BTS 10/12/09: Economy Still on the Brink; Baucus Bill; Empire of Illusion

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If you pay attention to Wall Street, mainstream economists and investor blogs, the verdict on the economy -- one year after its near collapse -- is that the recession is over and the recovery is about to begin (or is underway).  Sure unemployment is at an all time high with little end in sight, but the banks are back and the stock market could hit 10,000 at any minute now.  But the dollar is falling and that makes economists rush for the ‘gold standard’ mentality, the one that worsened the depression because it obsesses about inflation in the face of deflation, opposes easy credit when it is desperately needed and is against government creating jobs. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman worries about this mentality, and Jack Rasmus decries the falsity of recovery, and the banks mostly failed the stress test. The banking panic is over but a year after near collapse, the financial system is fragile at best, with moribund credit and lending, commercial property in trouble, a broke FDIC  and the real economy in deep trouble, at best a “pause on the way down.”

Health insurance reform is moving forward, but Jamie Court says the Baucus bill is a major step backward. Over all it is a gift to the insurance industry, and the public option was smothered in a lobbyist love blanket. But is it dead on arrival? We’ll ask our favorite consumer watch dog --Jamie Court.

And finally, on tonight’s Beneath The Surface, Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and former war correspondent for the NY Times, joins us to talk about his new book Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.  Hedges argues that we now live in two societies: One, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. In this “other society,” serious film and theatre, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins. A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies – and Hedges says we are dying now.  His new book examines the rift between the two Americas – and sees our culture as detached from intellectualism, instead relying on spectacle, false idols and snake oil salesmen to distract us from the economic, political and moral collapse around us. He warns that those who cling to fantasy in times of despair and turmoil inevitably turn to demagogues and charlatans to reassure and entertain them.

Read More for info on tonight's guests:

1. Jack Rasmus currently teaches economics and politics at St. Mary's College and Santa Clara University in California. He is the author of the forthcoming Epic Recession, as well as The War At Home. He writes for Against The Current, Critique, Znet and all his published articles are available at his website, Prior to a writing career, Jack was an economist and analyst for several global companies and before that, for more than a decade, a local union president, business representative, contract negotiator, and organizer for several labor unions.

2. Jamie Court is President of Consumer Watchdog and author of Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom...and What You Can Do About It, and co-author of Making A Killing: HMOs and the Threat To Your Health.

3. Chris Hedges, weekly Truthdig columnist, was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades in The Middle East, Central America, Africa and the Balkans. Hedges was part of the New York Times team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize coverage of global terrorism and he received the 2002 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. He is the author of the best selling American Fascists and War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Other books include: I Don’t Believe in Atheists (2008), Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America (2005), and What Every Person Should Know About War. He is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and a Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities and the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University.