|That buy-in should not be overstated. Digby is right to talk about the defeat and disempowerment of the political left, one of the necessary conditions of neoliberal success over these last 30 years (and always one of their most overriding concerns). Here in California, polls show most voters do not want austerity, at least when it comes to core public services.
Yet there is some level of buy-in for budget cuts, austerity, and worrying about deficits. The logic of "belt tightening" is common. Even many Democratic voters I talk to, some of whom consider themselves progressive, believe there's just not enough money to go around, that we have to cut back, that's just what you do in a serious recession.
The shift to a "cuts are good" mentality in a recession is, as we know, extremely damaging and reckless policy. But it appears to flow not from a flawed economic assessment, but from a very different place entirely - the "social stress and cultural upheaval" Digby mentioned. Without it, austerity would not be possible.
The globe is entering a period of fundamental change. The assumptions, values, and lifestyles of the last 60 years are no longer viable and are on their way out. Virtually everyone seems to know it in their bones. Some of us embrace the opportunity to construct something better.
Others resist, and cling ever more tightly to their older values. Much of this is driven by a growing generational gap that is rooted in race. California's white population is "in decline", and states like California, Arizona, and Texas have a stark divide between a diverse youth and a white aged population.
We see this in other areas as well; Northern California appears to be abandoning mass transit as older homeowners fight vociferously against new transit systems, be it bus rapid transit in Berkeley, light rail here in Monterey, or high speed rail in the Palo Alto area. Current services are withering due to a lack of funds, and yet nobody seems moved to try and rescue them.
Austerity is being mobilized to protect existing privilege. Whites with some assets, property, and political/cultural dominance see in stimulus for everything from mass transit to schools and health care a threat to their privilege through government aid to those who are the agents of the massive change they feel is coming upon them, change they do not want.
Here in California, unemployment hits unevenly. Latinos, African Americans and young people are facing the highest unemployment rates. Those are among the same people who are at the core of the new California, the new America, a place that in 10 or 20 years will look different than the 1950s or 1980s version of America that the defenders of the status quo remember and cling to.
Austerity helps rip out the legs from underneath those people and gives those who feel threatened by a diverse, different future a sense that their privileges are secure. As we know, this is a totally false hope - not only will the passage of time ensure their America vanishes, but their embrace of austerity is going to rebound on them, especially when their Social Security and Medicare benefits are cut, their pensions slashed, and their home values collapse when nobody is able to sustain the current, overinflated prices (at least here in California).
That's how I see it working in California and the US more broadly - the embrace of austerity fueled by a desire to maintain white privilege and the trappings of a 20th century lifestyle that is no longer tenable.
So how do we get out of this? It's unfortunately not enough to make the economic argument against austerity. If it were, Hooverism would remain in its tomb.
Instead it seems we need to do two related things: rally those who lack or are being denied privilege in support of a stimulus that is connected to a clear, coherent vision of future prosperity, a vision that can be sold to enough people in the privileged class that we can cleave them apart.
Disaster capitalism thrives on the belief that there is no alternative. Austerity works because people believe we cannot afford to build the future. So we have to provide an alternative so that people feel willing to build the future, and cast aside the belief that we can only afford to prolong the failed status quo.
It may be the case that we construct such an alternative in fits and starts over the next decade or two, as austerity produces a global "lost decade" - that seems to be Richard Florida's argument in The Great Reset. I'd like to think there's a way to construct it sooner and shortcut that painful process.
In either case, the key to blocking austerity is to understand how it is rooted in privilege, and to articulate a future vision that can animate a movement to destroy privilege, resist the elite, and defeat disaster capitalism.