Galbraith and Parenti interviews

I'm catching up on "Behind the News."

Podcast #1: July 23, 2011 – “James Galbraith on deficit hysteria and the single-volume collection of four books by his father, John Kenneth Galbraith, published by the Library of Amerca nterview with James Galbraith

As in previous interviews, Galbraith argues forcefully that the claims of "crises" looming if Social Security and Medicare aren't "reformed" (read: gutted for ideological as opposed to sound economic reasons) that we’ve been nearing ad nauseam inside the Beltway are "a mixture of ignorance and bad faith."  

[In previous podcasts, Henwood has discussed how the dire economic projections being used to scare Americans into taking an ax to these extremely popular programs are based on highly improbable and ahistorical assumptions about future economic growth. As bleak as it certainly is, there is nothing so apocalyptic or unprecedented about our economic situation to justify these draconian cuts to basic government services, cuts that are guaranteed sure to worsen the situation. Of course, this isn’t really about balancing the budget. ]

I'm admittedly not able to assess the soundness of some of Galbraith's economic arguments, but I think one conclusion is inescapable to a reasonably open-minded listener: Our media have utterly failed us when it comes to informing voters about the broader historical and ideological issues involved in this debate, such that it is. For example, Galbraith points out that if the Congressional Budget Office included the normal expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, there would no budgetary crisis. If our "liberal" MSM did its job even halfheartedly, this critical fact would be at the center of any discussion of this rightwing ideological crusade…sorry…“economic crisis.”

Podcast #2: “July 2, 2011 Christian Parenti, author of Tropic of Chaos, talks about the effects of climate change amidst state collapse, plentiful weaponry, and neoliberalism”

A very interesting discussion of, among other things, the role the Cold War has played in undermining the political stability and economic viability of a large number of developing countries over the last half century. Essentially, the rest of the world is still paying the price for this intra-Western fued.

He doesn’t make this point, but the examples Parenti cites illustrate why, if you're interested a scientific, honest analysis of cause and effect in economic problems in the global South (as opposed to myopic, ahistorical apologia for an unjust and unsustainable status quo that tend to get promoted in the MSM and American political life), I think a presumption of a least partial Western responsibility in major problems is generally borne out. That no doubt sounds like a kneejerk leftist slogan to many, but in case after case if you bother to look beneath the surface you see that today’s worst problems in developing countries  have often been created and/or greatly exacerbated by Western policies, whether past or present, and in ways that were entirely predictable.

The bottom line is that there is a host of concrete, empirically demonstrable ways in which outside interference and exploitation systematically retarded the development of non-Western societies over much of the last century, but which Western governments now generally wish to paper over.  Western governments shouldn't be allowed to do so, any more than a factory whose managers willfully pollutes a town's drinking water should be allowed to dodge responsibility for the clean up.

Simply put, you break it, you fix it. At the very least, you acknowledge your contribution to the mess that everyone is now facing.

Didn’t mean to make that into a Tiers-Mondiste manifesto. Needless to say,  I think Parenti’s hardnosed analysis is compelling.


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