Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Naomi Klein On Wall Street’s Shock Doctrine

Naomi Klein from Democracy Now:

Well, the thesis of my book, what I mean by the “shock doctrine,” is that it is in times of crisis, it is in times when people are panicked, when we’ve seen again and again the right push through radical pro-corporate policies, what they call “free market reforms,” precisely because it is in a crisis where the space for debate rapidly closes, and you can invoke this state of emergency to say we have no choice.

And I think we’re seeing a very dramatic example of this tactic right now with this really extortionist kind of tactics playing out in Washington. You know, “Sign this blank check, or we’re all going down, or Main Street is going down, or taxpayers—you know, the sky will fall in on them.”

I’m also arguing that this is only stage one of the shock doctrine. They’re getting this—they’re lobbying for this huge bailout, obviously, but this bailout is a kind of a time bomb, because it’s all these bad debts, and they are going to explode on the next administration. I mean, we know that the Bush administration has already left the next administration with huge debt and deficit problems. They’ve just exploded those, expanded them. And what that means is that whoever the next president is is going to be inheriting this economic crisis that is being exacerbated by this bailout.

So, in the case of McCain, I think—if he’s the president, then I think we know what he’ll do, because we know he wants to privatize Social Security, which is something that Wall Street’s been wanting for a long time, another bubble. We know he has said in the next—in the first 100 days of his administration he’ll look at every program and either reform it or shut it down. This is really a recipe for economic shock therapy. So, while you have all of these trivial issues being discussed in the election season, I think what we could—what we’re really—you know, under the surface, they’re actually being quite clear. They’re going to take—if they take power, it will be in the midst of an economic emergency. They’ll invoke that emergency to push through very, very radical changes. So, you know, what I’ve been saying is, this is not four more years of Bush; it’s much, much worse in the case of another Republican administration.

But there’s huge problems for Democrats, as well, if they win this election, because, you know, we need to only think back to the situation in which Clinton took power, where he ran an election on an economic populist platform, promising to renegotiate NAFTA. Then there was an economic crisis. Clinton came under intense lobbying by people like Robert Rubin, who’s also advising Obama right now, and by the time he took office, he had embraced economic austerity.

So, people need to understand these tactics, need to put pressure on the candidates, the parties, and reject this tactic. And I’ve actually been really heartened, Amy, that people are onto these shock tactics and aren’t falling for it. And, you know, to the extent that we’re seeing a little bit of spine from the Democrats, it is only, as Chris Dodd said, because they are hearing it from their constituents. So people need to keep up this pressure right now.

You know, Amy, I don’t think we can stress this enough. Henry Paulson is one of the key people, the top people, responsible for creating the crisis that he is now claiming he will solve, you know, and this is—if we think about the 9/11 analogy and, you know, the state of shock that Americans were in after 9/11 and the emergence of Rudy Giuliani as the savior—and, you know, people have so much regret about that. And in the book, I write about this as the state of regression that we go into when we’re frightened. And I think Henry Paulson has really been cast in this role as an economic Rudy Giuliani, saving the day, impartial, bipartisan, a strong leader.

I found this article in BusinessWeek that ran when Paulson was appointed to the Treasury, and I just want to read you one sentence, because I think it’s all we need to know about Henry Paulson. This is from BusinessWeek, when he got the appointment as Treasury Secretary in 2006. The headline of the article is “Mr. Risk Goes to Washington.” It says, “Think of Paulson as Mr. Risk. He’s one of the key architects of a more daring Wall Street, where securities firms are taking greater and greater chances in [their] pursuit of profits. By some key measures, the securities industry is more leveraged now than it was at the height of the 1990s boom.”

Then it goes on to say that when Paulson took over Goldman Sachs in 1999, they had $20 billion in debts. When he—in these high-risk gambles. When he left, they had $100 billion, which means he took their risk level from $20 billion to $100 billion. So it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that Henry Paulson, far from speaking for Main Street, is actually bailing out his colleagues for some of the very debts that he himself accumulated. This is an extraordinary conflict of interest.

Her original HuffPo piece is here.

Here website is here.

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