Saturday, May 16, 2009

Two Kinds of Credit

Today it is possible to speak of a credit crisis in the double sense with which one used to speak about the Bush administration's "intelligence failures." For the torrents of real and nominal money that the Obama economic team continues to pour into banks, with the sole intention of propping up equity values and saving stockholders and bondholders from an inevitable day of reckoning, money which has reached consumers and businesses almost not at all, done nothing to stop the plummeting of housing prices, the hemorraghing of jobs, you can fill in the rest yourself--such a plan is only really possible because of the intense, fanatical optimism which his election has produced, and which his diplomatic and charismatic form of eloquent thievery and rhetorically-skillful imperialism maintains by a favorable comparison with the unashamed, plainspoken thuggery of the Bush crew. The trillions of dollars of credit facilities that team Obama has offered to the banking industry--for the sole purpose of maintaining the wealth of the rich and avoiding the dreaded nationalization which will yet still be necessary, next month or next year--: none of this would be possible without the belief, the hope, the faith and optimism which the majority of the American people continue to lend to his administration. The same goes, of course, for his intensification of the war in Afghanistan and its extension into Pakistan; his continuation of the Bush policies with regard to secrecy and extra-legal detention; Homeland Security's continuance of raids and its deportations of immigants; the proposal of a solution to the health care crisis that comes from the medical and insurance industries themselves; a solution to the ecological crisis developed by the energy-industry. None of this would be possible without Obama's return to the graceful, charismatic form of lying that once used to characterize the office of the President: a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on torture, the bob and weave of diplomacy covering the use of military force, a few decisively vague admonitions for Israel designed to imply the opposite of what they say. Obama is, therefore, an instrument, a kind of credit facility, by which the US state can absorb vast torrents of political "capital" in the very same way that the banking industry can suck up economic capital. But just as the interventions in the banking industry do nothing to address the underlying contradictions of the US economy, so too is the face-lift that Obama gives neoliberalism entirely cosmetic. In the same way that our banks are now zombie banks, their avant-garde accounting practices maintained by state guarantees, so too is neoliberalism a zombie neoliberalism, dead but still shuffling forward. Both zombies will die, of course, die again, when the supply of fresh brains runs out. And when they do die, we will most likely find that the libertarian wing of the Republican party, with its naturalistic fantasies of the free market, is better at resolving its differences with the gay-bashing, racist and pro-life wing of said party than the American hard left is at convincing the still starry-eyed and hopeful progressives that they've been pwned.

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