We’ve fallen, and we can’t get up.
American manufacturing growth had come to a standstill in September, and the Labor Department’s latest employment figures, the worst jobs report of the year, tell the same story from another perspective: unemployment rate stagnant, wages stagnant, hours worked down, number of new jobs far below forecast, previous reports revised downward, labor-participation rate at 38-year low, with nearly 95 million eligible American workers sidelined.
That the Obama administration is foundering from an economic-policy point of view is not news. Barack Obama & Co. represent the very freshest and most imaginative thinking of the 1930s — stimulus, public works, monkeying with the minimum wage, political favoritism for union constituencies, the ancient superstition that simply putting money in somebody’s pocket makes the nation richer through the miraculous power of the economic multiplier, etc.
President Obama and his advisers take an essentially managerial view of the economy. Their hearts may secretly thrill to memories of exciting old campus Marxists in days gone by, but they are not in the main government-ownership-of-the-means-of-production guys. They see themselves as chess masters. If you remember those scenes in the original Clash of the Titans with the gods of Olympus moving little figurines around on a gameboard — that is how they see government (and, not coincidentally, themselves). Their role, as they see it, isn’t to own the farms and factories, but to set the terms of employment, to give this constituency a nudge, to take that one down a peg, to push sugar imports in one direction and so-called green energy in another. The Right’s habit of comparing President Obama’s thinking to that of the Italian fascists and their corporazioni isn’t (only) for the purposes of denigration. The president and his men see the government as a partner, an entrepreneur, an economic actor with incomparable resources and power. If you read Ezra Pound’s admiring estimates of 1930s European corporate-state economics, it will sound quite contemporary: The state has the power to act — why not make the most of it?
Scratch a “liberal,” find a fascist. It works every time, and in every context.
Call ’em commies, call ’em socialists, call ’em Marxists or neo-Marxists, call ’em statists, call ’em whatever you like. The central truth remains: power and control are what they’re all about, under any ideological nomenclature you may prefer. The irony is that they see themselves as indispensable, when all we really need for them to do is just get the hell out of the way and mind their own damned business. Which is the one thing they will never, ever do.