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Why France Matters, plus…

"The Eye of Providence"

[This post’s “possibly irrelevant image” is a detail from the cover of the new edition of Real World Banking and Finance, which will be printed in the next week or so.  Place your order today! Isn’t the “Eye of Providence” creepy? I thought it worked, because banking and finance is a little creepy too (and it’s not meant to be a reference to the Masons or anything).]

(1) Why France Matters Here, Too: Great new article at MRZine by Rick Wolff.  Rick recommended this incredible album of photos of the French general strikes from the Boston Globe. The comments after the photos are quite interesting. The praise of the strikers is passionate and moving; the people criticizing them sound so pathetic.  Vive La France!  Here’s part of Rick’s take:

For many weeks now, the historic social change sweeping across France has drawn increasing attention globally.  It should.  A genuine, mass democratic upsurge has surprised all those who thought, hoped, or feared that such things could no longer happen in countries like France or the US.  Millions of French people — in left political parties, church, and student groups — have accepted and cheered on the leadership of a unified trade union movement.  They have recomposed and reinserted a powerful left into French politics.  They are profoundly challenging President Sarkozy, his conservative political allies in both houses of the French legislature, and the entire twenty-five-year neo-liberal drift of economics and politics in France.  Along the way, they have demonstrated a strength and cohesion that renders the existing French right an annoying small noise in comparison.

The relevance of all this to everyone in this country should be clear.  Average working people in the US have suffered since the crisis began in 2007 much as their French counterparts did; indeed, it hit harder here than there.  The same issues that concern the French (unemployment, precarious jobs, declining benefits, huge government bailouts of the rich and well-connected, etc.) likewise agitate most people here.  France’s experience suggests the potential in other countries for the parallel emergence there of huge left movements opposing policies that burden average citizens with the costs of capitalism’s crisis and of bailouts rewarding the same enterprises that contributed to the crisis.  France today suggests that when you further push a population to suffer reduced public payrolls and thus government services (in “austerity” programs to pay for overcoming the crisis), you risk provoking a mass left upheaval into the political, cultural, and ideological life of a country.  France will not be the same in the future, no matter how this crisis ends.

Read the full article. We’ll have an article by Rick on deficits in our November/December issue, soon to print.  Subscribe now.

(2) Foreclosure Fraud for Dummies: Forclosuregate, the scandal surrounding the big banks’ use of “robo-signers” and outright fabrication of documents to hustle foreclosures through, may or may not end up being as big a scandal as it initially seemed to be.  From the beginning, as we’ve pointed out here, it was possible to depict the whole thing as mere sloppiness, or as part and parcel of the financial crisis and the arrogance of the big banks, depending on your point of view. Bank of America took the lead in ending the temporary moratorium on foreclosures last week, and it certainly seems possible that the whole thing will blow over, though let’s hope not.

Meanwhile, check out Rortybomb’s excellent Foreclosure Fraud for Dummies, which explains what whole thing in simple terms and with useful graphics.

(3) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has it both ways: A NYT article last week discussed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s role in the midterm elections as one of the biggest spenders, and as one of the conduits through which corporations can spend millions and millions of dollars to influence the elections. The Chamber was key to lobbying for the bank bailout, against financial regulations, and now is whipping up anger against Democrats for…the bank bailout.

There were surprisingly candid quotations from the Chamber in the article. For example, they defend the anonymity of their donors:

“The major supporters of us in health care last year were confronted with protests at their corporate headquarters, protests and harassment at the C.E.O.’s homes,” said R. Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist at the chamber, whose office looks out on the White House. “You are wondering why companies want some protection. It is pretty clear.”

And they bemoan the ugliness of the campaign season:

“It’s been a long and ugly campaign season, filled with partisan attacks and political squabbling,” William C. Miller Jr., the chamber’s national political director, said in a message sent to chamber members this week. “We are all tired–no doubt about it. But we are so close to bringing about historic change on Capitol Hill.”

As a nonprofit, the Chamber is not supposed to run ads targeted at particular candidates–it must be tough when your aim is “bringing about historica change on Capitol Hill”!

Read the full article.

(4) Nice Piece on Socialist Candidate: By John Stoehr, in the New Haven Advocate.

(5) The Perfect Storm, by Robert Reich, who says we are moving from democracy to plutocracy, in this post on his blog. Hat-tip to Herr Professor Snyder.

(6) Great Piece by Joshua Holland on the Myth of the Overcompensated Public-Sector Worker:  Now up at Alternet.  Joshua Holland also has a new book through Wiley called The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy.  We are still waiting for our review copy, but former D&S editor Abby Scher was overheard praising the book recently, and we love JH’s work!

–Chris Sturr

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