In the face of another capitalist meltdown, we need to start thinking differently about how the world is organised. We need new political alternatives.
We're going to get through this,' said President Obama a couple of days ago, as if the entire United States was buckling down to fight a declining economy, a stock market collapse and the economic conflagration now threatening to overwhelm Europe.
But this is not a case of 'everyone making sacrifices' and 'all hands to the pump'. As Lenin once remarked. 'capitalism can survive anything so long as the working class pay for it'.
But Obama's gift for oratory won't get him out of this crisis. The President who liberals foolishly hailed as a force for 'progressive change' has proven to be nothing of the sort. The socialist left wasn't taken in by the rhetoric but for liberals he offered a last hope of reviving a post war social democratic project that was well past resuscitation.
Barack Obama, 'the people's champion', bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $16 trillion and handed the bill to the American working class.
Now he has agreed to even deeper cuts in social spending and, again. the corporates and the wealthy get to walk away from the economic wreckage that they have caused. In Obama's America we now have the situation where billionaire hedge fund managers and Wall Street traders pay less in taxes than their secretaries.
But even these new cuts aren't enough for Big Money. Standard and Poor's have downgraded the United States' top-level credit rating for the first time in its history. And this may not be the end of it - the rating agency has put the United States on a 'watching brief'. This implies more downgrades will happen if the economic situation continues to deteriorate and the Obama administration doesn't implement the 'appropriate measures' that Wall Street expects.
The decision by Standard and Poor's to cut America's credit rating would of come as a shock to US Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner. who told the Fox Business Network in April that there was 'no risk of that, no risk.' of a credit rating downgrade.
Christina Romer, former chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, when asked of the downgrade's potential consequences, commented: 'the US is pretty dam f**ked'.
Well, its certainly not happy days for the American working class. It will face more cuts to social spending, more job losses, more homes being seized by the banks. More lives destroyed.
The Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that the deal to raise the United Staes debt limit will end up costing the economy 1.8 million jobs by 2012.
Talk of a 'economic recovery' was always madness, promulgated by free market cheerleaders in the media, the economists (employed by banks and finance houses), by 'business friendly' opinion writers and television 'business journalists'.
There is no economic growth and no job growth in America. As one commentator cynically commented this week, 'the only people who are hiring are McDonald's.'
In some American states the official unemployment rate is well over 11 percent. The Government's own figures show that more than 25 million people (16.1 percent of the labour force in July) are either unemployed or underemployed.
This is happening in a country where the richest 10% of the US population control about 73% of the nation’s wealth, with the richest 1% accounting for almost 35%.
In terms of income inequality, the US now ranks about the same as Ivory Coast, Uganda and Cameroon - countries not noted for their economic prosperity.
Are we headed for Meltdown 2? It remains a very distinct possibility but what is certain is that there was never a time when real political alternatives were needed. Capitalism has been driven to an impasse and we need new ways of overcoming that impasse. We need new political alternatives.
We don't need rehashed reformism. We don't need rebooted neoliberalism. We don't need market friendly enviromentalism. We need real alternatives that put ordinary people first.
Rosa Luxemburg wrote that "Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently".
We need to rediscover that freedom and begin thinking differently abut how our society and our world is organised. We still have a world to win.