Wall Street channels Marx

Last night I was watching the Super Tuesday election results on MSNBC.  By 11:00 PM Eastern time they still weren’t calling the race in Ohio, so the pundits were just sitting around mulling over the possibilities.  Lawrence O’Donnell, the only self declared socialist that I know of in mainstream TV, made some interesting comments.  He said he was hoping for a Santorum victory in the primaries so that in the general election we could have a real contrast between a centrist Democrat and a right wing theocratic Republican.  He predicted that the ensuing landslide for Obama would provide the Republican Party with the ammunition necessary to dump these fringe candidates and opt for candidates who advocate compromise and good governance.

Sen. Rick Santorum

O’Donnell’s comments prompted me to reflect on the divide that is now evident amongst Republicans.  Everyone sees at the moment that a very vocal far-right minority in the Republican Party is driving the bus.  This minority is led by the clownish Rush Limbaugh who stated last week that women who use birth control are whores.  It is not remarkable that Rush made these comments; he makes $30M a year talking like that.  What is remarkable is that the Republican candidates didn’t denounce his comments.  The best that Romney could say was that he “wouldn’t have used those words”, implying that he agreed with substance of Limbaugh’s comments.  Santorum dismissed the comments by saying that Rush is in the entertainment business, but like Mitt, he wouldn’t say that he disagreed with Rush’s premise.  Unfortunately for the GOP, this extremism will keep them out of the White House until the GOP leaders can change the dynamic within their party.  Their radical fringe  positions on just about every issue place them far to the right of even Ronald Reagan who, despite his rhetoric, was willing to negotiate with his opponents to get things done.  Clearly describing the current chasm in the Republican Party, Barbara Bush was quoted yesterday as saying, “I think it’s been the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.  I hate that people think compromise is a dirty word. It’s not a dirty word.”

But the dogma of the far Right isn’t limited to social issues; it has an economic component as well.  As true capitalists, they believe the market can fix everything.  They are adamantly opposed to stimulus packages or deficit spending during recession.  Of course, anyone who’s been awake during the past 3 years has seen that the market did not self-repair.  Banks and companies have been sitting on mountains of cash, but have not injected that capital back into our economy.  It has only been government intervention through deficit spending that has kept our country from total collapse.  In Marxist terms, the current crisis was caused by moving resources from labor to capital.  What is very interesting now is that folks on Wall Street are actually saying this.  Who would believe that capitalists would even utter the name Marx!  A number of recent articles in financial rags have been pointing to the problem caused in a consumer society when people are poor.  Did I just hear a capitalist say, “too much disparity of wealth”!  They have finally recognized that poor people don’t actually go shopping as much the middle class does.  Well la-dee-dah.

Jeremy Grantham, Harvard MBA

Henry Ford pondered the question, “who is going to buy all these cars that my assembly lines can produce?”  His answer was to pay his workers more than the prevailing wage so that they could buy cars.  Not exactly rocket science, but it worked.  Most of today’s capitalists aren’t schooled in pragmatism, but but some have amazingly concluded that underconsumption isn’t good for business.  Again, not rocket science.  Now they are calling for government intervention in complete contradiction to their pure market mantra.  Capitalists are in affect saying, “take this gun out of my hand before I kill myself and everyone around me.”  I won’t claim that this attitude is sweeping Wall Street, but the fact that it is being talked about in the WSJ and Financial Times might imply an awakening of sorts.  Marx taught us that capitalism is self-destructive.  Capitalists, when left to their own devices, will create an underclass that will eventually rise up and destroy them. Some capitalists now see it— not in a revolutionary sense, but in a simple pragmatic sense that it’s hard be in business when there are no customers.

These Wall Street pundits are clearly at odds with the current crop of Republican candidates.  And it reflects the gulf within the Republican Party.  Will this affect the outcome of the election?  I think Obama already has the Wall Street vote, so this is just one more nail in the GOP coffin.  It is, however, some small vindication for us who believe in good government, a government that allows what is good in the marketplace but restricts capitalism’s inherent destructive nature, a government that works for the good of all Americans, a government that combines the ideologies of both Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, a government that is patriotic in the true sense.

Here’s a short video from the Financial Times.

The Grantham article from the Wall Street Journal.

For additional comments from the financial world, see this piece by Louis Proyect.