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Posted by: Doug Henwood | August 3, 2011

Austerity = moral renovation

Writing in today’s New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer explains the politics of the debt melodrama: the parties are “jousting over the moral high ground on imposing austerity, with seemingly none of the political or practical motivations that have historically driven legislation.” Leaving aside the fact that half of one party (the Dems) have happily embraced the premises of the other—and also leaving aside the fact that the “high ground,” moral or otherwise, hasn’t much in evidence during this idiotic fight—Steinhauer is inadvertently onto something.

Over the centuries, the period after the bursting of a bubble has often been time of self-reproach, a time of self-questioning and even self-flagellation. Those have notably been absent in the U.S. during the post-bubble periods of the early 1990s and early 2000s. Now we’re apparently getting some of it, but it’s looking like the austerity party plans to punish people other than those who profited during the bubble. Will Goldman Sachs partners be taxed to repair the damage? Heavens no: the victims of this program of moral renovation through austerity will be such notorious high livers as the poor, the chronically ill, and graduate students. Moral renovation is always more fun when you’re prescribing it for the other guy.

Oh, and apparently this is only the beginning. The austerity party is already pushing for more.

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Responses

  1. It’s the regenerati​ve power of other people’s misery.

  2. yep, I think that’s about right–the general public has accepted that the financial crisis was a result of living beyond their means. It also seems that people have bought the analogy between household budgets and government budgets, and find it plausible that the country is as broke as they are.

  3. […] to the elite or the financial sectors whose sociopathy is accepted and rewarded. As Doug Henwood notes, the austerity programs implemented across Western countries are presented as programs of moral […]

  4. Re the Bowles/Simpson article that you link to here: “Oh, and apparently this is only the beginning. The austerity party is already pushing for more.”

    I did find this sentence sort of interesting:

    “The tax code is riddled with annual tax breaks amounting to $1 trillion — most of which are just government spending in disguise. ”

    which is part of Suzanne Metler’s point with The Submerged State. The right-wing commentators I’ve read on her stuff go absolutely furious with this point – only a socialist could believe this, etc. – so I found it kind of amusing to see Bowles/Simpson say it. Anything except the great evil of higher rates for the wealthy, I guess.

  5. […] Doug Henwood: Over the centuries, the period after the bursting of a bubble has often been time of […]

  6. […] equitable way to balance the budget than cutting services on such “notorious high livers as the poor, the chronically ill, and graduate students.”  Consider this from a very good article by Dan Froomkin: “‘The rich have drawn […]

  7. Well thank god somebody’s finally going to stick it to the poor, as those guy’s have had it good for far too long now.

  8. These guys have no clue about how to revive the economy, and that will have ramifications at some point. The ruling class is more avaricious then clever or wise.


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