Monday, February 23, 2009

Was, Not Was; Is, Is Not, 1

1. Cousins, British/American, Kissing/Idiot [with apologies to the elephant]

They sat there, on both sides of the Atlantic, facing select committees of inquiry, enduring criticism, scorn, condemnation, from the very men and women they had lobbied, wined, dined, junketed; the very same men and women they, the bankers, had bought and paid for the old-fashioned way, the only way they, the bankers knew how-- using other people's money. And now as an index to the declining power of money to paper over all the tears, rips, antagonisms in the fabric of capital, they, the bankers had to sit there, feigning humility as only the very rich can, wasting the time they could have better spent spending, again, as only they know how-- other people's money.

Indignity. That these Gullivers of finance should be forced to appear contrite, to accept the slaps from the greasy hands, the once and future open palms of these parliamentary lilliputians. In public, no less. On television. On the web. A spectacle.

On one side, the actors in the drama of fools pretending to care, and on the other side, other actors pretending to want to know. The bankers, advisors, economists, executives, legislators, regulators stumble about a stage, peforming in this play of 11 chapters, bumping into repossessed furniture destined to be chopped into firewood or pulped into paper, pretending to be blindfolded so they won't have to describe to each other the 20,000 pound elephant in the room. The play's the thing all right. And in this play, all the players and the elephant are of that thing, that thing is the whole, the whole is the truth, and that truth is that capital is its own immanent critique; that....

....that as the accumulation of value expands, the rate of profitability of that accumulation necessarily declines.

....that as the rate, the ratio of profitability, slows, all that once was a source of prosperity, an asset, becomes a loss carried forward.

....that as profit slows and liability expands, the production of and for value requires the devaluation of the products which embodied value.

....that as the the usefulness of the commodities can no longer carry the burden, the dead weight, of profitability, devaluations of the financial instruments are simply the precursor to the wholesale destruction of the means of producing useful objects, industrial plant and wage-labor.

....that this immanent contradiction of capital is the historical limit to capitalism, that the limit is made manifest in the uselessness of bailouts, stimuli, capital injections, lending facilities, and nationalizations..

At the same time.... A calliope of clowns and criminals, murderers and morons, spins between government and business around its single recombinant axis of greed, incompetence, and brutality, the building blocks of the entrepreneurial economy, with the music tellings its tale of woe, that...

Everybody had an explanation, and nobody had an answer.

The bankers could express their remorse, but would accept no responsibility.

The bankers could offer their apologies, but provide no accountability.

The bankers would submit to criticism, but never to culpability.

And why should they accept responsibility? What's a corporation for, if not to avoid personal responsibility, particularly when engaged in the looting the public treasury? The corporation is the legal form for avoiding legality.

And who better to represent capitalism in all its uselessness than its bankers, the living agents of capital's immanent critique-- perfectly educated in their ignorance; well-spoken in their incoherence; nattily attired in their rags and riches; upright in their underhandedness; who better than those who had facilitated the transformation of liquidity into liquidation?

2. Meanwhile...[meaning at the same time]

Facing the parliament's Treasury Select Committee, the knights and lords of the Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS acknowledged that among them they possessed not a single banking qualification. When asked by a committee member if any thought such qualification was important, this gang of four could not answer, although later, in the men's room, one sir was overheard saying to another sir, "Banking qualification? Does the captain of a pirate ship need a qualification in knot-tying? Does a slasher have to have a qualification in metallurgy?"

Across the Atlantic, where that diploma mill called Harvard Business School granted banking qualifications to any rich idiot's idiot son with a credit card and a laptop, the bankers choked on a mixture of rage and panic when the US Congress, at the last minute, attached a provision to the omnibus stimuli/bailout bill restricting the size of the bonuses that the bankers could award each other using the public's money. Here these artists of the deal worried that the negative impact of the restriction would make it difficult to recruit, reward, maintain the talented individuals so important to circulation of junk. Where would the United States find its Richard Fulds; its John Thains; its Kerry K. Killingers? "Give us bonuses, or give us death," squeaked the new Patrick Henrys, proving yet again how little banking qualification is required in banking as clearly the financially responsible course was to give them the latter.

At the same time, while in Dillon, South Carolina the boyhood home of the current chairman of the Federal Reserve System was sold at auction after foreclosure, the governor of the Fed chairman's boyhood home state, with unemployment and poverty rates almost twice the national average, spoke courageously against accepting the stimulus grants from the national government as he did not want the hard-working but unemployed people of his great state to become dependent on a "saviour based economy." Faith-based initiatives, however, would be maintained by the state.

Next: Part 2. Political Economy's Last Stand

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