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[Nov 20, 2011] Are You Happy That Your Tax Dollars are Going to Crush #OWS and Other Occupations

November 17, 2011 | naked capitalism

rotter:

The spectacle of this presidential election cycle is surreal. Sometimes I'm tempted to splash cold water on my face to see if Ill wake up. How about the complete realization that NO ONE whose considered qualified to compete in the "upper class twit Olympics" that we call a presidential campaign, is even barely qualified to hold the job of president. Contemplate the reality that probably (at least) 50% of our elected reps cant even read for comprehension the bills they vote on, which are written by lobbyists, and God knows who else.

Consider that the supreme court who define the legal universe we inhabit, come entirely from the same class of capitalist elite, are thoroughly screened for ideological homogeneity, exist completely isolated from the effects of their decisions, but give free unlimited access to members of their own class, who are the only people allowed to effect their opinions.

Consider also that the executive branch at all levels of society are free to ignore court orders in the name of "security" anyway, and have taken to doing so anytime they are presented with an order they don't like.

Psychoanalystus:

Indeed, it's like a total freak show. I wonder where did the Koch brothers and rest of the oligarchs found such a bunch of weirdos. I mean, really, I don't know anybody in my personal life that is that crazy.

But then again, Obummer is probably worse than all of them put together, just that he's got that silver-tongue of his… you know, the "hope" and "change" bullshit. Which makes him even scarier.

wunsacon:

Information technology facilitates the transition from Huxley to Orwell.

[Oct 19, 2011] Tom Ferguson Congress is a "Coin Operated Stalemate Machine"

"The Congress of our New Gilded Age is far from the best Congress money can buy; it may well be the worst. It is a coin-operated stalemate machine that is now so dysfunctional that it threatens the good name of representative democracy itself. "
naked capitalism

Readers may recall that we discussed a Financial Times op ed by University of Massachusetts professor of political sciences and favorite Naked Capitalism curmudgeon Tom Ferguson which described a particularly sordid aspect of American politics: an explicit pay to play system in Congress. Congresscritters who want to sit on influential committees, and even more important, exercise leadership roles, are required to kick in specified amounts of money into their party's coffers. That in turn increases the influence of party leadership, since funds provided by the party machinery itself are significant in election campaigning. And make no doubt about it, they are used as a potent means of rewarding good soldiers and punishing rabble-rousers

A new article by Ferguson in the Washington Spectator sheds more light on this corrupt and defective system. Partisanship and deadlocks are a direct result of the increased power of a centralized funding apparatus. It's easy to raise money for grandstanding on issues that appeal to well-heeled special interests, so dysfunctional behavior is reinforced.

Let's first look at how crassly explicit the pricing is. Ferguson cites the work of Marian Currander on how it works for the Democrats in the House of Representatives:

Under the new rules for the 2008 election cycle, the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] asked rank-and-file members to contribute $125,000 in dues and to raise an additional $75,000 for the party.

Ferguson teases out the implications:

Uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, our Congressional parties now post prices for key slots on committees. You want it - you buy it, runs the challenge. They even sell on the installment plan: You want to chair an important committee? That'll be $200,000 down and the same amount later, through fundraising…..

The whole adds up to something far more sinister than the parts. Big interest groups (think finance or oil or utilities or health care) can control the membership of the committees that write the legislation that regulates them. Outside investors and interest groups also become decisive in resolving leadership struggles within the parties in Congress. You want your man or woman in the leadership? Just send money. Lots of it….

The Congressional party leadership controls the swelling coffers of the national campaign committees, and the huge fixed investments in polling, research, and media capabilities that these committees maintain - resources the leaders use to bribe, cajole, or threaten candidates to toe the party line… Candidates rely on the national campaign committees not only for money, but for message, consultants, and polling they need to be competitive but can rarely afford on their own..

This concentration of power also allows party leaders to shift tactics to serve their own ends….They push hot-button legislative issues that have no chance of passage, just to win plaudits and money from donor blocs and special-interest supporters. When they are in the minority, they obstruct legislation, playing to the gallery and hoping to make an impression in the media…

The system …ensures that national party campaigns rest heavily on slogan-filled, fabulously expensive lowest-common-denominator appeals to collections of affluent special interests. The Congress of our New Gilded Age is far from the best Congress money can buy; it may well be the worst. It is a coin-operated stalemate machine that is now so dysfunctional that it threatens the good name of representative democracy itself.

If that isn't sobering enough, a discussion after the Ferguson article describes the mind-numbing amount of money raised by the members of the deficit-cutting super committee. In addition, immediately after being named to the committee, several members launched fundraising efforts that were unabashed bribe-seeking. But since the elites in this country keep themselves considerable removed from ordinary people, and what used to be considered corruption in their cohort is now business as usual, nary an ugly word is said about these destructive practices.

Ferguson gave a preview of his article last week on Dylan Ratigan:

Selected comments

Rex

Congressional theme song?
LucyLulu
How depressing. Secession isn't looking better all the time. Maybe nobody would notice if a group left with Wyoming.
anon
Over at his blog, Glenn Greenwald highlights an article that takes the bought-and-paid-for-government problem a step further:

"UPDATE IV: In Slate, Anne Applebaum actually argues that the Wall Street protests are anti-democratic because of their "refusal to engage with existing democratic institutions." In other words, it's undemocratic to protest oligarchic rule; if these protesters truly believed in democracy, they would raise a few million dollars, hire lobbying firms filled with ex-political officials, purchase access to and influence over political leaders, and then use their financial clout to extract the outcomes they want. Instead, they're attempting to persuade their fellow citizens that we live under oligarchy, that our democratic institutions are corrupted and broken, and that fundamental change is urgent - an activity which, according to Applebaum, will "simply weaken the [political system] further."

Could someone please explain to her that this is precisely the point? Protesting a political system and attempting to achieve change outside of it is "anti-democratic" only when the political system is a healthy and functioning democracy. Oligarchies and plutocracies don't qualify."

http://www.salon.com/2011/10/17/what_are_those_ows_people_so_angry_about/singleton/

Rex
Watched Rachel Maddow this evening (Oct 17). In one part she interviewed Barney Frank who mainly whined that the protesters aren't doing things properly ie. through voting for Democrats that's worked so well recently.

I looked for a link that gets right to the interview - this may work - http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/rachel_maddow/ You may need to find the section titled *Barney Frank: "I'd Like To Go Even Lower" On Surtax For Millionaires*

My immediate thought was that they had two years of pretty strong power and they didn't fix much. Voting is working so well for us to this point. Choices between rocks and hard pointy places abound.

I guess not only the bankers are a bit uncomfortable about this OWS kind of uprising.

patrick
Mark Twain said: "If voting could change anything it would be illegal."

Frank had the chance of making a significant change and he, Dodd, Obama, and the Democrats did nothing. We would be foolish to think that they have learnt any lessons since.

darms
Sorry but the quote is from Emma Goldman, not Samuel Clemens…
Linus Huber
That the legislator has been corrupted is obvious considering how banks were able to get the laws that allow them to loot the system. We have too wide a gap between justice and the law. Occupy wallstreet is one of the results of this situation but people generally are not yet able to pinpoint where the system went wrong. In my opinion it all starts with the spirit of the rule of law that has been violated repeatedly in favor of the few at the expense of the many.

The few better start running because such great injustice caused by the effectiveness of lobbying by financial interests will unleash a powerful reaction.

sleeper
The old adage is the congress holds the purse strings that is they set taxes and spending.

So to raise funds the congress routinely sells tax code "adjustments". That is why the tax code is so long convoluted. So any congressinal talk on taxes or simplefing taxes is the pot calling the kettle black.

These guys will happily sell their grandmother if need be.

And the MSM ought to be prefacing their interviews with -

Good morning Congressman. Welcome to Talking Heads. Before we get started could you tell us how much you've paid so far for your committee seat ? Oh and how's the fund raising going ?

Z
I worked for a democratic congressional campaign in 2006 … this was back when the despicable emanuel ran the dccc. Our candidate was against the Iraq War, which is why I volunteered to work for his campaign. The polling data we got was produced by Lake Research run by democratic establishment hack Celinda Lake. I strongly believe that the polling was either provided by the dccc or the dccc strongly encouraged our campaign to use Lake. The polling data came up with really srewy conclusions such that even the voters in my congressional district, which was predominately republican, that were not in favor on bush were still in favor of the war. That didn't make much sense to me, but that's what Lake's outfit came up with, which just happened to support what emanuel was pushing for democratic candidates: don't run against the war. Though I didn't realize what was going on at the time as I was removed from the inner strategic workings of the campaign, emanuel was heavily backing democratic candidates who either favored the war or didn't make an issue of it over those that were running on opposing it despite the fact that the majority of the public was going against the war. Our candidate went to dc to talk to the dccc about getting funding from them and shortly afterward changed his views on the war to the point that he even took the stance that he would have voted in favor of the resolution to allow bush the power to go to war with Iraq.

The democrats won a ton of seats in the 2006 election becoz the country was fed up with bush and the war, but emanuel made sure that the "right" kind of democrats won: ones that were more beholden to the establishment than the people which set the stage for the numerous "compromises" the democratic leadership have made with the blue dogs to pass pro-corporate, pro-war, pro-wall street legislation.

Z

Timothy Gawne
Excuse me: partisanship and deadlock? In your dreams! I wish we had more partisanship and deadlock, it might be a good thing.

We only have 'deadlock' when there is the potential for voting for something that might benefit the average American. When the rich and powerful want something there is absolutely no deadlock at all. Not a jot.

Look at how easily congress passed the latest 'free' trade bill giving away yet more American jobs and industries. Or how easily they gave away trillions in dollars to the big banks. Or how easily they pass bills giving hundreds of billions to the big defense contractors. No debate, no muss, no fuss.

With respect, any talk of 'deadlock' is just missing the point, and allowing yourself to be fooled by the Kabuki theater that is American politics.

mobster rule
Since trading in influence and abuse of function are institutionalized in Congress, it's interesting that the international review of the US for the Convention Against Corruption was scoped to exclude Articles 18 and 19 regarding trading in influence and abuse of function. Previous review efforts reported without comment the US claim that it had the two offenses covered by USC bribery statutes. So I'm sure that given the rock-solid integrity of the Holder DoJ, we can expect a rerun of ABSCAM any day now, huh?
Joe Rebholz
So congress should change the way committee assignments are made. Below is a suggestion. I make this suggestion not because I think it will be accepted now or later, but just because if we don't put out ideas of how things might be improved, they never will be improved. Articles like this without suggestions for improvement are likely to increase cynicism and hoplessness. So here is the suggestion:

Have committee assignments, chairmenships, all other leadership positions be determined by vote of the whole chamber. And no money raising requirements by parties for any elected person. This might even get rid of the party system.

Think about it, modify it, make other suggestions. There are probably a zillion ways to fix this. Think about it even if you don't believe there is any way they - congress - will change. Because they surely won't if we can't imagine a better system. We have to imagine better systems and then push to implement them.

propertius
And you expect a corrupt Congress to vote to eliminate the corrupt system from which they all benefit? Really? It seems to me that the only way to get something like this implemented is to throw out every single incumbent, regardless of party (since both parties are in on the game). That's certainly my plan.
Schofield
Chime this with half the representatives in Congress being millionaires and two-thirds being so in the Senate and you have a so-called democratic body which in reality represents mainly the interests of the rich.

[Aug 12, 2011] Stavins: Why Polarized Politics Paralyze Public Policy

Economist's View

Robert Stavins has put a lot of effort toward finding environmental policies that both Democrats and Republicans can endorse (e.g. the title of his previous post was "A Golden Opportunity to Please Conservatives and Liberals Alike"). And for the most part, at least from my impression, he has remained optimistic about making progress even if it does come in frustratingly slow fits and starts.

But he seems to be giving up hope:

The Credit Downgrade and the Congress: Why Polarized Politics Paralyze Public Policy, by Robert Stavins: There's room for debate about whether U.S. government deficits justify Standard & Poor's downgrading last week of long-term U.S. debt, but the more important factor cited in S&P's report is that "the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened…" ...

Although these S&P judgments were intended to refer exclusively to fiscal policy, they really apply to a much broader set of issues, ranging from economic to health to environmental policies. The key reality is this: there is a widening gulf between the two political parties that is paralyzing sensible policy action.

Political Polarization This increasing polarization between the political parties has shown up in a number of studies by political scientists... This ... disappearance of moderates ... has been taking place for three decades. The rise of the Tea Party ... is only the most recent vehicle that has continued a 30-year trend.

Why has this collapse of the middle taken place; why has party polarization increased so dramatically in the Congress over the past 30 years? In my view, three structural factors stand out.

Three Structural Factors First, there has been the increasing importance of the primary system, a consequence of the "democratization" of the nomination process that took flight in the 1970s. A small share of the electorate vote in primaries, namely those with the strongest political preferences – the most conservative Republicans and the most liberal Democrats. This self-selection greatly favors candidates from the extremes.

Second, decades of redistricting – a state prerogative guaranteed by the Constitution – has produced more and more districts that are dominated by either Republican or Democratic voters. ... Because of this, polarization has preceded at a much more rapid pace in the House than in the Senate.

Third, the increasing cost of electoral campaigns greatly favors incumbents (with the ratio of average incumbent-to-challenger financing now exceeding 10-to-1). This tends to make districts relatively safe for the party that controls the seat, thereby increasing the importance of primaries. ...

To a lesser degree, polarization has also taken place through the adaptation of sitting members of Congress as they behave more ideologically once in office. Such political conversions are due to the same pressures noted above: in order to discourage or survive primary challenges... A recent case in point is Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who evolved from being a moderate ... to being a solid conservative ... in response to a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate.

Long-Term Implications If the increasing polarization of the Congress is due to these factors, then it is difficult to be very optimistic about the prognosis in the near term for American politics. This is because it is unlikely that any of these factors will soon reverse course.

The two parties are not about to abandon the primary system to return to smoke‑filled back rooms. Likewise, no state legislature is willing to abandon its power to redistrict. And public financing of campaigns and other measures that would reduce the advantages of incumbency remain generally unpopular (among incumbents, who would – after all – need to vote for such reforms).

Other Factors? True enough, in addition to these long-term structural factors that have driven political polarization, shorter-term economic and social fluctuations have also had pronounced effects. In particular, significant economic downturns – whether the Great Depression of the 1930s or the Great Recession of the past several years – increase political polarization. ...

The Future So, it's reasonable to anticipate – or at least to hope – that better economic times will reduce the pace of ongoing political polarization. However, in the face of the three long-term structural factors I've identified above – the increasing importance of primaries, continuing redistricting, and the increasing costs of electoral campaigns – it is difficult to be optimistic about the long-term prognosis for American politics. ...

Gordon:

The problem with this argument is that the Democrats have not become more liberal, all the movement has been by the Republicans. The Democratic presidents starting with Carter were more conservative than those from before the primary system started. The only leftward movement was caused by the defection of the southern Democrats to the Republican party.

Mark Field:

EMichael and Gordon are right. While Stavins' points are true within limited parameters, they don't really capture the heart of the problem as your first 2 commenters did. And on one point Stavins is crazy: John McCain was NEVER a "moderate".

roger

Exactly. The fetishism of procedural questions in politics became a preferred issue of liberal politicians as they turned away from red meat issues, like who gets what in America. Andrew Hacker, in an otherwise thumbsucking article in the NYRB, does point out that 40 percent of the electorate that could vote doesn't. Not surprisingly, the havenots are the major component of this group. One would think just the opposite if the Government is a machine for handing out freebies to the poor. But it is far from that. It is a machine for handing out freebies to the rich.

Far from polarization, what is surprising is agreement. For instance, the astonishing amount of money loaned to the banks by the Fed - which amounted, according to the GAO audit, to around 16 trillion dollars - never generated a single debate or comment by the parties. The war machine's rise in the 2000s similarly elicited little opposition from any side of the aisle.

Of course, the teabag party people are energized - and in fact show that an energized group that is not connected to power can make a difference. They might attract Koch funding, but it isn't Koch funding that accounts for the fervor of this group. Maybe it is the sense of privilege slipping away - privilege being within grasp or slipping away tends to turn people out.

But the liberal side has been taken over by the proceduralists and the techno fetishists who believe their intro text books and like to throw it around as an insult that such and such would "fail econ 101" - as though a text book was some kind of divine authority. The site in which knowledge is produced invariably conditions knowledge. Liberals have for too long substituted the classroom for the public square, or the barroom, come to that.

It is hard to see people who have seen their privileges slip away long ago - the wage class - joining up with the class class under current circs. But the class class can, perhaps, learn how to speak bloodily. This will help.

Devin:

"A small share of the electorate vote in primaries, namely those with the strongest political preferences – the most conservative Republicans and the most liberal Democrats"

While it's undeniably true that this effect has moved the Republican Party far enough to the right that the historical Reagan looks like a commie by comparison, I'm wondering who these extremely liberal Democrats are. How many Dems refused to vote yes on a debt deal unless it contained nothing but tax hikes??? Bernie Sanders? Nancy Pelosi? Maybe there were one or two (though I doubt it), but there were dozens of Reps making that threat related to spending cuts.

The far-right skews toward seniors, and seniors show up at primaries. The far-left skews toward the young, and even if they wanted to vote in primaries a good number of them are away at school and unable to vote without traveling home during the school week or navigating the absentee-voter system. So while the primary affect may drag the Reps way to the right, it's certainly not doing that at the other end of the spectrum.

It's interesting to note that seniors are the only demographic that's a bigger net receiver of government benefits than students. While students consistently vote in their own interests, seniors keep voting more and more against their own. So much for the wisdom of the aged.

Thoughts On Rectangles:

@Serlin - I fully agree that we ought to end the filibuster. I'm actually surprised that the filibuster did not even make it onto Stavin's list, since while it may not be a new feature, it's power has been greatly magnified by recent trends. Given growing Republican extremism, its quite possible that the Republicans will lose their House majority in future election cycles, even as Democrats hold on to the other two branches. However, as long as the filibuster remains, the GOP will likely maintain a large enough majority to obstruct any Democratic legislation, for which Democrats will be blamed (at least in terms of future electoral shifts).

I'm also surprised Stavin's does not mention the rise of fragmented and for-profit media. Combined these factors create a media environment that tends to pander towards its base, as well as focusing on sensationalist coverage. Consider the following feedback loop:

  1. Primaries and redistricting contribute to the election of more extreme candidates.
  2. Electoral victory gives them media access.
  3. Since the most extreme and bombastic personalities tend to draw the highest ratings, these tend to be the people who get the most coverage - ever notice how political personalities have become more like the reality TV stars that news shows compete with? Formerly moderate politicians also become more extreme so as not to be sidelined.
  4. Extremist views increase among the public.
  5. Begin again at 1) only now the starting point has become even more politically extreme.

[Jul 24, 2011] More Shades of TARP Latest Deficit Ceiling Plan to Establish Extra-Constitutional Legislative Process

We can see here that "attempter" especially reinvented the term "inverted totalitarism" on his own.
July 24, 2011 | naked capitalism

attempter

Wasn't that pork part of the way they got some of the No votes to change to Yes? But the way this is being represented here, there would be less opportunity to do that.

Well, I'm not insisting on that argument. I don't doubt they can figure out how to do anything they want to do.

As for your other point, it's clear that the kleptocracy doesn't need anyone's "closet appetites" to bring about an apocalypse. The only question is how to prepare for it to be in the best position to build something better out of it.

But while you're wrong about my appetites, it's true that I don't regard classical fascism as one of the main threats we face. We have the full economic aspect of fascism, we have the permanent war*, and the police/prison state is being built up. So we have the top-down aspects.

But we do not have, and I'd argue are not likely to ever have, the real fascist social cohesion. This is partially because of America's extreme heterogeneity and fragmentation, and partially because the elites' own ideology of atomization and radical mercenarism and selfishness will tend to prevent any attempts to build the social bonding and self-sacrificial endurance and fanaticism which characterized classical fascism.

But it was those things which made fascism structurally so strong, that only external conquest through total war could destroy those regimes. Without it, this "fascism" is a top-heavy Tower of Babel with no real social base, just force enforced by mercenary thugs. Real fascism didn't (couldn't) rely on paid thugs, but on perverted idealism. How is technocratic neoliberalism ever supposed to conjure that idealism on a mass basis?

So that's why I place the threat of real fascism (as opposed to ad hoc police state escalation) rather low on my list of things to worry about.

tomk

Thanks Attempter, that was an insightful comment in response to Yves, hope you're right and I hope she engages you more often. What keeps me coming back is the conversation. Smart, informed people (and Craazyman's entities) moving forward with an honest back and forth. Flexibility and integrity. Thanks to all.

Patricia

Perhaps we are already living in a rapidly developing oligarchy rather than fascism?

Athenians tried to minimize the inevitable rise of oligarchy by using a lottery (called sortition) for election of officials. I think it's a great idea.

Dave of Maryland

Hello Attempter,

Whatever is coming will be uniquely American. Not German, not Italian, not neo-French.

American atomization means we will be rendered poor. Scattered. Unable to organize. Unable to protest.

The real difference between American in 2011 and Italy and Germany in, say, 1935?

Citizens in those densely populated countries were comparatively rich.

We are scattered and poor. For Germany, the Nazi party was a seductive virus imported from who knows where. In America, the Tea Party neo-whatevers are a long pent-up endemic disease. Paradoxically, everything well-wishing liberals do for them only makes things worse. What's wrong with Kansas? Not a damn thing, except they don't like being lectured to. Would you?

craazyman

you are correct sir.

People lose sight of the fact that fascism was essentially a form of tribalism, where the group consciousness constellated areound the life force of the tribal blood dna as a refuge from the burden of individual awareness and moral conscience.

America was, at its best, founded on the notion of a conscious tribe and not a tribal consciousness. It was a Copernican revolution, much more so than France, which at the time of its revolution remained essential tribal. More like Rome, which despite all its horrors, made some steps toward the erasure of ethnicity as a definition of self. Consider that Paul himself used his Roman citizenship to avoid persection after the riots he instigated by his preaching of the gospel.

What this implies is that our form of fascism seeks some other metaphor than dna for the life force to constellate around. And so it constellates around the most potent abstraction of the life force, which is money. The problem, as you observe, is that money is not as stable a foundation as dna/ethnic identity. It flows and moves and spills, just like awareness itself. And the way money abstracts the procreative life force means that the offspring of the tribe that are heralded as fertility totems aren't actual children, but new forms of wealth and success, which innovation and chance drives as much as planned strategy or corruption.

The blessing of all this is that it represents one form of ascension over what Joyce called "The nightmare of history". The curse is that it creates its own demons and nightmares, if and when money pools into the hands of a corrupt oligarchy, a direction we seem to be heading in.

It's sort of fascism light, without the cement of ethnicity to bind it into a blind rage, but one that produces its own unique, skittish and unstable energies of corruption.

nowhereman

Golly, just look at the start of any sporting event, NASCAR in particular. "My country, right or wrong" types everywhere you look. Now tell me there isn't a large base for the "brown shirt' brigade.

YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID. We'll all be looking at our nieghbors wondering if they'll give us up, pointing the finger to protect their own asses.

attempter

I forgot to conclude my comment with the asterisk on "permanent war": While we have permanent war, it's not the kind of war Hitler used to generate a mass fanaticism of self-sacrifice. The very fact that the system uses mercenaries and the Pentagon won't touch the very idea of a draft with a ten foot pole is strong evidence that the elites don't think America can really be whipped into a war fever (or at least induced to endure whatever sacrifices are necessary). But that's part of the classical fascist formula.

attempter

There's no real patriots, nor is there much perverted but deeply-felt pseudo-patriotism. There's just the shallowness of bluster, little flags on cars, and lapel pins. If there's no pay in it, no one's going to lift a finger, and those who do accept pay will be cowardly bullies who will run away the moment anyone steadfastly fights back.

What could be the idealist basis for a more determined and tenacious fascism than this?

CoinKoin

> The record in the modern world that fascist regimes fall only to conquest.

What about Spain, Portugal, Greece, Argentina, and the other south-american juntas?

attempter

Yes, they gradually fizzled out. The only thing lacking was a strong affirmative vision and movement to succeed them. Therefore they simply lapsed into neoliberalism.

Ellen Anderson

I don't understand what you mean by "idealist basis." What I was trying to say was that, if the global economy collapses and governments go broke, they will not be paying the mercenaries. Those people will be up for grabs and who knows who will have the wherewithal to grab them? Will they work for the Chinese for gold? Who knows?

I think that fascism requires a unified ideology as a necessary but not a sufficient condition. It must be backed up by a strong central government with the ability to support it. National governments are weakening themselves right now. What will it take for them to recover from a sovereign debt crisis? We can make some guesses, particularly since we know that energy resources will be critical, but no one ever can predict what will come out of chaos especially since the only common ideologies we share in the develop world surround the myth of progress and infinite growth.

CoinKoin

> they simply lapsed into neoliberalism.

They simply went to whatever the model was around them, which, for Spain and Portugal, was European-style social-democracy. Btw, it wasn't that "gradual" : in Portugal, for example, the regime change happened in one day, on April 25, 1974.

lambert strether
SEC 503: EXEMPTION FROM EXCISE TAX FOR CERTAIN WOODEN ARROWS DESIGNED FOR USE BY CHILDREN. A classic for the ages!

Middle Seaman

The Soviet Union, which we resemble most, was brought down through internal collapse of the house of cards.

That is our only hope.

razzz

Congress and this administration are one, no difference behind the smoke and mirrors so never let a serious crisis go to waste, if there isn't one then make one.

hermanas

The founders put responsibility for war and taxes in "the people's house". They shirk it with the apparent approval of the court. Go figure, "nothing adds up to nothing".

appointmetotheboard

Out of interest, has anyone come across any kind of impact assessment on default armageddon vs proposed spending cuts on the typical American citizen?

I know that there probably isn't enough detail known about the cuts for anything too serious. And its looking increasingly like a case of cuts and default, or just cuts. Nonetheless, could be an interesting read…

notabanker

Came across a new app playing with the iPad yesterday that is essentially a polling app. Questions are posted and all response are tabulated. This is not a plug for the app, hence no name given.

Question:

Do you think of the average American as generally ignorant or generally intelligent?

79% answered Ignorant, overall, male and female responses alike
84% answered Ignorant, Democrat responses
72% answered Ignorant, Republican responses
80% answered Ignorant, Independent responses

9276 total responses.

Granted this is non-scientific and the demographic is iPad users, but very interesting nonetheless.

lambert strether:

That's just "creative class" arrogance. I mean, what are the demographics of iPad ownership? They don't think they're ignorant, just vos autres. These are, of course, the same idiots who thought Obama was liberal because of his skin color.

Rex

Often, lately, it is painful to come here and read about the latest versions of abuses being distributed by the powerful. Most of my life I have ignored this type of thing because I was busy living and comfortable enough not to worry.

The financial crash several years ago shook my sense of security and I was shocked how hard it was to get any believable explanations of what had happened. Even harder to get, through normal channels, any rational assessment of what was then happening or where we should be heading.

Eventually, I found Yves' book Econned and this blog. Painful as it often is to see the current situation, I guess it must be better to know something close to the truth than not to know. I appreciate this island of veracity in a sea of lies and manipulation that is the norm.

Deb Schultz

Thank you for posting this information, Yves. I read the Post article earlier this morning and couldn't quite figure out what the committee of 12 was all about, from the description given by Lori Montgomery. The whole report was rather poor, I felt. The Post pretty consistently fails to explain what the cuts proposed to Medicare and Social Security actually are and what they would mean to beneficiaries and annuitants. And of course, the Post just doesn't seem able to give clear, objective reports on the funding and function of these two programs. Nor do they consistently explain what a default could entail.

I think the collapse of democratic participation in governance has to be laid, in great part, at the feet of the Potemkin press. People are being deeply misled by the over-coverage of the personalities and 'politics'; there is almost no detailed discussion of the budget, the debt, the deficit and perhaps even less of the actual proposals to 'solve' these perceived problems. Very few reporters have the necessary knowledge to do this job. The ignorance is compounded by the mainstream media's apparent aversion to providing a public platform for those who are not part of the player in-crowd. One of the consequences of this narrow spectrum of either-or views on any given topic is that many people look elsewhere for their information and find it where they feel their biases are most confirmed.

jpe

The proposal only impacts the internal workings of Congress, so while it may be bad policy there's nothing unconstitutional about it. The constitution is very clear that Congress can determine its own rules.

hermanas

12 gerrymanderd unbeatables does not reflect the will of the people.

hermanas

S.C.O.T.U.S. determines constitionality and their apolitical stature has been debunked.

Externality

This approach is similar to how the Bolsheviks destroyed the council democracy system that existed in the first days of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_democracy

The original idea for Soviet democracy was that average workers would elect the leadership of their respective local soviets, or councils. (The Russian word for "council" is "сове́т," pronounced "soviet." Local communities, factories, and military commands each had their own council.) The council leaders, would then, in turn, help elect the members of higher level bodies, who would in turn, help elect more senior leaders. This is analogous to the way that popularly elected state legislatures, before the 17th Amendment, chose US Senators.

The Bolsheviks turned quickly decided that the system was too cumbersome and allowed unwelcome dissent and debate. They initially kept the lower level councils, but concentrated all power the councils' hand-picked (by Moscow) executive committees (ExComs). On the rare occasion that the local councils met, their only role was to quickly rubber-stamp legislation written by the Moscow and the local ExComs. Failing to do so, the council members were told, would be disastrous for the USSR, global socialism, and for them and their families personally. 'The decision was made by the ExCom, comrade, there is no time to debate it here. Do you not trust the leadership?' (not an actual quote)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ban_on_factions_in_the_Russian_Communist_Party
http://www.amazon.com/Russian-Civil-War-Evan-Mawdsley/dp/1605980145

(Between 1919 and 1920, power was centralized even further, as the chairmen of the local soviets' ExComs were given sole authority. Finally, local leaders were simply appointed by Moscow to do the Party's bidding or chosen by the Party and "elected" in an unopposed "election." The next time a local soviet had any power or relevance was 1989.)

If the Super Congress system is implemented, the result would be very similar to that of the Bolsheviks' initial steps to consolidate power. The budget bills (and attached policy riders) would be sent to the Congress by the Super Congress days or hours before the deadline for debt default or government shutdown. Congressmen would be told that there was no time to read, debate, or amend the bill; it must be passed to protect the US and prevent a global economic catastrophe. As Nancy Pelosi would say, "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoE1R-xH5To Immense pressure, including threats of various sorts, would be brought to bear against anyone who dared oppose it. Policy decisions, in the form of riders, would also be incorporated into the bill by the Super Congress; favored companies would receive favorable regulatory treatment in proportion to their bribes campaign donations.

In short, Congress would meet primarily to vote on must-pass legislation created by a secretive (but intensely lobbied) Super Congress. The twelve anointed Senators would hold immense power over both fiscal and policy matters. 'The decision was made by the Super Congress, Senator, there is no time to debate it here. Do you not trust the leadership?'

Succotash

At first glance, this "super Congress" proposal resembles simply a glorified Joint Committee and there's nothing unconstitutional about that. What's disturbing is the abdication of legislative responsibility that this proposal represents.

If the initial reports are accurate, the new committee would initiate and draw up legislation. What will the rest of Congress be doing in the meantime besides rhetorical posturing and raising campaign funds? The Super Congress would in due course present the House and Senate with bills which can be voted on, but not debated or amended. The term "rubber stamp" immediately comes to mind. The resemblance here is not so much to the early Russian soviets as to France's legislative body under Napoleon, which could vote on proposals but not debate them.

Of course, there's also the problem of the Super Congress itself. Since its membership will be split evenly between both houses and both parties there's a very good chance that it too might wind up deadlocked.

There's more than a whiff of desperation in this idea. It seems to be an attempt in Congress to maintain a shred of relevance and to ward off a Presidential dictatorship next month. This is due to the fact that there WILL BE a Presidential dictatorship next month if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling. Forget about anything Obama or Geithner say now about not taking the Fourteenth Amendment into account. When the time comes, the US Government will not default on or suspend any of its obligations, period.

The legislative branch of the Federal Government, as established in Philadelphia in 1787, may be nearing the end of its effective lifespan. If representative government is to survive in this country, we need to cut it off once and for all and get a new one.

Dave of Maryland

Soviets are not quite the right idea.

It's a United Nations system: There is the General Assembly aka the House and Senate, and there is the hand-picked, well-controlled Security Council, aka Gang of 12, where all the real work gets done.

It's a significant advance on the Security Council. In the SC, you're stuck manipulating the same players over & over again. The US runs the place, but we have to work at it.

The Gang of 12, or 6 or 9 (whatever) are a rotating group picked from among 535 candidates. There's always going to be many eager applicants to do the King's bidding.

I thought that Bush/Cheney would find some way to annul the 2008 elections and stay on. But now I've realized that after eight years, the top leadership people are tired and just want to move on. On the other hand, the Gangs might just make their lives so much easier they will stay awhile longer.

Jessica

"I hate using the word "fascism" because overuse has weakened its bite, but trumped-up threat by trumped up threat, our government is moving relentlessly in that direction."

The other danger in using the word "fascism" is its Maginot Line quality. In other words, we become distracted looking for signs of a return to what top-down class warfare looked like in the 1930s and 40s in central Europe and because of that fail to notice the different form it is taking right now.
I appreciate Yves pointing out the details that tyranny by the elite is taking right now. The shift of power from (at least theoretically accountable) legislatures to deliberately insulated executive bodies is similar to the form that the European project has taken. Probably not a coincidence.
One difference between now and the 30s and 40s is clearly that the current elites are much, much sneakier and have way better PR. The use of pseudo-opposition in particular is new and diabolical.
Another difference, which Attempter may have been getting at, is that I believe our elites have neither vision nor coherence. They will have a difficult time holding together and will tear each other apart unless the non-elites take away their power.
That process will not necessarily be any less painful and destructive than the way in which the German elite of the 30s and 40s managed to unite everybody else against them, even forces, such as the US and the USSR, which were enemies almost all of the rest of the time. But the process will be different.
Finally, I wonder if much of the difference might stem from the effect of the first wave of unifying mass media (radio) in the 1930 compared to the current diversifying mass media (Internet), which generates more confusion and befuddlement than fanaticism.

lambert strether

Ah yes, Paulson's infamous Clause 8, the Authoriziation To Use Financial Force (haw). As to the eternal question, stupid and/or evil, definitely evil.

Viator

What's wrong with this article?

If you read the material you quickly find out that Rep. Andy Harris, renowned teaching physician at John Hopkins University Hospital, wasn't complaining about not having insurance. He was pointing out that for the first time in his life after having numerous jobs which always provided insurance from the very first day of employment his new government job only provided insurance after thirty days. A curious example of government ineptitude, particularly if you had an ill dependent, especially considering how urgently the case had just been made for everyone to have insurance. He full well knew he could remedy the situation with COBRA or likely a range of options since he was employed in a prestigious position at one of the nation's premier teaching hospitals.

So the link was pure left wing spin. As was the rest the the Alternet left wing propaganda and lame talking points.

Yves, you need to learn more about the Tea Party. You, they and some of your readers have more in common than you may imagine.

eclair

"We commented last night on the parallels between the pressure tactics used to railroad the passage of the TARP and our current contrived debt ceiling crisis. "

With emphasis on "contrived."

I've begun to see the current "crisis" as a kind of Reality Show. Not content with the humdrum and rather boring domestic sit-coms that deal only with day-to-day issues of the nation – birth, death, food, water, love and charity – the Congress has taken on the unscripted and insanely contrived premise of a Reality Show.

Imagine that we invent the concept of a "debt ceiling." We've reached the limit and to get it changed we have to get the two, philosophically opposite, teams to agree on a solution, with a cut-off date and the threat of a world financial melt-down to ensue if the teams fail to come up with a solution under the time limit.

Oh god, governing as Reality Show.

TV ratings will sky-rocket!

EJ Milbankster

The New York Times and the Washington Defense Post, incredible investigative reporting, I tells ya. Where o' where would we be without them. Wars, both domestic and foreign, rolled into authentic snooze, the likes of which are marginally more subtle then Murdoch product.

Terry

The "joint" committee combining members from both Congressional houses is not new nor particularly effective, much less frightening. "Joint" committees, including the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), have existed for decades, if not more than a century.

They have proven to be no more effective than their unicameral counterparts so don't expect any kind of secret deals rammed through Congress overnight–even if Boehner succeeds in making this happen.

Viator

Speak of the devil…

"The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."

"As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world," said Sanders. "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."

http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=9e2a4ea8-6e73-4be2-a753-62060dcbb3c3

Do you think the Tea Party is fine with this? Happy about this? If you do you need to do some reading.

How about Ron Paul and the libertarians. Think they like this?

Sufferin' Succotash

The Tea Partiers seem perfectly happy voting for the politicians who will allow these sorts of bailouts to continue.

If Ron Paul is such a staunch defender of the little guy, then why is that it take the socialist Bernie Sanders to publicize the $16 trillion giveaway?

Spigzone

It's useful to consider there is a fundamental institutional future survival reality driving a concentration of power at the executive and legislative level and the continuing, seemingly unstopable, build out of a police state infrastructure.

The world has now entered the age of Declining Oil.

A year and a half ago two internal studies, one by the U.S. Joint Forces Command and one by it's German Counterpart, were leaked to the press. (one might assume governments around the world have done their own studies) Both studies determined that by the end of 2015, worldwide oil production would be producing 10 to 15 mbpd than at present and DECLINING. Both studies anticipated a world of increasing wars, political upheavals, famines and so on.

Germany's response is a national drive to wean itself from oil dependence (and after Fukushima to do so with non-nuclear sustainable energy) and onto sustainable energy sources and implement strict energy conservation programs.

The U.S. response is to NOT prepare for this in any even slightly meaningful way as to let Wall Street and Big Energy suck maximum profits from the situation while preparing a fully equipped and frightenly efficient police state infrastructure to handle the citizen uprisings that are inevitable as their standard of living lurches downward.

What has happened to this point is only a foretaste of what is coming. And it IS coming and it IS unavoidable. Energy = survival. Reduced energy = reduced survival.

The U.S. needed to have been on a crash program for the last decade to adequately prepare for Declining Oil. The day Obama took office was the last chance, as unlikely as it already looked considering his post election choices, to inform the citizenry of this reality and it's ramifications and at least ALLOW them the chance to rise to the occasion. Obama, as we now know, decided the easier route was to just continue implementation of Cheney's Master Energy Plan.

Realistically, the situation has passed a point of a corrective political based solution. Individually, it's time to take action locally to prepare for the shit-hurricane that, in one form or other, IS coming to a locality near you.

Dave of Maryland

I love this peak oil / declining oil crap. When was the last time you went to the pump and it said, "empty" – ?

What we have is a peak money / declining money situation. When was the last time you saw any money? When? Years and years ago!

There are vast reservoirs of MON$Y$$$ right beneath our feet! We just need to DRILL FOR IT, BABY !!!

John Merryman

The problem is a global private banking system that is sucking value out of every other sector of the economy and lacks the vision to moderate its behavior, so that it is rapidly reaching the edge.

When it freezes up, local communities will find they need to develop mediums of exchange. There will be lots of out of work banksters offering to set up such a system, for a small fee. What needs to be promoted is that these need to be public utilities. They can actually be somewhat distinct from current governing structure, much as complex organisms have distinct central nervous systems and circulatory systems. Government is society's central nervous system and finance is its circulatory system. We are simply reaching a paradigm shift in how societies function.

BS

"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

This is about as meaningful as the signs in the all parking lots that say "we are not responsible for anything".

The courts have held otherwise. It will likely be the same thing here once a strong case gets to the courts on this.

[Jul 23, 2011] Sachs: America Needs a Third-Party Movement

" Measured on the continental European scale both of the U.S.-american parties are ideologically somewhere far right."

Jeff Sachs wonders why military spending isn't a large part of the budget talks:

Obama could have cut hundreds of billions of dollars in spending that has been wasted on America's disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, but here too it's been all bait and switch. Obama is either afraid to stand up to the Pentagon or is part of the same neoconservative outlook as his predecessor. The real cause hardly matters since the outcome is the same: America is more militarily engaged under Obama than even under Bush. Amazing but true. ... The American people ... have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts the military, ends the wars, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America's future

I've been wondering the same thing. Military spending has hardly been mentioned in the budget debate.

He's pretty hard on both Republicans and Democrats, e.g.:

The Republicans also misrepresent the costs and benefits of closing the deficit through higher taxes on the rich. Americans wants the rich to pay more, and for good reason. Super-rich Americans have walked away with the prize in America. Our country is run by millionaires and billionaires, and for millionaires and billionaires, the rest of the country be damned. Yet the Republicans and their propaganda mouthpieces like Rupert Murdoch's media empire, claim with sheer audacity that taxing the rich would kill economic growth. This trickle-down, voodoo, supply-side economics is the fig leaf of uncontrolled greed among the right-wing rich.

And:

at every crucial opportunity, Obama has failed to stand up for the poor and middle class. He refused to tax the banks and hedge funds properly on their outlandish profits; he refused to limit in a serious way the bankers' mega-bonuses even when the bonuses were financed by taxpayer bailouts; and he even refused to stand up against extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich last December, though 60 percent of the electorate repeatedly and consistently demanded that the Bush tax cuts at the top should be ended. It's not hard to understand why. Obama and Democratic Party politicians rely on Wall Street and the super-rich for campaign contributions the same way that the Republicans rely on oil and coal. In America today, only the rich have political power.

I've been hoping to help to change the course that Democrats have been on recently, and frustrated at every turn. Jeff Sachs seems to have given up. In his view, a third party is the only answer:

America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites. Until that happens, the political class and the media conglomerates will continue to spew lies, American militarism will continue to destabilize a growing swath of the world, and the country will continue its economic decline.

I'm not quite there yet (and I should note that I don't agree with everything he says in the article). I worry a fractured party would open the door to GOP control (though it could fracture both parties?), but what do you think? Is he correct?

bob mcmanus:

A third party would have little to no positive electoral effect, but is a useful and legal way to organize, and somewhat harder for the government to oppress when the serious authoritarianism begins.

"I've been wondering the same thing. Military spending has hardly been mentioned in the budget debate."

...is answered by...

"Our country is run by millionaires and billionaires, and for millionaires and billionaires, the rest of the country be damned."

when you understand that the oligarchy is now completely global. Saudi and Chinese and Russian billionaires have much input into US military policy. This was clear by 1991.

bakho:

The problem is that progressives are not even 20 percent of the electorate. Third party would make the less influential, not more.

People should get involved in party activities first hand before thinking about third parties. Being involved gives you some access to candidates and an opportunity to voice your concern and form caucuses.

A progressive caucus needs to form within the Dem Party to counter the DLC. In 2008, Obama managed to charm the progressive wing and then told them to go home.

FRauncher :

There is already a Progressive caucus in the House, with about 70 members. Obviously if they split now, the Democrats might well lose in 2012. If so, and if President Romney does not veer strongly to the left, the US will be ready for revolution or a third party in 2016. Is everyone ready to suffer for six more years to realign the the political landscape? If not, be ready to descend for the rest of the century into the lumpen proletariat.

This is obviously a moment of enormous social disruption not only in the USA but in the world. In such moments the US has always responded with a new political party, or a profound realignment. Remember that Fremont lost in 1856, but the momentum continued to build, and the new Republicans won with Lincoln in 1860.

So enough of this chickenshit response. Fight and hang tough for six more years.

Mark A. Sadowski:

Thanks for the reminder that there really is a Congressional Progressive Caucus. In fact here is their FY 2012 budget proposal:

The People's Budget

"The People's Budget eliminates the deficit in 10 years, puts Americans back to work and restores our economic competitiveness. The People's Budget recognizes that in order to compete, our nation needs every American to be productive, and in order to be productive we need to raise our skills to meet modern needs.

Our Budget Eliminates the Deficit and Raises a $31 Billion Surplus In Ten Years Our budget protects Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and responsibly eliminates the deficit by targeting its main drivers: the Bush Tax Cuts, the wars overseas, and the causes and effects of the recent recession.

Our Budget Puts America Back to Work & Restores America's Competitiveness • Trains teachers and restores schools; rebuilds roads and bridges and ensures that users help pay for them • Invests in job creation, clean energy and broadband infrastructure, housing and R&D programs

Our Budget Creates a Fairer Tax System • Ends the recently passed upper-income tax cuts and lets Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of 2012 • Extends tax credits for the middle class, families, and students • Creates new tax brackets that range from 45% starting at $1 million to 49% for $1 billion or more • Implements a progressive estate tax • Eliminates corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies; closes loopholes for multinational corporations • Enacts a financial crisis responsibility fee and a financial speculation tax on derivatives and foreign exchange

Our Budget Protects Health • Enacts a health care public option and negotiates prescription payments with pharmaceutical companies • Prevents any cuts to Medicare physician payments for a decade

Our Budget Safeguards Social Security for the Next 75 Years • Eliminates the individual Social Security payroll cap to make sure upper income earners pay their fair share • Increases benefits based on higher contributions on the employee side

Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home • Responsibly ends our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to leave America more secure both home and abroad • Cuts defense spending by reducing conventional forces, procurement, and costly R&D programs

Our Budget's Bottom Line • Deficit reduction of $5.6 trillion • Spending cuts of $1.7 trillion • Revenue increase of $3.9 trillion • Public investment $1.7 trillion"

http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=70&sectiontree=5,70

I don't recommend forming a third party. But I do recommend a determined, radically experimentive and outspoken (salty tongued if necessary, as people remember it better) challenge to Obama from the left (a la Huey Long).

PeakVT:

"America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites."

No, it doesn't. Given America's FPTP voting system, all it would do is split one side, because no party could position itself so perfectly as to draw equally from the two existing parties. Also, to the extent that it is actually something new (which isn't all that much), the third party movement called "The Tea Party" has made things worse in this country. So a third party isn't by itself a panacea. Of course Sachs is fantasizing about a third party that defers to elite pundits like Jeffrey Sachs for all of its policy positions, not a third party that could actually be formed in the real world.

If Sachs wants to help the public debate, he should instead figure out what side is worse (that's not hard) and apply pressure accordingly, instead of blathering on about a deus ex machina like a third party.

Fred C. Dobbs:

Military spending is 'not mentioned' because National Security is one issue that both parties ostensibly agree on. Woe betide the political party that is soft on Defense. Plus, lots of congressional districts do quite well on this, $$$-wise.

One area where 'Made in U.S.A.' is a pretty strict requirement is manufacturing-for- the-military. (A mere vestige of what got US out of the Great Depression. The last one, that is.)

Lee A. Arnold:

Third party would be an electoral disaster. It splits your field, and the opposition wins. Look at how the Republican Party may now disintegrate, because the Tea Party is such a coherent force within them!

Multiple parties leads to the sort of coalition politics we see in most other countries. Look at the Israeli Knesset. It is a crooked mess. When this approach ever starts solving problems any better than a two-party system, let us know.

The real solution is to understand that Washington is already a perfectly serviceable system, a mechanical chess game, a puppet-show whose strings YOU can pull, too. Advance the interests of a party to keep power, as you advance your own interests.

We are now over half the way there on universal healthcare; it is an inevitability if we can prevent its reversal. The hijacking of the debt-ceiling by the right to prevent tax hikes on the wealthy (up to only Clinton levels!) is almost defeated. It's a slow process, but so what?

If you really want to change politics in the United States, then change what people believe.

There is a complete, across-the-board rhetorical intellectual failure on the left. What the hell is going on? Why is there no simple, complete formulation of means and ends in public economics? I don't mean a string of mathematical models, I mean a synoptic prose presentation for the general public. Why is there no simple, complete explanation of how debt can jumpstart an economy and then be paid back afterward, without harm? Where is the material that the public should have access to? Why does everyone think it is sufficient to toss off snarky generalities?

Teach real principles of economics. Most people still don't know this stuff:

(1) Government spending on non-market necessities cannot hurt the market economy.

(2) Tax cuts aren't the only thing that causes economic growth.

(3) Rich people don't create most of the jobs -- most jobs are created by little people with good ideas and access to credit (and healthcare).

(4) There is no such thing as a free lunch, but innovations and institutions BOTH can make it cheaper.

(5) Short-term and long-term are different discussions.

(6) Politicians either can be believed or not be believed, but partisans can't have it both ways. And guess what: a new third party won't solve that.

Gnash Equilibrium:

I agree with those who say that our electoral system is fundamentally hostile to existence of more than two parties, and I pretty much agree with everything in Lee Arnold's comment. The problem is mostly in the power of money, not just in politics, but in mass communication as well, which means that most sources that shape public opinion are controlled by the extremely rich and work in the interest of the extremely rich.

I am not sure how this can be fixed as long as we have a reasonably large and non-desperate middle class. I am also not sure that any changes forced by a desperate populace would be for the better. The only thing I can suggest is for people who see and can clearly formulate what is wrong and what needs to be done, to speak out.

We need more Krugmans, DeLongs, Thomas and Bakers in public discourse. And we need to put moral pressure on those who know, but are afraid to speak out because it may hurt their incomes.

Dirk van Dijk:

Nader and the green Party were a key reason why W was elected in 00, to the lasting detriment of everything they stand for. Gore would have been almost as good on the environment as Nader, and few would ahve been worse than W.

Patricia Shannon -> Dirk van Dijk...

Exactly so.

[Jul 04, 2011] The President's Failure to Demand a Reckoning From the Moneyed Interests Who Brought the Economy Down by Frank Rich

New York Magazine

What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe. Time may heal most wounds, but not these. Chronic unemployment remains a constant, painful reminder of the havoc inflicted on the bust's innocent victims. As the ghost of Hamlet's father might have it, America will be stalked by its foul and unresolved crimes until they "are burnt and purged away."

After the 1929 crash, and thanks in part to the legendary Ferdinand Pecora's fierce thirties Senate hearings, America gained a Securities and Exchange Commission, the Public Utility Holding Company Act, and the Glass-Steagall Act to forestall a rerun. After the savings-and-loan debacle of the eighties, some 800 miscreants went to jail. But those who ran the central financial institutions of our fiasco escaped culpability (as did most of the institutions). As the indefatigable Matt Taibbi has tabulated, law enforcement on Obama's watch rounded up 393,000 illegal immigrants last year and zero bankers. The Justice Department's bally­hooed Operation Broken Trust has broken still more trust by chasing mainly low-echelon, one-off Madoff wannabes. You almost have to feel sorry for the era's designated Goldman scapegoat, 32-year-old flunky "Fabulous Fab" Fabrice Tourre, who may yet take the fall for everyone else. It's as if the Watergate investigation were halted after the cops nabbed the nudniks who did the break-in.

Even now, on the heels of Bank of America's reluctant $8.5 billion settlement with investors who held its mortgage-backed securities, the Obama administration may be handing it and its peers new get-out-of-jail-free cards. With the Department of Justice's blessing, the Iowa attorney general, Tom Miller, is pushing the 49 other states to sign on to a national financial settlement ending their investigations of the biggest mortgage lenders. What some call a settlement others may find a cover-up. Time reported in April that the lawyer negotiating with Miller for Moynihan's Bank of America just happened to be a contributor to his 2010 Iowa reelection campaign. If the deal is struck, any truly aggressive state attorneys general, like Eric Schneiderman of New York, will be shut down before they can dig into the full and still mostly uninvestigated daisy chain of get-rich-quick rackets practiced by banks as they repackaged junk mortgages into junk securities.

The director of the Academy Award-winning documentary explains how we're still discovering the depth of 2008's problems.

Those in executive suites at the top of that chain have long since fled the scene with the proceeds, while bleeding shareholders, investors, homeowners, and ­cashiered employees were left with the bills. The weak Dodd-Frank financial-reform law that rose from the ruins remains largely inoperative, since the actual rule-writing was delegated to understaffed agencies now under siege by banking lobbyists and their well-greased congressional overlords. The administration's much-hyped Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is being sabotaged by Washington Republicans intent on blocking any White House nominee, whether Elizabeth Warren or some malleable hack, to lead it. "We can't let special interests win this fight," said Obama when he proposed the agency in October 2009. Well, he missed his moment to fight for both it and Warren, and the special interests won without breaking a sweat.

Rather than purge the crash's crimes, Wall Street's leaders are sticking to their alibi: Everyone was guilty of fomenting this "perfect storm," and so no one is. Too-big-to-fail banks are bigger than ever, and ­Masters of the Universe swagger is back. Even Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, about the only bank chief not to be caught with a suspect balance sheet or a $1,400 office trash can, has taken to channeling Schwarzman. In June, he publicly challenged Ben Bernanke about the intolerable burdens of potential regulation-this despite a 67 percent surge in JPMorgan's first-quarter profits and a 1,500 percent raise in his own compensation from 2009 to 2010. As good times roar back for corporate America, it's bad enough that CEOs are collectively sitting on some $1.9 trillion in cash-much of it parked out of the IRS's reach overseas-instead of hiring. (How many jobs can you buy for $1.9 trillion? America's total expenditure on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over a decade has been $1.3 trillion.) But what's most galling is how many of these executives are sore winners, crying all the way to Palm Beach while raking in record profits and paying some of the lowest tax rates over the past 50 years.

The fallout has left Obama in the worst imaginable political bind. No good deed he's done for Wall Street has gone unpunished. He is vilified as an anti-capitalist zealot not just by Republican foes but even by some former backers. What has he done to deserve it? All anyone can point to is his December 2009 60 Minutes swipe at "fat-cat bankers on Wall Street"-an inept and anomalous Ed Schultz seizure that he retracted just weeks later by praising Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein as "very savvy businessmen."

Obama can win reelection without carrying 10021 or Greenwich in any case. The bigger political problem is that a far larger share of the American electorate views him as a tool of the very fat-cat elite that despises him. Given Obama's humble background, his history as a mostly liberal Democrat, and his famous résumé as a community organizer, this would also seem a reach. But the president has no one to blame but himself for the caricature. While he has never lusted after money-he'd rather get his hands on the latest novel by Morrison or Franzen-he is an elitist of a certain sort. For all the lurid fantasies of the birthers, the dirty secret of Obama's background is that the values of Harvard, not of Kenya or Indonesia or Bill Ayers, have most colored his governing style. He falls hard for the best and the brightest white guys.

He stocked his administration with brilliant personnel linked to the bubble: liberals, and especially Ivy League liberals. Nearly three years on, they have taken a toll both on the White House's image and its policies. Obama arrives at his reelection campaign not merely with a weak performance on Wall Street crime enforcement and reform but also with a scattershot record (at best) of focusing on the main concern of Main Street: joblessness. One is a consequence of the other. His failure to push back against the financial sector, sparing it any responsibility for the economy it tanked, empowered it to roll over his agenda with its own. He has come across as favoring the financial elite over the stranded middle class even if, in his heart of hearts, he does not.

The economic narrative of his presidency has been bookended by well-heeled appointees with tax issues. First came his Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, introduced to the public as a repeat tax delinquent, just too important to attend to the fine print that troubles mere mortals. This January, when Obama at long last created a jobs council, he appointed Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of G.E., to lead it. The Times did the due diligence the White House didn't and found that G.E. paid essentially no U.S. taxes on $14.2 billion of profit, even as it has shed one fifth of its American workforce since 2002. Were Immelt creating more new American jobs in his new administration role than he has at G.E., perhaps we could understand why Obama kept him on. But his only visible achievement has been to co-write a "progress report" on his efforts for The Wall Street Journal op-ed page in June. It read like a patronizing corporate annual report aimed at small shareholders-a boilerplate wish list of bullet points followed by a promise that "a more strategic view" would be unveiled by September, a full nine months after he took his assignment. Maybe he and the president can hash it out this summer on the Vineyard.

A recent poll put Obama in a dead heat with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney! The savior of the working stiff!

The roots of Obama's capture by the corporate axis of influence inexorably trace back to his own personal Zelig, the former Clinton Treasury secretary and Harvard Corporation stalwart Robert Rubin. In The Audacity of Hope, published in late 2006, Obama called Rubin, then busily cheerleading the excessive risk at Citigroup, "one of the more thoughtful and unassuming people I know." Two years later, when Citi cratered and threatened to take the economy with it, Rubin demonstrated his unassuming thoughtfulness by denying that he had anything to do with the toxic investments that cost taxpayers a $45 billion bailout and 52,000 Citi employees their jobs.

In his unseemly revolving-door career, Rubin not once but twice sped the Citi apocalypse-first in government, where he and his eventual successor as Treasury secretary, Larry Summers, championed the deregulatory policies that facilitated the consolidation of too-big-to-fail banks, and then in his $15 million-a-year role as Citi's "guru," where, by his own later account, he had no idea what was in the worthless paper the bank peddled to greedy dupes. You'd think Obama would have dumped him faster than he did the Reverend Wright, but that's misreading him. Obama is preternaturally secure on thorny matters of race-as his magnificent speech on the subject made clear-and could distance himself from his preacher with no ambivalence. It's "unassuming" braininess that's his blind spot.

And so a parade of Rubin acolytes entered the White House, led by Geithner, a nearly lifelong civil servant so identified with the financial Establishment that even Mayor Bloomberg mistakenly introduced him as a Goldman alumnus at a public event in New York last year. It's Geithner's influence on policy, however, not his persona, that proved fateful. Not until March 2010 did the White House get its first explicit, modest jobs bill through Congress.

Obama had taken office at a true populist moment that demanded more than this. People were gagging over their looted 401(k)s and underwater homes, the AIG bonuses, and the bailouts. Howard Dean rage has never been Obama's style-hope-and-change was an elegant oratorical substitute-and had he given full voice to the public mood, he would have been pilloried as an "angry black man." But Obama didn't have to play Huey Long. He could have pursued a sober but determined execution of justice and an explicit, major jobs initiative-of which there have been exactly none, the too-small stimulus included, to the present day.

By failing to address that populist anger, Obama gave his enemies the opening to co-opt it and turn it against him. Which the tea party did, dishonestly but brilliantly, misrepresenting Obama's health-care-reform crusade as yet another attempt by the elites to screw the taxpayer. (The Democrats haplessly reinforced the charge with marathon behind-the-scenes negotiations with insurance and pharmaceutical-­industry operatives.) Once the health-care law was signed, the president still slighted the unemployment crisis. A once-hoped-for WPA-style public-works program, unloved by Geithner, had been downsized in the original stimulus, and now a tardy, halfhearted stab at a $50 billion transportation-infrastructure jobs bill produced a dandy Obama speech but nothing else.

Obama soon retreated into the tea-party mantra of fiscal austerity. Short-term spending cuts when spending is needed to create jobs make no sense economically. But they also make no sense politically. The deficit has never been a top voter priority, no matter how loudly the right claims it is. At Obama's inaugural, Gallup found that 11 percent of voters ranked unemployment as their top priority while only 2 percent did the deficit. Unemployment has remained a stable public priority over the deficit ever since, usually by at least a 2-to-1 ratio. In a CBS poll immediately after the Democrats' "shellacking" of last November-a debacle supposedly precipitated by the tea party's debt jihad-the question "What should Congress concentrate on in January?" yielded 56 percent for "economy/jobs" and 4 percent for "deficit reduction."

Geithner has pushed deficit reduction as a priority since before the inauguration, the Washington Post recently reported in an article greeted as a smoking gun by liberal bloggers. But Obama is the chief executive. It's his fault, no one else's, that he seems diffident about the unemployed. Each time there's a jolt in the jobless numbers, he and his surrogates compound that profile by farcically reshuffling the same clichés, from "stuck in a ditch" to "headwinds" (first used by Geithner in March 2009-retire it already!) to "bumps in the road." It's true the administration has caught few breaks and the headwinds have been strong, but voters have long since tuned out this monotonous apologia. The White House's repeated argument that the stimulus saved as many as 3 million jobs, accurate though it may be, is another nonstarter when 14 million Americans are looking for work.

As culled from the president's public appearances.

In early June, the unemployment rate-7.8 percent when Obama took office and as high as 10.1 percent during his tenure-ticked upward to 9.1 percent. That cued a ubiquitous press refrain that no president since FDR has been reelected with an unemployment rate higher than 7.2 percent (as it stood when Reagan overcame a recession to win in 1984). Later that month, a plurality in a Bloomberg survey said the economy was worse now than when Obama took office.

The ultimate indignity, though, was a Washington Post / ABC News poll showing Obama in a dead heat with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney! If any belief unites our polarized nation, it's the conviction that Romney is the most transparent phony in either party, no matter how much he's now deaccessioning hair products. It's also been a Beltway truism that a Mormon can't win the Republican nomination, let alone a Massachusetts governor who devised the prototype for "ObamaCare." But that political calculus changed overnight. That this poseur could so quickly gain traction, even if evanescently, should alarm Obama.

It was on Monday, June 13, that the new state of play crystallized. That morning, Immelt unveiled his vacuous op-ed and rendezvoused with Obama in Durham, North Carolina, for a double-feature dog-and-pony show: a meeting of the otherwise invisible White House jobs council (only its second to date) and yet another small-bore presidential photo op promoting yet another green-tech employer illustrating the latest dim-wattage administration slogan, "Winning the Future." Unfortunately for the White House, the Times front page delivered another message above the fold that morning: OBAMA SEEKS TO WIN BACK WALL ST. CASH. Among the objects of Obama's affection interviewed was an unnamed Democratic financier who found it ironic that "the same president who once criticized bankers as 'fat cats' would now invite them to dine at Daniel, where the six-course tasting menu runs to $195 a person."

That Monday morning was also when Romney unleashed a web video startling in its brazenness. Mockingly titled "Bump in the Road," it dispatched a diverse parade of unemployed Americans (or actors impersonating them) to a desert, where each in turn plaintively announced in close-up, "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Though Romney (wisely) stayed offscreen, the ad cast him in the unlikely role of Tom Joad leading the downtrodden dust-bowl masses to salvation. Hours later, Romney aced that night's first major GOP presidential debate by again offering himself as an economic savior. His jobs plan? "Keep government in its place" and let "the energy and passion of the American people create a brighter future."

No one doubts that Romney is a shape-shifter par excellence, whether on abortion, health care, cap and trade, or the Detroit bailout (which he predicted would speed GM and Chrysler to their doom). In his last presidential run, he was caught fabricating both his prowess as a hunter and a nonexistent civil-rights march starring his father and Martin Luther King. But to masquerade as a latter-day FDR is a new high in chutzpah even by his standards. The only examples he can cite as a job creator are his "turnaround" of the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 and his ability to grow Bain Capital, the private-equity firm he founded, from "ten employees to hundreds."

By failing to address populist anger, Obama gave his enemies the opening to co-opt it and turn it against him. Which the tea party did, dishonestly but brilliantly.

The most significant workers he added to the payroll in Salt Lake City were sixteen lobbyists, at a cost of nearly $4 million, to solicit taxpayers' subsidies-"more federal cash than any previous U.S. Olympics," according to The Wall Street Journal. That's hard to square with Romney's current stand that jobs will bloom across the land if government stops giving any handouts (even to tornado victims, he said in the GOP debate) and lets the free market work its magic. As for his fifteen years in the corporate-buyout business, he was best known for the jobs Bain shredded at the once-profitable companies it took over and then demolished for parts.

It's a record Romney perennially tries to cover up. It may have cost him his Senate race against Ted Kennedy in 1994. In that campaign, Romney was stalked by a "Truth Squad" of striking workers from a Marion, Indiana, paper plant who had lost jobs, wages, health care, and pensions after Ampad, a Bain subsidiary, took control. Ampad eventually went bankrupt, but Bain walked away with $100 million for its $5 million investment. It was an all-too-typical Romney story, which is why Mike Huckabee could nail him with his memorable 2008 wisecrack: "I want to be a president who reminds you of the guy you work with, not the guy who laid you off." Stephen Colbert recently topped Huckabee, portraying Romney as a cross between Gordon Gekko and Jack Kevorkian because of the profitable mercy killings of companies in Bain's care. When Romney was governor, his record was no better. A Northeastern University analysis of his term (2003–6) found that Massachusetts was one of only two states to have no growth in their labor forces. The other was Louisiana, which happened to have an excuse named Katrina.

A Q&A with Randy Johnson, a union operative with unfinished business.

That Romney thinks he can pass himself off as the working stiff's savior and Obama as the second coming of the out-of-touch patrician George H.W. Bush of 1992 truly turns reality on its head. Obama's palling around with Rubinistas may be too much for his administration's or the American people's good, but Romney is a bona fide plutocrat whose financial backers include David Koch and whose idea of a joke was to tell a group of out-of-work Floridians on the campaign trail, "I'm also unemployed." Yet so far, Romney is getting away with it, and the Republican Establishment, smelling a savior, is happy to embrace and embroider his proletarian masquerade. Peggy Noonan recently anointed this well-connected son of a Detroit CEO and Michigan governor a "self-made" financial success. Should the ersatz Horatio Alger end up on a ticket with a right-wing pseudo-populist-Michele Bachmann, unlike Romney, is quite at ease with bashing Wall Street-it's not inconceivable he could ride a sputtering recovery further than anyone expects.

There's not much Obama can do to alter the economy by 2012, given the debt-ceiling fight, the long campaign, and nihilistic Capitol Hill antagonists opposed to any government spending that might create jobs and, by extension, help Obama keep his own. But the central question before the nation couldn't be clearer: Who pays? The taxpayers bailed out the elite; now it's the elite's turn to return the favor. Massive cuts to the safety net combined with scant sacrifice from those at the top is wrong ethically and politically. It is, in the truest sense, un-American. Obama knows this, and he hit a welcome note last week when he urged some higher corporate taxes for hedge funds and the like. But his forays in this direction are tentative and sporadic. You have to wonder why he isn't seizing the moment to articulate and fight for the big picture instead of playing a lose-lose game of rope-a-dope with the Republicans on their budgetary turf.

Some Obama fans think it's tactical genius that's holding him back-his fabled long ball. Americans are no longer as angry as they were in January 2009 so much as they are defeated, depressed, and jaded by the slow recovery and by four decades of raging inequality that tells them the deck is stacked no matter who's in Washington. Better, then, not to ruffle these still waters-or those easily rattled independents fetishized by political consultants-and instead scare seniors about imminent Medicare cutbacks and plot deep-think policy initiatives that (like health-care reform) might fix America over time. But the voters' placidity hardly augurs well for Democratic turnout in 2012. And it may not last. All that's required is one more economic panic to shatter the phony peace and whip the rage back to center stage, once again to the right's advantage.

"A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous," Obama declared at his inauguration. What he said on that bright January morning is no less true or stirring now. For all his failings since, he is the only one who can make this case. There's nothing but his own passivity to stop him from doing so-and from shaking up the administration team that, well beyond the halfway-out-the-door Geithner and his Treasury Department, has showered too many favors on the prosperous. This will mean turning on his own cadre of the liberal elite. But it's essential if he is to call the bluff of a fake man-of-the-people like Romney. To differentiate himself from the discredited Establishment, he will have to mount the fight he has ducked for the past three years.

The alternative is a failure of historic proportions. Those who gamed the economy to near devastation-so much so that the nation turned to an untried young leader in desperation and in hope-would once again inherit the Earth. Unless and until there's a purging of the crimes that brought our president to his unlikely Inauguration Day, much more in America than the second term of his administration will be at stake.

frank1569

Remember Sen Durbin's bottom line truth: 'And, frankly, they own the place.'

'They' being Big Bankster and their Big Everything Else Corporate Partners; 'the place' being the government of the United States of America.

Obama is nothing more than an employee of 'the place.' Employees do what they're told or they're fired.

indynyer978

Sadly it turned out Candidate Obama was an act. President Obama is one with Republicans and WS and the banks and the top 2% in general. I've come to believe the person I had such great hope in is most likely a Trojan horse put in place when the Republicans realized they could not get away with a 3rd stolen election. I do not believe in "Obama's heart of hearts" he cares about workers and especially does not care about the poor. Obama is fighting hard AGAINST the weakest and most vulnerable people in our country, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, children who are poor.

In 2009 Obama cut nearly a hundred million dollars for housing for the poor and in NYC alone about 3000 more people, mostly disabled and elderly, became homeless.

Obama is currently fighting with all his might to get Justice Department to make sure the states have to fend for themselves with Medicaid, little to no Federal help. We all know how much governors, even Dems like Cuomo want to help the poor with medical care or anything else, try ZERO! Cuomo like Republican governors wants to make sure NYS's wealthiest get tax cuts.

Obama is fighting on the same side as the Republicans to change the cost of living increases for those on SS is decreased to little to nothing as well. Most of those who rely only on SS already live very much below the poverty level. Most of those are sick, disabled seniors who are living on between 600 and 1000 dollars a month. Out of that they have to pay for rent, utilities, medications and "Luxuries" like soap and laundry and toilet paper.

Obama plans not one but TWO CUTS to Food Stamps, claiming the price of food has not gone up since 2008.

Obama has handed over this nations food supply to Monsanto, so even what little food the poor are able to buy is genetically engineered, void of nutrients Frankenfoods. Of course Obama and his family and rich buddies can afford the very best organic, grass fed food out there.

What happened in 2008 is that many of us were conned into putting the fox in charge of the hen house. That fox, that Trojan horse then hired his team of thieves left over from the past 30 years to make sure of one thing, the top 2 %, the Republicans, the right whatever you want to call them will bring to fruition the job started by Reagan.

Bernie Sanders in 2012! User ID:http://my.nymag.com/indynyer978 31 Minute Ago|Reply|Like

sheldongreene

The analysis is trenchant, but two extenuating circumstances need to be mentioned: 1) the role of the 24/7 media in polluting and dumbing down the discourse and 2) the dysfunctional Senate.

peterike

...Can Rich really be so naive as to ever have expected anything else from an ignorant hack politician bought and paid for by the monied classes? It's also hilarious that while Rich goes after the bankers in that classic "where's my guillotine" way that Liberals have,...

Other lines by Rich are simply hilarious in their blunt stupidity.

"While he has never lusted after money-he'd rather get his hands on the latest novel by Morrison or Franzen-he is an elitist of a certain sort."

This is such pathetic fan-boy chatter that even laughing at it can't do it justice. Every single word here is projection on Rich's part.

"He has come across as favoring the financial elite over the stranded middle class even if, in his heart of hearts, he does not."

Kook

History

will likely refer to this Presidency, as "The Goldman Sachs Administration".

Oh sure, there's a few JP Morgan guys thrown in for "balance" (like his chief of staff), and maybe some CITI guys, as well.

Watching the President plead for the acceptance of Wall Street Bankers, after he has already completely capitulated to them, is beyond Pathetic.

kentaub

No one pillories hypocrisy like the savvy Mr. Rich. That said, his articulate slice and dice of the moneyed class is no foundation for sound policy.

Sure, our president needs to push back harder against his opponents who, left to their own devices, would turn the federal government into naught but a corporate welfare, missile-building hall of mirrors.

But the president needs to keep the economy going and that means accommodating businesses large and small. Here's the thing: Republicans are brilliant at appealing to working class voters while doing just about everything they can to undercut their interests . All they have to do is focus on free markets, gun rights, so-called family values, and America-first sloganeering. The president has to get his populist mojo back by asking Who's America Is This? And then simply talking about how the Republicans have done done virtually zip for working people since 1985. Barack is both bright and clever. This he can do.
User ID:http://my.nymag.com/kentaub

mace

Obama is a total failure. His Hope and Change was just a down right lie like many of the other comments he makes. His total lack of experience is quite telling in the area of finance and foreign affairs. He is so hypocritical with his talk of all Americans working together when he is the most divisive President since Nixon. His total lack of financial regulatory enforcement just proves your points that it is the donations he seeks from the liberal left and the financial elite to remain in power. His anti war rhetoric is also hypocritical as he bombs Libya, Yemen and Pakistan with drowns. All we will get from this is a few Al Qaeda operatives, many civilian and thousands who seek revenge against the US.

On this Independence Day, we need to work to free ourselves from the shackles of King Obama and the Democratic and Republican elite who have no problem throwing the middle and lower classes under the bus for the spoils of war and Wall Street greed. User ID:http://my.nymag.com/mace

greggarcia

Nice to have you back Frank. Your voice has been missed. Beyond all the economic and financial lack of accountability you point out, the other very important area Obama has failed to address is the misuse of our intelligence in creating the Iraq war. With the true costs for the war now being calculated into the trillions, I still find it hard to believe Obama didn't want to learn and have exposed Cheney's/Bush manipulation of information.

How do we prevent it from happening again, and restoring the trust and integrity needed for governance, without learning and demanding the truth?

TomSwirlyKane:

No one here is dismissing the difficulties that Mr. Obama faced when taking office, but what you miss is that many, many people on the Left think that Mr. Obama has simply made the wrong decisions, not that he hasn't had time to act.

Let's take whistleblowers as a topic at random. Candidate Obama talked about the importance of whistleblowers; President Obama has been even harder on whistleblowers than Bush was.

Or what about criminal responsibility for the global financial crash (and as someone who spent years on Wall Street, it's absolutely clear that countless serious felonies have been committed) - or for torture? Candidate Obama spoke about all of these, President Obama has worked tirelessly to make sure that these military and financial criminals are almost completely protected from the consequences of their crimes.

Why is Mr. Obama starting new wars? Why is he using drones to cause carnage in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, countries we aren't even at war with?

I could keep going, but what it comes down to is for me and for a lot of people who *used* to think of themselves as moderates 20 years ago, it's not that Mr. Obama is moving too slowly, it's that he's moving in entirely the wrong direction on almost every front.

Kane: the article, my comment and other comments, all indicate specifically why we think Mr. Obama is doing exactly the wrong thing - instead of generically saying, "It's a hard job, don't expect miracles" (which you could say about any human and any job, ever), why not address our *specific issues*?

indynyer978

Sadly it turned out Candidate Obama was an act. President Obama is one with Republicans and WS and the banks and the top 2% in general. I've come to believe the person I had such great hope in is most likely a Trojan horse put in place when the Republicans realized they could not get away with a 3rd stolen election. I do not believe in "Obama's heart of hearts" he cares about workers and especially does not care about the poor. Obama is fighting hard AGAINST the weakest and most vulnerable people in our country, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, children who are poor.

In 2009 Obama cut nearly a hundred million dollars for housing for the poor and in NYC alone about 3000 more people, mostly disabled and elderly, became homeless.

Obama is currently fighting with all his might to get Justice Department to make sure the states have to fend for themselves with Medicaid, little to no Federal help. We all know how much governors, even Dems like Cuomo want to help the poor with medical care or anything else, try ZERO! Cuomo like Republican governors wants to make sure NYS's wealthiest get tax cuts.

Obama is fighting on the same side as the Republicans to change the cost of living increases for those on SS is decreased to little to nothing as well. Most of those who rely only on SS already live very much below the poverty level. Most of those are sick, disabled seniors who are living on between 600 and 1000 dollars a month. Out of that they have to pay for rent, utilities, medications and "Luxuries" like soap and laundry and toilet paper.

Obama plans not one but TWO CUTS to Food Stamps, claiming the price of food has not gone up since 2008.

Obama has handed over this nations food supply to Monsanto, so even what little food the poor are able to buy is genetically engineered, void of nutrients Frankenfoods. Of course Obama and his family and rich buddies can afford the very best organic, grass fed food out there.

What happened in 2008 is that many of us were conned into putting the fox in charge of the hen house. That fox, that Trojan horse then hired his team of thieves left over from the past 30 years to make sure of one thing, the top 2 %, the Republicans, the right whatever you want to call them will bring to fruition the job started by Reagan.

Bernie Sanders in 2012!

http://my.nymag.com/indynyer978

[Jul 04, 2011] Mark Ames Why the American Right Never Liked V.S. Naipaul

"Democratic/Republican fights are just an instrument of distraction. Plugging in right and left changes very little in this kabuki dynamic. The right sold out to the corporatists in word and deed decades ago. The left except for a tiny uncoopted sliver of it sold out in deed about the same time. What we see nowadays, epitomized by Obama, is the slow but sure closing of the divide between the corporate left's rhetoric and their actions. Change we can believe in is being replaced by calls for the necessity of cutting Social Security and Medicare, bailing out banksters, continuing and multiplying the imperial wars, and curtailing individual rights for all but the wealthy. More and more the Democrats and the liberals are pretending less and less about their real positions supporting all of these. "
July 2, 2011 | naked capitalism

Hugh:

This post is what is called a "righteous rant." It doesn't tell you what Ames is for, but it does give you a pretty clear idea of what he dislikes.

I've known conservatives who were honest people, but I have never met a conservative position that was. And I have always thought that phrases like "conservative intellectual," "conservative thinker," "compassionate conservative," and "principled conservative" were oxymorons. Truth be told, I don't have a high opinion of Establishment "intellectuals", like Krugman, DeLong, or Bacevich either. Invariably, anytime they give an indication of having a clue, they quickly follow up with something that shows, nope, they clearly don't.

I agree with those that say that the focus should be on kleptocracy. Democratic/Republican fights are just an instrument of distraction. Plugging in right and left changes very little in this kabuki dynamic. The right sold out to the corporatists in word and deed decades ago. The left except for a tiny uncoopted sliver of it sold out in deed about the same time. What we see nowadays, epitomized by Obama, is the slow but sure closing of the divide between the corporate left's rhetoric and their actions. Change we can believe in is being replaced by calls for the necessity of cutting Social Security and Medicare, bailing out banksters, continuing and multiplying the imperial wars, and curtailing individual rights for all but the wealthy. More and more the Democrats and the liberals are pretending less and less about their real positions supporting all of these.

As for that sliver on the left I mentioned, I said here once how odd it was that having progressive inclinations and favoring solutions that are both fair and work puts one today not just on the left but the far left. It's become the default space for those of us who support none of the above but still believe that our society can be fixed.

Bernard:

Wow, what an awesome column today. this guy Ames can call things what they are. and to watch the conversation, too. Ames really calls it in so many ways. the symptoms of the demise are staring us directly in the face.

like the last post said, any attempt to call a spade a spade is not allowed. the trickery of the left and right to control the conversation and avoid the facts of how we got here and who covers for whom. no one is completely "right", just the summation of their argument shows where the truth lies in what they say.

to see the path to today described so aptly. and the comments about the spite vote is so on the mark. "If i can't have it, then no one can." how to get over on everyone, cause i don't have mine" voter. and to enjoy watching your brother/sister get stabbed and then fried by the system. what always amazes me is the absence of connection. the idea that somehow this "greed/envy/hate delusion doesn't come back or wont come back to bite you in your own behind. like it is right now.

the simple answers to the Medicare, Social Security, the Banks and all the other socio economic issues are not allowed to be talked about. just so the Rich power brokers can keep stealing, keep on keeping on.

"nothing to see here, just move along" is all that is allowed.

wonderful blog, i am so lucky to have found this.

thanks for all the posting. i can't begin to say how much better i feel to know i was not crazy. Not being one of the "Powers that Be", thinking what i did about all those "lunatics" in charge of the insane asylum.

and what is also important is that the "diversionary" tactics of some posters are not working as long as common sense is continued to be allowed to be spoken.

thanks Yves, this really matters.

Nobody:

"the simple answers to the Medicare, Social Security, the Banks and all the other socio economic issues are not allowed to be talked about. Just so the Rich power brokers can keep stealing, keep on keeping on."

Isn't that part of what happens here?

[Jun 07, 2011] "Lifting the Veil"

June 7, 2011 | naked capitalism

Mark Ames referred me to the documentary "Lifting the Veil." I'm only about 40 minutes into it and am confident it will appeal to NC readers, provided you can keep gagging in the sections that contain truly offensive archival footage (in particular, numerous clips of Obama campaign promises).

Ames' mini-review:

It begins with John Stauber, one of the great anti-PR writers, and historian Sharon Smith laying out the flat rancid truth: That the Democratic Party of today is the Big Co-apter. The Republicans have always been the party of corporate interests; and the Democrats portray themselves as agents of social change and progressive/populist opposition to corporate power, but the Democratic Party's job is to co-apt these anti-corporate movements and subvert them to the same (or a different faction of) corporate interests.

To complete our two-corporate-party farce, we have an alleged third choice, a so-called opposition "Third Party," the largest "neither left nor right"/"neither Democrat nor Republican" third party for the past three decades. And that party is…ta-dum!…

Libertarianism. Which was nothing but a corporate PR project designed to co-apt the whole realm of Third Party opposition and subvert it to the most radical corporate agenda of all. In other words, even our Third Party/outside-the-system party is nothing but the most purified, most extreme pro-corporate party of all!

At this point you have to assume that the oligarchy is just laughing at us. "Hey, here's an idea–let's make the opposition to our fake-two-party system nothing but our corporate wish-list we send to Santa every year, and package that as the radical opposition." "No way Mr Koch, there's no way they'll buy it–everyone today who's against the two-party system is on the radical Left." "Just give me a couple of decades, and a few billion dollars, you'll see…" CUT TO TODAY: "Holy shit, you were right, Chuck! Ah-hah-hah-hah! The suckers have nowhere to go but right into our mouths–doors one, two and three our ours! Mwah-hah-hah!"

As black activist Leonard Pinkney says, "The Democrats are the foxes, and the Republicans are the wolves–and they both want to devour you." So what does that make Libertarians? Avian flu viruses?

You can watch it below or at Metanoia:

Foppe:

While it is quite obviously true (given earlier discussions) that both parties are pro-corporate, it seems to me that there is two moderately interesting points to be made: First of all, to note that, given the fact that politicians are beholden to their sponsors, the political dynamics were different (and the pro-financial-interests stance of the democratic party was less absolute) when the unions could still buy more candidates. Secondly, and this will sound rather obvious: not all corporations are the same, as not every US firm is interested in having the maximum amount of competition between nations, or in having a heavily financialized economy. These 'other' (sometimes called Main Street, but given the forays of auto companies into the lending business and Enron in the derivatives business I am not sure this is quite accurate any more) businesses used to also be able to gather political support, but they too seem to have been relegated to the sidelines. Why is that? One part of the answer can, it seems to me, be found here: (David Harvey, Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom)

In his Whitehall speech Bush made much of the fact that the last person to stay at Buckingham Palace was Woodrow Wilson, "an idealist, without question." Bush recounted how at a dinner hosted by King George V in 1918, "Woodrow Wilson made a pledge. With typical American understatement, he vowed that right and justice would become the predominant and controlling force in the world." Yet this was the same Woodrow Wilson whose attorney general launched the infamous "Palmer raids" against immigrants and "anarchists" that culminated in the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti (now pardoned as innocent). The Wilson administration ruthlessly crushed the Seattle general strike in 1918 and exiled the leaders to the newly minted Soviet Union. It imprisoned Eugene Debs for speaking out against the war and escalated its interventionism in Central America to put U.S. Marines into Nicaragua for more than a decade. Wilson: "Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused." … A populist nationalism has often dominated and operated as a powerful check upon liberal international engagements. The isolationism of the 1920S, centered at the time within the Republican party, stymied Wilsonian internationalism at home (the Senate rejected joining the League of Nations), while the imperialist policies of the European powers checked it abroad. Bush's subsequent advocacy of Wilsonian liberal international idealism, including attempts at democratization and nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq, suffused with the rhetoric of individual liberty and freedom, signaled a major political break in how this strain in U.S. foreign policy was to be articulated. The September 11 attacks and the subsequent declaration of a global war on terror allowed populist nationalism to be mobilized behind rather than against Wilsonian internationalism. This is the real significance of the widespread claim (accepted within the United States but not elsewhere) that the world fundamentally changed with September 11. That this is where the neoconservatives wanted to be all along is also deeply relevant. By contrast, large segments of the Democratic party, along with the traditional Republican right wing, have become comfortable with ideas of protectionism and isolationism (eventually looking to abandon the Iraq venture to its ugly fate). True-blue conservatives, such as William Buckley, mindful of the strong tradition of noninterventionism in the affairs of others that stretches back at least to Edmund Burke, became ferocious critics of the Iraq venture.

russell1200
"As black activist Leonard Pinkney says, "The Democrats are the foxes, and the Republicans are the wolves–and they both want to devour you." So what does that make Libertarians? Avian flu viruses?"

By that description, you could call them the useful idiots. They are the people working for corporate well being through individual liberty. To the extent that some (many) of them by the corporate line, the way that liberal democrats bought the communist line, I think that would be a useful description.

Dave of Maryland
8:40 am Communism – or Maoism – is about the only hope I have left.
alex
Another radical possibility would be democracy. Democracy as in one person one vote, rather than one [million] dollars one vote.

Nah, never mind, I'm talking utopian silliness.

bmeisen
One person/2 votes please. In other words when you step into the voting booth you would cast a vote for a candidate and a vote for a party. The one man/one vote, single-member-district-plurality system is what creates the 2-party oligarchy.
alex
I'm all for a mixed district/party representation (the Bundestag has such a system) ranked preference (anything other than first-past-the-post plurality, see Australia) and lots of other good stuff that I think would help, but I still think the blatant bribes (oops, I meant large campaign contributions) are _the_ biggest factor.

Even with the two party duopoly we used to have better representation than we do now, and if we had all the other good things but kept the bribery we'd just have a wider variety of bought-and-paid-for politicians to choose from.

ScottS

To be a useful idiot, you have to truly believe. Politicians are coldly cynical and calculating.

I'd say the media is much closer to "useful idiot" status since they believe what they are told, and don't understand much of what they report on. They are gullible, at the very least.

vraie démocratie maintenant
" foxes, and the Republicans are the wolves "

elephants as heretics say ,"donkeys are your hypocrites"

a mêlée to the death of heresy against hypocrisy --

Foppe
With regard to the video, it is quite amusing to hear how much Obama promised.. I wonder what would've happened if someone had just compiled a video like this of all the promises he'd made made during the campaign, and run it before the vote between Hilary and Obama.. Wouldn't it have made people slightly skeptical? Or was the atmosphere really that crazy that this sounded possible?
F. Beard
"So what does that make Libertarians?"

The only hope? True libertarians are opposed to central banking. Of course there are fascist poseurs too including those who desire a government enforced gold standard.

aet
"True libertarians"?

I have some of those living down the street from me, right next door to some "true Scotsmen"!

F. Beard
It's true that "true libertarians" are not in total agreement of what the proper role of government should be. I'm not sure myself. But one thing is blindingly obvious – the government backed banking and money system must be abolished. After that is accomplished the need for government should "wither away" in time leaving many arguments about the role and size of government mute.

We really need a broad coalition between liberals, progressives and libertarians against the banks.

Praedor
Fairly silly. The government (as per Constitution) owns/operates the money. It is NOT the purview of businesses, it is not the purview of banks. It is the absolute domain of the government.

The problem with the Fed is it isn't actually federal, it is private. A truly governmnet/people owned/operated bank should replace the Fed…and no, gold should not be the basis of money. Not enough gold in the world to work AND…the value of virtually worthless gold is entirely subjective. It has no magical inherent value. It is less useful than silver or platinum, being largely relegated to mere jewelry, caps on teeth (so fascists can pry them out when convenient), and a small (but actually useful) role in nanomedicine and electronics.

You didn't mention gold but being a libertarian…you are all infected with the religious belief in the magic of gold.

F. Beard
You didn't mention gold but being a libertarian…you are all infected with the religious belief in the magic of gold. Praedor

LOL! That is a huge laugh. Certainly people should be allowed to use anything mutually agreed upon for private debts but anyone who calls for government recognition of anything but its own fiat as money is a fascist, not a libertarian.

F. Beard
Fairly silly. The government (as per Constitution) owns/operates the money. It is NOT the purview of businesses, it is not the purview of banks. It is the absolute domain of the government. Praedor

But there's the trap. By insisting on a single money supply for all debts you serve the bankers' interest who are then able to steal purchasing power by extending credit in that money. And if you abolish private banking, then you'll cripple the economy.

The solution is separate government and private money supplies. The government can simply create, spend and tax its own fiat. As for the private sector, the banks would attempt to pyramid on top of the government's fiat but the leverage would be limited without government privilege.

With separate government and private money supplies, the private sector would be forced to share wealth with workers since it would no longer have the option of stealing purchasing power via money creation (so-called "credit").

hareli
I agree completely with Praedor
Tao Jonesing
@aet,

I think I understand what Beardy is saying when he refers to "true libertarians." Modern libertarians draw heavily from the works of Hayek, who redefined the "liberty" of classical liberalism to mean just "negative liberty" (i.e., you have liberty as long as you are given a choice). By redefining liberty, he redeifined libertarianism.

Most most libertarians have no idea that they're worshipping a maimed vision of liberty that invites fascism and totalitarianism.

? says:

"The solution is separate government and private money supplies."

So something close to what the EU is now. Maybe the Euro Dollar market, a libertarian playground. No god damn thank you. The ECB can't lend to governments directly and can't create money itself, that is up to the private banks. So governments have to borrow from private banks, at a big markup cost, and have to use their public utilities, services and resources as collateral. As I said, hell no. The EU is a right wing, financialized basket case. The people are going to have to radically change the ECB, radically change how the richer countries that are financial powers share more equitably with the poorer countries or it will crumble. As it is structured now, I'd like it to.

I agree with Yves Smith, finance is a public utility. We could collectively do what the banks do at a lower cost and the rents (cause that is all finance is, unearned income) could go back into social programs. I think North Dakota's state bank is something to look at. Allowing financial parasites to create money out of thin air (which is wealth extraction, not creation) in the fractional reserve banking system on a computer screen is no logical way to run a financial system.

Also, basing our monetary system on gold makes no logical sense. It is a 19th century idea well past its time. Karl Polanyi showed clearly why the gold standard was the project of neo-classical ideologues and he explained in the "Great Transformation" why the system was such a disaster. Expanding and contracting purchasing power, the consumption or resources and with it pollution based upon the value of some damn metal makes no sense in the world we live in. If we were going to base our monetary system on a resource of real value, why not it be water? I know it sounds crazy, but Adam Smith's diamond/water paradox ironically shows why this would make more sense. Smith showed that while diamonds have no use value, they have exchange value. Water however is extremely useful and needed yet has very little exchange value. Well, that might have been the case then with far less people, pollution and ecological destruction, that paradox shows the real problems we and economics are facing now. It is time to stop looking to ideas that didn't even work that well 150 years ago, when the world was a much different place.

liberal
Most libertarians are crypto-feudalists.
alex
What's so crypto about them?
wunsacon
Beard, you might want to call yourself something other than a "libertarian", because (a) you and I share some views and (b) self-professed "libertarians" tell me I'm a liberal (which I can't disagree with, even though I argue with self-professed "liberals", because I don't know what the hell that label is supposed to mean anyway).

Maybe we should refer to our politicalcompass.org scores…or not use labels at all and just talk about what policies we want to change and why.

F. Beard
From now on, I am an anti-fascist non-socialist.
woohoo
Libertarians reject the concept of corporate charters. That's a good place to start. no hiding behind the skirts of politicians. Full liability for all actions.
alex
"Libertarians reject the concept of corporate charters."

*Some* libertarians do. But is that, for example, a plank of the Libertarian Party platform?

That's why many people, including myself, don't take "libertarianism" all that seriously. Apparently it can mean almost anything. Therefore in serious political debate it's best to leave the ism's out of it, lest the debate degenerate into rooting for or against various teams (and forgetting why).

Clampit
You know for so few victories or votes, Libertarians sure do wield disproportionate levels of political power. Turns out they were responsible for banking deregulation and now come to find out, despite barely being able to pick a front man, they've already been corrupted by corporate interests. Golly whiz, I'd better run home to the Republicrats before any real harm is done.

I can't wait to see how the market anarchism movement is hijacked by corporate interests, so I can finally be privy to the error in their ways as well.

auskalo
A couple of months ago DownSouth put here, at NC, in a comment about an article by Chris Hedges, the link to Lifting the Veil and Metanoia, getting lots of comments.

It is also in Vimeo: http://www.vimeo.com/20355767

wunsacon
Yes, big thumbs up to DownSouth. I watched it after his plug.
Doug Terpstra
Same here: hat tip to DownSouth. He linked this video on March 13, in a "links" comment to the inevitablility of an imperial presidency. Coincidentally, the antidote du jour, was a fox (Obama?).

Obama commented on the $17 million bonus for Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase and the $9 million bonus for Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs after they melted down our economy: "I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen. I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system." (But Dimon is 90% savvier than Blankfein!)

alex
"That is part of the free-market system."

Dear Mr. President,

Most of the fictional works of George Orwell (a.k.a. Eric Blair) were intended as warnings, not recommendations.

tz

I am really tired of "If I want your opinion I'll give it to you".

There are not a few libertarians like me that consider corp(se)orations the undead monsters created by the Frankenstate. I would have them slain. Then the Koch brothers would just have the power two individual had, not the power they seized when liberals concentrated it in DC.

I know of no country where they want stalinist-maoist like power in the centralized government that doesn't have a nomenklatura, oligarchy, or other elites living lavishly and breaking all the rules.

I do not think it would be any gain to change which people are the oligarchs crushing me, which elites get to steal my property.

Most libertarians are their core are about liberty, so any power, and the corruption that attends, needs to be broken, destroyed, scattered, opposed, or mitigated.

One thing I can say is almost universal about libertarians is they care about THE RULE OF LAW. You know – the laws against fraud that if they were enforced, even from the old english common law, most of the wall street and DC elite would be in prison serving long sentences.

But what is your solution? Arbitrary assassination? Basically destroying the rule of law in the other direction with bills of attainder or ex post facto laws – with your supreme court justices gutting the meaning of plain words after being "educated" by your group?

We will replace a corrupt king with a reign of terror. Why should I want that? I want a second AMERICAN revolution, not a second French revolution. I want to destroy the cozy relationships that mirror the East India company. You just want to start robbing and shooting the incumbents. I wish to reestablish justice and the rule of law – then change the laws to make individuals powerful, not bureaucrats, oligarchs, corpseorations, or nanny-dearest progressives that don't think I know how to run my life or protect myself.

liberal
Most libertarians are their core are about liberty…

Yes; about crushing it in favor of feudalism.

DownSouth
Yep. It's not about liberty at all, but about license.

We don't seem to have learned much during the last 500 years, because Machiavelli did a pretty good job of summing the relationship between the aristocrats, the common people and the government over five centuries ago in The Prince:

[W]hen a private citizen becomes the ruler of his country not through perfidy or intolerable violence but rather through the aid of his fellow citizens, we may call what ensures a civil principality. I say that one becomes the ruler of such a principality through the support of either the common people or the nobles, for these two opposing parties are to be found in every city; and they originate from the fact that the common people do not want to be commanded or oppressed by the nobles, whereas the nobles do want to command and oppress them. From these conflicting desires will come one of three consequences: principality, liberty, or license.

A principality, then, can come into being either by means of the common people or by means of the nobles, depending upon which of the two has the opportunity. When the nobles see that they can no longer withstand the people, they bestow power upon one of their own part and make him prince so that they can gratify their appetites under his protection. Likewise, when the common people see that they can no longer withstand the nobles, they bestow power upon someone of their own party and make him prince in order to find protection under his authority. The man who becomes prince through the help of the nobles will find it more difficult to remain in power than the man who becomes prince through the help of the people, for the former will be surrounded by men who will presume to be his equals. As a consequence, he will not be able to command them or control them as he would like.

But the prince who comes to power through the support of the people will stand alone, and there will be few or none at all near him who will not be disposed to obey him. Besides, it is impossible to satisfy the nobles fairly without injuring others, whereas it is indeed possible to do so with respect to the people, for their wishes have more right, since they seek to avoid oppression while the nobles seek to oppress…

Praedor
9:41 am Nah. Most libertarians are, at their core, merely greedy and self-centered. Their true core orbits around "I got mine so f*ck you!" They all love them some Ayn Rand.
F. Beard
Technically, Ayn Rand was a fascist since she favoured a government enforced gold standard.
Foppe
And yet. The problems we are facing are not caused by the state, they are caused by corporate interests utilizing the state. However, with the state gone, all that remains are corporations on the one hand, and individuals on the other. These individuals could then choose to organize themselves in unions or whatever, but as we have just heard in the case of Colombia, what happens then is that Chiquita hires paramilitary groups to beat the union members into submission. Conclusion: you need a strong state with a monopoly on violence, but without it being controlled by the corporations. And as corporations are best at hoarding money, this means that the people need to control the corporations. However, fundamental to all of this is the idea that people need to be able to work together, and to make choices that will affect the lives of the plutocrats negatively. How do you justify that from within a libertarian position? You cannot. Ergo, libertarianism is a primitive doctrine which presupposes that we can live our lives without affecting the lives of others.
Alex R.
That's not true. There are two kinds of Libertarians; those who don't know that Ayn Rand wrote fiction, and those who don't know that Robert Heinlein wrote fiction.
alex
Best categorization I've ever heard!
Praedor
THAT, sir, is hilarious (and sadly true I must say).
ambrit
Fiends; What's really funny about all this is that these two "Shining Stars" of the Libertarian firmament were completely dissolute and venal in their private lives. There is a good reason why the "Golden Age" of Science Fiction has been known to be Thirteen. The age when puberty sets in and rationality hasn't fully been assimilated. As for Ayn Rand? On a par with Enlightenment Fabulism. Such as, A Voyage to Magonia.
Doug Terpstra
"'Atlas Shrugged' is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should." -luminary Alan Greenspan, recipient of the 2001 Enron Prize for Distinguished Public Service
DownSouth
tz said:

Most libertarians are their core are about liberty, so any power, and the corruption that attends, needs to be broken, destroyed, scattered, opposed, or mitigated.

One thing I can say is almost universal about libertarians is they care about THE RULE OF LAW.

Most normal people are quick to recognize the logical incoherence in this pair of statements.

The first is a declaration that all government power must be eviscerated. It is the Utopian vision embraced by both right-wing libertarian and left-wing Bolshevik, the return of mankind to the state of original innocency, a state which Engels describes as one of idyllic harmony with "no soldiers, no gendarmes, no policemen, prefects or judges, no prisons, laws or lawsuits."

The second statement stands in complete contradiction to the first, for it calls for using the long arm of the government to reach out and enforce "THE RULE OF LAW."

In the mind of a normal person, these two diametrically opposed positions are not reconcilable. So how are they reconcilable in the mind of the libertarian?

One possible explanation is provided by Andrew M. Lobaczewski in Political Ponerology: A Science of the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes. For the libertarian ideology, with its intolerable internal inconsistencies in the world of normal people, makes perfect sense in the us-vs-them world of the psychopath: license (which the libertarian beguilingly labels "liberty") for us, and the long arm of the law for them. Lobaczewski explains:

Their world is forever divided into "us and them"; their little world with its own laws and customs and that other foreign world of normal people they see as full of presumptuous ideas and customs by which they are condemned morally. Their sense of honor bids them to cheat and revile that other human world and its values at every opportunity….

In the psychopath, a dream emerges like some Utopia of a "happy" world and a social system which does not reject them or force them to submit to laws and customs whose meaning is incomprehensible to them. They dream of a world in which their simple and radical way of experiencing and perceiving reality would dominate; where they would, of course, be assured safety and prosperity. In this Utopian dream, they imagine that those "others", different, but also more technically skillful than they are, should be put to work to achieve this goal for the psychopaths and others of their kin. "We", they say, "after all, will create a new government, one of justice."

So the psychopath is a two-headed monster, preaching "liberation" and "freedom" out of one side so that he can have license to rape, plunder and kill at will, and tyranny out of the other side so that he can force those "others" to do and be as he wishes.

Tao Jonesing
This is no surprise. Modern libertarianism is, in fact, the pure form of neoliberalism. It was manufactured by the likes of Hayek, Rothbard, Mises and Freidman on the corporate nickel. These architects assembled top economists, lawyers, philosophers, and social scientists (and I am sure they had psychologists on board, as well) to construct a set of new sociopathic values and institutions to push them into the world as the societal values that inform all decision making, as Gunar Myrdall observed.

Many self-identifying libertarians are the very intellectuals that Hayek despised, the type of people who would have been Marxists in another era, if only to show how smart they are, which makes them the biggest fools of all.

Clampit
"…it calls for using the long arm of the government to reach out and enforce "THE RULE OF LAW.""

I see, without government there would be no rule of law. Peachy … I am governed therefore I am. Really nice essay, but can you also adjust the valves on your car?

Iolaus
You are governed and therefore you are civilized. You hold elections to decide who you want to govern, and they govern with your consent. If you are dissatisfied, you participate in electoral politics, and work to convince people that someone else should govern. It's a terrific model, and the U.S. ought to try it sometime.
Clampit
What if I don't want to outsource political power to a single person or faction? Is there some esoteric derivation of human nature that prohibits any other structure in civilized "free" society?

I can't help but reminisce on the wisdom of Greenspin when reading all these political diatribes, and it occurs to me that our political structure, perhaps more so than any other, should be accessible to the layman intellect.

DownSouth

Clampit says: "What if I don't want to outsource political power…"?

What makes you so sure you're going to have any power "to outsource" in the every man for himself, anything goes, might makes right, survival of the strongest, survival of the fittest, kill or be killed, dog eat dog world you fantasize?

Do you really think you are a match for the power of the likes of Exxon? Goldman Sachs?

DownSouth

The founder's fear of too much power in government was checked by their great awareness of the enormous dangers of the rights and liberties of the citizen that would arise from within society. Hence, according to Madison, 'it is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers; but to guard one part of society against the injustice of the other part…" This, if nothing else, required the constitution of public, governmental power whose very essence could never be derived from something which is a mere negative, i.e., constitutional limited government…

[….]

Highly aware of their own ignorance on the subject, they turned to history, collecting with a care amounting to pedantry all examples, ancient and modern, real and fictitious, of republican constitutions; what they tried to learn in order to dispel their ignorance was by no means the safeguards of civil liberties--a subject on which they certainly knew much more than any previous republic--but the constitution of power. This was also the reason for the fascination exerted by Montesquieu, whose role in the American Revolution almost equals Rousseau's influence on the course of the French Revolution…

[….]

Montesquieu confirmed what the founders, from the experience of the colonies, knew to be right, namely, that liberty was 'a natural Power of doing or not doing whatever we have a Mind', and when we read the earliest documents of colonial times that 'deputyes thus chose shall have power and liberty to appoynt' we can still hear how natural it was for these people to use the two words as synonyms…

For Montesquieu's discovery actually concerned the nature of power… [T]he foundation of the republic in America was largely inspired by it. The discovery, contained in one sentence, spells out the forgotten principle underlying the whole structure of separated powers: that only 'power arrests power', that is, we must add, without destroying it, without putting impotence in the place of power…

[….]

How well this part of Montesquieu's teaching was understood in the days of the foundation of the republic! On the level of theory, its greatest defender was John Adams, whose entire political thought turned about the balance of powers… He wrote: 'Power must be opposed to power, force to force, strength to strength, interest to interest, as well as reason to reason, eloquence to eloquence, and passion to passion'. ▬Hannah Arendt, On Revolution

Tao Jonesing
11:44 am Most modern libertarians think they're advocating Jefferson's conception of liberty. Unfortunately, the libertarian movement is not. Rather, the movement that you see represented by places like Mises.org actually advocates the fascist negative liberty of Hayek.

That's the double truth of neoliberalism By redefining words in common usage to mean their opposite, the neoliberals don't even ave to cross their fingers when they lie because their words mean two different and opposite things, depending on who is listening.

Neoliberalism purposefully takes advantage of the confirmation bias of people like you to accomplish the opposite of what you say you want. But "most libertarians don't . . .". Whatever. It doesn't matter what most libertarians want. What matters is what they think they want.

Jack Straw
8:50 am I am surprised that no mention is made of the Green Party, which unlike the libertarians or LP hold a significant number of offices. Jesse Ventura won office "with" the Reform Party, which later re-branded itself locally the Independence Party as Pat Buchanan became more prominent in the RP nationally.

While political promises are occasionally dangerous to break, they're also almost always impossible to keep.

I've noticed that grade school kids don't seem to have class elections anymore – anywhere. While it alwayes seemed like BS when I was a kid, not having them seems worse.

bmeisen
Good point – practicing democracy gives us a chance to experience different forms of democracy. Americans seem blind to democratic options, blinded perhaps by the belief that their democracy is the only democracy.
ScottW
9:31 am "Lifting the Veil" is one of the best movies I have seen that should be mandatory viewing for every Obama supporter. I remember after Obama was elected, a mainstream pundit commented that of course he will not keep any of his promises–no President ever does. Obama may have just snookered more people with his mesmerizing sermon like speeches following on the the heels of 8 years of Bush Administration terror. Obama's attempt to capture the conservative independent voter is going to backfire as he loses millions of former supporters who will either stay home, or vote for someone else. There is no chance he will be re-elected unless unemployment falls below 8% (maybe 7.5%) and it is unlikely that will occur before November 2012.
Praedor
9:45 am The opponent field is fairly weak so I give Obama better chances of staying in.

All bets are off if Huntsman actually gets the GOPer nod (fat chance him OR the hypocrit mormon guy getting the nod) with the teabaggers ruling the roost. They are likely to go for Bachman or Palin or Mr Macaca: none with the slightest chance in hell of ever getting elected.

DownSouth
10:51 am What great choices, no?

We're given the option between shitty and shittier.

ZADOOFKA FLORIDA
And they can't have another "census" to make the unemployment numbers go down falsly for 6 months.
kievite
10:50 am I really don't understand why the statement of the fact that both parties represent business interests generates so much excitement. The possible role of Libertarians as "spoiler" party is the only interesting tidbit.

I think the idea that the central foundational principle of the capitalist nation-state is that it is a reflection of its economic constituencies (those who own and control the means of production shape the state in the form that they desire) is with us since around early 1800th. And if you ignore all this nonsense about proletarian revolution and proletariat as a new ruling class Marx's analysis of capitalism is still worth reading.

The iron law of oligarchy was discovered in 1911. Financial capitalism as a natural and inevitable stage of development of capitalism was analysed by Lenin in his famous "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism" (1916).

The real question is what are the political possibilities for countervailing forces and which of them can at least temporarily survive and prosper within the polyarchy framework without being co-opted iether by Repug or Dermocrats (this is a term from modern Russia political vocabulary "dermo" is turd in Russian) ?

Political parties are organizations composed of blocs of major investors who come together to advance favored candidates in order to control the state. They do this through direct cash contributions and by providing organizational support through the contacts, fundraisers and think tanks. Candidates are invested in like stocks. For them electoral success is dependent on establishing the broadest base of elite support. Candidates whom best internalized investor values see their political "portfolios" grow exponentially at the expense of candidates who have poor level of internalization.

So what you have is a filtering system in which only the most indoctrinated and business friendly advance to state power. Representatives of the major business groups are also often chosen to fill political appointments after a favored candidate is elected (GS is a nice example).

This is a polyarchy, a political-economic model in which the state by-and-large functions to advance elite business interests on the domestic and international fronts.

And that is what is meant in promoting "democracy abroad". Like Mark Curtis said "polyarchy is generally what British leaders mean when they speak of promoting 'democracy' abroad. This is a system in which a small group actually rules and mass participation is confined to choosing leaders in elections managed by competing elites."

Cynthia
I don't see how Obama can sleep at night after he continues to pack his inner circle with key figures from the banking cartel, banksters like Bill Daley and Gene Sperling, especially after knowing that virtually all independent financial experts have said, as Barry Ritholtz points out, that the economy cannot recover until the cartel's member banks are broken up:

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/01/virtually-all-independent-financial-experts-say-that-the-size-of-the-big-banks-is-hurting-the-economy/

Only a sociopath with a heart of stone could lie for the banksters. And it sounds like Glen Ford, who co-founded the Black Agenda Report, would agree with me that Obama fits the profile of a stone-hearted sociopath:

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=6075

Doug Terpstra
Obama has now left a highly visible and smelly trail of slime and snakeskin, but such sociopaths apparently have no trouble sleeping at all.

Obama may be an especially talented case afflicted with something called "narcissistic personality disorder" (also from DownSouth, I believe) - an incurable sociopathy wherein empathy is exquisitely feigned but utterly nonexistent. As one shrink aptly put it - the snake pits of Wall Street and Washington are full of such "snakes in suits". Particularly dangerous variants are also sadists.

Hugh
Yes, it is all kabuki. Distraction is the primary weapon of class warfare, and the illusion of choice in politics is a central example of it.

Because people love sports analogies, I use the one that Democrats and Republicans are like two football teams. One year, one wins; another year, the other does. But at the end of the season, it's all football. It is not like one is pro-football and the other is anti-football.

The illusion of choice is not, however, restricted to just the two main parties. Libertarians, the Tea Party, the unions, the liberal orgs and A list blogs of the left, all claim to be legitimate alternatives to the two party system. But the Tea Party and the libertarians are largely creatures of Republican politics, and unions, the liberal orgs, and the A list "progressive" blogs are largely stand-ins for the Democratic party. Yes, all of these contain slivers of the uncoopted. There are authentic Tea Partyers, true libertarians, real progressives and liberals, but these can be and are discounted by our elites. For the most part, it comes back to the two parties, and they are just branches of the over-arching corporatist party of the kleptocrats.

A good rule of thumb is that any organization or group that supports any Democrat or any Republican has been coopted. They are not there to protest against the Man or the System, and push for real change. They are there to disperse, defuse, and redirect such protest to make sure real change never happens.

DownSouth
It's a bona fide nightmare.

The racial factor that Glen Ford (see link in Cynthia's comment above) raises I believe also plays a role. As he says, Black America is so "psychologically invested" in Obama that the president has been able to neutralize the black community, which constitutes 50% of progressive America.

So the old racial passions raise their ugly head again, destroying solidarity and any hope for an honest democratic community.

Why haven't we developed immunities to this evil?

I was watching the final episode of Adam Curtis' latest film last night All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (Ep. 3) – Full. Any hope of democracy in the former Congo was been destroyed by racial strife.

Cynthia
DownSouth,

Most blacks in the US don't see Obama as an Uncle Tom. They instead see him as a fellow African American who will give them a leg up in life. To them, having a black guy in the White House is their golden ticket to wealth and power.

But little do they understand that the US is far more divided along economic lines than it is along racial lines. So Obama being a fellow African American should be totally irrelevant to them. Once they realize that Obama's primary goal as president is to further enrich the wealthy, regardless of their skin color, they'll finally see him for what he truly is: a colorblind Uncle Tom.

alex
"To them, having a black guy in the White House is their golden ticket to wealth and power."

Evidence for that assertion?

Cynthia
Alex,

Living just a stone's throw away from the Black Belt, which can easily double as a Bible Belt, as well as being a white minority in a black majority workplace, I can vouch for the fact that many southern blacks view Obama as a Messiah for the black cause. And because many of them run neck and neck with their white counterparts when it comes to their bigotry against Muslims, if the Christian Right had been successful at convincing them that Obama was a practicing Muslim at some point in his life, believe me, there's no way in hell southern blacks would have come together to form a voting block for Obama.

Strange though it may sound, there's sizable number of Hagee-types among the southern black population, who view Arab Muslims as devils at work to wipe out the Angels of the Middle East, the Israeli Jews. I'm sure that Obama isn't blind to this and thus will go above and beyond to make sure that he doesn't inflame his faithful followers of the South into believing that he's working on behalf of the devils against Christ.

Doug Terpstra
Alex, this is a case where absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The Congressional Black Caucus has evaporated, and progressive champions like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharptongue are all but invisible. What happened to these camera-hungry publicity-hounds? And why did it take so long for Cornel West to finally come out and say Obama was a water-boy for the oligarchs?

The circumstantial evidence for the race-based neutering of the black progressives is overwhelming, and their silence is deafening! In a case of massive co-optation, the death of the liberal class among blacks was a massacre-a brilliant (so far) bloodless coup by the oligarchs.

See some discussion of this in "Smiley vs.Sharpton: A Potemkin Drama"

–"Sharpton and his crowd have devolved to meek and ridiculous access-seekers with no significant agenda to 'ballyhoo.'"

–""Black political theater was bum-rushed by the Obama phenomenon."

–""Sharpton made common cause with New York billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg's vast political/financial network."

-"The Reverend and his fellow unrepentant Obamites have been giving the president a 'pass' since he first appeared on the national scene."

http://blackagendareport.com/content/smiley-vssharpton-potemkin-drama-0

stockdude
Why is everyone so much into political "labels"?
Foppe
If you'll allow me to be slightly facetious: they are into labels because all they do do is talk. Many people seem to have an immense fascination with working together only with those people whose beliefs they can approve of. And rather than not asking, they want to know everything, only to find out that they really cannot agree with anyone, because they are all "wrong". Liberals (and to a slightly lesser degree libertarians) have this down to an art form, yet they never realize that this is exactly what is keeping them from organizing politically. Republicans, on the other hand, (and I am overgeneralizing here only to make a point) are mostly uneducated, and thus don't really have all that many (refined) beliefs to begin with. So they don't really care what others believe, so long as they agree on abortion/war/communists.
stockdude
And another thing… Lets all stop calling "the financial behemoths, the purchased politician"-–lets stop calling them the elites.

They are criminals, deceptors, actors, thugs, thieves, news generators and controllers. They understand the mass workings of human nature much as Jim Morrison did, however, in no way proper way are they "elite".

Elite is a description of honor and well honed skill.

Well then again…maybe they are the "master thieves". Regardless, lets stop using the term elite.

In the linguistic/mind ties that are part of the human condition, the use of the term elite is almost the same as conceding the battle right out of the gate.

rafael bolero
I think this film's p.o.v. is more true more often at the national, rather than the state level : the difference between a Scott Walker and a Jim Doyle is huge, despite Doyle's corporate future path now. Walker, the republican, is savagely grabbing power for his corporate masters, as we are seeing in the other red-tide states under The Inquisition. A democratic governor would not being doing what Walker is doing, or certainly not at this pace. So, nationally, yes, this is a more correct perspective, but at the state level less so. I think one possible solution is each state must become its own lab to reset representative government and the social contract those people want. Is it Vermont or New Hampshire that is setting up the single-payer health care? That's what I mean : and WI with the recalls. To what extent the Fed Govt. then moves in to block the state(s) from doing business regionally and coerce it/them to toe the corporate line will show how close we come to actual rebellions, which, if they do not remain non-violent, are doomed.
hell
To go back the the Adam Curtis documentaries from the earlier post……the electorate has been win over?/brainwashed?/surrendered to the idea that there is no other political system than the Reaganonomics model.

This country needs New Deal II. However Obama/Democratic Party won't deliver it either because they are closest Reaganistas or don't have the political spine to push New Deal II onto the political agenda.

hello
oops, meant to sign-in as "hello," not "hell." lol. apologies.
Schofield
As Mahatma Gandhi replied on his visit to Britain when asked by a reporter what he thought about British democracy, "Yes, that would be nice!"
alex
Sounds good, but I thought that's what he said when he was asked about Western Civilization.
ambrit
alex; I think, (tongue firmly in cheek,) that the former quote was elicited when Ghandi first came to England to study for the Bar at the appropriately named Temple.
Schofield
stockdude. "Looters" would be a fair description.
Anonymous Jones
It has always confused me how much people are drawn to politicians, something about human nature, I guess.

The latest Wikipedia-Sarah Palin-Paul Revere thing is instructive in this regard. The people who are rabid supporters of this clearly incompetent and ignorant woman are not able to understand that she is at heart a self-interested politician (only she's just not very good at it other than being attractive and an ignorant blank slate upon which they can project their hopes and dreams)? Why do they work so hard to be duplicitous on her behalf? I don't know.

You could basically say the same things about Obama or Nixon (well, except that they are/were intelligent to the extent one can have an objective measurement of intelligence (which, yes, is difficult)).

And libertarians. Yikes. Define "liberty." You cannot. Just like you cannot define "equal treatment" or "equal protection," which is either "treating people in different situations the same" or in some cases "treating people in different situations differently." I know, I really know, you *think* you can. You really believe you can. But you cannot. I've seen smarter people try. Trust me. These concepts are more subtle than you can possibly imagine. You could write tomes devoted to each one.

In any event, I've said it before (and I'll probably say it again), it's my experience that placing your faith in politicians is not as productive as you might hope and working locally within your own community to make life better for yourself and others is likely more productive (but that is just my opinion, I cannot prove it.)

Foppe
Define "liberty." You cannot. Just like you cannot define "equal treatment" or "equal protection," which is either "treating people in different situations the same" or in some cases "treating people in different situations differently."

So drop the philological stuff and just let people decide for themselves what they judge to be an instance of liberty, or equality. And when both sides have done this, we are in the situation to which Marx's Dictum applies: "Between equal rights, force decides." But you are correct. Life is messy. And (as the corporatists show time and time again): you don't have rights, you fight for them.

Foppe
To put it differently: many people who dislike politics have the idea that there is such a thing as the "right" definition of "equality" or "just behavior". Yes, there are some definitions that do not even work at first glance, but most definitions of what is just or equal or fair will pass this test. And at that point, epistemic considerations ("the right meaning") fall by the wayside, and it becomes a political battle over who gets the right to define the meaning of 'justice' in that country.
F. Beard
Define "liberty." You cannot. AJ

Maybe so but tyranny is pretty dang obvious. The banking and money system is an obvious example.

Praedor
I can define it for a certain crowd (libertarians and the GOP): "liberty" is a standin for "I got mine, ha-ha! Hooray for me and YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY!" It is also, "Every man for himself!".

Libertarians add 3 specifics as religious dictates: liberty equals "private property" that they can pollute, trash, despoil, wreck, stripmine, burn as they see fit no matter what the greater consequences to neighbors or the environment (as if "private property" is some law of nature and exists outside of being a mere social convention), guns, and a gold standard. Three things and only three things that they can CLEARLY define as "liberty": private property, guns, gold standard.

F. Beard
Actually, a government enforced gold standard is fascist, not libertarian.

Guns and private property are cool though I don't rule out the justice of wealth redistribution since we've had fascism in the US since 1913 at the latest.

Praedor
Here is a great layout of what is in store for the USA given the realities of our time – the dysfunctional politics, the hollowed-out economy, the social decoherence:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article23242.htm

lambert strether
Shout out to Black Agenda Report. They knew Obama was a fraud before it was cool!
Susan Truxes
Lifting the Veil was painful. All my heroes were there. Some of them still alive. And things never manage to change significantly. The chips are really down now for reasons we did not even imagine in the 60s. Things like the absurdity of the banking system; global degradation and massive overpopulation; uncontrollable exploitation of resources; disregard of lessons learned the hard way, etc. So maybe the most encouraging thing about Lifting the Veil is that they haven't won anything either. Both sides are still where they were 45 years ago. And the guy I miss the most is George Carlin.
John Bennett
As I watched this video, I asked myself how we got here from our ideal of the US. Then I came across this BBC series called The Century of the Self. It concerns the influence of Freud on history, political science, politics. and economics and ultimately on public policy. It is a four part series, each part is about 55 minutes long. The websites are all over the map. If you don't have time for all of it, at least do the first and last.

Enjoy if you can and then ponder.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-678466363224520614#docid=-3986506414855430309

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-678466363224520614#docid=-6203861489953762931

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-678466363224520614#docid=-6111922724894802811

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqeMYjbNkaE

Philip Pilkington
I must say, I've never stopped loving Ames. He calls a spade a spade.

The US is probably the only country in the world that has 'discovered' the liberty of libertarianism.

That either means it's highly advanced culturally - or it's sinking into a quagmire and justifying its own demise through absurd rationalisations that most of the world scoff at.

I'm not saying anything… I'm just saying…

F. Beard
There's nothing libertarian about our banking and money system.
Philip Pilkington
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology
F. Beard
http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism
Philip Pilkington
Alright, for once - I'm not even sure why - I'm going be a little less allusive than usual.

America is in a ditch. This is reflected in the minds of its people. They are confused about how to run the country. They think legitimate rule is equal to fascism and think that government is equal to tyranny.

They think that money is worthless and meaningless. They think that social institutions are lying to them.

In short: they are nihilists.

These are the ideologies of a failed power. And the citizens that partake are the discontents that reflect this. It's a tragedy and I wish it weren't so - because I like many American ideals.

But this is where we live.

F. Beard

Phil,

You guys have had 317 years to get central banking right and now you've plunged US into Great Depression II but you STILL think you have all the answers?

"Forever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth" comes to mind.

When will you give up on a money system that is based on theft, particularly from the poor?

Philip Pilkington

Never… of course…

Because you people keep chasing perfection, while others just try and keep the whole circus running.

Don't you get it? You're either a saint or a clown… and if you're a saint then you're irrelevant.

Be the best clown you can be and shut the fuck with your nonsense… Think FDR… not Lenin…

skippy

LMAO…I would like to put PP, Berady and DownSouth in a *Ranger Bear Pit* see:

http://www.pipesmokerforum.com/forum/showthread.php?652-What-s-A-Bear-Pit

Not to see whom won but, to see which two would form a team, to defeat the stand alone.

Skippy…in the tooth and claw days in was a pit, with mud and water in the bottom. Object was last man standing.

PS. Gnawing on the head is a no no, one way ticket to the psych ward for observation. Old chum did the no no, funny how under duress certain unobserved traits pop out….eh.

F. Beard

Because you people keep chasing perfection, while others just try and keep the whole circus running. PP

Few are laughing any more. Plus, reform would not require perfection. It would only require that money creation be ethical.

Be the best clown you can be and shut the fuck with your nonsense… Think FDR… not Lenin… PP

Both believed in central banking so no thanks.

Philip Pilkington

"Few are laughing any more. Plus, reform would not require perfection. It would only require that money creation be ethical."

…or it might require you to get off your ass. But I have a stark feeling that you prefer complaining.

Armchair nonsense.

The fact is that things are only going to change when you get OFF YOUR ASS and get out into the real world. When you join political groups - not to discuss gold-standard or whatever - but to engage in trying to change the political process.

Many Americans have forgotten this - and so they spend their time moaning on the internet. This will be your destruction - trust me.

F. Beard

But I have a stark feeling that you prefer complaining. PP

No, I prefer coming up with a solution and I pretty much have. If no one is interested, that's really not my problem. Seeds are sown but sometimes the soil isn't receptive.

alex

Philip Pilkington: "They think legitimate rule is equal to fascism and think that government is equal to tyranny."

Which subset is "they" and about which _specific_ issues do "they" think legitimate government is tyranny? Are you talking about finance? Do you have, for example, poll results indicating that the majority of Americans oppose financial regulation, are in favor of TBTF bailouts, or oppose prosecution for financial crimes?

Or are you reacting to editorials and (warning: confirmation bias trap) listening to the opinions of a few posters on the Internet?

"They think that money is worthless and meaningless."

Stand on the street and see how many Franklins you can hand out. Remember, don't coerce anyone into taking them! Perhaps you're confusing a grand notion of "worthless and meaningless" with a simple concern about inflation.

"In short: they are nihilists."

No, they're disgusted and pessimistic.

Paul Tioxon

Depending on how disillusioned you already are or prepared to become as a committed, politically aware and active individual, THE VEIL, starts to get at the structure of the modern liberal state. We are all managed, we are planned for, it is just hard for people to accept how unconscious they are. But at the same time, trying to get at the truth, the solution, the movement for a more democratic society, more democratic than what? It is clear that the banking crisis has lead to a questioning of the people who have the power to safeguard our social order in the most fundamental way and revealed the structure of power as it is, not as compared to what is real, which is a synonym for too many people for some ideal, some set of notions that only exist by virtue of language, and only in their minds. The banking crisis is as big a cultural change event as the JFK assassination was for many people. The lies were so thick you could could cut them with a knife and today is no different. But what is revealed in addition to all of the bad loans, the cheating investment bankers, the short sellers, the hedge funds is the naked power of the people who this entire economy serves better than the millions unemployed, the millions foreclosed upon and millions without health care. It serves them better than the people who retained their jobs and their homes intact. It serves them better than the city of Detroit that used to be a city of 2 million people and is falling to 700,000 and is entire city blown up into ruble, not just one big city square at NYCs ground zero. And Detroit, bombed back into the stone age looks worse than NYC, because their has been no sanctimonious rebuilding, no legends of the heroes, no how could this have happened to Americans in American and how do we prevent it from ever happening again.

Detroit almost had its brains blown out with point blank bullets to the head, but for the industrial bailout fought for by Obama. It is no accident that Detroit has been systematically defenestrated by corporate management and the rest of big business trying to kill the biggest and most powerful industrial union, based on auto industry workers and rippling out through its supply chains into the steel industry and the coal industry, all heavily unionized. Obama saved that union, its jobs, its health care fund, its pensions, at the cost of shareholders and bondholders. I still have not seen an adequate answer to these facts. There is a difference, and that is a big enough of a difference for me. The fact that so much corruption is part and parcel of American business is not news to the people who work on assembly lines, coal mines and steel mills. People die in industrial accidents in these lines of work every day, have been beaten, shot and seen their union leaders assassinated and disappeared in the struggle to unionize. Jimmy Hoffa, is a punch line of jokes that you would never hear about Martin L King or Robert Kennedy, but a union leader, is the shithead under the goal post at Giant Stadium. No holy marble monument for him. The people who the establishment are most worried about are NOT the people who actually have the guts to rise up and tear this country to piece when they finally have had enough torture and eating the shit shoveled out as the American Dream. The problem, for the liberal state is to not have a enough ameliorating social welfare reforms, including widespread healthcare, public education, higher education, good housing and a dignified old age without a broken down body and an adequate pension. If there are a 10000 billionaires, IF I still have a good LIVING, I really don't give a shit how much more money banksters make MORE than the pure and holy naked capitalism crowd.

The fact of the matter is, my living IS diminished along with my humanity by the actual policies that have been set in motions by the people who are in the process of setting a police state to contain the political upheaval heading our way, that they know for a fact is heading our way, because they are doing everything in their power to instigate a class conflict explosion. Attacking unions is part of a strategy, as is strangling the middle class. But that CAN turn around by policy changes, that are clear signals of a better alternative to shooting us down in the streets like they did at Kent State, Jackson STate and all across the country when we took to the streets. All of the social sciences are measures of society to make sure there is not a bloody revolution. Yes, to coopt to us so we do not kill one another. The number of bombings in the USA during the height of the SDS, was 3 a day. IEDs going off all over America, and in Europe. And since I am not a Rockefeller or an Emir or Sultan, I don't want a bloody insurrection, but the republicans on the other hand. Just listen to the 2nd Amendment final solution they regularly mouth. I would rather live through a political struggle than take my chances against the state and the reactionary armed NRA in a bloody conflict that would not change things much more than the French Revolution permanently improved the lot of workers. So yea, Obama is a brand, that is how you communicate to 310,000,000 people in a modern 21st century nation state. Surprise surprise. We are coopted instead of being beaten and shot. Well good, pick a side and push to take control of the state bureaucracy for the sake of green jobs, electric cars, solar panels, organic farming, credit unions, please, co opt all of these ideas asap. I can't wait to sell out.

Sy Krass
Paul Tioxon, it's that kind of attitude that will gurantee blody anarchy. :(
Septeus7

An am Interesting discussion so I decided to put in my two cents.

I think we are lacking a vision of what American civilization is about and what we want to do with our civilization. The lack of vision for a future results in two kinds of confusion resulting in two kinds of reactionary factions.

The above mention synthetic third party movement aka the "Tea Party/Libertarian" uses the rhetoric of freedom and liberty but being rooted in philosophical Neoliberalism they can only define those ideas in terms of freedom and liberty for property owners and therefore representative government must act to defend the "freedom and liberty" proportional to the distribution of property. However, since the rules governing the acquisition of property i.e. markets (primarily though the state supported FIRE sector as F. Beard is always pointing out) are rigged institutionally toward the concentration of wealth thus increasing "freedom and liberty" will only result in true liberty and freedom being eroded for those lacking oligarchical privilege.

On the other hand, seeing the failure of traditional paths of resisting the loss of political power because of self appointed institutional sellout "Liberals" and "Progressives" a few folks around here have began to look more deeply into the fact the all the institutional "Liberal Progressives" have in fact historically functioned as Mark Ames says " Big Co-apters."

After such disillusionment, I believe the reaction by many here at Naked Capitalism appeals to Anarchism, Malthusian doomerism and rejection of the very idea of "progress" and the hierarchies that the division of labor will make necessary.

The result is that it seems that the "Left" or democratic/republican/populist forces of all stripes are tempted into nihilism; saying that liberty, freedom, progress, and even the development of civilization itself are meaningless and cannot be defined and even if they could be, there would be no reason to believe in those things.

I don't think this kind thinking represents the best we can do nor is it a positive development for society. Rather, it is something that Adam Curtis has ripped off the mask of it's pretenses of Nietzschian superhuman ascension above the "Good and Evil" of civil society or Rousseauian romantics trying to liberate man from the "evil" constraints necessarily imposed by civil society and restoring him to the "balance of nature."

In the following film and interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjEsk2lBj8c http://www.littleatoms.com/adamcurtis.htm) Adam Curtis has I think demonstrated that such ideas rather than being scientific and politically neutral represent retreat from the culture and society. And can, in fact, be tools of oligarchs in much the same way that far right Libertarianism functions to capture populist outrage and neutralize threats to the Oligarchy.

The antihierachical movements, just like the hippy communes, have no chance of being the basis of reorganizing society and in truth represent nothing but cowardice. It is irresponsibly turning away from what is really required to have true republican government. What is required is the willingness to exercise pure, brutal, unrelenting political power.

The truth is that only way to change the system is to become the system for ourselves just as the Oligarchy has been more than willing to exercise the power of brute politics to become our current system through parallel organizations of government and bureaucracy. We democratic republicans must do the same.

Rather than something to be feared power must be embraced for what it really is…self government.

We must set up our own and superior form of government and assert it's authority over existing institutions and impose those truly republican institutions into the current structures and when we meet resistance we must declare all resistance illegitimate and an invalid usurpation of the rights of a sovereign people. We are the People…so "there is no alternative."

I have a very clear vision of exactly we in this country need to institute in order to create a more perfect union. If folks are interested, I will write another post for what I call "Republic 2.0″ because we need a reboot.

[Jun 07, 2011] Some Optimism, of a Sort

Economist's View

Is Michael Froomkin overly optimistic?:

Some Optimism, of a Sort, by Michael Froomkin: I don't know if he is a reliable narrator, but Michael Moore tells a good yarn in The Day I Was To be Tarred and Feathered.
I mention this because it sort of parallels something I've been thinking recently: the wheels are really starting to come off the Republican insurgency. It's only starting, and there's a some considerable momentum left before it collapses. And meanwhile a lot of people are going to be hurt. Indeed there will be a great deal of misery in the next two years due to what the national party does in Congress and to what state parties do here in Florida and in other GOP-dominated states like Wisconsin. But they've overplayed their hand. People are going to hate the results, and I think the pendulum will swing the other way so long as progressives are able to clearly explain who is responsible (and so long as most Democrats don't decide to play along).
Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." Whoever said it, I think it's true.

I don't think we should underestimate the ability of centrist, gang of six type Democrats to screw this up.

ScentOfViolets:

Perhaps that should read:

"I don't think we should underestimate the ability of centrist, gang of six type Democrats to (deliberately) screw this up."

Min:

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time -- and those are very good odds."

-- Bret Maverick's pappy

;)

RW:

Yep and that's why folks like Rupert Murdoch become very wealthy and powerful: In a country of 300 million, convincing even 5% all of the time and/or a larger % part of the time that your trash is gold generates significant profit; the margins only get better from there.

Mark A. Sadowski:

I recommend that we give them all the rope they need to hang themselves.

Let's nod with mild sceptical approval (after all this is the will of the people) every time they advocate eliminating the right to bargain collectively, pushing the burden of Medicare on seniors, gutting unemployment and Medicaid benefits, raising the retirement age to the point that only the wealthy and healthy benefit, and extending big tax cuts for "small businessmen" who are "job creators".

It ought to make for very good Town Hall videos.

Will:

It is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than to get Democrats not to *%!$# things up.

kievite:

Are they really two parties or two wings of the same party?
Or they are just labels like Painkiller X and Painkiller Y where both contain the same poison instead of aspirin. While both are harmful, that does not mean that they are identical.

The current Republican Party (aka wrecking crew) is a textbook demonstration of the forces that prevent any meaningful reform. They are really reactionary in a very preside meaning of this words. Not conservative, but reactionary. Somebody half-jokingly suggested that GOP means "Gas and Oil Party".

But Democratic Party is just another part of the same bait-and-switch system. It more like Big Finance Party and Democratic president looks like a " As Gore Vidal said "That loyal retainer of the Chase Manhattan Bank, the American [Democratic] president."

Another relevant quote:

"There is one political party in this country, and that is the party of money. It has two branches, the Republicans and the Democrats, the chief difference between which is that the Democrats are better at concealing their scorn for the average man."

Looks like country is pretty evenly divided and multi-year brainwashing can't be reverted until the current generation pass away or major crisis provided powerful deprogramming.

In a way President Eisenhower was deeply wrong when in 1954 he said:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

[May 09, 2011] Superman Renounces US Citizenship

May 9, 2011 | naked capitalism

DownSouth:

Yves said: "What is there to tie people to a country if they are at odds with its values…"

I think we have to be very careful when we use terms like "its values."

Do the values of America's current leadership reflect those of most Americans? Polls overwhelmingly show that they do not. The documentary film Behind the Veil ends (Minute 1:42:00) with some of that polling information:

So I don't read the current situation in the U.S. as being analogous to, for instance, 1942 Germany where, as Hannah Arendt put it in Eichmann in Jerusalem, "the overwhelming majority of the German people believed in Hitler" and Adolf Eichmann and the world he lived in were "in perfect harmony."

Could it not be said that America today is more like the Jewish sub-nation that existed within Europe in the 1930s and 40s?

The Eichmann trial took an unusually ugly turn when it revealed the extent to which Jewish elites had cooperated with the Nazis in the extermination of the Jewish masses. The Jewish leadership did this in the belief that they could negotiate with the Nazis to buy their own salvation.* As Arendt points out later, however, this did not always work. After they had helped herd the Jewish masses onto the cattle cars, they themselves were often loaded on. And Arendt did not stray away from reporting this. ("Even before its publication," she noted, "this book became both the center of a controversy and the object of an organized campaign. It is only natural that the campaign, conducted with all the well-known means of image-making and opinion-manipulation, got much more attention than the controversy, so that the latter was somehow swallowed up and drowned in the artificial noise of the former.") The instances of collaboration of elitist Jews with the Nazis were manifold, but perhaps the words of a former inmate of Theresienstadt summed it up best: "The Jewish people as a whole behaved magnificently. Only the leadership failed."

* Dr. Kastner, in Hungary, for instance, saved exactly 1,684 people with approximately 476,000 victims. In order not to leave the selection to "blind fate," "truly holy principles" were needed "as the guiding force of the weak human hand which puts down on paper the name of the unknown person and with this decides his life or death." And whom did these "holy principles" single out for salvation? Those "who had worked all their lives for the zibur [community]"--i.e., the functionaries--and the "most prominent Jews," as Kastner says in his report.

[Apr 12, 2011] Our Polarized and Money-Driven Congress Created Over 25 Years By Republicans (and Quickly Imitated by Democrats)

Apr 12, 2011 | naked capitalism

Political scientist Tom Ferguson prepared a short but important paper for the INET conference last weekend on how Congress got to be as polarized as it is today. His answer: it was redesigned quite deliberately by conservative Republican followers of Newt Gingrich starting in the mid 1980s and their methods were copied by the Democrats. Their changes resulted in firmer control by leadership (ie, less autonomy of individual Congressmen) and much greater importance of fundraising (which increased the power of corporate interests).

The extent of corruption may surprise even jaundiced readers. Both houses have price lists for committees and sub-committees. Ferguson delineates some of the many mechanisms for influencing political outcomes; they extend well beyond campaign donations and formal lobbying. Even though many are by nature hard to quantify in any hard or fast way, he does categorize them and has developed some estimates (see "The Spectrum of Political Money", starting on p. 23, and see also his summary on p. 42). Finally, Ferguson goes through conventional explanations of why politics has become so polarized (such as changing cultural attitudes) and shows why they don't stand up.

I strongly urge you to read the entire paper. Some key extracts:

Before a series of political reverses and another corruption investigation forced him from the scene, Gingrich and his leadership team, which included Dick Armey and Tom ("the Hammer") DeLay, institutionalized sweeping rules changes in the House and the Republican caucus that vastly increased the leadership's influence over House legislation. They also implemented a formal "pay to play" system that had both inside and outside components.

By contrast, the changes in House procedures and rules that the Republicans instituted proved durable: Democrats rapidly emulated the formal "pay to play" system for House committee assignments, leading to a sharp rise in campaign contributions from members of Congress of both parties to their colleagues and the national fundraising committees. Soon leaders of the Democrats, too, were posting prices for plum committee assignments and chairmanships. They also centralized power in the leadership, which had wide discretion in how it treated bills and more leverage over individual members:

Under the new rules for the 2008 election cycle, the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] asked rank and file members to contribute $125,000 in dues and to raise an additional $75,000 for the party. Subcommittee chairpersons must contribute $150,000 in dues and raise an additional $100,000. Members who sit on the most powerful committees….must contribute $200,000 and raise an additional $250,000. Subcommittee chairs on power committees and committee chairs of non-power committees must contribute $250, 000 and raise $250,000. The five chairs of the power committees must contribute $500,000 and raise an additional $1 million.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emmanuel must contribute $800,000 and raise $2.5 million. The four Democrats who serve as part of the extended leadership must contribute $450,000 and raise $500,000, and the nine Chief Deputy Whips must contribute $300,000 and raise $500,000.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must contribute a staggering $800,000 and raise an additional $25 million.12…..

Under Gramm and like minded Senate Republicans, partisanship in the upper chamber grew at close to the same rate as in the House, if less flamboyantly (Figure 2). A radically different tone began to envelope a body long celebrated for comity: Constant threats of filibusters by defiant minorities meant that working control came to require not 51, but a 60 vote "super-majority," while confirmations of presidential nominees slowed to a snail's pace when different parties controlled the White House and the Senate ("divided government").

The show of more political jousting helped in branding efforts by both sides, in that more frequent votes could be used to argue for fealty on certain pet issues. The media increasingly amplified themes used in Congressional debates, which increasingly led to a feedback loop, as messages that played well with readers and listeners were reiterated by Congressmen.

More from Ferguson:

Gingrich and his allies were painfully aware that transforming the GOP's gains at the presidential level into a true "critical realignment" of the political system as a whole required breaking the Democratic lock on Congress. So they shattered all records for Congressional fundraising in their drive to get control of the House. Their success in this is what polarized the system. The tidal wave of political money they conjured allowed Gingrich, Gramm, Barbour and their allies to brush aside the older, less combative center-right Republican leadership and then persist in their efforts to roll back the New Deal and remake American society in the image of free market fundamentalism.

In power, the Republicans restructured their national political committees and the Congress into giant ATMs capable of financing broad national campaigns to protect and extend their newly won position in Congress. The Republican success left the Democrats facing the same dilemma they had in the late seventies, as the Golden Horde first formed up behind Ronald Reagan: they could respond by mobilizing their older mass constituencies or emulate the Republicans. That battle had been settled in favor of so called "New Democrats" (Ferguson and Rogers, 1986). Dependent for many years on campaign money from leading sectors of big business where regulation kept recreating divisions – notably finance and telecommunications (Ferguson, 1995b) – the Democrats reconfirmed their earlier decision to go for the gold. They followed the Republicans and transformed both the national party committees and their Congressional delegations into cash machines, with the leaders in each chamber, but especially the House, wielding substantially more power than at any time since the famous revolt that overthrew Speaker Cannon in 1910-11. As the Republicans moved further and further to the right, the Democrats did, too, constrained only by the need to preserve something of their mass base.

If you want to understand elite dysfunction in America, this paper provides an illuminating, if depressing, view. Having made money so central to how our political process works, it isn't clear how to put that genie back in the bottle. And that in turn looks likely to perpetuate government catering to the needs and wishes of the very rich.

Rabid Cranky Troll:

For people who aren't familiar with it, Tom Ferguson is the author of a book called "Golden Rule: the Investment Theory of Party politics."

http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Rule-Investment-Competition-Money-Driven/dp/0226243176

I took his thesis in this book to be that the American political system was always (at least out to the late 19th century) dominated by "investors" – business interests that financially backed the two parties.

Here's another book that makes largely the same case: http://www.amazon.com/Triumph-Conservatism-Gabriel-Kolko/dp/0029166500

I wonder how he squares that thesis with this idea that rule changes by Gingrich & co. were critical in corrupting the Congress?

MyLessThanPrimeBeef:

We went from

a government of the angry people,
for the angry people,
by the angry people

to

a government of the rich people,
for the rich people,
by the rich people.

Chauncey Gardiner:

Thank you for a very insightful observation, My Less Than Prime Beef. … for besides monetary corruption and intimidation of the pols, your first stanza was employed as a tool to achieve the latter at the polls. The old Roman strategy of "Divide & Conquer" based on so-called "Values issues"is still being used by the power elite today. Think about the intentionally divisive political tactics and character attacks that were employed by Karl Rove; or, as moderate Republican David Brooks has pointed out, the hyperconfrontational current governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. Alternatively consider the underlying reason behind the recently proposed highly visible budget cuts to NPR, which has a miniscule effect on the overall federal budget. Perhaps there is a positive to all this, though. It has enabled the corporate-statist elite to avoid shedding blood, or alternatively sharing prison cells with Bubba as punishment for their ongoing looting of the American people.

john :

The contest of ideas that is supposed to be the core justification for democratic process has been turned into a market place. A bazar rather than a forum. Gingrich proved that politics could function like an investment, not an investment like Levy or Kalecki meant, but none the less a play where money up front could yield a lot more down the road.

What we are seeing is a new and more aggressive integration of politics, now functioning as a market, into the larger markets.

Managed Democracy in Russia Unmasking the Magic The Kremlin Stooge

October 11, 2011

marknesop: at 3:51 It is part (maybe all) of the Republican strategy to make the electorate disgusted with Washington, in the hope of once again seizing power on a wave of "throw the bums out". This is achieved through lockstep obstruction of every single initiative brought to the floor, even if a win would not be tactically significant or if allowing the bill to pass would be of immediate benefit to ordinary Americans including – especially – the enraged middle class. It is a simple and verifiable fact that the slide in lost jobs stopped as soon as Obama took over, and slowly began to reverse. It is now back in positive territory, although a country with a population the size of America's needs a hundred thousand new jobs every month just to stay even. But the suggestion the middle class is worse off is just plain wrong, although such quotes probably make the Republicans rub their hands together with glee.

If Americans fall for the old bait and switch again and elect a Republican government, they will be sorry. For one thing, the Republicans have no jobs plan. At all. For another,. even a tax on millionaires will not happen, because they are part of the Republican sugar tit that keeps them fat and sassy and able to say "We know how you feel" without laughing when they talk to the middle class even though none of them are actually part of it.

A study reported in the New York Times, conducted by a reputable researcher, compared Republican administrations and Democratic administrations from 1948 to 2007, over 26 years of Democratic rule against 34 Republican. It concluded that growth averaged out at almost double under Democrats what it was under Republicans, and that the difference over 8 years would equate to a 9.3% difference in average income. Nobody except the very, very rich saw anything close to that from Bush's tax cuts.

Although Obama supported the bank bailout, the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was actually signed into law by Bush.

Obama gets little to no credit for anything he achieves because of the barrage from the noise machine. History will reveal him as a pretty good and relatively progressive president whose agenda was shamelessly sandbagged by the Republicans. It's hard to say what state America will be in by the time it realizes this, because I doubt it'll survive another Republican administration. Their plans are for more of the same – more tax cuts, more alienation of the rest of the world and more throwing their weight around. And there's only so much money, so there's only so long they could keep it up. And sticking a thumb in Russia's eye will only make oil prices go up.

Richard Kline Progressively Losing " naked capitalism

September 11, 2011

kievite:

There are other important factors not mentioned above. I would mention three:
  1. First of all one of the fundamental reasons of the current situation is that the geo-political situation changed with the dissolution of the USSR. If in the 30th the existence of the USSR was an important inhibiting factor for oligarchy, now with the socialist model discredited it's much more difficult to advance what is called "progressive agenda".

  2. Another important factor was merging of renegade Trotskyites into Republican Party. That started with James Burnham and continued with neoconservatives. That infused the previously stale political party with new totalitarian methods of political struggle directly from Russian Bolsheviks playbook, such as importance of controlling the press, importance of grass-roots activism, importance of deception including breaking electoral promises as a fundamental strategy, etc. That created a new generation of party functionaries represented by such figures as Karl Rove which made the party much more viable politically. All-in-all this was instrumental in creating unique political force which proved to be very effective in neutralizing opposition (See "What's wrong with Kansas").

  3. The third important factor is that two party system was perfected for serving the interests of oligarchy. It's called polyarchy - the system where voters are limited to voting among two pre-selected representatives of the oligarchy. This is noticeable improvement over the USSR one party rule but with the same net result - political challenge is very difficult. In reality Democratic Party in not a separate party, but an integral part of the two prong bait-and-switch system with a special function of preventing meaningful reform. In other words it is a branch of single party, the party of oligarchy but it is a branch with a special function, the function of a spoiler. While the second part is allowed to show its true face, this one is not. If selection of candidates is performed strictly by the party machine, then elections became a farce. You always face a choice between bad candidate and even worse candidate. For example, between Obama and Tea Party candidate. In this situation the vote for any third candidate became a vote for Tea Party. So electorate is held hostage by two, pre-selected by oligarchy, candidates and is allowed only to chose between them. Classic example of this mechanism in action was the the role of Nader in Gore vs. Bush election. This is the key mechanism of "managed democracy" or as it is called "inverted totalitarianism".

attempter:

Progressivism is by now not in fact a faith in the future, but another kind of conservatism. A strong proof of the political progressives' lack of faith in the future is their characteristic desperation to grab any crumb they can get right now, their inability to ever gamble the possibilities of the moment in expectation of a much bigger payoff down the road, and their delusions which turn the most empty words and the simulation of "access" into actual achievements. In all this, the progressives are even more focused on short-term gain than the banksters. (Of course the actual gains made in that short term are rather different between the two.)

So there's one piece of evidence, from the political world, that the faith in progress itself is dying, even as so many still profess a superficial attachment to it. So what's the nature of this continued attachment? I've already said it – it's another kind of conservatism. "Progress" is another form of the ideology of clinging to what little one has and trying to prevent any change at all. Thus progressivism joins conservatism as a clod in the way of change, and also joins it in the paradoxical consent to the destructive rampage of capitalism which as part of its totalitarian wave of change is submerging them both.

Liberalism isn't primarily a moral position but a practical attachment to personal liberty and property.

It's typically bourgeois, and differs from modern "libertarianism" only in degree, not in any sort of principle. (Liberal "morality" is really a mood or whim to be indulged when times are good, but jettisoned the moment the going gets tough.)

As of 2011, I would say that progressivism is broader and better known than at any time in American history, not least because of the validation and presence of past success.

And shallower. And not least because of how profoundly it has sold out and become an astroturfing apparatus.

Winning elections doesn't matter; passing laws and regulations, and winning court decisions on their basis is what matters. The former may lead to the latter, but it hasn't for twenty years at least.

Hmm, heckuva job with the latter. I guess that's why we're in such good shape now, because "representative" government and its "rule of law" work so well.

I admit I fail to follow how faith in elections themselves is childish but not faith in the laws and court decisions that follow from them. Both are accouterments of representative government, which the post already acknowledges is intrinsically bourgeois and guarantees bourgeois outcomes. Madison and Hamilton already explicitly said so back in the Federalist papers.

Progressive actions are wholly defensive rather than offensive

This is because of their indelible timid conservatism like I described above.

On the radical side, employer based privileges (i.e. 'contracts') will continue to be broad-base losers for left liberals, exactly because they inherently favor 'some, not all.' The workplace organizing model was always compromised; in the US, it has failed.

My idea of true radicals (i.e., those whose positions are in an absolute sense moderate and common-sensical) is those who recognize the irrationality and immorality of "employment" as such. Those who merely want to reform it hardly qualify as "radicals" by now. Radical-chic liberals, at best, which means selling out in the end.

Issue- and instance-specific campaigns such as opposition to fracking run into the same problems. If you are directly effected, it's a crisis; if you live 100 miles away, it's not your problem (seemingly).

These campaigns are seldom placed in the proper context of a general economic critique. I'm peripherally involved in an anti-fracking campaign (i.e., not really involved, but I know some people who are and sometimes chat with them about it), and when I phrase things in ways that place it in the context of Peak Oil and corporatism, people are interested, but it's clearly not the way they normally think and express themselves. I haven't asked, but I suppose even if they agreed with the anti-corporatist critique they'd be scared to make it part of the message, for fear of being called commies or something. But I think not only is that fear incorrect (anti-corporatism can easily become popular where consistently argued), but it's the unwillingness to encompass specific issues within the general truth which dooms them to these "does it affect me" ghettos.

Any such agenda is going to be anti-corporate, anti-poverty, pro-education (and job re-education), and pro-regulation.

I see. It's going to be anti-corporate but pro-State (and pro-"job", i.e. exploitation), and therefore pro-corporate. (For those who would dispute this, it might help if you could name any State which has ever existed which was anti-corporate.)

We are not in a time for converting but one for confronting; not a time for compromise but a time for direct action. Holding actions are a way to lose slowly, an offensive program is needed.

Progressives have successfully stamped Big Capital as 'anti-us' historically, and they need to return to this. Those active for social reform have to forget about the electoral cycle. They have to forget about what the lunatic Right is doing as much as possible and concentrate on what they themselves are in process of accomplishing. They need a compact reform agenda (yes, bullet points and not more than ten of them). They need a defined activist strategy, no matter how large the difficulties or time horizon appear. They need to build genuinely activist organizations with specific plans to achieve a core set of goals. And they have to reclaim militancy as a word, and deed, of pride. If they do those things, they will make real progress, and moreover they will be ready when the moment comes for breakthrough amongst the wider society.

That's all true, but progressivism isn't the ideology which can do it, and "progressives" sure ain't the human material. And really, how is anyone to be induced to fight and sacrifice like this in order to more effectively win elections in ten years or whatever, in order to then get the Better Elites who will pass the Better Laws and eventually appoint the Better Judges who will hand down (evocative term, eh?) the Better Decisions? That's all what's implied by the reform program outlined above.

I guess if Better Representativeness were the picayune limits of one's vision, one might as well just keep voting Democrat now and hoping for Better Democrats. All the rest here is just a sublimated version of that. So why wait?

And indeed, that's the only behavior that can be expected from such a meager appeal. Because, like I started out saying, progressives are scared little conservatives. So the prescription is a mismatch between the message and the audience. Those who would find the vision appealing will never fight for it. Those willing to fight will find it wretchedly insufficient, and probably impossible to boot, since all the evidence is that reformism can't work.

Should Elizabeth Warren Run for President " naked capitalism

August 1, 2011

James Myers

an extraordinarily bad idea born of honest frustration. EW is reality based, part of her appeal. Running for offices with no chance of winning is both a fools errand and a desperate stunt. EW running for officice is doing the devils work for him. We actually want to win the MA seat back as a t-part Senate would cost the US mightily. Running at O from the left puts the T-party in the WH. That's a nightmare. Her reputation as a serious financial reformer is damaged every time she looses. Her & our best bet is that O holds on for a second term and that the political winds change so she can be appointed to some financial office toward the end of the next term, otherwise her public service career is largely over. And that would be a shame. A deep bench of financial reformers with her CV is essential, few were minted under Clinton, and none so far under O. She's too valuble to squander in a cheap political stunt.

Foppe
I take it you're a believer in the idea that poor Obama is just outmaneuvered at every turn by those dastardly tea partiers? And that the fellow desperately wants to do the right thing, but simply has no idea how he can put the heat on the other side, as he has no idea how to utilize the media to create a narrative (like, say, "yes we can")?
Might I suggest you watch this video?
Yves Smith
With all due respect, you either cannot read or did not bother to.

If she primaries Obama, she will not be in the general election. Duh. He will win the Democratic nomination (unless he drops dead of a heart attack and it not running at all). I clearly nixed a third party run. So there is no risk of her throwing the election to the Tea Party.

And you are smoking a lot of hopium if you think he will win. If the economy continues on its downward trajectory or merely stays flat (almost assured) Obama will lose. HIs engineering of phony debt ceiling crisis to ram through austerian policies is proof he is not worthy of support. I have diehard lefties who are so mad at Obama that they will vote for the Republican candidate just to screw him.

And are you actually in Mass? I hear from both liberals and centrists in that state that Scott Brown is very well liked. He is perceived to be doing a good job for Massachusetts. He will easily raise 2-3x the money Warren would raise, he has the advantages of an incumbent, and she will dissipate funds in a primary campaign (there is an existing candidate she'd have to beat).

I'd much rather have her run for President and lose, that enhances her stature and gives her lots of national media play. Running in Mass and losing would be taken as proof that her agenda lacks popular support.

I can't imagine she will run for the Senate. 44 Senators have already said they hate her guts. We've discussed at length in this and other posts why having her run for the Senate is a way of cashiering her.

Middle Seaman
Senators are professional politician. They spend their time in committees, constituent work and raising money. Warren cannot and should not become a politician; it will hamper her main work: work for the poor and the middle class.

Obama is the enemy of the American people; he is inept, lacks basic smarts, the worst negotiator ever born and a reactionary. Warren, Howard Dean and may be Admiral Mullen should run against Obama in the primaries.

Most of my friends, colleagues at work (academia) and I are not going to vote for Obama. Doing so is voting for the Tea Party.

and i
"I have diehard lefties who are so mad at Obama that they will vote for the Republican candidate just to screw him. "

Ha ha! That's me! I thought I was one of the only ones, I'm looking forward to Voting for the crazy lady, and maybe even more, telling Obamabots about it and watching them writhe.

KnotRP
The problem with Elizabeth Warren running for Senate is that the Massachusetts Democratic Party isn't that liberal and has a long history of giving no support to liberals in general elections. Support for Ted Kennedy was tribal, in spite of his liberalism, not because of it.

She will win in Cambridge and Amherst, lose the Western suburbs, and not make up the difference in the cities. The Boston machine won't go all out to support a Cambridge liberal. Richie Neal and the Springfield machine won't lift a finger. The cities have repeatedly failed to produce a sufficient turnout for a true liberal to win statewide.

Where are the votes for a Harvard professor to beat a Boston suburbs republican? I can't see how she wins the Senate.

Notorious P.A.T.
Right. Remember how Ronald Reagan's unsuccessful run for president in 1976 and Barry Goldwater's run in 1964 did nothing to advance the conservative agenda? I have heard sooo many conservatives say they wish that had never happened!
Foppe
This post by Glenn Greenwald sums it up fairly well (his second post on this topic in 24hrs; somewhat uncharacteristic): 'The myth of Obama's "blunders" and "weakness"'

With the details of the pending debt deal now emerging (and for a very good explanation of the key terms, see this post by former Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein), a consensus is solidifying that (1) this is a virtually full-scale victory for the GOP and defeat for the President (who all along insisted on a "balanced" approach that included tax increases), but (2) the President, as usual, was too weak in standing up to right-wing intransigence - or simply had no options given their willingness to allow default - and was thus forced into this deal against his will. This depiction of Obama as occupying a largely powerless, toothless office incapable of standing up to Congress - or, at best, that the bad outcome happened because he's just a weak negotiator who "blundered" - is the one that is invariably trotted out to explain away most of the bad things he does.

It appears to be true that the President wanted tax revenues to be part of this deal. But it is absolutely false that he did not want these brutal budget cuts and was simply forced - either by his own strategic "blunders" or the "weakness" of his office - into accepting them. The evidence is overwhelming that Obama has long wanted exactly what he got: these severe domestic budget cuts and even ones well beyond these, including Social Security and Medicare, which he is likely to get with the Super-Committee created by this bill (as Robert Reich described the bill: "No tax increases on rich yet almost certain cuts in Med[icare] and Social Security . . . . Ds can no longer campaign on R's desire to Medicare and Soc Security, now that O has agreed it").

The main functional difference between the U.S. Congress and a parliament is that in Congress the coalitions are formed before the election, while in a parliament they're formed afterward. Many Americans envy the plethora of parties found in parliamentary democracies (Labour! Conservatives! Christian Democrats! Greens! The People's Front of Judea!), without realizing that we have just as many minor parties as they do.

The truth is, American politics are as rife with factions as anyone else. Religious-conservative Prairie Muffins have nothing in common with the uber-rich hedonists who fund the Heritage Foundation, but both are Republican; union autoworkers have no natural affinity for Birkenstocked environmentalists, but both tend Democratic. What we call "The Right" actually is a grab-bag of paleoconservatives, Tea Partiers, Christian Dominionists, Libertarians, gun nuts, and a handful of LaRouchies (who, like Zoroastrian fundamentalists or Bruce Willis, don't realize they're ghosts yet). On what we call "The Left," nominally like-minded liberals perpetually respond to electoral success by devolving immediately into warring clans: Obamabots versus Firebaggers, resurrected New Democrats (who, I gather, seem to have snipped the labels out of their Izods) shoving things to the right while Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader pray for someone to primary Obama from the left.

In a Parliament, each of these groups would comprise its own political party: Democrats, Republicans, New Democrats, Greens, Tea Partiers, Dominionists, etc. And before the Parliamentary election, they would be studiously separate. Each would win some seats in Parliament, but most of the time none would win an absolute majority, so after the election, coalition-building would begin: Republicans and Democrats alike would woo the Libertarians by pitching small government and personal freedom, respectively; Dems would send Jim Wallis as an envoy to try and peel off a few Dominionists by appealing to social justice issues.

Sometimes the politics of Parliamentary coalition-building make very strange bedfellows, as in the British Parliament today (where the governing coalition was formed by what in America would be Republicans and Greens). But horses would be traded, a majority would be cobbled together, and that strange coalition would elect the new Prime Minister.

In America, we think we do things differently -- but we don't. We simply conduct our coalition-building and odd-bedfellow-matchmaking BEFORE the popular election instead of afterward. This is clearest during Presidential primaries, where each candidate effectively represents a minor sub-party (e.g., Romney representing the center-right, Bachman the Tea Party, Pawlenty the often-overlooked Boring Vote). Those sub-party primary candidates fight not only to win the nomination, but also to claim a place for their constituents in the final administration. (That's why can't-win candidates still find it worthwhile to enter the fray.) As each back-runner drops out, he or she horse-trades with the front-runners, exchanging their endorsement (and their faction's votes) for some position or increment of power in the new regime. That's how primary losers wind up being Vice-Presidents or Secretaries of State: they have traded their own coalition's support to help form the governing majority, in exchange for a slice of the power. And whoever builds the largest coalition wins the election. It's the same as Parliament, but done before the popular election rather than after it.

That's a long introduction to a very short thought, which is this: sometimes Congress can function like a Parliament, with the coalition-building occurring after the body is constituted. Whenever Republicans win the votes of Blue Dog Democrats, that's Parliamentary-style coalition-building. Whenever Democrats peel off the moderate Maine Twins, that's Parliamentary-style coalition-building.

It's very possible that late this week or early next, the U.S. House of Representatives will transform itself into the House of Commons. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is in a death spiral: unable to control the Tea Party branch of his own caucus, bearing most of the popular blame for the debt ceiling debacle, stalked from behind by Eric Cantor, reduced to griping publicly about how much his job sucks, his grip on the Speakership itself slipping away -- and, since no one really fears the threats or trusts the promises of a soon-to-be ex-Speaker, he seems to have lost the clout even to pass his own weak debt-ceiling bill through the house he nominally leads. In short, his coalition is falling apart.

In a parliament, this is precisely the moment when someone would shout "no confidence!" and call for new elections. The factions would reshuffle: the Tea Party would support Eric Cantor for Speaker, but more adult Republicans, aware of how deathly serious a default and debt downgrade would be, would look elsewhere for a champion. And if a No Confidence vote were held in the House of Representatives today, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans would have a simple majority.

But if the Republican brand is failing, there remains one faction in the House that could form itself a majority government:

Adults.

You know, serious politicians who are able to look into the abyss and have the sense not to plunge into it.

Congress-turned-Parliament would allow allow the factions in Congress to reshuffle, create a new majority comprised of strange bedfellows allied for a common (if sadly ephemeral) purpose, prevent a catastrophic default next Tuesday, and possibly even hammer out a deal to bend the medium-term debt curve so that Standard & Poor's and Moody's don't downgrade the U.S. debt by the end of the summer (which they will do if we only lift the debt ceiling). All it would take is for Nancy Pelosi to step up, craft a reasonable, non-punitive debt ceiling/spending bill, and pitch it to the adults in the room.

A good Pelosi "grown-ups" bill would do three things:

  1. Lift the debt ceiling until after the elections;
  2. Sail into Standard & Poor's non-downgrade safe harbor by both cutting $2.5 trillion or so in spending over the next decade and by raising slightly under $1 trillion in new revenue by simply closing some of the more egregious tax expenditures and loopholes and trimming back the spendthrift Bush tax cuts on the rich (goring both liberals and conservatives -- but like it or not, S&P's threat must be responded to); and
  3. Firewall any significant cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare until at least 2013.

That bill could be supported, albeit with predictable griping, by every House Democrat. And it already is privately supported by many 24 House Republicans; all that Pelosi needs is to get 24 of them to step up and support it publicly.

The Tea Party would scream bloody murder. Rush Limbaugh would lambaste the "traitorous twenty-four." So what. For some Rs, the remaining good and serious ones, those blasts would be badges of honor.

Yes, Boehner could prevent a Pelosi solution from coming to the floor -- but Boehner, with nothing left in his toolkit, the world's economy on the bubble, his "friend" Eric Cantor at his throat, his Speakership (if not his seat) already lost, 24 Republicans begging him to get out of their way, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which is on Obama's side in this fight) instructing him to damn well get out of the way, may well allow such a bill to be voted on. Again, he doesn't love the Tea Party; he hates it, and he is beholden first to Wall Street, which has been collaborating with Obama to force Boehner into this precise predicament to hobble the uppity Tea Party. Push come to shove, Boehner would (probably tearfully) allow the vote.

And if he did, then he and those 24 "turncoat," patriotic Republicans would save the nation's economy, and possibly the world's. Boehner would, most likely, see that his Speakership is lost, and retire. The 24, depending on their districts, would either win re-election as common-sense pragmatists and move on to brilliant careers as pragmatic, common-sense centrists, or would lose their seats and move on to lucrative jobs offered by an eternally grateful Wall Street (which, again, is firmly in the "solve this problem" camp). For all of them, life would go on.

Democrats plus 24: that's all it takes to solve this problem. All it would take to make it possible is for Pelosi to recognize that as the Republican caucus crumbles into its constituent factions, Congress briefly becomes the House of Commons -- giving her the chance to craft a new majority from the rubble of the G.O.P.

Leviathan

I do not agree with your take on third parties. I predict that within 4 years the Tea Party will have separated from the Republicans, and that shortly thereafter a left of center American Social Democrat-style party will arise to counteract it. We will then have four parties, at least for a time. This will be a healthy, even necessary phase of the American experiment.

The mainstream parties are no longer responsive to minority interests (political minorities, not racial–they are TOO preoccupied with race). This is not only bad politics. It is dangerous. Disaffected minorities (again, political, not racial) breed extremist movements, which breed "rogue elements." We all need a stake in the system. When we are cut out, there will be consequences.

The parties are money-raising, influence-peddling machines. They must be challenged. They cannot be reformed from within. The debates that are being stifled within the parties today are the ones that need public airing: how will we cut spending? how will we reform Wall Street? How will we get the American economy going again, so that it works for ALL of us?

I have been one of those readers saying Warren should run for president, not senate. I'm glad to see it getting some traction. I agree with everything Yves says here. This is separate from creating third parties. This is a symbolic movement. But political movements will emerge from this crisis too. We should welcome them. They may be all that can save us.

attempter
We'd already have something like that if we had a proportional system. But under this antidemocratic winner-take-all system, and with all the other ways the system is rigged against confected parties who are basically willing to play by the rules, how do you expect such parties to achieve critical power mass within the system so they can remove the barriers to their becoming real powers?

And that's assuming you're right about the tea partiers renouncing the Reps. No sign of that yet. (As for a phony baloney "social democrat" party, let's hope not. Aren't we seeing them in action in Greece and elsewhere right now?)

Peter T
You are right about the party system – in an election system with plurality (first past the post), there will be necessarily two major parties and some off-springs who try to become one of the two major parties. I wouldn't call it anti-democratic – you should see how the parties in a proportional system barter with positions and policies after most elections and the voters can only watch the game. There are some small modifications to plurality votes, like Ranked Choice Voting, that allow the existence and influence of third parties.

Why are you set against Social democrats? Sweden and Norway have been dominated by Social democrats in their history, and look how well they are doing today? That doesn't mean they are without fault, of course.

Leviathan
The Tea Party is developing the infrastructure and grass roots organization necessary to run candidates at the local, state and federal level. It is just a matter of time before they cut the cord linking them to the mother-ship.

Similarly, grumblings on the left are ignored to Obama and the Democratic leadership's peril. These people are the activists, the ones who know how to run campaigns, and the ones whose links have been cemented by Move-on, blogs, etc.

Again, both mainstream parties concentrate almost completely on raising money from big donors and spending it via professional campaign staff. Money is the only grease they care about. If the doers and idealists left their orbit, what would happen? There'd be a lot of scrambling.

If something CAN happen, it eventually WILL happen. Then there would have to be coalitions and real deal-making, not the faux unity (smile and take it for the team) that paralyzes us today.

Two parties works well enough in stable times, but in periods of crisis and change we need more options. Bull Moose 2012. There's the ticket.

attempter
Why are you set against Social democrats?

Because in most European countries they're the most ardent austerians of all. The social democrats are in power in Greece, to give the most obvious example.

Nor is that anything new. Their conduct was similar during the Great Depression, which is why the communists called them "Social Fascist" parties.

To try to form yet another such party would not be an answer to our problems. It would still be temporizing with a terminally evil and destructive kleptocracy.

Why are we still thinking in terms of conventional "parties" at all? Haven't we had enough of politicians by now? Don't we know what they always are?

kievite
"The parties are money-raising, influence-peddling machines. They must be challenged. They cannot be reformed from within"

The first and third statement are true. As for "must be challenged", it's not that easy.

In reality Democratic Party in not a separate party, but a part of the two prong bait-and-switch system that prevents meaningful reform. In other words it is a branch of single party, the party of oligarchy but it is a branch with a special function, the function of a spoiler. While the second part is allowed to show its true face, this one is not.

If selection of candidates is performed strictly by party machine, then elections became a farce. You always face a choice between bad and worse. For example, between Obama and Tea Party candidate. In this situation the vote for any third candidate became a vote for Tea Party. So electorate is held hostage by two, preselected by oligarchy, candidates and is allowed only to chose between them.

Classic example of this mechanism in action was the the role of Nader in Gore vs. Bush election.

This is the key mechanism of "managed democracy" or as it is called "inverted totalitarianism".

Such system is actually remarkably effective in enforcing the rule of oligarchy. This is a perfect system for a small group to rule, as all "mass participation" is confined to choosing between two preselected by party brass candidates. In other work elections are just a puppet show controlled by oligarchy much like elections controlled by party nomenklatura of the USSR when only a single candidate existed but still elections were called and votes were counted.

"Winner takes all" system automatically, by design, co-opt small parties into either Democratic Party or Republican Party camp, before they can get any level of maturity. That means that, unfortunately, within the "winner takes all" framework emergence of third party is temporal and they are quickly co-opted into one of the two wings of the establishment party.

Another term used for this political mechanism is polyarchy:

polyarchy: A system where the participation of masses of people is limited to voting among one or another representatives of the elite in periodic elections. Between elections the masses are now expected to keep quiet, to go back to life as usual while the elite make decisions and run the world until they can choose between one or another elite another four years later. So polyarchy is a system of elite rule, and a system of elite rule that is little bit more soft-core than the elite rule that we would see under a military dictatorship. But what we see is that under a polyarchy the basic socio-economic system does not change, it does not become democratized. ▬William I. Robinson, Behind the Veil, Minute 1:29:15

See http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/Political_skeptic/Two_party_system_as_polyarchy/index.shtml

attempter:

I never heard the term before, but that's exactly what I mean by "representative pseudo-democracy".

Paul Krugman The Unwisdom of Elites

Economist's View

EricT:

I am more than willing to extend blame to the Democrats, they have done a very good job at owning the mayhem put forth by the Republicans. But, the Democrats have convicted the CEO of Countrywide in massive fraud. The Republicans refused to endorse the Congressional investigation into Wall street to support their own conclusion that regulation was the cause of the financial meltdown. And it was the Bush administration that revived a law from the Civil war to keep the state attorney generals from prosecuting loan fraud and in turn do nothing( check out Elliot Spitzer's fate when he pushed the issue ) thus setting up the whole mess in the first place. I would have to say that the elites who control this country have a hand in both parties, but are mostly courted by the Republicans, who desire to be more elite than any Democrat.

kharris:

Concur with EricT and EMike. If you want to say bad things about Krugman and bad things about Democrats, go right ahead, by do try to say true things, as well. Democrats have sold their souls to the military-industrial complex and to corporate America in general, but there is still a substantial difference between Democrats and Republicans as they exist today. To say otherwise is to say something untrue. Similarly, it is simply untrue that Krugman has not take Obama to task. On bank rescue, the budget, and political tactics in general, Krugman has been quite vocal in opposition to Obama.

Let's hold Democrats to account, but let's do it with some sense of reality. Krugman, too, though that is a somewhat more complicated task, since a great deal of criticism of Krugman has been outright wrong, and apparently motivated by the desire to undermine his effectiveness as a critic.

M.G. in Progress:

Ok it's definitely policy elites' faults but one could wonder who elected or voted those elites in those places... I have one interpretation here, particularly for the case of Berlusconi. http://mgiannini.blogspot.com/2009/12/cognitive-dissonance-case-of-italy.html But it appeared that for years of Bush cognitive dissonance was not much better...

Another interpretation, definitely the case in Italy, is The Fundamental Laws of Human Stupidity. a stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses. There Prof.Cipolla further refines his definition of "Bandits" (B= Berlusconi or Bush I would say) and

"Helpless People" (H) by noting that members of these groups can either add to or detract from the general welfare, depending on the relative gains (or losses) that they cause themselves and society. A bandit may enrich himself more or less than he impoverishes society, and a helpless person may enrich society more or less than he impoverishes himself."

Then you have stupid persons who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses. Where Prof. Krugman would put those elites and people who voted for them or agreed to let them stay in power?

paine:

if you figure the elite has learned to play the "open ballot" electoral shell game and the "open press" game at least well enough to stay in power so long as "the folk way type " rules of engagement" aren't changed why waste time detailing the whys ??

greg byshenk:

I wouldn't want to remove blame from the elites who actually implemented the insane policies, but that said, I don't want to totally remove blame from the voters who voted for Bush, given that his policies were in no way a surprise. (I will give a pass to Obama voters, as he promised change -- even though what he delivered was pretty much more of the same.)

Shouldn't we rather see 2001-2009 as the illustration of Mencken's theory of democracy? ("Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.")

paine:

"2001-2009 as the illustration of Mencken's theory of democracy? "

that suggests you could imagine democracy working differently if the people in its majority if it knew its best interests could vote in agents to that end

doesn't work that way

tinbox:

The theme of this column--holding elite policy makers accountable--is very important. Personally, I immediately thought of the moment of maximum leverage, October 2008, when any and all financial reform was possible. At that time, PK advised us to "hold your nose"--bailout now, reform later. It is hard to see how that was ever going to work in this country.

While the points PK makes today are valid, the opportunity for action has come and gone. Not only is banking more concentrated in the USA today, Geithner is even now lobbying for greater risks to be taken by these TBTF banks in international exposures. After all, what could possibly going wrong lending large amounts against real estate in China?

Eric:

Villians....who exactly? The principle reason that there have been few prosecustions of high level bankers is that not so much that got done was illegal. Reckless, maybe. But even here is it really reckless behavior if you have a belief - which turns out to be true - that public finances will bear the downside risks on your behalf? In hindsight it feels like these things should have been illegal, but the available serious punishments, such as not bailing out AIG, not allowing various investment firms to become bank holding entites, not backstopping the GSEs (read their debt issues and you'll see that nowhere is a claim made for public backing), not taking first loss positions on Bear Stearn assets, etc., etc., were foregone by voluntary actions by public officials. Make peace with the truth that there will be no sweeping prosecutions, least of all by the federal government of the USA.



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