President Obama’s inauguration speech brought tears to a lot of people’s eyes, for various reasons. His message of reasserting American values pulled at the heart strings of all patriots, and because being a ‘patriot’ can be defined in a multitude of ways, he can garner a lot of identification with that sentiment. His pledges to curb greed, rebuild useful production, make America fair, and the rest of it, is top notch speech rhetoric. It is also extremely refreshing after so many years of destroying goodwill, livelihoods and any pretence at having a genuine moral compass. The question remains though, what has Obama brought to the mix in terms of genuine economic reform?
In retrospect, only a fool would have ignored the monetarist greed that has been carrying on in the financial sector, so including this in his speech was guaranteed considering that Obama is supposed to be what mainstream America calls ‘on the left‘. What this means for how he is planning to restructure America’s economy is less clear: is he planning to seriously overhaul the way in which money is made from other people’s money by adding ‘value’ from nothing but buying and selling phantasms? Is he going to turn from an economy built upon financial speculation and endless ‘services’ to one where people actually produce useful things? It seems unlikely.
The fantasy that capitalist accumulation through reinvestment, can be ‘curbed’ is just that, a utopian fantasy. Capital that isn’t reinvested is considered ‘dead capital’. That is what industrialists and financiers mean when they complain about government regulation of their operations as ‘harming productivity’. Even the post-war consensus never stopped capitalists trying to monopolize their markets, destroy their competition. As Obama himself indicated, he doesn’t feel that it is a question of: the market, yay or nay, he still believes that capitalist/monetarist economies can be employed in producing a sort of honourable-equitable wealth for all. Such is the delusion of every reformist since the extension of the popular vote.
The fact of the matter is that the American economy (and not only the American economy mind) now relies on financial speculation and consumer spending as its central engine. These types of ‘markets’ are a sort of spinning-plates-on-sticks balancing act where no-one knows whether things will balance or fall, or how they will fall. The obsession has been in trying to turn America into a sort of federation of ‘holding companies’ that manage subsidiaries in other countries where it is cheaper to produce, easier to avoid tax and to sit back and manage and reinvest the profits. Large sections of the general public, equally obsessed by the lure of becoming a stock market billionaire, has fully bought into the speculation of money markets.
As recessions mercilessly bursts these pink bubbles of a gambler’s paradise, the realization dawns that there is no real substance behind it once people stop believing in it, for whatever reason. The money conjured up to refinance the mysteriously vanished accumulations of mega-wealth comes from the pockets of people who actually physically work for their money. This only confirms the fact that tangible value and wealth is a product of labor.
Monetarism is not nearly as invincible as it has been and as the cracks show, people lose faith. If Obama’s plan is only to reassert the monetarist economy that has been running in America and Europe since the early 80s, with the hope that he can break and bridle it like some wild horse, he doesn’t really have the right to be calling himself a ‘change’ president.