By Ruth Conniff on July 04, 2009

The Federal government's jobs report for June shows the country sliding further into an already historic recession. With 467,000 jobs disappearing, bringing the official unemployment rate to 9.5 percent, wages down, and more workers than ever stuck in part-time jobs that don't adequately cover the bills, Americans are hurting. Credit is tight and spending down, leaving little hope that we can borrow and buy our way out of the current economic slump.

The situation calls for a big new round of government stimulus spending. Economists Dean Baker, Paul Krugman, and others are calling on President Obama to try to force a more ambitious stimulus plan through Congress. "Just to be clear, I'm well aware of how difficult it will be to get such a plan enacted," Krugman writes in the The New York Times, anticipating criticism from the Administration insiders like Rahm Emanuel. (In a New Yorker profile earlier this year, Emanuel was quoted as saying that Krugman and other liberal economists are basically right in their criticisms of the too-timid Obama approach to issues like stimulus and tax cuts, but that it's easy to criticize the President when you don't have to get anything past the Republicans in Congress--"How many bills has he passed?" Emanuel asked of Krugman.)

I interviewed another critic of the Obama Administration's centrist economic team for the forthcoming issue of Progressive, William Greider, author of the definitive book on the Federal Reserve Bank, Secrets of the Temple, and, most recently, Come Home America. Greider also has critical things to say about Krugman: "He can’t let go of all the bromides he has absorbed over many years as a professional economist," he says, tarring him with the same brush as Robert Rubin and Alan Blinder.

"I think the Establishment, including people like Robert Rubin and Alan Blinder and others, have come part of the way to reality in which they recognize that globalization as they’ve sold it is not paying off for people, and that portends a growing popular resistance. Combine that with the present financial crisis and that’s going to drive that home even more in popular understanding. But they can’t go that next step," says Greider.

The bigger problem with the U.S. economy, Greider points out--beyond the need for stimulus and worker retraining—is the toll taken by globalization and the hollowing out of our manufacturing base.

"I think we will keep going down in those terms until this country gets a political leadership that says, 'You know what, it is nuts to run huge trade deficits year after
year and pretend that that’s OK. It is nuts to imagine that a large, advanced, industrial economy, can prosper without manufacturing.'" he says. "Nobody else in the
world does that. Why do we imagine that the U.S. can? It is nuts to become indebted to our trading partners so we can buy more of their stuff. You lay all those things on the table and it is not unreasonable to say this is going to end. . . . When that happens, if enough people understand that there are ways to come back—not to be number one again, but to just become a viable, prospering economy that more or less includes everybody. That’s what the goal ought to be."

Interestingly, Greider has spoken with Rubin and others, and recorded their admission that the religion of global trade has its flaws: that workers here and abroad are not reaping the great benefits the prophets of globalization claimed that they would. But their prescription for reform are far too modest, he says. They can't go the extra step and talk about completely renegotiating trade deals and remaking U.S. manufacturing. Instead we continue to pour bailout money into the Wall Street casino economy, and hope for a turnaround. It's time for the Establishment to acknowledge that their whole approach to economics has to change, he says.

"What you can’t get from a lot of those people is a candid acknowledgement of that," he told me. They will say, "'Well, yes, the steelworkers have lost jobs and people have sufferend and that’s too bad.' But—this applies to a lot of Democrats in the Congress—they find it very hard to step back and say, 'But this is not about the steelworkers or the autoworkers or others who have been disparaged and wiped out by globalization. It’s about the U.S. economy. The fact that this economy is gradually losing strength—partly because of globalization.' That’s pretty heavy."

If there is one thing that will start turning things around, it's pressure from Americans who are seeing their jobs dry up.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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