US USSR Scary Parallels

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Table 1. The Scary Parallels: USSR 1990 = US 2009 Soviet Union 1990 US 2009 Failed war on Afghanistan Two failed wars on Iraq and Afghanistan Imperial ideology of Soviet Communism (a.k.a. bureaucratic fundamentalism) selfdestructs Imperial ideology of neoliberalism (a.k.a. market fundamentalism) self-destructs No free press or media, elites believe their Plutocrat-controlled press and media, elites own lies believe their own lies Wasteful military-industrial complex gobbles up 15% of econo
  Table 1. The Scary Parallels: USSR 1990 = US 2009 Soviet Union 1990US 2009 Failed war on AfghanistanTwo failed wars on Iraq and AfghanistanImperial ideology of Soviet Communism(a.k.a. bureaucratic fundamentalism) self-destructsImperial ideology of neoliberalism ( fundamentalism) self-destructs No free press or media, elites believe their own liesPlutocrat-controlled press and media, elites believe their own liesWasteful military-industrial complexgobbles up 15% of economyWasteful military-industrial complexgobbles up 8% of economy ($1 trillioneach year)Economy was always fundamentallyuncompetitive, but lack of media andtravel restrictions meant most Sovietcitizens never realized thisEconomy became fundamentallyuncompetitive by mid-1970s, but lack of foreign news coverage in mainstreammedia meant most US citizens never realized thisTiny party elite had nearly all the wealthand power, didn't want things to changeTiny Wall Street elite has nearly all thewealth and political power, doesn't wantthings to changeCold War foreign policy buys a few friends but creates many enemies, alienates mostdemocraciesImperial foreign policy buys a few friends but creates many enemies, alienates mostdemocracies, and triggers catastrophic  warsAfter two decades of economic rot, a new,dynamic, charismatic leader emerges(Gorbachev), who invokes Lenin and whois a model Soviet success story. Gorbachevattempts political reforms while changingnothing about economyAfter three decades of economic rot, a new,dynamic, charismatic leader emerges(Obama), who invokes Lincoln and who isa model American success story. Obamaattempts political reforms while changingnothing about neoliberalismCounter-forces to neoliberal juggernautweak and diffuseCounter-forces to neoliberal restorationweak and diffuseEconomic crisis of 1990s generatesmassive unemployment, crime, and anincarceration boom (incarceration ratesseveral times higher than Western Europe,though not as high as US)  Neoliberal austerity of 1980-2008generates massive unemployment, crimeand incarceration boom (US has over 2million in jail or prison, one half of carceral population of planet, criminal justice system watches over 5 millionadults total)Demographic crisis due to broken healthcare system, wildcat privatization of medical services, lax environmentalregulation, life-span drops dramatically toThird World levels in late 1990sHealth care system broken due todomination of private insurance industry,40 million not covered, millions driveninto bankruptcy by medical bills, life-spanof average US citizen is 1.5 years less thanaverage European, 2 years less thanaverage Canadian, 4 years less thanaverage Japanese, US infant mortality isnow at upper Second World levels  Table 2. Russia's hidden strengths, and America's hidden weaknesses... Russia in 1991America in 2009  No domestic debt Vast domestic debt bubble (370% GDP,which is just plain nuts), owed mostly byfinancial firms (121% of GDP)Foreign debt peaked at 45% GDP in 1998,reduced to zero by 2005Foreign debts (measured by netinternational investment position, NIIP)reached 42% GDP in 2008 and are stillrising 4% each year  No forex reserves, no banking system, butran big current account surplus (didn't needto borrow from abroad)Dollar is still world reserve currency, butthe entire banking system is bust, US isrunning vast current account deficit (must borrow from abroad)Literate, well-educated populationTopnotch but increasingly unaffordablehigher education system, underfunded basic education“No rubles? No problem.” History hastaught Russians to be tougher than case-hardened titanium“No money? AAAIIIEEEEE...” MostAmericans used to 30 years of credit-fueled consumption bingeFormer Soviet system guaranteed basichousing, energy supplies, mass transit,food for all, and functional cities, whileRussians grew their own food on dachas --safety nets which make transition infinitelyeasier Millions losing their homes, Scrooge-likewelfare state means food stamps aren'tenough to feed families, lack of masstransit means car dependence, decades of surburban sprawl devastates cities andlocks US into hopeless, doomedhydrocarbon dependence  Top cadre of Soviet developmental statestill functional, economic crisis gives Putinand siloviki chance to fight back againstdomestic oligarchs and Wall Streetneoliberalism. Russia scraps military-industrial complex, closes foreign bases,starts over as a developmental stateIron grip of Wall Street-Treasury-rentier nexus over US political system unbroken(throwing trillions at bankers while lettingauto firms die), iron grip of military-industrial complex over US foreign policyand Federal expenditures unbroken (trilliondollar military budgets continue, expansionof neocolonial war on Afghan Pashtuns),iron grip of medical-industrial complexover healthcare unbroken (e.g. bogushealthcare reform, instead of the single- payer systems which all other industrialcountries have) Table 3. Are there reasons to be optimistic? But America Still Has the Advantageof... Reality Check  The best universities in world Partly true. Its universities are still world-class, but Americans aren't going to school – students come from abroad. Privatizationforced universities to rely on endowments,which have been hammered by the crashand burn of neoliberalism.Incomparable science and technologyinfrastructure False . The EU and East Asia spend aboutas much or more on civilian science anddevelopment as a percent of their economies than the US, while Russia,China and India are building powerhouse
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