Will Obama privatize public assets to pay for economic recovery?

Published on Dissident Voice, by Bruce Dixon, December 17, 2008.

Dr. Michael Hudson is an economist, a professor at the University of Kansas, and a really smart guy. During the presidential campaign he was chief economic advisor to Democrat Dennis Kucinich. By April of this year, Hudson was predicting an imminent financial meltdown.

Foreign banks, he said, were beginning to wake up to the fact that the balance sheets of their US counterparts were full of wholly imaginary earnings, wildly overvalued assets and unpayable loans. Before summer Hudson claimed that US banks had ceased daily reconciliation of their interbank transfers at the end of each day because they lacked the cash to pay them. Months in advance, Hudson forecasted with reasonable accuracy the character of the bipartisan bailout — that some institutions would go under, but that government would try to rescue investors and shareholders while leaving homeowners and consumer creditors — ordinary people — under a mountain of unpayable debt. Foreign bankers, he predicted, would gradually begin to withdraw from funding the US economy …

… In the black community, Obama’s presidency is frankly billed as “the fulfillment of Dr. King’s Dream.” But the real Dr. King and the Freedom Movement opposed the war in Vietnam, the US military budget and the worldwide US empire of their day, as fiercely as they did racial discrimination, both because it consumed the resources to be used for human needs and because the work of empire is inevitably genocide and war. The real Freedom Movement and the real Dr. King fought against economic injustice at home as boldly and tenaciously as they did Jim Crow. Dr. King died in Memphis, in the midst of a near general strike situation, with the city’s high schools and some (not that many) churches in the streets over the wages and benefits paid to the city’s black sanitation workers.

To sell a phony program of economic recovery through privatization, an Obama administration will have to deploy the remanufactured and sanitized ghost of Dr. King against the man’s historical work, and against the tens of millions who voted for Barack Obama because they wanted change. Wholesale privatizations of this kind are also the toxic “medicine” the IMF and World Bank (and some of Obama’s advisors) have historically provided for third world countries in economic distress. It didn’t help them. It won’t help us.dont

If we take the advice of Dr. Hudson seriously, we ought to insist that the Obama economic recovery program be funded by a wholesale restructuring of the US tax system, so that the wealthy, however their income is derived, are taxed more than the incomes of people who depend upon wages. We ought to insist on debt relief for consumers and homeowners, not bonus and salary relief for bank execs and shareholders, which is all the Wall Street bailout seems to have accomplished. It’s not too early for us to think and talk, not only about what we expect from an Obama administration, but how we demand that it unfold.

Given the old-school makeup of Obama’s cabinet, his economic and foreign policy advisors, the hedge funders, the Wall Street wise guys and corporate interests of all sorts already have both his ears. It’s not at all too early for the people to begin grabbing his lapels, and giving him some other input. (full text).

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