Oped American election campaign (The News)

By Babar Ayaz

When Karl Marx said that ‘all human history is hitherto history of class struggle’ he was making an observation about the dialectics of history and not restricting to any particular stage of economic development. Interestingly listening to the debate between Barack Husain Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney during my visit to the US last week reminded me of Marx – the philosopher officially rundown by the capitalist America.

The whole debate has been turned by Obama into the rich versus middle and disposed classes. This is not the first time that class politics has returned to the capitalist America, I remember it was the same when Clinton defeated the senior Bush.

Barack Obama’s election pitch is that Romney and the Republican Party are promoting the policies which would only help the rich and the big business. But both the candidates are promising more jobs to the American people where the unemployment rate is 8%. The economists’ forecast was that around 145000 jobs would be added but in August only 96000 people could walk out of the unemployment trap. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has recently admitted that stagnation of jobs expansion was a matter of ‘grave concern.’

President Obama says that his policies would result in more growth, more jobs, and more fairness than what he called ‘the wrong-headed ideas of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.’

Obama told the Democratic National Convention: “I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy… I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.” A reference to Bush’s era.

Here, as a Pakistani, who has seen how one government groans and struggles from under the heavy rubble of problems, left by its predecessor, can appreciate the position in which Obama was four years back. In Pakistan, Musharraf’s government left the heavy baggage of postponed economic decisions and a foreign policy designed to hoodwink the world. In US the economic crisis inherited by the Obama administration was passed on to him as a crown of thorns by the Bush government. The policy of letting the banks loose on the assumption that market alone has the capacity to correct itself was asking for an economic crisis.

In their brilliant book “The Gods that failed – How blind faith in Markets has cost us our future” Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson had predicted before the fall that market fundamentalism would lead to the economic Tsunami that may sweep the world.

They have named the “free-booting super-rich free-market operatives” as the ‘New Olympian Gods.’ And charge sheeted them: “They promised economic stability, and have delivered chaos and volatility. They promised an economic order based on enterprise, thrift and personal efforts and have delivered one based on chronic indebtedness and wild speculation…They have delivered a world of bizarre, occult financial knowledge, one in which everything from the true cost of mobile phone package to the real value of billions of pounds’ worth of ‘securitized’ debt is impossible to gauge…They have delivered the unleashing havoc on professional and white-collar career structures, smashed up the pension schemes of the middle class and forced their children deep into debt for the privilege of attending university.”

These allegations are valid as one of the major architects of unbridled financial market freedom Alan Greenspan has now admitted his mistake. What were once marketed as ‘innovative’ and ‘sexy’ financial products by the investment bankers, were just balloons filled with hot air. According to the Economist the bankers created a 600 trillion dollars derivatives market, which is 10 time the world GDP. Imagine the imaginary financial papers floated by these speculators.

What is evident from the present crises is that fundamentalism does not work. May it be political, religious or of an economic doctrine. The Chinese premier was right to observe that “the teachers have some problem” – a typical guarded statement of the Chinese leaders. But the French who are considered to be visionary in Europe were not that guarded: President Nicolas Sarkozy says “Self-regulation is finished.” He also maintained: “Laissez-fair is finished.”

What Mitt Romney is suggesting is the same old neo-liberal policies of cutting tax and reducing the expenditure on the social sector. He wants less government i.e. less regulations; something that Bush and Alan Greenspan did and failed in their jobs to protect the interest of the common man. The trouble is that both the regulators and the regulated around the world are ‘Taliban’ of the same madrassa that teaches ‘un-bridled free-market fiqah.’ So they went along with the blind faith that the market is sensitive enough to forecast a building storm. What we have seen is that it is not the market which raised the alarm; the alarm-bells were pulled by the non-profit organisations, independent economists and journalists. But their call was dismissed.

Bush also left two unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for Obama. He has winded up Iraq and has promised to be out of Afghanistan by mid next year. How the US leaves Afghanistan ultimately is of great importance to Pakistan’s future stability.

Talking to Pakistani Diaspora in the US it seems the vast majority feels that they have little choice but to vote for Obama as he still talks about the middle class and the poor. “We are not happy with his drone attacks in Waziristan and the tough line with Pakistan, but we feel that Romney would be tougher,” a Pakistani scientist maintained in St. Louis. Romney’s statement that US should do more to address Israel concerns has also distanced him from the Muslim voters in the US.

Small leftist parties hate the Democratic Party for trying to find solutions for the middle class, the poor and illegal immigrants within the capitalist system. The left is also against the US aggressive foreign policy towards Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen.  To the left Obama is the ‘lesser-evil.’ To Pakistani Diaspora he is the ‘only choice.’ To US middle class, which is the majority in US, Romney represents the big business. So the probability of Obama’s re-election is higher. (ayazbabar@gmail.com) 

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