Friday, May 4, 2012

Chris Hedges on this spring's protests

The political and economic issues that had #OWS in the streets last fall have not gone away.  The unemployed young people didn't get jobs over the winter.  If anything, conditions are worse.  So now we get to see if the protestors came up with a real set of demands.  I happen to agree that there are issues worth taking to the streets over.  I would be happier if I had some idea that the protestors actually understood what they are.

US political theater: ‘Global oligarchic elite robs middle class’

30 April, 2012

America sees the’ looting’ of the US Treasury, and the money given to a Wall Street ‘criminal class’, journalist Chris Hedges told RT. He adds that ordinary people are caught in the vice of unregulated corporate capitalism – with no escape.

RT: We have seen a lot of violence and instability over the last couple of years: the Arab Spring, foreign intervention in Libya, uncontrolled debt problems and riots in the US and throughout Europe, threats of global recession. How do you think these political and economic crises feed off of one another and keep the momentum going?

Chris Hedges: Well, it's all the same crisis which is the collapse of globalization. It doesn't work anymore and it manifests itself through the rise of commodity prices. 47 million Americans live in poverty, they are not spending half of their income on food but they are now spending about 35 per cent. When you see a rise in gasoline prices which are going upwards in the US and by all projections will continue to rise upwards above $4 a gallon, may be $5 a gallon. So, we have created a kind of global oligarchic elite which is super national – it owes no loyalty to any particular country. It has reduced the working class within the US, within the developing world to a level of an almost subsistence existence. It tells workers they have to be competitive in the global marketplace which means they have to be competitive with switched up workers in Bangladesh or prison labor in China.

So, it's a reconfiguration by corporations of a global economy where the working and obligated middle class is increasingly caught in a vice in which there's no escape. The system of globalization, of unfettered unregulated corporate capitalism doesn't work for the ordinary citizen and that we are seeing ignite – popular protest.

RT: And I think that's the main reason why "Occupy Wall Street" began in New York and blazed throughout not just a nation but the world. What does OWS lack to become a real politic factor in the US and throughout the world?

CH: The other thing about the "Occupy" movement is that it had the right target, which is Wall Street. At this point Washington is an appendage of Wall Street. Wall Street is where power lies both economic and political. So, it was a powerful movement because it articulated these two truths; the idea of the one per cent, the economic inequality coupled with a targeting of where actual power lies. The "Occupy" movement has now felt the full rough of the state. Their encampments have been physically eradicated without question, they have been heavily infiltrated. The power of the "Occupy" movement was that it spoke for the mainstream. And the state's call is to sever the "Occupy" movement from the mainstream. So, the "Occupy" movement has got to build walls, it's got to develop a kind of self-discipline, it's got to set standards which do not allow internal movements within the "Occupy" organization to sever itself from the mainstream. The threat of the "Occupy" movement in Zuccotti Park was that on weekends you had mothers from New Jersey with their kids, with strollers: this terrified the state. "Occupy" have to form agreements by which they can operate and the second thing is that they have to begin to organize around very specific issues. I think if the "Occupy" movement organizes around raising the minimum wage from $7.20 an hour which is the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour it can galvanize around an issue – 70 per cent of Americans by the way support a rise of the minimum wage – in order to keep labor with it. It has to latch on to the issue such as a raise in the minimum wage: they will bring labor out on the street and remain as a kind of vanguard movement of the mainstream. Whether they can do that – I don't know, we'll have to see.

RT: What role do you see for US banks and US corporations? How else if not through them can the economy recover?

CH: The banks are playing some very dirty games. The fact that we've not regulated the banks, that we've bailed out firms like Goldman Sachs and are, in essence, lending them free money with something like 0.1 per cent interest, which means they are all back to the speculative games and that's what they are – games. They don't produce anything. One of the reasons the price of petrol is rising is because they are buying up futures and shorting them which is what they do with commodity prices, basic staples of food, rice and anything else. We are headed for another implosion and some of our most respected financial reporters are walking around saying this. We've done nothing to curb them; we have permitted the largest transfers of wealth upwards in American history, the looting of the US Treasury. The tragedy is that the government, when the banks ran into trouble, didn't step in instead for instance creating regional banks, capitalizing those banks, leveraging them ten to one, lending, refinancing mortgages – all sorts of ways we could have used this money constructively.We handed it off to a criminal class. more

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