As I was electronically discussing my comments on the Rolling Jubilee yesterday, I got an email from Fix The Debt, the deficit-obsessed austerian group founded by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. Bowles and Simpson are, of course, the deficit scolds who led the failed commission created by Barack Obama in 2010 whose mission was to lead the U.S. back to the path of fiscal rectitude.
And though the StrikeDebt! people have little in common with that gang of ghouls who want to cut Social Security and Medicare, they do share one feature: an obsession with debt. (I want to say again that I like and admire the people who conceived this project, and I offer these criticisms in a comradely, not hostile, spirit.) Instead of talking about the challenge of recovering from the after-effects of the Great Recession, of thinking how to provide people at all stages of their lives with material comfort and security, of how to humanize our mad systems of health care and education finance, of how to deal with climate change, both parties focus on debt as central to everything.
There’s an old saying in the public opinion business: we can’t tell people what to think, but we can tell them what to think about. The orthodox are constantly telling us to think about debt. But aren’t radicals supposed to challenge that discursive tyranny?