Paul Craig Roberts
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.
The question is often asked: "What can we do?” Here is a prescription for peace and prosperity.
We will begin with prosperity, because prosperity can contribute to peace. Sometimes governments begin wars in order to distract from unpromising economic prospects, and internal political stability can also be dependent on prosperity.
The Road to Prosperity
For the United States to return to a prosperous road, the middle class must be restored and the ladders of upward mobility put back in place. The middle class served domestic political stability by being a buffer between rich and poor. Ladders of upward mobility are a relief valve that permit determined folk to rise from poverty to success. Rising incomes throughout society provide the consumer demand that drives an economy. This is the way the US economy worked in the post-WWII period.
To reestablish the middle class the offshored jobs have to be brought home, monopolies broken up, regulation restored, and the central bank put under accountable control or abolished.
Jobs offshoring enriched owners and managers of capital at the expense of the middle class. Well paid manufacturing and industrial workers lost their livelihoods as did university graduates trained for tradable professional service jobs such as software engineering and information technology. No comparable wages and salaries could be found in the economy where the remaining jobs consist of domestic service employment, such as retail clerks, hospital orderlies, waitresses and bartenders. The current income loss is compounded by the loss of medical benefits and private pensions that supplemented Social Security retirement. Thus, jobs offshoring reduced both current and future consumer income.
America’s middle class jobs can be brought home by changing the way corporations are taxed. Corporate income could be taxed on the basis of whether corporations add value to their product sold in US markets domestically or offshore. Domestic production would have a lower tax rate. Offshored production would be taxed at a higher rate. The tax rate could be set to cancel out the cost savings of producing offshore.
Under long-term attack by free market economists, the Sherman Antitrust Act has become a dead-letter law. Free market economists argue that markets are self-correcting and that anti-monopoly legislation is unnecessary and serves mainly to protect inefficiency. A large array of traditionally small business activities have been monopolized by franchises and "big box” stores. Family owned auto parts stores, hardware stores, restaurants, men’s clothing stores, and dress shops, have been crowded out. Walmart’s destructive impact on Main Street businesses is legendary. National corporations have pushed local businesses into the trash bin.
Monopoly has more than economic effect. When six mega-media companies have control of 90 percent of the American media, a dispersed and independent press no longer exists. Yet, democracy itself relies on media helping to hold government to account. The purpose of the First Amendment is to control the government, but today media serves as a propaganda ministry for government.
Americans received better and less expensive communication services when AT&T was a regulated monopoly. Free trade in communications has resulted in the creation of many unregulated local monopolies with poor service and high charges. AT&T’s stability made the stock a "blue-chip” ideal for "widow and orphan” trust funds, pensions, and wealth preservation. No such risk free stock exists today.
Monopoly was given a huge boost by financial deregulation. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan’s claim that "markets are self-regulating” and that government regulation is harmful was blown to pieces by the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Deregulation not only allowed banks to escape from prudent behavior but also allowed such concentration that America now has "banks too big to fail.” One of capitalism’s virtues and justifications is that inefficient enterprises fail and go out of business. Instead, we have banks that must be kept afloat with public or Federal Reserve subsidies. Clearly, one result of financial deregulation has been to protect the large banks from the operation of capitalism. The irony that freeing banks from regulation resulted in the destruction of capitalism is lost on free market economists.
The cost of the Federal Reserve’s support for the banks too big to fail with zero and negative real interest rates has been devastating for savers and retirees. Americans have received no interest on their savings for seven years. To make ends meet, they have had to consume their savings. Moreover, the Federal Reserve’s policy has artificially driven up the stock market with the liquidity that the Federal Reserve has created and also caused a similar bubble in the bond market. The high prices of bonds are inconsistent with the buildup in debt and the money printed in order to keep the debt afloat. The dollar’s value itself depends on quantitative easing in Japan and the EU.
In order to restore financial stability, an obvious precondition for prosperity, the large banks must be broken up and the distinction between investment and commercial banks restored.
Since the Clinton regime, the majority of the Treasury secretaries have been top executives of the troubled large banks, and they have used their public position to benefit their banks and not the US economy. Additionally, executives of the large banks comprise the board of the New York Fed, the principal operating arm of the Federal Reserve. Consequently, a few large banks control US financial policy. This conspiracy must be broken up and the Federal Reserve made accountable or abolished.
This requires getting money out of politics. The ability of a few powerful private interest groups to control election outcomes with their campaign contributions is anathema to democracy. A year ago the Republican Supreme Court ruled that the rich have a constitutional right to purchase the government with political campaign contributions in order to serve their selfish interests.
These are the same Republican justices who apparently see no constitutional right to habeas corpus and, thus, have not prohibited indefinite detention of US citizens. These are the same Republican justices who apparently see no constitutional prohibition against self-incrimination and, thus, have tolerated torture. These are the same Republican justices who have abandoned due process and permit the US government to assassinate US citizens.
To remove the control of money over political life would likely require a revolution. Unless prosperity is to be only for the One Percent, the Supreme Court’s assault on democracy must be overturned.
The Road to Peace is Difficult
To regain peace is even more difficult than to regain prosperity. As prosperity can be a precondition for peace, peace requires both changes in the economy and in foreign policy.
To regain peace is especially challenging, not because Americans are threatened by Muslim terrorists, domestic extremists, and Russians. These "threats” are hoaxes orchestrated in behalf of special interests. "Security threats” provide more profit and more power for the military/security complex.
The fabricated "war on terror” has been underway for 14 years and has succeeded in creating even more "terror” that must be combated with enormous expenditures of money. Apparently, Republicans intend that monies paid in Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes be redirected to the military/security complex.
The promised three-week "cakewalk” in Iraq has become a 14 year defeat with the radical Islamic State controlling half of Iraq and Syria. Islamist resistance to Western domination has spread into Africa and Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the oil emirates are ripe fruit ready to fall.
Having let the genie out of the bottle in the Middle East, Washington has turned to conflict with Russia and by extension to China. This is a big bite for a government that has not been able to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan after 14 years.
Russia is not a country accustomed to defeat. Moreover, Russia has massive nuclear forces and massive territory into which to absorb any US/NATO invasion. Picking a fight with a well-armed country with by far the largest land mass of any country shows a lack of elementary strategic sense. But that is what Washington is doing.
Washington is picking a fight with Russia, because Washington is committed to the neoconservative doctrine that History has chosen Washington to exercise hegemony over the world. The US is the "exceptional and indispensable” country, the Uni-power chosen to impose Washington’s will on the world.
This ideology governs US foreign policy and requires war in its defense. In the 1990s Paul Wolfowitz enshrined the Wolfowitz Doctrine into US military and foreign policy. In its most bold form, the Doctrine states:
"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”
As a former member of the original Cold War Committee on the Present Danger, I can explain what these words mean. The "threat posed formerly by the Soviet Union” was the ability of the Soviet Union to block unilateral US action in some parts of the world. The Soviet Union was a constraint on US unilateral action, not everywhere but in some places. This constraint on Washington’s will is regarded as a threat.
A "hostile power” is a country with an independent foreign policy, such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have proclaimed. Iran, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba, and North Korea have also proclaimed an independent foreign policy.
This is too much independence for Washington to stomach. As Russian President Vladimir Putin recently stated, "Washington doesn’t want partners. Washington wants vassals.”
The Wolfowitz doctrine requires Washington to dispense with governments that do not acquiesce to Washington’s will. It is a "first objective.”
The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in Boris Yeltsin becoming president of a dismembered Russia. Yeltsin was a compliant US puppet. Washington became accustomed to its new vassal and absorbed itself in its Middle Eastern wars, expecting Vladimir Putin to continue Russia’s vassalage.
However at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, Putin said: "I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world.”
Putin went on to say: "We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?”
When Putin issued this fundamental challenge to US Uni-power, Washington was preoccupied with its lack of success with its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Mission was not accomplished.
By 2014 it had entered the thick skulls of our rulers in Washington that while Washington was blowing up weddings, funerals, village elders, and children’s soccer games in the Middle East, Russia had achieved independence from Washington’s control and presented itself as a formidable challenge to Washington’s Uni-power. Putin and Russia have had enough of Washington’s arrogance.
The unmistakable rise of Russia refocused Washington from the Middle East to Russia’s vulnerabilities. Ukraine, long a constituent part of Russia and subsequently the Soviet Union, was split off from Russia in the wake of the Soviet collapse by Washington’s maneuvering. In 2004 Washington had tried to capture Ukraine in the Orange Revolution, which failed to deliver Ukraine into Washington’s hands. Consequently, according to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Washington spent $5 billion over the following decade developing NGOs that could be called into the streets of Kiev and in developing political leaders who represented Washington’s interests.
Washington launched its coup in February 2014 with orchestrated "demonstrations” that with the addition of violence resulted in the overthrow and flight of the elected democratic government of Victor Yanukovych. In other words, Washington destroyed democracy in a new country with a coup before democracy could take root.
Ukrainian democracy meant nothing to Washington intent on seizing Ukraine in order to present Russia with a security problem and also to justify sanctions against "Russian aggression” in order to break up Russia’s growing economic and political relationships with Europe.
Having launched on this reckless and irresponsible attack on a nuclear power, can Washington eat crow and back off? Would the neoconservative-controlled mass media permit that? The Russian government, backed 89% by the Russian people, have made it clear that Russia rejects vassalage status as the price of being part of the West. The implication of the Wolfowitz Doctrine is that Russia must be destroyed.
This implies our own destruction.
What can be done to restore peace? Obviously, the EU must abandon NATO and declare that Washington is a greater threat than Russia. Without NATO Washington has no cover for its aggression and no military bases with which to surround Russia.
It is Washington, not Russia, that has an ideology of "uber alles.” Obama endorsed the neoconservative claim that "America is the exceptional country.” Putin has made no such claim for Russia. Putin’s response to Obama’s claim is that "God created us equal.”
In order to restore peace, the neoconservatives must be removed from foreign policy positions in the government and media. This means that Victoria Nuland must be removed as Assistant Secretary of State, that Susan Rice must be removed as National Security Adviser, that Samantha Power must be removed as US UN ambassador.
The warmonger neoconservatives must be removed from Fox ‘News,’ CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, and in their places independent voices must replace propagandists for war.
Clearly, none of this is going to happen, but it must if we are to escape armageddon.
The prescription for peace and prosperity is sound. The question is: Can we implement it?