‘Even the President of the United States has to stand naked’: Trump Strips America’s Corrupt Democracy

‘How Corrupt is Britain?’ edited by David Whyte is a collection of powerful and punchy essays that shine a light on the corruption embedded in UK politics, policing and finance. In this article,  David Whyte extends his study of corruption to the U.S., turning his eye to President – Elect Trump’s recent appointments and the continued love affair between the U.S. government and private interests.

Donald Trump’s pitch to the people on the eve of the election in November was that only he could overturn the “years of sordid corruption” in the Washington establishment.   But his earliest appointments are beginning to line up like a familiar identification parade of establishment crooks.

His nominee as Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, a company currently embroiled in a major Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation for publishing false reports about its assets.  The ‘white nationalist’ Steve Bannon, appointed as White House chief strategist has been exposed for channeling millionaire donor funds through a ‘charity’ to fund his work for the extreme right-wing Breitbart News. nude-trump-1  And Trump’s newly crowned head of manufacturing, is Andrew Leveris, the CEO of Dow Chemicals who was also investigated by the SEC for fraud, although the case has apparently now been concluded.  Perhaps the icing on the cake is the appointment of the climate change-denying corporate lawyer Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

But the alleged frauds that tie those appointments together is really not the headline story.  The headline story is that, perhaps unsurprisingly, they all have a long track record of rabidly opposing any regulation that gets in the way of business.

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Trump, Brexit and the twilight of neoliberalism by Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen

It’s 2016 and the phrase ‘it’s the economy stupid’ lacks currency. Is this neoliberalism’s swansong? In this article, an extended version of a blog post for the Sociological Review, Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen examine the ‘organic crisis’ engendered by Brexit and the election of Trump and what the future holds for social movements now the status quo has been upset. 

Something remarkable has happened in the Anglophone countries where neoliberalism first came to power. After over two decades of popular resistance to trade deals, from the Zapatistas’ 1994 rebellion against NAFTA and the 1999 Seattle WTO summit protest, the its-the-economy-stupid-pin-clintonU.S. has elected a candidate openly opposed to such deals, and TTIP may not survive the experience. Meanwhile, the UK – where conventional wisdom has had it that state economic policy always takes its lead from the City of London – now has a government attempting to set its course for “hard Brexit”.

Of course neoliberalism is not yet over, and the power of existing money will no doubt find ways to make itself heard in the Trump administration as well as in Brexit-land. But the social and electoral coalitions which Thatcher and Reagan stitched together to push through a monetarist revolution are no longer delivering what for the past third of a century has seemed an unstoppable neoliberal juggernaut, experimented in the global South and later expanded across Europe.

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Protesting the Capitalist University by Henry Heller

The University of Manitoba is on strike. Since 1st November, more than 1,200 faculty members took to the picket line to protest the lack of funding for education, a need for workload protection and safeguarding for fairer tenure and promotion procedures, in addition to addressing several job security issues for instructors and librarians. Author of ‘The Capitalist University’, Henry Heller is a professor of History at the University of Manitoba, he writes here of the strike and how the walkout resonates with the themes of his book. 

Authors don’t often get to live out the denouement of their books. Yet that is what is happening to me as I blog.  On 20 October Pluto published  The Capitalist University: The Transformations of Higher Education in the United States, 1945-2016. Its last chapter deals with university-of-manitoba-faculty-on-strikethe development of the neoliberal university and the growing resistance to it on the part of faculty and students and other workers. Two weeks have gone by  and I find myself on a picket line at the University of Manitoba on a faculty strike against the neoliberal university. As we stand vigil at the gates of the University the days are rapidly shortening and getting colder. Overhead the geese are quickly and excitedly fleeing to the south. But each morning since 1 November I find myself on the morning shift defying the university’s attempt to impose total control over the work of professors and librarians at our university. We are an important part of a rising tide of class struggle developing both inside and  outside of universities across the globe against the ravages of neoliberal capitalism.

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A very radical approach indeed

Derek Wall, whose new book Economics After Capitalism is out this month, places his analysis in context.

‘In 1845, local members of the Conservative Party selected George Hudson as their parliamentary Wall EACcandidate. They wanted support for two failing infrastructure projects – the Monkwearmouth Dock and the Durham and Sunderland Railway.  Hudson, also known as ‘The Railway King’, was duly elected MP for Sunderland. His financial wizardry had been used to build a rail line between the North East and London, a kind of HS2 of its day.  Hudson’s fall from grace however was swift. All seemed above-board – his rail projects paid generous dividends to shareholders and as a result he raised huge amounts of money for infrastructure projects.  However, a pamphlet entitled The Bubble of the Age claimed that instead of the dividends being derived from profit, they came from capital.  Hudson was essentially running what is now known as a Ponzi scheme.  New shares were issued and dividends paid from the money invested by previous shareholders.  Such fraudulent finance could continue as long as new railways generated accelerating profit for investors or new investors could be duped into buying more shares and their investment used to pay previous investors.

Hudson’s scheme was revealed, shareholders sold their stakes and his investments crashed. He was only saved from prison because of his position as an MP.  This relationship between political office, the celebration of market forces and a hidden reliance on speculation and fraud seems very contemporary, yet these events took place a century and a half ago.

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Ricketty Piketty: The Road to Non-Market Socialism

The following article originally appeared in Progress in Political Economy (PPE). Read it in its original context, here.

Thomas PikettyPiketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century was the diving off point for the opening session of the recent Historical Materialism Australasia 2014 conference in Sydney. Valuably, Piketty exposes increasing economic inequality, highlights the burgeoning filthy rich and argues that deep inequalities are the natural state of any capitalism unfettered by state redistributive and welfare programs. But the panel I led raised a number of concerns about Piketty’s approach. Here I draw from my talk about the vexed issued of inequality for the Left in general and the particular stance of non-market socialists.

The gesture to Marx’s Capital in Piketty’s title is annoying given Piketty engages cursorily with Marx. In a New Republic (5 May 2014) interview he even misrepresents him, saying: ‘In the books of Marx there’s no data.’ Not surprisingly Piketty only offers a narrow statistical analysis of developing inequalities in income and wealth especially recently and mainly in advanced capitalism.

Inequality represents a double-edged sword for the Marxist left. Inequality in owning assets and income levels are living breathing proof of capitalism’s deepest failings. But addressing inequality often slides into reformism. Union demands generally support capitalism unless linked overtly to a revolutionary agenda ending capitalism. Unionisation has fallen since the 1980s. Radical unionism has been decimated. Continue reading

Brett Scott radio interview | ‘The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance’

BrettScottBrett Scott, the author of The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money (Pluto, 2013) has been busy recently promoting his new book (and the ideas within…)

He is interviewed on the New Zealand radio broadcaster Radio 1, and the audio is online, here.

For a full round-up of his latest articles and press, check out the suitpossum website run by Brett. Later this autumn Brett will also appear at the annual People & Planet Shared Planet event, this year hosted in London, UK, and at an Action Aid conference in November. Keep an eye on his website and the Pluto events calendar for more details.

As ever, you can buy the book at a 10% discount from the Pluto website, and UK residents get free P&P as well. It’s available for just £11.50 in paperback and on ebook.

‘Ireland’s economic regression’ – David Cronin in the New Statesman

David Cronin, author of Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War, was featured in the New Statesman this week, writing about health cutbacks in Ireland.

He begins by reminding us of an “inspiring revolt” that occurred in Dublin, 100 years ago:

One hundred years ago this month, an inspiring revolt kicked off in Dublin. After tram workers in the city centre demanded a pay rise, the industrialist William Martin Murphy locked out trade union members from their jobs. The dispute that ensued caught the attention of socialists in many countries. Vladimir Lenin praised the “seething Irish energy” of the union leader Jim Larkin.

Cronin then reminds us of Ireland’s current economic situation, with banking debts, health cutbacks and budget cuts:

Hospitals have been forced to pay [Anglo Irish Bank]’s gambling debts. Ireland is second only to Greece in terms of the scale and speed of health cutbacks undertaken by “developed” countries. The Health Service Executive, which runs Ireland’s medical services, has had its budget cut by €3bn since 2008. The Irish Times has reported that the reductions are making it difficult to comply with standards for childcare and cancer treatment.

A bizarre twist to this sorry saga is that Ireland’s government is committed to introducing a universal health insurance scheme. How can this be achieved at a time of austerity? The details remain fuzzy but the overriding goal is clear: the private insurance industry will be put in charge of the scheme.
He concludes:
When I think about the regressive measures being implemented in my country, it is impossible not to leave with a sense of despair.
Read the article in full here.
To buy David Cronin’s book, Corporate Europe, which focuses on the division between the corporate elite and the peoples of Europe, for just £16, click on the cover image below.

CRONIN T02682“David Cronin draws on his many years’ experience in Brussels to expose the anti-democratic, pro-corporate agenda at the heart of the EU. This is a devastating indictment that should be required reading for every European citizen.”

John Hilary, Executive Director, War on Want

Corporate Europe shows how corporate lobbyists dominate the EU – boosting the 1% and harming the interests of the rest of us. On banks, big food, climate, tobacco and war, Cronin reveals the way in which lobbyists subvert rules designed to protect democracy, the environment and public health. A necessary call to retake Europe.

David Miller, author A Century of Spin: How Public Relations Became the Cutting Edge of Corporate Power