Posts Tagged ‘president Obama’

The Crisis (Pt 3)

May 3, 2020

The king of commodities

On April 20 (2020), the May futures contract for the delivery of oil fell to a negative $37 per barrel. Since the 1970s, some have suggested that oil has replaced gold as the money commodity, reflected in the term petrodollars. We can now see that this idea is based on a misunderstanding. Oil as the commodity that stores energy as well as serving as a raw material is perhaps the king of commodities as far as its use value is concerned. However, this doesn’t mean that oil is the money commodity, which in terms of its use value measures the value of all other commodities.

What would happen if global production and circulation suddenly became paralyzed? We are now finding out. With production and transportation sharply curtailed around the globe, what is the use value of oil now? Marx explained in Chapter 3, Volume I of “Capital”: “Whenever there is a general and extensive disturbance of this mechanism [credit — SW], no matter what its cause, money becomes suddenly and immediately transformed, from its merely ideal shape of money of account, into hard cash. Profane commodities [such as oil — SW] can no longer replace it. The use-value of commodities becomes valueless, and their value vanishes in the presence of its own independent form. On the eve of the crisis, the bourgeois, with the self-sufficiency that springs from intoxicating prosperity, declares money to be a vain imagination. Commodities alone are money.”

Since oil has storage costs, the owners of May 2020 oil futures contracts were for a day willing to pay buyers to take it off their hands to free themselves of those costs. This shows that not oil but money is the king of commodities. In the words of Marx, the value of oil has vanished in the presence of its independent value form. Even Trump’s move to buy all the oil that the U.S. government can physically store has not prevented the oil price collapse.

When the value of a commodity as important as oil vanishes — though it isn’t only oil that is being affected — in the presence of its own value form, the credit system is thrown into crisis. Credit is based on the assumption of a given price structure. When commodities become unsalable or at least unsalable at the expected price, the credit system begins to break at a thousand and one places. For example, banks lend money to oil companies. If the oil companies can’t sell their oil at profitable prices, they will not be able to pay the banks. How will the banks pay their creditors, which include their depositors? And what about the pension funds loaded up with oil and bank stocks?

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Capitalist Anarchy, Climatic Anarchy, Ukraine and New Threats of War and Fascism

March 23, 2014

The Keystone XL pipeline

President Obama appears to be nearing a decision on approving what is called the Keystone XL pipeline. This proposal by the TransCanada Corporation calls for a pipeline to be built that will, if Obama gives the green light, transport “heavy oil” produced from tar sands in the Canadian province of Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and along the Gulf Coast.

The U.S. president had indicated that his approval would depend on a State Department report on the proposed pipeline’s effects on the Earth’s climate. Opponents of the pipeline pointed out that the refining of heavy oil releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the refining of “sweet oil” does.

In late January, the State Department released its report, which claimed that the pipeline would have little if any adverse effect on the climate. The State Department reasoned that even if the pipeline was not built, the Alberta tar sands would be used for oil production anyway. The resulting heavy oil, according to the State Department, would in the absence of the XL pipeline be transported by rail. So, the State Department concluded, there would be little adverse effect from the proposed pipeline project. These conclusions put heavy pressure on Obama to approve the construction.

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Behind the Austerity Drive

January 20, 2013

January 2013 marks the beginning of the sixth year since the last crisis began in August 2007 and the fifth year since the crisis reached its climax with the panic on Wall Street in September 2008. Compared to the stormy events of those years, recent weeks have been relatively quiet.

The European debt crisis has at least momentarily eased with the decision of the European Central Bank to expand the euro-denominated monetary base—though much of the European economy remains in the grip of recession with unemployment still rising. In the U.S., the economy remains sluggish as the leaders of the ruling class seek ways to accelerate growth in order to halt and reverse U.S. de-industrialization and prevent a serious social and political crisis.

This is therefore a good time to take a larger view of the current economic situation within the broader long-term evolution of the capitalist system. This month I will focus on the U.S. government deficits and the current austerity drive.

The U.S. federal government is now carrying a debt of over $16 trillion and is fast approaching the current legal maximum of $16.4 trillion. The financial situation of the federal government doesn’t affect only the United States but the entire world, since not only is the U.S. government the world’s biggest borrower, it is also the center of the entire world imperialist system.

Real versus manufactured crises

On New Year’s Day, just as I predicted last month, a last-minute agreement was reached between the Obama administration and the congressional Democrats and Republicans to avert mandatory tax hikes and spending cuts that would have withdrawn as much as $800 billion of purchasing power from the U.S. economy over the next year. If such a withdrawal of purchasing power had actually occurred, the U.S., and perhaps the world, economy would have been thrown into an artificial, government-induced recession that would have aborted the current global industrial cycle. Exactly because of this, there was virtually no chance this would actually happen. Far from seeking to induce a recession, the political leadership of the U.S. ruling class is attempting to accelerate the slow rate of growth of the U.S. economy.

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Obama’s Re-election and the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Fraud

November 25, 2012

Despite polls that showed the U.S. presidential election very close, President Obama was re-elected, though by a narrower margin in the “popular vote” than in the 2008 election. Obama won 50.6 percent of the popular vote, while Mitt Romney obtained 47.8 percent.

Obama’s record

In foreign policy, Obama for the most part continued the polices of George W. Bush. This is not surprising. U.S. foreign policy reflects not the personality of the current occupant of the White House but the needs of the giant monopoly banks and corporations that form the core of U.S. imperialism. The interests of these monopolies are ultimately rooted in the very nature and contradictions of monopoly capitalism and do not change when a new occupant moves into the White House.

In addition, every U.S. president is surrounded by “advisors” who have dedicated their lives to increasing the power of “the Empire.” Then, there are the vast bureaucracies of the “national security state”—the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, NSA and numerous other “intelligence” agencies, whose personnel remain as presidents come and go.

In the unlikely event that a U.S. president ever attempted to buck the interests of U.S. imperialism, the market for government bonds would bring him or her back into line. In any event, there have been no such “problems” with the Obama administration, which has presided over the strongest government bond market in decades.

If the above were not enough, all serious candidates for president from the ranks of either the Democratic or Republican parties are individuals who have shown in practice that they are devoted to the interests of the U.S. world empire. Notwithstanding his African heritage on his father’s side—his mother was white—Obama is no exception to this rule.

The administration claims that it has withdrawn all U.S. troops from Iraq—which no doubt played a significant role in Obama’s re-election. However, there are still U.S. mercenaries and possibly CIA troops operating in Iraq. Most importantly, the U.S. is still very far from recognizing the right of Iraq to self-determination, not to speak of agreeing to pay reparations for the tremendous damage done to that country not only since it was invaded by the U.S. in 2003 but since 1990 through air strikes and sanctions.

In mineral-rich Afghanistan, Obama has actually escalated the war through a Bush-style “troop surge,” though he promises to withdraw “most” U.S. troops by 2014 and end the direct involvement of the U.S. in combat by that date. Obama also launched an air war against Libya in support of a U.S.-inspired rebel movement that in an attempt to win a mass base resorted to racism aimed at Libyans and immigrants of sub-Saharan African descent—a fine role for the first African American U.S. president.

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