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[Dec 28, 2013] 'The Danger of Front-Loading Income Inequality'

Politically organized minority typically dominates any unorganized majority. With the exception of cases then lower classes are close to uprising. At this point all bets are off.
Dec 28, 2013 | EconomistView

grizzled -> Larry...

I see that down thread has basically ignored this question, which is what it deserves. It's a typical right-wing diversionary tactic, similar to invocations of the "law of unintended consequences." Conclusion: since we can't say with complete certainty that the outcomes of any action we might take will be as desired we should take no action.

This ignores the certainty that taking no action will not lead to our desired outcomes.

I am not able to give a general definition of fairness but I'm nonetheless quite certain that the current situation is massively unfair. How to I know this? It requires willful blindness not to know it.

anne -> gordon...

It’s very worrying when the people you expect to come up with first-best policy options start offering second-best or third-best on the basis of political expediency....

[ Agreed. ]

Dan Kervick:

I find it quite interesting that all of the center left managerial liberalism types who spent the past several years supinely supporting the Democratic Party's ridiculously ineffective, misguided, budget-obsessed political agenda now have their panties in a bunch about the growing egalitarian movement and have taken to concern-trolling it everywhere. They now warn us not to put it ahead of other important things, and not to "take our eyes of the ball" of things like unemployment - something else that Washington spent the past five years do nothing about! Tell me about those important eyes on the unemployment ball. When others were saying unemployment was Job One, the party men and women were focused on grand bargains and monetary masturbation.

The smell of fear is everywhere in this latest wave of warnings. Establishment Democrats are terrified that their plutocracy-friendly, crony-capitalist, privilege-protecting, elitist political machine is falling apart, and have wheeled out a new campaign to deflect, disparage, co-opt and disarm the egalitarians before they really get moving.

[Nov 11, 2013] Debt and deficit as shock therapy by Ismael Hossein-zadeh

Nov 6, 2013 | Asia Times

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

When Naomi Klein published her ground-breaking book The Shock Doctrine (2007), which compellingly demonstrated how neoliberal policy makers take advantage of overwhelming crisis times to privatize public property and carry out austerity programs, most economists and media pundits scoffed at her arguments as overstating her case. Real world economic developments have since strongly reinforced her views.

Using the unnerving 2008 financial crash, the ensuing long recession and the recurring specter of debt default, the financial oligarchy and their proxies in the governments of core capitalist countries have embarked on an unprecedented economic coup d'état against the people, the ravages of which include extensive privatization of the public sector, systematic application of neoliberal austerity economics and radical redistribution of resources from the bottom to the top. Despite the truly historical and paradigm-shifting importance of these ominous developments, their discussion remains altogether outside the discourse of mainstream economics.

The fact that neoliberal economists and politicians have been cheering these brutal assaults on social safety-net programs should not be surprising. What is regrettable, however, is the liberal/Keynesian economists' and politicians' glaring misdiagnosis of the plague of austerity economics: it is all the "right-wing" Republicans' or Tea Partiers' fault, we are told; the Obama administration and the Democratic Party establishment, including the labor bureaucracy, have no part or responsibility in the relentless drive to austerity economics and privatization of public property.

Keynesian and other liberal economists and politicians routinely blame the abandonment of the New Deal and/or Social-Democratic economics exclusively on Ronald Reagan's supply-side economics, on neoliberal ideology or on economists at the University of Chicago. Indeed, they characterize the 2008 financial collapse, the ensuing long recession and the recurring debt/budgetary turmoil on "bad" policies of "neoliberal capitalism," not on class policies of capitalism per se. [1]

Evidence shows, however, that the transition from Keynesian to neoliberal economics stems from much deeper roots or dynamics than pure ideology [2]; that neoliberal austerity policies are class, not "bad," policies [3]; that the transition started long before Reagan arrived in the White House; and that neoliberal austerity policies have been pursued as vigorously (though less openly and more stealthily) by the Democratic administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as their Republican counterparts. [4]

Indeed, it could be argued that, due to his uniquely misleading status or station in the socio-political structure of the United States, and equally unique Orwellian characteristics or personality, Obama has served the interests of the powerful financial oligarchy much better or more effectively than any Republican president could do, or has done - including Ronald Reagan. By the same token, he has more skillfully hoodwinked the public and harmed their interests, both in terms of economics and individual/constitutional rights, than any of his predecessors.

Ronald Reagan did not make any bones about the fact that he championed the cause of neoliberal supply-side economics. This meant that opponents of his economic agenda knew where he stood, and could craft their own strategies accordingly.

By contrast, Obama publicly portrays himself as a liberal opponent of neoliberal austerity policies (as he frequently bemoans the escalating economic inequality and occasionally sheds crocodile tears over the plight of the unemployed and economically hard-pressed), while in practice he is a major team player in the debt "crisis" game of charade, designed as a shock therapy scheme in the escalation of austerity economics. [5]

No president or major policy maker before Obama ever dared to touch the hitherto untouchable (and still self-financing) Social Security and Medicare trust funds. He was the first to dare to make these bedrock social programs subject to austerity cuts, as reflected, for example, in his proposed federal budget plan for fiscal year 2014, initially released in April 2013. Commenting on this unprecedented inclusion of entitlements in the social programs to be cut, Christian Science Monitor wrote (on April 9, 2013): "President Obama's new budget proposal ... is a sign that Washington's attitude toward entitlement reform is slowly shifting, with prospects for changes to Social Security and Medicare becoming increasingly likely."

Obama has since turned that "likelihood" of undermining Social Security and Medicare into reality. He did so by taking the first steps in turning the budget crisis that led to government shutdown in the first half of October into negotiations over entitlement cuts. In an interview on the second day of the shutdown (October 3rd), he called for eliminating "unnecessary" social programs and discussing cuts in "long-term entitlement spending". [6]

Five days later on October 5th, Obama repeated his support for cutting Social Security and Medicare in a press conference, reassuring congressional Republicans of his willingness to agree to these cuts (as well as to cuts in corporate tax rates from 35% to 28%) if the Republicans voted to increase the government's debt limit: "If anybody doubts my sincerity about that, I've put forward proposals in my budget to reform entitlement programs for the long haul and reform our tax code in a way that would ... lower rates for corporations". [7]

Only then, that is, only after Obama agreed to collaborate with the Republicans on ways to cut both the entitlements and corporate tax rates, the Republican budget negotiators agreed to the higher budget ceiling and the reopening of the government. The consensus bill that ended the government shutdown extends the automatic across-the-board "sequester" cuts that began last March into the current year. This means that "the budget negotiations in the coming weeks will take as their starting point the $1 trillion in cuts over the next eight years mandated by the sequestration process". [8]

And so, once again, the great compromiser gave in, and gave away - all at the expense of his (unquestioning) supporters.

To prepare the public for the long-awaited attack on Social Security, Medicare and other socially vital programs, the bipartisan ruling establishment has in recent years invented a very useful hobgoblin to scare the people into submission: occasional budget/debt crises and the specter or the actual pain of government shutdown. As Sheldon Richman recently pointed out:

"Wherever we look, there are hobgoblins. The latest is … DEFAULT. Oooooo.

Apparently the threats of international terror and China rising aren't enough to keep us alarmed and eager for the tether. These things do tend to wear thin with time. But good old default can be taken off the shelf every now and then. It works like a charm every time.

No, no, not default! Anything but default!". [9]

Economic policy makers in the White House and the Congress have invoked the debt/deficit hobgoblin at least three times in less than two years: the 2011 debt-ceiling panic, the 2012 "fiscal cliff" and, more recently, the 2013 debt-ceiling/government shutdown crisis - all designed to frighten the people into accepting the slashing of vital social programs. Interestingly, when Wall Street speculators needed trillions of dollars to be bailed out, or as the Fed routinely showers these gamblers with nearly interest-free money through the so-called quantitative easing, debt hobgoblins were/are nowhere to be seen!

The outcome of the latest (2013) "debt crisis management," which led to the 16-day government shutdown (October 1-16), confirmed the view that the "crisis" was essentially bogus. Following the pattern of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 budget/debt negotiations, the bipartisan policy makers kept the phony crisis alive by simply pushing its "resolution" several months back to early 2014. In other words, they did not bury the hobgoblin; they simply shelved it for a while to be taken off when it is needed to, once again, frighten the people into accepting additional austerity cuts - including Social Security and Medicare.

The outcome of the budget "crisis" also highlighted the fact that, behind the apparent bipartisan gridlock and mutual denunciations, there is a "fundamental consensus between these parties for destroying all of the social gains won by the working class over the course of the twentieth century". [10] To the extent there were disagreements, they were mainly over the tone, the temp, the magnitude, the tactics, and the means, not the end. At the heart of all the (largely contrived) bipartisan bickering was how best to escalate, justify or camouflage the brutal cuts in the vitally necessary social spending.

The left/liberal supporters of Obama, who bemoan his being "pressured" or "coerced" by the Tea Party Republicans into right-wing compromises, should look past his liberal/populist posturing. Evidence shows that, contrary to Barack Obama's claims, his presidential campaigns were heavily financed by the Wall Street financial titans and their influential lobbyists. Large Wall Street contributions began pouring into his campaign only after he was thoroughly vetted by powerful Wall Street interests, through rigorous Q & A sessions by the financial oligarchy, and was deemed to be their "ideal" candidate for presidency. [11]

Obama's unquestioning followers should also note that, to the extent that he is being "pressured" by his political opponents into compromises/concessions, he has no one to blame but himself: while the Republican Party systematically mobilizes its social base through offshoots like Tea Partiers, Obama tends to deceive, demobilize and disarm his base of supporters. Instead of mobilizing and encouraging his much wider base of supporters (whose more numerous voices could easily drown the shrill voices of Tea Partiers) to political action, he frequently pleads with them to "be patient," and "keep hope alive."

As Andre Damon and Barry Grey have keenly observed, "There was not a single mass organization that denounced the [government] shutdown or opposed it. The trade unions are completely allied with the Obama administration and support its policies of austerity and war". [12]

Obama's supporters also need to open their eyes to the fact that, as I have shown in an earlier essay, [13] Obama harbors ideological affinities that are more in tune with Ronald Reagan than with FDR. This is clearly revealed in his book, The Audacity of Hope, where he shows his disdain for

"...those who still champion the old time religion, defending every New Deal and Great Society program from Republican encroachment, achieving ratings of 100% from the liberal interest groups. But these efforts seem exhausted…bereft of energy and new ideas needed to address the changing circumstances of globalization". [14]

(Her own shortcomings aside, Hillary Clinton was right when, in her bid for the White House against Obama, she pointed out that Obama's economic philosophy was inspired largely by Reagan' supply-side economics. However, because the Wall Street and/or the ruling establishment had already decided that Obama was the preferred choice for the White House, the corporate media let Clinton's comment pass without dwelling much on the reasons behind it; which could readily be examined by simply browsing through his own book.)

The repeated claim that the entitlements are the main drag on the federal budget is false - for at least three reasons. To begin with, the assertion that the large number of retiring baby-boomers is a major culprit in budgetary shortfalls is bogus because while it is true that baby-boomers are retiring in larger than usual numbers they do not come from another planet; before retiring, they also worked and contributed to the entitlement trust fund in larger than usual numbers. This means that, over time, the outflow and inflow of baby-boomers' funds into the entitlement trust fund must necessarily even each other out.

Second, even assuming that this claim is valid, the "problem" can easily be fixed (for many years to come) by simply raising the ceiling of taxable income for Social Security from the current level of $113,700 to a slightly higher level, let's say, $140,000.

Third, the bipartisan policy makers' hue and cry about the alleged budget/debt crisis is also false because if it were true, they would not shy away from facing the real culprits for the crisis: the uncontrollable and escalating health care cost, the equally uncontrollable and escalating military/war/security cost, the massive transfer of private/Wall Street debt to public debt in response to the 2008 financial crash, and the considerable drop since the early 1980s in the revenue side of the government budget, which is the result of the drastic overhaul of the taxation system in favor of the wealthy.

A major scheme of the financial oligarchy and their bagmen in the government to substitute the New Deal with neoliberal economics has (since the early 1980s) been to deliberately create budget deficits in order to justify cuts in social spending. This sinister feat has often been accomplished through a combination of tax cuts for the wealthy and spending hikes for military/wars/security programs.

David Stockman, President Reagan's budget director and one of the main architects of his supply-side tax cuts, confirmed the Reagan administration's policy of simultaneously raising military spending and cutting taxes on the wealthy in order to force cuts in non-military public spending: "My aim had always been to force down the size of the domestic welfare state to the point where it could be adequately funded with the revenues after the tax cut". [15] That insidious policy of intentionally creating budget deficits in order to force neoliberal austerity cuts on vital social needs has continued to this day - under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Although the bipartisan tactics of austerity cuts are subtle and obfuscating, they can be illustrated with the help of a few simple (hypothetical) numbers: first (and behind the scenes), the two sides agree on cutting non-military public spending by, let's say, $100 billion. To reach this goal, Republicans would ask for a $200 billion cut, for example.

The Obama administration/Democratic Party, pretending to represent the poor and working families, would vehemently object that this is too much ... and that all they can offer is $50 billion, again for example. Next, the Republican negotiators would come up with their own counter-offer of, let's say, $150 billion. Then come months of fake haggling and passionate speeches in defense of their positions ... until they meet eventually half way between $50 billion and $150 billion, which has been their hidden goal ($100 billion) from the beginning.

This is, of course, an overly simplified hypothetical example. But it captures, in broad outlines, the essence of the political game that the Republican and Democratic parties - increasingly both representing big finance/big business - play on the American people. All the while the duplicitous corporate media plays along with this political charade in order to confuse the public by creating the impression that there are no alternatives to austerity cuts, and that all the bipartisan public bickering over debt/budgetary issues vividly represents "democracy in action."

The atmosphere of panic and anxiety surrounding the debt/deficit negotiations is fabricated because the central claim behind the feigned crisis that "there is no money" for jobs, education, health care, Social Security, Medicare, housing, pensions and the like is a lie. Generous subsidies to major Wall Street players since the 2008 market crash has lifted financial markets to new highs, as evinced by the Dow Jones Industrial Average's new bubble above the 15000 mark.

The massive cuts in employment, wages and benefits, as well as in social spending, have resulted in an enormous transfer of economic resources from the bottom up. The wealthiest 1% of Americans now own more than 40% of the entire country's wealth; while the bottom 80% own only 7%. Likewise, the richest 1% now takes home 24% of the country's total income, compared to only 9% four decades ago. [16]

This means that there really is no need for the brutal austerity cuts as there really is no shortage of financial resources. The purported lack of resources is due to the fact that they are concentrated largely in the deep coffers of the financial oligarchy.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007) and Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser's Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). His latest book, Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis: Parasitic Finance Capital, will be forthcoming from Routledge Books.

The Illusion of Voting A Conspiracy of Two Parties — The Grand Delusion

By Joel S. Hirschhorn

With an endless, futile and costly Iraq war, a stinking economy and most Americans seeing the country on the wrong track, the greatest national group delusion is that electing Democrats in 2008 is what the country needs.

Keith Olbermann was praised when he called the Bush presidency a criminal conspiracy. That missed the larger truth. The whole two-party political system is a criminal conspiracy hiding behind illusion induced delusion.

Virtually everything that Bush correctly gets condemnation for could have been prevented or negated by Democrats, if they had had courage, conviction and commitment to maintaining the rule of law and obedience to the Constitution. Bush grabbed power from the feeble and corrupt hands of Democrats. Democrats have failed the vast majority of Americans. So why would sensible people think that giving Democrats more power is a good idea? They certainly have done little to merit respect for their recent congressional actions, or inaction when it comes to impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

One of the core reasons the two-party stranglehold on our political system persists is that whenever one party uses its power to an extreme degree it sets the conditions for the other party—its partner in the conspiracy—to take over. Then the other takes its turn in wielding excessive power. Most Americans—at least those that vote—seem incapable of understanding that the Democrats and Republicans are two teams in the same league, serving the same cabal running the corporatist plutocracy. By keeping people focused on rooting for one team or the other, the behind-the-scenes rulers ensure their invisibility and power.

The genius of the plutocrats is to create the illusion of important differences between the two parties, and the illusion of political choice in elections. In truth, the partner parties compete superficially and dishonestly to entertain the electorate, to maintain the aura of a democracy. Illusion creates the delusion of Americans that voting in elections will deliver political reforms, despite a long history of politicians lying in campaigns about reforms, new directions and bold new policies. The rulers need power shifting between the teams to maintain popular trust in the political system. Voting manifests that trust—as if changing people will fix the system. It doesn't.

So voters become co-conspirators in the grand political criminal conspiracy. Those who vote for Democrats or Republicans perpetuate the corrupt, dishonest and elitist plutocracy that preferentially serves the interests of the Upper Class and a multitude of special interests—some aligned with the Republicans and some with the Democrats. Voting only encourages worthless politicians and those that fund and corrupt them.

Public discontent leads to settling for less through lesser evil voting rather than bold thinking about how to reform the system to get genuine political competition and better candidates and government.

I understand why sane people would not want to vote for Republicans, based on the Bush presidency. But I cannot understand why politically engaged people think that putting Democrats in power will restore American democracy and put the welfare of non-wealthy Americans above the interests of the wealthy and the business sector. Bill Clinton's administration strongly advanced globalization and the loss of good jobs to foreign countries. Economic inequality kept rising. Trade agreements sold us out.

And in this primary season talk about reforming our health care system among Democrats never gets serious about providing universal health care independent of the insurance industry. And why should citizens be supportive of a party that favors illegal immigration—law breaking—that primarily serves business interests by keeping labor costs low?

Nor have Democrats stood up to challenge the official 9/11 story that no longer has any credibility to anyone that takes the time to seriously examine all its inconsistencies with what really happened and the laws of physics.

Whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination will not be free of corruption and lies. He or she will owe paybacks to all the fat-cat campaign donors. Voters will be choosing the lesser-evil Democratic presidential candidate. Is that really the only choice? Is there no other action that can advance the national good?

There seem to be just two other choices. Vote for some third party presidential candidate, but the downside of that is twofold. No such candidate can win in the current rigged system. Worse, voting gives a stamp of credibility to the political system, as if it was fair, when it is not. Voting says that you still believe that the political system merits your support and involvement.

The second option is to boycott voting to show total rejection of the current political system and the plutocratic cabal using the two-party duopoly to carry out its wishes. When a democracy no longer is legitimate, no longer is honest, and no longer serves the interests of ordinary citizens, then what other than violent revolution can change it? When the electoral system no longer can provide honest, corruption free candidates with any chance of winning, what can citizens do? Either stay home or just vote in local and state races and for ballot measures.

I say remove the credibility and legitimacy of the federal government by reducing voter turnout to extremely low levels. Show the world that the vast majority of Americans have seen the light and no longer are deluding themselves about their two-party democracy. A boycott on voting for candidates for federal office is a form of civil disobedience that has enormous power to force true political reforms from the political system. This is the only way to make it crystal clear that the presidency and Congress no longer represent any significant fraction of the people. This is the only way to show that America's representative democracy is no longer representative and, therefore, is no longer a credible democracy. Just imagine a federal government trying to function in the usual ways when only 20 percent of the eligible voters actually voted.

It takes more courage to boycott voting than to vote for lesser evil Democrats and in the end this is the only way for people to feel proudly patriotic. This is the only way to not contribute to the ongoing bipartisan criminal conspiracy running the federal government.

We have broken government because the spirit of Americans that gave us our revolution and nation's birth has been broken, in large measure by distractive and self-indulgent consumerism. It is better to recognize that those who vote suffer from delusion than to criticize those who do not vote as apathetic. Non-delusional nonvoters recognize the futility of voting.

Democrats will not restore our democracy. That is the painful truth that most people will not readily accept. Such is the power of group delusion. Voting produces never-ending cycles of voter dissatisfaction with those elected, both Democrats and Republicans. It is time to break this cycle of voter despair. Voters that bitch and moan about Congress and the White House have nobody to blame but themselves, no matter which party they voted for.

http://www.counterpunch.org:80/hirschhorn11102007.html

Voting As Political Narcotic By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Fast forward to Election Day 2008: Network anchors, cable pundits, and state and local election officials are going nuts as evening hours pass and voter turnout is hardly approaching 20 percent nearly everywhere. “What’s going on?” everyone is asking incredulously. TV and computer screens all over the planet show Americans in streets celebrating and shouting things like “We’ve had enough political corruption. We’re not going to take anymore!”

In contrast, news anchors are grim and aghast with little help from spin-fatigued and stammering Democratic and Republican spokespeople. At 2 A.M. on NBC Brian Williams sits with Tim Russett and Keith Olbermann, and sums up: “Americans have spoken and American politics have changed forever.” “It’s like the nightmare of entertainers: nobody shows up for their event,” says bemused Olbermann. Russett grimly observes, “We should have seen this coming; people have been fed up with both parties for a long time.” Meanwhile, the Internet is buzzing with talk of voiding the presidential and congressional election results, that President Bush may declare a national state of emergency, and that the Supreme Court might step in again. Did anyone think that the Constitution required a minimum voter turnout to make elections legit?

***

America’s political system is a large and complex criminal conspiracy. Most voters enable it without benefiting from it. Voting is a ploy of the two-party power elites to keep the population docile, delusional and duped. Our government has been hijacked in plain sight, despite elections. We cannot get it back by voting. All the main candidates are part of the conspiracy. Voting only encourages them. In our fake democracy corrupt politicians use doses of voting as a political narcotic. We must free more Americans of the addiction. Otherwise they will keep hallucinating that some Democratic or Republican President or controlled Congress will actually give us the changes we crave for.

Attempts to hold the government accountable have failed and will continue to fail. The system is rotten to the core. It sustains itself both by preventing major political reforms and undermining those that get passed to temporarily placate the public. Arrogant power elites feel no obligation to be accountable to the public. Elections are not a threat to the status quo. Elections are distractive entertainment, a political narcotic.

Voting became a political narcotic when it stopped working to improve government and became used to legitimize a corrupt, two-party failed government.

Voting—especially lesser-evil voting—sustains our fake democracy more than any other citizen action. It lets politicians claim that they represent the sovereign people. It tells the world that our elected government has public support. Voting sends the wrong message to everyone. No matter who you vote for, voting says the political system is fair. It is not.

Power elites own the government and use it to serve their interests and protect a corporate plutocracy. Though a numerical minority—probably about 20 million Americans—an Upper Class easily manipulates the remaining 280 million by controlling the consumer economy, the distractive culture, and government policies and spending.

This is what America’s political freedom has morphed into: Dissidents free to protest (to make us feel good). Elites free to control (to maintain corruption). Conned citizens free to vote (to keep the system looking democratic). And most Americans free to borrow, spend and consume (to stay hooked on work, antidepressants, sleeping pills, alcohol, sports, computers, religion, gambling and illegal drugs). Where do you fit in?

In our drugged fake democracy, Americans replace objective reality with illusions. The US does not excel in nearly any statistical measure of democracies. Our voter turnout is a disgrace. We imprison more people than all other nations combined. We do not provide universal health care or affordable prescription drugs. Our primary education system is mostly awful. Economic inequality is incredible—with the top one percent owning 21 percent of the nation’s wealth—and getting worse. People are made addicted to consumption and borrowing, then left to suffer from crippling debt. Painful economic insecurity blinds the submissive middle class whose belief in the American dream is akin to expecting to win a lottery.

In a nation that supposedly prizes competitiveness there is no real political competition. The two major parties maintain a collusive stranglehold on our government. Third party candidates are purposefully disadvantaged. Incumbents can thwart opponents. Worse, though the two major parties shout their differences, they are merely two sides of the same coin, two heads of the same beast, two servants of the Upper Class, and two protectors of the corporate plutocracy. They are criminal co-conspirators. Superficial differences between candidates keep voters entertained, manipulated and rooting for “their” team in the political game that the mainstream corporate media (more co-conspirators) make tons of money from.

In this charade minor, maverick primary season presidential candidates contribute to the illusion of a competitive system. Their loyalty to party trumps their commitment to major political reforms. They do not tell their supporters that if they do not receive the nomination “stay home” rather than vote for one of their opponents. No, those they opposed in the primary season are seen as lesser evils than anyone from the other party. This protects the two-party system.

In America’s fake democracy citizens are fooled by personal freedoms. It is a fake democracy because the will of the people is not respected by those elected to run the government, the rule of law is routinely violated by those in power, the Constitution is regularly dishonored and disobeyed by elected officials and judges, and all but the wealthy are sold out through government-assisted corporate globalization.

No wonder that America is a joke to much of the world’s population. Foreigners envy our materialism, not our government. With horrendous hypocrisy we use military power to impose democracy abroad despite having a flawed democracy at home. Foreigners’ disgust with our government is one thing, but they like Americans. Yet Americans enable and sustain the detested government by voting, then blame those elected rather than fix the broken system. A few crooked politicians and corporate bosses go to jail. But the criminal system remains. Nothing but token reforms are made. Corruption continues.

Few Americans are dissidents. Many more block the painful truth that their cherished democracy is a fraud. The land of the free is no longer the home of the brave. Foreign enemies are used to keep people from bravely fighting domestic tyrants.

Like magicians using slight of words and misdirection through lies, politicians (and those that own them) have trivialized the fact that about half of the electorate does not vote. Nonvoters have been blamed when the corrupt system is at fault. Rather than see nonvoters as apathetic we should see them acting rationally because voting is unproductive. Nonvoters should never feel guilty, only proud to have sent a none-of-the-above rejection message.

But voter turnout has not been sufficiently low to forcefully discredit, dishonor and de-legitimize American democracy. Though low, it has become an accepted norm, allowing the manufactured myth to continue – that we live in the world’s greatest democracy, though nothing could be farther from the truth.

With false hope, voters believe that the right Democrat or Republican will do what none of their predecessors has done, and that campaign rhetoric and promises will actually translate to post-election action and policy. Voters fail to understand the depth of our culture of dishonesty that has also invaded the voting process.

Held secretly in private hands is proprietary source code that instructs the voting machines on to how to count the vote. More than 1/3 of all votes cast in our nation are made on touch screen machines driven by proprietary source code and 90 percent of all votes cast are counted by software that’s unverifiable.

No sane American should trust the political system, the politicians, and the voting process. And when you cannot trust all three, you have a fake democracy. Many of us thirst for major change, but mainstream politicians simply exploit this and lie. By voting for any of them we ensure no serious change. The way to shake up the system is to boycott voting.

In sum, despite personal freedoms we also have political tyranny as oppressive in its own way as any authoritarian, dictatorial government. Americans have lost the revolutionary spirit of their ancestors. Americans are unable to revolt, despite revolting conditions. They have accepted the tyranny of taxation with MISrepresentation. The political criminal conspiracy has successfully used cultural genetic manipulation to replace the DNA of revolutionary courage with the DNA of distractive, self-indulgent consumerism. Our primary freedom is to borrow and spend. Our currency should read “In Greed We Trust.” We have populist consumerism, not populist politics. Divisive politics keeps people fighting each other rather than uniting against the rotten system.

Delusional prosperity is what our delusional democracy creates for the majority. Many millions of Americans are hurting from loss of good jobs, crippling health care costs, staggering debt, unaffordable college education, imminent foreclosure or bankruptcy, rising economic insecurity, working two lousy jobs, time poverty, dependence on food stamps and charity. Millions more are angry about endless political corruption and bipartisan incompetence, the inability to get a new 9/11 investigation, uncontrolled illegal immigration, and our national debt. The rebellion needs all of them. And they need the rebellion.

True, we have plenty of passive nonvoters, a good head start. Now we need active, vociferous nonvoters – proud protestors and dissidents urging others to join the civil disobedience to reach the tipping point for revolutionary change. After we achieve major political reforms we should pursue mandatory voting – when voting once again has civic meaning.

Massive, unprecedented nonvoting has the power to produce systemic political reform by defiantly discrediting, dishonoring and de-legitimizing America’s fake democracy. When I choose not to vote I do not make the votes of others more important. Their votes already serve an evil system. The critical choice is to vote or not vote, not picking a particular Democrat or Republican. When I choose not to vote I embrace an honorable, patriotic rebellious act of civil disobedience. I no longer buy the BIG LIE that there still is an American democracy worth participating in. As James Madison said, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.”

Mass nonvoting sends the message of rejection – as powerful as using guns. The Second American Revolution begins with this recognition: We must work together to drive voter turnout down to abysmal levels – so low that everyone gets the rejection message. We must let the world know – and America’s power elites fear – that we sovereign Americans intend to take back our government. But how?

It begins with a boycott of voting. See it as a populist recall of the federal government that makes our Founders proud. It is followed by demanding what the Founders gave us in our Constitution for exactly the conditions we now have: an Article V convention of state delegates that can propose constitutional amendments, especially ones to reform our political system to make it honest and trustworthy. Learn more at www.foavc.org.

Why have we not had one in over 200 years? Why has Congress been allowed to disobey – actually veto a part of the Constitution and violate their oath of office? There is only one logical explanation: An intensely watched convention could wreck the political status quo and take away the power of those running and ruining our nation. That so many Americans fear a convention just shows the success of the social conditioning and political narcotics the elitist plutocracy has imposed for decades. Imagine an amendment that required at least 90 percent voter turnout for federal elections to produce a winner.

When it comes to our nation our choice is not to love it or leave it, but to accept the painful truth and take responsibility for restoring American democracy – because we love it. Let’s move forward with this slogan: “Don't vote--it only encourages them.”

http://www.countercurrents.org/hirschhorn011107.htm

First Woman, First Black, First Latino, or First Honest President? Most Dishonest Politicians Have a Better Chance of Winning. By Joel Hirschhorn

The phrase honest politician has become an oxymoron. We should not be impressed by the prospect of having the first woman, first black or first Latino president. What would be far more radical would be to have the first honest president, if not ever, certainly in a very long time.

Presidents in recent memory have been excellent liars, contributing mightily to our culture of dishonesty. Bill Clinton had the audacity to look right into the TV camera and blatantly lie to the American public. George W. Bush has probably set a record for official lying, though it might take many decades to fully document them. Carl M. Cannon saw the bigger truth: "posterity will judge [George W. Bush] not so much by whether he told the truth but whether he recognized what the truth actually was."

Things have gotten so bad that hardly anyone can even imagine an honest president. But if we don't expect an honest president, how can we expect to trust government?

Don Nash made these insightful observations, "If America was ever faced with a politician who spoke truth to the people, no-one would know what to make of the oddity. This politician could probably not get elected to office. Sadly, Americans can't handle the truth. ...Lies, then, are the consequential destruction of American democracy. Little by very little, the lies and lying politicians have chipped away at America's Constitution and the American form of government."

Rampant lying by politicians is a major reason why so many Americans have stopped paying attention to politics, stopped hoping for political reforms, and stopped voting

Lying politicians probably tell themselves that the public cannot take the truth. Many convince themselves (lie to themselves) that lies of omission are not really serious like lies of commission.

Just how bad things have become is shown by the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the state of Washington that lying politiciansare protected by the 1st Amendment. They are free to lie as much as they can get away with. Free speech apparently is a green light for lying, even though it leads to rotten, dishonest government.

During this primary season it is worthwhile to look at Republican and Democratic candidates from this honest-president perspective. A truly honest president would have the greatest loyalty to honoring the rule of law, the Constitution and the needs of the public, rather than what we have grown used to: greatest loyalty to their party and the moneyed interests funding it. If the nation really wants a change president, honesty should be a requirement.

On the Republican side, Ron Paul looks like the most honest candidate. Straight-talk John McCain still seems to have better than average honesty, and Mike Huckabee seems relatively honest, except when he talks about his record on taxes as governor. On the Democratic side, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel look the most honest, with Bill Richardson running close. Among third party presidential candidates in recent history, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan stand out for their honesty, which clearly was not sufficient to prevail against liars.

Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney are pretty comparable big-time, gold-medal Republican liars. And with Romney we might get the first Mormon president, but not an honest one. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, then the most dishonest Democratic candidate will have prevailed. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that only 34 percent of Americans view Senator Clinton as honest. As to Barack Obama, viewed as 50 percent more honest than Clinton in some polls, his statements about his upbringing, universal health care, and campaign funding cast doubt on his honesty. Still, he seems successful in selling himself as honest. Liars are bad, but liars claiming to be honest are worse. Odds are that there will be no honest Republican or Democratic presidential candidate to vote for in 2008.

An honest president would threaten the corrupt, dishonest and rigged two-party political system, so one getting a presidential nomination is improbable. How could an honest person obtain financing for their campaign? How could they get diverse groups to support their candidacy? Candidates tell different groups what pleases them, and eventually contradict themselves. Flip-flopping sounds bad, but is even worse when the new position is a lie.

Some may suggest that a candidate does not have to be honest during campaigning, but only be honest once elected president. But can someone with real character find it easy to lie repeatedly during campaigning and then have the ability to stop lying once elected? I think not. Besides, how can citizens detect the potential honest president if that person is behaving like all normal lying candidates during campaigns? A truly honest person must stand out and be seen as exceptional by the public because of their habitual honesty. Much of the appeal of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich is their perceived honesty. But the candidates most likely to succeed attract supporters for their policy positions, promises or ability to win, despite not being seen as honest. That makes their supporters delusional. They lie to themselves to justify their support.

This means that most people reject choosing a candidate on the basis of their perceived honesty. They knowingly choose dishonest politicians. Why?

Lies entertain. Honesty disturbs. Honesty produces painful truths about the nation, government, and failed public policies. Truth-telling politicians usually say things that people would rather not hear and or think about.

Meanwhile the mainstream media and pundits, promoting confrontation and horse races to entertain and keep their audiences, are reluctant to call lying politicians liars. Instead, they use oblique language and euphemisms to conceal the truth about lying. They are as dishonest as the politicians they talk about. How interesting it would be to have media people ask candidates something like: Are you being the most honest person you can be in this campaign? I don't think the majority of dishonest ones would not say "yes." Instead, they would dance and blabber.

Tragically, Americans have become used to lying politicians. Can our democracy survive when most people believe that an honest president is both impossible and unnecessary?

Of course, honesty by itself is no guarantee that someone will be a great president. Nor is it by itself sufficient reason to vote for someone. But imagine if we insisted that it be a necessary, minimum requirement for supporting politicians.

In the end, without honesty, every reason we use to vote for someone is a joke. Delusional thinking about candidates has produced our delusional democracy. Time to stop voting for liars. Better to not vote at all. Voting for liars only encourages more lies.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/454304/first_woman_first_black_first_latino.html


Of Boycotts and Elections By Charles Sullivan

One hopes that at some point the American people will come to the realization that most elected officials these days do not serve the public interest, but their own economic self interests and those of their financial backers. The few who would serve the public interest are filtered out by the insurmountable fortress of capital that is the bulwark of electoral politics, especially at the federal level. Genuine public servants have roughly the same chance of winning a seat in Congress or the Whitehouse, as one has of winning the lottery.

For the totally uninitiated, or those on narcotics: the odds are astronomical.

It requires unfathomable sums of money to even play the game, and that, in and of itself, precludes the majority of us from meaningful participation. It filters ordinary people possessed of ordinary means from serious contention. Ordinary people overwhelmingly comprise the national demographic, and yet they are wholly without representation in government at virtually every level. Without substantial financial backing, you can play but you cannot win. You are relegated to the outer fringes of the system, a distant planet circling a distant sun in a distant orb.

A game in which only the wealthy can afford to play assures that only the wealthy will win. The result is that we have a system of electing politicians to serve a very tiny segment of the population—less than one percent, while simultaneously working against the great majority and, accordingly, the public welfare.

In the rarified lexicon of corporate run politics—profits matter, people don’t; no matter the self righteous proclamations to the contrary. The wonder is that so many people continue to invest so much of their precious time and energy in a system that has so obviously and completely abandoned them.

Perhaps abandon is not the appropriate word. Betray might be a better choice. Electoral politics in the US is the realm of high rollers and robber barons, not of ordinary people from working class backgrounds struggling for a piece of the much ballyhooed ‘American Dream.’ That system has utterly betrayed them, leaving them out in the cold to fend for themselves as best they can, against the very crooks and thieves who are mortgaging their future to the Corporate States of America.

The people’s plight is akin to playing the lottery and hitting the jackpot against enormous odds. It is a game of desperation in which defeat and loss are the predictable outcomes for all but a few. The money system wins, we the people lose; and we look like fools and chumps for having played the game against such tremendous odds. But, as Thoreau said so well, “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Collectively, we have yet to show much wisdom. We just keep doing what we have always done and keep getting the same sorry results, and wonder why things never improve.

When the choice is between Hillary Clinton, Rudi Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Edwards and Barach Obama, there is no meaningful choice. The difference between these candidates is primarily a matter of semantics. In each case you are getting essentially the same person representing the same economic self interests, the same policies. All of them are pro war. Contenders are in contention because they are the recipients of serious corporate money, not because they are champions of the people or servants of the public welfare.

Ron Paul is not the answer either, as so many so desperately want to believe. Like his neoconservative brethren, Dr. Paul seeks to shrink the public domain and privatize everything—including all public lands. Economic self interest is the centerpiece of Paul’s political ideology and that not only does not serve the public interest, it undermines it. Dr. Paul is as much a product of Milton Friedman’s economics as any neocon and equally dangerous.

We have an electoral system that always chooses between two evils, what Ralph Nader calls, “The evil of two lessers.” But choosing the lesser evils assures that evil rules and, as we have seen, the evil is deepening with each successive election.

To my mind, Dennis Kucinich is better suited to represent the people than any of the other candidates in the field. However, the democratic leadership will never permit Kucinich to win the party nomination because he would undermine their authority and threaten the established orthodoxy that controls the system.

Genuinely progressive candidates are cynically used by the party leadership to create the appearance that the party still has an effective liberal wing when, in fact, it does not. The progressive wing of the party exists but it has been marginalized through lack of media exposure, lack of financial backing, and through the lack of support of the party leadership.

Candidates with the qualifications of Dennis Kucinich only serve to retain the party loyalty of progressives. It keeps progressives playing the game while also preventing them from doing anything meaningful or revolutionary.

We saw what happened to Howard Dean a few years ago; and Dean was a very moderate liberal, at best only slightly left of center. Progressives will not be allowed to compete.

More people already choose not to participate in electoral politics than those who vote. It is not difficult to understand why: because they see elections as the sham they are, riddled with corruption and illegitimate to the core. The people intuitively know when they have been disenfranchised. They know that elections are about profiteering, not about public service or the collective good.

It must also be noted that the previous two presidential elections were stolen by George Bush and his cohorts. There are serious concerns about the efficacy of paperless electronic voting machines, like those manufactured by Diebold with its close ties to the Republican Party and neo-conservatism. A system in which foxes are the guardians of the hen house is not in the people’s interest; nor is it in the interest of justice.

As US citizens, we should have enough integrity that we do not allow the public wealth to be stolen with our blessings. We should denounce the process that unabashedly transfers the public domain into the private sector as the outright theft that it is. We should not pretend that it is the pubic interest or that it is a democratic process because we voted for it. It is self-interested greed and nothing more.

I could not blame any sane person for not voting, for non-participation in a process that is so obviously fixed. We need to devise better and more imaginative strategies through which to express our dissatisfaction, our outrage with the process. A good beginning might be to wash our hands of that system entirely.

Clearly, the solution is to get the special interest money out of politics. But how can the people achieve such an ambitious objective against such tremendous odds? Those who benefit from the system effectively own it, and they are not going to voluntarily dismantle it. It is too lucrative for them to let it go and erect a genuinely democratic system in its place.

Participation in a sham system, while pretending that it is legitimate, will only prolong the prostitution and continue the corporate feeding frenzy at the public trough. We must do something different than what we have always done in the past, if we are to get a different result.

One method of undermining the system may be to boycott the 2008 elections by not participating in them. Since the outcome is already predetermined by the selection of only pro corporate candidates—war mongers and disaster capitalists all, there is really nothing to lose. The system is rigged to keep the war profiteers and corporatists in power, by keeping genuine public servants out of contention. The appearance of democracy and citizen participation is just window dressing, more facade than real.

As democracy craving citizens in an ever more dangerous emerging fascist state, our energy would be better spent denouncing the electoral process that only masquerades as a democracy than participating in it and giving it the appearance of legitimacy to the outside world. We have an obligation to expose it for the sham it is and say, “No more!”

This might be accomplished by boycotting all federal elections until the special interest money is coerced out of the process, and the playing field is leveled; where outcomes are determined by ideas and commitment to public service, rather than access to huge amounts of capital and cronyism.

Perhaps then Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader might have a legitimate chance to win office, or even your next door neighbor. Public service could be put into the political process thereby legitimizing it by making it democratic.

Electoral boycotts could be conducted by large numbers of public spirited citizens turning out not to vote, but instead to protest, which if widely publicized would be too large and too controversial to be ignored even by the corporate media—democracy in action indeed. We really have nothing to lose.

As it is now, government is nothing more than a revolving door between political administrations and business. Corporate lobbyists are running the government rather than the people.

Voting is one of the sacred cows that symbolize a democratic republic but it does nothing to actually create such a republic, especially in the absence of meaningful choice.

The strategy of boycotts is low risk to the individual and it is legal. It requires very little physical effort and little personal sacrifice. Everyone can participate, regardless of political knowledge, income level, age and party affiliation. It could potentially become a grass roots movement toward real democracy and it could begin immediately. If conducted on a large enough scale, it could provide real results too.

The idea of political boycotts does not originate with me but I believe the initiative has merit. Perhaps we should give it the serious consideration it deserves. How such boycotts might be organized will be left in more capable hands than my own. The first step is to widely publicize the idea and to generate serious discussion about it. Let the dialog begin.

A Note about Reform and Revolution:

Ultimately what we are talking about here is not reform but revolution. Voting in the absence of meaningful choice is a poor substitute for real democratic processes. It is an exercise in self-deception and futility designed to keep the working class people servile and marginalized.

Electoral boycotts are one of many tools available to us as we plant the seeds of revolution and create the atmosphere for a major paradigm shift sometime in the future. Boycotts are a peaceful way of hastening the change that will eventually make a more just society possible; a world in which just people, not wealth and privilege, decides the future.

The political system should belong equally to every citizen, rather than to the moneyed gentry that have locked most of us out. No one is going to give us the keys. We must take them because they rightfully belong to us.

Revolution is possible only with a broad awakening to our predicament in a sham democracy that is subservient to immense wealth and power. Awakening must be followed by enlightenment through self-education and comprehension of the problems we face as a people. It will grow by having serious discussions amongst ourselves and by putting everything on the table.

Revolution is a word that scares some people because it conjures images of armed rebellion and chaotic violence. But it does not have to be so. India was transformed by non-violent resistance to horrible tyranny. The people and their detractors will decide what form it will take.

Revolutions do not just suddenly erupt. They are grown slowly and over increments of time, beginning from seeds that are carefully sown and nurtured. Sowing seeds are an act of faith; an expression of hope that there will be a future worth living.

Revolution should only frighten those who hold the keys to empire. We are only at the very beginning of a long journey of transformation. We are laying the foundation stones of fundamental change and redistribution of wealth and power that must be based upon justice and equality.

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article18748.htm

[Oct 20, 2013] 'We face a crisis of epic proportions, Circus Clown College in Congress a joke' - whistleblower

October 18, 2013 | RT SophieCo
Download video (181.08 MB)

Sophie Shevardnadze: Our guest today is another national security whistleblower, and no it’s not Edward Snowden – his name is Mark Novitsky and he joins us from the American city of Minneapolis.

So the drama in Washington – what was it? Is it a comedy or a tragedy?

Mark Novitsky: It’s really disturbing to refer to what’s happening in Washington as a joke, and on behalf of all critical, clear-thinking Americans I want to apologize to the rest of the world for our Circus Clown College in Congress, and only the American Congress could pat themselves on the back and break their elbows for kicking the can down the road instead of actually doing their job, and delaying this for another three months on an issue that they should have handled couple years ago.

... ... ...

MN: Feudalism, I guess. Pseudo-democracy. We are in the United States of America and we ended up coming down to having a choice between two pre-selected candidates who spend the most money. A look at what just transpired with our country and our government with regards to this “every six month debt limit increase” or it’s a fiscal cliff, or it’s austerity – there’s always something to be afraid of, but at this point in time if we look at the television and see these two idiot teams bickering and fighting back and forth.

I’ll be candid with you, when I have a mental image of American politics I see two warring factions of chimpanzees baring their teeth and screaming at each other and waving and flailing their hands above them and throwing feces at each other. That’s where we are at. We got to get back to being the beacon of freedom, the beacon of democracy, the beacon of common sense.

[Aug 16, 2013] Paul Krugman Moment of Truthiness

August 16, 2013 | Economist's View

DrDick -> bakho...

This really gets to the heart of the problem. Our democracy did not just happen to get broken. This is the result of a deliberate, decades long disinformation campaign by movement conservatives as an outgrowth of the Goldwater campaign which established the vast network of rightwing think tanks, media outlets, and the rest. They realized that conservative policies are vastly unpopular on their merits and that they could only win elections by lying and deception.

BigBozat -> DrDick...

Actually, the movement conservative disinformation campaign dates back to [at least] the Founding (in this country, anyway).

It has morphed and changed parties and transmuted its arguments in myriad ways... but it has existed long before Goldwater was even born.

Dryly 41 -> Anon 1...

I think you have to distinguish the Democratic wing of the Democratic party and the Wall Street wing of the Democratic party.

Clinton, Rubin, Summers, Ludwig etc and Obama all come from the Wall Street wing. Clinton and company abandoned the "strict supervision" of FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter in favor of Harding, Coolidge, and, Hoover's laissez faire. In this Clinton and Obama have followed Reagan and the Bush family.

The Guardian

LittleBro -> rfischer8655

Obama seems to be eerily passive and acquiescent with the whole thing.

No offense, but although I find Obama "eerie" in many ways, I don't share this evaluation of his attitude towards Total Security-State Surveillance.

Oh, he may seem to be a thoughtful, and even troubled, chap on the topic when required by circumstances.

At such times, he comes across like, say, a liberal arts professor deploring the mindless competition, violence, and sexism in (Amerikan) college football programs.

You know-- as a senior faculty member, he has a duty to Support the Team. But his enthusiasm is ostensibly checked by his personal, private conscience. He thinks we need to have a national conversation about the controversial aspects of the situation.

Yet on Game Day, there he is on the sidelines: the Cheerleader of Cheerleaders, waving those pom-poms, jumping up and down, and wagging his behind at the military and corporate poobahs sitting at the fifty-yard line.

Personally, I don't believe that Obama was ever merely acquiescent to the demands of the power elite and their Hollow Security State. I think he coyly dissembled and equivocated until he secured his power sufficiently to indulge his Inner Despot.

Obama fooled lots of people lots of the time. My guess is that he's fooling fewer and fewer people every day.

But he still commands the loyalty of many Obamabots even after they wise up and see through his act.

They're in a truly wretched predicament-- programmed to support him as the Lesser Evil, and desperately attempting to stave off painful disillusionment by clinging to parthian accolades like, "But he's still 'the only adult in the room'!"

[Jul 28, 2013] Obama’s Master Class in Demagogy 101 by Michael Hudson

“Obama masquerading as a minority group baglady whilst in reality being the bagman for the Plutocracy …”

July 28, 2013 | naked capitalism

Walter Map:

One wonders how Romney would have been any better. Or any worse. Or, indeed, any different.

The problem with politics in Amerika is that you get the same result regardless of who you vote for, or whether anybody votes at all. That’s how it was in the Soviet Union. And it’s hardly accidental.

Is DC officialdom still claiming the U.S. is a “free country”, or do they figure they’ve already trashed their credibility sufficiently for now? Too bad for them. Now they’re going to need to come up with a new canard.

tiresoup:

The oracle of Obama: whatever he says, his actions usually take place nearly 180 degrees in the other direction. This angle of deceit, while shared by all politicians, does seem unusually large his case.

Obama (or any politician) is what he does, not what he says – although you CAN fool some of the people all of the time. Is that who he’s reaching with this “I feel your pain” claptrap? I can’t believe that even he believes what he’s saying.

As for what his plans are: enriching the financial and corporate oligarchs at the expense of the taxpayer would just be more of what he’s been doing since he first got elected. Fancy words to the contrary are evidence that he either thinks fancy words will still work, or are otherwise still necessary

[May 18, 2013] Sheila Krumholz and Danielle Brian on How Money Rules Washington

"we have a political class, one devoted exclusively to the protection of the interests of the feral rich and the corporations they own and control. In the same way, the two political parties serve as window dressing for the similarity of purpose. "
naked capitalism
masaccio

May 18, 2013 at 5:04 am

I agree that we have a political class, one devoted exclusively to the protection of the interests of the feral rich and the corporations they own and control. In the same way, the two political parties serve as window dressing for the similarity of purpose.

We don’t govern ourselves now, if we ever did. We simply select a uniform to vote for, no differently than we pick a sports team to root for.

allcoppedout

May 18, 2013 at 5:15 am

Very interesting post. After years researching and teaching research methods I come up dry on tools to make the analysis effective. We have known for 2500 years that equally powerful arguments can be made from many perspectives or frames of reference and got nowhere outside science on decisions between ‘paradigms’.

Structuralist analysis would no doubt throw up royal routes through schools, universities and management training, along with networked, family connections. Jane Marceau is one of many who have written on this theme of the making of business elites and the political class. Literature is legion and already tells us a lot on how the system developed and perpetuates itself through an ideology of meritocracy. My preference is to wonder why we have to deal through this scumbag system at all. There clearly are many alternatives and the dominant system spends much of its time strangling them at birth. The most obvious alternative would be transparent money and qualification and lot systems with salary caps.

I’d like to see analysis build the alternatives and probe why we have none. I’m pretty sure that just replacing people by sortition probably won’t work without transparent money – and that we need to do something about privacy in considering anything like this. Salary caps might seem to chase off the ‘best’ – but what do we really know about who the best are and what motivates them?

We don’t really get to see the competing scenarios on how our politics and economic system might work. Most haven’t realised yet that we have no democracy and economics is detached from any relation to structure. It’s obvious even basic data don’t get through to people – as in people not realising how unequal their societies are and what this inequality within societies does to us. We’ve had lots of posing with Gramsci, Foucault and postmodern text-engines.

Do we really need Nietzsche or any philosophy to teach us to recognise what’s myth and ideology? We end up grounding our epistemology in a profound denial of – er – epistemology! I’d go with trying to establish the scenario of what a modern society would be – as Latour said we are profoundly non-modern. One could build back to what we need to do to achieve this. And should we not try to break the mold of the solus ipse now we have the technology to work more easily together? What account of ignorance and apathy should we work with including our own Idol of the theatre?

Will any effort we make be beaten to the punch by mobs in the street? After all, the intellectual effort has left most of us jaded and protecting our own sinecures. Radical politics in the UK is UKIP! What have we done to make our ideas so unappealing?

banger

May 18, 2013 at 7:36 am

Most healthy people, despite the 24/7 propaganda to the contrary are not mainly motivated by money when their basic needs are met. The quest for riches is perverse and anti-social and ought to be seen that way. People, when allowed to express their true nature, are cooperative, creative and want to avoid stress and conflict. Parties are what healthy people really love not the stupid Scrooge McDuck quest for money.

The fact we as a society honor money-making in itself corrupts our civil society. We need to stop that and ask the followers of the philosophy of selfishness if any of their assertions are backed by social science or neuro-science. Because there is absolutely no basis for the fundamental driver of current conservative philosophy which is not in the least bit “conservative” in the Burkean sense because it devalue society and social mores.

John Jones

May 18, 2013 at 8:04 am

Banger if people are like that then would it not be possible to ban money in politics eventually?

I would like to believe that there is altruistic people out there that could serve as politicians without lobby group money etc and make decisions based on scholarly methods, facts, truth and the common good.

I agree with what you say though. Just my ignorant 2 cents.

Andrew Watts

May 18, 2013 at 5:25 am

Nope, it doesn’t matter. In days past there was individuals like Daniel Webster who cashed checks from such praiseworthy institutions like the second Bank of the United States during his political tenure.

Webster was a stalwart defender of the central bank from it’s enemies during his time in Congress. Even in his capacity as a private citizen Webster represented bank interests and strengthened the hand of the federal government relative to the states in legal cases that furthered monopolistic private interests.

One of which has a bit of relevance in the present day; McCulloch v. Maryland. This particular legal battle made it to the Supreme Court where it effectively buried the capacity of a state to ban banks not chartered in the state. It also legalized the federal government’s ability to charter a central bank.

That didn’t matter at the time though. Those groups that Webster panhandled for couldn’t stop a political coalition comprised of slave owners and western farmers (Free-Soilers) from destroying the second Bank of the United States. Ushering an era of Jacksonian democracy that was diametrically opposed to government by and for the elite.

Gee, wern’t all our esteemed representatives who opposed the bank bailouts mostly from western and southern states? History…. something, something. Har, har!

allcoppedout

May 18, 2013 at 5:43 am

I watch UK coverage more or less doing what Lambert has here. Most of our television reporters are vapid and all prevent any real argument.

RT and Al Jazeera now provide most of the best news in the UK, though bias of other kinds shows up there. Tedious conversation or discourse analysis is not the answer – we need something in real time. But even if we could put Lambert on screen in a live critique box … Some of our reporters are pretty bright, so we might look at the psychology-sociology of how they sell out so easily. There’s plenty of work to look at here and it extends into how bright people manage to be so stupid in banks.

banger

May 18, 2013 at 8:13 am

I know something about mainstream journalists and their culture. Mainstream journalists, like politicians, are mentored, vetted and groomed at places like Columbia by senior editors and journalists who take an interest in promising students and guide them in their careers. American journalism is very much a community and the mores, attitudes and political stances they take in their reporting is carefully monitored by their editors.

If you want to work for a prestigious news outlet you have to be “responsible” and cultivate your sources and avoid putting your editor in the embarrassing position of being chewed out by an official or a tycoon on an unnamed beach in New England or a Washington dinner party. American journalists today are political functionaries who must be careful of what they say and write at all time because there are many people who want their jobs. If you break the rules, at least in Washington, you are socially shunned and you will never work anywhere in the mainstream.

The most telling example of this is when Christian Parenti offended the dean of Washington hack journalists, Jim Lehrer, by reporting, early in the Iraq occupation, something to the effect that people in Iraq were concerned by corruption with American contractors. By simply passing on what everyone knew and what was, in fact, the case he was castigated by Lehrer who said he’d never be on his show again.

Stories and political positions are worked out politically in Washington – the actual “truth” is not considered. Now, they will tell you just the opposite that they are are “objective” and this is self-deception. Some journalists are, thankfully, cynical but most, in my experience are true believers in their exalted position that Walter Lippman prepared for them.

Today, much journalistic content actually comes from PR firms (just a little trade secret) but that’s another story and is a development of the last decade. Also true (yes, I had an inside seat) is that PR firms (surprise) hire young people to blog at all kinds of places to spread disinformation throughout the most trafficked blogs but that too is another story.

clarence swinney

May 18, 2013 at 9:15 am

BARNEY FRANKS SPEAKS

“Every time a group would come in my office for more money for housing, elderly, I would say you forget one thing. You forgot to say Raise taxes and Cut the out of control military.”

So much truth. Three things will ruin our fiscal condition. Military, Medicare and Interest. All three can be reduced. We can pay down debt. We must tax wealth. We can cut Medicare and military. We are in peace time why keep loading $$$ on the Pentagon where they now own almost one third of our Total budget when you add in Energy Dept. and Veterans. We must do better. Two things brought down empires. Internationalism and Debt.

Mary Bess

May 18, 2013 at 9:16 am

The legal sanctioning of their own criminal behavior is certainly the goal of the Banksters and the Pete Petersons of the world and their work is nearly complete. Whistleblowers are jailed for telling the truth and Banksters are rewarded for stealing. The moral universe turned on its head.

I saw the latest film version of Les Misérables a few days ago. It looked so familiar. Poor Jean Valjean, having redeemed himself as he approaches death, still views himself a criminal, having internalized the views of his oppressors.

Valjean’s mind is totally colonized. I sat next to a Romney supporter (or Obama, it wouldn’t matter), who was crying her eyes out.

PS-2: Cognitive Dissonance and the Flip side of the Aplocalypse…

November 18, 2012 | VivekAnand's Blog

Greetings,

Quite a humdinger this time is turning out to be, eh?

a) Obama gets re-elected. America is divided. Almost 50/50. No accident that. And straight through the middle to boot. No accident that either. Voter-fraud allegations galore. Electronic voting Machine malfunctions galore. And yet, not a peep from the other side. Which really tells you that there is no other side. Both one side. It’s the people, us, who are the other. The Joke, the Yoke is on US/us. The poke, is in the eye and on FleeceBook? And where then is the writing? On the wall. Look at this map of the results:

Red and Blue: Where is the White?

And all of a sudden, states, led by Texas, start filing for secession.

Right after the results of the 2012 presidential election had been revealed, something out of the ordinary began happening. United States citizens started filing petitions so that their states could secede from their country due to Barack Obama being re-elected as president. As of the evening of Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, the petition for Texas’ secession has reached over 112,000 signatures.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the acme of an age old principle called Divide and Rule. In this case by Donkeys and Elephants.

Unfortunately, for all of us living the world/time of the post-American Century, this matters.

[Jul 18, 2013] Sci-Fi Stories That Predicted the Surveillance State

Jul 18, 2013 | Slashdot

quenda

Re:Nothing to predict (Score:5, Insightful)

The government still changes by means of election,

So far as I can see, the election changes very little. Giving people a choice of two figureheads is not democracy.

Real democracy needs transparency, accountability and rule of law. Whether there is one party, or two slightly different parties, running things is a relatively minor point.

[Jun 30, 2013] Some Datapoints on Global Political Risk

June 30, 2013 | naked capitalism
Jessica:

“As Prof.Michael Hudson remarked once, all Social Democratic Parties in Europe are traitors to their own ideology, just masked neo-liberals playing the game until they win the elections.”

But that was not always the case. Since the treason is Europe-wide, some deep factor must be at work, not the personalities running the individual Social Democratic Parties.

The Illusion of Voting

"The whole two-party political system is a criminal conspiracy hiding behind illusion induced delusion."

"Yes, I revile Bush, but also he is merely a figurehead for the real Beast. By the Democrats own words they have unleashed terror upon us and given it a face of Muslims and Arabs… for their own selfish greed.

"The donkey and the elephant (symbols of the two dominant political parties) are tied at the hip. Whenever they want to start wars they put the elephant (Republican party) in front. When the people get upset enough they put the donkey (Democratic party) in front. We need to untie the donkey and the elephant and put them on a reservation, and come up with some real solutions to our problems.

A Conspiracy of Two Parties — The Grand Delusion

By Joel S. Hirschhorn

With an endless, futile and costly Iraq war, a stinking economy and most Americans seeing the country on the wrong track, the greatest national group delusion is that electing Democrats in 2008 is what the country needs.

Keith Olbermann was praised when he called the Bush presidency a criminal conspiracy. That missed the larger truth. The whole two-party political system is a criminal conspiracy hiding behind illusion induced delusion.

Virtually everything that Bush correctly gets condemnation for could have been prevented or negated by Democrats, if they had had courage, conviction and commitment to maintaining the rule of law and obedience to the Constitution. Bush grabbed power from the feeble and corrupt hands of Democrats. Democrats have failed the vast majority of Americans. So why would sensible people think that giving Democrats more power is a good idea? They certainly have done little to merit respect for their recent congressional actions, or inaction when it comes to impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

One of the core reasons the two-party stranglehold on our political system persists is that whenever one party uses its power to an extreme degree it sets the conditions for the other party—its partner in the conspiracy—to take over. Then the other takes its turn in wielding excessive power. Most Americans—at least those that vote—seem incapable of understanding that the Democrats and Republicans are two teams in the same league, serving the same cabal running the corporatist plutocracy. By keeping people focused on rooting for one team or the other, the behind-the-scenes rulers ensure their invisibility and power.

The genius of the plutocrats is to create the illusion of important differences between the two parties, and the illusion of political choice in elections. In truth, the partner parties compete superficially and dishonestly to entertain the electorate, to maintain the aura of a democracy. Illusion creates the delusion of Americans that voting in elections will deliver political reforms, despite a long history of politicians lying in campaigns about reforms, new directions and bold new policies. The rulers need power shifting between the teams to maintain popular trust in the political system. Voting manifests that trust—as if changing people will fix the system. It doesn't.

So voters become co-conspirators in the grand political criminal conspiracy. Those who vote for Democrats or Republicans perpetuate the corrupt, dishonest and elitist plutocracy that preferentially serves the interests of the Upper Class and a multitude of special interests—some aligned with the Republicans and some with the Democrats. Voting only encourages worthless politicians and those that fund and corrupt them.

Public discontent leads to settling for less through lesser evil voting rather than bold thinking about how to reform the system to get genuine political competition and better candidates and government.

I understand why sane people would not want to vote for Republicans, based on the Bush presidency. But I cannot understand why politically engaged people think that putting Democrats in power will restore American democracy and put the welfare of non-wealthy Americans above the interests of the wealthy and the business sector. Bill Clinton's administration strongly advanced globalization and the loss of good jobs to foreign countries. Economic inequality kept rising. Trade agreements sold us out.

And in this primary season talk about reforming our health care system among Democrats never gets serious about providing universal health care independent of the insurance industry. And why should citizens be supportive of a party that favors illegal immigration—law breaking—that primarily serves business interests by keeping labor costs low?

Nor have Democrats stood up to challenge the official 9/11 story that no longer has any credibility to anyone that takes the time to seriously examine all its inconsistencies with what really happened and the laws of physics.

Whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination will not be free of corruption and lies. He or she will owe paybacks to all the fat-cat campaign donors. Voters will be choosing the lesser-evil Democratic presidential candidate. Is that really the only choice? Is there no other action that can advance the national good?

There seem to be just two other choices. Vote for some third party presidential candidate, but the downside of that is twofold. No such candidate can win in the current rigged system. Worse, voting gives a stamp of credibility to the political system, as if it was fair, when it is not. Voting says that you still believe that the political system merits your support and involvement.

The second option is to boycott voting to show total rejection of the current political system and the plutocratic cabal using the two-party duopoly to carry out its wishes. When a democracy no longer is legitimate, no longer is honest, and no longer serves the interests of ordinary citizens, then what other than violent revolution can change it? When the electoral system no longer can provide honest, corruption free candidates with any chance of winning, what can citizens do? Either stay home or just vote in local and state races and for ballot measures.

I say remove the credibility and legitimacy of the federal government by reducing voter turnout to extremely low levels. Show the world that the vast majority of Americans have seen the light and no longer are deluding themselves about their two-party democracy. A boycott on voting for candidates for federal office is a form of civil disobedience that has enormous power to force true political reforms from the political system. This is the only way to make it crystal clear that the presidency and Congress no longer represent any significant fraction of the people. This is the only way to show that America's representative democracy is no longer representative and, therefore, is no longer a credible democracy. Just imagine a federal government trying to function in the usual ways when only 20 percent of the eligible voters actually voted.

It takes more courage to boycott voting than to vote for lesser evil Democrats and in the end this is the only way for people to feel proudly patriotic. This is the only way to not contribute to the ongoing bipartisan criminal conspiracy running the federal government.

We have broken government because the spirit of Americans that gave us our revolution and nation's birth has been broken, in large measure by distractive and self-indulgent consumerism. It is better to recognize that those who vote suffer from delusion than to criticize those who do not vote as apathetic. Non-delusional nonvoters recognize the futility of voting.

Democrats will not restore our democracy. That is the painful truth that most people will not readily accept. Such is the power of group delusion. Voting produces never-ending cycles of voter dissatisfaction with those elected, both Democrats and Republicans. It is time to break this cycle of voter despair. Voters that bitch and moan about Congress and the White House have nobody to blame but themselves, no matter which party they voted for.

http://www.counterpunch.org:80/hirschhorn11102007.html

Voting As Political Narcotic

By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Fast forward to Election Day 2008: Network anchors, cable pundits, and state and local election officials are going nuts as evening hours pass and voter turnout is hardly approaching 20 percent nearly everywhere. “What’s going on?” everyone is asking incredulously. TV and computer screens all over the planet show Americans in streets celebrating and shouting things like “We’ve had enough political corruption. We’re not going to take anymore!”

In contrast, news anchors are grim and aghast with little help from spin-fatigued and stammering Democratic and Republican spokespeople. At 2 A.M. on NBC Brian Williams sits with Tim Russett and Keith Olbermann, and sums up: “Americans have spoken and American politics have changed forever.” “It’s like the nightmare of entertainers: nobody shows up for their event,” says bemused Olbermann. Russett grimly observes, “We should have seen this coming; people have been fed up with both parties for a long time.” Meanwhile, the Internet is buzzing with talk of voiding the presidential and congressional election results, that President Bush may declare a national state of emergency, and that the Supreme Court might step in again. Did anyone think that the Constitution required a minimum voter turnout to make elections legit?

***

America’s political system is a large and complex criminal conspiracy. Most voters enable it without benefiting from it. Voting is a ploy of the two-party power elites to keep the population docile, delusional and duped. Our government has been hijacked in plain sight, despite elections. We cannot get it back by voting. All the main candidates are part of the conspiracy. Voting only encourages them. In our fake democracy corrupt politicians use doses of voting as a political narcotic. We must free more Americans of the addiction. Otherwise they will keep hallucinating that some Democratic or Republican President or controlled Congress will actually give us the changes we crave for.

Attempts to hold the government accountable have failed and will continue to fail. The system is rotten to the core. It sustains itself both by preventing major political reforms and undermining those that get passed to temporarily placate the public. Arrogant power elites feel no obligation to be accountable to the public. Elections are not a threat to the status quo. Elections are distractive entertainment, a political narcotic.

Voting became a political narcotic when it stopped working to improve government and became used to legitimize a corrupt, two-party failed government.

Voting—especially lesser-evil voting—sustains our fake democracy more than any other citizen action. It lets politicians claim that they represent the sovereign people. It tells the world that our elected government has public support. Voting sends the wrong message to everyone. No matter who you vote for, voting says the political system is fair. It is not.

Power elites own the government and use it to serve their interests and protect a corporate plutocracy. Though a numerical minority—probably about 20 million Americans—an Upper Class easily manipulates the remaining 280 million by controlling the consumer economy, the distractive culture, and government policies and spending.

This is what America’s political freedom has morphed into:

Where do you fit in?

In our drugged fake democracy, Americans replace objective reality with illusions. The US does not excel in nearly any statistical measure of democracies. Our voter turnout is a disgrace. We imprison more people than all other nations combined. We do not provide universal health care or affordable prescription drugs. Our primary education system is mostly awful. Economic inequality is incredible—with the top one percent owning 21 percent of the nation’s wealth—and getting worse. People are made addicted to consumption and borrowing, then left to suffer from crippling debt. Painful economic insecurity blinds the submissive middle class whose belief in the American dream is akin to expecting to win a lottery.

In a nation that supposedly prizes competitiveness there is no real political competition. The two major parties maintain a collusive stranglehold on our government. Third party candidates are purposefully disadvantaged. Incumbents can thwart opponents. Worse, though the two major parties shout their differences, they are merely two sides of the same coin, two heads of the same beast, two servants of the Upper Class, and two protectors of the corporate plutocracy. They are criminal co-conspirators. Superficial differences between candidates keep voters entertained, manipulated and rooting for “their” team in the political game that the mainstream corporate media (more co-conspirators) make tons of money from.

In this charade minor, maverick primary season presidential candidates contribute to the illusion of a competitive system. Their loyalty to party trumps their commitment to major political reforms. They do not tell their supporters that if they do not receive the nomination “stay home” rather than vote for one of their opponents. No, those they opposed in the primary season are seen as lesser evils than anyone from the other party. This protects the two-party system.

In America’s fake democracy citizens are fooled by personal freedoms. It is a fake democracy because the will of the people is not respected by those elected to run the government, the rule of law is routinely violated by those in power, the Constitution is regularly dishonored and disobeyed by elected officials and judges, and all but the wealthy are sold out through government-assisted corporate globalization.

No wonder that America is a joke to much of the world’s population. Foreigners envy our materialism, not our government. With horrendous hypocrisy we use military power to impose democracy abroad despite having a flawed democracy at home. Foreigners’ disgust with our government is one thing, but they like Americans. Yet Americans enable and sustain the detested government by voting, then blame those elected rather than fix the broken system. A few crooked politicians and corporate bosses go to jail. But the criminal system remains. Nothing but token reforms are made. Corruption continues.

Few Americans are dissidents. Many more block the painful truth that their cherished democracy is a fraud. The land of the free is no longer the home of the brave. Foreign enemies are used to keep people from bravely fighting domestic tyrants.

Like magicians using slight of words and misdirection through lies, politicians (and those that own them) have trivialized the fact that about half of the electorate does not vote. Nonvoters have been blamed when the corrupt system is at fault. Rather than see nonvoters as apathetic we should see them acting rationally because voting is unproductive. Nonvoters should never feel guilty, only proud to have sent a none-of-the-above rejection message.

But voter turnout has not been sufficiently low to forcefully discredit, dishonor and de-legitimize American democracy. Though low, it has become an accepted norm, allowing the manufactured myth to continue – that we live in the world’s greatest democracy, though nothing could be farther from the truth.

With false hope, voters believe that the right Democrat or Republican will do what none of their predecessors has done, and that campaign rhetoric and promises will actually translate to post-election action and policy. Voters fail to understand the depth of our culture of dishonesty that has also invaded the voting process.

Held secretly in private hands is proprietary source code that instructs the voting machines on to how to count the vote. More than 1/3 of all votes cast in our nation are made on touch screen machines driven by proprietary source code and 90 percent of all votes cast are counted by software that’s unverifiable.

No sane American should trust the political system, the politicians, and the voting process. And when you cannot trust all three, you have a fake democracy. Many of us thirst for major change, but mainstream politicians simply exploit this and lie. By voting for any of them we ensure no serious change. The way to shake up the system is to boycott voting.

In sum, despite personal freedoms we also have political tyranny as oppressive in its own way as any authoritarian, dictatorial government. Americans have lost the revolutionary spirit of their ancestors. Americans are unable to revolt, despite revolting conditions. They have accepted the tyranny of taxation with MISrepresentation. The political criminal conspiracy has successfully used cultural genetic manipulation to replace the DNA of revolutionary courage with the DNA of distractive, self-indulgent consumerism. Our primary freedom is to borrow and spend. Our currency should read “In Greed We Trust.” We have populist consumerism, not populist politics. Divisive politics keeps people fighting each other rather than uniting against the rotten system.

Delusional prosperity is what our delusional democracy creates for the majority. Many millions of Americans are hurting from loss of good jobs, crippling health care costs, staggering debt, unaffordable college education, imminent foreclosure or bankruptcy, rising economic insecurity, working two lousy jobs, time poverty, dependence on food stamps and charity. Millions more are angry about endless political corruption and bipartisan incompetence, the inability to get a new 9/11 investigation, uncontrolled illegal immigration, and our national debt. The rebellion needs all of them. And they need the rebellion.

True, we have plenty of passive nonvoters, a good head start. Now we need active, vociferous nonvoters – proud protestors and dissidents urging others to join the civil disobedience to reach the tipping point for revolutionary change. After we achieve major political reforms we should pursue mandatory voting – when voting once again has civic meaning.

Massive, unprecedented nonvoting has the power to produce systemic political reform by defiantly discrediting, dishonoring and de-legitimizing America’s fake democracy. When I choose not to vote I do not make the votes of others more important. Their votes already serve an evil system. The critical choice is to vote or not vote, not picking a particular Democrat or Republican. When I choose not to vote I embrace an honorable, patriotic rebellious act of civil disobedience. I no longer buy the BIG LIE that there still is an American democracy worth participating in. As James Madison said, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.”

Mass nonvoting sends the message of rejection – as powerful as using guns. The Second American Revolution begins with this recognition: We must work together to drive voter turnout down to abysmal levels – so low that everyone gets the rejection message. We must let the world know – and America’s power elites fear – that we sovereign Americans intend to take back our government. But how?

It begins with a boycott of voting. See it as a populist recall of the federal government that makes our Founders proud. It is followed by demanding what the Founders gave us in our Constitution for exactly the conditions we now have: an Article V convention of state delegates that can propose constitutional amendments, especially ones to reform our political system to make it honest and trustworthy. Learn more at www.foavc.org.

Why have we not had one in over 200 years? Why has Congress been allowed to disobey – actually veto a part of the Constitution and violate their oath of office? There is only one logical explanation: An intensely watched convention could wreck the political status quo and take away the power of those running and ruining our nation. That so many Americans fear a convention just shows the success of the social conditioning and political narcotics the elitist plutocracy has imposed for decades. Imagine an amendment that required at least 90 percent voter turnout for federal elections to produce a winner.

When it comes to our nation our choice is not to love it or leave it, but to accept the painful truth and take responsibility for restoring American democracy – because we love it. Let’s move forward with this slogan: “Don't vote--it only encourages them.”

Most Dishonest Politicians Have a Better Chance of Winning By Joel Hirschhorn

Nov 20, 2007 | Yahoo Voices

The phrase honest politician has become an oxymoron. We should not be impressed by the prospect of having the first woman, first black or first Latino president. What would be far more radical would be to have the first honest president, if not ever, certainly in a very long time.

Presidents in recent memory have been excellent liars, contributing mightily to our culture of dishonesty. Bill Clinton had the audacity to look right into the TV camera and blatantly lie to the American public. George W. Bush has probably set a record for official lying, though it might take many decades to fully document them. Carl M. Cannon saw the bigger truth: "posterity will judge [George W. Bush] not so much by whether he told the truth but whether he recognized what the truth actually was."

Things have gotten so bad that hardly anyone can even imagine an honest president. But if we don't expect an honest president, how can we expect to trust government?

Don Nash made these insightful observations, "If America was ever faced with a politician who spoke truth to the people, no-one would know what to make of the oddity. This politician could probably not get elected to office. Sadly, Americans can't handle the truth. ...Lies, then, are the consequential destruction of American democracy. Little by very little, the lies and lying politicians have chipped away at America's Constitution and the American form of government."

Rampant lying by politicians is a major reason why so many Americans have stopped paying attention to politics, stopped hoping for political reforms, and stopped voting

Lying politicians probably tell themselves that the public cannot take the truth. Many convince themselves (lie to themselves) that lies of omission are not really serious like lies of commission.

Just how bad things have become is shown by the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the state of Washington that lying politiciansare protected by the 1st Amendment. They are free to lie as much as they can get away with. Free speech apparently is a green light for lying, even though it leads to rotten, dishonest government.

During this primary season it is worthwhile to look at Republican and Democratic candidates from this honest-president perspective. A truly honest president would have the greatest loyalty to honoring the rule of law, the Constitution and the needs of the public, rather than what we have grown used to: greatest loyalty to their party and the moneyed interests funding it. If the nation really wants a change president, honesty should be a requirement.

On the Republican side, Ron Paul looks like the most honest candidate. Straight-talk John McCain still seems to have better than average honesty, and Mike Huckabee seems relatively honest, except when he talks about his record on taxes as governor. On the Democratic side, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel look the most honest, with Bill Richardson running close. Among third party presidential candidates in recent history, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan stand out for their honesty, which clearly was not sufficient to prevail against liars.

Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney are pretty comparable big-time, gold-medal Republican liars. And with Romney we might get the first Mormon president, but not an honest one. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, then the most dishonest Democratic candidate will have prevailed. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that only 34 percent of Americans view Senator Clinton as honest. As to Barack Obama, viewed as 50 percent more honest than Clinton in some polls, his statements about his upbringing, universal health care, and campaign funding cast doubt on his honesty. Still, he seems successful in selling himself as honest. Liars are bad, but liars claiming to be honest are worse. Odds are that there will be no honest Republican or Democratic presidential candidate to vote for in 2008.

An honest president would threaten the corrupt, dishonest and rigged two-party political system, so one getting a presidential nomination is improbable. How could an honest person obtain financing for their campaign? How could they get diverse groups to support their candidacy? Candidates tell different groups what pleases them, and eventually contradict themselves. Flip-flopping sounds bad, but is even worse when the new position is a lie.

Some may suggest that a candidate does not have to be honest during campaigning, but only be honest once elected president. But can someone with real character find it easy to lie repeatedly during campaigning and then have the ability to stop lying once elected? I think not. Besides, how can citizens detect the potential honest president if that person is behaving like all normal lying candidates during campaigns? A truly honest person must stand out and be seen as exceptional by the public because of their habitual honesty. Much of the appeal of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich is their perceived honesty. But the candidates most likely to succeed attract supporters for their policy positions, promises or ability to win, despite not being seen as honest. That makes their supporters delusional. They lie to themselves to justify their support.

This means that most people reject choosing a candidate on the basis of their perceived honesty. They knowingly choose dishonest politicians. Why?

Lies entertain. Honesty disturbs. Honesty produces painful truths about the nation, government, and failed public policies. Truth-telling politicians usually say things that people would rather not hear and or think about.

Meanwhile the mainstream media and pundits, promoting confrontation and horse races to entertain and keep their audiences, are reluctant to call lying politicians liars. Instead, they use oblique language and euphemisms to conceal the truth about lying. They are as dishonest as the politicians they talk about. How interesting it would be to have media people ask candidates something like: Are you being the most honest person you can be in this campaign? I don't think the majority of dishonest ones would not say "yes." Instead, they would dance and blabber.

Tragically, Americans have become used to lying politicians. Can our democracy survive when most people believe that an honest president is both impossible and unnecessary?

Of course, honesty by itself is no guarantee that someone will be a great president. Nor is it by itself sufficient reason to vote for someone. But imagine if we insisted that it be a necessary, minimum requirement for supporting politicians.

In the end, without honesty, every reason we use to vote for someone is a joke. Delusional thinking about candidates has produced our delusional democracy. Time to stop voting for liars. Better to not vote at all. Voting for liars only encourages more lies.

[Jun 10, 2013] The concept of "low information voter"

"One group calling the other group "Low Information" is pretty much a nice tidy label for your political opponents which entirely ignores the fact that almost everyone is "low information". "

June 09, 2013 | Slashdot

Wild_dog!

Re:And we all know what will happen... (Score:4, Informative)

"And no, it's not a pat phrase to distract."

Funny how it is a conservative media buzzword at the moment. My dad who listens to Rush, Hannity, et all non-stop has started using "Low information Voter" to describe basically everyone he doesn't seem to agree with. Basically it is an odd Ad hominem attack against a generalized group of people one takes issue with.

Reminds me of when the Liberals where slinging around phrases like republitards or conservatives slinging around phrases like libtards. Perhaps more crude and organic, but never-the-less pat phrases which are generalizations. The phrase seems pretty pat when it is a recent and popularized conservative media buzzword to run-down a entire groups of people, but then again your experience may vary. One group calling the other group "Low Information" is pretty much a nice tidy label for your political opponents which entirely ignores the fact that almost everyone is "low information".

"Odd that I can pay attention to both Canadian and American politics at a level where I know what's going on. High consumption of politics isn't required, at most 35mins a day, on the most highly trafficked political sites will get you up to a "medium" level voter."

Do you know whats going on? That is a fairly large assumption. I take the opposite view myself. I don't know most of what is going on. Getting truth out of propaganda is a tricky business. If you think 35 min a day gets you to a medium level of knowledge of politics... then you definitely have a low bar of expectation of actual understanding. Even more so given that you are relying on this knowledge from a few "highly trafficked political" sites. It often takes me many hours of research to look at what folks are saying and verify if it has any merit at all. Even after checking things out I often am not certain what the real story is. But then again, l tend to be skeptical about what is being fed to me.

Being fed your political regurgitations from some websites informs you up to a certain level, but real understanding is much harder to come by.

"They're the people who don't really have an interest in politics at all, but are easily swayed by blasts of information for either or both parties. Which fit their viewpoint."

I think you could say the same thing about partisans. Are partisan voter generally more informed in your estimation? Seems to me that most people don't have much of the actual information. I get pat stuff from both sides of the political aisle all the time which makes no sense what-so-ever. In the end it turns out to be just propaganda and not real information.

In my view, partisans usually don't have much interest in politics other than getting all bunched up about this or that thing every so often. Partisans are the ones who have drunk the coolaid and don't seem to have much ability to think outside of their info food chains. If they get a piece of information... they spend a huge amount of effort to make it fit their world view.

Low information voter is simply not being used to describe swing voters as seems to be your assertion. Here is what Rush Limbaugh said for your edification.

"Low-information voters are clearly people that don't have all the information available to make a voting choice. That's all they are. And they're all over the place. And most of them do vote Democrat. Most of them did vote for Obama. It's not a comment on their intelligence. It's not that they're stupid or don't understand the issues. They just haven't had it all explained to them."

So... if these voters had things "explained" to them somehow make them better voters? Probably not. It depends on who is explaining and whether the information they are using is actual and not propaganda.

I prefer to not digest pre-digested information from a few top political sites which are almost entirely partisan propaganda machines. The information is out there, but it usually is not found on highly trafficked political sites.

[Jun 10, 2013] NSA Surveillance Heat Map NSA Lied To Congress

June 09, 2013 | Slashdot

tmosley

Re:NSA spied more than China ? (Score:5, Insightful)

Correct. Obama is merely continuing and expanding on Bush's policies (while simultaneously blaming him for the resulting effects). McCain would have done the same, perhaps more, perhaps less. This is a farce unlike any seen on this planet for more than a thousand years.

Spoiler alert: It ends badly.

The only way to end without losing everything to hyperinflation and confiscation by the police state is to vote third party. ANY third party. Honestly, even the Socialist Party would be better than this. At least they wouldn't cloak their socialism or national socialism in the guise of capitalism.

bill_mcgonigle

Re:NSA spied more than China ? (Score:5, Informative)

The only way to end without losing everything to hyperinflation and confiscation by the police state is to vote third party

And because of Duverger's Law [wikipedia.org] the only way for that to happen is to get Approval Voting [indiegogo.com]* implemented.

But the odds of that happening in time, against the hegemony, are asymptotic to zero. Since the last time it happened the two big parties have spent more than a century and a half ensconcing their rule in law.

* or more other more-difficult-to-understand-and-implement Condorcet method

[Jun 01, 2013] Systemic Malfunctioning of the Labor and Financial Markets

"They are tough, greedy, aggressive, and feel absolutely out of control, you know, in a quite literal sense. And they have gamed the system to a remarkable extent, and they have a docile president, a docile White House, and a docile regulatory system that absolutely can’t find its voice"
naked capitalism

I keep going back to Jeffrey Sachs, with whom Flassbeck and Jay (and Soros) seem to agree:

Jeffrey Sachs: Well, thank you very much for saying it and practicing it. I do believe – by the way, I’m just going to end here because I’ve been told I have to run to the U.N. in fact right now – I believe we have a crisis of values that is extremely deep, because the regulations and the legal structures need reform. But I meet a lot of these people on Wall Street on a regular basis right now. I’m going to put it very bluntly. I regard the moral environment as pathological. And I’m talking about the human interactions that I have. I’ve not seen anything like this, not felt it so palpably.

These people are out to make billions of dollars and nothing should stop them from that. They have no responsibility to pay taxes. They have no responsibility to their clients. They have no responsibility to people, counterparties in transactions. They are tough, greedy, aggressive, and feel absolutely out of control, you know, in a quite literal sense. And they have gamed the system to a remarkable extent, and they have a docile president, a docile White House, and a docile regulatory system that absolutely can’t find its voice. It’s terrified of these companies.

If you look at the campaign contributions, which I happened to do yesterday for another purpose, the financial markets are the number one campaign contributors in the U.S. system now. We have a corrupt politics to the core, I’m afraid to say, and no party is – I mean there’s – if not both parties are up to their necks in this. This has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans. It really doesn’t have anything to do with right wing or left wing, by the way. The corruption is, as far as I can see, everywhere. But what it’s led to is this sense of impunity that is really stunning, and you feel it on the individual level right now, and it’s very, very unhealthy.

I have waited for four years, five years now, to see one figure on Wall Street speak in a moral language, and I’ve not seen it once. And that is shocking to me. And if they won’t, I’ve waited for a judge, for our president, for somebody, and it hasn’t happened. And by the way it’s not going to happen anytime soon it seems.

mansoor h khan:

Skippy,

Throughout history elites in all societies have always worked to preserve and maintain social stability. They know war and chaos is very risky and will probably end their good life eventually.

Are our elites that stupid? Why would they not have some balance in society to avert war and chaos?

more at:

http://aquinums-razor.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-banking-system-and-economic-growth.html

mansoor h. khan

JGordon:

May 19, 2013 at 10:30 am

We have elites which support Monstanto and nuclear power, things that have the potential of wiping out all life on earth, including that of the elites?

The obvious answer of course is that they are not stupid, but psychotic. If you look at it from that perspective, then everything the elites do makes perfect sense.

Nathanael:

May 20, 2013 at 12:59 am

Psychopathic, techincally.

They are incapable of being afraid of long-term consequences, due to a mental defect.

Susan the other:

I’ve been reading American History and last nite I read about the infamous Haymarket Riot in Chicago in the 1880s. And the tragedy that ensued and the indelible mark it left on our social conscience. I firmly believe that sort of resentment lives in our collective social conscience for literally hundreds of years.

And then I realized I didn’t understand the nexus between unions and socialism. The trajectory from serfs to guilds to “combinations” to associations to syndicates to parties to unions. I do not understand why that last step to socialism and guaranteed labor similar to the European experiment didn’t occur here. And now we are bent on destroying the unions once and for all and the new scheme of the corporations is to import labor for specific jobs regardless of how desperate our own population, especially our college grads, are for work. I agree with the point where this interview left off – it is a question of functional government.

But when corporations control government, as they have here for over 100 years with increasing power, the government itself doesn’t know what else to do. Look how Obama pandered to the unions just to win reelection and then unceremoniously dumped them.

Julian Dennis:

No they have not. Certainly they have always had unfair advantage, but during the Jackson administration there was pushback. More recently after the crash of the thirties regulations and social spending led to a less unequal division, not perfect but better.

The difference however in both of those cases was a President was behind the pushback. Ah wouldn’t be nice to have one who at least a little bit on our side.

nonclassical:

“But in the end, they cannot succeed with that. They can only succeed with a flourishing economy, and you can make money in the long term only if the economy is growing sufficiently quick.” ……………

..obviously unaware of “Shock Doctrine-Rise of Disaster Capitalism”, performed upon South-Central American nations, 70′s, 80′s…(and related war crimes, by Friedmanite-”Chicago Boys” war criminals)…

..have we already forgotten HW telling “W” he didn’t take out Saddam, as it would DESTABILIZE the entire Middle-East?? Does anyone believe DEstabilization was not the Cheney-”W”-bushit GOAL??

“Civilization” be damned…mother earth takes no prisoners…historical documentation (Kevin Phillips-”American Dynasty”-”American Theocracy”) shows what happens when manufacturing based economies DEvolve into “financial services”=paper debt economies…and Phillips was Nixon acolyte..

Timothy Y. Fong

May 19, 2013

“But the political economy is as much like a family as government is like a household. Is there a way forward here? Readers?”

The problem is pretty simple. American elites seem to believe that the US is immune to the cycle of nations. They simply cannot grasp the potential negative outcomes. That is, if things go really wrong, some oligarchs and their retainers (both public and private) will find themselves torn apart by angry crowds, or pursued to the ends of the earth by a new revolutionary government.

The denial falls into two categories. The first, and most common, is a belief that “democracy” and the Constitution mean that things can never fall apart. This is a common belief amongst attorneys and other working professionals.

I find this view to be especially ironic when expressed by relatively conservative Christians, since one of the basic tenants of Christianity is that human beings are fundamentally fallen and imperfect. Apparently, however, that doesn’t apply to Americans, which again, makes no sense, seeing as the Bible does not mention the United States anywhere. Then again, it does make sense, as a friend of mine in the clergy has observed that some of his most rabidly conservative congregants have never actually read the Bible.

Professionals of course, generally have to make it through the filtering system of higher education in the United States, which means buying into the reigning political orthodoxy. Incidentally, that recent survey about American attitudes toward armed rebellion seemed to show that the more education someone had, the less likely they were to believe that armed rebellion would be necessary in the coming years.

The second view, which I suspect is in play amongst the pathological elite mentioned by Sachs, is the belief that they can buy protection. Call it the “high walls and trustworthy details” philosophy. I can see how a person could believe that if they live in a walled community (or co-op with a doorman), and have a trustworthy security detail, they can avoid any consequences for their actions. Security details can be either wholly private, or simply off duty police officers. Indeed, in a place like NYC, the police can be ordered (paid) to bust the heads of any pesky protesters.

In that light, Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign to more strictly control firearms makes perfect sense. The truly worthy….err…wealthy, will always be able to hire off duty armed police officers (pistols politely concealed) as bodyguards. Removing firearms from the hands of everyone else is a nice insurance policy. I understand that the dogma around here is that firearms and violence are ineffective nowadays in political struggles, but, I’m sorry, the fundamental drives of humans don’t change, no matter how much we’d like to think otherwise. Bloomberg won’t get his way outside of the Northeast. There are simply too many firearms in circulation, and any effective action to seize them would probably precipitate a civil war– at least secession, if not a split amongst security service personnel.

Ian Welsh had a very good interview the other day where he mentioned that if things go wrong, it will be very ugly, and a lot of innocent people will get hurt. That is true, and it is a measure of how depraved and foolish our elites are that they are risking that turn of events.

This is going to sound somewhat harsh, but perhaps what our society really needs is an extremely ugly lesson in the unintended consequences that can happen when a few people decide to take all the wealth and oppress the shit out of everyone else. That would be a decisive end to the ridiculous nonsense about how “it can’t happen here because we have democracy.” If that happens, and we survive, somehow, we should take a cue from the Japanese and their tsunami markers. After a tsunami, people mark the safe areas, and the areas where the water came up to. In some cases the markers are centuries old, a warning for the future.

We should put up markers to remind everyone of the consequences of acting like short sighted sociopaths. Sociopaths may not feel empathy, but they certainly have an instinct for self preservation – and future sociopathic elites (let’s not kid ourselves– they’ll be back) should have a dire reminder of the lethal consequences of overreach.

jake chase:

I am afraid you are being romantic and melodramatic in your expectations. What is more likely is that the middle class will move seamlessly into customer service at Walmart and other oases of putrid consumerism.

Americans to the end will be passive consumers of vapid entertainment and disgusting fast food and carbonated sugar water. Look at the amazing number who still smoke cigarettes and gamble at casinos and horsetracks, not to mention bookmakers.

Our individualism may be carcinogenic and idiotic but it is deeply inbred.

Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenbur:

I wish I could say jake is wrong. Things here will have to devolve to the level of the Latin American latifundia with the descendants of today’s “middle class” (working class is a forbidden term) living in favelas and being hunted for sport by the children of the elites before they pull their head out and disabuse themselves of this Horatio Alger/Ayn Rand mythology that anyone can be rich through prayer and hard work.

banger:

Nations don’t matter–we live in an emergent international Empire with an emergent imperial court and a virtual Emperor.

I don’ believe this country is a Constitutional democracy on the federal level. The two Party system doesn’t work anymore because the power-elite has gamed the system. The genius act the oligarchs used was to create an Orwellian state of permanent war which actually suspends the Constitution which is in place only at the pleasure of the power-elite. Boston showed what can happen should anything that looks like “terrorism” occur.

Washington is the main global imperial court and all who work there are all part of it. There is no difference between government officials, politicians and journalists other than the fact they represent somewhat different interests.

Great comment on education and how it vets the elite–that’s why universities turn out little scared clones today.

I think armed rebellion is unlikey but I’m thankful to be living in the South nonetheless

Julian Dennis:

Yes let’s go for it! Would anybody like to join my new religious movement ‘Hang a Banker for Christ.’ If you won’t do it for yourself, if you won’t do it for your loved ones, if you won’t do it for that stranger in need, then do it for the Lord!

Virmont:

To paraphrase George Carlin: Where do you think these “pathological elites” come from? Mars?

Parasites as “pathological” as the American ones could only survive on a certain type of host: a people of proud ignorance and infinite obedience.

What you call an infection (a Lenin o a Mao Tse-Tung) would actually require a population with many redeeming qualities. America, on the other hand, is the same old opportunist genocider it started out as, it just goes into hibernation for awhile, dormant like a retrovirus.

Americans would sooner idolize the pus-filled sac while calling to lay waste to the nearest defenseless minority.

sd:

I have the unfortunate history of having had too much experience with sociopaths, starting first and foremost with a parent who with the exception of murder (at least that I know of) meets all but one of the criteria of a textbook sociopath.

The sociopaths have gained control of the world. They care only of themselves. They are sadistic. They enjoy and receive pleasure from the suffering of others. So far, the only way I have found to counter such behavior is through the acts of creation and generosity. Art, music, dance, smithing, carving, cooking, sewing, knitting, weaving, gardening, any activity that leads to creation is the antithesis of the destruction. The act of giving freely is the antidote to greed.

So look around and say, what can I do myself? The very act of making your own bread and sharing it with others is the anarchy we so desperately need today.

jake chase:

Lambert, on this one I agree with you. I have been saying this for five years and wrote a novel about it in 2008 in which I more or less anticipated everything which has since happened despite having no expert knowledge of CDOs or CDSs either.

It is perfectly obvious that our elite and its toadying supporting class of professionals, academics and journalists care about nothing except their own profligate engorgement. Consequences to others be damned. It is worse now in America than it was in France before the Revolution. These MFs know they are personally invulnerable because they control all political decisions. The difference between fifteen million unemployed and fifty million unemployed is at worst inconsequential and at best positive for them. They view the destruction of the middle class as a plus. They have seen Mexico (on vacation, of course) and they prefer that kind of wealth distribution. Inasmuch as they live only in the air (airplanes and tall buildings) and on the coastal beaches, their physical concerns are accordingly limited and biased.

What continually amazes me is why anybody in the country listens to anything they ever say?

Jim Haygood:

‘Inasmuch as they live only in the air (airplanes and tall buildings) …’

… a lifestyle melding captured by the buzzphrase ‘helicopter views’ which graces this weekend’s Times-Titanic property advertorial:

High-end projects in Manhattan … are proving so profitable that they are warping the local real-estate market, making it more difficult to put up more-affordable housing.

The luxury building trend is driving up the overall cost of land in the city. Several developers maintained that they could build moderately priced housing only if they could get significant tax breaks.

“There are only two markets, ultraluxury and subsidized housing,” said Rafael Viñoly, the architect who designed the [84-story residential] tower on Park Avenue at 56th Street, which is called 432 Park.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/nyregion/boom-in-luxury-towers-is-warping-new-york-real-estate-market.html?hp&_r=0

Presumably ‘subsidized housing’ includes prisons, where more than a couple of million americanos live.

Hope them luxury towers have they own generators. Eighty-four floors is a long way to climb in a blackout.

Serfs up, comrades!

Susan the other :

Reading Aesop’s Fables is always encouraging because all those tales try to caution against greed by using an interesting truth. Which is as Lincoln told us “…. but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” And once trust is lost it is never recovered. It is always changed. Trust is a good example of evolution. It isn’t a static thing. Just remember your parents, if you are old enough, who lived through the 30s and never trusted the banks or the stock market again and were extremely skeptical of real estate. That distrust ran so deep and was partially passed on to our generation that it created a condition whereby the Finance Industry had to think up all sorts of tricks to lure us back in. Which they did. But they regret it as much as we do. All this mess because corporations are trying hard not to pay livable wages. Sad and foolish.

Another Gordon:

Very like the French Revolution.

About a year ago I saw a BBC program about Versailles and the decades running up to the French Revolution and it was spookily like the situation in the US today. The government was perenially short of revenues – partly because of wars, but mainly because of a system which taxed only the poor (who, naturally couldn’t pay much) while exempting the aristocracy who repeatedly used their political power to block any move to tax their vast wealth. In the end they paid with their heads while Britain won the struggle for colonial supremacy.

Those who ignore the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.

Cletus:

jake chase:

“What continually amazes me is why anybody in the country listens to anything they ever say?”

It seems that you have nailed the crux of the problem.

On one hand, we have the relatively small group of sociopaths who control the entire system — practicing their brand of sadism. On the other hand, we have the teeming middle class made up of both sycophant/inept sociopaths and willfully ignorant, self-hating masochists.

I’m actually beginning to believe there’s something in our water supply that causes the majority of people to be docile. Any other generation of people at any other time in history would have seen this for what it is, by now, and would have put an end to it, one way or the other.

Then again, maybe not. Rome went on for a long time as a war-mongering kleptocracy governed by sociopaths

AbyNormal:

12 Million Americans Are Sociopaths

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/08/as-many-as-12-million-americans-are-sociopaths.html

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted. d.h.lawrence

Hugh:

It’s interesting to see how people dance around the concepts of kleptocracy, class war, and wealth inequality. Apply these to the interview above and all the surprise and incomprehension melt away.

Flassbeck says “What we have is the systemic malfunctioning of the system, system malfunctioning of the labor market, systemic malfunctioning of the financial markets.” This seems to me like a half statement. The system is indeed malfunctioning, as in not serving the interests of the 99%, but as an engine of looting and suppression of the 99% by the 1%, it is working just fine. The rich and elites may be evil and/or stupid but mostly they are criminal.

They are not irrational. They will loot to a crash and then loot the crash. They will keep doing this until there is nothing left or they are overthrown. This is the essence of kleptocracy. It is the real system we have, and it is functioning exactly as intended.

Brooklin Bridge:

... ... ...

Moreover, much of the discussion in the comments is more interesting than in the post in that commenters question the why of the middle class and others as well as of the 1%. Why indeed do we – or so many of us – go along with this broken, or criminal, system? I’m not sure Lambert means it that way (applying to both the 1% AND the 99%) when he calls it, “the eternal question”, but since both sides of a pathological relationship (the abusors and the abusees) are important if there is to be such a relationship at all, it IS pertinent. Finally, I assume like objects, a system taken alone can’t be criminal or evil. Those qualities are imbued by the people who inhabit and use or are used by the system.

I’m not arguing your points, except perhaps the implication that, it’s simple, (or easily understandable) “[if one applies the] concepts of kleptocracy, class war, and wealth inequality.” Those may indeed be useful concepts with which to look at it, but even then IT is still not simple or easily cleared up to understanding regardless of the tools you bring to bear or of which side of the abuse one examines or both.

Moneta:

We go to university to be part of the elite. And many who don’t go still think they can realize the American dream if they work a little harder. People want to believe they will be part of the winners.

As long is this hope stays alive, nothing will change.

Eureka Springs:

When our nation is led not by bleeding heart liberals but led by humanitarian bombing, eating heart liberals… the system is indeed entirely corrupt. It’s way past time to demand self-examination of each and every one in society as much as playing the blame game.

We need very simple bullet point lists which describe the problems rather than posts like this which would bore the hell out of at least 85 percent of those who need to be included in revolt.

We need rule of law at the top. FIRE and war crimes being at the top of the list, followed closely by the abuse of the secret and police apparatus. We need the ability to publicly assemble without threat of arrest, tear gassing, usurpation of assemblies by the police state etc. We need to end the bribe based political and electoral system. No negotiation, no half measures such as what move to amend suggested. We need more direct democracy such as the ability to amend by referendum rather than relying on the corrupt system to represent. We need SOLIDARITY, general strikes. Until public assembly can be conducted safely. solidarity strikes can and should be conducted in other ways… such as millions of people shutting off their breaker switch at the pole for a day at a time. We need to understand and admit how the 99 percent are culpable/enable the systemic corruption mentioned in the post and how to stop it or at least minimize – delegitimate.

banger:

I don’t think there’s any simple way to deal with our situation. We are dealing here with issues that go beyond anything human beings have ever faced.

At the deepest level we each face a choice between moving towards connection or towards radical alienation. We have to choose between fear or love and most, today, chose fear. Out of that choice our toxic elites rise and no amount of laws will change anything. Solidarity, which you rightly post about here, is essential but it can only occur out of love and connection with others that’s why, despite the obvious evil of our elites we do nothing–because we are separated and alone–we believe human beings are first “individuals” who are “independent” that’s total fiction–we are individual and important but within the context of larger wholes whether it’s nature or our neighborhood.

I mean we have our work cut out for us but it is, believe it or not, an “inner” work that consists of dropping the fear, the anxiety, the alienation (that is programmed into us by the evil elites for their benefit) and opening our hearts fearlessly even if they are broken every day. If we can each do that it will create huge winds that will blow the whole house of cards down–because the system exists only because we allow it exist as reflecting our inner states.

anon y'mouse:

average American doesn’t need bullet point lists. he’s already been influenced by the think tanks and propaganda-meisters against such things, and has made up his mind. besides, if -I- can read and understand this post, then so can (s)he.

the truth is, as long as the play well tomorrow and give good water-cooler chitchat, they don’t care.

i’m all for a good general strike. hard to ask people who NEED a paycheck because they are one away from homelessness to participate, though. I honestly believe most are in Diffusion of Responsibility and Pluralistic Ignorance mode, and simply hope that they can afford to fix the broken water heater and replace the roof next before next year’s rainy season. those are large enough problems without solving the government, climate change or world overpopulation.

keep ‘em scrambling for scraps (and crawling over each other for them) and they’ll never have time to challenge the powers-that-be.

MaroonBulldog:

See “Republic, Lost” by Lawrence Lessig. Compare “A Capitalism for the People” by Luigi Zingales. Leftish Lessig and Libertarian Zingales have basically the same criticism of the current lobby-election finance-regulatory capture crony corruption system, which stifles the goals of the left and the right at once. That’s why left and right both dislike President Obama. The right sees him as a bolshevik, the left sees him as a menshevik. He’s neither a bolshevik nor a menshevik really. He’s just the current leader of the corruption system.

Bruce Wilder:

We are doomed.

If the closest thing you can realistically come to hope, is hope for a system collapse — that’s pretty hopeless. But, I think that’s what realism gets you.

The big mistake of 2008 was letting people like Bernanke define policy in terms of preserving a dysfunctional system. Everywhere, and all the way down to the suburbs and exurbs, our collective “vision” is preserving a system that no longer works, that hasn’t worked well in a long time.

The pathology of the elite at the tippy top is matched by detachment and denial at the bottom. “You can’t cheat an honest man,” my father advised. The conman depends on both the trust and the greedy dishonesty of the mark, especially the greedy dishonesty. Our desire for hope, our insistence on hope, is being used to get support for preservation-ism. Because the alternative — the realistic alternative — is “hope” for system collapse.

The outsized share of income going to the top 1% can only be generated by disinvestment. You can see it in the numerous nonprofits being driven into the ground, trying to pay big bucks to their executives; this is the end-game. The political economy is being consumed from the bottom-up, to maintain “prosperity” at the very top.

It cannot go on indefinitely. Eventually, the stock of capital runs out. The infrastructure ages into obsolescence. The social insurance is gone. The electricity fails more and more frequently. There are more and more people, who can find no jobs because there are no jobs; the capital stock for those jobs has been liquidated to fund the fortunes of the 1%.

We are descending an uneven stairs. In 2008, we stepped down quite far. About 5% of jobs disappeared completely in the U.S., leaving that much of the labor force unemployable. Oddly, the crises in Europe and China are putting off the day of reckoning in the U.S. Financialization in the U.S. depends on Europe and China not having fully functional currencies and financial systems. So, the U.S. will be able to paper over its unsolved problems, while they continue to get worse, and the economy is eaten away from the bottom-up.

When Europe and China begin to recover, or stabilize, the U.S. will face another step-down — a big one, a drop off the cliff. But, that’s a year or three or five away.

scraping_by:

[The eternal question: Are the elites stupid and/or evil? --lambert]

The eternal answer – those aren’t mutually exclusive.

Indeed, the more mathematically inclined among us could work up Venn diagrams with two variables, a function between stupid and evil. Very few 100% stupid. Very few 100% evil.

Or perhaps they’re additive. Stupid people with evil motives, and/or evil people who do stupid things. You’d need an objective scale that measures both stupid and evil on an equivalent basis so you could total the stupid/evil content.

Or, if your taste is higher math, you’d derive the change in stupidity as evil consequences took over, leading to stupid arguments to justify evil actions. The total stupid/evil could be integrated in two variables.

Given the mainstream economics custom of trying to reduce reality to higher math, I’m surprised there isn’t much more work done in this fertile field.

Nathanael:

Don: because, usually, only the government can successfully print large amounts of money and get people to take it.

If you find someone else who can print money — and get it accepted by nearly everyone — that person can provide stimulus.

It’s the money-printing power which is necessary to create stimulus.

Yes, there are lots of conditions under which other people can print money. If they can get people to take it, they can provide stimulus.

*This is what created the bubble economy of the Clinton/Bush years*. Phony “AAA money-market” stuff was treated… as money. This money juiced the economy.

The *DEMONETIZATION* of these “AAA money-market securities” is what caused the economic crash.

Calgacus

Why must the government provide the fiscal stimulus? Why can’t it be provided by the net savers – the corporate sector and the household sector?

To add to banger’s & Nathanael’s excellent answers, because “stimulus-providing” = deficit-spending = spending more money than is taken in. And this is logically contradictory to “net saving” = taking in more money than is spent. Flassbeck understands that what you ask for is logically impossible.

When the government invests its surplus – I take that back, there is no governmental surplus to invest.

The government cannot “have” a surplus or a deficit of its own money to “invest”. The government doesn’t have or not have its own money. The meaningful notion of a government surplus is an increased real wealth and product of the country. If you want to pick nits, minus the change in foreign debt, and to pick nits of nits, minus the distorting or inflationary effect of enlarging the stock of domestically held debt when the growth is brought about by new spending.

What governments are doing right now is destroying their surplus, their productive capacity, their real wealth, by refusing to engage in the spending, the direction, that the economy, that real people are crying out for. The way to tell this is happening is when ONE person is involuntarily unemployed.

Right now, due to the triumph of academic morons in the 60s-70s (following, returning to misguided thought even earlier) and the elite segment they mouthpiece, the foolish humans of Earth are destroying colossal planetary resources for no reason whatsoever, except for the amusement of these most depraved elites.

[Apr 08, 2013] Opinion Why Washington is corrupt

CNN.com

We Americans are disgusted with our government. We ranked fixing "corruption in Washington" number 2 on Gallup's poll of top presidential priorities in 2012. Yet Washington doesn't seem to care. Neither President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney even mentioned "corruption" as an issue that their administration would address. And it will take a lot more work by us to get them to pay attention.

The first step, however, is to figure out how best to talk about the problem. People say the problem is "money in politics." That we need to "get money out." That "money is not speech." That "corporations are not people."

These are slogans, and they're quite effective at rallying at least some of us to the cause. But as slogans, they're likely to turn off most to the right of America's center. And in any case, they don't quite capture what's gone wrong with our political system today. They therefore don't point us to a plausible solution to the problem of our political system today.

So in my TED talk, I created Lesterland: Imagine a country like the United States, with just as many "Lesters" as the United States (about 150,000 out of a population of more than 300 million, or about 0.05%). And imagine those Lesters have a very special power: Each election cycle has two elections. In one, the general election, all citizens get to vote. In the other, the "Lester election," only "Lesters" get to vote.

But here's the catch: To be allowed to run in the general election, you must do extremely well in the Lester election. You don't necessarily need to win, but you must do extremely well.

We all get what Lesterland would be like. Sure, as the Supreme Court said in Citizens United, "the People" of Lesterland would have the "ultimate influence" over elected officials. Ultimate, because in the final election, the people get to vote. But "the People" only get to vote for the candidates who have made "the Lesters" happy. And no doubt, that fact will produce a subtle, understated, somewhat camouflaged bending to keep those Lesters happy.

Once you see Lesterland, and the corruption it creates you understand USA-land, and the corruption we suffer. For the United States is Lesterland.

Like Lesterland, the United States also has two elections. One a voting election, where citizens get to select the candidates who will ultimately govern. But the other is a money election, where the candidates who wish to run in the voting election raise the money they need to compete. As in Lesterland, the candidates don't necessarily need to win the money election. But they must do extremely well.

And here's the stunning fact that links the United States to Lesterland: there are just as few "relevant funders" in USA-land as there are Lesters in Lesterland.

Less than 0.05% of us — about 150,000 Americans — give enough money to be even noticed by the candidates desperate to fund their campaigns. Even that number is likely an exaggeration. The better number is probably closer to 50,000 Americans (just about the number of "Sheldons" in America) (Really)

Now that fact alone — that we fund campaigns from a tiny slice of us — doesn't necessarily create the corruption that is our Congress. What does that is how the money is raised from that tiny slice of us.

For members of Congress and candidates for Congress spend anywhere between 30% and 70% of their time raising money from this tiny, tiny slice of us. Think of a rat in a Skinner box, learning which buttons to push to get pellets of food, and you have a pretty good sense of the life of a congressman: a constant attention to what must be done to raise money, and to raise money not from all of us, but from the tiniest slice of the 1% of us.

And so what issues might that tiny, tiny slice of the 1% care about? Unemployment? Out-of-control health care costs? Actually reforming Wall Street? Obviously not. The issues that matter to this tiny fraction of the 1% are not the issues that matter to America.

This is the corruption of USA-land. And it will only ever change if we change the way we fund elections.

Members of Congress will always be dependent upon their funders. But if we adopted a system to fund campaigns like the one proposed by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, The Grassroots Democracy Act, then "the funders" would be "the People." If members raised the funds they needed from small contributions only, then many more of us would be the "relevant funders." And thus when members were responsive to their "funders," they would thus be responsive to that many more of us.

That, after all, was the Framers' original design. James Madison promised us a Congress "dependent upon the people alone." "Alone." We've got instead a Congress dependent upon the people and dependent upon the Lesters.

We need to find a way back to Madison's original design, so that we can find a way to restore again a government that works. Leaving Lesterland is the critical first step. Congress could do that tomorrow.

Editor's note: (Lester) Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School and director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics. Lessig spoke at the TED2013 conference in February. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading" which it makes available through talks posted on its website.

Steve thetuna

The way the media covers Washington is also to blame. In the 60's and 70's we had Jack Anderson, Mike Wallace and journalists who would ask the hard questions, even shun authority in order to expose corruption, malfeasance and conspiracy. Today we have the major media fawning over themselves to promote the government story and distracting the public with meaningless celebrity and murder dramas that do nothing to expose criminals in office. Sure, you scream outrage when someone ELSE finds a representative embroiled in the latest scandal but the MSM's investigative days are now long gone. Wikileaks and other niche sites are filling in the void. Corporate control of media signalled the death of justice. Time Warner, General Electric and Rupert Murdoch gain more power from a government that lets them buy up competition than they would gain in being real journalists. There's no money is telling truth to power.

BinaryTruth > Steve thetuna

Corporate media... Backed by the very same 1% who spend billions each year bribing (lobbying) our Congress. One big incestuous pool of corruption.

[Mar 23, 2013] The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats by JOHN STAUBER

Counterpunch

There is good news in the Boston Globe today for the managers, development directors, visionaries, political hacks and propaganda flacks who run “the Progressive Movement.” More easy-to-earn and easy-to-hide soft money, millions of dollars, will be flowing to them from super rich Democrats and business corporations. It will come clean, pressed and laundered through Organizing for Action, the latest incarnation of the Obama Money Machine which has recently morphed into a “nonpartisan non-profit corporation” that will "strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.’’

Does this information concern you? If not, you need to get out of the propaganda bubble of your Progressive Movement echo chamber and think. Think hard. Think about fundamental, radical, democratic, social and economic change, who might bring it about and how. Ask yourself if the the rich elite, the 1%, are going to fund that. Leave The Nation and Mother Jones on the shelf; turn off Ed Schultz, Rachel Madow and Chris Hayes; don’t open that barrage of email missives from Alternet, Media Matters, MoveOn, and the other think tanks; and get your head out of the liberal blogosphere for a couple days. Clear your mind and consider this:

The self-labeled Progressive Movement that has arisen over the past decade is primarily one big propaganda campaign serving the political interests of the the Democratic Party’s richest one-percent who created it. The funders and owners of the Progressive Movement get richer and richer off Wall Street and the corporate system. But they happen to be Democrats, cultural and social liberals who can’t stomach Republican policies, and so after bruising electoral defeats a decade ago they decided to buy a movement, one just like the Republicans, a copy.

The Progressive Movement that exists today is their success story. The Democratic elite created a mirror image of the type of astroturf front groups and think tanks long ago invented, funded and promoted by the Reaganites and the Koch brothers. The liberal elite own the Progressive Movement. Organizing for Action, the “non-partisan” slush fund to train the new leaders of the Progressive Movement is just the latest big money ploy to consolidate their control and keep the feed flowing into the trough.

The professional Progressive Movement that we see reflected in the pages of The Nation magazine, in the online marketing and campaigning of MoveOn and in the speeches of Van Jones, is primarily a political public relations creation of America’s richest corporate elite, the so-called 1%, who happen to bleed Blue because they have some degree of social and environmental consciousness, and don’t bleed Red. But they are just as committed as the right to the overall corporate status quo, the maintenance of the American Empire, and the monopoly of the rich over the political process that serves their economic interests.

RICH DEMOCRATS TO PROGRESSIVES: WE LOVE YOU, MAN!

After the 2000 presidential election, the Al Gore Hanging Chad Debacle, rich liberal Democratic elite began discussing, conspiring and networking together to try and make sure that no scruffy, radical political insurgency like the Nader 2000 campaign would again raise its political head. They generally loved Al Gore, the millionaire technocrat, and they put in play actions which led to the creation of a movement of their own that aped the right wing’s institutions. They reached out to the well-paid professionals who ran the big environmental groups they already funded and owned, and to other corporate reform and liberal media operations. They followed plans drawn up by Democratic Party insiders who wanted nothing more than to win elections, and who saw the need for the tools and groups and campaigns the Right wielded. They made it clear there would be wonderful financial rewards and career advancements for progressive leaders and their organizations who lined up with them.

The Progressive Movement we see today was created by a small group including Democratic political operatives and foundations including TIDES (formed in 1976), the millionaires and billionaires of the Democracy Alliance, (formed in 2005) and eventually the Obama machine.

After Al Gore’s 2000 debacle, the rich liberal Democrats in the East and the West began to talk and meet. The green elite funders and dot.com millionaires of the Bay Area solidified relationships with the Beltway think tanks, political consultants and and PR flacks. Liberal Democratic Party players like MoveOn’s co-founder Wes Boyd and TIDES Drummond Pike drew closer with others including the George Soros, John Podesta and Stanley Greenberg crowd. The Democratic Party defeats in 2002 and 2004 fueled further despair and solidified plans for the elite to build a new Progressive Movement that would serve their agenda.

This became very visible with the arrival of the Democracy Alliance. A summer 2005 article in the Washington Post made clear their intent to pour millions into creating and owning a Progressive Movement. Looking back, someone needs to give these folks an award because the wealthy elitists in the Democracy Alliance succeeded wildly, mission accomplished!

As the Washington Post reported, “at least 80 wealthy liberals have pledged to contribute $1 million or more apiece to fund a network of think tanks and advocacy groups to compete with the potent conservative infrastructure built up over the past three decades. … The goal of the alliance, according to organizers, is to foster the growth of liberal or left-leaning institutions equipped to take on prominent think tanks on the right, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute, as well as such training centers as the Leadership Institute and the Young America’s Foundation.”

The Washington Post explained, “There has been a flourishing of new, pro-Democratic think tanks and advocacy groups in recent years. Clinton administration chief of staff John D. Podesta established the Center for American Progress … and author David Brock helped create Media Matters for America last year, among others. All these groups are potential recipients of money from alliance partners. In addition, the number of liberal bloggers on the Web has been growing at a fast pace … . Jockeying for cash among possible recipient organizations has already begun. Robert L. Borosage, director of the liberal Campaign for America’s Future, said the alliance will fund a ‘set of institutions in this city to be in the national debate, and we would like to be one of them.’ ”

For almost a decade now the funders of the Progressive Movement, the rich Democrats of the Democracy Alliance and their cliques, networks and organizations, have employed and funded political hacks, fundraisers, pollsters, organizers and PR flacks. Over the past ten years they have dumped more and more money into the big feeding trough shared by the major players of the Progressive movement. The overall goal and result has always been to bring withering rhetorical fire and PR attacks upon the Republican Right, while creating a tremendous fear of the Right to increase the vote for Democrats. This has become Job #1 for the Progressive Movement. No one quite remembers Job #2.

Real movements are not the creation of and beholden to millionaires. The Progressive Movement is astroturf beholden to the rich elite, just as the Democratic millionaires and operatives of the Democracy Alliance intended. The “movement’s” funding is in the hands of a small number of super rich Democrats and union bureaucrats and advisors who run with them. Its talking points, strategies, tactics and PR campaigns are all at the service of the Democratic elite. There is no grassroots organized progressive movement with power in the United States, and none is being built. Indeed, if anything threatens to emerge, the cry “Remember Nader!” arises and the budding insurgency is marginalized or coopted, as in the case of the Occupy Wall Street events. Meanwhile, the rich elite who fund the Progressive Movement, and their candidates such as Barack Obama, are completely wedded to maintaining the existing status quo on Wall Street and in the corporate boardroom. Their well-kept Progressive Movement is adept at PR, propaganda, marketing and fundraising necessary in the service of the Democratic Party and the corporate elite who rule it.

One of the Progressive Movement’s key new movers and shakers is Ilyse Hogue. Her rise out of the green movement and into the highest echelons of Democratic power encapsulates how it all works. In 2006 Hogue was recruited out of Rainforest Action Network by Wes Boyd of MoveOn to run their national campaigns. Since then she has accumulated hats and desks at The Nation, Media Matters, the Soros-funded Super PAC Public Campaign Action Fund, and most recently the feminist lobby NARAL. Hogue is an articulate and well-rewarded spokesperson, fundraiser and mobilizer for the new Progressive Movement. Her network of recent employers all benefited nicely from the successful work of the Democracy Alliance, TIDES, MoveOn, and Soros. Anyone who wonders if there are good careers in the Progressive Movement can look at her and others and see the answer is clearly ‘yes’.

Every well-funded movement needs an echo-chamber to pump up its propaganda and messages, and for the Progressive Movement the Netroots Nation bloggers, The Nation, Alternet, Mother Jones, and scores of other journalists and pundits have filled the bill. The development of the messages and talking points of the Progressive Movement is the realm of DC think tanks and organizations such as Media Matters, and a small army of flacks is also utilized including PR maven David Fenton, pollster Stanley Greenberg and messaging guru George Lakoff.

CO-OPTING THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT TO WIN ELECTIONS

After the 2004 flop of the Kerry/Edwards campaign, luck shone on the Democrats. The over-reach of the neoconservatives, the failure to find those weapons of mass deception (sic), the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, turned American public opinion, especially among the young, against the Republicans. Growing anti-war sentiment, which had little to do with the organized anti-war movement, delivered to the Democrats what Governor Mario Cuomo called “The Gift.” The horrific Iraq war, he explained to a Democracy Alliance gathering, was the gift that allowed the Democrats to take control of the US Congress.

It was at this point in early 2007 that the truly dark and cynical agenda of the professional Progressive Movement and the Democratic Party revealed itself. Under Pelosi the Democrats could have cut off funding for Bush’s unpopular wars and foreign policy. Instead, with PR cover provided by MoveOn and their lobbyist Tom Matzzie, the Democratic Congress gave George Bush all the money he wanted to continue his wars. For the previous five years MoveOn had branded itself as the leader of the anti-war movement, building lists of millions of liberals, raising millions of dollars, and establishing itself in the eyes of the corporate media as leaders of the US peace movement. Now they helped the Democrats fund the war, both betting that the same public opposition to the wars that helped them win control of the House in 2006 could win the Presidency in 2008.

Their bet paid off with a young, charismatic black candidate backed from his beginnings by Wall Street, and thus able to out-raise even the Clinton Machine for the big money provided by the Democratic elite. Obama hired top online organizers and combined MoveOn’s “clicktivist” style and expertise to both raise money and build an effective political machine. The stock market collapse of 2008 was again like a gift for the Democrats, showing Obama’s cool contrasted with old John McCain’s panic.

Just before the Obama victory in 2008, Alternet’s Don Hazen interviewed Drummond Pike, the millionaire who founded the TIDES Foundation in 1976 and a founding member of the Democracy Alliance. The topic was TIDES upcoming “Momentum” conference at a fancy San Francisco hotel. The exclusive confab was described as “an invitational gathering of progressive donors and advocates” where “some of the most creative minds in the progressive community come together to challenge, inspire and energize each other.” Pike said it was “where we bring funders, leaders of key nonprofits, think tanks and activist organizations together… We are engaged in philanthropy. We granted $93 million dollars last year and manage grant-making for more than 400 individual and institutional donors.” The wedding of the rich elite Democrats and the Progressive Movement just got better and better.

OCCUPYING OCCUPY FOR WALL STREET DEMOCRATS

After Obama’s 2008 victory the Progressive Movement celebrated itself and continued to solidify with ongoing funding from the Dem elite, playing a significant role in delivering the White House again to the Democrats in 2012. One of their 2012 PR front stunts to benefit the Democrats was launched in early 2012, the “99% Spring.”

In the Fall of 2011, the spontaneous street action known as Occupy Wall Street withstood media derision long enough to earn its respect. It’s images struck a chord during the recession. Overnight protests in major urban areas might not have appealed to the typical Democratic voter, but bashing the rich did. Occupy might have even threatened the Democratic Party had it ever been able to overcome its anarchistic roots and in some way produced a strategy and organization. But its slogan “we are the 99%” resonated widely.

Nothing succeeds like success, and imitation is the most sincere flattery. The Progressive Movement has plenty of bright marketers and messengers who saw the writing on Wall Street. They decided to launch and hype an election year PR campaign to co-opt the message and theme of Occupy Wall Street. They called it the 99% Spring, “Spring” as in the time of year but also as in Arab Spring of 2011. When you don’t have a real Movement of your own, at least cop good language from some others!

What amused me most about the 99% Spring was its simultaneous audacity and vacuousness, and how obviously it was a front for MoveOn, Van Jones, and the messaging agenda of the Democratic Party. And now it’s all gone, just a flash across the webpages of The Nation and Mother Jones, not even a website left behind with its web address up for sale to the highest bidder. The Progressive Movement lives from PR campaign and to PR campaign. When the money’s spent, the movement just pivots to the next bit of funding and a new campaign is launched.

I first heard of the 99% Spring in a February, 2012 email from the group formerly known as SmartMeme, activists who work with the Progressive Movement and develop “stories” that can be used to get everyone thinking alike in a positive way. They wrote: “This spring is our opportunity to take the the emerging movement for the 99% to next level by following in the foot steps of previous successful movements and prepare for organized campaigns of sustained nonviolent direct action. SmartMeme is one of the initiating organizations of 99% spring because we believe the best way to challenge the corporate stranglehold on our economy and political system is with organized people power!”

Propaganda is my beat, so I was not impressed by this revolutionary development. It sounded exactly as it was, a big flow of money into key Progressive Movement organizations to co-opt the brand of Occupy Wall Street movement for the Progressive Movement and the Democrats. In my email from SmartMeme there was a hotlink to the “the99%Spring” website. Today that link and URL goes to NameJet, a company that auctions off unwanted web addresses. How appropriate.

The MoveOn.org site on 99% Spring is still up as of this writing: MoveOn pushed 99% Spring hard, and emails from their staffers employed revolutionary hyperbole that might have made Abbie Hoffman proud. MoveOn wrote, “groups from every corner of our movement are joining forces to do something that’s never been tried before. During the week of April 9-15, across America, we will bring 100,000 people together for an unprecedented national movement-wide training on what happened to our economy, on the history of peaceful direct action, and how — following in the footsteps of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — we can take direct action this spring to challenge corporate power, end tax giveaways to the 1%, fight the influence of money in politics, and more.”

99% Spring organizers Liz Butler and Joy Cushman extolled similarly in their emails: “Imagine if the 99% of us for whom this country is supposed to work came together as a unified movement for democracy and justice? What could happen if hundreds of thousands of us were willing to take nonviolent direct action to reclaim the America we love from the banks and lobbyists who’ve stolen it from us? Let’s find out.”

The SourceWatch website: lists the groups promoting 99% Spring: “Jobs With Justice, United Auto Workers,National Peoples Action, National Domestic Workers Alliance, MoveOn.org, New Organizing Institute, Movement Strategy Center, The Other 98%, Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, Rebuild the Dream, Color of Change, UNITE-HERE, Greenpeace, Institute for Policy Studies, PICO National Network, New Bottom Line, Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, SNCC Legacy Project, United Steel Workers, National Education Association, Working Families Party, Communications Workers of America, United States Student Association, Rainforest Action Network, American Federation of Teachers, Leadership Center for the Common Good, UNITY, National Guestworker Alliance, 350.org, The Ruckus Society, Citizen Engagement Lab, smartMeme Strategy & Training Project, Right to the City Alliance, Pushback Network, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Progressive Democrats of America, Change to Win, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Campaign for America’s Future, Public Campaign Action Fund, Fuse Washington, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Citizen Action of New York, Engage, United Electrical Workers Union, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, Alliance for a Just Society, The Partnership for Working Families, United Students Against Sweatshops, Presente.org, Get Equal, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Corporate Accountability International, American Federation of Government Employees, Training for Change, People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), Student Labor Action Project, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Green for All, DC Jobs with Justice, Midwest Academy, The Coffee Party, International Forum on Globalization, UFCW International Union, Sunflower Community Action, Illinois People’s Action, Lakeview Action Coalition, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, Resource Generation, Highlander Research and Education Center, TakeAction Minnesota, Energy Action Coalition, Earthhome.us.”

In any good front group campaign lists like this serve a few purposes. One is to give the impression that this is a really powerful and diverse effort with scores of leading organizations actively involved, rather than a well-funded PR effort run by a small group at the top, which it was. Another purpose is to demonstrate that there is money behind this effort and that the major Progressive Movement hitters are involved. When I saw the list I sent some emails to Progressive Movement activists asking why they were lending their names to a MoveOn-driven effort to co-opt the Occupy Wall Street for the Democrats.

Greenpeace’s Executive Director wrote back, clearly not sharing my view. He said “something funny is happening here. In a fascinating, good, confusing way.” He believed that MoveOn and the public employee union SEIU were “focused on scaling civil disobedience. That’s different. You can look at it in many ways. … Friends asked us to sign on, we do that a lot.”

An employee of Campaign for America’s Future also gave 99% Spring a big left-handed thumbs up, writing me, “this is a ton of progressive groups trying to get a national movement going, organized, working together,” and “anything that drives the 99% versus 1% perspective advances everything we are trying to achieve.”

No one identified with the Progressive Movement would in any way question or criticize the 99% Spring, at least no one I could find. And then my inquiries uncovered someone new who has a paid position in one of the groups. She agreed generally with my perspective, and was disgusted by what she saw daily from her “movement”: pandering to the rich elite; shallow public relations campaigns substituting for organizing; Democratic Party agendas; six figure salaries and consulting fees for the Progressive executives and consultants, and so on. She saw the Progressive Movement a convenient way for the Democratic rich to control the rabble, manage dissent, and deflect attention from the need for fundamental, radical structural change in the United States.

Eventually she wrote an article under the pen-name Insider for CounterPunch exposing the 99% Spring as a front group for the agenda of the Democrats, organized largely by MoveOn. The Insider’s piece hit a nerve or two and gathered quite a bit of attention and clumsy efforts at rebuttal.

I bounced the piece around and became its defender and promoter. She quoted me in her article. I told her that the 99% Spring reminded me of the AAEI coalition, another MoveOn front that worked with Nancy Pelosi in 2007 to see to it that the Iraq war was funded and used as a political stick to beat Republicans in 2008. Or the massively funded Health Care for America Now coalition backed by MoveOn in 2009 which made sure that single payer health care was ignored while the White House pushed its pro-insurance industry legislation derided as ‘Obamacare’.”

KEEP HOPE A JIVE

Predictably the echo chamber of the Progressive Media – bloggers, columnists and editors at The Nation, Mother Jones and Alternet and elsewhere who get funding from the Democratic Elite — defended the honor of 99% Spring. The Nation produced a special issue promoting it. A Mother Jones writer claimed that it was an indication that Occupy Wall Street had co-opted MoveOn.

Some of the idealistic young green activists employed by 350.org bought heavily into 99%. That inspired Insider to take a critical look at 350.org as a tool for Obama’s re-election.

Eventually, like all PR campaigns when the funding runs dry, the 99% Spring simply dried up and blew away. It was nothing real, just election year pageantry from a Progressive Movement that — as the rich of the Democracy Alliance planned — would be a way to breathe some life into the morbid Democratic Party. The 99% Spring showed again that the Progressive Movement primarily exists to stick it to the Republicans, the a mirror image of their think tanks, echo chamber media, and PR fronts that rich Democrats have created or funded.

RIP 99% Spring. It was what we thought it was, all theater, and co-optation, all about getting Van Jones more publicity to promote Obama.

Will any of the paid professional Progressives ever admit so? Not as long as their careers and funding depend upon it; they can’t afford to take off their rose-hued glasses.

More importantly, how do people who aren’t the kept, professional Progressives go about asking the right questions, organizing the right ways, and making the fundamental, radical structural changes that will topple the institutional control of the 1% over our lives, communities, politics and biosphere?

I posed that question to someone not fooled by the foibles and feints of the Progressive Movement, my colleague Patrick Barrett, a University of Wisconsin academic who studies social and political movements. A veteran of the 1960s civil rights and anti-war movements, Patrick has never swooned to the spell of the Progressive Democrats. Patrick is one of the few truly wise people I know.

“What gets lost in all this faux movement politics,” said Barrett, “is any real challenge to the growing imbalance of social, political and economic power. Quite the contrary, the ultimate impact of their actions is to reproduce if not aggravate that imbalance. What we’ve got here is a deeply symbiotic relationship between a pseudo-movement that derives its raison d’etre and financial vitality from a vilification of the right, which it has helped to create and without which it would have no reason for existence. Indeed, the more extreme the right becomes, the better it is for them, since they live off of fear-mongering. To oppose the right in a meaningful sense would put them out of business. That isn’t to say that there is nothing to be feared in the right or that some of these folks don’t think they’re fighting the good fight, but rather that the two work in tandem, much like a good-cop-bad-cop team. As the right becomes ever more extreme, this Democratic Party cum non-profit industrial complex moves further and further to the right itself, thereby giving the Republicans and their ilk ever greater leash and making it easier to frighten the “progressive” masses.”

Barrett concluded, “Lest anyone think that this is some kind of conspiracy theory, it’s important to emphasize that this is primarily a function of social and economic structures and political institutions that create a market for these sorts of pseudo-movement leaders, who will flourish if the conditions are right. That’s why we need to focus our attention on altering those conditions, something these people have little or no interest in doing.”

John Stauber is an independent writer, activist and author. His books include Toxic Sludge Is Good for You, Mad Cow USA and Weapons of Mass Deception. In 1993 he founded the Center for Media and Democracy to exposed corporate, political and media propaganda campaigns. He retired from the Center in 2008. http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnstauber.

Cyprus Capitulates to Eurozone (Updated) «

March 23, 2013 | naked capitalism

Lafayette:

March 23, 2013 at 7:24 am

Thanks for our Daily Dose of blather from the Loony Left.

Nobody is going to “take back their country”, except at the ballot box. Which the American electorate seems unlikely to do as regards the Troglodytes in the HofR.

Americans, during this past election, mostly preferred to spectate from the sidelines rather than vote – only 57% bothered to get off their duffs.

The other 43% obviously prefer to bitch-in-a-blog. A sizable portion of the electorate is thus not only physically obese but politically apathetic. (Or, should that read “politically ignorant”?)

So, what happens is the sort of pathetic governance that apathy and dereliction of Civic Duty deserves, with elections manipulated by the funding of a handful of plutocrats. Meaning this: a Millionaires’ Club of a Senate and the HofR run by Dogmatic Replicants.

Bravo, Uncle Sam! You’ve sold your democracy to The Rich!

Enjoy!

banger

I think you are wrong about the American electorate. Many of us don’t believe that we live in anything other than a nominal democracy. I won’t go into a deep analysis on this, just reporting–Americans are more genuinely cynical (with good reason) than I’ve ever seen them. Americans were flim-flammed and conned by the ruling elites who provided a false narrative about everything–it was easy and after 9/11 the door was closed. It’s too late for electoral politics–third parties are just not viable in the system and the two party system is really one party, the property party, with two right-wings as Gore Vidal maintained.

Lafayette:

...Americans, during this past election, mostly preferred to spectate from the sidelines rather than vote – only 57% bothered to get off their duffs.

The other 43% obviously prefer to bitch-in-a-blog. A sizable portion of the electorate is thus not only physically obese but politically apathetic. (Or, should that read “politically ignorant”?)

So, what happens is the sort of pathetic governance that apathy and dereliction of Civic Duty deserves, with elections manipulated by the funding of a handful of plutocrats. Meaning this: a Millionaires’ Club of a Senate and the HofR run by Dogmatic Replicants.

Bravo, Uncle Sam! You’ve sold your democracy to The Rich!

Enjoy!

banger:

I think you are wrong about the American electorate. Many of us don’t believe that we live in anything other than a nominal democracy. I won’t go into a deep analysis on this, just reporting–Americans are more genuinely cynical (with good reason) than I’ve ever seen them. Americans were flim-flammed and conned by the ruling elites who provided a false narrative about everything–it was easy and after 9/11 the door was closed.

It’s too late for electoral politics -– third parties are just not viable in the system and the two party system is really one party, the property party, with two right-wings as Gore Vidal maintained.

Krugman’s Bad Math on Cyprus

« naked capitalism

March 21, 2013

David Petraitis says:

Didn’t know where to post this rather long comment on things the past few days has me thinking of so I post it here and at my blog:
http://www.petraitis.us/2013/03/reading-the-tea-leaves-signs-of-coming-crisis/
There have been many occasions over the past few years where I thought (and many others thought) that this could break the bank again, and put us firmly back into a financial crisis like 2008. To clear my head I thought about what I look for in the news to keep me on my toes about the potential for severe negative short term scenarios. Let me posit a few main thinking points about the current ongoing slow-mo crisis.

1. We all expect there to be a moment in the future when we see a repeat of the crisis events of 2008.
2. We don’t know precisely what will set it off – it may be economic political events in e.g. the current rage – Cyprus… or Greece, or even China; it might be an epidemic, another earthquake or something we cannot foresee. That is the nature of Black Swans.
3. At least one of the causes will be an attempt to seize collateral of some type by a big bank against a smaller bank. Yves Smith has made the argument that at least on proximate cause of the Financial Crisis of 2008 was the seizure of collateral by JP Morgan from Lehman Bros. This froze the inter-bank flows of capital as no one was willing to lend on a short term to any other player for any collateral.
4. The consequences are likely to be the freezing of capital for a longer period than the last time around; the contagion will likely be wider and deeper.
5. Elites in the political sphere are doing nothing to put in firewalls and prudent regulation to forestall a meltdown. To the contrary the political policy agenda is being driven by elites in the FIRE sector.
6. Financial elites are vying for position, trying to be first served in a collateral grab scenario.
7. The financial assets not based on collateral will need to be written down to zero. “Loans that cannot be repaid wil not be repaid.” As a corollary all “real” assets will become more valuable and be – a likely scenario- targeted to be seized by foreclosure, bankruptcy and other means of liquidation. This seizure will proceed to the benefit of elite players at the detriment of the people in general, and the less sophisticated financial players (who are known as marks, zeros, Muppets…)
8. While some financial elites will do well, most will not; most of the population will not either. This leads to political change in democracies, rise in social unrest, demonstrations, strikes, political violence. That will in its turn raise to call for forceful state response. To the point that in some states it may turn out revolutionary when the soldiers realize that they are citizens and should perhaps think twice about doing the dirty work of the elite.
9. These things are not causal in a strict temporal order, e.g. social unrest may flare in some places before assets freeze.
10. Political parties who are associated with creating the mess will be pushed out of office in democracies. Demagogues may ascend to power, like Hitler did in the 1930’s. I expect to see a rise in nationalistic, racist, xenophobic rhetoric – if not clear policies in that direction.

Keep watching the signs of the times. Comments welcome.

kievite:

“This leads to political change in democracies, rise in social unrest, demonstrations, strikes, political violence.”

IMHO this is a wishful thinking. I think on the contrary, the current technology allow elite to keep people subservient like never in human history. Looks how they dealt with “Occupy Wall street” protest.

Moreover to call current regimes “democracies” is way too big of a stretch. They all are oligarchies.
While some financial elites will do well, most will not; most of the population will not either.

Is not this a standard way by which modern societies operate ?

Political parties who are associated with creating the mess will be pushed out of office in democracies

With a two party system as implemented in the USA (aka polyarchy, see Wikipedia) such a possibility looks pretty unrealistic. Polyarchies such as the one that exists in the USA prevent majority of its citizens (outside tiny elite) from participating in its national elections by preselecting candidates for which people can vote.

Thorstein:

In the old Soviet Union, the Party would nominate one candidate, and you could vote for your choice. In the U.S., the party nominates two candidates, and you can vote for your choice.

Minor Heretic:

Slight correction: In the U.S., the small group of people and corporations who are able to donate thousands of dollars each to primary campaigns choose the two candidates. Then we get to choose between the tool with the smiley face and the tool with the frowny face.

[Mar 17, 2013] Chrystia The political clout of the superrich by Chrystia Freeland

March 1, 2013 | Reuters.com

Louis D. Brandeis, the American jurist, famously warned: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Brandeis’s cri de coeur was inspired by an indignant observation of the shenanigans of America’s robber barons during the Gilded Age. Today, we live in a data-driven age, and some careful students of the connection between money and politics have now amassed a powerful body of evidence to support Brandeis’s moral claim. A lot of it is assembled in a report by the progressive research organization Demos, published this week.

One of the most striking findings is the extent to which economic power translates into political power.

Institutionally, this is an era of unprecedented democracy – one of the triumphs of the 20th century has been the extension of voting rights to all adults in a lot of the world.

But even in the United States, the country that thinks of itself as being the world’s leading democracy, it turns out that those rights do not translate into much actual political power. David Callahan, co-author of “Stacked Deck,” the Demos report, describes the super-rich as “supercitizens, with an outsized footprint in the public square.”

“I think most Americans believe in the idea of political equality,” Callahan told me. “That idea is obviously corrupted when in 2012, one guy, Sheldon Adelson, can make more political donations than the residents of 12 states put together.”

The Demos study draws in part on the quantitative research of Martin Gilens, a professor of politics at Princeton University and author of “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.” Gilens, who focused on the divide between the top 10 percent and everyone else, found a high degree of what he calls political inequality.

“I looked at lots of survey data that indicated what people at different income levels wanted the government to do, and then I looked at what the government did,” Gilens explained.

“For people at the top 10 percent, you could predict what the government would do based on their preferences,” he said. “But when the preferences of people at lower income levels diverged from the affluent, that had no impact at all on the policies that were adopted. That was true not only for the poor but for the middle class as well.”

Gilens is a social scientist who is careful to stick to his data. But he told me he was “definitely surprised by the extent of the inequality.”

“If you value democracy, if you value the ability of people at all levels of income to shape government, which is what it means to be a democracy, then, yes, you should be very worried,” he said.

One reason this “political inequality” is significant is that it turns out the rich and the rest have different political preferences. These do not split easily along traditional partisan lines – in fact, one of Gilens’s findings is that political inequality persists whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge. And in certain areas, like defense policy, there is no class divide.

But on an important set of economic issues – deficit reduction, the minimum wage, free trade, regulation and progressive taxation – the affluent are more conservative than everyone else.

“None of this might matter if the wealthy and the rest of the public had the same public policy preferences,” Callahan said. “But as we document, the wealthy do have very different policy preferences, particularly in the sphere of economic and fiscal policy and on trade and globalization. You see this on issues like taxation, or the minimum wage, or the general role of the government in society.”

This gap in policy preferences, the Demos report argues, is the explanation for one of the most puzzling and worrying consequences of rising income inequality – its correlation with falling social mobility. Alan B. Krueger, the head of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, calls this the Great Gatsby Curve, and it is the most compelling reason to be worried about the growing chasm between the top and everyone else.

That link, which has best been documented by the Canadian economist Miles Corak, is mysterious. After all, a lot of today’s rising inequality has been driven by benign forces like the technology revolution and, as a result, today’s plutocrats are more likely to be self-made than they were three decades ago.

But once they become rich supercitizens, the Demos report argues, those at the top of the economic heap use their power to support policies that diminish social mobility. This is not because of malign intent – there is no cabal of fat cats in top hats smoking cigars and plotting how to keep the proletariat down. Indeed, education, a key to social mobility, is a stated priority for the affluent.

The catch comes when there is a choice between personal self-interest, often in the form of lower taxes, and the expensive institutions of greater social mobility. And that is when the supercitizens opt to pull up the opportunity ladder behind them.

Beyond the campus green, Americans can be squeamish about viewing policy choices through the prism of economic self-interest. It is much more comforting to imagine the country is engaged in a high-minded and technocratic debate about what works best to serve the common good.

But that’s not what’s happening. The supercitizens are very effectively pursuing their own self-interest. Social opportunity, and even democracy, are under threat as a result.

PseudoTurtle

Thank you for an exceptionally well done article on the effects of the wealthy elite.

The problem we have in the US is as you point out that

“Americans can be squeamish about viewing policy choices through the prism of economic self-interest. It is much more comforting to imagine the country is engaged in a high-minded and technocratic debate about what works best to serve the common good.

But that’s not what’s happening. The supercitizens are very effectively pursuing their own self-interest. Social opportunity, and even democracy, are under threat as a result.”

Unless and until we can come to grips with that reality — which runs deeply counter to American instincts and present beliefs — this country cannot hope to survive much longer.

UauS

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” … didn’t Warren Buffett say it all?

ptiffany

So, have the One Percenters already won the class war, or are we just on the extreme swing of the pendulum?

paintcan

I suppose it is obvious that wealth will not want to damage the hands or channels that feed it? And that is exactly what so many wealthy say: that they want to preserve the ability of private people to become wealthy.

It is claimed that is the guarantee of representative government.

China seem to have a hybrid system now, where the state is supposed to represent the wishes of all the Chinese but does so on the thinnest of theoretical footings (to western liberal democracy’s way of thinking). It is always making decisions that are sometimes unfair to the greatest numbers. But that can also be the definition of a good “democratically” controlled process too. And it can be the disadvantage of democratically elected governments that they are seduced by short-term interest over long term plans.

The Chinese seem intent on raising the living standards of everyone. They even seem to be growing a wealthy class like they do everything else; by central fiat and seem to be state sponsoring the many heads to rival a, still unclear, modified future central authority. It’s a country that always valued a strong, almost untouchable, central authority and the government was despised when it became too corrupted by the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else. It was invested with religious responsibility just as old world western societies regarded their kings, courts and the clergy.

Wealth in the more capitalist grounded western economies (especially while the country was wide open to exploitation) has always had the attitude that life is a game and it demands broken losers, the bodies of which would frequently litter the “playing field” while the wealthy were free to purchase their existence with their own money. This could appear as baldly as the practice of rich men buying an enlistee for the Union Army during the conscription of the Civil War (there were a lot of Irish immigrants looking for work and short on cash and prevented from working due to prejudice) or less obnoxiously, having the best rooms in a crowded hospital or the private car on a crowded train or in a hotel. We tend to accept that because the “best “ tends to cost more here. It would cross ethical red lines with many, including the hospitals, if wealth could extend the life of people in need of expensive organ transplants at the expense of all others. The profit based US healthcare system, before the days of universal insurance coverage, was used to providing higher personal care in private rooms with the better doctors for the well healed. Medical ethics, otherwise, seemed more or less; above compromise and even organ transplants were not necessarily something money could buy. But China, at the peak of its totalitarian sway, was able to harvest organs both among domestic capital punishment victims and overseas for cash and it was never clear who actually got the organs or how they were awarded or, for that matter, where they were coming from. They don’t seem to have an affordable health care system any more than the west does.

It will be a living nightmare for many if wealth can purchase, or actively undermine another person’s life, simply because they are not wealthy. Isn’t the problem that wealth has a way of tinting one’s outlook on life? The ”glasses” of old wealth, dynastic wealth, may loose some of the rosey tint after a time but the wealthy man can sway millions of less affluent voters, with freshly minted rose colored glasses, and they may not have the advantage of educations, of world wide exposure or the leisure to pursue either, and will vote in reaction to the bribe and forget that they could also be selling their own long term self interest, to agree with the shorter term gains of a wealthy class that may only temporarily feed them until it gets what it wants for the money. Wealth can breed it’s own dependencies and night terrors.

The Bible might have called that selling one’s birthright for a mess of potage.”

Big wealth knows that power is all and money is only a symptom of that power. A liberal society tries to ensure that a loss of wealth, prestige and power does not necessarily mean one is tossed to the dogs and a life of squalor..

Isn’t the question we should ask: how much power wealth deserves for being wealthy? The short-term interest of wealth can be as damaging to the life of a society as the short-term interest of poverty. Wealth does not necessarily translate into, what people used to call, “nobility” of character and not of pedigree, but it’s the pedigree that’s easier to see and invest in. And it’s pedigree preservation that is outlawed by the Constitution. The old Mrs. Astor made a reputation on culling the herd for the best pedigrees: her devoted “400 hundred”. The old 400 hundred were actually scandalized by the new mega wealth of industrial society. They knew they were being out spent and would soon loose their dominance in the country. They were also those most active in supporting social legislation to improve the living conditions of the lowest income people.

The United States was a country, I thought, that could live with massive wealth in private hands, because it’s wide open prairies and untapped resources made it, at least, theoretically possible for the little man to become a big one. That doesn’t seem quite as promising anymore and the US, in many ways, is as regimented as China, we just style the control to our own taste. Which are more frightening, massive housing complexes without much imagination in planning layouts, Chinese style, or traffic congestion in LA or NYC rush hour and massive suburban subdivisions? Is there really much difference between the old Leavitt town models of rapid urban development and the types of projects featured today in the Reuters photo blog on Chinese urban development?

For the last 70 years we created a dominant middle class and China seems determined to elevate as many as possible to, at least, the middle class, while this country and Western Europe are faintly nostalgic for the Middle Ages, or the wild west (what the real middle ages in Europe actually was in many ways) when the lords could have the droit de seigneur to just about everything, and the middle class is becoming a trapped serf class under the weight of their mortgages and consumer loans. And we are not necessarily getting the nobility of character that income inequality should breed, if it doesn’t want the “masses” to revolt. Many wealthy people are setting up legacy funds Carnegie style and Gates style – I understand. But as an old communist lecture series of posters I once found in a trash bin in NYC depicted: it can also be that the rich man is feeding the dog his own tail.

I guess the life of a serf or peasant isn’t as “revolting” as it used to be? I know mine isn’t, but I never ask wealthy persons what they think of my lifestyle choices or income. I don’t even ask my neighbors. But they have their opinions, I’m sure and I’d rather not know about them.

propensity:

We are not the world’s leading democracy. Our citizens are less well educated than many other countries. Tens of millions of citizens go to bed at night hungry, homeless, or both. Our rights are constantly being eroded in the name of anti-terrorism. We have more murders per capita than dozens of western nations combined. We do not have universal health care. We systematically destroy our environment with little care for the ramifications.

The middle class continues to fall behind in income. Jobs that once paid 11 or 12 bucks now pay 8 or 9. Jobs that used to pay $70-$80 thousand now pay $40-50 thousand. Our citizens are rude to one another and we are lucky if 50% of our eligible voters go to the polls.

Our elected representatives callously refuse to raise the minimum wage while receiving regular increases. Our schools are second rate with no standardized curriculum or expectations for learning. Two percent of the population with the wealth to throw around control all the major decisions.

Billionaires pay few, if any, taxes due to “carried interest.” The idea that you can, as a hedge fund manager, make a billion or more betting against America and not pay any taxes makes a mockery of our tax code.

We, as a nation, are great only due to our massive military power. That’s it. Face the facts. When we stop beating our chests long enough to take a look at this nation in the cold, clear light of day we will realize that a revolution will come. No doubt about it. It is a matter of when and what the nature of the revolution will be.

flashrooster:

propensity: Great summary of our nation’s current reality. Kudos. It’s sad and frustrating.

Perhaps what worries me most is that I see so little hope on the horizon. We seem to function at only 2 speeds: speeding toward our demise or going toward it at just a steady pace. The election of Obama over Romney slowed our collapse, but it certainly hasn’t put on the brakes.

As far as I’m concerned there are only two paths forward that hold any promise for a better future: Serious, comprehensive, effective campaign finance reform, or revolution, neither of which are being advanced.

OneOfTheSheep

@flashrooster,

I emphatically disagree. To “…solve, or even confront…” any problem there is a process. First, is the “problem” something new or just the the way things have pretty much always been? If the first, we can jump right in with both feet and good intentions. “Problems” that have existed for thousands of years in all types of societies are likely the result of “human nature”. That is not overcome or changed easily.

But I do believe we have the power, if at the right place at the right time with the right idea(s). Anyone that believes one can’t make a difference has never had a mosquito in their shower. “Dismissing hardships” from your perspective is understanding reality from mine. If I could wave my hand and make things better, I would. But I can’t. Neither can you.

The rich do suffer, just in different ways and their “pain” is more abstract than real. But it is sufficient to cause them to take notice and make adjustments to how they spend and invest. As to who “controls” our government, I’d much rather have such “control” limited to those of sufficient success to pay taxes rather than cede control of the circus to unqualified monkeys.

If their ability to increase their returns and pay less taxes on those is greater because their consultants find inconsistencies in our laws and regulations to exploit, that is perfectly legal. Any “remedy” is not in lecturing them on their morals, but through changing and motivating “our” elected representatives. Just because that’s “the way it is” does not mean I’m satisfied. That’s why I speak out here on Reuters probably more than most.

I state repeatedly that our present Bozos in Washington AND the “platforms” of both major parties are most of the problem. I agree we need solutions, but they must be realistic in the here and now. You seem to favor “solutions” that require bigger and bigger government. Such is your right,, but from my perspective people like you are the problem, not the solution.

I favor solutions that goo beyond the present Sequester, which merely slows the growth of our government, but actually CUTS the beast down to such size as America’s present productivity and economic activity can sustain. Those who would “solve problems” of spending more than we “earn” by spending even more are delusional.

I don’t want to “protect anyone’s “wealth”, but I DO want to preserve the financial motivations in our society that harness self-improvement and self-interest to make the bigger economic pie. That bigger pie goes “further” if and when divided responsibly. It isn’t “responsible” for our government to make life “comfortable” for those who don’t take public schooling seriously enough to prepare them to be employable and productive citizens.

More and more that seems to be the “thrust” of an increasingly “entitlement-based” society. I don’t think it responsible for someone “earning” $30,000 a year to feel “entitled” to “raise” a large family by tapping the earnings of others, but America does this. I believe people entitled to the opportunity to succeed in a productive society proportionally to the skills, capital and sweat in some combination they invest, but for there to be “winners” in life there must also be “losers”. Everybody doesn’t get a trophy in real life.

I most emphatically do NOT believe anyone lucky enough to be in America is “entitled” to a certain level of income, comforts and options. Every society that has tried that path has quickly disappeared.

I do think that elder citizens who have been in the economy as taxpayers until advancing age, obsolescence of skills or retirement renders them unemployed, should be able to live out the remainder of their existence with some measure of financial dignity even if they could not “put something back” separately for their “golden years”.

The “European countries” you would have America emulate are already teetering on insolvency because they, too, shovel out more in benefits than their economies can support in the long term. They will either bring that back into balance or the EU and the Euro will fail. Persopnally, I think that’s already inevitable.

Boston Review — Martin Gilens Under the Influence

If Americans at different income levels agree on a policy, they are equally likely to get what they want. But what about the other half of the time? What happens when preferences across income levels diverge?

When preferences diverge, the views of the affluent make a big difference, while support among the middle class and the poor has almost no relationship to policy outcomes. Policies favored by 20 percent of affluent Americans, for example, have about a one-in-five chance of being adopted, while policies favored by 80 percent of affluent Americans are adopted about half the time. In contrast, the support or opposition of the poor or the middle class has no impact on a policy’s prospects of being adopted.

These patterns play out across numerous policy issues. American trade policy, for example, has become far less protectionist since the 1970s, in line with the positions of the affluent but in opposition to those of the poor. Similarly, income taxes have become less progressive over the past decades and corporate regulations have been loosened in a wide range of industries.

Nor do cross-class alliances work to dent the influence of the well off. When middle-class preferences align with those of the poor, responsiveness to the affluent remains strong while responsiveness to the poor and middle class is still absent. Low- and middle-income Americans have been united, for example, in opposing free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and in supporting abortion restrictions such as requiring the prior consent of the biological father. But the affluent tend to favor free trade and to reject these kinds of abortion restrictions. And the affluent few have gotten what they want.

What difference would it make if policy more equally reflected the preferences of all Americans? How would it change?

Greater representational equality would have a substantial effect on several important economic policies. We would have a higher minimum wage, more generous unemployment benefits, stricter corporate regulation (on the oil and gas industries in particular), and a more progressive tax regime. Some of these policies are favored by a majority of Americans at the 90th income percentile as well, but not with sufficient enthusiasm to overcome opposition from business and other interests. We would also see a more protectionist trade strategy and less foreign aid.

The views of the affluent make a big difference, while support among the middle class and the poor has virtually no relationship to policy outcomes.

We’d see little significant change in Social Security and Medicare, which enjoy strong support across the income spectrum. This doesn’t mean that these core welfare programs are beyond class-specific political influence, however. The small changes to which they’ve been subject—such as the increase in the Social Security retirement age and efforts to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to join HMOs—have been more consistent with the preferences of the well off.

The disproportionate influence of the affluent does not always move policy in a conservative direction. On moral and religious issues, the well off tend to be more liberal than the poor. More equal representation would consequently lead to greater restrictions on abortion, such as banning RU-486. There would also be tighter limits on stem cell research and more support for school prayer.

• • •

Democrats have traditionally been viewed as the party of the working class and Republicans the well-to-do. But my findings suggest that both parties are inclined to ignore the public. Both seek to control government, and strong partisan control by either leads to policymaking with little regard for the preferences of the governed.

During the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, for example, Democrats held strong majorities in the House and Senate, yet policymaking bore no relationship to the preferences of the poor and middle class, or, for that matter, any income group.

We remember the Johnson administration for its landmark domestic legislation, including the 1964 and 1965 civil rights bills, the War on Poverty, the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid, immigration reform, and expanded federal aid to education. Some of these programs were indeed quite popular. Medicare and federal aid to education were favored strongly by low- and middle-income Americans and only modestly less by the affluent. Public support for civil rights legislation grew during the early 1960s, and most of the civil rights bills had solid public support across the income spectrum by the time they were passed.

But the majority of Americans were opposed to many of the other domestic programs of the Johnson years. The Great Society and the War on Poverty were not responses to an upwelling of public concern for the disadvantaged or a desire to expand the role of government in addressing social needs. If anything, public support for government activism was declining. Strong majorities at all income levels opposed increased spending on aid to cities, low-income housing, and welfare or relief payments. Even more unpopular was the loosening of immigration laws in 1965, opposed by 90 percent of poor Americans and about three-quarters of the affluent and middle class. Johnson’s escalation of the war in Vietnam grew less popular over time, and strong majorities at all levels opposed the Vietnam War income tax surcharge adopted in 1968.

This is not to say that the reputations of the parties are totally out of step with reality. Downwardly redistributive economic policies, such as raises in the minimum wage, are more common when Democrats are in power, and upwardly redistributive policies, such as reductions in the estate tax, are more common under Republicans.

But this pattern—important as it is—does not reflect a broader representation of the middle class or the poor by the Democratic Party. As we’ve seen, lower-income Americans align with the traditional policy orientation of the Democrats only on economic and social welfare issues and prefer Republicans’ positions on abortion, school prayer, and gay rights. And over the past few decades, the Democratic Party has shifted strongly in a free-market, anti-regulation, free-trade direction—a shift more consistent with the preferences of the affluent than of the less well off.

Finally, public preferences on redistributive economic policies don’t break down as cleanly as one might expect. Proposals to raise the minimum wage, expand federal college assistance, reduce taxes for low-income Americans, and protect or expand government support for health care receive strong support from affluent voters. In addition some upwardly redistributive policies—such as imposing work requirements and time limits on welfare recipients, eliminating the inheritance tax, and cutting capital gains tax rates—receive strong support even from the least well off.

These findings may be disappointing to those who look to the Democratic Party as the ally of the disadvantaged. In some respects Democrats have in fact served this function in the social welfare domain. But in other domains, policies adopted under Democratic control are no more consistent with the preferences of the less well off than are those adopted during periods dominated by the Republican Party.

... ... ...

The power of organized interest groups is often brought up as an explanation for the disproportionate influence of the well off. But while interest groups do strongly shape policy outcomes, they don’t account for the greater influence of high-income Americans. In popular discourse, interest groups typically bring to mind the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA, or the American Bankers Association. But the AARP, the AFL-CIO, and the National Governors Association are all powerful interest groups as well, and they and others like them are more likely to share the policy preferences of the poor and the middle class than of the affluent. In addition, industry lobbying organizations tend to side with the affluent in pushing for lower taxes and less regulation, but they align with the poor in favoring increased government spending on health care, education, mass transit, highway construction, and federal revenue sharing with the states.

Another seemingly plausible explanation for representational inequality is that policymakers are themselves affluent, and their personal interests and preferences shape their legislative efforts. Yet concern over the growing wealth of members of Congress is probably misplaced. Liberals and conservatives are equally likely to be found among Congress’s most and least wealthy members, and the substantial differences in economic status among members of Congress are not related to their preferences on economic policy issues or to their overall voting patterns.

Comments

gregorylent

america is a one-party state, with two factions, having only marginal differences. voting is primarily an exercise in population pacification, allowing business-as-usual to continue unchallenged.

route around.

Frank Williams

One aspect not explored above: the poor and near-poor, although more numerous, are less educated, less politically informed and aware, less likely to be registered to vote, and more easily manipulated by propaganda than the more affluent.

[Mar 01, 2013] The Global Class War How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future

Amazon.com

Mellow Monk (Livermore, CA USA) - See all my reviews

THIS is what American politics is all about. Everything else is divide-and-conquer distraction, December 6, 2009

This book has its faults -- repetition, extraneous detail -- but the basic message is the most important one in American politics today: among America's elites, there is no "culture war," no "conservative versus liberal." They have a concrete agenda, and it's all about money.

Everything else is political theater. That this message is so seldom communicated makes this book all the more important. Bottom line: The rich are united around a purely economic agenda, and so those of us who have to work for a living should be, too. That's the author's message.

Read this book and stop thinking in terms of red versus blue. Because the real political situation is the haves against the have-nots. And compared to what the super-rich haves have, what you and I have is diddly.

Duane E. Campbell (Sacramento, California)

Valuable information, May 13, 2009

This is an excellent analysis of class and how it functions on a global scale. The information on the organizing and selling of NAFTA was superb. I have long worked on the NAFTA issues, but this book provided a deeper , broader view. My own work has been on labor and immigration issues. Jeff Faux covers how NAFTA led to U.S. banks purchasing most of the Mexican banks, and how during the Peso crisis of 1994, the U.S. bailed out the (U.S. owned) Mexican banks.

As he notes, globalization is at its most advanced stages in finance capital. We have certainly learned this again in the current banking crisis. The robber barons of finance capital have stolen the money, they have looted the treasury and our pensions and now they want to return to business as usual without any significant reform of the economic system. Just give them more tax payer money to bail out the banks.

William Grieder, in Come Home America; the Rise and Fall ( and redeeming promise) of our Country, notes:

The U.S. has two parallel political systems. The official one, expertly equipped and in charge, produces and distributes political opinions and ideologies from the political class.

The "other America", weak, dispersed, largely non organized, scattered and passive, is the broad landscape of ordinary people. Our yearnings are silenced, ignored and/or easily manipulated.

The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future and What It will Take to Win it Back, provides extensive information and analysis needed for those of us in the "other America".

Duane Campbell, author. Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. 4th. edit. 2010. Allyn and Bacon.

Revolt of the Elites by Frank Pasquale

Balkinization
In his post below, Bernard Harcourt has analyzed new forms of radicalism adopted by the most and least privileged. Umair Haque at the Harvard Business Review has also identified dispositions shared by street looters and certain elites. As the chief political commentator at London's Daily Telegraph has observed, "The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom." Yet there are very different consequences for each group's transgressions.

The more disruptive the disenfranchised become, the more they provoke harsh responses from authorities, thus worsening their already marginal position. By contrast, finance and government elites have positioned themselves to gain from whatever risks they shift onto society at large, via bailouts, emergency powers, and the revolving door. As Ross Douthat observed, "The economic crisis is producing consolidation rather than revolution, the entrenchment of authority rather than its diffusion, and the concentration of power in the hands of the same elite that presided over the disasters in the first place."

Rather than being grateful for public subvention, Wall Street demands even lower tax rates and less monitoring. At least in the US, this "revolt of the elites" is more of a menace to social order than the type of mass protests against inequality and corruption now sweeping India, Israel, Spain, Chile, and many other countries. Whereas the poor are swiftly punished for disruptions, the worried wealthy's initiatives for not-so-creative destruction are self-reinforcing.

1) From risk shift to capital strike: Jacob Hacker's book The Great Risk Shift described forty years of policies designed to shift risk away from corporations and government and onto individuals. For millions of workers, 401(k) plans replaced defined benefit pensions. In 1979, 82% of impoverished families got TANF benefits; thirty years later, only 27% do. During the Bush Administration, there was even a vogue for "health savings accounts" to replace defined health benefits. Current GOP presidential contenders are upping the ante, attacking Medicare and Social Security, and proposing the replacement of traditional unemployment insurance with "personal accounts." These policies and proposals all shift the risk of sudden accidents, a frail old age, child poverty, and economic slumps onto the vulnerable themselves, rather than their employers, or the larger polity.

Austerity for the poor and middle classes is only one half of the risk shift. It helps pay for lavish backing of connected companies. The same groups that benefit most from tax cuts financed by a gutting of the safety net are also pushing for "certainty" in their business ventures. Just as capital is taxed preferentially, so too must its owners' ventures receive subsidies. Lionized on the pages of Forbes or Fast Company for "taking risks," Wall Street's favorite executives often avoid them at all costs. Derivatives are a favorite way of engineering away uncertainty. They do business with "too big to fail" banks, secure in the knowledge that taxpayers are on the hook if anything goes awry. Big investors, too, are keen on loan guarantees and other state "givings." And that is just the beginning of the "certainty" they've been demanding, and getting, as Yves Smith argues:

Businesses have had at least 25 to 30 years near complete certainty -- certainty that they will pay lower and lower taxes, that they will face less and less regulation, that they can outsource to their hearts' content (which when it does produce savings, comes at a loss of control, increased business system rigidity, and loss of critical know how). They have also been certain that unions will be weak to powerless, that states and municipalities will give them huge subsidies to relocate, that boards of directors will put top executives on the up escalator for more and more compensation because director pay benefits from this cozy collusion, that the financial markets will always look to short term earnings no matter how dodgy the accounting, that the accounting firms will provide plenty of cover, that the SEC will never investigate anything more serious than insider trading (Enron being the exception that proved the rule).

As Smith notes, now many of the same corporations "have played their cost-focused business paradigm out." It turns out that the same workers pressed to the wall for concessions happen to be customers, too, and they can't pay for goods and services like they used to. (As the Wall Street Journal puts it: the same "lucky duckies" who are too poor to pay taxes can't even go on their "dollar store splurges" any more.) The obvious macroeconomic prescription is for the state to tax those who are doing well, in order to pay for relief, recovery, and reform. But that isn't happening, either.

Rather, the power groups that dominate the US Congress, Presidency, and courts believe that only private investment can lead to more growth. The problem is that most of those capable of investing now have so much money that they don't need to earn anything from it. It's a capital strike against anything but a "sure thing." Many corporations are also cutting and hoarding. That's a brilliant strategy for CEO's, who may need just a few years at the top to accumulate a massive fortune.

The role of money in an economy is like that of blood in a body---it has to circulate to keep the entity that contains it alive. When a tremendous amount pools in one place, other parts suffer. Redistribution of income is vital to the health of American capitalism. Its decline presages a different type of economy on the horizon.

2) Doom Loops: So why isn't anyone doing anything about this? Some brave protesters in India and Israel provide a model response to their own countries' inequalities. As Rana Dasgupta notes, "taxpaying professionals working 70-hour weeks now compete unhappily for urban space with massively wealthier and more powerful businessmen and bureaucrats whose sources of wealth are opaque and, on the face of it at least, too effortlessly acquired." "Opaque" turns out to be a bit of a euphemism:

After independence in 1947 . . . [f]ortunes were accumulated to be spent on property – in India and elsewhere – or stored abroad. The globalisation of the Indian economy in the 1990s only expanded the opportunities for this corrupt . . . entrepreneurial class. “Big-ticket” deals multiplied, much as they did in Russia during the same period: businesses became involved in a scramble for the ownership of basic resources previously controlled by the state – land, mines, oil, mobile telephony spectrums etc – and this only the political class could endow.

The seamless integration of political elites with executives in finance, real estate, extractive industries, and communications is a feature of many so-called "free market" economies. But, as Harcourt notes, social disturbances in the US, Spain, and Britain have too often been unmoored from any positive political vision for change. And the most aggressive protests have themselves become the target of popular ire, rather than the conditions that sparked them.

Meanwhile, at the top of society, reckless behavior is rewarded time and again. Looting is an established business strategy, unpunished by authorities who appear far more interested in getting their own opportunity to loot rather than exposing malfeasance. Peter Boone and Simon Johnson describe how a "doomsday cycle" of privatized gains and socialized losses continues to this day:

[M]ajor private sector firms (banks and nonbank financial institutions) have a distorted incentive structure that encourages eventually costly risk-taking. Unfortunately, the measures taken in various US and European bailout rounds during 2008-2009 (and again in 2010 for the eurozone) have only worsened, and extended to far more entities, these underlying moral hazard incentive problems. . . .
This cycle of boom followed by bailouts and bust amounts to a form of implicit taxpayer subsidy that encourages individual institutions to become larger – and the system as a whole to swell. Our preparation to bail out their creditors means systemic institutions are able to raise finance cheaply in global markets. The implicit subsidy to creditors encourages greater debt, which makes the system ever more precarious.

Years after the financial crash, the chief perpetrators---be they foolish, negligent, or purposefully fraudulent---are wealthier than ever. And they continue to push for liquidationist measures that force lower living standards onto workers and citizens, rather than investment in a positive-sum future for all. In case of peak oil, today's smart investment is to buy oil futures, rather than invest in a green energy startup. If effortless grabbing of a larger share of a shrinking pie is a bit more profitable than long-term investment to shift out the production possibilities frontier, Mr. Market endorses it. Each year, our brightest business school graduates vote with their feet: thousands opt for the financial alchemy behind a quick buck, while far fewer take part in the hard work of creating a sustainable future.

3) Expect More Stability: Several analysts have argued that the resulting flow of incomes away from the bottom 90% (whose income has gone up 1% in real terms since 1980) and toward the top 1% (which has enjoyed a nearly fourfold increase in income, with much higher gains for those in the top 0.1 and 0.01%) will generate social unrest in the US. I doubt this. First, as Dan Ariely has shown, not many people actually understand how unequal our society is. Second, our media is profoundly uninterested in discussing issues of equity or opportunity. Rather, it has bought, hook, line, and sinker, the Pete Peterson-sponsored message of endless austerity for the middle and lower classes. Third, US authorities are getting more creative in defusing protests, in actions that even a leading libertarian advocate of the First Amendment applauds for targeting "the bad people."

Finally, and most importantly, technologies of surveillance have made dissent more costly. Sarah Jaffe has explained the consequences of the application of military-grade technology on the homefront:

As a burgeoning international protest movement takes shape, opposing austerity measures, decrying the wealth gap and rising inequality, and in some cases directly attacking the interests of oligarchs, we're likely to see the surveillance state developed for tracking "terrorists" turned on citizen activists peacefully protesting the actions of their government. And as U.S. elections post-Citizens United will be more and more expensive, look for politicians of both parties to enforce these crackdowns. Despite growing anger at austerity in other countries, those policies have been embraced by both parties here in the States.

Citron & I have discussed several aspects of this phenomenon, including domestic intelligence collection about political action, and problematic collaborations between state and corporate "law enforcers." Add into the mix the growing power of entities that secretly generate reputational data about individuals, and you have a variety of "chilling effects" on political activism that challenges inequality in the US. Meanwhile, the Bush-Obama war on whistleblowers has demonstrated the dangerous consequences of trying to publicize misuses of that technology. The end result is a mass "learned helplessness," as the very idea of collective action becomes a bitter joke to a critical mass of the populace.

I only mean to predict increased stability within the US. Elsewhere, food scarcity (including that induced by our own wasteful energy use) is likely to wreak havoc. Complexity theorists in MIT's Technology Review predict that, "If we don't reverse the current trend in food prices, we've got until August 2013 before social unrest sweeps the planet." Fortunately, the food stamps program in the US appears to have enough support from large agricultural interests to preserve it here.

History teaches that the great change agents in our society lost dozens of times before finally making a positive and lasting mark in law. As Harcourt notes, we could stay in the eye of this storm for a long time. Electoral politics, our traditional venue for gradual and constructive public investment, has been deeply corrupted by mass distraction and targeted influence. It will take years, and perhaps decades, of work to restore a party system that rewards politicians for addressing the real economic and environmental needs of their constituents. The best public intellectuals can do is follow the example of the minds who brought us to the present impasse: namely, to develop a "Mt. Pelerin Society" for those who actually believe there is such a thing as society.

Note: Given my title, I should acknowledge that Christopher Lasch identified a "Revolt of the Elites" 15 years ago.

[Feb 27, 2013] Franklin C. Spinney's review of The Party Is Over How Republicans Went Cr...

Amazon.com

...Over time, that sense of entitlement insensibly changed Democrats into what we in the Pentagon would call ENABLERS of Republicans. The Democratic enablers unwittingly played a crucial role in the demolition of the American dream, not unlike that played by infiltration troops in blitzkrieg. Infiltration troops soften up the front by slipping through defenses to find or create holes and weak areas for the tanks to roar thru to reap chaos and destruction deep in the enemy's rear area. Only in this case, the rear area being ruined is the American middle class, and the flood of tanks is taken up by the flood money supplied by the oligarchs who feather their nests by buying Democrats as well as Republicans in one seamless auction.

Put bluntly, to protect a sense of hereditary entitlement to the power that accompanied the coattails of FDR and the New Deal, Democrats abandoned their heritage and moved to Wall Street, Big Pharma, Defense, etc., and in so doing, insensibly mutated into faux Republicans. If you doubt this, look at the enervating, quasi-neoliberal bloviating by the self-inflating Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) or the cynical triangulations and warmongerings of Messrs. Clinton and Obama. The abdication of traditional Democratic principles gave Republican crazies more room to get even crazier, and together the faux Republicans and the real crazy Republicans reinforced each other to create a rightward shift in the American political dynamic that unleashed the emergence of a new gilded age, together with the emergence of a legalized plutocracy that criminal Russian oligarchs would envy. And this mutation came about in a remarkably short time of 30 to 40 years.

In so doing, the Democrats sold out their most important constituency, i.e., John Q. Average American, and colluded in the historic swindle that brought the great American middle class to the brink of impoverishment and debt peonage, a condition some times referred to chillingly in the tone-deaf salons of Versailles on the Potomac as the "new normal."

If you think collusion is too strong a term, I would urge you to think about Bill Clinton's (the DLC's choice for president in the 1992 election) collusion with Republicans in 1999 to nullify of the Depression era Glass-Steagle Act -- one of monuments of reform in the New Deal. This nullification was one of the main deregulatory "initiatives" that unleashed the greedy excesses that led to the 2007-8 financial meltdown. When he left office, Bill Clinton, by the way, did not pick up his grips and retire to a modest house in Independence Missouri like Harry Truman; he chose instead to join the plutocratic elite, where he is now well on his way to becoming a card-carrying member of the one-tenth of one-percent club of the mega rich. The bottom line: the Democrats' sense of entitlement and the consequent corruption of their principles have been a necessary, if not sufficient, condition in the emergence of the current political-economy that is destroying what is left of the middle class in our good ole USA. The reader would make a great mistake if he or she allowed the hilariously disgusting Republican hijinks described by Lofgren to brand his book as an anti-Republican polemic written by a convert, and miss his main message.

Mike, of course, states clearly in his title that his subject is how the madness of the Republicans and the uselessness of the Democrats reinforced each other over the last 30 to 40 years to hose the American People. It is the degenerate nature of their symbiotic relationship that is his thesis and should be the Left's call to arms.

I do not count on this happening, however. The faux Republicans are far more likely to try to exploit the embarrassment of riches in Mike's book for their narrow short-term political advantage, in yet another demonstration of the hypocrisy and opportunism that are central pillars propping up their losing mentality.

Enigma says:
>>>Put bluntly, to protect a sense of hereditary entitlement to the power that accompanied the coattails of FDR and the New Deal, Democrats abandoned their heritage and moved to Wall Street, Big Pharma, Defense, etc., and in so doing, insensibly mutated into faux Republicans.

I'm not quite sure if the this claim is accurate - when looking at the history of special interest giving and who paid off whom it appears that the Democrats have won that game for decades, it wasn't until just a few decades ago that the Republicans began closing and taking special interest money. To me that seems more like the Republicans mutated into faux Democrats.

>>>If you doubt this, look at the enervating, quasi-neoliberal bloviating by the self-inflating Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) or the cynical triangulations and warmongerings of Messrs. Clinton and Obama.

But historically speaking it has been the Democrats that have actually been the war mongers (WW I, WW II, Vietnam, Korea, etc, etc.)

>>>The abdication of traditional Democratic principles gave Republican crazies more room to get even crazier, and together the faux Republicans and the real crazy Republicans reinforced each other to create a rightward shift in the American political dynamic

WHAT????? Rightward shift you could have fooled me?

Lower taxes on the Wealthy
Increased Defense Spending
Pro-Life
Pro-Abstinence
Lower corporate income tax
Increase Spending on hi-tech weaponry
Partial Privatization of Social Security
Decrease Capital Gains

Sounds pretty right-wing doesn't it - the funny thing is that was the Democratic Platform in 1960 when JFK ran for president. The Democrats haven't been pulled to the right they swung to the left and pulled the Republicans and the country that way. What was considered a normal Democratic position 50 years ago is considered by you a ultra far right position today.

>>>In so doing, the Democrats sold out their most important constituency, i.e., John Q. Average American, and colluded in the historic swindle that brought the great American middle class to the brink of impoverishment and debt peonage,

You do understand that the new deal brought about a switch in the normal power structure of the country. The uber rich realized that the Republicans had lost power and switched over to the democratic Party. By the late 1940's nearly 90% of the top 1% were registered Democrats and they controlled the Democratic Party. Currently 73% of all billionaires are registered Democrats, special interest money flows into the Democratic coffers are alarming rates.

"Do you know where the top 15 Mega-Donors money goes????

Here is the breakdown about giving:
Democrats
$426,334,807.28
Republican
$71,028,473.98

http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php?order=A

81.09% goes to Democrats
13.51%goes to Republicans

>>>If you think collusion is too strong a term, I would urge you to think about Bill Clinton's (the DLC's choice for president in the 1992 election) collusion with Republicans in 1999 to nullify of the Depression era Glass-Steagle Act -- one of monuments of reform in the New Deal. This nullification was one of the main deregulatory "initiatives" that unleashed the greedy excesses that led to the 2007-8 financial meltdown.

This is a false talking designed to mislead and misinform people. Virtually every country put forth a glass-Steagle Act after the great depression and virtually every country removed that in the 1970's-1980's with no problems. It was outdated and needed to be revamped but that is beside the point. The FACT is that GS was not the problem since it didn't address what the problem was - CDS's. CDS's were in fact allowed by FIRREA which the brainchild of the Democrats. CDS's were in fact never regulated, so you can't deregulate something that purposefully didn't have regulations in the first place.

>>>Mike, of course, states clearly in his title that his subject is how the madness of the Republicans and the uselessness of the Democrats reinforced each other over the last 30 to 40 years to hose the American People.

I kind of agree but I think the title has it backwards, this seems to be a better explanation: Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right: How One Side Lost Its Mind and the Other Lost Its Nerve

You could say that I am the opposite of your friend, I used to work for the Democratic Party and saw the inside dealings of it. The pandering to big money, the selling out to special interests, the disdain that they spoke of the middle class that they felt abandoned them was nauseating. And back in the early 2000's when the Republicans tried to reign in the Democratic Casino known as Wall Street and how the Democrats refused any sort of reform or regulation of their boys, sickened me. They allowed the whole country and the world to falter because of their greed for money. Yes the Republicans knew we were in trouble and wimped out because of the charges of racism and not wanting to help the lower class while the crazy democrats drove the wagon over the cliff yelling giddy up.

Cheers

[Jan 30, 2013] FAKE DEMOCRACY by Dave Stratman

October 8, 1996 | NEW DEMOCRACY

It's easy to dismiss the electoral process as "fake democracy," which it certainly is. But the process plays a role in American society that is too important to ignore.

CAMPAIGNS AS JOB INTERVIEWS

A few years ago I went to a house-party for a candidate for Boston City Council. It was a week before the primary, and the candidate, seeking our support, said to us, "The Archbishop and the Vault [the most powerful bankers and businessmen in Boston] are closely watching the primary. If I do really well, I can get their support for the general election in November."

This was a revealing comment. For politicians the electoral process is a "job interview" before their potential employers. As the Boston candidate's remark revealed, however, the potential "employers" are not the voting public but powerful people behind the scenes. The electoral process is both a smokescreen and a testing ground. It is devised to hide the real power-holders behind the illusion of democracy. The monied elite pump generous amounts of wealth into both parties, to make sure there's a good show. The media and politicians focus the public eye on misleading issues, while they restrict the range of debate, so that ideas which challenge capitalism or reveal the real powers in society never surface. "Democracy" is reduced to pulling a lever every four years.

At the same time, the electoral process serves to test and identify and develop the politicians who can most effectively represent the interests of the real power-holders. The corporate leaders and financiers stay out of sight while they closely observe the qualities of the candidate. Does he or she have the rhetoric that can deceive and control large numbers of people? Can he divide people effectively? Confuse them? Is he greedy and ambitious and vain enough to be completely reliable?

The winner of the presidential election puts together an administration to run the government, much as a person hired by a corporate Board of Directors to be Chief Executive Officer (CEO) puts together his team to run the company. The CEO is given considerable leeway to administer the corporation and accomplish the goals of the Board in his own way.

Clinton has earned four more years from the Board of Directors. He has accomplished feats in office that George Bush (or Bob Dole) could not. After promising to oppose NAFTA, Clinton pushed it through. After promising to expand jobs programs, Clinton instead decided to "reinvent government" and added 250,000 government workers to the unemployment rolls. After promising national health care reform, Clinton cleared the way for an unprecedented and catastrophic takeover of health care by corporations and insurance companies. After promising welfare reform, Clinton delivered the most brutal attack on poor women and children in 60 years. No Republican could have accomplished so much for so few.

PLAYING A ROLE

Most people understand that politicians lie and don't deliver on promises that would benefit working people. What is less well-known is that the politicians are playing a role, as surely as if they were actors in a TV soap opera. The role of the Republicans is to push the business agenda openly. The role of the Democrats is to push the public discussion as much as possible in the direction of business, while disarming critics of the corporate system. In all the debate over controlling the deficit, for example, not once did Clinton reveal that the deficit was designed by Reagan to dismantle the Great Society. Instead he narrowed the deficit debate to the question, "How many years should it take to balance the budget?" As more people understand the sham nature of the electoral process, fewer participate. Fake democracy, however, still has poisonous effects. In 1980 Ronald Reagan received barely 51% of the votes in an election in which only 50% of the eligible voters cast a ballot. And yet, though he had the support of a mere 26% of the electorate, media and politicians alike claimed that Reagan had a "popular mandate" to carry out his vicious policies. The illusion of popular approval bestowed by fake democracy can convince people that politicians who in fact represent only the interests and outlook of a small elite really do represent the voice of ordinary people. The effect of this is devastating. It can make people feel that they are all alone in opposing the policies of a "democratically-elected" politician, and that change is impossible.

WHAT ABOUT A "THIRD" PARTY?

There have been numerous attempts in the last few years to break out of the two party system: the New Party, the Green Party, Ross Perot's Reform Party, and others. At a convention in Cleveland this June, about 1200 delegates representing several labor unions and other organizations founded a Labor Party. The strategy of forming alternative parties, however, including a Labor Party, is a very bad one:

*The problem we face is not simply that the Democratic Party represents the monied interests rather than working people. The problem is that the electoral process itself is a spectacle put on to create the illusion of democracy and hide the real wielders of power. Creating a "third party" or a "labor party" legitimizes the process and strengthens the illusion. It encourages people to accept as a serious means of social change a process that is designed precisely to prevent change.

*At a time when the greatest need is to break free of capitalist institutions to build an authentic working class movement, alternative parties channel the energy of the rank-and-file back into the structure of power controlled by capital and its agents.The Labor Party in particular will depend for electoral success on many of the very leaders and institutions which continue to betray the working class in struggles such as the Caterpillar strike and the Staley lockout and the day-to-day life of unions.



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