Check Your Premises Before You Wreck Your Premises: The Romney Campaign Shrugs

“The rich and the crooks are two sides of the same medal, they are the principal category of parasites which capitalism fostered; they are the principal enemies of socialism.”

-Vladimir Lenin, 1918

“We risk hitting a tipping point in our society where we have more takers than makers in society, where we will have turned our safety net into a hammock that lulls able bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency.”

-Paul Ryan, 2012

“I’m stupid rich, got retarded money/I’m special Ed, I got special bread”

-50 Cent, 2008

Today’s conservative has a rather easy time dismissing leftists as naïve “bleeding-hearts” who are presumably too lazy and perhaps effeminate to undertake the rigorous analysis necessary to achieve an understanding of the contemporary world in all of its economic, political, and social complexities. The straw-man “lib’ruls” that right-wing nutjobs love to hate are a cognitively inferior race of beings first and foremost because, like sissies, they evaluate the world in terms of “fairness” and “justice” without acknowledging inconvenient truths such as ballooning government deficits or shrinking profit margins.

But whenever a leftist acknowledges such inconvenient truths and persists in calling attention to the bankruptcy of the capitalist system in the twenty-first century, the right-wing nutjobs get nervously quiet all of a sudden. How can it be that more government spending, not less, is the best plan for the people in both the short and long run if government borrowing at the current levels is unsustainable in both the short and long run?

The scientific socialism of Marx and Engels has always posed a far more serious intellectual threat to the legitimacy of capitalist rule than the utopian moralism of reformers and anarchists. It sets forth a rigorously scientific methodology for understanding the real world in real time that acknowledges and even welcomes the existence of material contradictions in the social organization of production.

Like most people living on the planet, Marxists are indeed morally outraged by the parade of horribles that capitalism has unleashed and continues to unleash upon society. But the methodology of scientific socialism demands that one temporarily set aside one’s personal indignation when studying the social reality of the present time. It demands that one pay close attention to objective contradictions in the global economy, like the fact that more productive factories that produce more widgets in less time using fewer workers may lower businesses’ operating costs but in so doing produce higher unemployment, lower wages, and thus ultimately less demand for those very widgets. To acknowledge contradictions such as these is to give up any illusion that capitalism can be “fixed” or that we should even be trying to “fix” it. It is this dialectical thought process, and not the rigid adherence to any set of dogmatic principles, that makes one a Marxist.

Ayn Rand, the Muhammad of the Mayberry Machiavellians that comprise today’s Republican Party, did not merely declare war on social democracy and collectivism of all types. She also set out to undermine, by way of sheer philosophical argument, the very dialectical thought process that Marx and Engels introduced into the realm of the social sciences. Rand denied the existence of contradictions and claimed that whenever one perceives a contradiction, one must “check one’s premises,” because surely at least one of those premises is wrong. Thus money cannot possibly be simultaneously a store and a measurement of value on the one hand and a means of exchange, circulation, and repayment on the other. Waves are waves and particles are particles, goddamit! Why? Because Ayn Rand said so. Now get a fucking job, slacker.

Which brings us to the premises Mitt Romney assumed to be true when he shared his opinion about the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes with what he believed at the time was a private audience of Atlas Shrugged characters. Either Romney himself assumed, or he assumed that his audience assumed, that the same 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax are (a) committed Obama supporters who can never be persuaded to vote otherwise and (b) welfare cheats who produce zero value for society while consuming an ever-growing proportion of society’s resources.

Had Romney or his audience applied dialectical thinking when studying this large chunk of the American electorate, they would have acknowledged the seemingly contradictory state of affairs in which masses of Bubbas and Skeeters numbering in the tens of millions who are part of that 47 percent have been a reliable and absolutely crucial part of the Republican base ever since Richard Nixon’s campaign staff started inventing various innocuous-sounding euphemisms for putting uppity blacks in their place. They may have even pondered the fact that the loyalty of said Bubbas and Skeeters to the Republican Party has always been tenuous because the GOP has not in the past several decades actually benefitted them in any substantial way (other than, ironically, lowering their tax burden!) but has merely validated their (largely valid) resentments against a “liberal” class that threw them under the bus in its drive to appoint slightly more women and minorities to manage its hedge funds and private equity holding companies.

The “47 percent” video will not, by itself, determine the outcome of the election, but it is a prophetic foretelling of things to come. Romney’s statement is symptomatic of the attitude of an entire ruling capitalist class that has long ago given up trying to check its ideological premises.  The apologetic politics of American capitalism today is in increasing jeopardy not, as Rand might have claimed, because any one of those premises is false, but in fact because each of them, taken on its own, is empirically true. Yes, there is a class of parasites and moochers in America who accumulate and consume without working, and yes, a good number of these parasites and moochers—perhaps even Romney himself in previous tax years—are part of the 47 percent who pay no federal income taxes. Yes, Obama supporters are more likely than Romney supporters to believe in a stronger role for government in the economy. Yet when the Republican presidential candidate attempted to weave all these separately valid empirical truths together into a coherent narrative that fits into the intellectual straightjacket that characterizes the mass politics of the contemporary GOP, the contradictions stood naked and exposed for all to see.

Getting rid of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, federal college assistance, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and other “free stuff” is not exactly a “surgical strike” that will affect only the black welfare queens, union thugs, and dope-smoking Marxist grad students who probably would never vote for Romney anyway while leaving the Bubbas, the Skeeters, the limbless war vets, the old timers with more “traditional” values, and countless other “decent white folks” unscathed. Romney is now on record as saying essentially to America’s poor and working-class white voters: “You are no better than niggers, and I intend to enslave you.” Maybe it’s about time they took the hint.

Advertisements

Higher Education Clusterfuck Redux: The Talk

Middle class parents in the United States (and I acknowledge that “middle class” is an entirely subjective term in the United States) are going to have to make sure they have the talk with their college-bound teenagers from now on. You know, the talk.

America’s middling moms and dads already understand they are expected to have the drug talk (marijuana will never kill you and is probably healthier than drinking but a criminal record can ruin your future so just say no), the sex talk (for girls: don’t dress like a slut and save your punany for a guy who’s going places in life; for boys: wrap that shit up and make sure you at least call her within 24 hours lest she accuse you of raping her), and the race talk (for black kids: whenever you see a man in uniform, spread your cheeks, lift your sac, and mind your manners; for Hispanic kids: never leave home without your passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card, three separate utility bills, and a notarized affidavit from the homeowners association swearing that we live here; for white kids: never venture north of 96th Street and always carry a little cash on you because if you’re wallet’s empty when they mug you, they’ll be more likely to violently take out their rage and anger over 400 years of slavery and oppression on you personally out of pure spite; for Asian kids: I don’t care if it’s Saturday, 70 degrees, and sunny and all the other kids are playing ball outside . . . weekends and holidays are for the other, less disciplined races . . . now do your homework!).

But now, rising tuition and persistently high unemployment are giving rise to a new talk that all parents must have with their kids before they matriculate at one of America’s fine institutions of higher learning. That talk goes something like this:

You know how we always used to tell you that you can be anything you want to be when you grow up as long as you work really hard at it and never give up? Well, that’s not exactly true. You see, the cost of sending you to college for four years, when you factor in tuition, room and board, health insurance, books, and so forth, is over $200,000. That’s money we simply don’t have ever since your father got downsized and had to cash in his 401(k) (at a time when it was worth half of what it was worth before the economy crashed) so we can continue to pay our bills. That means you will have to take out student loans. Now I know they never taught you basic principles of personal finance in school, but since you are going to end up owing somebody over 200 Gs in four years, it’s important that you know what interest is.

You see, nobody just lends large sums of cash to a total stranger out of the goodness of their heart. If I’m sitting on a lot of money and I let somebody borrow a bunch of it, there’s no guarantee that person is gonna pay it all back. But if I only let them borrow this money on the condition that they pay it back and then some, something is in it for me to be a lender. Now, the chunk of money that they’re gonna lend you so you can go to school—that’s called the principal. You’re gonna have to pay all of that back. But wait . . . there’s more. You’re also gonna have to pay them an extra chunk of money on top of that which is calculated by taking a percentage of the principal. Now focus . . . did you take your Ritalin today? Good.

Now, after you graduate, you will have to make monthly loan repayments. What will happen is, they will pick a block of time for you to pay it all back – say 10 years after you graduate – and then divide the principal by the number of months in 10 years. There are 12 months in a year, so there are 120 months in 10 years. You will owe $200,000, so $200,000 divided by 120 is $1,666.66 per month for ten years. But that’s just the principal! The interest rate on your loan is 3.4 percent. 3.4% of 1666.66 is $56.66. That means you will owe $1,723.33 per month.

That is to say, you will continue to owe $1,723.33 per month for ten years if you consistently make that monthly payment for ten years. If you miss a payment, the interest you didn’t pay will get added to the principal, and the monthly payment you owe will increase! That is to say, the less able you are to pay back your loans, the more you will owe, and the less you will be able to pay back your loans, and the more you will owe, and so on ad infinitum (which, by the way, is Latin for until the end of time!).

So why is it important that we’re telling you this now? Because very soon you will be picking what courses to take and what to major in and you’ll be discovering who the fuck you are and what you’re good at. What we are trying to tell you today is that it doesn’t matter who the fuck you are or what you’re good at. There are certain fields of study that will qualify you to get one of the shrinking number of jobs that will enable you to pay off your debt before you die. You will have to be exceptionally successful within those fields, whether you are good at them or not, and we don’t just mean getting good grades. You will have to know the right people and probably at some point stab your rivals in the back to get ahead.

What’s that you said . . . ? You don’t wanna go to college at all if that’s the price you will have to pay for the privilege? Do you wanna be a loser all your life? You think flipping burgers is a respectable vocation? Let’s get real – you’ve been raised all your life to feel accustomed to a standard of living that you will have to fight to the death now to perpetuate for yourself as an adult. Most of what you know about college you probably got from the movies, and right now, we’re telling you that in real life, for you, the movie you should have in mind when thinking about college is not Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds but rather The Hunger Games with a little Lord of the Flies mixed in for good measure.

So, what fields of study will be most likely to land you a job when you graduate? Well, where do people make money in America these days? Think F I RE – finance, insurance, real estate. Do whatever you need to become qualified to work in these sectors. Yes, I know those are the very sectors that put America in the situation where we have to have this talk with you in the first place, but part of growing up is learning to accept that life isn’t fair. You can either become a part of the problem and continue to live as an adult with the comforts you grew up with as a kid, or you can try to be part of the solution and end up destitute, with a ruined credit rating, unable to marry and raise a family, much less qualify for a home mortgage, and very likely dead or in jail when its all said and done.

Well, I’m glad we had this talk, and remember, we’re both so very proud of you!

The Imperial Wizard Has No Clothes

Anybody remember Kony 2012? The YouTube video produced by an erstwhile obscure nonprofit called Invisible Children urging the youth of America to make African warlord Joseph Kony famous? The most viral video in history? And anybody remember what happened to Jason Russell, the head of Invisible Children, when adults started to analyze Kony 2012 and determined that it was a racist, colonialist, propaganda piece that exploited the political idealism of little kids to build support for a U.S. military invasion of Uganda, and when they started showing it in Uganda to people who were direct victims of said African warlord, and said victims got so offended that they threw rocks at the movie screen? Seriously, if Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, and George Orwell sat down and smoked a blunt together, they would probably come up with something like Kony 2012.

For those of you who don’t remember, Jason Russell was found by police in broad daylight on the streets of San Diego, buck naked, jumping on top of cars, picking fights with people on the street, and muttering something about iPods and the Devil. He looked like he was on drugs or something. And he had something in his hand–his dick. When the 5-0 arrived on the scene, they didn’t arrest him. They merely gave him a blanket and took him to the psych ward for treatment. Poor Jason was stressed out. The international scrutiny to which he and his nonprofit were subjected had so warped his fragile little mind that he had a meltdown. It happens to the best of us, doesn’t it?

Russell’s meltdown happened in mid-March, right around the time when the homicide of a black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida was just beginning to break as a national news story. Those of you who fail to understand what these two incidents have to do with each other are not part of the solution and are therefore part of the problem. If this applies to you, and you wish to become part of the solution, then keep reading. This blog posting is an experiment, but it will only work if you pay very close attention.

If you have been following the Trayvon Martin story, you are probably familiar with the argument that had George Zimmerman been black, he would be in jail right now. This insight is most likely true, but it is also banal, and as such, it is not very effective in helping white people understand the true extent of the privilege their skin color affords them in America. Instead of wondering what would have happened if Zimmerman were black, ask yourself what would have happened if Jason Russell were black and had the same mid-day suburban meltdown. What would have happened if it was Trayvon, or better yet, one of those Ugandan kids who had escaped from Kony, except a few years later after going through puberty, jumping on cars, picking fights with all the white folks in the neighborhood, and flicking his ding dong?

Kony 2012 provoked the righteous wrath of millions because it exploited the impressionable, formatively left-wing sensibilities of youth in the service of a reactionary, imperialist agenda. This agenda goes a long way in explaining why the only black people you see in Kony 2012 are the evil Kony himself and his helpless, infantile victims. When Russell shows his blond-haired, blue-eyed five year old son Gavin Danger (that’s his name, I shit you not) a picture of Kony and tells little Gavin that “this is the badguy,” anybody with the slightest decency and understanding of history cringes.

The 1%, on the other hand, rub their hands together in a sinister, Montgomery-Burns-like fashion and think “OMG, liberals and their kids are so fucking stupid . . . this psy-op may actually work!” The idea of a black Hitler, after all,  is the El Dorado of U.S. imperialism. There’s one particular Kony 2012 poster that shows Hitler, Bin Laden, and Kony side by side as if to signal some racist teleology whereby evil incarnate grows progressively blacker as history marches on. If imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, then Joseph Kony is the highest stage of black-on-black crime, and the good white people of America therefore have a moral obligation to stop (and frisk) Kony.

Future historians might plausibly argue that the genuine grassroots movement to arrest George Zimmerman is blowback from the astroturfed psy-ops campaign to arrest Kony (and secure our oil in Uganda from the greedy clutches of the Chinese). In previous centuries, the scheme might have worked, but information moves too fast in the twenty-first century, and karma for the 1% is now, if not instant, at least heavily expedited. It may be as yet unknown whether George Zimmerman is a racist, but it is clear as a naked white boy jumping on cars, beating his meat,  and violently assaulting multiple people in broad daylight without being charged with a crime that conservatives, free marketeers, and small government-types all over America are openly and nakedly projecting their most reactionary and, yes, racist desires and fantasies onto Zimmerman, all the while claiming racism doesn’t exist. The imperial wizard has no clothes.

Class War and Culture War

There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.

-Pat Buchanan, 1992

The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.

-Rick Santorum, 2003

The Cricket has thus far avoided making any commentary on Rick Santorum other than “huh huh huh, huh huh huh, he said Santorum.” It is now March 2012, however, and Not-So-Slick Rick has persevered in the GOP primaries for long enough that he has earned his place in the political-economic analysis this blog specializes in.

After the crash of 2008, it seemed that social conservatism had reached a permanent dead end, almost as though it had been a luxury that the country could only afford when the unemployment rate was at “reasonable” levels. With millions more suddenly out of work, nobody much cared who was smoking what or who was fucking whom and in what orifice. But now all of a sudden, we hear that the Obama feds are cracking down hard on medical marijuana, that American right has launched a “war against women,” among other things.

The culture war politics the Republicans have engaged in for the last several decades is at heart a small variation on their “Southern Strategy,” which dates from roughly the same point of origin. If the Southern Strategy said to white working class men: “Willie Horton just escaped from prison and he’s coming after your lily white daughter with a sawed-off shotgun in one hand and his big black dick in the other,” the culture war said to the same group of voters: “Your lily white daughter–and wife–are kind of turned on by Willie’s willie, your son just purchased that new Ice-T album with the song about killing cops, and your other son is a homosexual who also wants a piece of Willie’s magic johnson.” All of that–plus the fact that another Willie just signed NAFTA and now the plant you worked at all your life just moved to Red China–is the fault of . . . wait for it . . . the left!

That last part, about how the Democrats have been complicit in selling the American dream down the Rio Grande and ultimately the Yangtze River, has been absolutely critical to the success of the right’s culture war politics all these years. The truth is, it was the Democrats who abandoned the NASCAR dads and security moms, not the other way around. It was this class-blind third way neoliberal Clintonist bullshit, which substituted diversity for equality and told poor white people–collectively–to blame their own bigotry for their deteriorating circumstances instead of the greed of the one percent, that drove so many American workers into the arms of their worst enemy. (As an aside, it should be noted that Clintonism has increasingly, over the years, albeit subtly, told poor black people–collectively–to blame their lack of family values for their perpetually dismal circumstances–one might call this Cosbyism).

Rick Santorum is currently trying to capitalize on this culture war tactic, which has proven so successful year after year during our lifetimes. We are, however, living in a period of history unlike any that has existed in our lifetimes (unless you happen to be old enough to remember the 1930s). Because the capitalist system is beset by internal material contradictions, the ideological superstructure that the ruling class uses to maintain its popular legitimacy likewise is beset by contradictions. Chief among these ideological contradictions is the tension between saving and spending, between frugality and indulgence, between abstinence and ecstacy. A capitalist is compelled to constantly set aside a part of his profit for reinvestment instead of spending it all on limos and prostitutes and blow. The ultimate id motivating the capitalist to postpone gratification in the short run is the promise of even more limos and prostitutes and blow in the future.

Under the pretty fiction of equality under the law, workers really are capitalists, and their saving and spending habits are to be evaluated in the exact same manner. In reality however, the saving and spending habits of capitalists are a truly personal matter–if a certain capitalist overindulges too much, his business fails, the market punishes him justly, and another capitalist, with better self-discipline, takes his place, end of story.

The saving and spending habits of workers in the aggregate, however, are of interest to the capitalist class in the aggregate. The owners of capital–collectively–depend on as many workers as possible constantly spending, constantly indulging, constantly fulfilling their desires through the act of exchange, in order to stay in business. Each individual capitalist, however, wants his own workers to be as frugal as possible, to be good savers, to abstain from pleasure and excess. That way they can be paid as little as possible and still show up for work every day.

The serious strategists of capital understand that the system will not recover from the global crisis now afflicting it any time soon and that the means by which it recovers will not involve another speculative bubble, another mania where people start spending money with a ferocity worthy of a gay crystal meth orgy. The real “correction” that must take place before genuine growth can resume is the “deleveraging” of the American dream itself. For decades, the good times were kept on life support by easy credit, but now that bill is finally due, and there is no way out for America’s investor class other than to force American workers to be more “competitive” with workers in other countries. The “competitiveness” of workers is really a euphemism for their willingness to settle for less while producing more–to be more like those Chinese Foxconn workers who make your iPhone.

That the family values conservatism Santorum and his ilk preach seems so antithetical to the libertarian “freedom” talk that conservatives–often the same ones–also promulgate should not be so confusing once one understands that the former message is only aimed at and only really applies to the working class. The rich will continue to drink and smoke and fuck and do blow and have mistresses and father out-of-wedlock children and engage in all kinds of exotic homosexual acts and maybe even do “man-on-dog,” and Rick Santorum will never chastise them for any of it. In fact, the only reason the rest of society is being pressured by the top one percent to have stable, two parent families and not to have extramarital sex and not to enjoy any kind of sex for that matter and to spend our Sundays in church instead of, say, at the mall, is so that we may, by our sacrifice, by our abstinence, by our self-denial restore the economic conditions that permit that top one percent to resume both their literal and their metaphorical orgy.

Ron Paul: The Highest Stage of American Exceptionalism

“In the United States, the imperialist war waged against Spain in 1898 stirred up the opposition of the ‘anti-imperialists.’ the last of the Mohicans of bourgeois democracy who declared this war to be ‘criminal,’ regarded the annexation of foreign territories as a violation of the Constitution, declared that the treatment of Aguinaldo, leader of the Filipinos (the Americans promised him the independence of his country, but later landed troops and annexed it), was ‘jingo treachery,” and quoted the words of Lincoln: ‘When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also governs others, it is no longer self-government; it is despotism.’ But as long, as all this criticism shrank from recognizing the inseverable bond between imperialism and the trusts, and, therefore, between imperialism and the foundations of capitalism, while it shrank from joining the forces engendered by large-scale capitalism and its development-it remained a ‘pious wish.’”  (Vladimir Lenin, Spring 1916)

“Simply put, freedom is the absence of government coercion. Our Founding Fathers understood this, and created the least coercive government in the history of the world. The Constitution established a very limited, decentralized government to provide national defense and little else. States, not the federal government, were charged with protecting individuals against criminal force and fraud. For the first time, a government was created solely to protect the rights, liberties, and property of its citizens. Any government coercion beyond that necessary to secure those rights was forbidden, both through the Bill of Rights and the doctrine of strictly enumerated powers. This reflected the founders’ belief that democratic government could be as tyrannical as any King.” (Ron Paul, February 8, 2005)

What are we to make of the ideological oddity that is Ron Paul? The Texas congressman, who is by many accounts slowly and steadily attaining frontrunner status as a candidate for president in the GOP primaries, in spite of the media’s willful ignorance, wants to end U.S. imperialism in the Middle East and beyond–along with the military-industrial complex that supports and profits from it–and then remove every last governmental restraint on the ability of America’s ruling capitalists to reinvest the “peace dividend” in what he promises will be productive, socially beneficial endeavors. He wants to dismantle the expanding Homeland-Security police state at home and force cops to actually give a shit about the Bill of Rights, even presumably in the ghettos, which he tells us can do without taxpayer-funded “welfare-state” provisions like public schools and hospitals. He wants to restore America to its purer, more noble past, a throwback utopia that emerged historically straight out of the heads of Jefferson, Madison, and the rest of the crew. If he is unreasonable, it is only because he is incorruptible.

We are living in a time of universal corruption in government and in private commercial life. Indeed, as the two grow ever more corrupt, they appear ever more inseparable. Obama and the “serious” GOP candidates this time around don’t even seem all that interested in engaging with that teeming mass of unwashed known as their constituents. They know the jig is up. They know that American politics has at long last declared independence from the stultifying, deceptive analytical paradigm peddled incessantly by the Wolf Blitzers and David Gergens of society. These official gatekeepers would have us believe that Barack Hoo-sane Obama is the best the working class could ever hope for and that Ron Paul is the worst it has to fear. History has not yet come back from the dead for these reasonable, pragmatic adults in the room. They are clinging desperately to Fukuyama’s opium dream of a world where each of the billions of exploited wretches on the planet wants to be like Michael Jordan or Bono or Bill Clinton eating a Big Mac while getting his dick sucked. If Mitt Romney can be said to have any base at all, it is these Bourbons of the Beltway who have recently stepped down from their lofty political perches in order to smear Mr. Paul as a “racist” or worse.

Because mainstream debate has never taken seriously even the remote possibility of a Ron Paul presidency, nobody it seems has given any real thought to how a Ron Paul administration might actually govern. American history is filled with presidents who built their political careers advocating one thing only to do a complete 180 when they got to the White House. Jefferson started out as a fierce opponent of American territorial expansion but his greatest legacy as president was the Louisiana Purchase. Lincoln opposed the further expansion of slavery as a candidate in 1860 but went out of his way to disavow abolitionism during the campaign. Wilson kept us out of World War I until he didn’t. Reagan told us government is the problem and then presided over the most astronomical deficit expansion to date at the time. Obama . . . nuff said.

But no candidate for president other than Ron Paul has ever been so committed to an idea as to be seemingly indifferent to who his base is. Like some silver-tongued Roman orator, Paul speaks of a republic lost and an empire in decay and promises to return us to our former Ciceronian virtue by demolishing both the “warfare state” that the left so despises and the “welfare state” that the right professionally loves to hate. In doing so, he has made the strangest of bedfellows out of a remarkably diverse coalition of white boys, from young college kids, to rural armed survivalists. To publicly support Ron Paul is to be personally at least tolerated by all of the politicized sections of the 99 percent, from the Tea Party to the Occupations and everywhere in between. Put this guy in the oval office, and there’s no telling, it seems, what he would try to get away with, much less accomplish.

America (more specifically, the United States thereof) has for most of its young history been exceptional in following ways: it is a country that began just as the industrial revolution was accelerating in Europe and the capitalist system was consolidating itself as the dominant mode of production around the globe, but its vast, “uninhabited” lands enabled its people to postpone the social reckoning that the contradictions of that system caused in Europe for over a century. For nearly a century after the closing of the frontier, the United States further postponed this reckoning by being the economic beneficiary of two world wars that obliterated the productive capacity of the rest of the industrialized world while leaving American capital untouched. When the rest of the world finally caught up economically beginning on the 1970s, and American wages began to stagnate (they still are!), the U.S. ruling class postponed the reckoning even further by extending easy credit to working class households so that the same extraordinary consumption patterns could continue. A little over three years ago, the party ended, and the reckoning is right now upon us.

When people say that “socialism never took hold” in the U.S. because of some essential cultural attribute of its people, or that Americans are distinguished by their tendency to value “pragmatism” over “ideology,” they obscure–whether inadvertently or willfully–the exceptional material circumstances that have historically allowed Americans to put off the inevitable confrontation between labor and capital. This kicking of the can down the road has occurred with little interruption for so long that we have fallen accustomed to believing that we really are different, that we really are immune from the laws of history that govern other countries, that we can work it out, just like John Lennon promised.

Ron Paul’s capital crime as a candidate, for which the media will now lynch him, is not his advocacy of a radical “left wing” foreign policy platform or a radical “right wing” approach to domestic spending. It is the more general ideological narrative he is promoting on the campaign trail, a narrative that portrays the actually-existing United States as just another imperialist welfare-warfare state instead of the liberal-democratic “city on a hill” that the 1-percentrists on CNN have told us it is all throughout our lives. By forcing us to critically confront the actual words and thoughts of the same founding fathers that our rulers so incessantly fetishize, and by forcing us to compare those ideals to the endless wars, mounting police state, and exploding social crisis this country now suffers from, Paul invites ordinary Americans to fantasize that we can continue to be exceptional, that we can continue to prosper without resorting to class struggle like they do in other countries–at the expense of their “liberty.” That we need not concern ourselves with what socialism is really all about.

The problem is that the material circumstances that have made America so exceptional for over two centuries have now been exhausted, and like fossil fuels, they can never be replaced. A Ron Paul presidency (or even merely an Obama-Paul general election) would force this realization into the forefront of the American political debate because the litany of government evils Paul has spent his career railing against are, as a material historical fact, absolutely vital to the survival of the very capitalist system Paul has spent his career defending.

Ron Paul’s platform, taken as a whole, does not, indeed cannot, consistently represent any one person or constituency’s interests. At best, it represents our aspirations as a people. But these aspirations are informed not by our future but by our past, and as such, they can never be realized in our present. The sooner these anachronistic aspirations are put to the test and exposed for the fantasies they are, the sooner the more culturally conservative layers of the American 99 percent will get serious about the historical duty they share with the rest of us in the coming global confrontation with capital.