The inability of Congress to get anything done because of GOP intransigence has been the dominant issue in government for some time. The fiscal cliffhanger was only the most recent of innumerable instances of historic stonewalling over the past few years. Critics of this situation invariably take the tack of scolding the archconservatives for their unwillingness to make the compromises deemed essential for democratic governance.
It is undeniable that our world economic system is in serious crisis. Unemployment has reached record highs in some places; most new jobs are low-level and low-paid; worldwide production is stalled because of diminished capacities to consume; public sectors are so revenue-starved that some advanced nations are jeopardizing the world capitalist financial structure by flirting with default; and essential public benefits – education, health care, retirement, etc. – are either being threatened or are actually under the knife.
The beneficiaries of the system are well aware of these conditions and know there are only two possible avenues of resolution: Either governments will intervene on behalf of the people, or resolution will be left to capitalism itself.
If the governments intervene, profits will be curtailed through regulations and a higher percentage of them channeled to the people through the public sector – a classic example of redistribution. If the corporate laissez-faire agenda dominates, a tenuous status quo will be maintained, with profits and corporate power intact – at least temporarily. The stakes are very high. The mission of the GOP is to debilitate government by preventing any profit-inhibiting encroachment on the economic system. Not since the Russian and Chinese revolutions and the Great Depression has capitalism been so defensive. It sees itself as fighting for its life, and any government benefit to the people that seeps through the cracks is perceived as a “socialist” measure that, by extension, ultimately undermines the entire structure.
As the battle between the people and profit rages, we can’t help speculating on the outcome. If the corporate world has its way – which has been largely the case so far – we cannot expect any economic improvement, since the malaise stems from the system itself. The question then is, how long will the world’s people tolerate the assault on them? And the answer is, probably not long. Whether it’s the Arab Spring, massive popular demonstrations throughout Europe, worker foment in China, or our own Occupy movement, they are already rising against political and economic inequality.
No doubt the best thing we can do for ourselves is to help strengthen the government that is ours, not the corporations that aren’t. We start by using our democratic power to dump the intransigents. If a democratic government is dysfunctional, it’s because the people aren’t wielding their power to change it.