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Speechless: Follow-Up

from Peter Radford

I think Krugman is making an important point. So let me put my own spin on it.

Our political system has spun out of control not because of the emergence of a virulent form of right wing extremism, but because there is no counter balance. There is no penalty for being an extremist. A Tea Party activist can say extraordinary things and not have to pay the price either in terms of derision, or in terms of counter attack. The fatal flaw is within the media and the way it maintains a false balance.

In the current debate – pseudo debate – the Republicans have relentlessly pursued extreme demands. By any historical standard the cuts in spending they are seeking will impose massive social costs on the poor, the sick, and the elderly. They are not looking to reduce benefits to future recipients, they are looking to cut them for current recipients. At the same time they are insistent that there are no revenue increases of any kind. The only beneficiaries of this hard line are the wealthy and larger corporations. The middle class will be hammered. My claim is not partisan. It is simple arithmetic based upon the plans presented by the GOP. They don’t even try to hide it. Indeed they embrace it.

Further, when offered a plan by the Democrats or the White House they summarily reject it, and then augment their demands.

Worse, they even reject the plans presented by the Republican leadership.

The most recent example of this state of affairs is the current Boehner plan. It is his own party saying that it will not pass. That it cuts viciously into current Social Security and Medicare is neither here nor there. It isn’t enough for the extremists. That they are smashing into the middle class retiree lifestyle is, apparently, of no consequence. It isn’t enough.

So where is the punishment for this extraordinary attack on our existing social arrangement?


The press reports that the two sides are equally extreme. This is so that the story can be presented as if there were a balance. The media seeks to impose a balance into the debate even where there is none. That way it cannot be accused of being partisan. So instead of highlighting the historic nature of the request from the Republicans, and the equally historic accommodation – capitulation – by the Democrats, the country is being told that the debate is between two equally extreme sides, both adopting an extreme position in contrast to the other.

Nothing could be further from the truth. And because of this distortion voters are not being given sufficient information upon which to base a decision. They can be excused for dismissing the entire mess as “business as usual” in Washington.

It isn’t.

We have a Democratic president offering up what would be, in any other time, a very right wing plan. He is making no pretense of defending entitlements. He has been willing to make cuts without much, if any, revenue increase. That he has moved so far to the right is entirely missed. Indeed he is still spoken of as presenting a liberal agenda.

This is simply absurd.

It also does a huge disservice to voters. They are chronically and tragically misinformed as to their real choices.

Where I differ from Krugman is that I go further and see this failure as emblematic of a deeper collapse of diversity in our elite. We have a monoculture. The technology of management, whether it be of the macro economy, or of a large business, is based on an orthodoxy that is biased, unscientific, and intolerant of pluralism. It encourages extremism because it exists within its own hermetically sealed, and entirely self-referential, system. There is no diversity to encourage healthy disputation. There is no mutation of ideas. No method of introducing new thinking at all. From an evolutionary perspective it is doomed.

The question is whether as it crashes it takes us with it.

The one thing we do, or ought to, know is that any concept of balance is utter fiction. We are being held to ransom by a group of very committed zealots. Yet we couldn’t tell that from the ordinary media coverage.

The general media has failed. But it is populated by that same elite. So I am not surprised.

  1. s h a r o n
    July 29, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    What if there were no political parties whatsoever?

  2. John
    July 29, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    The fault lies not with the media, but with their consumers.

  3. Lucy Honeychurch
    July 29, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    What if we fought for our principals for a change? Helloooo…

    I’ll never understand why every Democrat is so asckeeered to call a spade a spade.

    Walk up to a Republican, poke him in the eye, and say “You’re an a*hole: your party tanked the economy, started two wars, BADLY mismanaged them – squandering our balanced budget in the process – YOU and YOUR party are the reason we’re in the shitter. Period.”

    I think some people are so afraid of ‘being judgmental’ that they forgot what God gave them judgment FOR.

    It galls me.

    … and here’s Sharon – so afraid to fight for her beliefs – that she sheepishly chimes in that we should do away with all parties entirely … : [ …..ooooh, great idea, maybe THEN we’ll never have to make any judgements ever again, and never ever have to fight again for anything at all …


  4. Alice
    July 30, 2011 at 4:29 am

    I am not surprised at all. The entire facade of democracy is a sham when the same elite are effectively controlling the media manipulation, the elite are controlling the political aspirations of people on both the republican and now democrat side and the reality is it is those same elites that want the rest of Americans to carry the can for them (the wealthy). The wealthy have had a fine tax reduced party for three decades now in the US, but like obnoxious drunks they wont go home and dont want to pay to clean up the mess they made of the budget by crashing the economy with their “free me from government and free me from tax policies”. They just want to keep partying like there is no reckoning coming and it is coming.
    I fully agree with Lucy – republican and tea party voters are just plain shitters…but I would go further than that. They are traitors to their own people and revolting sycophants to the elites who are unwilling to carry the can with everyone else and unwilling to restrain their own greed. The worst of all is Murdoch media. He has been running a campaign of division, misinformation and political manipulation for decades.

  5. Jon Cloke
    July 30, 2011 at 10:06 am

    You are right in much of what you say, but the analysis needs to go further into the geopolitical. After WWII, the US and the USSR gave a rationale to each others’ systems by fabricating the need to ‘fight’ an existential, manichaean threat to their own existence. In the liberal democracies this became manifest in the need to artificially construct the trappings of social justice within a capitalist system so that capitalism could cloak its worst aspects in the moral disguise of social democracy. In the USSR, the threat from the USA permitted the construction of a highly centralised, corrupt authoritarian system whose excuse was the need to build an economy and a military capable of ‘defending’ the motherland; the price to be paid was in the construction of a masssively inefficient cradle-to-grave welfare system that at least provided basics of housing, health, employment and pensions, albeit in the crudest fashion.

    Like two old drunks, for not quite a half-century these two monoliths propped each other up until sheer economic effort, combined with increasing corruption, broke the socialist bloc. What was vaunted to be the triumph of capitalism in many quarters, though, was actually the removal of the governors controlling the engines of global capitalism, the need to justify the worst aspects of capitalism by giving it machinery that at least gave the impression of working for the little people – capitalism no longer needed to control itself.

    When you say “I go further and see this failure as emblematic of a deeper collapse of diversity in our elite. We have a monoculture. The technology of management, whether it be of the macro economy, or of a large business, is based on an orthodoxy that is biased, unscientific, and intolerant of pluralism”, this is what you’re talking about. The machinery of innovation in 21st century capitalism is spinning out of control, being accelerated by a global elite who increasingly have no fear of the consequences of the damage that this does and who control the ability to profit from volatility and turbulence. This is another reason why environmentalism (for instance) attracts such loathing and hatred from these elites, because it effectively presents an independent, insurmountable barrier to their increasingly chaotic profiteering – I keep saying to the alternative energy groups I work with who visualise what they do in efficiency and economic terms, that environmentalism and renewable energy technologies can’t trump the identity politics of a mass consumption society which accepts no limits to consumption.

    For me, this doesn’t end well…..

  6. Lucy Honeychurch
    July 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    … and yet, if justice, social good, and the greater good of all – in and of themselves – don’t seem like attractive ends for which we shoud toil in a capitalist society, then remember that, if we desire to spread our kind of democracy – existential threat or no – we still need marketing slogans.

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