superfluous People

Washington is run by and for rich businessmen. When politicians brag about being "pro-business," they really mean favoring rich executives, not the millions of workers who form the productive core of business. From this attitude flows an essentially predatory foreign policy; what we should all have learned from the Financial Crisis of 2008 and the reaction of Washington (under both major parties) to that crisis is that a business-friendly elite of the rich will, in the end, have the same attitude toward the people of U.S. society as it does toward the struggling poor everywhere else.

In 1992 Noam Chomsky, perhaps the most brilliant living U.S. world affairs thinker, in What Uncle Sam Really Wants, offered the key to understanding the Financial Crisis of 2008. Back in 1992, Chomsky was thinking about U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately for Americans, what Washington does to other societies paves the way for how the U.S. elite treats the American people. According to Chomsky:

According to US intelligence, the Soviet Union poured about 80 billion dollars into Eastern Europe in the 1970s. The situation has been quite different in Latin America. Between 1982 and 1987, about $150 billion were transferred from Latin America to the West. The New York Times cites estimates that "hidden transactions" (including drug money, illegal profits, etc.) might be in the $700 billion range....

In a global economy designed for the interests and needs of international corporations and finance, and sectors that serve them, most people become superfluous. They will be cast aside if the institutional structures of power and privilege function without popular challenge or control. [Noam Chomsky, How the World Works (Soft Skull Press, 2011), 54-55.]
Later, Chomsky explains the idea of superfluous people as follows:
Since they're superfluous for wealth production (meaning profit production), and since the basic ideology is that a person's human rights depend on what they can get for themselves in the market system, they have no human value. [154.] 
Virtually no U.S. citizen cared that Washington viewed the people of Copper Country...ah, Chile, or Brazil or Argentina or Nicaragua as superfluous. If U.S. citizens thought about the citizens of Latin states at all, they certainly did not see their neighbors' lack of democracy or lack of economic security as in any way predictive of the future that U.S. citizens might soon face. Even when the rampage of Wall St. and mortgage firms through the U.S. population came to light and the Washington elite promptly covered the billionaires' losses by handing over trillions of tax dollars, virtually no one made the connection between the attitude of the U.S. ruling elite toward Third World societies and its attitude toward the 99% at home. Yet, when you think about it, how can a ruling class that puts a Pinochet in power or destroys a society battling to free itself from a banana company-backed thugocracy (Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala) logically be expected to refrain from robbing the poor at home?

Educated Americans (a small minority) in the 1990s knew that the global economy was "designed for the interests and needs of international corporations and finance." They also calculated that they would personally benefit forever from this situation. Then, the super-rich decided to rip off American homeowners and Washington responded by bailing out its business friends, ignoring whatever crimes they might have committed along the way, and leaving an odd ten million U.S. citizens unemployed. As the brave survivors of Chile, Argentina, and Nicaragua will understand all too well, these 10 million U.S. citizens have become the latest superfluous group. Perhaps a few more U.S. citizens are now educated in how the world works. The demonstrations by tens of thousands of Wisconsinites against Republican union-breakers last winter and the Occupy Movement offer supportive evidence. On the other hand, Republicans retained the governorship of Wisconsin and the real alternative to continued pro-business, anti-people rule by the rich--the Green Party--remains virtually invisible to the average voter.

The Financial Crisis of 2008 and Washington's response to it show that an elite that will provoke wars, launch coups, overthrow democracies, and impoverish populations around the globe to enrich itself will, sooner or later, treat the U.S. population exactly the same. The lesson of 2008, one cannot but conclude, has yet to be learned by the 99%. But despair not! They will have further opportunities to open their eyes.

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