A sustained period of significant growth in the US, however, seemed to save the day against all the odds. So impressive was the surface appearance of this rescue mission that all manner of commentators proclaimed—once again—that a 'new economy' or 'new paradigm' of unlimited and harmonious growth had been forged.
Today, as recession looms, the babble about Internet start-ups is exposed as vapid. Yet the pundits are no nearer an understanding of how or why the boom turned into a bubble, or why the bubble has burst. In this crisp and forensic book, Robert Brenner demonstrates that the boom was always a fragile phenomenon—buoyed up by absurd levels of debt and stock-market overvaluation—which never broke free from the fundamental malady of overcapacity and overproduction which continues to afflict the global economy.
Carefully dismantling the myths and hype that surround the US boom in terms of profitability, investment, and productivity, Brenner restores the properly international context to the process. He portrays the 'zero-sum' character of the American success, which presupposed the relative weakness of its main German and Japanese competitors: a strategy that has laid huge obstacles in the path of a 'soft landing' to end the current phase of growth.
A substantial new Postscript provides and up-to-date analysis of the Bush economic debacle—the crisis of manufacturing, the telecom bust, the record twin deficits, plummeting employment, and the real estate bubble.
Capital could not just abolish the gains of the postwar period. It was necessary to preserve social peace. The "trick" in the 1970s consisted of using inflation to defuse the emerging conflict between labour and capital over redistribution. The money machine was used to compensate for the loss of income which resulted from the reduction in capital’s contribution to the welfare state… Evidently, that could not last. So from the late 1970s inflation was replaced with public debt, and states borrowed (rather than tax) in order to be able to keep up the level of services. Then, in the 1990s, when states began to worry about the growing weight of debt servicing as part of their budgets, and reduced their spending (and thus social services) we took recourse to private debt. In other words, we made it easier than ever for households to take on debt so that they could preserve their purchasing power, which was being cut back by these budget consolidation measures. And that led us to the 2008 catastrophe.
Nissan plant, Smyrna, TN.
The 2016 election was primarily a referendum on US trade and immigration policies. Trump’s case, insofar as one could be found amid all his bloviating, was something like the following: the US sent jobs abroad at the same time as it let workers in from Mexico, and that has been bad for most Americans. It’s worth remembering that Trump began his campaign by attacking financial elites, who, he said, had paid off the politicians to keep this con act going. Since Trump is so rich, he won’t have to take their bribes. He’ll renegotiate.
Well, it doesn’t take a degree in political science to predict that Trump will fail to “make America great again.” In all likelihood, the real winners here will be the traditional constituencies of the Republican Party: big business and social conservatives. Everyone else will lose. Meanwhile, Trump will use the presidency to hound his enemies and expand his personal wealth. And that’s the best case scenario.