“Competitiveness” Is Peace

I spent much of the day yesterday pointing out how stupid it was for Obama to put outsourcer, China nut, and TBTF bankster Jeff Immelt in charge of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Meanwhile, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich have been focusing on Obama’s frame for the problem as “competitiveness.”

In his piece, Krugman calls the frame “hackneyed” (and Jeff Immelt’s op-ed on it “vacuous”). He then links to an older discussion on competitiveness of his, in which he explains,

The rhetoric of competitiveness turns out to provide a good way either to justify hard choices or to avoid them.

Reich makes largely the same point about how meaningless the term “competitiveness” has become.

Whenever you hear a business executive or politician use the term “American competitiveness,” watch your wallet. Few terms in public discourse have gone so directly from obscurity to meaninglessness without any intervening period of coherence.

Reich goes on to show how competitiveness might mean:

  • American exports (which, if that was your definition, would require lower American wages)
  • Balance of trade (which, if that was your definition, would lead to dollar devaluation and currency wars)
  • Profits of American-based companies, which, if that were your definition, Reich notes, we’d be doing great:

In case you haven’t noticed, the profits of American corporations are soaring. That’s largely because sales from their foreign-based operations are booming (especially in China, Brazil, and India). It’s also because they’ve cut their costs of production in the US (see the first item above). American-based companies have become global — making and selling all over the world — so their profitability has little or nothing to do with the number and quality of jobs here in the US. In fact, it may be inversely related.

  • The number and quality of American jobs

Reich argues that the only way to improve our “competitiveness” by that last measure–the number and quality of American jobs–is to make investments America is probably not willing to make.

The only sure way to improve the quality of jobs over the long term is to build the productivity of American workers and the US overall, which means major investments in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D. But it’s far from clear American corporations and their executives will pay the taxes needed to make these investments. And the only sure way to improve the number of jobs is to give the vast middle and working classes of America sufficient purchasing power to get the economy going again. But here again, it’s far from clear American corporations and their executives will be willing to push for a more progressive tax code, along with wage subsidies, that would put more money into average workers’ pockets. [my emphasis]

Now, as luck would have it, Krugman and Reich are having this conversation on the same day that Felix Salmon did this absolutely superb post, from which the graphic above is taken. The post takes this passage from Eisenhower’s Chance for Peace speech and measures graphically how much more true Eisenhower’s comparisons are now than they were in 1953.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms in not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. [my emphasis]

Whereas, in 1953, each bomber the country built meant 30 schools would not be built, in 2011, each bomber means 86 schools will not be built (to say nothing of the schools we bomb in places like Iraq which lead to greater security costs here and even more war costs there).

If we want to be competitive, in Reich’s terms, we have to stop wasting so much money on our war machine and instead invest it in our own country.

Now, in his older paper, Krugman points out that economic competitiveness is often a stand-in for political power.

It would be possible to belabor the point, but the moral is clear: while competitive problems could arise in principle, as a practical, empirical matter the major nations of the world are not to any significant degree in economic competition with each other. Of course, there is always a rivalry for status and power — countries that grow faster will see their political rank rise.

Which is why the definition of competitiveness is so important. Wikileaks cables make it clear we use our significant (though diminishing) political power to pressure other countries to buy the few products for which our country’s corporations have a competitive advantage: Genetically Modified seeds,  fast food, and–especially–war toys. That’s what we’ve become, with the political power we gained with our past productivity and–more and more–our unrivaled military power.

And to achieve competitiveness–what Krugman calls “a good way either to justify hard choices or to avoid them”–Obama has deployed a Military-Industrial contractor CEO and a lot of empty rhetoric.

  1. ackack says:

    Hey, I know.

    We could form a political action group, whose ideas and hopes for solving the great problems of the day could be embodied in a candidate for national office, who, upon election, could then abandon all those ideas and philosophies, all the while selling his power and position to the highest metaphoric bidder.

    Wait, we already tried that.

    Now what?

    • Morocco Bama says:

      Perfect. I love this satire.

      I remember reading an article about how passengers, after a plane had crashed and was on fire, were quietly and calmly getting their things from the overhead compartment and waiting unflinchingly in line for those in front of them, who were also in no hurry, to disembark. There was no time for this, the majority were going to fry at this pace, but they couldn’t grasp that, mentally or emotionally. The psychiatrists chalked it up to shock. When you’re in shock, you gravitate to default behaviors, and the default, unconscious behavior that is so taken for granted was exactly what manifested…an orderly, routine off-loading. There were a few who were not in shock and were able to navigate above and around the somnolent zombies and make it off the plane. They now live with that guilt of surviving for the remainder of their lives.

      I see what is going on now, and what you just described, as very much the same behavior, and for those who see it for what it is, and some how survive, it’s a small consolation since living with that guilt will be like an albatross around their necks until they draw their last breath.

  2. klynn says:

    Great job capturing the fact that “competitiveness” could mean loss for the US citizens but gain for stock holders.

    If we want to be competitive, in Reich’s terms, we have to stop wasting so much money on our war machine and instead invest it in our own country.

    Now, in his older paper, Krugman points out that economic competitiveness is often a stand-in for political power.


    You have been doing a great job pointing to the focal points of this new commission and that the “bones” of it are less noble and less committed to the economic needs of our country’s citizenry.

    An equally loaded term is “loss.”

  3. wavpeac says:

    great diary…shared on fb…what more can we do? The distortion machine seems far more powerful and I fear that the net nuetrality issue will soon cost us the internet(s). Like dominoes…Naomi Klein said it would happen very fast.

  4. klynn says:

    Another note:

    Immelt wrote his op-ed with the intention of the average person’s understanding competitiveness as either: us-them (us holding the “edge”) or, in the context of “keeping pace.”

    However, he meant neither of these meanings nor contexts.

  5. JohnLopresti says:

    I see competitiveness also as knowing what each element in the global production milieu can perform best. I think it takes internal human principles, as well as other sorts of value of the kinds economists like to quantify. It takes international vision and global citizenship. But, the folks who write the annual report for the competing companies each will try to make a mission statement generality of the term; and Republicans will say the most competititive economy is one controlled by the hurly burly of unregulated unreported untaxed unoverseen commerce; ain*t got anything to do with schools, although educators will write fierce polemical speeches asking for more training for students who need to compete for jobs in a global marketplace. Reagan had a way of translating competitiveness to favor one large chip designer, placing a tax surcharge on foreign silicon, and, thereby slowing American desktop computer advances because American manufactured semiconductors cost a factor of 10x more than the foreign competitors* versions. I suppose the marcom jargon for me is reminiscent of a JKGalbraith quote cited in an April 29 2006 obit in G*s classic partisan form:

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man*s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

    It*s a pretty metaphor to talk of the dynamics of econmic interaction as an interface between **conservatism** and **progressiveism**; at least, the way he says it entertains while enlightening.

  6. lakeeffectsnow says:

    The Perpetual War

    On December 7th of 2011 – the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor – the usa will celebrate seventy years of perpetual war.

    The Political Consequence of Perpetual War

    The economic cost to the United States of perpetual war has been thoroughly documented. What is less appreciated is the political cost of the militarization program.

    The Social Costs of a Militarized Society

    Eisenhower’s warnings are a half century old, and are long forgotten by a nation that is so saturated with military concerns and military thinking that it doesn’t notice how the nation has turned into a garrison, under siege by domestic and external enemies.

    Will This Ever End?


    ~~~Edited by Moderator. In order to keep FDL within Fair Use guidelines, please limit the amount of infomraiton brought forward from other sites as cut and paste.~~~

  7. flashinreno says:

    It’s worth rereading “Report on Manufactures” (Alexander Hamilton, 1791) and “Free Trade Doesn’t Work” (Ian Fletcher et al, 2010) to remind ourselves that all great economic nations built their competitive economies on a base of moderate protectionism. Some used tariffs, as the US did until the late 19th century. Some used direct legal structures, as India has with their prohibition on retail chains. Some have used buy domestic, as China did with its “buy Chinese” provision in its stimulus program.

    Fletcher has an excellent analysis of the decline of the worldwide economic dominance of the UK as a result of the rise of free trade sentiment in the mid-19th century.

    The US free trade policies now in effect amount to economic unilateral disarmament, made far worse by our failure to insist on corresponding openness by our trading partners.

    To think that there is something we can do to improve our competitiveness without addressing our free trade policies is a waste of time and breath. I believe Krugman understands this, and I am surprised that Reich seems not to.

    • captjjyossarian says:

      Yeah exactly! Ha-Joon Chang is another decent author who attacks the myths of free trade and points out that from Hamilton to Clay to Lincoln to McKinley and pretty much till WWII… America did not compete in the free trade game. And even after WWII, we didn’t set up a free trade model.

        • captjjyossarian says:

          Our economy started losing steam somewhere between Kennedy and Nixon.

          Here’s a chart of average tariffs:


          Pre-Nixon, GATT was run on a managed trade model which provided for some balancing of trade. It was certainly nothing like the WTO’s free trade system.

          In the early post WWII period, tariffs would have seemed a bit silly. There weren’t really any other highly industrialized nations left standing. But our tariffs should have started to go back up once the global economy started to recover.

          In general, low tariffs are great for the corporations and at the same time horrible for the public.

          • flashinreno says:

            Agree, but would point out that with max income tax rate at 91% the tariff income was not critical, and corporations were paying about 25% of the total income tax, so the budgets were near balanced.

            Today corporations pay about 7%, max income tax rates are 35%, tariffs are about 2%, so we have deficits. It doesn’t matter how much we cut, we still need more revenue.

    • jpe12 says:

      No surprise there. His nomination X years ago was a good indication that a cost/benefit analysis would be a key component of regulatory process.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s much the same game plan that has the USG pulling out all the stops to shut down WikiLeaks, to intimidate and imprison whistleblowers rather than the criminals whose conduct they reveal. It’s not about money either, not as traditionally earned by out-competing industry rivals. No rational CEO ignominiously shuts down, for example, his top news/opinion peformer – in a way designed to make him poison to any competitive broadcaster – if he’s worried about raising his company’s prominence, revenue or profits.

      It’s about sending the message that the powers that be want to hear. It is through them that corporations secure access, and legal, tax and administrative advantage over rivals. A single large govt contract for weapons, a favorable anti-trust or anti-union ruling (or gelding of agencies created to enforce such laws), or an anti-net neutrality ruling could be hugely profitable. Those come about through corrupt players, not by being more able than one’s industry rivals, and certainly not through legitimate investigative journalism.

      • klynn says:

        Did you see Inception?

        “…a single idea within one’s mind can be the most dangerous weapon or the most valuable asset.”

        That’s why Olberman’s ratings were so high. And they knew that.

  8. PAR4 says:

    Confiscate ALL foreign earnings from ALL corporations that were originally chartered in the States. Then prosecute ALL those responsible for transferring any American technology out of the country. Then confiscate ALL of their property and wealth to fund rebuilding what they so blithely shipped out of this country. Unfortunately we have lost most of our foreign markets because they now have the ability to produce their own goods.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The focus is right but the means are as over-the-top as the problems. We needn’t confiscate or arrest, we can readily tax and impose severe penalties. We can limit the length of time we protect supposedly novel inventions, and put in place greater requirements that they be “worked” in order to secure such protections. We can reward domestic investment in people and jobs, as does every other industrialized country, from Singapore to China to France and the UK. And we can withdraw a range of benefits – starting with access to companies and their lobbyists – for those who see outsourcing jobs offshore as the simplest way to increase their own bonus and job prospects.

    All that would require there to be conflict, opposition, between those who govern and those who utilize the resources of the governed to secure private profits – from public roads, to public police and fire protection, to public utilities, to public schools and universities. As I see it, the conflict now lies between the governed, on the one hand, and on the other, the corporations and the government they work so hard to control. That’s a recipe for oppression and the continued downward spiral of economic life for working Americans, not a recipe for change we can believe in.

  10. jdmckay0 says:

    There is massive, obtuse, non-illuminating jargon in financial/banking environment… and it’s deliberate. Christ, anyone got stats on how much they spend on their WS word smithing image makers?

    Immediately, in addition to “competitiveness”…
    * productivity: eg. they move manufacturing/expertise off shore, lower wage & enviro costs, massively improve profit margin of which non-commensurate % get’s passed on to US “consumer”… all while income disappears domestically and they get further tax breaks for doing so. Thus, productivity… more often then not, is more accurately described as: bigger margins through decreased labor/regulatory/environmental costs.
    * liquidity: for most normal Americans, this means how much $$ you’ve saved. And if you’ve done it for a while, and been honest and paid bills on time, you can add in calculations for available credit at +/- 5.5% on up. In WS/banking circles, it’s come to mean currently -0- interest (free) money provided by FED/TREASURY, w/”profits” last 2 yrs being carry trades (eg. trading currencies… using these free USD’s and making smaller profit on FOREX, secure higher paying foreign bonds, etc.) NOTE that, if they were paying interest on that FED (eg. US TAXPAYER) $$, those profits would be essentially a wash. Further, there are countless accounting gimmicks… even w/ENRON, .COM crash, WorldCom/MAdoff/mortgage bond scam (etc.) which, given these guys’ (WS) clout w/lawmakers, buys loopholes allowing negative earnings to show as positive… eg. LIQUIDITY.

    Thus, Liquidity is a most non-illuminating term. And as things have gotten worse here, put under the microscope, it resembles a spoiled rich kid getting unlimited allowance from parents who have enough $$ to burn, and don’t really give a rip that the wayward child is wrapping their Maserati around telephone polls and such.


    Decent article up @ TIME:
    Why China Does Capitalism Better than the U.S.

    One of the great ironies revealed by the global recession that began in 2008 is that Communist Party–ruled China may be doing a better job managing capitalism’s crisis than the democratically elected U.S. government. Beijing’s stimulus spending was larger, infinitely more effective at overcoming the slowdown and directed at laying the infrastructural tracks for further economic expansion.

    As Western democracies shuffle wheezily forward, China’s economy roars along at a steady clip, having lifted some half a billion people out of poverty over the past three decades and rapidly created the world’s largest middle class to provide an engine for long-term domestic consumer demand. Sure, there’s massive social inequality, but there always is in a capitalist system. (Income inequality rates in the U.S. are some of the worst in the industrialized world, and more Americans are falling into poverty than are being raised out of it. The number of Americans officially designated as living in poverty in 2009 — 43 million — was the highest in the 51 years that records have been kept.)

    And (IMO) money quote, which states generally what I have found to be *extraordinarily true:

    Beijing is also doing a far more effective job than Washington of tooling its economy to meet future challenges — at least according to historian Francis Fukuyama, erstwhile neoconservative intellectual heavyweight. “President Hu Jintao’s rare state visit to Washington this week comes at a time when many Chinese see their weathering of the financial crisis as a vindication of their own system, and the beginning of an era in which U.S.-style liberal ideas will no longer be dominant,” wrote Fukuyama in Monday’s Financial Times under a headline stating that the U.S. had little to teach China. “State-owned enterprises are back in vogue, and were the chosen mechanism through which Beijing administered its massive stimulus.”

    Today Chinese leaders are more inclined to scold the U.S. — its debtor to the tune of close to a trillion dollars — than to emulate it, and Fukuyama noted that polls show that a larger percentage of Chinese believe their country is headed in the right direction, compared with Americans. China’s success in navigating the economic crisis, wrote Fukuyama, was based on the ability of its authoritarian political system to “make large, complex decisions quickly, and … make them relatively well, at least in economic policy.”

    IMO, “competitiveness” is left undefined in both those guys’ articles…

    the major nations of the world are not to any significant degree in economic competition with each other.

    I don’t know about that… ///???

    Here’s competitiveness: China is comprehensively educating, building infrastructure, doing research and improving design/manufacturing/materials on very fast (breakneck), intelligent and comprehensive scope. Their leadership is thinking broadly, doing it’s best to anticipate future needs while devoting/directing resources (human/economic/natural) towards that end.

    Here, we’re debating Sara Palin’s electability, actively ignoring our realities, and have political leadership essentially instructing people to stick their head as far up their ass as possible.

    There is your competitiveness in general terms: we’re doing intellectual dope and claiming God’s mantle, those guys are rolling up their sleeves and doing stuff. Worse, most people here have no clue whatsoever… none.

    The end result? Repeated from my above snippet…

    Today Chinese leaders are more inclined to scold the U.S. — its debtor to the tune of close to a trillion dollars — than to emulate it

    Indeed. Gnaw on that for a while…

    • emal says:

      Great link and certainly a thought provoking article about authoritarian Communist China and their version of state sponsored/run and controlled capitalism. The CEO of Evergreen just touted some of the pillars of communism in this NYT article article as reasons for why he moved his company there. Mainly state owned banks partnering up with gov’t and industries.

      Factory labor is cheap in China, where monthly wages average less than $300. That compares to a statewide average of more than $5,400 a month for Massachusetts factory workers. But labor is a tiny share of the cost of running a high-tech solar panel factory, Mr. El-Hillow said. China’s real advantage lies in the ability of solar panel companies to form partnerships with local governments and then obtain loans at very low interest rates from state-owned banks.

      He even admits cheaper labor (gov’t controlled) is just small share of the cost…its really the state owned/sponsored banks and gov’t)partnership … gov’t that is communist run.

      Interesting fuel for thought…

      • jdmckay0 says:

        I think that’s interesting as well.

        For the most part, IMO, the term “communism” really is a very innaccurate description of Chinese gov @ this point in time. It conjures up images/notions from regimes past, almost all of which is not representative of these guys. I’d point out most of their economic/finance people were educated @ elite US schools… 15+ yrs ago.

        I’d also point out the other emerged emerging countries where international capital is going: Brazil, India, Singapore… all their govs are similarly mis-described here. Brazil surprised everyone (eg: IMF powers) early this decade electing LULA, a labor leader. I read everywhere in western media of this doomsday decision, that he was dedicated “socialist”, etc. etc.

        Well, LULA did turn things around there. And, among other things, led much of increasingly very healthy So. American economies (Chile/Columbia/and yes, Argentina) which have also grown some world leading sectors.

        One thing they all have shared: leaving IMF dictates, abandoning US leadership direction (during Bush years… they actually dis-invited us to their economic summits last 2 yrs of BushCo) while forming their own regional economic group/agreements/cooperation, largely independent of US. Again, it was BushCo’s hardline attempt to muscle them, along with Iraq spectacle, which finally severed the ties.

        Among other dis/mis/lack of information here, IMO one of most critical wrt US future… economically, but also legally/socially, is vast ignorance amongst our citizens of the extent to which much of emerged world has…

        a) pass-ed/ing us by
        b) abandoned US leadership, forged their own paths
        c) become sceptical of US motives, both in biz and currency/money
        d) doing biz w/each other, entirely w/out regard for US wishes/approval.

        Seems to me like large swath of even otherwise decent, honest and intelligent US financialdom is ignorant of this fact and why, faithfully believing the titans of US industry will lead us back to our rightful place.

        My advice: don’t hold your breath, and for the younger people… learn to speak Mandarin, You’re going to need it.

        • jpe12 says:

          There was some initial skepticism, but his presidency has been marked by its continuity w/ neoliberalism rather than by any radical shift away from the Washington Consensus. If anything, the left should be more disheartened by him than the right.

    • klynn says:

      We were addressing this in a previous thread. An in-depth post on the fast pace and long term vision at which China is “doing society building” better would be a great post. It would put the concept of “competition” into a context that Mr. Immelt and Pres. O would need to be confronted by.

      You should consider posting a diary.

      • jdmckay0 says:


        It would put the concept of “competition” into a context that Mr. Immelt and Pres. O would need to be confronted by.

        I would greatly value being able to confront those guys as you suggest. If I can see a path to execute that, I most certainly will.

        Q for u: What are the means by which me… a 50 something semi-retired jack of many trades, who keeps his life savings in stable/honest foreign currency(s), who eats organic food as a common sense matter to maintain good health, who has “greened” his domicile so that 90% > plus of our energy needs come out of the sky, who as a matter of what I have found to be successful living tends strongly towards less and less “consumption” and who, as a practical matter finds useful knowledge from sources/paradigms these guys have no consciousness about…

        If you can give me guidance on how a little FDL diary by me may work it’s way into an illuminating, “Ah-hah” moment for these omni-potent titans of US business/commerce/finance (etc.), I will gladly sharpen my pencil and get right with it!!!! :)

  11. PeasantParty says:

    Excellent Post!

    America has too many economic hit men trying to do too many hits at once.

    Agreed, beware of terminology like competitive and streamline, etc.

  12. hackworth1 says:

    Reich likes to say, “it’s far from clear.”

    But it’s far from clear American corporations and their executives will pay the taxes needed to make these investments.

    It is very clear that American corporations are belligerently determined NOT to pay the taxes needed to make these investments.

    It is very clear that American Political Leaders are equally determined to assist American corporations Multinational Corporations in reducing their taxes, cutting wages of American Laborers, job outsourcing, fiscal and environmental deregulation, and the utter dismantlement of the Social Safety Net.

    Clear as a bell.

  13. perris says:

    American exports (which, if that was your definition, would require lower American wages)
    Balance of trade (which, if that was your definition, would lead to dollar devaluation and currency wars)
    Profits of American-based companies, which, if that were your definition, Reich notes, we’d be doing great:
    In cas

    there is one thing they miss, the only real solution

    tariff those products that come into the country produced with lower standards, for instance, if they insist on longer work hours= tariff, if they do not provide health care=tariff, if they do not provide for comfortable retirement=tariff, if they do not provide for higher education to those willing and qaulified=tariff, no vacation or not enough=tariff

    and those countries importing our products should do the same thing, if we do not limit carbon footprint=tariff, if we do not provide the same vacation or medical care=tariff

    you want to see economies recover and grow, you follow that protocol and bing

    you see, what most “economists” miss is that we don’t give a flying fuck about the higher profits of “too big to fail”, all we care about is living wages and comfortable life for the vast majority

    if companies have to sell their wares in this country then that is a good thing not a bad

    if a man can’t save a gabillion dollars and then give it to children so they become non productive, that is a good thing

    we need to STOP worrying about the profit margins of mega corp and start worrying about the quality of life for the labor class and those too old to produce

  14. hackworth1 says:

    Tea Partiers want to see America be competitive again! They love that word.

    Jeff Immelt loves it too. The Military Industrial Complex is competitive and profitable. It sucks up gubmint revenue like a sponge.

    We already are competitive (profitable). If we are Immelt or Exxon Mobile, AT&T, etc.

  15. lefttown says:

    What good is “competitiveness” if it doesn’t benefit us as a whole? We’re not all in this together, as Obama would like us to believe.
    A poster on another site wrote that patriotism should include American products made by American workers for the benefit of Americans. Economic patriotism. The corrupt politicians from Obama on down should talk about that, instead of corporate competitiveness.

  16. TomThumb says:

    Competitive means they would like to drive wages lower and break Unions down further to weaken their bargaining power and to block any wage increases.

    Another four million people will join the ranks of the 99ers this year and there does not appear to be any action being considered in order to save their lives, homes, and families.

    Competitive means they want something (labor) for nothing.

  17. seaglass says:

    Competitiveness means cutting SSI and Medicare and smashing what’s left of the Unions. It means reducing the size and power of the middle class even further and making sure there is lots of poor to be cannon fodder for the endless Corporatist Imperial wars these assholes have planned.

  18. TalkingStick says:

    Super article and discussion. I thank Marcy and my fellow FDL denizens.

    I think we have to accept that we(liberals, progressives, humanists, environmentalists etc.) have for this time lost the war to the Corporation. We have no voice in government and much of the public space. We even have taken much of the language and theories of human nature from the economists, including the elevation of competition to virtue. Whatever happened to collaboration and common propertyy?

    I accept that we are now in the completion of decades of numbing our natural humanity, much of it through the Clinton and Obama administrations with the GOP providing the hate and ruthlessness. Now that’s a fine collaboration. I try to fend off despair daily and hold to contributing what I can to the cause of re-forming the public discourse with counter views of human nature. It will take decades and perhaps the catastrophe brought by climate change to start the shift back. But I think articles and discussion such as this that question the language and the philosophies in human terms are the first steps that we must persist in.


    • flashinreno says:

      When you refer to “human nature” you are talking about the progressive view of a common, collaborative, sharing nature that sees other humans as social partners. But there is a strong thread, fostered by corporations, the rich, the GOP, and the Tea Party, that believes in another “human nature”: the Randian, libertarian, social Darwinist idea that sees other humans as social competitors, to be either overcome or exploited, but certainly not to be shown any consideration or compassion.

      This Randian virus has infected our society to such a degree that we are unable to have a civil discourse about the way back to a healthy balance between individual liberty and the common good. Taken to the extreme, Randians deny the validity of the very idea of a common good, that any effort we make together is somehow “socialist”, and only things undertaken individually have civil merit.

      This is the idea that corporations and the rich are using to divide us, and to prevent us from coming together to come to an understanding that together we can vote corporations back to a subordinate position of power, granting them power only when they are supporting the improvement of the whole of society.

      The Tea Party values individual liberty over the common good, and sees the “government” as the enemy of liberty, missing entirely that government is simply the way we organize ourselves to do things too big to be done individually. They don’t see the contradiction between loving America and hating Americans, or at least hating progressive Americans.

      It is true that “government” has been taken over by corporations, but only with the votes of people who want more liberty and think that by voting for “conservatives” they will get a smaller, less intrusive government. Until those people stop voting against their own values, things cannot begin to get better.

      The only course for progressives is to talk to individual “conservatives” about the values we share, and why they should not be afraid of us.

      • TalkingStick says:


        Thank you for taking the time to expand on my thoughts so lucidly.

        I would only add that the “Corporation” has taken over more than our government. Corporate (Randian) values you describe so well pervade the public discourse and have been taken up by, at the least, the majority of those who vote.

        • flashinreno says:

          Noe we are talking about the mechanisms of division. The corporations have captured nearly all media, so of course that same media cannot host any narrative that challenges corporate power. There are manufactured controversies, as when Fox talks about the “liberal media” as a way to get their viewers/listeners to not pay attention to anything but Fox.

          They are using fear first, as in “fear the liberals who want to take away your (rights, liberty, guns, etc)”. Then it is a small step to move those people beyond fear of liberals to hate liberals. Once they hate liberals, it is a high hurdle to overcome to bring those people back to reason, mostly because fear and reason are not compatible. So once they get folks fearful and hateful, it is then pretty simple to tell them who to fear and hate, and that just needs constant reinforcement in many small ways, as when Michael Savage says “liberalism is a mental illness”.

          So liberals have become, for those people, those “real Americans” what Jews were to “good Germans”. We see the same propaganda being used, and I do mean Fox constantly lying to its viewers, all the while denying it at the same time.

          The people who are seduced by all this are for the most part people who want to see the world in black and white terms, for whom you are with us or against us, good or evil. This line of thinking does not admit the idea of balance, that there is great validity to “too much of a good thing”, but rather believes once a thing is declared “good” we should always want more of it.

          There are a lot of people who need to be told what to believe, what to think, so well described in “Escape From Freedom” (Erich Fromm). For those people the idea of looking at the world and deciding for ourselves what to make of it is absolutely frightening. And yet those are the people we have to enlighten. Tough task, but there it is.

  19. jonnyra says:

    The corporations will always spout this competitive BS. All they really want is the cheapest labor possible to make the biggest bous possible. thats why Immelt loves China…cheap labor…end of story.

    I have been in manufacturing for 35 years. Injection mold making, tool making, now jet engines at a GE plant. I remember this plant when i was kid. All my friends dad’s worked there. It was near my suburb and if we got stuck anywhere near there at shift change it was a nightmare. In the 70s and 80s this plant employed up to 23,000 workers manufacturing jet engines.

    Now the plant employs approx 8000. there are huge rooms where machines used to make parts…now empty. Floor space everywhere as all the machines were torn down and shipped away. Much of the part mfg and engineering are now done by foreign countries. Computer based design allows digital models of parts to be passed around the globe from Mexico to Turkey to China and back to the US in minutes. My point is these jobs are not coming back because the CorpoRats dont want them here. Its too easy to ship it out and get it done at 1/4 the labor rate and go buy that yacht.

    Obama has once again told the working class to fuck off and die. The Corporations run the show now. Suck on it peasants. I for one will never cast a vote for Obama again. Ever.

  20. mafr says:

    during the football game last week, a text appeared something as follows:

    “This game is being broadcast (on the armed forces network I think, ) to 127 American military bases around the world”

    so while America is blowing money on useless equipment and insane wars, China is buying things, opening factories, lending money, and setting the stage to become the sole world superpower, with two nuclear subs, and a comparatively tiny armed forces budget.’

    America…… stupid stupid stupid.

    It boggles the mind.

    Why oh why, does the average American accept this piece of insanity?

  21. stewjack says:

    Think about what poll results like this would mean in a democratic nation!

    Poll Finds Wariness About Cutting Entitlements
    Published: January 20, 2011

    And asked to choose among cuts to Medicare, Social Security or the
    nation’s third-largest spending program — the military — a majority by a
    large margin said cut the Pentagon.

    —Percentage———–All——– Rep——- Ind——– Dem
    Medicare —————21——— 31——– 24———-10
    Social Security———13——— 17——– 15———-11
    Military—————— 55——— 42——– 55———-66
    No opinion————- 10——— 10——— 7———-13

    An important subject
    Citizens Political Power in the U.S.

  22. miguelmas says:

    Great diary, fantastic comments… Here is another bit of recent news regarding Immelt, GE and China
    from Bloomberg News
    GE, Chinese aviation company form joint venture
    CHICAGO (AP) — General Electric Co. said Friday it has formed a joint venture with a Chinese aviation company to develop and market avionics systems for commercial aircraft.

    The venture is an equal partnership between GE Aviation and Aviation Industry Corporation of China.


    Bad News for Boeing as China runs to develop their own commercial aircraft industry….

    • TalkingStick says:

      There is also the little taxpayer funded (Billion dollar) program for basic research in pharmaceuticals intended to encourage the big Pharma to then develop further the ones that show promise. This seems to have slipped through without much notice. It is the same as the taxpayers paying to find and open a gold mine then turn it over at no charge to a private person to charge for it. Now that I think of it that seems to be the American way.

  23. captjjyossarian says:

    It’s always funny to hear our politicians, captains of industry and wallstreet types talk about competition….

    Who in that crowd knows anything about competition?

    The largest American companies are all organized as monopolies or narrow cartels. And even where there’s the appearance of competition, it turns out that someone like Buffet owns all the “competing” companies.

    The Democrats and Republicans basically represents a two company cartel which blocks out all outside competition.

    And the Wallstreet banks get a bailout whenever they are on the losing end of a “competition”.

    Who here is competing?

    As for the wasted spending on the military, you can add Wallstreet to that mix. They’ve been hiring up quite a few of the PhD Physics majors to work on there mathematical trading models. So rather than getting improved energy systems, all we get is more monetary masturbation.

    The only good thing I can say about military spending is that the Army corp of engineers can be put to productive use and a portion of the DoD R&D ends up having civilian applications. Still, it would be far more efficient to make civilian R&D the focus.