Brezhnev and Obama,
Comrades in Disintegration


The New Emperor of the East

In 1964 the economy of the Soviet Union had all but stopped growing for more than two years.  Grand official corruption and penetrating economic madness was evident for all of those in power to see.  The proxy wars with the United States in Vietnam and beyond were not going well, especially now that the Johnson Administration was escalating force levels aggressively.  The Soviet Union had experienced a traumatizing retreat from the Cuban missiles crisis in 1962.

The Soviets looked in 1964 to be losing the global cold war with the United States, all just a few years after Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev had famously predicted on US soil the soviet communist monolith would bury the United States economically sometime soon.  The boast looked unhinged in 1964. 

The Soviet Politboro decided a big change in leadership was needed.  If the soviet economic machine could be returned to the steady growth that sudden industrialization wrought during Stalin’s reign all would be well again.  A focus on communist fundamentals was needed tossing away the shoe-pounding foreign diplomacy of Nikita Krushchev, along with his trip to Disneyland.

And, by Soviet standards, there was a fresh, youngish face to become the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.  Leonid Brevhnev, 54, was a proven Party builder in Moldovia and then in Khazakzistan, a favorite of Stalin and Krushchev.  Brezhnev had no detectable loyalty beyond the communist party, including to his sponsor in power. Nikita Krushchev was disposable as well, as necessary.

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Brezhnev also had little truck with Western ways or new ideas in general.  Political opposition within the soviet sphere, of course, was to Brezhnev something to be stamped out by whatever means necessary.

Brezhnev was therefore an ideal compromise candidate for a back-trenching approach to the future.  He was handed power in the Soviet Union in 1964 in an orderly way with no known protests from any corner.  The powers that be still ruled supreme, now just without Krushchev.

Brezhnev was thought by his Politiboro backers to be a transitional figure, like Stalin was thought of before him.  Brezhnev beat those expectations in a unique way for the Soviet Union.   He simply outlived his potential opponents.  This new Soviet wrinkle would prove quite telling in the events that unfolded for the next thirty years.


The New Emperor of the West

In the fall of 2008 the United States economy had turned in a short year from a seeming never-ending growth machine into an historic nosedive along Main Street and a 40% crash in the value of stocks and many bonds. 

In response, President George Bush, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Congress led a bailout parade for the rich of numbing proportion.   The giveaway left the gangster class that largely induced the crash still fully in power on Wall Street and largely unaffected by their own mistakes and much worse. 

Though both Republicans and Democrats were fully responsible for the desperate perpetuation of the American financial oligarchy, the public was likely to punish Bush’s party, the Republicans, for the collapse and bailouts in the coming federal election.

With Bush not on the ballot in 2008, a new President was coming to the White House. 

The Republicans chose as a candidate that year an unreformed cold warrior who never claimed to know much about economic policy, but always voted for Wall Street anyway.  He actually led the bailout parade.

Yet, John McCain was a man who had a wild streak about him that threatened plutocrats.   McCain quaintly believed he was in high office ultimately to serve the public good.  Only his blinders kept his loyalty in place in the most important ways.

The presidential primaries for the Democratic nomination in 2008 were fought among a group of candidates especially unqualified for national office.  The scandal-ridden, known disaster mismanager, wholly uninspiring Hillary Clinton was elevated to frontrunner status in this weak field.  Yes, disaster arrived again for Hillary Clinton’s leadership.   All of the money in Bill Clinton’s world could not change that enduring equation and make Hillary the President.

At first it seemed the two telegenic Democratic candidates for the nomination would just about divide the thrill centered voters whom are many in the Democratic Party.  Both offered stiff leftist proposals for saving the poor and beyond. 

One of those candidates had spent a full term as a United States Senator and had run as John Kerry’s VP candidate in 2004.  John Edwards also had financial staying power for the race, but had few special interest deep pockets to rely on, yet anyway.

Brand new US Senator Barack Obama was the wild card in the race.  Surprisingly, his complete absence of experience justifying a seat in national office was not harming the candidate much at all in the polls or in his greetings in Washington, D.C.  The man who took pedestrian school grades all of to the way to the Harvard Law Review could not be criticized as unqualified by Democrats.  Such a sentiment for such a man would violate the religion of most American leftists.

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Typically, one’s amateur status for high office, even when ignored by the media at first, proves itself in many ways later in time.  But was there something about Barack Obama that may prove an enduring shield against his own mistake-making and vanities?

Two fundamentals were in place. 

First, Obama was unique as the first “black” candidate whose words and mannerisms seem little different from those of past presidents.  He was the black candidate who was above the mention of race, yet the champion of his race.  Even the fact Obama was actually of mixed-race and raised solely by his white family was fine with the left, especially blacks.  Obama, after all, had chosen to be black in his public persona marrying a black woman, a quite unique hero to so many.  The democratic base was mesmerized by Obama, a gift to their odd religion.

Second, Obama had a completely blank slate to work from when it came to present federal policy questions, unlike most of his opponents, including Clinton.  He was the only major candidate that could outright oppose Bush’s War in Iraq.  Obama’s national health care takeover was not blighted with past failures like Clinton’s was.  It would be impossible to prove Obama a flip-flopper beyond a narrow range of partisan issues.

 


To work for the long-term for Obama though, a shield required a formula that would ultimately cross the partisan divide as well, somehow.  But, first things are first.

In the months before the Iowa presidential caucus Obama’s fundraising began to skyrocket.  Legend says it was was a mass of small donations, but campaign reports tell a different story.

Barack Obama’s appointments along Wall Street in late 2007 seemed to have accomplished a miracle.  Huge donations bundled in ways beyond conception were now backing for President a lifelong, clueless socialist with no executive experience who never worked a day in the private sector.  Obviously, the power of Obama’s leftist rhetoric must truly have been on display in those days of private meetings.  Edwards, an even smoother talker than Obama, was unable to get his train fare back to Iowa during his fawning for Wall Street.

The Obama wall to wall presence on Iowa television outspent Hillary with John Edwards only a comparative blip on the tube.  The caucus result was a virtual three-way tie, Obama 32%, Edwards 29%, Clinton 28%.   Considering Obama’s unique status in bringing new voters to a caucus it was an especially tight win for the heavyweight spender.

One would judge though from the leftish media coverage that a tremendous upset had been accomplished, causing an historic event in Iowa.  It was a theme that would endure through to the end of the campaign and beyond.  The mainstream press had become mystically enthralled with Obama not long after Obama’s schmoozing on Wall Street in 2007.

John Edwards, the actual over-performer in the Iowa caucus, was cast as a loser who could not win in New Hampshire.  Edwards’ donations went almost blank right through till his loss in South Carolina where he received 0% of the black Democrat vote.  That pushed him out of the race.  He eventually endorsed Obama at about the time Edwards’ illegitimate love child was born.

Hillary stubbed Obama’s toe in New Hampshire with her crying for the cameras routine, but tears alone were not enough.  Obama’s steady big money had Bill and Hillary Clinton, the King and Queen of the 1% that personally liberated Wall Street fraud, be forced to pitch into Hillary’s campaign $5m of their own money. 

Bill Clinton learned nonetheless it is impossible to beat a US Senator in Democratic primaries when that candidate garners 90% plus of the black vote.  Bill also learned anew how poorly suited for leadership Hillary truly is.  It was a lesson Obama would learn fully once in office.

After wrapping up the Democratic nomination Obama’s unnatural force shield burst into Leviathan mode.  The plutocrats now had their olive-branch to offer the masses, a true man of the people.  The US media had their marching orders.  No one would get away with trivializing this man so loved by the people, certainly not by employing journalism.  No one would get in the way of the 2007 deal with Obama to continue the reign of Ben Bernanke and Larry Summers and Bob Rubin and all of their cronies too.  All of this was thought at the time already graven into history. 

Turned out it was.  There would be no chances taken with John McCain suddenly coming out of his stupor while serving as President.

God save the new Emperor!


The East Feasts on its Own

Just because the Soviet economy had stalled in the early 1960s did not mean the well-to-do in the empire had to join in the privation the soviet citizens began to suffer.  The ascension to power of Kruchshev in 1958 meant the end of Stalinist terror, at least at the higher levels of government.  A terrible insecurity was lifted from the ruling class while the spoils of power were now widely shared within the Soviet elite, national and local.

Krushchev and Brezhnev were to prove to be the patron saints of official corruption in the USSR on the grandest of scales.

Communist party members were given access to their own stores, the only government stores where quality food and consumer goods could be found.  The only other place to buy things worth having was on the huge black market for everything, a market supplied by party members pilfering the best from factories and farms. 

Though the Soviet Union owned every inch of real estate, somehow party members occupied mansions and went to dachas in the country on vacation.  The USSR military brass lived very high as well, with many goods and services provided under the table by the Party.  Mid-level Party members had large Swiss bank accounts.

For the soviet citizen a bribe was required to for a surgery or most other medical services.  Taking a trip to see a family member more than a few miles away may require a bribe for the necessary license to travel domestically.  A bribe demand could be expected for most government services (the non-black market).

There were few paths to what passed for success in life in the Soviet Union under Brezhnev that did not involve a central fealty to the communist party in some essential way.  The price of soviet life became for everyone a false pretense to support the communist system as being egalitarian and loved. 

In one his first initiatives repressing civil liberties, in 1965 Brezhnev’s court arrested and jailed two well known authors charging them with writings harmful to the Soviet State and with the use of a pseudonym in writing, the Sinyavsky–Daniel trial.   The two wrote works of fiction.  They were given hard-labor prison sentences of five years and seven years, sentences which both authors were made to serve out.

Soviets traveling abroad knew defection or even critical words would endanger their families back home.  It was a serious crime in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union to spread information that may contradict the image of a perfect socialist juggernaut the USSR always claimed to be.

Many thousands of Soviet dissidents were subjected to involuntary psychiatric exams and confined treatment for alleged mental disorders.  Official diagnoses included political madness for human rights advocates and psychotic delusion syndrome for religious dissenters.  Those openly wishing to migrate from the Soviet Union routinely were led away to a mental hospital.  Soviet psychiatrists often cited the texts of Marx and Lenin as the characteristics of a healthy mind that the dissenters had somehow lost.

As part of his bargain to rule, Brezhnev was an economic reformer early on, implementing the loosening of central planning and the provision of profit incentives for both industry and workers.  Brezhnev’s point man for the reforms was the author of the reforms, Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, who wanted to imitate the effective aspects of Western economies, even the decentralization of power from Moscow to the provinces.

The economic data for the era of the Kosygin reforms show the plan to have been a great success with Soviet worker incomes growing steadily from 1965 to 1975. 

Yet, it was his economic reforms that proved to be the end of Kosygin as a major player in the USSR.  Pressure mounted relentlessly from communist party bureaucrats over the reforms because of the shifting of decent consumer products from theft and graft to the benefit of Soviet workers.  Kosygin was vilified as the man who turned away from communism while seeking to enrich a few friends, a quite maddening claim given the source of the complaint. 

Once thought to be the main rival to Brezhnev as Party leader, by the time all of his reforms had been ended in 1978 Kosygin held few of the offices and prerogatives and influence he had carried in the USSR for more than twenty years.

The Brezhnev foreign policy proved to be as craven as the communist party had become. 


Brezhnev crushed the peaceful movement for greater democracy known as the Czechoslovakian Prague Spring in 1968 employing Soviet tanks.  The other east European satellite states, especially Poland, were further strangled by their Soviet puppet communist governments with their police-state methods.

The huge Soviet investment in the Vietnam War proved entirely wasted when the divided nation became reunited under Ho Chi Mihn in 1974 winning the war against the United States and South Vietnam.  Thereafter it was like the Soviet Union no longer existed for Vietnam.  The dominoes never came close to falling in Southeast Asia for the USSR.

Brezhnev’s propping up of Fidel Castro’s Cuba and the forays into other Latin American nations was another large initiative yielding precious few returns to offset the huge costs.

Brezhnev’s last war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan begun in 1979, proved to be a complete disaster for the USSR.  The Soviet army was effectively routed from the country by 1989, seven years after Brezhnev’s death.  CIA supported Afghan insurgents, like Osama Bin Laden’s Al Quaeda supported with US arms, proved far too much for the disappearing communist superpower.

Possibly the most telling policy initiative Brezhnev approved was the new approach to the economy after Kosygin’s departure from power.

Brezhnev’s Politboro thought, if the answer is not in empowering the workers and factory managers, the solution must then be in a top-down program this is quite serious this time in achieving results, the communist way.

The Soviet Union’s full employment policy, begun as a Stalinist fantasy, was pushed into high gear by Brezhnev after he purged away his Western ways with the economy for good.

One thing the USSR never lacked was jobs.  Indeed, it was the legal obligation of the Soviet State to provide a job for every adult person able to work.  Everyone was legally required to work. Mothers with young children were given some slack, but not much room under the letter of Soviet law.  The retirement age of 65 was ten years beyond Soviet male life-expectancy at the time.

Brezhnev decided the reason national production goes down is because not enough people are working to create goods and services.  It was now past time to make sure soviet citizens also met their obligation to society, to the state, to work if they possibly can.  Somehow millions and millions of people were not working for no reason Brezhnev could not ordered changed.  So he did.

Millions of soviet citizens in the 1980s were ordered to take a state job, seriously this time.  Plenty would be made available.  It was the patriotic duty of everyone to work (or else).

What had already become a stagnant workplace in Soviet factories and farms became a laughing stock.  Workers assigned new jobs had no work to do that was not already being done by other workers.  Every part of the economy was affected, six coat checkers in a hotel lobby instead of one or two, work shifts spent entirely sitting in a room waiting for your turn to work, young mothers with several children ordered to work often at caring for the children of the other mothers forced to work, hordes of new government office workers searching for new ways to engage citizens in legal tangles only a bribe seems able to remedy.

Though the official exchange rate for the Russian ruble was pegged to the value of the US dollar at a ratio of about 5 to 1, the black market rate in the USSR for a single dollar rose to as much as 200 rubles if rubles could buy dollars at all.  Barter steadily became the principle practice in the black market.

The effect of the hard-wired full employment policy was a plummet in the productivity of even the good workers and the loss of a job’s good name altogether.  It seems the slack worker model infected just about everyone eventually, especially with each pay package worth less and less in the real economy, the black market economy.  All “state workers” concerned themselves with was leaving quickly so they can get to their black market jobs that were paying their bills free of taxation.

A perfect phrase in Russian dark humor was coined to describe the Brezhnev era relationship of the socialist worker to the Soviet State: “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us”.


An American Dream Turns Away

During his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama promised to bring the nation together into renewed economic growth using high-powered Keynesian intervention like never before.  There was also to be a federal boost to a green energy future.   Obama promised a new American foreign policy with an open hand to all nations, a foreign policy that would reverse all of the Bush tyrannies following the attacks of 9/11.

Obama’s approval ratings reached to the 70s around the time of his first Inaugural Address.  The American political divide was already collapsing in the face of the astonishing new Obama leadership much of the nation chimed.

Then came something entirely new for Obama: trying to improve the lives of Americans through legislation and executive authority, especially with his powers as commander-in-chief.

In his first years in office, Obama had three major legislative initiatives enacted by the large Democratic majorities he held in both houses of Congress.  By June, 2009 there was the trillion-dollar, pork-barrel, rush the money out the door “stimulus program” using money printed from thin air.   Later, there was also the new national health insurance plan, Obamacare.  Even Obama’s Wall Street regulation plan, Dodd-Frank, was entered onto the federal law books in his first term.

The trillion-dollar stimulus giveaway has since been forgotten with little memory of what one might consider economic stimulus overall.  It is hard to conjure a single achievement of this emergency program that saved anything other than the inflated payrolls of state government workers in some states for about two years.  The “green energy” part of the stimulus squandered tens of billions of dollars yielding precious few new windmills in operation and electric cars on the road.  It seems the fascist method of redistribution is little better in the end than the communist method of redistribution is.

Obamacare perpetuates the private health-insurance and pharmaceutical industries as a close crony captive of federal regulation bribed to the max even more, while diabolically making the survival of private health insurance not even possible over the long term.  Obamacare tries to imitate a free market with a top-down federal approach to what your fair ration of health care is going to be.

Obamacare’s numbers are so unconnected to the real world Obama himself was forced weeks ago to delay implementation of key parts of the program for fear of proving too soon the system as designed is simply nowhere near fundable as planned.   The people who are to subsidize the new system, the young and the healthy, are simply not inclined to sign up.   It seems Obamacare, if implemented as planned for this year, would prove to be the largest levy of fines in the history of the world:

The Obamacare generous increases in health-care coverage are in place raising insurance premiums by record amounts, pushing the time-bomb into place.

The main goal for delaying the Obamacare employer mandate appears to be to strangle the private health-care system even faster than Obamacare allows for by forcing many millions onto the “state health-care exchanges” as employers feel forced to drop the offering of health-care insurance to their workers altogether.  It is the “The Only Option” born of the “Public Option” idea, something like Medicaid for all.

 Obamacare’s booming cost projections make the failed stimulus program look the bargain of the two.


It is in the arena of financial regulation that Obama legislation has proved the most inconsequential as a remedy for an ill.  The Dodd-Frank law was never intended to do anything but enhance the monopoly position of the Too Big to Fail Banks, the bill’s authors for the most part.  So many hidden subsidies and loopholes for the TBTF lie within the hundreds of pages of Dodd-Frank it would take a road-grader to make a level playing field for the thousands of smaller banks in the United States.  Obama’s presentation of Dodd-Frank as a consumer protection bill and the law’s true intended effect on Wall Street is the perfect example of the dichotomy between Obama rhetoric and Obama policy in office.

Under Dodd-Frank, the TBTF became far larger than ever with leverage still cranked past the ceiling.  The biggest threat to financial stability, derivative gambling in the shadow credit market by Wall Street, remains unregulated as so long ago endorsed by Alan Greenspan.  The Fed is addicted to interest rate swap arrangements in that shadow market as one of the best way to keep interest rates for the TBTF and the Treasury unnaturally low.  European banking is addicted to dollar swap offerings by the Fed and its protégés.

Obama federal budgets spent Fed supplied counterfeit so recklessly the federal debt nearly doubled in less than five years to $17Trillion, over $50,000 owed now for every man, woman and child in the nation.

Even applying Obama’s rigged federal numbers for inflation, GDP and employment, the 1% under Obama has received 90% of the gains made in the economic recovery Obama claims is underway.   Not surprisingly, the Wall Street barons fed trillions of counterfeit by the Fed and Congress have become even more fabulously wealthy than they were before the 2008 collapse.  The TBTF have fully morphed beyond under Obama into the “Too Big to Prosecute Too”, no one jailed for the massive fraud that led to the 2008 financial bust. 

Trillions of Fed QE forever has further empowered Obama and enriched Wall Street while moving the federal government into a prime place on the chain of title for upward of 90% of American homes with a mortgage.  The near $4 Trillion the Fed paid for its official balance sheet is unlikely to be returned upon sale for even one-half of that sum, if ever properly valued.

Yet, it is in foreign policy that Obama has most dishonestly crushed the liberty of Americans and their hopes for a better future.

A leftist of the George McGovern mold as Obama pretended to be in his 2008 campaign would have ended all foreign wars and largely retreated from the role as “policeman of the world” (a concept few non-Americans outside Europe ever embraced).  The Pentagon budget would decline in quite real terms.  The Military Industrial Congressional Complex would be taken on and tamed considerably. 

Serious consequences would be imposed by a seriously leftist President for the quite recent use of torture amid other human rights violations committed by the Cheney gang and beyond.

 A leftist President committed to civil liberties would have exposed and largely ended NSA spying on Americans and other nations.  The misnamed Patriot Act would be replaced with new civil liberties legislation by a Democrat Congress and the new, so-liberal President.  The privacy of non-Americans naturally would be respected as well, especially our allies overseas.

Certainly, a fresh Democrat President would never embark on the largest scale assassination campaign in foreign lands ever committed by a sovereign state not at war with another state. 

A leftist President would have worked seriously toward ending the war on drugs at home and around the world.

Instead:

Obama tripled down on US troops in Afghanistan to win his “good war” through a massive campaign of assassination and propaganda.  Later having lost the Afghanistan war clearly, Obama is moving the troops to Kuwait and other Persian Gulf locales looking toward new US wars in Iran and Syria.

Obama covered over and failed to prosecute anyone for the torture and spying that had run amok before him breaking his solemn obligation to do so as President.  Guantanamo Bay prison opened by George Bush remains in operation under Obama almost five years after he took office, now featuring the forced-feeding of hunger strikers. 

Obama’s jail guards strip American hero Bradley Manning of his clothes while locking him away for months in a small cell, but Obama’s types could never strip Manning of his honor and his dignity, something beyond his torturers.  It has been people like Manning and Snowden and Greenwald that have always had the courage to try to slay a growing tyrant.

Pentagon spending surged under Obama along with the rest of the federal budget.  A now permanent army of “private contractors”, once known as mercenaries, now feed at the Pentagon budget with the usual rules of war only sketchily applying to their missions. 


Obama has authorized new military attacks in Libya, Yemen and now Syria.  It seems 90-million strong and starving Egypt may soon see US warplanes and maybe boots on the ground in favor of this side or the other.

Obama has directed the sudden death by drone attack of over 4,000 people living in other nations, including hundreds of children and at least a handful of Americans.  Obama’s drone assassination totals now dwarf those of George Bush.  Never before has such a brazen, brutal disregard for the sovereignty of other nations and for international law been placed on open display by a powerful nation.  America’s present taste for assassination knows few bounds.

In his first days in office, Obama bugged most of the diplomatic delegations attending a G-20 summit in London. He certainly was listening in on those phone calls.  Obama expanded the secrecy and scope of NSA spying on all peoples across the world as now becoming widely known due to the whistleblowing of Edward Snowden.  Obama secretly spies on every conversation on the planet encouraging other nations to use and join in on the surveillance of their citizens.

Obama has collected a massive database on all Americans he personally owns that he can freely consult at any time.  It sure helps in dealing effectively with political rivals of any sort with few legal niceties applying.

Instead of proposing new civil liberties protections as one would expect from a leftist President, Obama ‘strengthened” the Patriot Act and obtained from Congress the power to hold anyone prisoner without charges or access to the outside world, a law the old USSR would blush over. 

Obama’s main contribution to drug policy is to place the drug cartels’ money men among the TBTF banks as almost fully beyond the reach of the drug laws.  Obama’s main worries with ending drug prohibition as the rest of the world slowly does so are two: the loss of US prison jobs and the loss of the international money-laundering tax-free profits for the TBTF.

Obama betrayed his own professed liberal creed on all of these points.  He instead feverishly served the US entrenched powers in all of these important ways.  Obama proved far closer to George Bush and Dick Cheney in his policies than he would have been when compared to a theoretical George McGovern presidency. 

Yet somehow, the media and public shield for Obama largely endures, even after his temporary jilting by the plutocrats for wooden, tax-dodging Mitt Romney in last year’s election.  Obama’s political base, sadly including most liberal intellectuals, retains the blinders when it comes to the President and his actual policies, spoken and unspoken.  The agony in leftist pundits’ words defending the Obama tyrannies that are being revealed week by week is painful to see.

 Aside from rhetorical maneuvering by Obama to please public opinion, the top of the 1% remain quite safe in their 2007 purchase of the Obama administration.  It has proven a very successful investment.  It is an alliance that has become the biggest part of Obama’s world, just like Bill Clinton’s world.  Obama still proposes very little serious legislation that is not pre-approved by his global masters.


The Brezhnev Legacy: The Era of Stagnation

When Brezhnev died in office in 1982 it is believed that most soviet citizens truly mourned his passing.  His anointed successor, KGB boss Yuri Andropov, assumed power seamlessly, just as Brezhnev had in 1964. 

Brezhnev was interned in Red Square as a grand Hero of the Soviet Union with a tremendous military display.  Nothing in public pronouncements or in Kremlin logs show Brezhnev engaged in the vanities of Stalin or Lenin in connection with his bodily remains, dust to dust for Brezhnev. 

Twice however Brezhnev’s coffin failed him at his funeral events.  While being lowered by hoist to Lie-in-State the coffin bottom failed and dropped Brezhnev’s body through the bottom.  Later, the now metal-clad, overweight coffin was dropped mistakenly by undertakers into the grave chamber with a resounding bang.  It seemed soviet engineering and craftsmanship was still hitting new lows.

Yet, in 1982, the Soviet Union remained in legend one of only two world superpowers.  The Soviet Union had been an empire for more than a generation that stretched from Siberia to Berlin and engaged the West throughout the globe.  Though soviet workers were now forced to rely on an underground economy to earn a living, the soviet standard-of-living for the masses was not much different yet than it had been in 1964.  Brezhnev times had made the prosperity of the communist party insiders quite grand for a long time though.

Yet, by 1982 it is now widely believed the USSR had already fallen irretrievably into an economic death trap that would lead soon to revolutions everywhere in the East European satellite nations and even the downfall of the Soviet Communist Party and the USSR itself by 1991.

Brezhnev’s successor, Yuri Andropov, advertised as a fresh breath of air, died only one year after assuming communist party leadership.  His successor, Constantin Chernenko, became the fourth straight Soviet leader across forty years to take power by acclamation of the Politboro, all with no known political assassinations involved.

Already afflicted with emphysema and cirrhosis when he took power, Chernenko lasted only thirteen months himself before dying.  His successor, Mikhail Gorbachev, was announced as the new Party leader on the very same day Chernenko’s death was announced by the Kremlin out of the blue. 

Gorbachev was the bitter pill the Soviet gerontocracy was unwilling to take when Brezhnev and Andropov died.  By 1984 though, even the communist insiders were quickly losing their standard of living.  The “soviet workers” by 1984 had all but given up the pretense that the official economy should produce anything.

Gorbachev came to power with the full discretion to change things granted to him by the Politboro.  Everyone one else at the pinnacle of Soviet power was clueless in how to combat an official economy that was becoming a ghost faster and faster.  A sign of the desperate times for the communist party, Gorbachev’s mandate even extended to loosening the reign on political dissent and encouraging the regeneration of the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

Gorbachev’s “perestroika” was a cure for the economy that looked a lot like the changes made by Kosygin thirty years earlier.  “Glasnost” was the new policy of openness that increasingly let the truth out concerning the true state of the economy and of soviet life in general.

Yet, all of the “New Thinking” by Gorbachev proved to do much more to undermine the crumbling soviet edifice than to correct its course.  The soviet enlightenment became just how bad things had really become.  The communist party was to blame, not the answer.

By 1986 Gorbachev and the soviet newspapers were characterizing Brezhnev’s reign as communist leader the “Era of Stagnation”   Brezhnev’s immediate family was investigated and convicted of wide-ranging official corruption.  . Brezhnev’s daughter and son-in-law were given lengthy prison sentences.  All public places bearing Brezhnev’s name were ordered reverted to their former name, including Brezhnev’s village of birth. 

A poll of Russian citizens found that 10% thought of the Stalin era to be a positive period of time while only 7% thought of the Brezhnev era as positive time for the nation.  The name of Brezhnev became such a scourge over time members of his family abandoned the name as a curse.

Four years before Brezhnev’s death Karol Wojtyła was elected the first non-Italian Catholic Pope in centuries, John Paul II. It was the start of a revolution in Poland.   It would be five years after Gorbachev took power that the Solidarity Union movement led by Lech Walesa usurped complete power in Poland in 1989. 

Within that same year, 1989, five other communist satellite governments would fall in street revolutions, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and even hardcore East Germany. 

Unlike under Brezhnev in 1968, Gorbachev’s Red Army did very little to quell the revolution against communist government in Eastern Europe.   Legions of soviet tanks stood off in the woods while communist governments melted into nothing in a largely bloodless way. “People Power” prevailed everywhere as the Iron Curtain magically collapsed without a figurative shot being fired.

The revolutions in Eastern Europe disrupted key economic ties in place for decades causing further chaos in the USSR economy.  It ended the Warsaw Pact leading Soviet Generals to the panic button in planning war with the West.

Somehow, the long sodden Soviet Duma, Stalin’s parliament, sprung to life in the USSR for the first time with figures like Boris Yeltsin, a renegade past Politboro member, leading a suddenly allowed national opposition movement to the communist party.

As external and internal chaos seemed to be enveloping the communist party in the summer of 1991, the soviet old guard in the Politboro made a last stand for its hold on power.   It was the first true appearance of the harshest face of soviet communism since the time of Stalin.  The attempted coup would prove to be the final disaster for the USSR.

When Gorbachev was arrested at his vacation home in the Crimea he refused to voluntarily hand over power.  News of the coup leaked immediately leading to open national protests like the soviet citizens had never engaged in with Yeltsin giving a speech atop a tank.  Most importantly, when the KGB head ordered the Red Army to shoot most soldiers by far refused.  The coup was over in three days.  The people demanded “New Thinking”.  The now softened “Soviet Iron Fist” had turned limp, sedated by thirty years of wide corruption.

The hard-line coup’s main effect was to end Gorbachev’s hopes to refashion the Soviet Union into a league of independent countries.  By the end of 1991 eleven of the twelve nations of the Soviet Union declared independence and achieved it without a shot being fired. 

The Kremlin became the capital of the Russian Federation.  Yeltsin’s shadow government of sorts merged with the soviet central government.  Gorbachev was deposed from power without an election or an overthrow of government occurring.

By 1992 Brezhnev stood with Stalin and Ivan the Terrible in the public’s view as the three greatest tyrants in Russian history.

Though little is known by the public of the private lives and personal habits of any soviet leader, there is a part of Brezhnev’s personal priorities that was self-evident. 

As time went on Brezhnev was awarded medal after medal.  Most of his official images showed a chest-full of medals.  It was quite a coincidence for one person and must have been quite a surprise for Brezhnev each time, hardly a military man. 

BrezhnexMedals

By the time of his death Brezhnev sported more than fifty official medals from the Order of Lenin to the Medal of Victory awarded to him by Poland.  In 1978 Brezhnev was awarded the Order of Victory medal even though the award was limited to valiant military commanders.  In 1989 Gorbachev’s USSR revoked the award of that medal to Brezhnev.

Obama Faces the Mounting Tide

In 2013, in the midst of his second term as President, Barack Obama’s legacy is far from written, including the final years.  

Like Brezhnev’s USSR in 1982, the United States remains a world superpower, the central force behind events across the globe.  Even though the wealth of the middle class has continued to plummet under Obama, cheap Asian imports unpaid for keeps the standard-of-living for most Americans on only a slow glide downward.  While Brezhnev’s workers always had a job and paycheck, Obama’s non-workers have kept a smaller check anyway.  High inflation for consumers is masked away.

Obama’s legacy may well turn on his likely coming choice made in the same kind of existential moment that Gorbachev’s USSR faced in Poland and beyond in 1989.  Likely in that same future moment will turn the final favorability rating of the average American concerning their once widely loved, so liberal President, along with being the final verdict of history for Obama’s reign.

The man who must be the luckiest President ever when it came to the quality of his electoral rivals for political office, turns out may become the unluckiest US President by far when it comes to the timing of his ascent to power.

Unlike Brezhnev’s peaceful exit, Barack Obama may find himself directly in the eye of the storm amid systemic political breakdown in the United States and many nations, like Gorbachev faced twenty years ago.  .

It seems the wild-eyed policy inventions of Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke have tipped the Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama long vice for larcenous central banking over the cliff, leaving the US and EU economy in the auto-implode mode, ala Brezhnev’s USSR.   The clock seems clearly in its final hour.  The Great Depression combined with the Dust Bowl may seem child’s play in 21st Century continents rocked by violence, breakup, treachery and demagoguery.

The certainty of financial breakup and plunging standards of living for the West was sealed with the China/Russia eastern alliance planning to supplant entirely the prime role of the US dollar in international trade that has lasted for two generations.  The course for the coming dominance of the East in the world economy was set at just about the same time Barack Obama was taking power in the US with his power-elite Wall Street plan in his pocket.  The two plans remain on a collision course, the gold-backed East against the fiat, insolvent West.

 One day soon the switch will be turned by the East to end the deficits of the US dollar forever handing a ticket to the third world for the USA with chaos all around.  Gold and other hard currency will then return world trade to a state of sanity again.  That is assuming the forces of darkness do not manage to incite war on a grand scale in order to remain in power.

This is the terrible course the United States has been on long, long before Obama was elected.  With the 2008 economic crash underway Obama did though have the circumstances and popularity to effect a reversal in the nation’s course in favor of a more level playing field for all, as he promised to do.  He went the opposite direction instead.

Obama never made an effort at something as pro middle-class as the Kosygin reforms in the 1960s USSR later replicated by Gorbachev. 

Now Obama faces the chance of the sort of reputation demolition Brezhnev underwent following his death.

Though Obama has been on more television talk shows than any President by far, little is known by the public of Obama’s personal proclivities, what truly drives him.  Yet, one Obama trait shines out clearly.

As a mere junior US candidate for national office, Barack Obama asked of Germany to arrange his 2008 campaign speech in Berlin to be in front of the historic Brandenburg Gate, the place of statesmen like few others in the world.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel firmly declined the absurd notion.

Nothing stopped Obama though from creating his own “Obama Seal” during the 2008 nomination fight.  The Obama Seal had characteristics of the Presidential Seal and of the Obama campaign logo.  The pledge that goes along with the Obama Seal has not been disclosed.

ObamaRome


Obama’s finest moment in this hubristic connection came though with his Democratic Party Convention speech accepting the party’s nomination for President.  He was propped in front of elegantly carved stone walls that had a close resemblance to the Emperor’s Coliseum in Ancient Rome.

Grandiosity befits a grand emperor, even one in name only.

Two Men So Different: So Similar in Effect

Could the two men be more different in so many ways?

One man was selected for national power from a small committee of older men bent on hanging onto complete power while turning the clock back as necessary.  His life had been devoted to the small ruling class.

The other man gained power as an outsider through a continent-wide landslide election preceded by dozens of state primaries and caucuses.  His ascension to power promised big changes in favor of the average American.  The anti-elitist had been elected.

One man typified the longtime status quo.  The other man was from appearances the largest breath of social revolution the nation had ever known in many ways. 

One man was a lifelong functionary of totalitarian government.  The other was a well-credentialed professor of the constitution in the world’s oldest republic.

One man was totally anti-cool: the other the coolest ever by far. 

One man grumbled into a microphone.  The other became the master of the teleprompter.   

One man arranged for a military medal by corrupting the very purpose of the medal.  The other man won the Nobel Prize for Peace with grand promises alone, mostly later betrayed.

One man promised to double-down on a forced economy, but allowed for a time bottom-up solutions that benefited the workers.  The other man promised to bring people power to the nation and then pursued the interests of the 1% like seldom seen before, reappointing Ben Bernanke, nearly doubling the debt and decimating the middle class further.

One man ordered the unemployed to work.  The other paid the unemployed to remain voters only.

One man kept a communist party monopoly in all real estate.  The other “guaranteed” to pay banks the mortgages on the homes of nearly all Americans.

One man turned the state health-care system into a political tool of repression.  The other seduced and suffocated the private health-care system to the point of escalating chaos.

One man ruled in seeming eternal harmony with his political rivals and allies.  All new stories were positive.

The other man ruled in a state of eternal rhetorical warfare with his supposed political foes, all channeled widely across the nation.  He often demagogued the imperial interests his policies and his foes so closely served.


Yet, the similarities between the two leaders are more telling.

Both men made a hidden bargain for power that stayed largely in place throughout their time in office.

Both men avenged political dissent outside a narrow box with prison sentences and media vilification.

Both men secretly spied into the lives of every citizen while openly claiming the privilege to do so.

Both men hid their mass failures behind a façade of normality among television talking heads hired and scripted by the elite class.

Both men had the hubris to believe Afghanistan can be conquered and ruled for the benefit of a foreign empire.  Both men betrayed their foreign allies.  Both men had no hesitation in spreading death and war widely across the globe inventing new methods of their own.

Both men had the folly to believe their command control of a national economy was truly the way to wide economic growth.  Both men ruled while the nation’s economy burned underneath a mountain of official lies.

Both men far preferred buying off dissent within the elite.  Both men were prepared to ruin people whose dissent went too far.  Both generally wished the best for the average worker while oblivious to the reasons for their plight.

Both men displayed a regal air reminiscent of monarchy.  Both men were patrons of a growing nobility of self-servers.

In a phrase, neither man accepted the rule of law, firmly pushing instead the continued rule of men.  Neither man believed in greater liberty in any real way while cracking down steadily on human rights.

Brezhnev’s reputation met a proper fate in infamy that is highly unlikely to ever change.  Obama’s legacy is embattled all around.

When the Moment Arrives Anew

If Obama is to avoid lasting indignities similar to Brezhnev’s the chance may well come at the key moment of social disruption brought on by the falling of the economy’s hollow pillars, when the start of a new future starting near scratch is only opposed by the failing elite of the past owed all of that money.  It is a similar set of choices successfully made for mankind and his nation by Mikhail Gorbachev as the Soviet Union imploded from its eternal wall of lies.

Should the financial collapse strike like never before with millions of Americans in the streets ala Egypt, will the constitutional scholar from the bosom of the people with the taste for blood finally turn away from his Faustian bargain with Beelzebub when the question becomes initiating unnecessary world war to somehow save the power elite in the West, when the question becomes firing on protesters?

Or will the inhuman face of total power appear in clarity should Obama’s shield finally disintegrate in the face of economic devastation and real truth-telling, should they come in sudden force?

Will war abroad and at home prevail in a Presidential effort to keep the people’s chains in place?  If tried, will it succeed?

Or can a second failed 20th Century empire gratefully be allowed to crash without a shot being fired?

For the next few years, which way history may repeat for the end of the American empire seems to turn largely on one man, just as it did over twenty years ago for the empire of the East.  Only one man just now appears able to make most of the difference for the West, the difference between the start of renewal and the start of war.


Mr. Merrill is an attorney who earlier served in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps and as a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer.

 

Mr. Merrill is the editor of the Alaska Freedom News, formerly the Hampton Roads Freedom News.