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Two Party System as polyarchy

News Inverted Totalitarism Recommended Books Recommended Links Elite Theory The Iron Law of Oligarchy Pluralism as a myth Myth about intelligent voter
Principal-agent problem Neoliberalism American Exceptionalism Inside "democracy promotion" hypocrisy fair Totalitarian Decisionism & Human Rights: The Re-emergence of Nazi Law Nation under attack meme Big Uncle is Watching You Neoconservatism as a stage of development of Neoliberalism
Libertarian Philosophy Corporatist Corruption: Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite Harvard Mafia Color revolutions Skeptic Quotations Humor Etc
"There is one political party in this country, and that is the party of money. It has two branches, the Republicans and the Democrats, the chief difference between which is that the Democrats are better at concealing their scorn for the average man."

-- Gore Vidal

“The Democrats are the foxes, and the Republicans are the wolves–and they both want to devour you.” So what does that make Libertarians? Avian flu viruses?”

-- Leonard Pinkney

The race is no contest when you own both horses. That is why no matter which political party is in power nothing really changes other than the packaging. The puppets who drink at the champagne fountains of the powerful do the bidding of their masters. The people are superfluous to the process.

-- Daniel Estulin


Introduction

Two party system proved to be perfect for inverted totalitarism type of regimes. In Lifting the Veil they mention the term polyarchy -- the system where voters are limited to voting between two pre-selected representatives of the oligarchy. The whole idea (rotation of elite) is somewhat similar to an intro marketing course on how to sell bogus products to gullible consumers who are forced to make adverse selection.

There is also related issue of information asymmetry between voters and elite (represented by Party functionaries). In reality,  Democratic Party in not a separate party, but an integral part of the two prong bait-and-switch system with a special function of preventing meaningful reform. In other words it is a branch of single party, the party of oligarchy. But it is a branch with a special function, the function of a spoiler. While the second part is allowed to show its true face, this one is not.

If the selection of candidates is performed strictly by the party machine, then elections became a farce because the real votes are limited to top 1% (or. more correctly, the top 0.01%). In this case "regular" voters are irrelevant: they will always face a fake choice between bad candidate and even worse candidate. For example, between Obama and Tea Party candidate. In this situation the vote for any third candidate became a vote for Tea Party. So electorate is held hostage by two (pre-selected by oligarchy) candidates and is allowed only to chose between them. Classic example of this mechanism in action was the the role of Nader in Gore vs. Bush election. This is the key mechanism of “managed democracy” or as it is also called “inverted totalitarianism”.

In this sense so called "government by the people" is no different than heredary monarchal or autocratic rule. Constitutional provisions are whatever government does or does not do in whatever way it wishes. Ordinary people had no say then or now. They’re entirely left out by design. According to John Jay, America’s first Supreme Court chief justice, the nation should be governed by people who owned it. But it was never this way from inception.

Illusion of democracy

The simple plurality voting system is a single-winner voting system also called  winner-takes-all or  first-past-the-post. The latter term is an analogy to horse racing, where the winner of the race is the first to pass a particular point (the "post") on the track, after which all other runners automatically lose. Elections in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada belong to this category. In this voting there is no requirement that the winner gain an absolute majority of votes.

Duverger's law is a principle which asserts that any plurality voting system elections naturally impose a two-party system  That means that single-winner voting system essentially hand all the power to the elite as it is elite that controls the electability of candidates from both parties. The discovery of this tendency is attributed to Maurice Duverger, a French sociologist who observed the effect and recorded it in several papers published in the 1950s and 1960s. In the course of further research, other political scientists began calling the effect a "law" or principle. Duverger's law suggests a nexus or synthesis between a party system and an electoral system: a proportional representation (PR) system creates the electoral conditions necessary to foster party development while a plurality system marginalizes smaller political parties, resulting in what is known as a two-party system.

At the same time,  a two party system provides a pretty realistic illusion of democracy and is actually remarkably effective in enforcing the rule of oligarchy. A perfect system for a small group to rule, as all “mass participation” is confined to choosing between two preselected by party brass candidates. In other word elections are just a puppet show controlled by oligarchy much like elections controlled by party nomenklatura of the USSR when only a single candidate existed, but still elections were called and votes were counted.  Actually the fact that they did not adopt a two party system this is a testament of the ideological rigidity of the USSR nomenklatura, as such a system  is perfectly compatible with a totalitarian society and is essence is a variant of one party rule. 

In addition “Winner takes all” system automatically, by design, co-opts small parties into either Democratic Party or Republican Party camp, before they can get any level of maturity. That means that, unfortunately, within the “winner takes all” framework emergence of third party is temporal and they are quickly co-opted into one of two wings of the establishment party, which also can be called "the War Party" as jingoism is the credo of both Democrats and Republicans, and in many cases it is difficult to understand who is more jingoistic.

Another term used for this political mechanism is polyarchy:

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

▬William I. Robinson, Behind the Veil, Minute 1:29:15

That is the essence of two party system as implemented in the USA. When, in the 1940s, Joseph Schumpeter argued that ordinary citizens should limit their participation in a democracy to electing its leaders, he was effectively arguing for polyarchy. Here is how Wikipedia defined the term (polyarchy):

In a discussion of contemporary British foreign policy, Mark Curtis stated that "polyarchy is generally what British leaders mean when they speak of promoting 'democracy' abroad.

This is a system in which a small group actually rules and mass participation is confined to choosing leaders in elections managed by competing elites." [8]

A two party system as a mediator between conflicting  interests of factions of the elite

In Golden Rule Thomas Ferguson argues the US two party system functions as a mediator between conflicting business interests. Between two parts of the ruling elite.

Rodolfo Lazo de la Vega

Democracy, Capitalism & the State, December 27, 2010

This review is from: Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems (American Politics and Political Economy Series) (Paperback)

The central foundational principle of the capitalist nation-state is that it is a reflection of its economic constituencies. Those who own and control the means of production shape the state in the form that they desire. This truism - that money runs politics - is the central argument of Thomas Ferguson's "Golden Rule." He begins by asking what are political parties? They are organizations composed of blocs of major investors who come together to advance favored candidates in order to control the state. They do this through direct cash contributions and by providing organizational support through the making available of sources of contacts, fundraisers and institutional legitimation. Candidates are invested in like stocks. For them electoral success is dependent on establishing the broadest base of elite support. Candidates whom have best *internalized* investor values see their "portfolios" grow exponentially at the expense of candidates who have not internalized these values. So what you have is a filtering system in which only the most indoctrinated and business friendly of the intellectual class advance to state power. The higher you go up the ladder the more you've appealed to elite interests. Representatives of the major investors are also often chosen to fill political appointments after a favored candidate has achieved office. This political-economic model helps explain why the state largely functions to serve elite business interests on the domestic and international stages.

Of course, corporate interests vary and evolve. Capital-intensive corporations tend to invest in Democratic politicians. Labor-intensive corporations tend to invest in Republicans. That's because capital-intensive corporations can afford to sit in a party which also represent organized labor. The AFL-CIO rarely poses a threat to Wall Street; and vice-versa. So what would we expect from a system like this? One thing we would expect is that on issues which the public cares about but on which there is cross-party investor agreement no party competition will take place. That means that the issues the public is most interested in will not appear on the agenda. The polls have been pretty consistent on this point. Major public interest revolves around issues having to do with trade agreements, in favor of a single-payer health care system, increased spending for education, slashing the Pentagon budget and many other issues. At times the population has been able to organize successfully and force popular issues onto the agenda despite business opposition.

Ferguson details how the growth, development and fall of major industries correspond to the growth, development, and fall of their political parties. He examines the rise and fall of five major investment bloc party systems - the Federalist vs. Jeffersonian, the Jacksonian, the Civil War party system, the system of 1896 and the New Deal. The latter is dealt with in much detail.

The book, while highly informative, is not without its flaws. Ferguson's prose is obtuse and very, very dry. The charts are helpful but the ideas could have been presented in a more compact form. Regardless of these reservations, this book is very important for an understanding of how our political system functions and deserves a large audience, discussion and action.

One of early proponents of  "elite [dominance] theory" James Burnham in his book, The Machiavellians, argued and developed his theory that the emerging new élite would better serve its own interests if it retained some democratic trappings — two party system, illusion of "free press" and a controlled "circulation of the elites."

Notes on Republican Party

As Anatol Leiven  noted:

...the Republican Party is really like an old style European nationalist party. Broadly serving the interests of the moneyed elite but spouting a form of populist gobbledygook, which paints America as being in a life and death, struggle with anti-American forces at home and abroad.

It is the reason for Anne Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. That is the rhetoric of struggle acts as a cover for political policies that benefit a few and lay the blame for the problems of ordinary Americans on fictitious entities.

The main side effects of the nationalism are the current policies which shackles America to Israel uncritically despite what that country might and how its actions may isolate America from the rest of the world. It also justifies America on foreign policy adventures such as the invasion of Iraq.

In terms of the two-party system, Republicans are avid, pitiless, intolerant, unbending, predatory, anti-democratic, iron-willed ideologues who’ve sold out to big business while courting big religion.  Democrats ape them, thus creating a one-party climate that fulfills the wishes of corporate "citizens" and transnational elite (becoming this way just another neoliberal party), systematically neglecting the needs of the middle class (lower classes never have any meaningful political representation, so nothing changed for them). That combination produces an apathetic electorate which completely lost hope in the political process. This is the essence of "inverted totalitarism".

Note on Democratic Party

Democratic Party after Clinton became Republican Party lights, the party of Wall Street, that has nothing to do with labor movement, which previously was its base. The reasoning is that labor is nowhere to go in any case, so it is safe for democratic establishment to serve financial oligarchy.

The current democratic president is would be viewed as  a moderate republican just 30-50 years ago, as politically he is positioned to the right in comparison with Dwight D. Eisenhower. Just compare his famous warning about Military-Industrial Complex and Obama behavior during Snowden revelations of NSA total surveillance regime. Even Nixon, who finished Vietnam war is in some aspects to the left of Clinton and Obama. Note how unceremoniously Obama dumped labor immediately after being reelected for the second term. 

Essentially under Obama the USA two party system became undistinguishable in its major features from the USSR one party system, as behind the façade of two parties there is a single party, the party of oligarchy, the party of top 0.01% much like CPSU was the party of Soviet nomenklatura, which was hostile to the interests of middle class of the USSR (which is perfectly provable by the very low standard living of the middle class in the USSR). 

Democracy promotion as used by the USA foreign policy
 is actually a promotion of polyarchy

This oligarchy system was actively promoted in third world countries via so called color revolutions. Democracy promotion term in the US foreign policy is nothing but promotion of polyarchy. It is the policy that strives to put pro-Western elite groups and large international companies in power using variety of "grey area" methods which come short of armed apprising against the demonized "evil" regime. That was very successful policy in post USSR space with Ukraine and Georgia as two prominent examples. 

After such a revolution a new, more pro-Western part of the elite (lumpenelite) comes to power and exercise often brutal monopoly power in the interests of the USA and transnational corporations. Typically privatization of the county is in the cards. Which regimes of Boris Yeltsin,  Viktor Yushchenko and Mikheil Saakashvili demonstrated all too well. Also important that as 1965 CIA report about Philippines stresses that "The similarity of the parties, nevertheless encourages moderation, readiness to compromise, and lack of dogmatism in the political elite". Philippines were a key client regime in 1950th and 1960th with Clark Air Base and Subtic Naval Base to be the largest military facilities outside US mainland (Promoting polyarchy globalization ... - William I. Robinson (p. 120))

Here is one Amazon review of the book:

Brilliant exposition of US policy and the global order June 12, 2001

By Geoff Johnson

Format:Paperback

In this difficult but extremely provocative and scholarly work, William I. Robinson presents a new model for understanding US foreign policy and the emergent global society as a whole. The crux of his thesis is this: US foreign policy has changed in the last twenty years or so from open support of authoritarian regimes in countries where the US has economic and/or strategic interests to a program of "democracy promotion" that strives to place minority elite groups who are responsive to the interests of the United States and transnational capital at the head of the political, economic, and civic structures of "third world" countries.

Contrary to popular opinion (and that of much of academia), the real goal of democracy promotion, or what Robinson refers to as "promoting polyarchy", is not the promotion of democracy at all, but rather the promotion of the interests of an increasingly transnational elite headed by the US who seek open markets for goods and an increase in the free flow of capital. This marks a conscious shift in foreign policy in which the US now favors "consensual domination" by democratically elected governments rather than authoritarian leaders and the type of "crony capitalism" made famous by the likes of Ferdinand Marcos and Anastacio Somoza.

The first sections of the book introduce numerous theoretical concepts (drawing heavily on the theories of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, in particular his theory of hegemony) that are crucial to the understanding of the text. I personally found these sections extremely difficult but well worth the time it takes to read certain parts several times. Robinson then goes on to document four case studies-- the Phillipines, Chile, Nicaragua, and Haiti-- each of which fleshes out his conceptual framework in much more concrete terms. The result is a disturbing picture of US foreign policy and the current direction of "globalization." I would highly recommend this to anyone with a strong interest in foreign affairs and/or the future of humanity.

Here is an interesting review of Wolin's book: Inverted Totalitarianism in the US

The US is a self-declared empire that scholars have labeled a “superpower” since it achieved military and cultural hegemony in a “unipolar moment” at the “end of history” while seeking “full-spectrum dominance” of land, sea, air, cyberspace and outer space, as stated in the Department of Defense’s Joint Vision 2020.

In order to impede the Soviet Union’s imperial projects, the US likewise slung itself astride the globe using multilateral institutions, spy networks and covert operations which produced a “Cold War” that eliminated the idea of peacetime and demanded permanent military mobilization bolstered by the military-industrial-congressional complex while placing citizens on high alert against nuclear threats and a domestic infestation of “reds” that excused the government’s surveillance of citizens.

The Constitution, which limits power, and a democracy, which requires local control and citizen empowerment, are both profaned by superpower, which defies limits in its quest for global supremacy, overshadowing localities and overpowering citizens while projecting power outward and inward simultaneously.

To describe this configuration, the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin coined the term “inverted totalitarianism.”

In old totalitarianism, the state dominated the economy while iconic demagogues who permanently held office mobilized citizens and openly flaunted the blanketing power of the new order they were imposing. With inverted totalitarianism, the economy dominates the state wherein temporary “representatives” serve a permanent corporate regime that demobilizes citizens while claiming to protect individual liberty by reducing state power, thus concealing the totalitarian character.

In terms of the two-party system, Republicans are avid, pitiless, intolerant, unbending, predatory, anti-democratic, iron-willed ideologues who’ve sold out to big business while courting big religion, and Democrats ape them, thus creating a one-party climate that fulfills the wishes of corporate “citizens” while systematically neglecting the needs of regular citizens, producing an apathetic electorate that’s lost hope in the political process.

State power is legitimated by media events called “elections” that elites have learned to control through finance, marketing and media ownership, while politicians accept bribes called “contributions” that are considered “speech” – as defined by the Supreme Court, effectively using “free speech” to silence the citizenry while replacing constituents with lobbyists.

Citizens fear job loss and benefit loss due to downsizing and outsourcing, which maximize “efficiency,” while the government shreds social safety nets for the sake of “efficiency,” leaving citizens vulnerable and yet unable to protect themselves when states outlaw collective bargaining, thus criminalizing worker self-defense.

Contrary to popular belief, slashing federal programs enhances state power by making government less unwieldy and easier to control since it dilutes public involvement, thus depleting public power and solidifying executive power.

The idea of democracy is emptied of substance and used as a slogan to justify military invasion, occupation and torture while the doctrine of “preemptive war” renders all acts of aggression as defensive and undertaken for the sake of insuring “stability.” For example, deference to US demands and the protection of corporate assets – in a war against terrorism that lacks a specific geographic location and thus requires the globe-girdling ability to strike anywhere anytime.

Instead of a Politburo circulating state propaganda that touts one political ideology, the corporate media feigns democratic debate that features “both sides” who are portrayed as extreme opposites but actually reflect a slim range of political discourse, thus giving the appearance of freedom while relying on White House, State Department and Pentagon spokespeople to supply the “official” version of political affairs, which are broadcast into every home through television, thus manipulating the public rather than including them.

Democracy functions as a useful myth that obscures the totalitarian atmosphere in which citizens feel politically impotent and fearful as they are dwarfed by giant, rigid, top-heavy bureaucracies that respond to the protocols of a corporate state that collaborates with telecommunications companies to monitor the population and develop detailed digital profiles of citizens while local police forces cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies, augmenting the burgeoning prison industry as the state loosens laws that forbid army soldiers from patrolling US streets.

The corporate state defunds public programs and forces everything into the market, including health, education, social security, pensions, public broadcasting, prisons, water, soldiers, surveillance and national intelligence, while businesses commodify the environment and patent DNA.

Two Party System as an enabler of the Quiet Coup:
privatization by the elite of the whole country

  In the “democracy” that America has evolved to, money counts more than people. In past elections, the votes were counted, now they are going to start weighing them.

America The Counter-Revolution - Salem-News.Com

“(T)he rich elites of (the USA) have far more in common with their counterparts in London, Paris, and Tokyo than with their fellow American citizens … the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it.”

-- Mike Lofgren

Two party system also makes possible a very interesting recent phenomenon, which started under Reagan (or may be Nixon) and first fully demonstrated itself after the dissolution of the USSR: a deep split between the elite and the rest of population to the extent that the country because a hostage of the elite which now behave like a brutal occupiers, not as compatriots. In other work the self-serving(aka greedy) elite  with its neoliberal ideology emerged as much more formidable threat to democracy then communist ideology of the past.  Neoliberalism not only defeated Marxism, it also decimated the US labor movement. Neoliberalism is in essence transnational, so Marxist slogan "proletarians of all countries unite" materialized in a form "elite of all countries unite" ;-). and that spells deep troubles for the 99% of the USA population as labor arbitrage is used to lower their living standard.  

Being transnational they treat their "host" country as occupiers. Their allegiance is with transnational elite not with old ("national") bourgeoisie. In some countries like Russia under Putin national bourgeoisie (and imprisonment of Khodorkovky was a watershed invent in this respect as it prevented sell-out of Russian oil reserves to the US corporations) managed partially displace transnational elite form command hights but it remain to be seen how stable this regime is.

They now crave for "materialization" of their status in a form of great wealth and reject moral and cultural values of the past.  This was first noticed by Christopher Lasch in 1994 when he published his groundbreaking book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy.   This was partly due to the book prophetic recognition that the elites of this country (and indeed the developed world) -- the professionals, top managers (upper-middle class and higher) -- were pulling away from the rest of the pack, tacitly renouncing their stake in and responsibility to society social  contract, and slowly changing the rules of the game to increate economic inequality and appropriate the large share of society wealth. Tyler Durden writes  Zero Hedge  on Feb. 15, 2013, that 1% of Americans control over 40% of the United States’ wealth. But those making $10 million or more a year pay an average income tax rate of only 19%, less then people who are making 60K a year.  As an old-school conservative, Lasch considered excessive economic inequality to be  intrinsically undesirable: the difficulty of limiting the influence of wealth suggests that wealth itself needs to be limited.

Since the Reagan administration the USA has indeed accomplished a successful transformation to an effective One Party State with the financial oligarchy instead of Soviet nomenklarura and Wall Street instead of the Communist Party of the USSR. As Soviet nomenklatura had shown to the surprised world at one moment the elite can just privatize the whole country (with active participation of KGB which in theory should protect the regime). In other words the objective of the elite and their political handmaidens became to discredit and destroy the traditional nation state and auction its resources to themselves. This new ruling caste, schooled separately, brought up to believe in fairytales, lives in a world of its own, from which it can project power without understanding or even noticing the consequences. A removal from the life of the rest of the nation is no barrier to the desire to dominate it. In fact it appears to be associated with a powerful, almost psychopathic sense of entitlement. This transition of elite (which now is first and foremost financial elite)  into brutal occupiers of their own country was recently  popularized by Professor Simon Johnson under then name of "Quiet Coup":

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government -- a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. ...

…the American financial industry gained political power by amassing a kind of cultural capital -- a belief system. Once, perhaps, what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Over the past decade, the attitude took hold that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country. The banking-and-securities industry has become one of the top contributors to political campaigns, but at the peak of its influence, it did not have to buy favors the way, for example, the tobacco companies or military contractors might have to. Instead, it benefited from the fact that Washington insiders already believed that large financial institutions and free-flowing capital markets were crucial to America’s position in the world.

At least since Reagan years we’ve been witnessing a quiet, slow-motion coup d’etat whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal and entrench the privileged positions of the wealthy and powerful — who haven’t been as wealthy or as powerful since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.  As professor Reich noted:

Its techique is to inundate America with a few big lies, told over and over (for example, the debt is Obama’s fault and it’s out of control; corporations and the very rich are the “job creators” that need tax cuts; government is the enemy, and its regulations are strangling the private sector; unions are bad; and so on), and tell them so often they’re taken as fact.

Then having convinced enough Americans that these lies are true, take over the White House, Congress, and remaining states that haven’t yet succumbed to the regressive right (witness Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin).

Preventing meaningful reform

Two party system proved to be ideal instrument for preventing any meaningful social and political reform as recent political history of the USA aptly demonstrates. Here are some relevant comments from Naked Capitalism forums:

kievite

I am pretty pessimistic about the current situation. There are some tectonic forces at work and politicians can do only so much to try to prevent an earthquake.

One aspect of the problem is that the society became way too complex.

Tainter in his book suggested that as societies become more complex, the costs of meeting new challenges increase, until there comes a point where extra resources devoted to meeting new challenges produce diminishing and then negative returns.

The USA has an interesting twist in this regard which make some form of drastic change more plausible: Republican Party. The current Republican Party (aka wrecking crew) is a textbook demonstration of the forces that prevent any meaningful reform. Democratic Party is another part of the same bait-and-switch system.

The amount of resources diverted to military industrial complex and financial companies probably serve as another severe limitation on what can be done to prevent new crisis.

And with 40% of population believing that Saddam was instrumental in 9/11 the chances of political change are slim. Looks like country is pretty evenly divided and multi-year brainwashing can’t be reverted until the current generation pass away.

Rampant unemployment and absence of meaningful jobs creation are two features that make the current situation unsustainable.

Simple solutions like some form of fascism are definitely becoming more attractive in this atmosphere. So we can be sure that attempts to explore this opportunity will be made. Clerical fascism is one possibility.

High unemployment is a powerful catalyst of mass support of any radical ideology.

Actually the beginning of this century looks in many ways similar to the beginning of the previous century. And we know how things developed in the previous century. We just do not know the form “change we can believe in” will take.

kievite:

Actually splitting UR into two parties which are just replica of the USA structure with Democratic/Republican parties is a fascinating idea. As the USA experience proved it can be pretty stable politically as one branch of the same “united oligarchy party” would marginalise left and the other can marginalise extreme right.

As Gore Vidal said

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

This might be an interesting political innovation for Russia: substituting single party regime with the “dualism without choice” (or “choice we can believe in” if we use politically correct language ;-) . This dual party structure can serve as a powerful force for marginalising opposition both on left and right. reform. In this case both parties are the necessary and vital parts of the same bait-and-switch system.

As for Medvedev actions I think that few people either in mass population or elite forgot economical and political rape of Russia under Yeltsin.

As unforgettable George W. Bush said: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

A popular mock word for “democrats” — “der’mokcats” and for “liberals” — “liberasts” reflects the common attitude after Yeltsin reforms.

Among interesting attempt to explain the current electoral situation provided in "American Revolution Today- First Principles and Basic Precepts " have some merits:

What does the prospect of Revolution mean today in The United States? Well, the very fact that today we are a nation, whereas in the late eighteenth century our forefathers were simply a collection of subject farmers and tradesmen inhabiting a colonial outpost of The British Empire, puts us in a very different set of circumstances than our predecessors. And yet some of the very same intolerable conditions that impelled our colonial ancestors to revolt against an arbitrary and unresponsive British crown exist today.

In fact, if anything, the tax burden you and I face now is greater by a substantial sum than what existed at the outset of The American Revolution when the cry "Taxation Without Representation" was the clarion call for defiance against The British Crown. More troubling perhaps is that those individuals that stand today at the head of our leading institutions of public life, whether they be the Treasury Secretary, Federal Reserve Bank Chairman, Senior Congressmen and women, and even The President, seem every bit as disinterested in honestly addressing our legitimate concerns, and in answering our probing questions, as any eighteenth century British Parliamentarian or exhalted royal head of state were in addressing the complaints of the colonialists.

Some might offer that the answer to such a lamentable state of affairs is to simply replace, via the ballot box, recalcitrant and unresponsive leaders. Regrettably, it is the opinion of American Revolution Today that the mechanisms of government are now so deeply flawed, so intractably corrupt, that no such simple remedy is possible were it even allowed. In truth, it is the view of American Revolution Today that:

  1. The United States Federal Government, functioning primarily on behalf of monied interests, particularly big banking and Wall Street, has become a nemesis of "We The People."
  2. The entrenched two party system comprised of Democrats and Republicans is, in the main, obstructive of reform, and, by definition, utterly opposed to anything resembling revolutionary change.
  3. At this juncture, traditional means of political self determination may not be the way forward, but in any case, we at American Revolution Today are convinced that no candidate from either the Democratic or Republican parties should receive support; any affiliation with the two party system almost assures that such a candidacy would ultimately be antithetical to government benefiting "We The People."

Following on from that, no candidate who runs for Federal public office that does not feature the following planks in their campaign platform will be deemed suitable for election.

A.) Term limits
B.) Campaign Finance Reform
C.) Shortened Election Cycles
D.) Cessation of "Redistricting"
E.) Full Audit of The Federal Reserve
F.) The restoration of constitutional mandate for congressional control of U.S. currency.
G.) An end to further raising of the debt ceiling
H.) Immediate removal of all troops, personnel, and material from Iran and Afghanistan
I.) Replacement of income tax and estate taxes with new levies on consumption, and amended levies on capital gains by individuals and corporations.
J.) Health care reform that is first and foremost free market based with no governmental bias towards "Big Pharma" or the insurance industry.
K.) A multi-generational program designed to return some "reasonable sum" of manufacture back to the United States
L.) The complete overhaul of such government agencies as the SEC, The Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and Homeland Security, to name but a few.
M.) Full investigations of those individuals in and out of government who are alleged to have engaged in criminal activity associated with the collapse of various large banking concerns and quasi government agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
N.) An end to the entire "alphabet soup" of programs funneling money to too big to be allowed to exist parasitic institutions such as AIG, BOA, GS, Citicorp, and JPM.
O.) A restoration of mark to market accounting standards, and the cessation of the writing of any more "standard performance contracts" aka OTC derivatives, until such time as a regulated exchange is instituted for their trade.
P.) A complete rollback of all cap and trade legislation.

If you are in agreement with the ideas and political initiatives expressed here, and feel as we do, join us in making the Second American Revolution a reality. Join us in reestablishing a nation where The Constitution is fully respected, and where good government is defined as one that governs least and always on behalf of the greater good.

Honest Elections Myth

Here is characterization by the USA MSM of the particular foreign election

They have the right to have an honest elections... We will have to disagree on the scale of the electoral fraud – from what I can see , the “elections”: were a total , crudely executed sham

In fact this characterization if perfectly applicable to the US elections as well. In fact elections are always stolen from people by oligarchy. There was an excellent observation here:

There’s no real skill in convincing people that they’re unhappy with the current state of affairs, and to set visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads (if I may be seasonal for a moment).

Everybody feels they’re entitled to something better, and the only thing left to do is identify the person or persons standing in the way of their getting it.

But everybody who isn’t a dolt usually says at some point, “Uhhh….how’s that going to work?”

I would add my two cents.

  1. When we face critic of elections who claim they are dishonest that classic Russian question arise " Who are the judges?" (Griboedov) .

    Judges are representatives of several political forces:

    Typically none of them is better then "current corrupt regime". That supports that statement that means that taking into account the alternative, the word democracy here is used as a Trojan force for regime change with the hope that the next regime will more suitable for geo-political security interests of the USA and Western Europe.

  2. Absolutization of the idea of "honest election" is nothing but dirty PR trick. I would remind here old, but still relvant work of Robert Michels who became famous for his formuation of "Iron law of oligarchies": He demostrated (in 1911 !) that the idea of "honest election" is a myth the covers the universal trend of democratic organizations towards oligarchy. And that elections are form of civilised struggle of different oligarchic groups represented by party functionaries for power. Which in turn represent so called "leading families". The latter is one (a) that develops, retains and renews its wealth over a number of generations; (b) in which some children in each generation secure good positions in the various elites of society; and (c) where the family holds together as a network for information on and influence over the development of a local community or ─ in certain cases ─ the country as a whole. More than one thinks, the history of Europe and America in the past century has consisted of the history of the leading families.

  3. It's natural that like after any dirty football game the fans of the winning team call it brutal but honest and fans of the losing team "dirty and dishonest". As there are some objective criteria of the level of "dirty tricks" played in election people who try to absolutize the idea of "honest election" are crooks who want to "rock the boat". .

Credibility trap of two party system

Credibility trap of one party system is well known. Two party system is more resilient in this respect but is not totally immune to credibility trap.

A credibility trap [in two party sytem] is a situation in which the regulatory, political and/or the informational functions of a society have been thoroughly taken in by a corrupting influence and a fraud, so that one cannot address the situation without implicating, at least incidentally, a broad swath of the power structure and the status quo who at least tolerated it, if not profited directly from it, and most likely continue to do so.

This lead to an interesting situation when voting became a special type of entertainment aptly described in John Chuckman Nov 6, 2013 essay   HOW AMERICA LEARNED TO PLAY GOD

Just as there is a natural cycle in the life of great industries – the scores of early American car manufacturers are now reduced to a few functioning as an oligopoly, an historical pattern repeated in industry after industry  – there appears to be a life cycle for a government organized like that of the United States. The duopoly which runs the American government consists of two parties which differ in almost no particulars except some social issues, but even that difference is rather a sham because the American government no longer has any interest in social issues. It is concerned overwhelmingly with representing and furthering the interests of the nation’s three great power centers of the military-industrial-intelligence complex. Social issues now are soap-box stuff for street-corner politicians and members of NGOs.

But in any case, all players in this political duopoly, no matter to which office they may be elected, know they can never challenge the immense authority and virtual omnipresence of America’s military, intelligence, corporate hierarchies and special interests like the Israel Lobby, powerful anti-democratic institutions which literally shape the space America’s politicians must inhabit.

Americans today quite simply could not vote in an informed manner if they wanted to do so (and many are not interested in voting at all, as we shall see): they are completely in the dark as to what happens inside their government, both its operations within the country and in international affairs. No one knows the full extent of spending on intelligence, nor do they know what dark programs are underway. No one knows the full extent of spending on the military, nor do they know to what questionable tasks it is being put around the world. No one knows the immense extent and complexity of lobbying and special interests in the American government. And of course no one is privy to the planning and operations of the great corporations, nor do they know anything of the dealings and financing arrangements between those corporations (or the wealthy individuals who own and run them) and the people’s supposed representatives, who all must spend a substantial part of their time just raising money for the next election (the average American Senator is said to spend two-thirds of his or her time doing just that).

Americans’ votes in elections have become to a remarkable extent meaningless, although an elaborate political stage play keeps the appearance of meaning and keeps those interested in politics involved and entertained. Almost certainly as a result of sensing how little their votes count, Americans often simply do not vote and do so in increasing numbers. The further down the political totem pole you go from the presidential elections which generate the most noise owing to the obscene amounts of money spent on marketing and advertising, the greater is this truth. Maybe 60% vote for president, a minority vote in other national elections, and a tiny fraction vote in state and local elections.

This vacuum is filled with Big Intelligence which become one of the "king makers":

The record of arrogance and abuse by security organizations, such as CIA or the FBI, is long and costly, filled with errors in judgment, abuse of power, incompetence, and immense dishonesty. Owing to the black magic of classified secrecy, much of the record involves projects about which we will never know, but even what we do know about is distressing enough. And I’m not sure that it can be any other way so long as you have Big Intelligence. Apart from Big Intelligence’s own propensity towards criminal or psychopathic behavior, one of the great ironies of Big Intelligence is that it will always agree to bend, to provide whatever suppressions and fabrications are requested by political leaders working towards the aims of the other great anti-democratic institutions, the military and the corporations. This became blindingly clear in the invasion of Iraq and, even before that, in the first Gulf War.

Among other things they provide powerful filtering system so that none undesirable slips into important office:

America’s political system, honed and shaped over many decades, fits comfortably with these institutions. National elections are dominated by a two-party duopoly (being kept that way through countless institutional barriers deliberately created to maintain the status quo) , both these parties are dominated by huge flows of campaign contributions (contributions which form what economists call an effective barrier to entry against any third party seriously being able to compete), both parties embrace much the same policies except for some social issues of little interest to the establishment, and election campaigns are reduced to nothing more than gigantic advertising and marketing operations no different in nature to campaigns for two national brands of fast food or pop. It takes an extremely long time for a candidate to rise and be tested before being trusted with the huge amounts of money invested in an important campaign, and by that time he or she is a well-read book with no surprising chapters.

If for any reason this political filtering system fails, and someone slips through to an important office without having spent enough time to make them perfectly predictable, there still remains little chance of serious change on any important matter. The military-industrial-intelligence complex provides a molded space into which any newcomer absolutely must fit. Just imagine the immense pressures exerted by the mere presence of senior Pentagon brass gathered around a long polished oak table or a table surrounded by top corporate figures representing hundreds of billions in sales or representatives or a major lobbying group (and multi-million dollar financing source for the party). We see the recent example of popular hopes being crushed after the election of Obama, a man everyone on the planet hoped to see mend some of the ravages of George Bush and Dick Cheney. But the man who once sometimes wore sandals and bravely avoided a superfluous and rather silly flag pin on his lapel quickly was made to feel the crushing weight of institutional power, and he bent to every demand made on him, becoming indistinguishable from Bush. Of course, the last president who genuinely did challenge at least some of the great institutional powers, even to a modest extent, died in an ambush in Dallas.


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[Aug 13, 2014]  America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds by Cheryl K. Chumley

April 21, 2014 | Washington Times

America is no longer a democracy — never mind the democratic republic envisioned by Founding Fathers.

Rather, it has taken a turn down elitist lane and become a country led by a small dominant class comprised of powerful members who exert total control over the general population — an oligarchy, said a new study jointly conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities.

One finding in the study: The U.S. government now represents the rich and powerful, not the average citizen, United Press International reported.

In the study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” researchers compared 1,800 different U.S. policies that were put in place by politicians between 1981 and 2002 to the type of policies preferred by the average and wealthy American, or special interest groups.

Researchers then concluded that U.S. policies are formed more by special interest groups than by politicians properly representing the will of the general people, including the lower-income class.

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence,” the study found.

The study also found: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.

 Larry  -> Scott Richie81

Stop sending billions to Wall Street and the banks. They don't like us either

Richie81  -> optimistic4thefuture

Gangsters in suits

Shari Peterson  -> Richie81

What's the difference? Corporatism is still prevalent, war culture, big brother, militarization of our nation, siding with big pharma/big biotech with ridiculous protections, aligning with oil/gas industries. And so on.

Nothing ever changes. Voting doesn't change anything; if it did they wouldn't allow it.

Sarah Goodwich  -> Richie81

Neither, the empire fools them into thinking they have power, when they have none. It's called "keeping the people enslaved by making them think they're free."

Rope_Necktie  -> adplatt126

The Tea Party certainly accomplished getting you to bad-mouth them, so they must be doing something right.

adplatt126  -> Rope_Necktie

I didn't badmouth the Tea Party here. And I supported some of its initiatives, particularly early on. I was even at the March on Washington. I'm just acknowledging reality, cold, hard reality. The Tea Party changed nothing. That's not bad-mouthing it. That's just a fair assessment.

I understand that there are honest people out there, all over the country, who banded together and believed in America and believed they could change something. But they can't and they didn't. The corporate owned media will crush any true dissent by whatever nefarious means at their disposal. I knew that from the outset.

What the Tea Party fails to acknowledge as of yet, because they are still wedded to misguided notions of American greatness and fail to see the ways in which business can corrupt many thing from honest governance to functioning democracy, all the way down to basic sense and ethics, is that it isn't big government that is the enemy of ordinary Americans, but the entire government and power structure in America. It's our own government that is the real enemy of America and indeed our primary threat.

That should be pretty obvious to anyone not watching cable television. And if anything good about America is to be preserved, the government must go. It's time for Tea Partiers to accept that whatever country they grew up in, well that country is gone, and it's high time to dismantle this totalitarian nightmare once and for all. I'm talking the whole empire. Anyone still harping on R and D, left and right, is behind the times.

A lot like still debating phlogiston. Reality has moved on. It's time for Americans to move on from their conceptions of "America" as well, because this nation has no governmental or for that matter civilizational connection to the America of the past.

The social Marxist value system of the elite class and now the bulk of the citizenry is much closer to that of the Soviet Union than anything America traditionally has been. These are revolutionary times pal.

gobnait  -> adplatt126

How could they when they met opposition from their own party, Einstein?

adplatt126  -> gobnait

"From their own party"? You mean the banks, banksters, multi-nationals and criminal thugs that own the country and most of both parties? I thought that was my point. This is tyranny. There's no choice.

adplatt126  -> Dennis

No, many of the prescriptions are BS. But their message is not entirely wrong. This power structure is beyond criminal and this government is beyond tyrannical. It should be immediately dissolved for the good of everyone in the country. They're not wrong that Americans have no say. That's not BS. This paper virtually proves this truth.

 Dennis  -> adplatt126

"It should be immediately dissolved for the good of everyone in the country" And be replaced by what??? This form of Govt is still the best ,flawed, still the best ..... Fix the problem term limits ,don't allow the politicians to gain wealth while in office, no retirement.... etc

adplatt126  -> Dennis

Nope, not the best. Not even functioning. No democracy remaining really. This government is literally mandating by law social decline on a historic scale. It should be replaced by autonomous, ideally demilitarized regions. An extreme form of federalism perhaps. The key component is that power, military and monetary is completely decentralized. The best way to achieve that is to dissolve the government and permit new currencies and districts to arise organically and by market processes. Local elections need to be instituted so that government can actually be managed instead of doing literally all of the managing, which it's currently doing, and there should be both proportional representation and public referenda to veto dangerous criminal legislation. I could go on, but at the end of the day, the end of the Republic is the beginning of something better. Because it can't get any worse than this government. This government is systemically corrupt. The U.S. is better than nothing. It's a banana republic with tremendous military power and a citizenry as deluded as the perfectly controlled totalitarian nations of old. Which makes it a very scary banana republic. It should be dismantled post haste. It's already turning its weapons and its tactics on its own citizens through paramilitary campaigns and massive psychological operations, not to mention mass surveillance. Dismantle it and do it now.

Dennis  -> adplatt126

Dude you might as well go to a far off wilderness and stay off the grid .... as they say Aint happenin...the direction this country is going will change...But all this info of big corporations in control ,which I dont believe, is no different than the 1800-early 1900's when the Hurst. getty's and the tycoon's of that age had influence

adplatt126  -> Dennis

Nonsense. Did Hearst set up a surveillance state rivalling perhaps only the Nazi state apparatus? Did Rockefeller contrive a massive system of thought and speech control like Political Correctness for ensuring everyone accept at all times and completely Lysenkoist propaganda? Did Carnegie let the whole third world flood into the nation and then prevent states from defending themselves from a foreign invasion? Did a mere 17 percent of the American population of the early 20th century believe the Federal Government ruled with the consent of the people?

Over 1100 fat cats went to prison for their role in the crash of '29. In this most recent crash, only one man, one (who turned himself in and confessed ironically) was sentenced. One. The country will not change.

It will only get worse until the power structure that is perpetuating this totalitarian system and insulating itself from its own crimes, is dismantled. Even if it's held up by wealth and historic advantages for a bit, its utter criminality is no less criminal. Nor should anyone for any moment claim that those who speak out against it are merely speaking to themselves or doing so futilely. Besides, it's only futile on television. And the primary purpose of those on television is to deceive the people into thinking an illegitimate government is legitimate, and that any noble resistance to it is madness, silly, insane, hopeless etc.

The pundits serve first the state and its tyrannical designs. In private circles on the other hand, everyone with a head knows something is terribly amiss. They're gradually figuring out how amiss but they don't know what to do about it. I'm providing a rational solution. Secede, resist, dissolve. Do not bow. Do not comply.

Dennis  -> adplatt126

you confuse the 2 subjects I said......"But all this info of big corporations in control ,which I don't believe, is no different than the 1800-early 1900's when the Hurst. Getty's and the tycoon's of that age that had influence"...... pertaining to the story. No I dont like what the feds are doing conserning to ILLEGALS and to PC correctness....but again I see the pendulum swinging the other way...... AND from what i read there was no one that went to prison for the 29 crash......"Did anyone go to jail for precipitating the 1929 collapse?

No. The rampant speculation and eventual crash of 1929 weren't caused by fraud or illegality, but by unreasonable optimism and loose financial regulation. Federal prosecutors eventually brought charges against a couple of the era's most important and aggressive bankers, but the lack of pre-existing rules undermined the government's efforts". so it seems that the last crash was from illegal means BUT it was started by the demorats demanding that banks loan to people with bad credit

Richie81  -> Dennis

If you don't believe it than get your head out the sand and pop your lil bubble as well. 6 companies own every single thing you read in a news paper, see on the news and on the web. There is a reason for that. Don't be naive.

Dennis  -> Richie81

Again it is no different that before and no one person/group controlled the USA ....... The news agencies have been filled with one type of mindset ,they have refused to hold "their" guy to the standards that was once there ....... No one is digging into the mess that is there like they did with Watergate,,,, Which at that time was really not that big of a story..... until it exploded

Richie81  -> Dennis

Watergate is nothing compared to the things Bush and Obama have done. Read this if you still dont think so.http://www.newscientist.com/ar...

Dennis  -> Richie81  

Ooh please Bush never harassed the Libs with the IRS he NEVER sold guns to the Cartels ......I'll give you the part of the NDAA.....

Richie81  -> Dennis

Which had nothing to do with terrorist or 9/11 and that war killed 1 million innocent woman and children. The economy also did crash on his watch. One is not better than the other. At the top they are all the same and have the same policies. Thats why Obama has nearly doubled down on all Bush's FAILED policies.

Dennis  -> Richie81

I knew that if you talked long enough I would see where you were coming from..... Iraq had wmd's even clinton said so.... the democrats also voted to go into Iraq after hearing the same thing..... 1 million that's BS with a capital ..... you are starting to sound like the Liberal BS talking points.... why don't go further and say that 9-11 was done by Bush ..you know you want to

Richie81  -> Dennis

So because Clintom said so its true? There were no WMD's found in Iraq and that id a fact? If there were please tell me whem and where they were found??? Yes the democrats did too, that should show you right there that at the top Dems and Reps are for the same major policies when it comes to banking, wars and spying.

1 milliom is another fact. It had to do with the sanctions as well. Before you argue you should really do some research. There is a video of a reporter asking Madeline Albright if the killing of these woman and children were worth it and she says yes.

I will tell you this about 9-11, I dont know what happened but I definitely dont believe the official story. Your telling me a guy (OBL) who drove around in trucks with AK47s strapped to the top of them and lives in a bunker in a mountain was able to bypass the greatest military to ever exist and bypasd the most guarded airspace on earth? Now that's a conspiracy if I ever heard one. Don't forget the guys with box cutters too.

Dennis  -> Richie81

because "they" didn't find them..... so it means Saddam never had them ...... Great logic..."Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming,” Sada said. “They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians.".....you go one believing what you want.... I dont believe in conspiracies....I know OBL did try what 2-3 times to damage the WTC ...he finally found the way to do it ....remember that hijacking and ramming planes into buildings had NEVER been done like that before...... The enemy are the extreme Muslims ...But I have said that ANY muslim will become extreme.....they just need to become a radical believer

Richie81  -> Dennis

He did invade Iraq after 9/11 off of false pretenses.

Richie81 ->  Dennis

Flawed??? Are you kidding? It's a disgrace to what this country was founded on. There is a reason the founding fathers had so many quotes about times like these. There is also a reason why they are not taught in schools. They'd rather you pledge allegiance blindly.

Dennis  -> Richie81

So what would you replace instead of this Constitution and this form of Government??

Richie81  -> Dennis

I wouldnt replace the constitution. I would re-enforce it line by line. The reason we are in this mess is because we are getting away from what our founding princioles were. To big to fail is fascism not capitalism. Corporations arent people and should not be able to bribe politicians. We should have more choices than just two (Dem&Rep). We need term limits on ALL politicians.

lihartke  -> adplatt126

Like ANY NEW political party you will NEVER win every race. Trying to beat out powerful incumbents with the full force of the establishment against you is not an easy task. If you think there are MIRACLE candidates out there you are mistaken. One by one there will be a wedge put in this gov't until they are forced to do the will of the people. Democrats shoved healthcare down our throats when we clearly said no. A leader who is supposed to be representing the people but votes against them should be HUNG. GOD BLESS THE TEA PARTY. You go ahead and be enamored by your party and I will sit and laugh at you as you are told to sit down and shut up while they steal us blind and tell us to eat cake. Enjoy the Empire we have built for them -FOOL.

contrarian35  -> adplatt126

Well, in fairness, the Tea Party had no prayer of meaningful legislation because they held a minority. But they sure did block a lot. I actually believe that the conservatively minded are our last bastion of hope, and hope that they clean sweep the Senate with this election. But believe fundamentally that Soros has a firm rig on the elections, so I am not holding my breath.

And even if they do sweep in, there will still be GOP establishment fighting for big business, so either way, you're looking at a fight. It is not all lost, though, until they have our guns too. And that is not going to be a fight won easily. Of this, I am absolutely sure.

Sarah Goodwich  -> Jimtaryon

It makes no difference which despot holds power, it's still despotism.

The USA has been an oligarchy ever since Lincoln, since that's when the People lost their consent to government; and now government holds all the power, since their elected officials aren't bound to obey them; and the People can't do a thing about it other than elect someone ELSE who's not bound to obey them.

But no one will dare fault Lincoln, so we're screwed.

AceTrace ->  Sonshine

And look no further than our diabolical Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for that. He's corrupt down to his bone marrow, amassing wealth & power for himself, his family and his cronies. The rest of us be damned.

Richie81  -> AceTrace

All of them are corrupt at the top. From Bush to Obama, they are all the same. It don't matter though, because most American are to naive and will just continue to fight each other over political parties while be screwed and laughed at by both.

Edward98  -> AceTrace

Both parties are in this together.

Richie81 ->  Edward98

Yes they both are and its sad to see the left and right bickering at each other instead of their own parties who are actually responsible for all this.

AceTrace  -> AceTrace

From the article: "One concluding finding in the study: The U.S. government now represents the rich and powerful, not the average citizen, United Press International reported."

RightWingFoamControl  -> Sonshine

Money is being used to undermine all American citizens political power. Congress has gathered so much power that it no longer cares about what the American people want.

Larry Scott  -> Sonshine

CONGRESS? your mean that bunch of sycophants on sale to the highest bidder? Neither the right or left can trust them. Maybe if Putin invaded Long Island they could get together long enough to vote something for the USA as they did for Ukrainians. Billions of dollars for them while we taxpayers can't get them to do anything but call each other names.

 

[Jan 22, 2014] Apocalypse Again The Boom-and-Bust Cycle of Bipartisan Politics

The great irony is that the man who ran on the campaign slogan of Change failed to deliver it in any meaningful way
Truthdig

The Democratic Party has the bad habit of coming on to voters like the neighborhood mafia extortion team. The Democrats have the incurably bad breath of reliably broken promises. They collar and corner us with mobster charm, they pick our pockets while pretending to pick our brains.

Then as the big election day draws near, they lean heavily upon us and whisper an almost romantic confession: “Sure, we spit in your faces and ask you to pretend it’s rain. But the other guy is a real brute and would also break your arms.”

[Jan 12, 2014]  Congress is a Millionaires' Club. Why that Matters...

William of Ockham:

John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

George Washington:
"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.
Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

Thomas Jefferson
"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories."

Thomas Paine
"Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one."

Andrew Jackson
"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes."

Thomas Jefferson
"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

William of Ockham  ->  William of Ockham...
When private sector money is allowed to influence government at any level you have a tremendous potential for corruption.

Patriots who loves their country must to rise to end this dispicable realtionship between the private sector and government. If the Government refuses to end this dispicable practice then the goverment must be defeated and a new one appointed of the people, by the people and for the people.

Amen

plus.google.com/102534266379291948922:

Back in the 70's, my father (twice) attempted to run for Congress. We were living in Scranton, Pa....

NEITHER party apparatus (R or D) would even entertain him running against the well-entrenched Joseph McDade. After all, my dad was just a modestly successful business man and had few political connections.

He ran as an independent (I), garnering less than 2% of the vote after spending nearly $50k of his own money (no small amount for our family, I assure you). Not only that, business suffered for a few years afterward. Lesson learned.

Many have said this: "We sure do E-lect our leaders but we don't get to SE-lect our leaders."

 Larry Signor:

What is unexpected about Nicholas Carnes study? Political power breeds wealth, wealth enhances political power. The cumulative effect is a lack of political and economic representation for a plurality of Americans. This dovetails into most of our economic stories today: SNAP, UI, the attack on SS, the minimum wage, immigration, EITC and block grants, etc.
 

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

Politically organized minority is typically dominated 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.

The Irony of Democracy An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics Thomas R. Dye, Harmon Zeigler, Louis Schubert 9780495802709 Amazon.com Books

The quality most introductory book don't have. December 6, 2003

By "legal_geek"

Format:Paperback

"The Irony of Democracy" was my college-level introduction to American politics, and I feel it provided me something far greater than any of the political/historical texts I read in high school. Instead of the same details of Democrats as the longest political party and Columbus crossing the ocean blue in 1492, Dye and Zeigler focus on the current United States political agendas and attempt to unravel how and why this country has developed as it has.

The thing that I liked best about this text is that it reads more like a novel than a textbook. It explains United States politics in an engaging way that forces the reader to react. Dye and Zeigler support that America is an elitist nation, and back up their argument with an analysis of government structure (primary elections, electoral college, what it takes to REALLY make it into Congress) and interaction between governmental branches and the American public (through political action committees, interest groups, and the media). Also interesting are the facts presented on similarities between political parties as an effort to reach the "middle ground."

If your instructor recommends this book, expect a class that will take you far beyond the nuts and bolts of American politics; expect to make your own conclusions on what may make the United States a stronger nation, why you should challenge the system from time to time, and actually learn WHY and HOW politics work the way that they do. The class you take may end up requiring more thought or effort on your part if this is one of the required readings, but you will come out of the class more informed, wary, and enlightened about what really governs our actions and thoughts as masses.

 Non-Voters Like Me Are Good for the Country! February 3, 2003

By mwreview TOP 1000 REVIEWER

Format:Paperback

I read this book for an introductory political science course in junior college and I enjoyed it so much that, although I was not planning to be a political science major, I decided not to sell this book back to the college. This textbook is a thorough , well-written, and well-organized study of the basics of American democracy (or republicanism, if you will). The authors are brutally honest in their overview of the American democratic system. The irony of democracy?: "Elites-not masses-govern the United States" and, my favorite, "that democratic ideals survive because the masses are generally apathetic and inactive" (the masses breed intolerance, you see).

Among the fifteen chapters is one entitled "Elite-Mass Communication: Television, the Press, and the Pollsters," which I found to be very interesting.

The Right, The Left, The Election The Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, and The Presidential Campaign of 2012 Logos

Embarrassed by the foreign policy failings of the Bush Administration, its inability to privatize social security and balance the budget, the Tea Party refused to sit quietly on the sidelines or act as cheerleaders for establishmentarian Republicans. Its members took aim at the largest government intervention in American history involving bail-outs of the auto industry and the banks, health-care and an invigoration of the welfare state, as well as a cultural agenda that allowed for abortion, multiculturalism, secular education, and the need to confront climate change. With the sweeping victory of the far right in the congressional elections of 2010, the Tea Party forwarded a new agenda of capitalist fundamentalism that relied upon old notions of possessive individualism and the invisible hand of the market. This new ideology transformed the GOP and even infected conservative “blue dog” Democrats who constitute a significant minority of the party.

Composed of roughly two hundred thousand, organized locally in about 1000 small groups spanning the country, the Tea Party enjoys “strong” support from about 20% of the voting populace or about 46 million Americans. But its influence obviously transcends its numbers. The Tea Party is not simply an “astro-turf” organization artificially constructed by the influx of cash by elites but a mass movement that has been an ongoing feature of political life in the United States. Mixing laissez-faire economics with parochial populism and evangelical religious zeal, this new right-wing organization is the heir to the “know nothings” of the 1840s, the Ku Klux Klan that ruled the South and much of the Mid-West from the aftermath of the Civil War until the 1960s, the “America First” movement of the 1930s that preferred Hitler to FDR, the partisans of Joseph McCarthy following World War II, the ubiquitous John Birch Society as well as the “silent” majority of the 1960s and the “moral” majority of the 1980s, and the populist advocates of neo-conservatism that marked the Bush Administration. The Tea Party may vanish but its mass base will remain.

Right-wing political power was already evident in the election of 2008. Republicans were burdened with two failed wars; an economic collapse (in which their candidate did not even take a position); a discredited Republican presidential incumbent (Bush); and arguably the worst ticket in recent history (McCain-Palin). They also had to deal with the upsurge of support for a charismatic black Democratic contender who ran a near perfect campaign. Obama still only won the popular vote by 52.3 to 47.7. Whatever his wide margin of victory in the electoral vote, he never had a mandate. The economic crisis he inherited may have produced a moment when the new president might have demanded stiffer regulation of the financial sector and perhaps even the nationalization of Citibank in exchanging for bailing out those banks that were “too big to fail.” President Obama might have called for single-payer health insurance, introduced a jobs bill, and created a bank holiday on foreclosures. His supporters were shocked by his readiness to compromise over the bail-outs, health-care, and the budget. They were also appalled by his refusal to conduct an inquiry into the Bush administration and its handling of the Iraqi invasion or launch a forceful attack on the Republican Party and the Tea Party.

... ... ...

The question is not whether Obama is “really” a centrist sell-out but to which Western socialist leaders and Democratic politicians he should meaningfully be compared. Actually the president is no more or less a “communist” or “socialist” than most European social democratic leaders. Revolution is on the shelf and, in its absence, compromise is unavoidable. Those who believe that legislative gains are possible in a capitalist democracy without support from certain sectors of capital simply don’t understand the system they are contesting. That is especially the case in the absence of a sustainable and organized radical mass movement from below.

Some left-wing intellectuals have argued that the current election is “not about” Obama. But this is like suggesting that a rock concert is not about the main act. World-weary mainstream Democrats also like to insist that Obama did nothing exciting and that this justifies their support for him. But that is simply untrue. He succeeded on healthcare, where other presidents failed, with a program that abolishes pre-existing conditions and covers 30,000,000 citizens previously without insurance. He has defended the integrity of Social Security, Medicare, Food-stamps and a host of other programs from withering attack by the right. He has opposed the Bush tax cuts that so radically favored the rich. His administration introduced progressive legislation on energy, mortgages, student loans, and unemployment benefits. It has abolished “don’t ask don’t tell,” protected abortion, endorsed gay marriage, supported women’s organizations like Planned Parenthood, legalized the status of children born of illegal immigrants, and became identified with a multicultural and secular educational agenda. Government bailouts of the banks and auto industries have had more than a measure of success and The New York Times (May 1, 2010) described his oversight legislation for the stock market as “the most sweeping regulatory overhaul since the aftermath of the great depression.” The Obama administration has sought to tax companies that invest abroad and roll back the Bush tax cuts that so radically favored the 1%. Obama has opposed austerity plans for dealing with the financial crisis in Southern Europe, resisted Israel’s plans to bomb Iran, pulled troops out of Iraq, refused to intervene militarily in Syria, opened travel to Cuba, contested the neo-conservative reliance on pre-emptive strikes and contempt for international law; and radically improved the global standing of the United States.

Mitt Romney and the Republicans have promised to “starve the beast” that they identify with the welfare state. They wish to roll back “Obamacare.” turn social security and medicare into voucher programs, maintain existing tax inequities, and oppose unions. Theirs is the world of laissez-faire capitalism and social Darwinism. They seek radical de-regulation of markets, abolition of the environment and other government agencies, and unbridled free trade that allow for further “outsourcing” and capital flight. Republicans have opposed gay rights and gay marriage. They wish to make abortion illegal, shut down women’s clinics, and render their organizations impotent. Their educational agenda opposes “critical thinking,” evolution, and a multi-cultural narrative. They seek to break down “the wall of separation” between church and state. They wish to abolish limits on campaign spending and institute voting restrictions that would effectively disenfranchise hundreds of thousands among the poor and people of color. They insist upon stronger support of Israel, military action against Iran, intervention in Syria, 100,000 new troops for Afghanistan and Iraq, opposition to bettering relations with Cuba, and a rehabilitation of neo-conservative advisors and policy goals. Republican economic policy would return this country to the gilded age. Their supporters’ cultural outlook is nostalgic for the old world in which white men ruled, and their politics attacks the democratic progress what progress subaltern groups have achieved. Their patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, their foreign policy is anchored in notions of imperial hegemony and lack of concern with international law, and their rhetoric conjures up images of fascism on the rise.

Every election is a choice between the lesser of the two evils, but some elections are more important than others. This is one of them. It is not about whether the present administration might have done more, done it better, or done it faster. Nor is it simply about looming nominations to the Supreme Court or that, historically, social movements tend to flourish under Democratic rather than Republican regimes. Should the Republicans win this election it would serve as a lasting symbolic endorsement for laissez-faire economics, constricting democracy, bigotry, educational autarky, and a foreign policy unapologetically predicated on militarism and contempt for internationalist goals. Those who cannot see the qualitative differences between the two parties, who cannot see the urgency in opposing the powerful reactionary threat, are living in Hegel’s twilight where all cats are gray. Sectarianism has never built consciousness, but rather marginalized its advocates thus leading to still more esoteric definitions of the true faith and further disillusionment. Criticism of the Democrats can begin the moment that they win the election: new compromises and serious budget cuts are on the liberal agenda. Soon enough it will again be time to take to the streets. Countering political reaction today, however, requires partisan support for the radically lesser evil. Too many radical intellectuals are saying: I want to see Obama win but I won’t do what I can for his re-election. They are hedging their bets. Thus, they ignore the most basic assumption linking theory and practice: “He who wills the end wills the means thereto.”

[Sep 29, 2012]  Bad Political Discourse Drives Out Good

Quote: "I'm not sure who I despise more, the GOP or the media that enables them."
August 31, 2012 | Economist's View

Chris Dillow tries to explain the poor quality of political discourse:

Adverse selection in political discourse, by Chris Dillow: ...there is adverse selection in political debate: fanatics are given attention whilst sober, rational voices are overlooked. There are four channels through which this happens: What I'm suggesting here is an adjunct to something Mancur Olson said in the 1960s. He pointed out that small numbers of people with large interests would organize themselves better than large numbers with smaller interests. The upshot, he said, was that politics would give too much weight to small vested interests to the detriment of aggregate well-being. ... Small groups with strongly-held beliefs are given more credence and deference than they should have.
And this, in turn, implies that the mass media can sometimes undermine rational political discourse rather than promote it.

bsc:

There's something missing in this analysis: there is a small group in the US with the strongly held belief that global warming will render the Earth uninhabitable, but they are not given particular credence or deference despite their organized actions.

Seth:

"There's something missing ..."

It's the money, bsc. A minority with a strongly held belief but no money has no impact. The deniers on the other hand, have loads of money from fossil fuel interests to amplify their 'motivated reasoning'.

{ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivated_reasoning  }

Cheryl :

This week I changed my mind about what a fanatic is. Someone who uses moral framing to promote open borders in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930s when very little is being done to help the unemployed and corporations are sitting on mountains of cash is a now a fanatic in my view. I am being told that I have to do 100 informational interviews to interest 1 employer. What would the number be with open borders 500? And what would my rent be like?

kthomas:

Cheryl, what exactly changed in your mind? And who is the "someone" you refer to?

As for your rent, that's going to go up. And that has nothing to do with any open or closed borders.

Cheryl  ->  kthomas...

Does it matter who the someone is? Apparently the economic theory of "race to the bottom" in terms of eliminating high quality employment and decent quality lifestyles is being taught globally and the theory is so dominant that it does not matter how many people have lower standards of living than ten years ago.

Second Best:

This sounds like an intro marketing course on how to sell bogus products home channel style to gullible consumers who make adverse selections.

As for small fanatical groups using government to manipulate the rest through adverse selection, that's exactly what conservatives typically complain about as they do it themselves.

Instead of adverse selection why not call it moral hazard of the wealthy in the context of how enough money can be used to carpet bomb the media with fanatical messages until they replace the truth.

Two major factors drive this. First is how public funding of campaigns failed miserably to produce serious competition among political candidates who are instead simply drowned out from the mountain of private sector cash until the desired winner surfaces.

Second is how private sector mainstream media designed it that way to thrive off cheap phony caricatures of competition by selling soundbite ads for hundreds of millions that cost way below that.

Most humiliating of all it matters increasingly less who actually wins elections because the system is so highly rigged for the upper 10% they win either way. The apathy is so pervasive it betrays any player attempting comically to pretend the political field is level so choices matter, whether fanatical or rational.

[ Sep 25, 2012 ] Republicans 'outfoxed' elitist Democrats, Daley says by FRAN SPIELMAN

November 5, 2004 | City Hall Reporter

Mayor Daley said Thursday his beloved Democratic Party took a beating in Tuesday's election because they were "outfoxed": Republicans remembered that all politics is local, while Democrats became the "party of Washington" insiders and big money.

"We always thought the Republican Party was Washington, D.C. The Democrats are Washington, D.C., politicians. They don't reach out to a mayor, a governor, or the state chairman. There's no local anymore," Daley said.

"If you watch the Republican Party, they're to the people. . . . They're more grass-roots than Democrats. We think we are. The Republicans outfoxed the Democrats. They became the party of precincts, a county, a city. Their strategy was to go to the people and not to the money people. . . . We're supposed to be the party of the people. We're the party of the money. . . . We've become the party of the insider."

Daley said he can't help but laugh when he turns on the tube and sees those same Democratic insiders playing Monday morning quarterback in the wake of John Kerry's defeat.

Earlier this week, Daley said the re-election of George W. Bush signaled a sea change in American politics that would make it more difficult for Democrats to win future presidential elections.

The mayor also accused unnamed "Washington elitists" of underestimating the power of the Religious Right.

"People in Washington called the elitists don't like faith-based organizations. They don't like people who have different beliefs than they do -- who maybe read the Bible or read the Quran and have some religious beliefs that, maybe, differ from the politicians in Washington. There's a long message there. These are good people. . . . But, they were shoved out and shoved across America," the mayor said.

On Thursday, Daley threw in a plug for Howard Dean, the candidate he favored all along.

The mayor said if you listen closely to the Dean message -- before that infamous ranting and raving speech -- you'll hear the anti-Washington, anti-establishment message that Democrats ignored.

"Howard Dean talked about that. Democrats didn't like that in Washington," the mayor said. "Go back and read and take all of the [TV news] clips of the primary. What was Howard Dean telling everybody? We were the insiders. We were not the outsiders. We couldn't think outside the box. We were inside the box. That's what he talked about," Daley said.

[Sep 01, 2012] Neo-cons Meet Neo-Progressives by Joel S. Hirschhorn

Sep 13 2006 Smirkingchimp

Before you say it, let me say it: I am espousing a political view that is counter to current politically correct, mainstream feelings and thought in the "progressive" community.

I can understand the considerable passion to hand Republicans a defeat this year. I am as anti-Republican as anyone. George W. Bush will surely go down in history as the nation's worst, most corrupt, most incompetent, most dishonest, most elitist, most war-mongering, and most anti-democracy president – a true disgrace to American ideals.

Still, I am deeply troubled by what I see: What all the current fervor among "progressives" to produce a Democratic victory this year reveals is that the marked growth of "progressive" activities and events in recent years may have been a charade. To some degree, it has been a semantic trick and deception to escape the effective attacks by Republicans and conservatives against liberals and Democrats. A tactic to more effectively combat conservatives, because progressive sounds good.

What is now apparent is that we have a whole lot of "neo-progressives," people who have no hesitancy in supporting mainstream Democrats in the name of defeating Republicans. Neo-progressives cannot resist the temptation to support the lesser-evil as a pragmatic strategy, justified in the name of saving the country from yet more years of Republican dominance.

Neo-progressives seem blind to the fundamental deficiencies of the Democratic Party and its candidates. The concept of a two-party duopoly and the reality that Democrats as well as Republicans are beholding to many special economic interests, are also corrupt and dishonest, and when in power do not seriously pursue what were historic progressive and populist values – all seem now to be lost in the pseudo-ecstasy of anticipating a Democratic victory this year, enough to take over one or both houses of congress. Objective reality is lost in the heat of anti-Republican anger and frustration. Neo-progressives, it seems to me, have let their emotions out-gun their deeper intellectual knowledge and principles. They seem drunk from drinking Democratic Party Kool-aid.

I applaud what Frank J. Ranelli has said:

"As suggested in the past, endorsement of candidates should be done one at a time and based on merit. Candidates should not receive blanket endorsements by-proxy for the itinerary of the DCCC or the DSCC merely by claims of being Democratic. The candidate must demonstrate not only their grasp of the issues we face and the words to express them, but must reveal the actions they will undertake to accomplish the goals of a true progressive messenger of the people."

This is sound thinking. True progressives must carefully evaluate individual Democrats for their authenticity as progressives. Very few Democratic candidates, I propose, will meet this test.

History tells us (at least me and I hope many other progressives) that when in office Democrats will disappoint true progressives. Compared to Republicans, they may be less corrupted by big-money interests, they may be less dishonest, they may be less eager to undermine democracy, but such differences are quantitative, not qualitative. As Ralph Nader and, more recently, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. have emphasized, Democrats are also huge disappointments when it comes to serving the interests of working- and middle-class Americans.

For example, I am terrified that a Democrat-controlled House might actually give the business sector what they want – continued massive illegal immigration. Any progressive that thinks millions more low-wage immigrants serve the interests of working- and middle-class American CITIZENS is misguided.

Sure, neo-progressives will dwell on what a Democratic-controlled House might do in a positive vein, such as increasing the minimum wage and reducing funding for the Iraq war. And even more they are already jumping with joy about House investigations into the many misdeeds of the Bush administration, and maybe even a serious attempt to impeach Bush. Fine. These are good common dreams. But a few years later what reality will we see?

Will a 2006 Democratic win increase or decrease the chances for a Republican presidential candidate victory? The current neo-progressive excitement is all about near-term benefits, not longer term effects. A Democratic win will surely mobilize all the constituencies that have accounted for Republican successes; they will be more determined than ever to retain the White House and take back any congressional power they lose this year. But I guess neo-progressives will be happy to see Hillary Clinton become the Democratic candidate in 2008. Personally, I never saw the net positive impact of the Clinton presidency, and I am equally pessimistic about a second Clinton presidency. Moreover, I foresee a McCain candidacy that will be brilliantly marketed and sufficient to keep the White House in Republican hands.

It comes to this: Progressives should be anti-Republican. They should want Republicans to lose this year. But I also suggest that they should want ALL congressional incumbents to lose, because (with very few exceptions) ALL incumbents of both parties share the shame of the current congress. The deeper, more complex question is whether progressives should be so automatically supportive of Democrats, so thrilled about a Democratic victory, so public allies of Democrats. Without the help of the progressive community, the mood of the nation is clearly on the side of defeating ALL incumbents and, statistically, that means the odds of a Democratic victory are very high, though clearly the Bush machine is once again working to make American so afraid that they will resist voting against incumbents. This is the year of the lesser-evil conundrum.

I can understand why progressives will vote for Democrats. What troubles me is the outright excitement and vocal support for Democrats, as if they will be the salvation for the nation. This is what separates progressives from neo-progressives. Neo-progressives genuinely believe that Democrats will finally deliver the political outcomes that have been dreamed about for a long term. This seems like delusion-driven hope. Conversely, true progressives know in their hearts and minds that lesser-evil Democrats are not what we really need and they will remain committed to finding other political routes to restoring American democracy and bringing justice to our economy.

Forgive me, for speaking some truth... but I think it is time to distinguish between real progressives and Democrats hiding behind the progressive label.

[Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government; contact him through www.delusionaldemocracy.com]

[Aug 28, 2012] Chris Hedges on 'Empire of Illusion' and a Vignette of The Fall of Berlin 1945

This is an almost perfect illustration of the credibility trap. One cannot allow the illusion to falter, even a little, to the bitter end. And as the fraud fades, the force intensifies, becoming almost rabid in its deflection. Because that illusion has become the center of a hollowed people's being, their raison d'être, a mythological justification for their existence.
Aug 25, 2012 | Jesse's Café Américain

I came across a nice, compact interview with Chris Hedges which illuminates his thesis of the decline of the American Empire and the illusions and the end of rational thinking that accompanies it. Empires seem to give off quite a bit of flash in their latter stages, rather like the last gasp of a dying star.

The interviewer, Allan Gregg, does a particularly nice job of drawing Hedges out.

I would like to add an observation I came to in thinking further about the Sophie Scholl piece which I put up earlier today. Perhaps there is something about gardening that focuses the mind.

The almost frenetic preoccupation and adherence to the Nazi ideology in the latter stages of the war, when it was obvious to any rational observer that they could not win, is remarkable. I had been particularly struck in my reading some time ago with the 'wolf packs' of Nazis who had raged through Berlin, rounding up old men and even boys who had not joined the Volkssturm, and hanging them, even while the Russians were shelling the Reichstag. It never made sense to me until today.

"The radio announced that Hitler had come out of his safe bomb-proof bunker to talk with the fourteen to sixteen year old boys who had 'volunteered' for the 'honor' to be accepted into the SS and to die for their Fuhrer in the defense of Berlin. What a cruel lie! These boys did not volunteer, but had no choice, because boys who were found hiding were hanged as traitors by the SS as a warning that, 'he who was not brave enough to fight had to die.'

When trees were not available, people were strung up on lamp posts. They were hanging everywhere, military and civilian, men and women, ordinary citizens who had been executed by a small group of fanatics. It appeared that the Nazis did not want the people to survive because a lost war, by their rationale, was obviously the fault of all of us. We had not sacrificed enough and therefore, we had forfeited our right to live, as only the government was without guilt."

Dorothea von Schwanenfluegel, Eyewitness account, Fall of Berlin 1945

minded of this phenomenon by the trial of Sophie Scholl, he ranted his virulent condemnations at them. 'Soon you will be in our place,' she said to him. He did escape the hangman's noose at Nuremburg, but only by virtue of an Allied bomb in 1945. When his body was brought to hospital an orderly remarked, 'It was God's verdict.' He was buried in an unmarked grave, without ceremony and unmourned. Much like his beloved Fuhrer.

This is an almost perfect illustration of the credibility trap. One cannot allow the illusion to falter, even a little, to the bitter end. And as the fraud fades, the force intensifies, becoming almost rabid in its deflection. Because that illusion has become the center of a hollowed people's being, their raison d'être, a mythological justification for their existence.

If the ideology had been a lie, then they are not heroes and gods on earth, but monsters and criminals, and their life has been self-serving and meaningless, without significance and honor. And that is the credibility trap.

And this is the US financial system today.

[Aug 25, 2012] Matt Taibbi and Eliot Spitzer Discuss Eric Holder's (and Obama's) Failure: Credibility Trap

A credibility trap is a situation in which the regulatory, political and/or the informational functions of a society have been thoroughly taken in by a corrupting influence and a fraud, so that one cannot address the situation without implicating, at least incidentally, a broad swath of the power structure and the status quo who at least tolerated it, if not profited directly from it, and most likely continue to do so.

Jesse's Café Américain

The failure of Obama's Justice Department to engage in any systemic investigations and indictments of a thoroughly rotten and corrupt financial system that has laid waste to the real economy is an almost perfect example of the credibility trap.

A credibility trap is a situation in which the regulatory, political and/or the informational functions of a society have been thoroughly taken in by a corrupting influence and a fraud, so that one cannot address the situation without implicating, at least incidentally, a broad swath of the power structure and the status quo who at least tolerated it, if not profited directly from it, and most likely continue to do so. They become susceptible to various forms of blackmail. And so a failed policy can become almost self-sustaining long after it is seen to have failed, and even become counterproductive, because admitting failure is not an option for those holding power.

Another example is the blatant fraud, and principles not of productivity but of prey, that prevail on the financial asset exchanges and the monetary system, the stealing of customer funds, and the manipulation of commodity markets such as silver. And it expresses itself in the frivilous coarseness of spectacle, and careless brutality of decline.

"Happy Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favor."
Normally a two party system or a balance of powers would correct such a situation, but if the fraud is pervasive and enduring enough, those remedies can lose their effectiveness since the fraud binds even seemingly diverse elements in its grasp. And therein lies the trap.

There is a general loss of honor, a disparagement of moral principles, the common welfare, and a sense of 'service.' People in power are creatures of the system, 'getting their ticket punched' in Washington, as resume builder on their way to an even more lucrative position back in the corrupt system where they can leverage their connections and knowledge of the system to further undermine the rule of law. Their guiding principles are self-referential greed and power.

After one of the most outrageous periods of widespread fraud in a major developed country, prosecutions for fraud are at twenty year lows. Who expected this outcome from an election in which the theme was change and reform?

Here is a recent article, Why Can't Obama Bring Wall St to Justice, asking the broader question inferred by this video interview. Why? And the answer is not to be found in making excuses and allowing him to hide behind the incompetency or disengagement defense so popular in American management circles.

And if you think that voting for the other guy in this case, the emotinally engaging but fatally flawed red v. blue paradigm, is going to provide a cure you are sadly mistaken. The other guy in this case is the poster child for most of the problems that face a nation under siege by a financial elite engaged in an economic, ideological, and political coup d'etat.

As Glenn Greenwald recently put it:

"You can often, and I would say more often than not, in leading opinion-making elite circles, find an expressed renouncement or repudiation of that principle [of the rule of law]...All of these acts entail very aggressive and explicit arguments that the most powerful political and financial elites in our society should not be, and are not, subject to the rule of law because it is too disruptive, it is too divisive, it is more important that we should look forward, that we find ways to avoid repeating the problem...the rule of law is not that important of a value any longer...

The law is no respecter of persons, but the law is also a respecter of reality, meaning if it is too disruptive or divisive that it is actually in our common good, not the elite criminals, but in our common good, to exempt the most powerful from the consequences of their criminal acts, and that has become the template used in each of these instances."

And thanks to the apathy of the people and the gullibility of the badly used, self-proclaimed 'patriots' they are winning.
“The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least to neglect, persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”

Adam Smith

Such unsustainable social arrangements are backed by force and fraud. And as the fraud loses its power over time, force must increase, until there is an end in genuine reform, or evenutal self-destruction.

[Apr 29, 2012] Matt Stoller Obama as Neoliberal Ideologue

April 29, 2012 | naked capitalism

G3

My quip :

Repubs are like the abusive guy who will hit and throw the wife out of the house. Dems are like the one who will hit but let her stay in.

My friend’s quip :

With Repubs, it is like outright rape. With Dems, it is like date rape.

[May 30, 2012] Stephen Fleischman The Great American Oligarchy

I never thought I'd ever hear the United States of America called an "oligarchy". But now I have.

My dictionary says an oligarchy is a form of government where most or all political power effectively rests with a small segment of the society. As Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, puts it,

"Oligarchies are often controlled by a few powerful families whose children are raised and mentored to be heirs of the power of the oligarchy, often at some sort of expense to those governed."

Does that sound like the administration of George W. Bush?

For all my life, ever since grade school, I've been taught that the United States of American is a paragon of democracy. We have popular elections on every level-local, state and Federal. We have two houses of Congress, a President and a Supreme Court, a system of checks and balances, a Constitution second to none, and a Bill of Rights, the pride of our forefathers. Most Americans see our country as Ronald Reagan did -- the shining city on the hill-beacon to the world.

But here we are, today, when, according to the most recent CNN/USA Today poll, six of ten Americans see the Iraq war as a huge mistake and want our troops out of there, yet they are incapable of making that happen. Why? It's simple. It's the oligarchy that's keeping them there-that tight little group around Bush in the White House and Rumsfeld in the Pentagon, who run things for corporate feeders. You know who they are, Halliburton, Bechtel, and Lockheed Martin, to name a few of the no-bid war profiteers. They can make 18 billion dollars, allocated for the reconstruction of Iraq, disappear in the blink of an eye. That is really slight of hand.

The war in Iraq is the best example of an oligarchy at work -- produced and managed to make money and to secure the remaining reserves of oil in the world. As they say, the world's oil has "peaked". It's all down hill from here, so we better grab it before somebody else does. To do this, we're got to keep a perpetual war spinning in the best oil-producing areas, the Middle East and the Caspian region. (We'd do it in Venezuela if we could.) With Iraq as a pivotal base, the oligarchy is planning to stay there into the foreseeable future. Any talk about drawing down troops is just that, talk-a tease offered for the 2006 mid-term elections. Using Iraq as a military base also explains the moves on former Soviet states, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and others in the Russian orbit-targets of the giant oil conglomerates.

Oligarchies operate in secret. They spawn conspiracy theories. The 9/11 World Trade Towers collapse, for example. That garnered more than a million references in Google. Enough conspiracy theories for everyone. But the event caused a number of reputable construction engineers to raise their eyebrows. They saw it as a controlled demolition, as did Dr. Steven E. Jones, Physicist and Archaeometrist of Brigham Young University, who has done a major investigation on his own. He asks, why was this possibility not investigated by the 9/11 Commission and other governmental investigating agencies at the time? Not much help from the mainstream media, either. They accepted the Commission finding that it was an al-Qaeda attack. That's been the conventional wisdom ever since.

Everything is up for questioning. Does the media have the Chutpah to investigate any of them? No way. The Israel Lobby? No way. Untouchable. Look what happened when somebody tried to touch it. Two esteemed academicians, Professor John J.Mearsheimer of the Political Science Department of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt, Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard did a study and wrote a report on the Israel Lobby for the London Review of Books giving their views on the influence of Israel and the Israel Lobby in Washington on US foreign policy. Of course, the establishment, media and otherwise, came down on them like a ton of bricks. Alan Dershowitz, Professor at Harvard Law School and proponent of torture, reflects the kind of hysteria that was generated

 "it is fair to ask why these distinguished academics chose to publish a paper that does not meet their usual scholarly standards, especially given the obvious risk that it would be featured, as it has been, on neo-Nazi and extremist websites, and even those of terrorist organisations, and that it would be used by overt anti-semites to 'validate' their claims of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy"

All Mearsheimer and Walt were trying to do was bring a few facts to public attention and open the subject for discussion.

The oligarchy knows how to lock down.

[Mar 28, 2012] Why Can’t Americans Have Democracy by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

Counterpunch
Syria has a secular government as did Iraq prior to the American invasion. Secular governments are important in Arab lands in which there is division between Sunni and Shi’ite. Secular governments keep the divided population from murdering one another.

When the American invasion, a war crime under the Nuremberg standard set by the US after WW II, overthrew the Saddam Hussein secular government, the Iraqi Sunnis and Shi’ites went to war against one another. The civil war between Iraqis saved the American invasion. Nevertheless, enough Sunnis found time to fight the American occupiers of Iraq that the US was never able to occupy Bagdad, much less Iraq, no matter how violent and indiscriminate the US was in the application of force.

The consequence of the US invasion was not democracy and women’s rights in Iraq, much less the destruction of weapons of mass destruction which did not exist as the weapons inspectors had made perfectly clear beforehand. The consequence was to transfer political power from Sunnis to Shi’ites. The Shi’ite version of Islam is the Iranian version. Thus, Washington’s invasion transferred power in Iraq from a secular government to Shi’ites allied with Iran.

Washington’s hostility toward Assad is hypocritical. On February 26, the Syrian government held a referendum on a new constitution for Syria that set term limits on future presidents and removed the political monopoly that the Ba’ath Party has enjoyed.

The Syrian voter turnout was 57.4%, matching the voter turnout for Obama in 2008. It was a higher voter turnout (despite the armed, western-supported rebellion in Syria) than in the nine US presidential elections from 1972 through 2004. The new Syrian constitution was approved by a vote of 89.4%.

But Washington denounced the democratic referendum and claims that the Syrian government must be overthrown in order to bring democracy to Syria.

Washington’s allies in the region, unelected oil monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have issued statements that they are willing to supply weapons to the Islamist rebels in order to bring democracy–something they do not tolerate at home–to Syria.

For Washington “democracy” is a weapon of mass destruction. When Washington brings “democracy” to a country, it means the country’s destruction, as in Libya and Iraq. It doesn’t mean democracy. Libya is in chaos, a human rights nightmare without an effective government.

Washington installed Nouri al-Maliki as president of Iraq. He lost an election, but remained in power. He has declared his vice president to be a terrorist and ordered his arrest and is using the state police to arrest Sunni politicians.

For a decade Washington has misrepresented its wars of naked aggression as “bringing democracy and human rights to the Middle East.” While Washington was bringing democracy to the Middle East, Washington was destroying democracy in the US. Washington has resurrected medieval torture dungeons and self-incrimination. Washington has destroyed due process and habeas corpus. At Obama’s request, Congress passed overwhelmingly a law that permits US subjects to be imprisoned indefinitely without a trial or presentation of evidence. Warrantless searches and spying, illegal and unconstitutional at the turn of the 21st century, are now routine.

Obama has even asserted the right, for which there is no law on the books, to murder any American anywhere if the executive branch decides, without presenting any evidence, that the person is a threat to the US government. Any American anywhere can be murdered on the basis of subjective opinion in the executive branch, which increasingly is the only branch of the US government. The other two “co-equal” branches have shriveled away under the “war on terror.”

Why is Washington so determined to bring democracy to the Middle East (with the exception of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Emirates), Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, and China, but is hostile to constitutional rights in America?

The rights that Americans gained from successful revolution against King George III in the 18th century have all been taken away by Bush/Obama in the 21st century. One might think that this would be a news story, but it isn’t.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached through his website.

[Mar 28, 2012] Political Inequality

Economist's View

At the end of a post discussing Acemoglu and Robinson's claim that inclusive political institutions are one of the keys to widespread prosperity, I wondered how inclusive our political institutions really are. Acemoglu and Robinson give an answer:

Who's Afraid of Super PACs?, by Acemoglu and Robinson: A lot of discussion on Super PACs has focused on whether they are able to get their candidate elected... This is the wrong way to think about a very serious problem.
As we argued in this Huffington Post article, political inequality is a serious challenge to US inclusive institutions, and is the real reason why we should be worried about the increase in inequality. These problems predate the Citizens United ruling. Lobbying and campaign contributions already have major impact on politics, and the wealthy have much better access to politicians and are able to convince them of their viewpoint much more easily.
Larry Bartels documents an intriguing and alarming pattern in his book Unequal Democracy: US Senators roll call votes correlate strongly with the opinions of their rich constituents, and not at all — or even sometimes negatively — with those of their poor constituents. Notably, this is true both for Republicans and Democrats. ...
In this light, the real problem with Super PACs is not whether they get Romney or Santorum elected, but how they have already totally changed the political agenda — and together with it, political inequality in the US.

Lafayette:

THE IMAGE MAKERS

{the real problem with Super PACs is not whether they get Romney or Santorum elected, but how they have already totally changed the political agenda — and together with it, political inequality in the US.}

The issue of SuperPACs is not that they exist, but that they work adeptly at manipulating Public Opinion.

One must presume that most of the money goes to publicity on behalf of the candidate. It would seem the most effective usage, given that Americans seem attached at the hip to the BoobTube (TV). (Not that it is any different elsewhere in the world and the differences only a matter of degree of attachment.)

If one wanted to enter every American household with political messaging, there could not have been innovated a more effective means to do so.

The issue devolves therefore to this simple question: Why does it work in manipulating public opinion?

Most of the publicity is mindless nonsense intended to show how a candidate, like soap-powder, washes "whiter than white". Because, obviously, their opponent is the Dirty Devil Incarnate.

For this sort of manipulation to be effective, they key ingredient is the recipient and an extremely supple but simple mind. One that has not be tasked to ask pointed questions about the malarkey being shown. One that has very little training in the political process and how winning is all important and the ends justify the means.

Political debates on TV are candidates trying to demonstrate oneupmanship and woe betide the candidate who says the wrong wrong words in the wrong way at the wrong time. Which means what?

It means that Americans are indeed swayed by the image conveyed and not the substance of a candidate. And thus the Image Designers and Handlers are defining how a candidate looks, how s/he behaves, what they say and how they say it.

The work is of a professional level that reminds one of the best national Advertising Agencies.

In a Pavlovian sense, since we are so inured to TV advertising, we, the sheeple, are being molded into supporting a political candidate - often on a daily basis.

MY POINT: The puppet show

And political substance be damned ... with any luck, like Dubya, we learn much too late that - behind the mask - is, uh, nothing. Just an ordinary human being, sometimes a puppet being manipulated with strings by Vested Interests.

What a surprise!

Lafayette:

I could not agree more.

Which makes me wonder what are they being taught in primary- and secondary-school education? Or is it a phenomenon of the television itself - that people actually allow themselves willingly to be manipulated?

I recall the movie Fahrenheit 451 (the temperature at which books burn). Its author, Ray Brandbury, said, according to WikiP: {The novel (was) the subject of various interpretations, primarily focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. Bradbury has stated that the novel is not about censorship, but a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature, which leads to a perception of knowledge as being composed of factoids, partial information devoid of context}

The book was published in 1953. Fast-forward 60 years - fiction has become reality ...

Lafayette:

A VERY LONGGGGGGG SHOT

Let's remember, when thinking about "Political Inequality", that SuperPACs work both ways in a country with a two-party system. (Towards which many countries are morphing because it tends - supposedly - to bring about government stability. But at what price?)

From their Huffington Post article: {So here is the concern: economic inequality will lead to greater political inequality, and those who are further empowered politically will use this to gain a greater economic advantage by stacking the cards in their favor and increasing economic inequality yet further }

Wasn't it the Bobsie Twins (Summers & Rubin) who convinced Clinton to retract the Glass-Steagal Act? Which, for the Dem Party, does not show them in the best Progressive Light.

So, is it not our two-party system that may be at fault? For instance, a Senate in control of the Dems but consisting of 47% of Senators who are qualified millionaires. Much like the Roman Senate was that of the Roman elite (Patrician Families) that owned large parts of Rome and tracts of land in the countryside?

As I am fond of saying: Reagan's election opened Pandora's Box of Reactionary Ills that brought to the fore those interests of a Plutocrat Class. Aka, the Vested Interests of this nation, who desire to perpetuate the Trickle-Up Money Pump, by keeping their hands on the levers-of-power on both the State and Federal levels.

By which "regulatory environments are bad for business and worse for jobs". The sort of false-factoid that voters swallow hook, line and sinker.

And again I put this simple question: Who voted them into power? We, the sheeple, did.

And why did we do that? Because we continue to believe the mindless nonsense that "What is good for General Motors is good for America". First uttered by Secretary of Defense (in 1955) Charlie Wilson, ex-head of ... GM.

And what is the ultimate solution? There's only one, methinks. To increase the Progressive Caucus in Congress, presently constituted of 83 brave souls, all Dems, and only one Senator. This represents only about 20% of all Congress representatives (both Chambers). It is nonetheless a good start.

If only the Progressives can get their act together and increase their numbers in November. Which is, at present, a very longggggg shot.

Besides, "Progressive" in America is not quite the same term as a European Progressive, the former being more Centrist and the latter more Leftist on most matters of Social Justice.

Darryl FKA Ron:

"Wasn't it the Bobsie Twins (Summers & Rubin) who convinced Clinton to retract the Glass-Steagal Act? Which, for the Dem Party, does not show them in the best Progressive Light."

Well yes, but still long story there about theThe Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLB), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. I would start with Gramm, but to be fair it was not the work of one Senator, or even one lobbyist.

The link below presents the final vote tally in an effort to represent the bipartisan nature of the bill.

http://www.uspoliticsonline.com/economic-issues/60404-repeal-glass-steagall-bi-partisan.html

However, if you look into the history of the bill back to 1998 then you will find that it originally passed along partisan lines, some deals were made during reconciliation so that the final bill passed with a veto proof majority. Now if the Dems had gotten any intention that Clinton might veto the Republicans then that might have turned out differently. But the congressional Republicans had made themselves "veto proof" by virtue of Monica-gate weakening the authority of a sitting President. It is a complicated world my friend

Lafayette :

{Now if the Dems had gotten any intention that Clinton might veto the Republicans then that might have turned out differently.}

I am of the opinion that Billy-boy had in mind, when he went along with Summers & Rubin, his wife's eventual election bid for which she would need Wall Street money to pursue.

The fact that she was New York's Senator also worked in her favor to curry the funds necessary for an election bid.

It must have been a great disappointment not to have been successful.

But, she'll be back. As Obama's VP, placing her in pole-position to take over from him.

bakho:

The TV advertising is largely negative. Negative advertising works. It discourages voter turnout. One characteristic of the GOP primaries has been low voter turnout. Voter suppression is necessary for a minority to win an election.

The threat of a primary challenge is used to make politicians change their votes. Vote for me or I fund a primary challenger with millions of dollars in negative TV ads and force you to raise enough money to counter them making you even more beholden to other interests groups.

DrDick:

While negative advertising has an impact, I think most of the GOP turnout issues can be explained by the quality of the candidates on offer. It is absolutely the most pathetic group of presidential candidates I have seen in my 60 years (they make Dukakis look charismatic).

Jim Harrison:

It's normal for the rich to dominate American politics. As Jeffrey Winters points out in his book Oligarchy, money is a more reliable basis for power than the charisma of political leaders, revolutionary ardor, or religious fervor. Dough waits out enthusiasm. Formerly, however, there were factors that held wealth in check in American politics, most notably the threat of revolution, but also the circumstance that a dynamically growing economy allowed the rich to get richer without impoverishing the underlings.

In the absence of any credible threat from beneath and in a time where profitable investments in the real economy are hard to find, all bets are off. The be all and end all of Conservative politics was the protection of property and the defense of inequality: now it has become the aggrandizement of property and the premeditated intensification of inequality.

Mark A. Sadowski:

Just a plug for Larry Bartel's book (linked to in the post).

http://www.amazon.com/Unequal-Democracy-Political-Economy-Gilded/dp/0691136637

Every person who considers themself a Democrat should read it if for no other reason than it will remind you why.

Seth:

Our political institutions are inclusive in precisely the following ways:

  1. politicians will take money from anybody who'll give it to them,
  2. anyone can volunteer to make phone calls or walk a precinct

These do not extend to an influence on candidate behavior in office unless the amounts of money (#1) given figure prominently in their overall budget.

Public opinion does indeed register with candidates, but mostly as an obstacle to implementing the agenda given them by their major donors. Office holders have to demonstrate consistency on the issues over time, but this has more in common with the way actors get 'type cast' than with real ideology. Once a candidate gets a reputation as a "liberal" or a "conservative" (among other issue-specific positions) any actions which deviate from expectations can generate a loss of popularity. They have to maintain their "image" by playing parts in various issue-dramas that build on their perceived strengths. What they do 'off stage' is separate, but subject to risks of exposure. It was very bad for Tiger Woods to have marital problems in large measure because his image was "squeaky clean". The same issues would not have hurt a "bad boy" athlete. It's the same thing with pols.

The fundamental problem for an office-holder is how to square donor-driven policy priorities with voter perceptions. Political talent is the capacity to do this with grace and agility.

Seth  ->  Seth...

By this definition of political talent, Mitt Romney is pretty weak and Obama very good ... but not *quite* as good as some thought in 2008.

The Republicans are ALL OVER Romney for his etch-a-sketch inconsistency. And Democratic enthusiasm for Obama has waned as his 'compromises' (or is it really just plain 'comfort'?) with banker immunity, "tax cuts for the rich, austerity for the poor" fiscal policy, and 'national security' statism have whittled away his oratorically crafted image.

Mark A. Sadowski  ->  Seth...

Who are you kidding? Democrats aren't going to pick Gordan Gekko over Obama. Moreover human beings with a pulse beat in general aren't going to pick Romney over Obama.

If this is the best you can do you have lost now and for the next 40 years.

Seth  ->  Mark A. Sadowski...

I only said Democratic enthusiasm for Obama has *waned*. His tap-dancing in the service of the people who largely own the government has tarnished his image somewhat. I can't imagine a single Obama voter choosing any of the R field over Obama in 2012.

I can imagine some of them shrugging and staying home, though, if only because they are thinking emotionally rather than rationally. Such a pity that we spend our whole voting lives picking the lesser evil :(

Roger Gathman:
Interesting glimpse into the financial lives of our Representatives in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/us/politics/study-shows-how-house-members-and-families-reap-benefits.html?ref=politics

The assumption a lot of people make is that the system is corrupted because politicos take money for their election campaigns, and then owe favors. But what if the venality is deeper and simpler than that? Getting the opportunity to do regulatory favors for monied interests pays off all the way down the line for politicos and their families. We know that the Senate and the House are in the ten percent, but how did they get there? They come, as it were, pre-bribed. I am not at all sure that the model that claims that the venality into which legislators tend to descend is derived from the expense of campaigning. I think it is derived from the unparalleled structure of incentives into which they are plunged. I would much rather see laws banning anyone who was ever elected to the House or Senate from any lobbying job, and from dealing in any way shape or form with any organization contracting with the government. And I'd like to see the lobbying ban put into effect for their immediate family.

Seth :

Yes. They are very much 'pre-bribed'. I think straight-up quid-pro-quo venality is relatively rare and is more common among long-time office holders who have become jaded.

The problem is that to GET elected requires finding a constituency, which pols generally select based on their own basic 'orientation' (innate, sincerely held beliefs), and then to attract funding sufficient to run a campaign.

If a pol doesn't approach funders 'tactfully' -- minus any threatening ideas like, say, confiscatory taxes for those very funders, or frankly ANYTHING that might be a little awkward to bring up -- they don't get the money. So they instead focus on a few hot button issue positions which are popular with a donor constituency and match their own personal preferences and cultivate that resonance with 'their' donors as their careers progress.

Over time there is an accumulation of compromises with the sources of funding. Both their own funding, and the funding of the other politicians they need to work with. Compromises with what we call euphemistically "Political Reality" which gradually disconnect even the most sincere pols from their original commitments and motivation.

It's darwinism: survival of the donor-friendliest.

[Mar 10, 2012] Sergey Khrushchev (son of Nikita Khrushchev) about modern Russia (in Russian)

[Mar 1, 2012] elections are for suckers Robert Scheer

Let’s just dip our fingers in purple ink and pose for photos now that voting has the same significance for us as it had for those Iraqis who got conned into thinking they were participating in some grand democratic experiment.

Robert Scheer

16 comments

Our own elections, the ones our government has modeled for the world, are a hoax. What other word should we use to describe this year’s presidential election, whose outcome will turn on which party’s Super PACs gets the most generous bribes from billionaires? The Republicans, enabled by decisions of a Supreme Court they still control, were the first out of the gate and are far more culpable in destroying our system of popular governance. But the Democrats, no less committed to winning at any cost to political principle, have now jumped in.

The generally reserved New York Times editorial page responded to the Obama campaign’s decision to seek Super PAC funding with a scathing editorial headlined “Another Campaign for Sale.” The Times reminded that Barack Obama, in his State of the Union speech two years ago, called out the Supreme Court justices sitting before him over their decision to free special interests from campaign spending limits. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests,” Obama said then. “They should be decided by the American people.” But sadly, as the Times editorial noted this week, “On Monday, the President abandoned that fundamental principle and gave in to the culture of the Citizens United decision that he once denounced as a ‘threat to our democracy.’ ”

Monday was the day the Obama campaign sent out an e-mail announcing that members of the president’s administration would solicit funds for Priorities USA Action, one of the Super PACs that can now, thanks to the Supreme Court decisions that Obama had castigated, raise unlimited funds in an effort to sway the election.

Just as the super political action committee supporting Republican primary contender Newt Gingrich had raised $10 million from Nevada gambling kingpin Sheldon Adelson and his wife, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama campaign set its sights on media mogul Haim Saban.

A backer of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries in 2008, Saban had not subsequently supported Obama because of criticisms over the president’s actions toward Israel. Perhaps because the president has done nothing to effectively pressure the Israeli government to make any concessions toward Palestinian self-determination, Saban recently made his first contribution to Obama and in a written statement Tuesday said, “We are looking at all the Super PACs at the moment, will surely participate, but haven’t decided on the details.”

Saban may be one of the more idealistic mega-donors the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action PAC is now courting. Less savory, if one cares about the hold that Wall Street has exerted over this administration, are some of the top donors Obama aides met with Tuesday to urge that they contribute to the PAC. The list included Hamilton E. James, the president of the huge private equity firm Blackstone, and Robert Wolf, the chairman of UBS Group Americas.

Not that the Republicans should worry, since their list of Super PAC supporters is far more powerful. To date, the pro-Democrat PACs have collected a paltry $19 million as compared with the $91 million raised last year by committees controlled by Karl Rove and the allies of the Republican presidential candidates. This disparity is the president’s justification for abandoning his principled opposition to such groups. “We’re not going to fight this fight with one hand tied behind our back,” said Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager. “With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules. Democrats can’t be unilaterally disarmed.”

That argument would be more compelling if not for the fact that it was the Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, who “disarmed” by accepting public funding in the last election. Obama subverted what remained of political campaign finance reform by turning instead to private contributions, with the result that major Wall Street interests greatly financed his victory. It is not entirely true that shunning the PACs would have left the president at a disadvantage, since he commands predominant media space by virtue of his office. He could have exploited the fat-cat contributions to Republicans as confirmation that they are servants of the 1 percent that has caused the rest of us so much misery. Once again he has failed to take that case for economic justice to the American people and instead validated the Republican assault on what remains of our democracy.

See also

The Democrats Who Unleashed Wall Street and Got Away With It (Banking Predatory Lending, Bill Clinton)

That Lawrence Summers and Bill Clinton, the president he served as treasury secretary, can still get away with disclaiming responsibility for our financial meltdown is an insult to reason.

Obama's Faux Populism Sounds Like Bill Clinton (Banking Predatory Lending, Barack Obama, Election 2012)

Betrayal by the “good guys” for whom we have ended up voting has become the norm.

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

November 17, 2011 | naked capitalism

rotter:

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

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

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

Psychoanalystus:

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

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

wunsacon:

Information technology facilitates the transition from Huxley to Orwell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ferguson teases out the implications:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selected comments

Rex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These guys will happily sell their grandmother if need be.

And the MSM ought to be prefacing their interviews with -

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

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

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

Z

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managed Democracy in Russia Unmasking the Magic The Kremlin Stooge

October 11, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Kline Progressively Losing « naked capitalism

September 11, 2011

kievite:

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

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

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

attempter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Progressive actions are wholly defensive rather than offensive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economist's View

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

But he seems to be giving up hope:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon:

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

Mark Field:

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

roger

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

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

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

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

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

Devin:

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

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

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

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

Thoughts On Rectangles:

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

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

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

Should Elizabeth Warren Run for President « naked capitalism

August 1, 2011

James Myers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adults.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leviathan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

attempter
Why are you set against Social democrats?

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

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

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

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

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

The first and third statement are true. As for “must be challenged”, it’s not that easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another term used for this political mechanism is polyarchy:

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

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

attempter:

I never heard the term before, but that’s exactly what I mean by “representative pseudo-democracy”.

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

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

attempter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tomk

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

Patricia

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

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

Dave of Maryland

Hello Attempter,

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

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

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

Citizens in those densely populated countries were comparatively rich.

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

craazyman

you are correct sir.

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

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

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

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

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

nowhereman

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

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

attempter

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

attempter

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

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

CoinKoin

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

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

attempter

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

Ellen Anderson

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

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

CoinKoin

> they simply lapsed into neoliberalism.

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

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

Middle Seaman

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

That is our only hope.

razzz

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

hermanas

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

appointmetotheboard

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

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

notabanker

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

Question:

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

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

9276 total responses.

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

lambert strether:

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

Rex

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

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

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

Deb Schultz

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

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

jpe

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

hermanas

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

hermanas

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

Externality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Succotash

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

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

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

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

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

Dave of Maryland

Soviets are not quite the right idea.

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

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

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

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

Jessica

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

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

lambert strether

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

Viator

What’s wrong with this article?

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

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

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

eclair

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

With emphasis on “contrived.”

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

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

Oh god, governing as Reality Show.

TV ratings will sky-rocket!

EJ Milbankster

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

Terry

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

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

Viator

Speak of the devil…

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

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

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

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

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

Sufferin' Succotash

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

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

Spigzone

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

The world has now entered the age of Declining Oil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave of Maryland

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

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

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

John Merryman

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

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

BS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

bob mcmanus:

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

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

...is answered by...

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

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

bakho:

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

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

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

FRauncher :

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

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

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

Mark A. Sadowski:

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

The People's Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PeakVT:

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

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

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

Fred C. Dobbs:

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

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

Lee A. Arnold:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gnash Equilibrium:

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

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

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

Dirk van Dijk:

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

Patricia Shannon  ->  Dirk van Dijk...

Exactly so.

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

New York Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As culled from the president's public appearances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

frank1569

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

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

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

indynyer978

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sheldongreene

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

peterike

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

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

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

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

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

Kook

History

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

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

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

kentaub

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

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

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

mace

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

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

greggarcia

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

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

TomSwirlyKane:

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

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

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

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

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

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

indynyer978

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernie Sanders in 2012!

http://my.nymag.com/indynyer978

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

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

Hugh:

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

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

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

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

Bernard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thanks Yves, this really matters.

Nobody:

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

Isn’t that part of what happens here?

[Jun 07, 2011] “Lifting the Veil”

June 7, 2011 | naked capitalism

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

Ames’ mini-review:

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

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

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

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

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

You can watch it below or at Metanoia:

Foppe:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ScottS

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

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

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

elephants as heretics say ,”donkeys are your hypocrites”

a mêlée to the death of heresy against hypocrisy !

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

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

aet
“True libertarians”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hareli
I agree completely with Praedor
Tao Jonesing
@aet,

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

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

? says:

“The solution is separate government and private money supplies.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alex
“That is part of the free-market system.”

Dear Mr. President,

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

tz

I am really tired of “If I want your opinion I’ll give it to you”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

liberal
Most libertarians are their core are about liberty…

Yes; about crushing it in favor of feudalism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DownSouth

Clampit says: “What if I don’t want to outsource political power…”?

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

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

DownSouth

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

[….]

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

[….]

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

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

[….]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DownSouth
10:51 am What great choices, no?

We’re given the option between shitty and shittier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DownSouth
It’s a bona fide nightmare.

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

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

Why haven’t we developed immunities to this evil?

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

Cynthia
DownSouth,

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

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

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

Evidence for that assertion?

Cynthia
Alex,

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

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

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

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

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

–“Sharpton and his crowd have devolved to meek and ridiculous access-seekers with no significant agenda to ‘ballyhoo.’”

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

–”“Sharpton made common cause with New York billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vast political/financial network.”

—“The Reverend and his fellow unrepentant Obamites have been giving the president a ‘pass’ since he first appeared on the national scene.”

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

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

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

Elite is a description of honor and well honed skill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy if you can and then ponder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not saying anything… I’m just saying…

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

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

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

In short: they are nihilists.

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

But this is where we live.

F. Beard

Phil,

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

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

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

Philip Pilkington

Never… of course…

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

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

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

skippy

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

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

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

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

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

F. Beard

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

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

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

Both believed in central banking so no thanks.

Philip Pilkington

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

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

Armchair nonsense.

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

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

F. Beard

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

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

alex

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

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

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

“They think that money is worthless and meaningless.”

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

“In short: they are nihilists.”

No, they’re disgusted and pessimistic.

Paul Tioxon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Krugman The Unwisdom of Elites

Economist's View

EricT:

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

kharris:

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

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

M.G. in Progress:

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

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

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

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

paine:

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

greg byshenk:

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

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

paine:

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

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

doesn't work that way

  • open ballot elected rep-gubs allow the subversion of the majority interests quite consistently even in the face of the majority demonstrating clearly at the ballot box its majority preference
  • one thinks of the 06 anti-iraq-war majority and the 08 anti-bankster majority
  • or the likely outcome of a national referendum on medicare for all

tinbox:

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

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

Eric:

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

[May 09, 2011] Superman Renounces US Citizenship

May 9, 2011 | naked capitalism

DownSouth:

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

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

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

  • More than 2/3 of Americans say the government should care for those who cannot care for themselves

  • 64% would pay higher taxes to guarantee healthcare for everyone

  • 60% are favorable towards unions

  • 70% want nuclear disarmament

  • 72% want the U.S. completely out of Iraq

  • 81% favored taxing the rich and/or cutting military spending as the best way to cut the deficit

  • Only 3% recommended cutting social security

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

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

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

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

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

Economist's View

Is Michael Froomkin overly optimistic?:

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

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

ScentOfViolets:

Perhaps that should read:

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

Min:

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

-- Bret Maverick's pappy

;)

RW:

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

Mark A. Sadowski:

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

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

It ought to make for very good Town Hall videos.

Will:

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

kievite:

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

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

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

Another relevant quote:

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 12, 2011 | naked capitalism

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

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

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

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

  • On the outside, DeLay and other GOP leaders, including Grover Norquist, who headed Americans for Tax Reform, mounted a vast campaign (the so called “K Street Project”) to defund the Democrats directly by pressuring businesses to cut off donations and avoid retaining Democrats as lobbyists.

  • Inside the House, Gingrich made fundraising for the party a requirement for choice committee assignments.9 The implications of auctioning off key positions within Congress mostly escaped attention, as did the subsequent evolution of the system into one of what amounted to posted prices….

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

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

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

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

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

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

More from Ferguson:

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

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

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

Rabid Cranky Troll:

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

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

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

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

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

MyLessThanPrimeBeef:

We went from

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

to

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

Chauncey Gardiner:

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

john :

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

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

[Dec 20, 2010] Who Rules America The Class-Domination Theory of Power

The Power Elite and Government

Members of the power elite directly involve themselves in the federal government through three basic processes, each of which has a slightly different role in ensuring "access" to the White House, Congress, and specific agencies, departments, and committees in the executive branch. Although some of the same people are involved in all three processes, most leaders specialize in one or two of the three processes. These three processes are:

  1. The special-interest process, through which specific families, corporations, and industrial sectors are able to realize their narrow and short-run interests on taxes, subsidies, and regulation in their dealings with congressional committees, regulatory bodies, and executive departments;
  2. The policy-making process, through which the policies developed in the policy-planning network described earlier are brought to the White House and Congress;
  3. The candidate selection process, through which members of the power elite influence electoral campaigns by means of campaign donations to political candidates.

Power elite domination of the federal government can be seen most directly in the workings of the corporate lobbyists, backroom super-lawyers, and industry-wide trade associations that represent the interests of specific corporations or business sectors. This special-interest process is based in varying combinations of information, gifts, insider dealing, friendship, and, not least, promises of lucrative private jobs in the future for compliant government officials. This is the aspect of business-government relations described by journalists and social scientists in their case studies. While these studies show that the special interests usually get their way, the conflict that sometimes erupts within this process, occasionally pitting one corporate sector against another, reinforces the image of widely shared and fragmented power in America, including the image of a divided corporate community. Moreover, there are some defeats suffered by the corporate rich in the special-interest process. For example, laws that improved auto safety standards were passed over automobile industry objections in the 1970s, as were standards of water cleanliness opposed by the paper and chemical industries.

Policies of concern to the corporate community as a whole are not the province of the special-interest process. Instead, such policies come from the network of foundations, think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations discussed in an earlier section. The plans developed in the organizations of the policy-planning network reach the federal government in a variety of ways. On the most general level, their reports, news releases, and interviews are read by elected officials and their staffs, either in pamphlet form or in summary articles in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. Members of the policy-planning network also testify before congressional committees and subcommittees that are writing legislation or preparing budget proposals. More directly, leaders from these organizations are regular members of the dozens of little-known committees that advise specific departments of the executive branch on general policies, making them in effect unpaid temporary members of the government. They are also very prominent on the extremely important presidential commissions that are appointed to make recommendations on a wide range of issues from foreign policy to highway construction. They also serve on the little-known federal advisory committees that are part of just about every department of the executive branch.

Finally, and crucially, they are appointed to government positions with a frequency far beyond what would be expected by chance. Several different studies show that top cabinet positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations are held by members of the upper class and corporate executives who are leaders in policy-discussion organizations.

The general picture that emerges from the findings on the overrepresentation of members of the power elite in appointed governmental positions is that the highest levels of the executive branch are interlocked constantly with the upper class and corporate community through the movement of executives and lawyers in and out of government. Although the same person is not in governmental and corporate positions at the same time, there is enough continuity for the relationship to be described as one of "revolving interlocks." Corporate leaders resign their numerous directorships in profit and nonprofit organizations to serve in government for two or three years, then return to the corporate community or policy-planning network. This system gives them temporary independence from the narrow concerns of their own organizations and allows them to perform the more general roles they have learned in the policy-discussion groups. They then return to the private sector with useful personal contacts and information.

As important as the special-interest and policy-planning processes are for the power elite, they could not operate successfully if there were not sympathetic, business-oriented elected officials in government. That leads us to the third process through which members of the power elite dominate the federal government, the candidate-selection process. It operates through the two major political parties. For reasons to be discussed in a moment, the two parties have very little role in political education or policy formation; they are reduced to the function of filling offices. That is why the American political system can be characterized as a "candidate-selection process."

The main reason the political system focuses on candidate selection to the relative exclusion of political education and policy formulation is that there can be only two main parties due to the structure of the government and the nature of the electoral rules. The fact that Americans select a president instead of a parliament, and elect legislators from "single-member" geographical areas (states for the Senate, districts for the House) leads to a two-party system because in these "winner-take-all" elections a vote for a third party is a vote for the person's least desired choice. A vote for a very liberal party instead of the Democrats, for example, actually helps the Republicans. Under these rules, the most sensible strategy for both the Democrats and Republicans is to blur their policy differences in order to compete for the voters with middle-of-the-road policy views, or no policy views at all.

Contrary to what many believe, then, American political parties are not very responsive to voter preferences. Their candidates are fairly free to say one thing to get elected and to do another once in office. This contributes to confusion and apathy in the electorate. It leads to campaigns where there are no "issues" except "images" and "personalities" even when polls show that voters are extremely concerned about certain policy issues. You don't raise unnecessary issues during a campaign, one successful presidential candidate once said.

It is precisely because the candidate-selection process is so personalized, and therefore dependent on name recognition, images, and emotional symbolism, that it can be in good part dominated by members of the power elite through the relatively simple and direct means of large campaign contributions. Playing the role of donors and money raisers, the same people who direct corporations and take part in the policy-planning network have a crucial place in the careers of most politicians who advance beyond the local level or state legislatures in states with large populations. Their support is especially important in party primaries, where money is an even larger factor than in general elections.

The two-party system therefore results in elected officials who are relatively issueless and willing to go along with the policies advocated by those members of the power elite who work in the special-interest and policy-planning processes. They are motivated by personal ambition far more than they are by political conviction. Still, there are some extremely conservative elected Republicans who often oppose power elite proposals, claiming that such policies are the work of secret communists or pointy-headed intellectuals out to wreck the "free enterprise" system. There also are many Democrats from blue-collar and university districts who consistently oppose power elite policies as members of the liberal-labor coalition. However, both the ultra-conservatives and the liberals are outnumbered by the "moderates" of both parties, especially in key leadership positions in Congress. After many years in Congress the elected liberals decide to "go along to get along." "This place has a way of grinding you down," explained one liberal Congressman of the early 1970s in a classic summary of what happens.

Although members of the power elite are far and away the most important financial backers for both parties, this does not mean that there are no differences between the two parties. The leadership levels have intra-class differences, and the supporters tend to have inter-class differences. The Republican Party is controlled by the wealthiest families of the upper class and corporate community, who are largely Protestant in background. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is the party of the "fringes" of the upper class and power elite. Although often called "the party of the common person," it was in fact the party of the Southern segment of the upper class until very recently. The power of the Southern Democrats in the party and in Congress was secured in a variety of ways, the most important of which was the seniority system for selecting committee chairs in Congress. (By tradition, the person who has been on the committee longest just about automatically becomes the chair; this avoids conflict among members of the party.) However, the underlying point is that the one-party system in the South and the exclusion of African-Americans from the voting booth until the mid-1960s gave the Southern planters and merchants power at the national level through the Democratic Party out of all proportion to their wealth and numbers. Thus, it is not necessarily the wealthiest people who rule. The nature of the political system also enters into the equation. But the Southern elites are not poor; they are only less rich than many of their Northern counterparts.

The Southerners dominated the Democratic Party in alliance with the "ethnic rich" in the North, meaning wealthy Jews and Catholics who were shunned or mistreated by the rich Protestants. The businesses they owned were often local or smaller than those of the Republican backers, and they usually were excluded from the social institutions of the upper class. These ethnic rich were the primary financial supporters of the infamous "political machines" that dominated Democratic politics in most large northern cities.

The alliance between the Southern segment of the upper class and the Northern ethnic rich usually was able to freeze out the policy initiatives of the party's liberal-labor coalition through its control of congressional committees, although there was a time (1940 to 1975) when labor unions had significant influence on the Democrats. When that alliance broke down on certain issues because the machine Democrats sided with the liberals and labor, then the Southern Democrats joined with Northern Republicans to create the "conservative coalition," AKA "the conservative voting bloc," wherein a majority of Southern Democrats and a majority of Northern Republicans voted together against the Northern Democrats. This conservative coalition most often formed around the issues that reflect class conflict in the legislative arena -- civil rights, union rights, social welfare, and business regulation. Legislation on any of these issues weakens employers in the face of workers and their unions, so it is not surprising that the conservative coalition is based on the shared interests of Northern and Southern employers. This alliance won far more often than it lost in the years between 1937, when it was formed, and the 1990s, when it disappeared for the simple reason that many of the Southerners had become Republicans.

Once the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was in effect, the Democratic Party was slowly changed because African-Americans in the South were able to vote against the worst racists in the party primaries. The gradual industrialization also was causing changes. As a result of these two forces, Southern whites started to move into the Republican Party, which thus became the party of wealthy employers in both the North and South. In that context, the Democratic Party is slowly becoming what many always thought it to be, the party of liberals, minorities, workers, and the poor.

In summary, the special-interest process, policy-planning process, and campaign finance make it possible for the power elite to win far more often than it loses on the policy issues that come before the federal government. The power elite is also greatly over-represented in appointed positions, presidential blue-ribbon commissions, and advisory committees within the government. In terms of both the "who wins" and "who governs" power indicators, the power elite dominates the federal government.

However, this domination does not mean control on each and every issue, or lack of opposition, and it does not rest upon government involvement alone. Involvement in government is only the final and most visible aspect of power elite domination, which has its roots in the class structure, the nature of the economy, and the functioning of the policy-planning network. If government officials did not have to wait on corporate leaders to decide where and when they will invest, and if government officials were not further limited by the acceptance of the current economic arrangements by the large majority of the population, then power elite involvement in elections and government would count for a lot less than it does under present conditions.

Why Business Leaders Feel Powerless

Despite these various kinds of objective evidence that the power elite has great power in relation to the federal government, many corporate leaders feel that they are relatively powerless in the face of government. To hear them tell it, Congress is more responsive to organized labor, environmentalists, and consumers. They also claim to be harassed by willful and arrogant bureaucrats. These negative feelings toward government are not a new development, contrary to those who blame the New Deal and the social programs of the 1960s. A study of businessmen's views in the 19th century found that they believed political leaders to be "stupid" and "empty" people who went into politics only to earn a living, and a study of businessmen's views during what are thought of as their most powerful decade, the 1920s, found the same mistrust of government.

The emotional expressions of business leaders about their lack of power cannot be taken seriously as a power indicator, for that confuses psychological uneasiness with power. Feelings are one thing, the effects of one's actions another. But it is nonetheless interesting to try to understand why businessmen complain about a government they dominate. First, complaining about government is a useful political strategy. It puts government officials on the defensive and forces them to keep proving that they are friendly to business. Second, businessmen complain about government because in fact very few civil servants are part of the upper class and corporate community. The anti-government ideology of the United States tends to restrain members of the upper class from government careers except in the State Department, meaning that the main contacts for members of the power elite within government are at the very top. There is thus uncertainty about how the middle levels will react to new situations, and therefore a feeling that there is a necessity to "ride herd" on or "reign in" the potentially troublesome "bureaucrats."

There also seems to be an ideological level to the business leaders' attitudes toward government. There is a fear of the populist, democratic ideology that underlies American government. Since power is in theory in the hands of all the people, there always is the possibility that someday "the people," in the sense of the majority, will make the government into the reflection of pluralist democracy that it is supposed to be. In a certain very real way, then, the great power of the upper class and corporate community are culturally illegitimate, and the existence of such power is therefore vigorously denied. It is okay to be rich, and even to brag about wealth a little bit, but not to be powerful or, worse, to flaunt that power.

Finally, the expressions of anguish from individual corporate leaders concerning their powerlessness also suggests an explanation in terms of the intersection of social psychology and sociology. It is the upper class and corporate community that have power, not individuals apart from their institutional context. As individuals, they are not always listened to, and they have to convince their peers of the reasonableness of their arguments before anything happens. Moreover, any policy that is adopted is a group decision, and it is sometimes hard for people to identify with group actions to the point where they feel personally powerful. It is therefore not surprising that specific individuals might feel powerless.

The Weaknesses of the Working Class

There are many democratic countries where the working class -- defined as all those white-collar and blue-collar workers who earn a salary or a wage -- has more power than it does in the United States. This power is achieved primarily through labor unions and political parties. It is reflected in more egalitarian wealth and income distributions, a more equitable tax structure, better public health services, subsidized housing, and higher old-age and unemployment benefits.

How is it possible that the American working class could be relatively powerless in a country that prides itself on its long-standing history of pluralism and elections? There are several interacting historical factors. First, the "primary producers" in the United States, those who work with their hands in factories and fields, were more seriously divided among themselves until the 1930s than in most other countries. The deepest and most important of these divisions was between whites and African-Americans. In the beginning, of course, the African-Americans had no social power because of their enslavement, which meant that there was no way to organize workers in the South. But even after African-Americans gained their freedom, prejudices in the white working class kept the two groups apart.

This black/white split in the working class was reinforced by later conflicts between craft workers -- also called "skilled" workers -- and industrial workers -- also called mass-production or "unskilled" workers. Craft workers usually tried to keep their wages high by excluding industrial workers. Their sense of superiority as skilled workers was reinforced by the fact that they were of Northern European, Protestant origins and the industrial workers tended to be Catholics and Jews from Eastern and Southern Europe. Some African-Americans were also found in the ranks of the industrial workers, along with other racial minorities.

It would have been difficult enough to overcome these divisions even if workers had been able to develop their own political party, but they were unable to develop such a party because the electoral system greatly disadvantages third parties. Workers were stuck. They had no place to go but the Republicans or Democrats. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the craft workers often supported the Democrats, while the recent immigrant industrial workers tended to support the Republicans. Even when craft and industrial workers moved into the Democratic Party en masse in the 1930s, they couldn't control the party because of the power of the wealthy Southern planters and merchants.

Nor did the workers have much luck organizing themselves through unions. The employers were able to call upon the government to crush organizing drives and strikes through both court injunctions and police arrests. This was not only because employers had great influence with politicians then, just as they do now, but because the American tradition of law, based in laissez faire (free market) liberalism, was so fiercely opposed to any "restraint of trade" or "interference" with private property. It was not until the 1930s that the liberal-labor coalition was able to pass legislation guaranteeing workers the right to join unions and engage in collective bargaining. Even this advance was only possible by excluding the Southern workforce -- i.e., agricultural and seasonal labor -- from the purview of the legislation. Further, the passage of the legislation had only limited impact because the industrial unions were defeated almost completely in the South and Southwest. Unions thrived in a few major industries in the North in the years after World War II, but then their power was eroded beginning in the 1970s as the big corporations moved their factories to other countries or lost market share to European and Japanese companies.

Given this history of internal division, political frustration, and union defeat, it is not surprising the American workers continue to accept the highly individualistic ideology that has characterized the United States since its founding. This acceptance in turn makes it even more difficult to organize workers around "bread-and-butter" issues. They often vote instead on the basis of social issues or religious convictions, with those who are deeply religious, opposed to affirmative action, or opposed to gun control voting for the avowedly anti-union Republican Party.

Thus, it is important not to confuse freedom with social power. Between 1962 and the 1990s there was a great expansion in individual rights due to the civil rights, feminist, and lesbian-gay movements, but during that time the ratio of a top business executive's pay to a factory worker's pay increased from 41 to 1 to about 300 to 1. American workers can say what they want and do what they want within very broad limits, and their children can study hard in school so they can go to graduate school and join the well-off professional class as doctors, lawyers, architects, or engineers, but when it comes to social power most Americans have very little of it if they are not a part of the power elite.

Community Power

Not all power is wielded at the national level. For more on local power, click here.

Conclusion

The argument over the structure and distribution of power in the United States has been going on within academia since the 1950s. It has generated a large number of empirical studies, many of which have been drawn upon here. In the final analysis, however, scholars' conclusions about the American power structure depend upon their beliefs concerning power indicators, which are a product of their "philosophy of science." That sounds strange, I realize, but if "who benefits?" and "who sits?" are seen as valid power indicators, on the assumption that "power" is an underlying social trait that can be indexed by a variety of imperfect indicators, then the kind of evidence briefly outlined here will be seen as a very strong case for the dominant role of the power elite in the federal government.

If "who wins?" on a wide range of government decisions is seen as the only valid indicator of power, and if it is expected that the power elite must win every time, which is the stance adopted by pluralist theorists on the basis of a "strict positivist" view of how power must be measured, then the argument presented here, based on a "soft positivism," will be seen as less impressive. That's because those relatively few of us who disagree with the pluralists have not yet had the time and the resources to do enough case studies within the framework of the special-interest and policy-planning processes to show the full range of power elite dominance on policy issues. A good start has been made in this direction, but it will take more to convince the skeptics.

[Aug 26, 2010] Fears of Regime Change in New York

August 26, 2010 | naked capitalism

Normally, I don’t report on anecdotes from my immediate circle, but a set of conversations in less than a 24 hour period suggests that even those comparatively unaffected by the crisis are bracing themselves for the possibility of sudden, large-scale, adverse changes. And that sort of gnawing worry seems to be growing in New York despite being buoyed by TARP funds and covert bank subsidies.

When out on my rounds the day before yesterday, I ran into an old McKinsey colleague, who had subsequently had impressively titled jobs in Big Firms You Heard Of before semi-retiring to manage family money. He and his very accomplished wife were big Bush donors and had been invited to both inaugurations.

He made short order of niceties and got to the point: “We need more fiscal stimulus. Obama did too little and too much of what he spent on was liberal pork. We could and need to spend a lot on infrastructure. This is looking a lot like 1936. I’m afraid it could get really ugly. And I’m particularly worried that the Republicans will win big this fall. They’ll cut even deeper, that’s the last thing we need right now.”

No I am not making this up, and yes, this is one of the last people I would have expected to express this line of thinking.

Next day, I had lunch with a two long standing, keen observers and participants in the New York scene, as in very involved in some of the city’s important institutions. Both have witnessed the shift in values over the last thirty years and the rising stratification, particularly at the top end (New York has always been plutocratic, but it formerly had a large upper middle class and a much smaller and much less isolated upper crust).

They started by commenting on my Bill Gross post, which had mentioned the appalling Steve Schwarzman contention that taxing private equity overlords more on their carried interest was like HItler invading Poland. Schwarzman is not only not retreating from his remark, he is convinced that the reason the economy is so lousy is that rich men like him are not getting their way (this is if anything an understatement of their account. Both men expect his head to be the first on a pike).

The conversation turned to whether the US was going towards revolution or fascism. One argued for the a continuation of trends underway: that the continuing weakness of the Obama Administration (and the discrediting of other members of the elite) meant there was a power vacuum. The obvious group to exploit it is the most strident, uncompromising opportunists, an area where the extreme right has a monopoly. The other, who has ben reading up on the French Revolutions. took issue with the conventional idea that a revolution is impossible in America: “In France, the trigger was that people were hungry. We are close to that point than most think.” He stressed the desensitization to violence (video games, more and more violence) plus widespread gun ownership. And he pointed to rising and underreported crime in the city, for instance, assaults of cab drivers.

He also noted that he believed that there were a lot of people (and he meant in the upper income strata) who were barely holding on, keeping up appearances, and hoping something would break their way. Some might get lucky, but most will hit the wall financially.

This was an engaging and lively conversation, but it you stepped back, the content was grim. Another thread was the decay in values, that there has been two generations of parents not setting boundaries for their children. One lives next to one of the elite private schools and likes children, but called those in his ‘hood as “monsters,” describing how a boy was beating up on his nanny and he had to intercede.

These data points don’t converge neatly, but they suggest a deep-rooted anxiety that economic and social structures are near a breaking point, and whatever comes next is not likely to be pretty.

psychohistorian
And I want to thank you for that.

The rents in the social fabric are getting bigger but IMO the tipping point for revolution (I would be happy with a little evolution)or regime change continues to seems just out of reach. The decline of America’s empire will be “interesting” to live through. If we can now think of various sociopath’s heads on pikes, think about how people in other countries feel about us.

lambert strether
The Big O had the chance to head all that off, of course, by sending some of the banksters to jail for accounting control fraud. CEOs in orange jumpsuits doing to perp walk would have been a terrific morale booster. Of course, Obama was groomed exactly to avoid that, and so he didn’t.

Meanwhile, it’s hilarious to watch the elite discovering that they really need an FDR, after having, over the last 30 years, systematically decapitated all the institutions capable of producing one.

I’ve been relatively sanguine about maintaining my own quite low personal baseline, assuming that the Ds would pump enough blood into the zombies to maintain until after 2012, and that the elites don’t panic and turn on each other. It may be that I was too pessimistic on both counts.

Ishmael
Lambert — Agree with you. We should have had some quick trials of a few hundred (or thousand) bankster and put them away for life and taken their assets. That would have put the fear of god in the bankster class and helped take the country back.
koshem Bos
No banksters will be in jail with the supreme court we have.
A_MacLaren
What’s needed is NOT a revolution, but a RESTORATION to the principles that guided and shaped this country and economic system.

Enforcement of the rule of law.

Private, not public, accountability, and consequences or benefits for actions.

A level playing field and markets that do not favor the leaders that would stifle competition, but instead encourage it.

Chris

The day that people go hungry and go starving is the day revolution will probably happen. Look at Paris, look at Russia circa 1917.

Michael
The French and so called “Russian” revolutions were not spontaneous uprisings of poor and hungry people but quite well prepared and organised covert operations, just like the Rumanian and Serb revolutions some years ago. This can’t happen in the US. That is the reason why your oligarchs are so reckless. Their power is not and will not be challenged.
Psychoanalystus
“We need to lop two years off high school, as the president of Bard College has recommended. We cram eight years of study into twelve years, and prolong childhood in order to keep young adults out of the work force.”

Neuroscience has shown that the human brain is not fully developed until around age 25. As such, this is not an issue of “prolonging childhood”.

Besides, how does such a proposal address the fact that there really aren’t any jobs out there?

Psychoanalystus

rd
We are missing a huge opportunity to invest for the future in our infrastructure that would also be real stimulus.

The problem is that infrastructure is hard and the laws are making it harder. Infrastructure takes planning, thought, and committment over several years. Our politicians cannot conceive of this today. Instead, they focus on “shovel ready” projects, so you see some basic beautification efforts like putting a new layer of asphalt down or a paint job on something.

Real infrastructure takes 1 to 5 years of investigation, planning, and design (all work based in North America). It then requires a couple of years or more for the bidding and construction (most equipment, materials, and labor is based in North America, much is local within 25 miles). However, this would require a realization that we are in a decade-length (or more) slump where that type of stimulus is necessary. The current political and financial sector mantra is that prosperity is just around the corner so that it is unnecessary.

We also have the issue that it now takes years of EIS’s and plan approvals to accomplish something, so the concept that we can suddenly go out and build a bridge has vanished. We could not emulate Roosevelt’s New Deal construction projects if we tried. Our system is still too calcified to allow anything of significance to occur in less than a decade – the WTC site in NYC is a current classic example of that where it has taken almost a decade to build a basement and most of the energy now is locked up in a battle over having a religous institution on private property a couple of blocks away.

At least we are not alone; the NYT had an article about how India has a shortage of civil engineers because the profession doesn’t pay enough and so their infrastructure is suffering. At least we have been able to export some of our stupid policies as well as our jobs and cash.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/business/global/26engineer.html?_r=1&sq=india%20civil%20engineer&st=cse&adxnnl=1&scp=1&adxnnlx=1282820599-lqngxrb/hS01JG+JEcqzNQ

Our infrastructure is decaying at a horeendous rate but people only are noticing when bridges fall into the water. Over the coming decades we will see more problems arising with services assumed to be basic, such as water, sewage, energy, and transportation. Now is the time to start doing something about this. The beauty of it is that there will be a double stimulus because we will have a better infrastructure for future growth as well as re-investing our money in labor, equipment, and materials that is North America based instead of buying TVs and cellphones made in Asia. However, it will require our politicians to think more than 6 months ahead.

Doug
Thanks RD for this important point. It makes one wonder how many other potential solutions are nullified by systemic, structural obstacles that could only be overcome through a kind of leadership not likely to arise.
John L
rd,

I agree 100% that the funding on infrastructure has been too little and too tied down with red tape and attached strings to do much good. Here in NC we’re spending as much of the stimulus money that goes to infrastructure, but as usual, the money is being spent on “quick fix” projects rather than the needed bridge replacement or pavement rehab projects.

I disagree with your comment about needing an EIS any time infrastructure needs replacement. There are three categories of environmental documents; CE (categorical exclusion), EA (environmental assessment) and EIS. The EIS is used only on projects that have major environmental impacts, such as new location construction. EA’s are typically used to determine if a project requires an EIS, and are used for widening projects most of the time. CE’s are used when the impacts are minor, such as on a bridge replacement project.

The problem is, even a CE can take 9 months to a year to complete, and if right of way needs to be purchased, nothing can begin until that document is finished. With the administration insisting on projects using stimulus money being ready within 3 months, that eliminated every project not already begun. States should be given the money without the timeline strings and let them fund projects already in the pipeline.

Stelios Theoharidis
I am quite tired of this infrastructure “meme”. Yes we need to fix highway infrastructure that is a danger to the public.

But, it is well documented that we have reached diminishing returns to investment with most highway expenditure. Most expansions of highways only reduce drive times by minutes and within a few years related sprawl and increased use of highway infrastructure removes that benefit. It does not add efficiency to our economy or time savings for individuals utilizing it. Furthermore they increase our reliance on automobile dependent transport, foreign sources of fuel, and raises our trade deficit.

We need to talk about the merits of types of infrastructure spending and forget thinking about it as a unequivocal good. I would support all types of water and energy efficiency funding mechanisms, smart grid technologies, public transport systems, but further highway spending just feeds our already problematic addiction.

Highway spending also may not significantly reduce our unemployment levels (fueled by collapse in home construction), there is not a rapid movement from home construction to highway construction, these industries are fragmented and there are specific highway infrastructure development engineering companies that have direct access to state and local governments.

Doug Terpstra
Agreed. We need NEW infrastructure, not more of the same. Current “leadership” clearly lacks the imagination to visioneer a new paradigm. All it can do is dig deeper holes, subsidize obsolete slum-divisions and bridges to nowhere, and pave over status-quo stink holes. Regime change can’t come soon enough. A merciful death is preferable to prolonged torture.

The US transportation system, including the world’s largest public works project ever, the interstate network, is the greatest planet-wide misallocation of resources in the history of mankind. It is a Cold War artifact of nuclear-target population dispersion that gobbled vast swaths of land with massive sprawl and created a homogenized, placeless culture of alienation, utterly dependent on profligate consumption of “cheap” oil—rackets like BP and middle east conquest and occupation.

Ishmael
Agree totally! Historical infrastructure is a waste of money. Look at all the space in airports which is currently not being used. LAX has much less traffic, SEA- TAC seems empty, Nashville has big sections not being used, OKC built a big new addition to its airport and it is empty.

High speed trains are a waste. Let’s first just get train service working between places like LA and San Fran that have functioning bathrooms and a good dining car.

John L
Let’s see; trains are a waste, the interstate system (one of the great wonders of the modern world, btw) is considered a disaster, and airports are underused.

I guess you and the others prefer the US to go back to horse and buggy transportation, since you just eliminated all the other modes. If you denigrate all of these, what’s your suggestion? Forcing everyone into mega cities and mass transit isn’t an answer, btw.

Ishmael
Really the interstate commerce system was built to move the military after Eisenhower had seen how effective the autobahn was used by the nazi’s.

First we must start with the understanding that 70% of the nation’s crude oil. Unless the US can start exporting enough to pay for the crude, the sellors of crude will become disillusioned with taking toilet paper for their oil. As Stein law says, if something can not go on forever it will not.

To move large quantity of goods, the rail system is far more energy efficient. In addition, a lot of this consumer junk will be determined to be useless and will not need to be translated. When incomes decrease and traveling costs increase drastically I could see travel also dropping off drastically (also technology has made a lot of business travel unnecessary).

People in many areas justify the present with what was justified in the past. Things change!

Doug Terpstra
John L,

Acutally, IMO, rail is a highly efficient transportation and freight system, a huge opportunity for wealth-creating investment. Europe and Asia are way ahead of US there, with an economic advantage that will be enormous if/when peak oil hits. We can’t start soon enough, IMO, with serious investment in modern rail, transit, and alternate transport modes.

And yes the interstate system is real marvel, one we are wedded to for the foreseeable future that may be an asset for readaptive reuse or retrofit, perhaps including rail or intermodal systems. My point was that it was a product of old-school thinking that spawned and metastasized many tumorous side-effects, which we should not allow to keep us rutted in obsolete, cancerous development patterns.

leroguetradeur
“the most strident, uncompromising opportunists, an area where the extreme right has a monopoly…”

Not really. You perhaps need to have lived in Europe to have seen that neither extreme left nor extreme right have any monopoly on this, and that neither are significantly morally different when they get to power.

I agree with you on an intuitive level about one thing, its basically a feeling that the other shoe is about to drop, and many of us do share it.

You make a very curious opposition: “The conversation turned to whether the US was going towards revolution or fascism….” Why are these either alternatives, or the alternatives? It is a two by two matrix (like most things), we could either have revolutionary or moderate incremental change, and it could be right wing or left wing.

If its right or left wing revolution, it will not much matter which, it will end as always in programs of mass murder in the name of some ideal or other. But it does not seem very likely, and certainly, some kind of mass uprising seems very remote.

Remember that revolutions are not the consequence of mass uprisings, whatever the left wing myth. They happen because of disaffection within the ruling elite, where the reforming faction wins the argument, and starts on a process of radical (by the standards of the day) reform. If this process coincides with great popular misery, then the crazies may take the opportunity to mobilize that and seize power, as they did in the French and Russian revolutions.

It is however radical reform by the ruling establishment as a consequence of a loss of a feeling that their institutions are effective and legitimate that starts the process. This is the sign to watch for. I don’t think you are seeing that at the moment. And Republican gains in the coming elections will not lead to it.

Still, its interesting that these kinds of people are having these kinds of conversations. They do mean something, even if they do not mean imminent revolution.

Yves Smith
Projection!

I didn’t make this opposition, my two lunch companions chose to debate it, and then asked for my view. I though we are more likely to see a lot more random violence, I have my doubts re organized uprisings.

East Coast Cynic
Speaking of more random violence, I recall listening to a talk radio show close to a year ago where a Detroit Public Defender called in and said that the economic downturn had resulted in a dramatic increase domestic violence and DUI charges. Yep, I think the White Panthers, as well as the 1.0 Black ones, are a thing of the past.
leroguetradeur
Another possibility is that the Federal Government might be driven to the conclusion that it was necessary to take on the finance sector.

That the risk of doing this was less than the risk of continuing to placate them. Governments have done things like this in the West in the 20c. One thinks of Thatcher and the UK unions.

Sectional interests do not realize how much of a minority they are in, until it happens. Think of the legislation of the thirties in the wake of the Great Crash for a US precedent. Yes, its not happening yet, but we could get there.

Psychoanalystus
Indeed.

Somehow I suspect that the majority of readers of this blog live in fairly low-crime areas. As such, they are likely removed from the large sections of their cities torn up by gang warfare, where most underprivileged members of society have had to live for decades now.

Psychoanalystus

papicek
As a member of the left (the angry left, mind you), let me say that most of us fully realize what it takes to conduct a revolution. In somewhat modern terms those are: money, organizational ability, a flair for leadership, and most importantly, a FAT ROLODEX (maybe a long mailing list these days). That’s why even the left isn’t talking about black unemployment, that 1 in 9 black men see the inside of prisons – far, far higher than any other group, or the plight of the poor these days. We’re talking about the middle class who are about to join the ranks of the poor. Anyone with any background in history (yours, truly) realizes fully well that the middle class is “the great revolutionary class” (h/t John Fowles), whether they were Renaissance merchants, French lecteurs, or the colonial American merchant and professional classes.

As a purely historical observation, social instability most often arises out the middle (whether as revolutionaries or warmongers like the German professional and managerial classes at the dawn of the 20th century). If Yves’ lunch companions are nervous, then they should really take a very hard look at the condition of the American middle class, and consider the role unions played in its creation. They might want to start with what Elizabeth Warren has to say on this. We often speak of the middle class as an inevitable American institution, the product of our “classless” society growing inexorably from the country’s inception. We like to think of the middle class as “secure”. Nothing could be further from the truth. That notion of security is only about 40 years old. Prior to this, professional, white collar workers would come home everyday and work with their families at some menial task like collecting paper scraps that they would sell for the few extra pennies they needed to survive. Prior to this, Chautauqua (out of which American Progressivism was born) was as much a self-help and entrepreneurial movement as a religious one. We traded that away, and now we wait for “convergance”. Maybe her companions should feel nervous, but as a class, they’ve nobody to blame but themselves.

Psychoanalystus
“that 1 in 9 black men see the inside of prisons – far, far higher than any other group”

Yeah, sure, sure, there are 3+ million Americans behind bars, many on trivial charges. But now just think about how hugely profitable stock in the new and growing “private prison” business (CRN, CXW, GEO) has been to fine Wall Street investment banks everywhere…

Psychoanalystus

Anal_yst
Not sure I’d call either of these anecdotes “data points,” but interesting nonetheless. While there may be un(der)reported crime in NYC, its hardly the wild west. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything about violent crime show up in my Facebook feed which is heavily-skewed with NYC-based friends. Surely, things are far worse than the MSM is reporting (do you hear me NYT, CNBC?!!?!), but I don’t think we’re close to revolution, although if there is anything even remotely close to it, I fear it will be for mostly the wrong reasons, as The Public is largely ignorant of reality, alas…
Yves Smith
Violent beatings of taxi drivers are apparently way up, which is an economically motivated crime. And both were confident that Bloomberg is under-reporting crime in the outer boroughs.
cougar_w
As crime increases and becomes more depraved in nature, our internal “fence” for what is important and reportable also goes up. This has been going on for 100 years of course, as societal norms have veered toward acceptance of violence (ref: sports and entertainment). My general observation today is that unless there are guns involved, it goes unreported. In fact, unless guns are involved the police might not even show up.
lalaland
The rich have always been notable for their paranoia, their fear, and their delusions of grandeur. I’m firmly planted in the lower end of the middle class (by NYC standards) and there is certainly no talk of revolution in my circles; I’d even wager the lower rungs of the economic strata are more attached to our form of government than the rich are.

“And he pointed to rising and underreported crime in the city” – where did he get any evidence crime is suddenly being underreported? Crimestats says murder is up 15%, and that should surprise since we just got through one of the hottest summers on record (not to mention the previous years were record lows so it’s unsurprising it would go up a bit eventually).

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statistics/cscity.pdf

Conrad
“The rich have always been notable for their paranoia, their fear, and their delusions of grandeur.”

add “entitlement”.

Edmund in South Gloucestershire
The fundamental problem with the Ponzi-Debt, fossil-fueled, endless growth economy model is that everyone except fantasists knows that it must eventually hit the buffers.

We cannot see the future, so every time the scheme hits an obstruction we hope and pray that it’s just blockage we can break through. Then we can keep the scheme going long enough to enjoy the benefits to the max and die a natural death before industrial civilisation reaches the end of the cul-de-sac it’s been heading down since Spindletop, Texas, 1901.

As Yves’ correspondents are closer to the real knowledge centres than most of us (i.e. they’re talking to people who see into the immediate future through a relatively transparent gauze), it’s indeed worrying to hear that they appear to believe that the thing against which their fingernails are scraping is not a short-lived rough patch but the bottom of the oil-growth-debt barrel itself.

KFritz
As I read it, by your definition, most residents of G7 economies are fantasists. Correct?
cougar_w
If you want a second opinion: absolutely.

The G7 countries are poster children for unsustainable fantasy, and have been for 30 years on the inside, maybe 80 years all said. The last 10 years have been pure speculative fluff, a complete fiction.

Ignim Brites
Re: “…whether the US was going towards revolution or fascism”. This meme has its roots in the Marxist superstition of a materialist dialectic. Fascism also was a revolutionary ideology. It was light years more intelligent than Marxism (or Nazism) and, in fact, remains the only quasi serious contender in the ancient cult of revolution. But the new name for revolution is secession. And this is the far more likely course of regime dissolution in the West in the conventional sense of political action. But what is really emerging on the horizon is narco-anarchism as the challenge to the Federal government in Mexico illustrates. Whether this can make serious headway in the US remains to be seen. We will get something of an answer if California decides to compete for the cartels’ business by legalizing pot.
Conrad
“Fascism also was a revolutionary ideology. It was light years more intelligent than Marxism (or Nazism) and, in fact, remains the only quasi serious contender in the ancient cult of revolution.”

Sure, if you consider feudlism revolution.

The aim of Marxism is to increase the franchise, the true legacy of the enlightenment and the history of all progressivism in the US from the freeing of the slaves to votes for women to the New Deal to the civil rights movement. Not that all these expansions of the franchise were either explicitly or implicitly Marxist but their modern basis was in the enlightenment.

Progressive Ed
Wasn’t Marx’s vision to eliminate private property, money, and all markets? And historically, isn’t Progressive the American term for Fascist (i.e. the individual exists as only an extension of the will of the State)?
kievite
I am pretty pessimistic about the current situation. There are some tectonic forces at work and politicians can do only so much to try to prevent an earthquake.

One aspect of the problem is that the society became way too complex.

Tainter in his book suggested that as societies become more complex, the costs of meeting new challenges increase, until there comes a point where extra resources devoted to meeting new challenges produce diminishing and then negative returns.

The USA has an interesting twist in this regard which make some form of drastic change more plausible: Republican Party. The current Republican Party (aka wrecking crew) is a textbook demonstration of the forces that prevent any meaningful reform.

The amount of resources diverted to military industrial complex and financial companies probably serve as another severe limitation on what can be done to prevent new crisis.

And with 40% of population believing that Saddam was instrumental in 9/11 the chances of political change are slim. Looks like country is pretty evenly divided and multi-year brainwashing can’t be reverted until the current generation pass away.

Rampant unemployment and absence of meaningful jobs creation are two features that make the current situation unsustainable.

Simple solutions like some form of fascism are definitely becoming more attractive in this atmosphere. So we can be sure that attempts to explore this opportunity will be made. Clerical fascism is one possibility.

High unemployment is a powerful catalyst of mass support of any radical ideology.

Actually the beginning of this century looks in many ways similar to the beginning of the previous century. And we know how things developed in the previous century.

We just do not know the form “change we can believe in” will take.

pros
excellent points

obviously you hit only the highlights we have evolved a long way towards a defacto military dictatorship -- Obama is a “captive” of the Pentagon, the paramiltaries and their corporate allies.

No president in this country under present circumstances has real power over these guys.

So look for the corporate/military to further consolidate control as the situation worsens. The outcome? Who knows… probably a series of ever more severe “crises” that justify further consolidation of control…

Eisenhower laid it all out in his famous farewell address. Democracy is not consistent with the existence of a huge standing army.

Leviathan
Interesting comments.

In a nutshell, I would say that we are far from any organized movement on the ground. We have a lot of inchoate rage and a great deal of anxiety (bordering on paranoia), but they are layered over a substantial base (let’s say about half the country) that has not been directly impacted by this crisis and are hoping it all blows over before it reaches them.

Contrary to the class-based analytics some have offered here, I see the “contented half” as spread pretty evenly across the country and across class lines. Simply put, if you have a job and your old salary and neither need nor desire to sell your house then it is easy to sit back and hope for the best. Unfortunately, this “contented half” is also the source of many attacks on the new “welfare queens” (e.g. the long term unemployed, foreclosees and bankrupts).

They pity but do not identify with friends and family members who have fallen into the discontented half.

Tsk tsk, but they bought too much house/got too greedy/didn’t time the market right, etc. They do not understand that this is a musical chairs depression–it is not skill but luck and timing that determine who loses out.

On a philosophical level what is happening is that the more thoughtful members of the citizenry are reconsidering their consent for the ruling establishment. This can be a positive change with a good outcome. I have been very active in local government these past few years and saw up close how badly run it can be, how much taxpayer money is squandered because few bothered to question spending priorities Bell, CA was a wake up call. Some will learn from it. The question is whether they will turn the ship round in time.

Citizens are now waking up. There is a brief window in which the governing classes can appease them. Not necessarily by throwing money at them, but by demonstrating that there is a recognition of the problem and a PLAN to fix it.

The danger is that neither Obama and CO. nor the Republicrats seem to understand the need to do this quickly. Is it because they personally are doing fine? Yes. DC is a prosperous island in a sea of pain. Versailles, anyone?

Finally, the two most interesting suggestions made above (IMHO) are that we could be on the brink of secessionist movements (with which I definitely concur) and that there is a distinct danger of fascism rearing its head, to which I would just add, beware the growing power of top secret government. This is a state within a state and it controls a segment of the economy that is robust and rapacious, despite the crisis that has undermined most everything else. Fear the power of the banksters and oligopolists, yes. But fear these invisible power brokers at least as much. They are the unknown unknown that lurks in the bowels of DC. Even the pro-government Washington Post fears this beast. It is the most dangerous force in the world right now (and I feel quite certain that I have added to some watch list merely by writing these words). What a sinking feeling.

PQS
Agreed. It is easy for many to “sit back and hope for the best.” I’ve seen this first hand, and up close. I’ve been unemployed for six months, yet when I sit with parents at kid parties, this goes right over their heads. They are employed, still making payments, and yes, there may have been a downturn, but it hasn’t hit them yet, so it just isn’t real. Even when it is sitting right across from them.

You make a lot of good points. This is one of those threads that is bracing to read, but still scares the pants off me.

Psychoanalystus
“fear these invisible power brokers … (and I feel quite certain that I have added to some watch list merely by writing these words). What a sinking feeling.”

Well, I don’t know about that. They’re probably too busy worrying their jobs.

Psychoanalystus

Jim Haygood
You started out with the ‘complexity’ bit — how can a country of 300 million be governed democratically, with meaningful citizen input? Obviously, it can’t — it devolves to elitist, corporatist rule, as we’ve seen.

But to blame it on one faction of an entrenched, corrupt duopoly? How tiresome, how anachronistic.

Ten countries of 30 million would be more governable than one of 300 million. And when it’s popularly understood that the US fedgov is INSOLVENT, there will be huge incentive for states and regions to repudiate federal debt, and start with a clean slate (including a clean slate of political parties — no Demonrats or Repukes with compromising ties to the failed ancien regime).

Who would have thought that ‘Bernie Madoff accounting’ would take down the ‘world’s only superpower’? We coulda been a contendah ….

Sufferin' Succotash
Somehow the notion of a disciplined and centralized political movement taking over the US doesn’t seem very convincing. The country’s too big and undisciplined for that. A revolutionary situation is more likely to develop by means of secession movements which are by no means limited to the South or to the political Right(see Alaska, Minnesota, NYC). Nor would secessions necessarily be violent. One could visualize states and localities (especially those which send more tax dollars to Washington than they get back) “requisitioning” Federal revenues for their own purposes. A dithering and irresolute response from Inside the Beltway could easily lead to en masse secessions resembling the USSR in late 1991. As long as the seceders didn’t do something stupid like, say, opening fire on a Federal military installation the USA could be in pieces before you could say James Buchanan. Speaking of Buchanan and his more illustrious successor, consider a headline in the New York Times just after Lincoln took office and just before the attack on Ft. Sumter: “Wanted–A Policy.” Abe & Co. were widely perceived as weak and indecisive until the Confederates resolved matters by shooting first.
pros
interesting hypothesis.
papicek
I don’t see it so much as an hypothesis as a dynamic. Sit down at a poker table sometime (or a chess board for that matter) and you’ll see it all the time. Someone’s nerve will break. Whether we’ve reached the point where breaking nerve is enough of a factor, due to one kind of desperation or another is another question. Are there signs? Well, perhaps. I’ve lived in the metro Boston area all my life, and I’ve never seen people begging before this downturn. Now I see it daily. White people, black people, both men and women. Late 20’s to what looks like around 50 years old. Obviously people who have always worked, and want to again. They’re holding signs: “2 CHILDREN. WILL WORK FOR FOOD.” (I first saw that one a few years back, and I’ll never forget the chill it gave me. It could easily have been me – I’ve been laid off before.) My first reaction to Yves’ piece is to think, “yeah, it happens. You’ll survive.” Then I remember just what an ugly experience that can be. Then I remember that sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much game you’ve got, if people aren’t buying what you have to sell.
doom
And for secession see Vermont too. It’s not just for the right, although the right hops on the bandwagon wherever it comes up. The South can now make a case under customary international law that they have recourse to rebellion because the state has deprived Gulf peoples of their marine livelihood and well-being. There’s an incremental option there, UK-style devolution. It doesn’t strike at military/industrial parasitism but it might permit regions to better control banks and other oligopolies.
Maude
The ‘State’ has deprived them? You seem confused, the entity that deprived the Gulf of their Marine life is a Private ‘foreign’ Corporation.
doom
A private foreign corporation in lockstep collusion with the state (e.g. NOAA, USCG, EPA, DOI, and legislators at the state and federal levels.) This is not a blanket antigovernment rant, this pertains to a state that risks failure from pervasive corruption and trading in influence.
cougar_w
Ring of truth, right there.

That comment (well this whole thread) is going to become part of my Book of Shadows.

purple
Except there is nothing to show that a country of 30 million won’t create its own divisions. And then you break it down to 3 million,etc etc

Events are moving in the opposite direction.

The world is more cohesive and integrated than at anytime in human history. I can communicate for free, by video and audio, right now with anyone in the world.

pros
“right now” are important qualifiers

google and verizon have made proposals to end net neutrality

once all communication is web-dependent and controlled my monopoly, centralised control of access and censorship become quite easy matters.

readerOfTeaLeaves
Indeed. This is a little understood, but quite ominous, problem.
cougar_w
Illusion.

You are speaking to my industry, which I know top to bottom. And what you perceive is illusory at least. The entire structure could be collapsed (or worse, subverted) with one well-placed Presidential order. Or more easily, a somewhat broader interpretation of a few lines in the (you have to wonder about who names these things and the extent of their criminal genius) Patriot Act.

Ishmael
Jim — Very good thoughts. Originally, as the 13 states were set up we had a large number of seperate experiments going on regarding how to govern. If one state was doing better than another then good ideas could be taken from that state. The people would have demanded it.

Since 1865 we have had a movements towards more and more centralization forcing bad ideas down upon the population from the top even though the people were against it.

Ishmael
Kievite says — sayd “Clerical fascism is one possibility.”

That is an interesting choice of words. I have sometimes wondered if the future instead of being like the French Revolution instead being more like the English Civil War, when the protestant conservatives became disgusted with the English monarchy. Of course it only took a generation of the Lord Protector’s puritan rule for the English to get their fill of that.

Kevin Smith
The grossest error in the stimulus package was to waste money on clunkers and homes, when the US and its allies allies in desperate need of resources to maintain its basic infrastructure.

I realize there are lead time issues [and in the US, the certainty that projects will be bogged down in litigation].

It would be criminal ["hostis generis humanis"] if the various wars were being used as “stimulus”.

pros
Schwartzman has become a drunkard and needs to go to rehab.

his position is dangerously close to

“If you say anything bad about a banker you’re a Nazi”

Genghis
There is no doubt in my mind that all your interlocutors make excellent points. While it’s debatable that stimulus funds are too few they certainly seem to have been misdirected. Witness, for example, the non-stop traffic jams and deteriorating air quality in the LA basin and tell me that investment in a proper commuter rail system doesn’t make sense from the employment and positive long run externality angle.

The main problem seems to be an increasingly decadent national mentality demanding instant self-gratification without concern for long term challenges and collateral damage. This urge seems to have gone parabolic over the past generation and can explain lots of phenomena from the increase in income inequality to terrorist toddlers. Suppose this is par for the course for an empire in (relative) decline. The time to fear revolution is when the new age lumpen proletariat cubicle dwellers, worked to the bone to fatten corporate profit margins but facing deteriorating standards of living themselves, figure out that their futures have been mortgaged by the politicians and the corporations who control them.

Jim Haygood
This chart shows an index compiled by the Consumer Metrics Institute, which is drawn directly from online consumer durables purchases and therefore leads GDP reports by several months. The rate of change in the smoothed index has plunged back to its crisis level of autumn 2008:

http://dshort.com/charts/Consumer-Metrics-GI-GDP-SPX.gif

Article link:

http://dshort.com/articles/Consumer-Metrics-Growth-Index.html

So I tend to believe Roubini’s claim that 3Q GDP prints sub 1%. And for my own part, I suspect that 4Q goes negative, as we end a third year of recession in December 2010 and enter the fourth. As an aside, Depression I (1929-1933) lasted 43 months.

Yep, it’s pretty ugly out there. On Monday, somebody stole a log splitter from my rural farm in broad daylight — our first problem with theft in a long time. Lots of desperate folks out there, urban and rural.

MikeNY
I agree, Yves. We will see more QE, probably in Q3, and, ultimately (absence another Internet miracle), we will be forced into a huge jobs bill. We cannot have 15 million people falling off unemployment benefits and hungry.

But since the first stimulus was largely wasted giveaways to the states and to the Dem voter base, the bar for the next bill has been set higher — which means we will need to endure more pain (i.e., cover) for DC to act. A big Republican victory in November just raises that bar more. The end game for everyone is political stability.

Kevin de Bruxelles
Very interesting post. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Inspired by both Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy and a recent post Attempter had up about among other things Marxism. I have been trying to break down American society into classes and to understand the power relations between the classes. From what I can see there is no revolution on the horizon, but who knows maybe things will change?

In feudal times the class structure was easy. You had the peasants who produced the wealth and the aristocratic/priestly class who were parasitical and extracted as much wealth as possible from the peasants. In return the aristocrats provided military protection and occasional tickets to the afterlife. The key to stability was convincing hte peasants that their overlords rendered essential services.

In modern America you basically have four classes; two parasitical and two productive. The highest is the parasitical Rentier class which basically hovers over productive society seeking opportunities to extract rent in all its various forms. At the bottom you have the parasitical Lumpenproletariat (gang bangers, meth heads, crack ho’s and the like) who suck the life blood out of society through criminal activity and/or lives on welfare or in the penitentiary. The two productive classes are the Peasants; who are uneducated to somewhat educated people who basically follow the law and most of the time have jobs. On top of these you have the Bourgeoisie who are white-collar workers with educations and with more cultural refinement than the Peasants.

Politically both parties are under the thumb of the Rentier class. Democrats tend to be more culturally and occasionally economically aligned with the Bourgeoisie and they tend to be quite protective of the Lumpenproletariat. Republicans are economically tied to the Rentier and occasionally to the Bourgeoisie class but make strong emotional appeals to the Peasants and are quite hostile to the Lumpenproletariat and some elements of the Bourgeoisie.

The key to a strong and stable society is to diminish the two parasitical classes to the minimum. The only way a just welfare state is possible is if producers and the parasites tend to be the same people, with their status depending on their age or particular circumstances. The key to avoiding conflict is if the line between parasite and producer passes through the same person. A worker who is a parasite when young and old and occasionally when unemployed will support a welfare state while he is a producer as well. But when a Peasant sees a corrupt and greedy Rentier class combined with a huge and rapacious Lumpenproletariat sucking the life blood out of his society, he will not support for the continuation of the looting welfare state.

For there to be a productive revolution in America the Peasants and the Bourgeoisie would need to combine against the two parasitical classes. But the culture wars being driven by the media elites ensure that these two groups will stay at each other’s throats for the foreseeable future. IN some ways the Peasants would love to go after the Lumpens and many elements of the Bourgeoisie would go after the Rentiers but the key is that this will only work if both productive classes combine. A revolution led by the Bourgeoisie alone would be pretty hopeless. If the Peasants really started to rise alone (and not the current Rentier-class led Tea Party movement) their anger would be directed towards the Lumpenproletariat and away from the Rentiers and lead to a hopeless and bloody stalemate.

So it seems the current trends look good for the Rentier class. Profits and labor are more and more being outsourced. The ever-growing Lumpenproletariat not only provides live training for America’s security forces to train for future overseas duties, it also ensures that tensions between parasites and producers means that what remains of the US welfare state will continue to be dismantled. The Bourgeoisie will take a hit but they have no real options besides expatriation since they refuse to combine with the Peasants against both parasitical classes.

And of course I have not explained (nor thought as much about) what it means to actually attack a social class. My first thoughts would be that to attack the Lumpenproletariat would not only mean making sure jobs were available for those who actually did want to pass to the Peasant class, it would also mean to attack the very dysfunctional culture at its root and that means with the raising of children.. Most Lumpen adults are hopeless after a childhood of Lumpen deprivation. Attacking the Rentier class would be more straightforward, the question is acquiring the power to actually carry out attacks.

attempter
Thanks for the link, Kevin.

Going with this terminology, if we eradicated the rentier parasites, then the lumpenproles and the bourgeoisie would soon cease to exist, and we’d have only producers.

Since all unemployment is the result of artificial scarcity of one or another input, engineered in order to create extraction opportunities for elite parasites, then once rent-seeking was abolished there’d no longer be unemployment, since everyone would have the opportunity to work. To give one obvious example, post-oil localized food production will be a growth industry, and there’s no lack of land for such proprietors, except where land is hoarded by banksters. Eradicate the rentier land monopoly (which in fact never emerged from feudalism at all; to render it “capitalist” in a truly Lockean sense would constitute a modernization which never occured previously), and you generate sufficient economic capacity for full employment.

Meanwhile the bourgeosie, the “white collar worker”, a hanger-on of the rentier class, would be forced by circumstance to stop leeching and commence working for a living. So it too would fade out.

We’d be left only with a sustainable, steady-state, full-employment economy, which would also for the first time in history maximize human fulfillment.

That’s one option for the post-oil world. The other is total refeudalization, but in a far more vicious way than prior medieval feudalism. That’ll be because we’ll lack the organic sense of family, town, countryside, religion, culture, while the overlords will also lack the restraints of the chivalry ideology (honored more in the breach historically, but they did exist). Instead they’ll operate according to the precepts of instrumental reason, “libertarianism”, greed fundamentalism, and totalitarianism. The result will be infinitely worse than the original feudalism.

So there’s our choice – freedom and a new vision of prosperity, or total enslavement and death.

purple
Even more simply, without private property there would be no homelessness.

Privatizing everything creates scarcity and rent-seekers,, and of course ’self-interest’.

Progressive Ed
Great point. Let’s check out the Marxist cultures around the world (both now and historically) and model the USA on the one that delivers the most equality and least exploitation of the workers. My nomination is Cambodia of the 1970’s, though perhaps N. Korea or Cuba is more realistic. Viva La Raza!
Ishmael
Even more simply, without private property there would be no homelessness. ————————————– Purple, I believe you have a typo. I think you meant, “without private property there would be no homes.”

There, fixed it.

Kevin de Bruxelles
Attempter,

I find your idealized agrarian society very appealing; I am a bit of a foodie and my dream is to someday own some land and grow my own food (I may change my mind when I actually start doing that of course). And I’m sure many of the answers to today’s problems lie in moving in that direction. What I don’t see addressed is the human, no biological, propensity towards cheating. After all the human parasitical classes are no different than brood parasites like the cuckoo bird, which leaves its eggs in the nests of other species. Usually the cuckoo chick hatches first, grows quickly, and eventually evicts the true offspring of its “parent”. Other birds must then develop defences against this parasitical behaviour while not going so far as to destroy themselves in paranoia.

So in an idealized agrarian society there will be bandits roaming the land. I’m thinking of Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” where a village must defend itself against the imminent attack by a well-organized band of thieves who will attack at harvest time. Of course the resultant creation of a soldierly class eventually leads to both private property and in order to enforce these property rights, a strong centralized government. And this government very quickly becomes the executive committee of the ruling class. And then the ruling class eventually gets dominated by the parasitical Rentier class. And then we are right back to where we started!

I’d be interesting in your ideas of how to deal with Hobbes’ three problems of man’s selfishness, diffidence (demand for security), and need for glory. Obviously alongside these instincts are man’s ability toward cooperation and altruism. Any successful society must diminish the former (without resorting to totalitarianism) while encouraging the latter.

attempter
Well, I’m no hippie pacifist. My idealization would include a militia of able-bodied adults, like the Minutemen. So bandits, at least, would be no problem.

As for greed and stratification trying to arise again within, I’m not sure. I think in terms of a far better educational system including the right humanistic anti-sociopath moral curriculum, along with something like the ancient Athenian custom of ostracism for incorrigible Randian scumbags. That’s just a sketch; I haven’t thought it all out yet. Unfortunately, it looks like we have time….

EmilianoZ
How’s the food in Bruxelles? Plenty of sprouts I presume. I don’t envy you.

Why are the peasants so obsessed with the lumpen? I’m pretty sure the amount of resources they take up parasitically is negligible compared to those stolen by the rentiers. It must be like a rounding error in the vast sums diverted by the rentiers. The rentiers just do it more stealthily. That’s why it’s more urgent to deal with the rentiers.

I don’t have any special sympathy for the lumpen but I know they can’t bankrupt us. The rentiers can, already have maybe. It’s so obvious. Why can’t the peasants understand that?

Psychoanalystus
“We’d be left only with a sustainable, steady-state, full-employment economy, which would also for the first time in history maximize human fulfillment.”

That reminds me of one of the original Star Trek episodes, where highly intellectual and scientific societies chose to live in what appeared to be simple peasant societies, with no machinery or technology in sight. The only thing though, is that those “people” had a few million years of evolution over us.

Psychoanalystus

doom
Some of the most interesting empirical work discounts class

http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/theory/

stratification to focus on a ruling network at the top. But the normative stuff they come up with is oddly conservative: the Dems are your only hope, etc.

Kevin de Bruxelles
Thanks for the link, the articles look very interesting. In fact I have a copy of “The Power Elite” sitting on my desk but I haven’t read it yet, but I will soon.

And I will keep in mind the “your only hope is the Dems” warning!

doom
On the other hand, I can relate to their idea that the key to reform is to crosscut partisan opposition with an non-exclusive ideological test – they suggest human rights. That was the secret of the civil-rights movement, after all: it tore both parties apart.
rene
I appreciate your helicopter view on the classes of America, Kevin. One point of criticism, if they guys and gals from the Lumpenproletariat would cease to exist. There would be an awful lot of institutions such as the police/penitentiairy system, the DEA and FBI facing dramatic job losses. We MUST maintain the status-quo. We can’t afford to lose another couple of million middle-class jobs. Therefore, we have to find ways of providing the crack whores and gangsters with cheap heroine, cocaine and crack from Afghanistan, Colombia and of course Mexico.
Kevin de Bruxelles
Thanks, and yeah, I bet the new stimulus will in fact just be turning 10% more of the population into Lumpenproles by shipping even more Peasant jobs overseas so that we can create even more of those security-type positions.
Chicagolawyer
You left out the government worker class, which likely belongs on the parasitic side. Already there is a tension over private sector workers having to contribute taxes toward the generous pensions of government workers and forgo saving for their own retirement. Though it professes to be committed to empowerment of the little people/change, the government worker class benefits most from the status quo (control over the means of taxation/appropriation).
Kevin de Bruxelles
Good points. If government is but a tool of the Rentier class, deployed to extract wealth from the productive Peasants and Bourgeoisie, then its workers could certainly be considered parasitical. On the other hand, if a government works in the interest of the productive classes, then its workers should be counted as productive.

What is interesting about the government vs. private sector worker compensation debate is that the private sector worker is put in the ambiguous position of being somewhat on the management side of the issue when considering public sector compensation since if we look at it as zero-sum (and some may argue it is not) then the government worker’s high pensions and salaries come at the expense of the private sector worker in the form of higher taxes. In a healthy society the private sector worker has to be convinced the government worker is providing society a useful service in return for his salary.

skippy
Um 4 categories…now where have I read that before ummm.

Slave, Freeman, Citizen, Nobleman.

Ohhh I would love some journo to give Obama a HAIL CEASER after a answered a question.

Skippy…Togas and gladius for all, really I mean it, it sure would clear up the visual aspect of this illusion.

Adam
Many people early on wanted to compare Obama to FDR. That comparison could never work out because FDR came to power after the country had veered off the cliff and already crashed and burned. People were ready for major change including many of the elite. While things are rough now, the country hasn’t come apart at the seams, yet. I’m pretty pessimistic and expect it to sooner or later. The interesting part will be who ends up with the controls at that point, the new FDR, Churchill, Hitler, or Mao?
Jim Haygood
Frank Roosevelt had a clean federal balance sheet, thanks to Coolidge’s fiscal surpluses in the 1920s. He had enormous unused borrowing capacity, and a budget devoid of ‘entitlements’ tapeworms.

O’Bomba wasted what little borrowing capacity he had on corrupt TARP II bailouts, and expanding the Af/Pak quagmire. Stoopid! One Term Obama richly deserves his approaching obscurity.

rental_paradise
‘One Term Obama richly deserves his approaching obscurity.’ You really think the first African-American elected to the presidency will fade into obscurity? Really?
Ishmael
Yup!
EmilianoZ
“It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mice.”

The same is true if the cat doesn’t catch the mice.

Paul Tioxon
The most relevant recent analysis on social revolution, would the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 20th century. The problem with the people here is that they are so socially isolated they have no idea what goes on, what is fabricated astro turf media manipulation and what kind of powder keg could ignite. The damage to the well educated middle class, the middle managers and the higher up corporate HQ types will be the death knell of our placid social order. It is a well maintained thesis, that rising expectations among African American, who had achieved a measure of success, money, education, responsibility and confidence from their WWII experiences in Europe and after at home, decided to push to a conclusive victory over Jim Crow, 2nd class citizenship in the North and overall acceptance into all of the venues of the mainstream of America. Of course they had many courageous allies outside of their community. But the key point here is the rising expectations and the domestic Berlin Wall they were smashed up against while coming home to America. Che was a doctor, Arafat a civil engineer. You get my point. Right now there is a lady in Philadelphia selling cupcakes from a truck. She use to be a lawyer. Her truck was confiscated by the local business licensing inspectors of the city. It did not make people love government more. As we have seen with the character assassination against the strategic defaulters, usually, the wiser, better educated, less sentimental parts of the middle class that do not have the social ties that bind as much as the corporate mindset that made them successful, they are not being spared the welfare queen treatment to stoke the passions of resentment. Those that remain employed, housed, toting their children off to college undisturbed, need to feel that their neighbor is the slacking enemy, not the oligarchs of Wall St. If too many more well educated, healthy minded, confident middle class types find themselves involuntarily ruined, their anger will not all be inner directed. They will not feel guilty or ashamed and their anger may well be directed outward towards the real culprits. The people who spent a lifetime pursuing success in a discipline manner while deferring gratification know all too well that revenge is a dish served cold. Economic recovery delayed is economic recovery denied. And desperate people do desperate things, especially after they have nothing left to lose. Let’s hope and pray that Obama sees the crisis for what it is, not nearly over and crushes the economy with liquidity to get people back to work and not have time on their hands to listen to demagogues that will tear apart what tolerance and patience we still have left.
pros
Crunch time will probably come when we cannot afford to both: 1.pay the military and 2. bail out the banks.
readerOfTeaLeaves
And desperate people do desperate things, especially after they have nothing left to lose. Let’s hope and pray that Obama sees the crisis for what it is, not nearly over and crushes the economy with liquidity to get people back to work and not have time on their hands to listen to demagogues that will tear apart what tolerance and patience we still have left.

Amen.

Eric
To say things like the extreme right has a “monopoly” on strident, uncompromising opportunists fundamentally discredits this contribution. It simply isn’t true, either currently or historically. If thinking about what is written is unimportant, then the reader has every reason to wonder what other parts of this post and other posts on this site are simply typing for typing’s sake on the part of the author. You treat what you write more seriously, I’ll read what you write with a great deal more interest.
bystander
So who is your anti-Palin, then?
peterb
In the meantime, it’s immediately apparent your flaccid plea for equivalence renders your comment entirely useless.
IdahoSpud
A batshit-crazy leftie movement that hogged th evening news wouldbe a nice counterpoint to Yves’ assessment. Since there is none, her point stands, unflaccid.
cougar_w
To say things like the extreme right has a “monopoly” on strident, uncompromising opportunists is to simply state the obvious.

Perhaps you are wondering how such a lop-sided situation could arise in a country where everyone has free access to media.

It is a myth that everyone has free access to media. In gaining access to media it helps if one is a strident, uncompromising opportunist as this sort of behavior suits the agenda of the media moguls, who as a class are strident, uncompromising opportunist.

See? It all makes sense.

Bruce P.
About 15 years ago, a colleague and friend told me, “Pretty soon, there will be three groups of people in America: the super-rich, everybody else and the armed guards that keep them apart.” Now, this observation came from a battle-hardened, ex-Marine who had been up near the DMZ in Viet Nam, someone who later had become a Quaker. So, he saw both sides of the war/peace calculation, and he came to choose peace.

I somewhat agreed with my friend’s prediction but thought it would take years for this to evolve. Wrong! I believe it’s happening more quickly. Witness the barriers and police presence that keep the G-20 types and the Davos crew cocooned away from the protesters.

As your link to the New Yorker article on the covert operations of the Koch tycoons illustrates, the super-rich effectively exploit wedge issues to drive divisions among the population so that any organized resistance to the elite agenda is neutralized.

The Brits successfully used the divide and conquer strategy in its occupation of Kenya. They were afraid that the three main tribal groups would join together to oppose their rule. Some Kenyan authors assert that British authorities eventually favored the Kikuyus to split them off from the other major tribal groups. It created a legacy of internal rivalry and division that was tragically reflected in the horrendous aftermath of the 2007 election, when ethic rivalry resulted in more than a thousand dead.

Hopefully, the recent constitutional vote in Kenya will reflect a new era of ethnic harmony; hopefully, too, the bulk of the American people will awake from their “lotos-eaters” daze and recognize that our emperors have no clothes. Then, maybe we, too, can move toward a period of mutual and peaceful collaboration.

marketfollower
Selfish young people?! What about retirees who demand unlimited medical benefits? They don’t want government interference in “their” medicare, and no one but them gets subsidized medical care. This includes especially the Tea Partiers, who wanted limited government spending on everyone else.
Amos Newcombe
This reminds me of the monkey trap, where the hole is big enough for the monkey’s open hand to go in, but too small to allow him to remove his fist clenched around the goodies inside. Are they really monkeys? Will they realize in time that the way to escape is to unclench that fist and stop looting the rest of the country? Maybe this time will be different.
cougar_w
Perhaps you hadn’t realized we are actually evolved from monkeys.
BondsOfSteel
The elites haven’t quite got a grasp on the anger out in the streets.

Sure, the Tea Party/Right is angry. So is the left.

Obama said that he didn’t run for President so he could bailout a bunch of fat cat bankers. But that’s what he did. People voted for him because they wanted change. That change did not happen. The health care bill is seen from the left as a giveaway to the insurance industry. The financial reform bill is seen as wallpapering over the problem… another win for predatory banks.

No one believes the government that all the gulf seafood they say is safe is really safe to eat.

readerOfTeaLeaves
With all due respect, if you read Yves’ book EConned, you may develop a better sense of how complex the mess actually was that Obama stepped into.

I do not say this to excuse Obama, nor anyone in D.C. As Lambert Strether pointed out @8:29 am, the failure to send some banksters to jail for accounting control fraud, the lack of perp walks has disastrous implications.

But the accounting fraud and the bad policy decisions are all based on set of how the economy works that are currently about as relevant as the sailing ship, the carriage coach, and using leeches as the main means of medical intervention.

The social disintegration alluded to in this post reflect a world in which economic notions of ‘free market capitalism’ have enabled people to act in ways that, while ‘good for the bottom line’ are socially destructive.

Some of that destructiveness took the shape of extraordinarily complex ‘derivatives’, whose purpose was arguably to be so convoluted as to be extremely difficult to decipher or unravel. But as long as those derivatives could be leveraged to ‘return on investment’, then our current economic models viewed them as very successful. Until they weren’t.

Blaming Obama doesn’t address the underlying problems.

‘Free market’ economic beliefs enable amoral conduct, in the sense that looking out primarily for one’s limited interest — at the expense of shared resources, or social stability — has been lauded as economically virtuous. This worked in a world of cheap resources; that’s probably no longer a wise assumption going forward. Consequently, the old economic models are less and less able to keep things together and the unraveling appears to gain velocity.

Blame Obama all you want; he badly needs new economic advisors IMVHO. But what he needs even more — like other global leaders — are new economic models that are far better suited to our current era (rather than harkening back to 1776, or 1928, or even 1952). The old model of ‘free market capitalism’ assumes that ‘all individuals acting selfishly will produce the greatest good for the greatest number’. It turns out that sometimes, it translates to criminal conduct (including beating up cabbies).

Society could descend into fascism, or revolution; both are risks. Or, it could see some kind of ‘economic Reformation’ in which fundamental beliefs about economic activities realign in ways that produce social stability and richer social ties.

Locked into ‘free market’ fundamentalist beliefs, there’s probably going to be more social unrest. We’re in urgent need of new economic models, IMVHO. That’s probably our best way of avoiding utter chaos.

BondsOfSteel
Let’s be clear here… I’m an Obama supporter. I don’t blame him for the cause of the crisis at all.

I do have some issues with policy decisions he (or by proxy his Administration) made.

1) The size of the stimulus. At the time he proposed it, it was criticized by many as way too small. (Krugman for example pushed hard for a larger stimulus.)

2) TARP. While Bush/Paulson were responsiable for the creation of TARP, AIG, AIG, AIG, and the Citibank backstop, Obama/Geithner backstopped BAC and allowed the TARP banks to buy back warrents before any deep investigation into the cause and with minimal impact to the banks. Moral hazard was not addressed.

OTOH, Obama’s use of TARP to provide DIP financing for GM/Chrysler will probably go down as his biggest success.

3) Financial reform was not nearly strong enough to avoid a similar collapse in the future. CDS look like they will not require collateral. The prop trading rules look like a sham. Fundamental safeguards around securitization were not put in place to allow that market to recover.

4) HAMP. They spent 50-60 billion and only [temporally?] saved 500,000 homeowners? We as taxpayers spent $100,000 on each ’saved’ case. (When people figure this out… watch out!)

My point was that Obama was elected with an overwelming mandate of ‘change’. What we’ve seen is mostly a tweaking of the existing systems which have already failed.

The failure to act more swiftly is either a faulure of Obama… or Simon Johnson was right in his article ‘The Quiet Coup’: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/05/the-quiet-coup/7364/1/

:(

Nick
“Another thread was the decay in values….’

Materialistic values completely permeate our culture and have driven those values not oriented to material gain from the field.

The dominant form of Christianity in the nation sees no problem with a gospel of prosperity, with megachurches catering to a pampered bourgeois, and with supporting a warrior mentality. The virtues of the Sermon on the Mount are completely absent from this doctrine.

Image really is everything in our culture. The cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the schools we attend–the signals of our class aspirations–are oriented to appearance rather than non-monetary qualities. Veblen’s analysis applies to all cultures, but it has become absurd in ours (sweet sixteen parties and million dollar bar mitvahs).

Rising violence should surprise no one, where market values are ascendant, and where corporations have the same or greater rights than humans.

Chester Genghis
The gospel of prosperity is not Christianity. It is heresy; antithetical to Christianity.

The fact that so many “Christians” accept it underscores your point though.

Doug Terpstra
“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” (Sinclair Lewis, in “It Can’t Happen Here”)

Although aided by the manifest schizophrenia of Old and New Testaments, only diabolical brilliance could so completely transmogrify the healer of the sick and defender of the poor, naked, prisoners, children, tax-men, lambs etc., into a patriotic warmongerer, lord of moneychangers and defender of xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic high priests and Pharisees.

Two books chronicle this perverse and dangerous mutation of Christianity (Churchianity) quite well:

Chris Hedges, “American Fascists: the Christian Right and the War on America”

Kevin Phillips, “American Theocracy: the Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century”

Progressive Ed
A third book is “Liberal Fascism” by J. Goldberg. It well complements the other two mentioned above.
Anastasia Beaverhausen
This Jonah Goldberg? http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-january-16-2008/jonah-goldberg

http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/08/jonah-goldberg-compares-va-pamphlet-to-nazi-eugenics.php

I’ll take my hyperbole with a lot less crazy, thank you.

Psychoanalystus
“with megachurches catering to a pampered bourgeois”

Indeed. If you haven’t already done it, check out the parking lot of your neighborhood’s megachurch. You’ll be amazed at the high density of Lexuses, Mercedeses, and BMWs.

Ain’t that a blessin’!

Psychoanalystus

John Ronaldo
aaah…the elites of McKinsey talking about the demise of the elites and anger of the common man. Will you get over this whole for-profit doomsaying? it’s getting quite tired. Either get off your ass and get involved in the actual policymaking world rather than complaining all day long. You seriously reside on the bottom rung of society. Worse than the Tea Partiers and Glenn Beck.
pros
Do you have a specific criticism of the analysis?
Progressive Ed
I would find it helpful if you could explain who Glen Beck is and what his ideas are. I haven’t watched TV for a number of years.
BigBadBank
Bravo Yves.

Just as there is a level of taxation above which the country suffers, so there is a level below which it doesn’t function.

Nick
Have any studies been done on whether the spending habits of the rich support industries which promote a vigorous economy?

For example, production of food is more important than production of yachts. Do high cost/high margin products skew an economy in less than optimal ways?

Jesse
I have written repeatedly of the pathology of the pigmen that will compel them obsessively to repeat their white collar crimes until something, or someone, stops them.

In the absence of government action they will continue until something else stops them. This is history.

http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2010/01/forecast-setting-stage-for-next-five.html

purple
In dictatorships it’s the wealthy who lose the most – at least in terms of money. For instance. Marcos in the Philippines liquidated the holdings of his rivals during his dictatorship.

The founder understood this well and that is the reason for our so-called checks and balances.

Yes, there is a deep power vacuum – and if the US goes down the entire world goes with us because we won’t go quietly.

Ishmael
Purple — your comment that the whole world will go with us is interesting. I am currently reading “Inside Hitler’s Bunker” which is the source for the movie “Downfall.” Interesting Hitler and many of the Nazi’s from the 30’s on repeatedly said that if they go they will take the whole world (or at least Europe/Germany) with them. I guess I would say it did not happen there and tend to think it will not happen in the US either.
Pavel Chichikov
“Materialistic values completely permeate our culture and have driven those values not oriented to material gain from the field.”

The victory of materialism is not complete, but those not in thrall to materialism are necessarily less visible. They are admittedly small in number, but their non-materialistic values will endure as materialism disperses in a cloud of mortal dust.

I say this as a Catholic, who sees his faith most perfectly preserved in small closed religious communities dedicated to work, prayer and personal material poverty.

Nick
The values of the marketplace have turned greed from a sin to a virtue.

Similarly, freedom has become a virtue for the selfish. This happened when individual liberty was taken out of the context of freedom within a community (the original right to bear arms in the Virginia Constitution was a right to bear arms on ONE’S own property–not conceal and carry, etc.).

guicciardini
Something like three or four people have angrily remonstrated against the assertion that the extreme right has a monopoly on strident, uncompromising opportunism.

Well, them’s the facts. While an equivalence may have existed between the extreme right and extreme left in 1935, one doesn’t any more.

The extreme left both inside and outside the US is a pathetic joke. Oh, I’m sure that they are vocal at times.

But they are *powerless* – something the extreme right is decidedly not.

Goin' South
My recent experience would confirm that, at least in my locale.

I’ve recently arrived in a Great Lakes city, intent on becoming involved in radical Leftist politics.

I’ve tried the anarchists/libcoms with whom I have the greatest ideological affinity, but they fail to show up for meetings half the time and can do little but argue about personalities when they do.

I was invited to a CPUSA meeting. The good news was that it made me feel young again even though I’m mid-50s. The bad news was that the whole meeting was devoted to electioneering for Democrats, even the most ConservaDem and corrupt of the local breed. When a book was mentioned that predicted the fall of Capitalism, one participant said, “I hope not before the election!!!”

I attended another large meeting full of political activists and labor reps. It consisted mostly of the paid operatives pushing canvassing for Dems while the rest of the room grumbled about the good-for-nothing politicians of both parties. The paid bureaucrats were frantic that no one was interested in phone banking, etc. this year.

Maybe there’s some other radical Left or even activist Left, but what I’ve seen here is indeed pitiful.

And in my view, that’s tragic, because a vibrant Left is desperately needed in this country.

Ishmael
Thanks for the good laugh. A radical left is needed in this country. Harharhar. May I ask what for! You should change your label from Goin’ South to Lost in Your Shorts.

How many times do radical left ideas have to fail in practice until we do not have to hear any more of this! To paraphrase Henry II, “Will not someone rid me of this idea.”

i on the ball patriot
Interesting post, some thoughts …

What jumps out here for me is the scamericancentric viewpoints expressed when this is in reality an intentionally orchestrated global crisis created by a wealthy ruling global elite who have no allegiance to any nation state and who have hijacked governments through control of the global central banks.

With that government control they have allowed corporations to become in effect mini nation states (many with revenues exceeding the GDP of real nation states) accountable only to the bottom line, that roam the planet, extract profit, and exert control.

The wealthy ruling elite global plan of Full Spectrum Dominance includes controlling the nation state militaries, and the big guy, Mr. Global Propaganda. It is Mr. Global Propaganda who really controls Mr. Market and is also responsible for intentionally coarsening the GLOBAL culture over the past forty years creating intentional divisiveness as a prelude to creation of perpetual conflict in the masses. The plans end game is a global two tier structure of ruler and ruled with the ruled in a perpetual conflict with each other. Its a herd thinning and resource control operation, ironically by the same scum bag folks who orchestrated the misdirection and over consumption of the planets resources.

Mr. Propaganda works to a global formula around the globe and makes possible in each nation state; blowing the debt bubbles, deregulating the nation states financial laws, importing foreign nationals, massive rural to city migrations, fomenting hate between those dislocated groups, encouraging right wing reactionaries to come out of the wood work, selling austerity programs, etc., all of which further fuel the divisiveness, create intentional chaos, and intensify the global perpetual conflict in the masses.

Its time to broaden the viewpoint. Read some other nation state blogs, especially UK blogs, you will feel right at home and more readily see the top down Mr. Global Propaganda orchestration formula.

Soooooo … scamericancentric viewpoints meet global problem.

The other shoe dropping feeling is a global feeling. It exists in most all other nation states. Recognize the global scope of the problem and address it, or, get used to the feeling of sinking slowly into a well orchestrated series of increasing crime ridden plateaus and ever deep valleys of despair as the global herd is intentionally thinned. Recapturing your own government is step one, and as formidable as that is, step two is even more difficult. The rogue global control of the super wealthy must be dealt with and eliminated. This is a class war. The lines become more clearly drawn as each day passes. I believe Roubini is right on — less than one percent growth. By design!

This is a unique and out of the ordinary problem. it will require unique and out of the ordinary solutions. Unless folks can reach out to each other globally and set aside the intentionally instilled divisiveness we are all screwed. A big part of forming that new alliance will be recognizing the unfair advantages of the past, as individuals and as nation states, and compensating for them.

[Interesting aside; many scamericans who were on board with the Full Spectrum Dominance plan, or supported it through ‘party affiliation’, failed to read the small print - the domestic population of scamerica is included for dominance.]

Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

Siggy
I generally don’t agree with your comments. This time, however, your are quite relevant and expressive of the nature of the sea change that is occuring.

The deception comment, however, is unnecessary and tends to impune earlier thoughts that had merit.

i on the ball patriot
Thanks Siggy, I generally agree with many of your comments.

Yes, the deception comment can be off-putting and muddy the waters, but it speaks to our cannibalistic nature, something many are in denial about, and which ultimately has to be recognized so as to rise above it. Its an everything up front all at once approach. Time is short and it is also meant to promote skepticism. We are all way too trusting and have to be much more involved in, and vigilant about, our political alliances.

Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

agog
UK blog recommendations please!
i on the ball patriot
Great ‘gateway to the UK’ web site here, “Lenin’s Tomb” — if you can handle the Marx base — with many links to other solid web sites and publications (scroll down to the bottom right for links). Again, note the nation state focus, similar limited political choices, and all of the other ‘formula’ problems that they are dealing with that have been created by Mr. Global Propaganda.

Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

i on the ball patriot
Sorry, here’s the link …

http://leninology.blogspot.com/

PoP the ProP
hammer hit nail straight on the head and again and again and again keep swinging partner lurkers are listening
anonymous
I’m extremely optimistic about the Republicans winning big in November. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans have a real-live opposition willing to take scalps and stand up to the party machine. The Tea Party rank and file are as hostile to the banks and Wall St. as anyone on this board.

I agree completely with the need for larger stimulus. My own solution which I’ve advanced before is simple. No bailout money for banks or homeowners. No extension of UI benefits.

Direct government hire of all unemployed to paint schools etc.

Partner failing US auto companies with Japanese, German, or Korean companies. Flush corporate and union managers.

Go nuclear. Every state that wants federal help takes at least one new facility and one waste site. Only then do they get funds for high-speed rail and green jobs, etc.

Sadly, none of that happened or will happen with the current crop of Dems in power. I think Republicans are going to be very protectionist and pro-business. I’d much prefer to see something close to my own approach, but the bottom line is people have got to go back to work before anything improves.

I see the Republicans as much more ambitious and willing to take chances than Dems. And by Republicans I mean Scott Brown and Sarah Palin type Republicans.

Inflate My Grades and his pals Tim, Larry, and Ben are not going to take from Goldman Sachs to create jobs for those in need.

Chris
If Republicans take power we’re in real trouble. How can you be optimistic when they have so many ideological extremists in their midst? Jesus!
guicciardini
Mate, you really don’t get where the GOP gets their moneys, do ya?

They get it from Corporate America and Wall Street.

And the party gets its marching orders from guys who say that opposing Wall Street bonuses and taxing PE guys are the functional equivalent to the worst excesses of the Soviet Union.

You are *sincerely* deluded if you think the GOP will be any better than the Democrats on this. Were you in a coma from 1995 to 2007?

The sad fact is that Obama was elected because people wanted an FDR, but they held the election in, essentially 1929 instead of 1932. Herbert Hoover did not become “Herbert Hoover” until after failing spectacularly. The country – and FDR – were willing to make enormous leaps of faith in 1933 only because of the disaster of the preceding four years.

anonymous
The GOP gets most of it’s money from the same class of people Dems do. So I do, actually, ‘get it.’ I also get that the Tea Party has about a billion times the backbone “progressive” Dems do. I watched Dennis sell-out the public option for a ride in Air Force One President Got the Fat Cats’ Backs. Remember the politics of fear the WH played? If you don’t give the Health Insurance industry 32 million new customers, Obama’s Presidency Will Be Destroyed!!TM.

I stated clearly my preferred choice. That isn’t going to happen. People need jobs and if the GOP doesn’t deliver quick, then there’s going to be real talk of a third party.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a major trade war break-out, with a large number of Americans refusing to purchase any Chinese products, etc. Something has to kick start employment and manufacturing.

Patriotism, protectionism, and pro small business.

Chester Genghis
“Republicans are going to be very protectionist and pro-business.” Huh?

That’s an incongruous statement. I realize there are many aspects to protectionism, but if anything pro-business interests have engaged in relentless scare-mongering of protectionism.

Republicans will use protectionist or anti-protectionist rhetoric to suit the needs (and the audience) of the moment. But their policies will be decidedly anti-protectionist.

anonymous
Certainly Republican corporate politicians have been and will. But that approach may not sell this time round. The Joe Miller candidacy in Alaska is based, in part, in turning down federal pork, of the Stevens kind.

My belief is that consumer confidence will improve once Dems no longer control the House/and or the Senate. Both the WH and the Republicans will try to take credit for what I predict will be a modest drop in unemployment and a slightly rosier view of the future. That’s barring the wheels coming off in Afghanistan or Iran.

Think xenophobia and people demanding to buy “made in America” products. You can see the Tea Party getting behind that philosophy can’t you? Because if you can’t then you really don’t get what they’re about.

Chester Genghis
Don’t think so. GOP will use Tea Partiers as they’ve used the religious right in the past. They’ll give them lip service and continue to do the bidding of their corporate masters. (When in doubt, follow the money…)
Ishmael
Yves — Let us first look where you are talking to people at. New York City! Where are the big blood sucking squids located — New York City. Quess what happened, the people of this country have woke up and realized that NYC only survives by sucking the blood out of every where else in this country. If you do not believe this then look what one of the top objectives of the Federal Reserve is — to keep the center of banking in NYC.

I split my time between LA and Oklahoma-Texas-New Mexico. LA seems to be slowly sinking because it and California were built on Financial Services and Real Estate. Much of the shadow banking system was located in So Cal. On the other hand, Oklahoma (especially), Texas and New Mexico are doing pretty well supported by oil, nat gas and other commodities.

With that said, I was back in Oklahoma a few weeks ago during the primaries and I have never heard such hatred of Democrats and bankers. I believe there could be real divides in this country and the south, mid-west and west are really getting tired of being sucked dry.

As far as guns, so what. I think everyone should carry a gun and be taught to shot one. I have had guns since I was 8 and most people I know in Oklahoma and Texas have one. The only real problem now days is ammunition. Ever since Obama was elected there is not enough ammo and that is especially true about 380’s for small little carry hand guns.

I think in the end, the sucking will stop and NYC, Chicago and LA will probably go through financial crises and get much smaller.

Pavel Chichikov
11:08 AM writes:

“Direct government hire of all unemployed to paint schools etc.”

“Partner failing US auto companies with Japanese, German, or Korean companies. Flush corporate and union managers.”

“Go nuclear. Every state that wants federal help takes at least one new facility and one waste site. Only then do they get funds for high-speed rail and green jobs, etc.”

You say you look forward to a big Republican win? Your suggestions require a *very* big and aggressive government.

anonymous
True. That didn’t happen. I’ve lived in right-wing small government economies. Those who can’t or won’t work get screwed. As I noted, up-thread. Obama was and is a creature of corporate America. Progressive Dems sold out the poor and the unemployed. I can live with small government Republicans as long as people have work.

Right now they don’t.

Progressive Ed
“Obama was and is a creature of corporate America. Progressive Dems sold out the poor and the unemployed”. No. The Movement and the President understands that the shifting of America from a capitalist state base on relatively free markets to a Progressive state based on the reduction of small businesses (the home of individual liberty)and the central control of the economy using one or two large corporations in each sector of the economy takes time. It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary. Have patience!
Bob Morris
As for Obama’s ‘weakness’, I encourage all to read Peter Camejo’s ‘Avocado Declaration’ written in 2004 where he explains how an important function of the Democratic Party has been to siphon real protest into itself where it is then rendered impotent.

http://www.cagreens.org/longbeach/avocado.htm

Ishmael
I do not believe in the one person one vote system. If you are a free rider then you should not be allowed to vote. I would only give the write to vote to those people who pay net income taxes above a certain moving average over a 5 year period. That would get rid of the system which we now have where large blocks of people vote for those who will give them the most.

The mega wealthy throw out little crumbs to lower income people paid for on the backs of the middle class.

Maude
There is so much wrong with that suggestion that I don’t even know where to start.

Here’s one… You do realize that Congress can legislate tax rates don’t you?

Ishmael
Maude — Are you addressing me. Of couse I understand Congress can set the tax rates. That is why I say only those that pay taxes should have the right to determine the rates. Why should someone who pays no money in have the right to determine how it is spend. That makes no sense.

Right now we have a larger group of people who are net receivers from the government than we have of net payers. This is another one of those unsustainable trends in this country. Personally, I believe the taking of money from one person to give money to another is a form of enslaving. What else can it be?

My comment has been the norm through out history far more than the current system. Probably one of the big reasons this country is so screwed up. The free riders have too much say.

saint grottlesex
Affluent people aren’t afraid of taxes. The petit bourgeois can’t tolerate them, though. It’s the status anxiety, isn’t it? Don’t worry, if you can’t afford civilized-country taxes, there’s plenty of people richer than you who can.
Dameocrat
Ishmael. I think our country is being sucked dry by both the bankers in New York, and the extracters in Texas and Oklahoma, neither of whom make money on anything creative. The idea that Obama has done anything to raise the price of ammo is delusional. I would only give the right to vote to people who don’t confuse the right with write!
Ishmael
Dameocrat — You must have a poor comprehensive reading skills. I never said the price of ammo went up I said that it is hard to find. Two seperate things. Also, if you do not believe gun sales went up due to Obama’s election you must not read newspapers.
Ishmael
Dameocrat demonstrates the belief of most what is currently rebranded Progressives (even though most of their policies are regressive). The people in Oklahoma and Texas are hard working people (I have ran into them in oil fields and mines all over the world) who invest their sweat and capital to make a living, but Dame hear belittles their efforts as not being “Creative.” Maybe she should look around and look what oil brings you — everything from transportation, through plastics, petrochemicals as well pharmacuticals.

Progressives first look down their nose at hard working people and then retreat to their self righteous statements about American Indians, slaves and women (see below). Her statements demonstrates the Progressive so called intellectual elitism which if it wasn’t so sad I would find kind of humorous.

They hide behind the shield of doing for the People but deep down they really dislike working people because they are not “Creative.”

lalaland
IMHO the biggest problem facing America is it’s citizens think they know way, way more than they actually do.
MinnItMan
This is what “infrastructure” spending looks like today:

http://preservationmonthly.com/Story_08254.htm

I wish I was more than 10% kidding. This press release release is more interesting for what it doesn’t say. The existing MERS system typically drops loans that have been fully foreclosed, so either these are loans that haven’t been foreclosed, but where the owner has abandoned, or they are fully foreclosed loans where the “owner” probably prefers not to be immediately determinable (for example, Deutsche Bank Natl Trust Co. frequently takes possession, even though BOA is what shows in the MERS system. My understanding and experience is that DBNTC’s ultimate interest would not show in the MERS system). Local government is looking for somebody to pay taxes and do maintenance. I’m thinking MERS’s member may not be that happy about this.

Dameocrat
I would also like to point out Ishmael’s tax plan would allow the bankers to vote and all the people who lost their jobs as a result of what they did would lose it. Also the oil men that got us into the war that caused the mess we’re in today would have it too. Bleck.
Ishmael
Dameorcat — you really show no understanding of numbers. First I said a moving average so if you lose your job for a while you would still have the right to vote. Secondly, the number of middle class and upper middle class people as well as tax paying blue collar workers out number the so called banksters by about 100 times.

Really got you worked up that you might lose the votes you purchase with OTM (Other People’s Money)!

When this country was founded the Founding Fathers understood what I am saying and only gave the right to vote to land holders.

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money. Alexis de Tocqueville

Oh and those big bad oil men. I guess you believe oil which lies under a persons ground should be given to the state. Why don’t you go get in your car and drive out into the country so you can cool off.

Ishmael
Uppps, OPM not OTM. Showing my ignorance there. I flunked spelling!
Dameocrat
yeah the founders gave the right to vote to guys that parasited off of indian land, the work of slaves, and women.
Ishmael
Dameocrat since I have blood of several indian tribes in me and my great great grandmother lost her life on the Trail of Tears after their property was taken from them in Tenn, I think I should be more bitter about that then you. Personally, if you are saying give all the land back to the American Indians that it was taken from I say let’s do it!
RichmondTom
I would discount the comments about a decay of values. Older adults have been whining about the decay of values among young people since before Homer was a pup. Yeah, yeah – “Those youngins are out of control – sure is different than when we was kids.” – Thanks for the insight, gramps!
Ishmael
With regard to “infrastructure spending” it is difficult for me to understand the continual demand for this. First all we need to do is look at Japan to see what an enormous misallocation of resources government infrastructure spending is. If the purpose of infrastructure spending is to get money moving then why doesn’t the government just have a 3 year tax refund with a maximum and minimum of let’s say $50,000 and $500,000 with of course those who paid no taxes getting NOTHING! This would enable the middle class who are under water to get their head above water, those in the middle class who were prudent would have money to spend or invest (asset allocation of those with a profit motive is far superior to those just spending OPM) and ensuring the uber class will not have an enormous windfall.
John L
No, the purpose of infrastructure spending is to fix the infrastructure. Any economic stimulus it may create, welcome it may be, is secondary.

Otherwise, the money could be spent to hire people to dig holes, and hire others to fill those holes back in, and it would be as effective.

The need to overhaul the infrastructure is undeniable. Many interstate bridges, for example, were built 50 years ago and have reached the end of their expected lifespans. How many more bridge collapses are we willing to accept?

Anonymous-scientist
I’ll grant you that teenagers have always been a wild bunch… but a 1930s teenager was able to work with their hands if they needed to.
Ishmael
Anon-scientist — Quite true. Even up through the 70’s many teenagers were out working, at least in the Midwest. I knew guys who went on harvest at 16 (maybe younger), worked on cars, delivered papers, sacked groceries (still see some of that when I visit Oklahoma), mow lawns and etc.

One of the reasons that the US forces advanced so rapidly during WW2 is because every man was mechanical. If a vehicle broke down every guy knew how to fix it.

With that said, I many times work with young college grads and find many of them right on the ball. I had lunch with a young lady yesterday who is far sharper and on target than I (not that I am any reference) than I was at her age. On one consulting project she was my supervisor and on others I have been hers (she is mid-level at a consulting firm).

Yves Smith
You don’t live in NYC, and this is children MUCH younger than teenagers. The kid who was beating up on his small frail nanny in the story was a very large roughly 5 year old. Current parenting style are producing narcissists on a mass basis. For instance, I saw a kid, no older than 10, probably closer to 8, on a bike nearly knock an old woman over, right in front of me. I said something to him. The nanny interceded and defended the kid! This is pervasive, you can’t say a negative word to children, they are simply not disciplined by parents or their surrogates. This is not a mere “the kids are rowdy” this is a breakdown in transmission of behaviors needed for society to function.
Ishmael
Yup, plenty of those generated by the Santa Monica and Malibu school system.
parheel
Some realities our bias want to dispute: 1) China’s command economy has kicked our quarter to quarter governance for decades.

2) The same qtr to qtr gov. has resulted in an inability to plan whether it’s R&D on the business level or political governance.

3) Globalization has killed the goose that laid the golden egg (an upwardly mobile middle class). It will go down in history as a massive failure. Balance of trade is way way way more important than year to year deficits.

We have other problems but what I’ve come to realize is that the so-called smart folks (whether Wall Street or politicos in Washington) are dumber than posts except when it comes to individual short term greed. They’ve got that down pat.

dameocrat
The rich are paranoid. I think there will be tea party inspired militia type violence in southern and mountain and high plains states, but it will be here and there not widespread and it will sputter out once their financial backers such as koch industries get scared of them and stop the money flow. Most of those states right wingers are cop worshippers, and will not ultimately side with law enforcement rather than anarchist right. They can’t piss off their body guards.

The left will probably move to the green party and the green party will become ascendant. Moderate republicans will move to the democrats to support Obummer, who is definitely their guy. The palinists will be confined to the low population and southern states. The bankers and the extractors will be taxed not killed.

DR
“semi-retiring to manage family money.”

The guy is anxious because he is finally realizing there is not enough renter streams to pay all the paper claims of the rentier class.

Whoops, shouldn’t have written all those McKinsey reports touting the benefits of job outsourcing…

Bill Gross
Yves,

Tell your pals to head out West, our underclass is much more docile!

Best,

Bill

Progressive Ed
Make sure they brush up on their Spanish if they decide to come West. Viva La Raza!
Ishmael
Basically, I believe we are in a slow motion de-evolution of the economy. We are moving away from centralization in NYC and Washington and moving back to local. I agree with the comments about pro-protectionism at least for products out of asia (I never buy cheap Chinese crap anyway — it is not worth the money). Return to localization of the economy with credit being decentralized again.

Right now we have a large layer of state government and another layer of Federal govt supposedly doing the same thing, but nothing is happening. We need to delayer.

We also need to demiltarize and stop being the policemen of the world unless countries pay for it.

Credit will contract and that will require business and govt to both contract. The current system in unstainable.

propertius
He also noted that he believed that there were a lot of people (and he meant in the upper income strata) who were barely holding on, keeping up appearances, and hoping something would break their way. Some might get lucky, but most will hit the wall financially.

So, Yves:

As one of hoi polloi who is unaccustomed to hobnobbing with our feudal overlords, I’m kind of curious about exactly what constitutes “barely holding on” and/or “hitting the wall financially” in these exalted circles? Might these poor unfortunates have to do without full-time “help”, or will they actually have to dip into principal to make ends meet?

Anastasia Beaverhausen
Well, it’s no different then when the rabble live beyond their means, except the upper crust exhaust their credit cards and home ATM’s on Maybachs and Louboutins instead of Lexuses and Juicy Couture.
propertius
One further data point:

On a recent business trip to California, I noted that the Rolls-Royce dealership in Newport Beach had gone out of business. The Ferrari dealership still seemed to be going strong, though.

Frankly, I agree with your pals that violence is a real possibility. I can’t understand why TPTB aren’t more concerned, unless they intend it as an excuse to clamp down and consolidate control.

Psychoanalystus
Yves,

Thank you for this excellent post. As a professional observer of human beings, I agree with everything you wrote, and I too have been saying this for years (largely to deaf ears, it seems). The anger and frustration levels in the US are reaching a breaking point, and the social fabric of this country is under tremendous strain.

Perhaps it would be difficult to envision a true revolution in today’s police state America, but it is easy to see the nation descend into chaos, if it hasn’t already (a situation which I am sure Wall Street will somehow find a way to profit from).

Just today a friend from New York told me how more and more people from other parts of the country are showing up in Manhattan en masse, looking for work. I wonder if, after failing to find a job to feed their families, they may choose to head to lower Manhattan and try to engage in friendly communication with various rich people selling stocks and bonds for a living… :)

Psychoanalystus

T
What stands out to me is that your upper-crust friends are blaming others for the problems facing our nation: “monster” children, “decaying values” (other’s, not their own) and of course “liberal pork”. I didn’t read anything indicating they realize the problems in our nation are largely the result of corruption in their own social stratum.

Though you mention they expect an out spoken plutocrat to be the first with his head on a pike, you never mention whether they think he would deserve such a fate.

El Snarko
All cultures are conservative, but if Americans were that conservative there would be far less cable tv and video gaming. We are capable of assimilating advantageous change. Rather than the moldy quip about a “center right nation” I think it is long time we realize that we are essentially a nation of “takers” of available benefits when we find them.There has been so much paper success in the last three decades that a majority have too high an expectation of what is concretely achievable. This results in tension and avarice.In truth moving forward we will have less, but there is zero leadership from the big money boys and political “elites”. No one is taking a voluntary hit, and that is delaying the inevitable involuntary one.Your friends, while smart and perceptive are far too parochial in their concerns.

Here is what I see from Ohio. The status quo ante ( as Yeves calls it) was th best and most seductive in history. What most all people really want is that to return in a form that is “reality based”, somewhat regulated, and available to them. Realistically being aced out of the goodies is creating defacto aristocrat/peasant dichotomies that are instinctively repugnant. The perfect analogy is the stadium seating at football games. From what I hear the world view from the “lodges” at the top of the stadium is much mucdifferent than that from the cheap seats. There, once the rooms are full an entirely game is played and watched. The cheap seats want to play as well.

greg b
I dont see anything happening til after CFB season. So that gets us thorugh early January.

Yes, some of you will laugh but here in the south CFB rules. They will do nothing that will mean possibly having to be away from a TV or tailgate party on a Saturday afternoon. I actually think this is great for our country. A lot of peoples livelihoods depend on this institution staying in place and not missing a beat. Hell, after 9/11 people down here were furious that games were postponed. They all though it was giving in to the terrorists.

These seasonal riuals have a strong stabilizing affect on our social fabric and I dont think they can be underestimated. No one is going to get too many southern tea partiers to do anyhting too disruptive during CFB season. If something might cause a game to be cancelled they wont do it.

Ishmael
greg:

Being from Oklahoma I totally understand. A couple of years ago I was in a conference room in Century City and they asked where I was from. When I said Oklahoma they said, “Well I guess you are going to watch the Rose Bowl.” I asked why and they told me that OU and USC were going to play for the national championship. I am like huhh, by the way I am here for business — let’s get to it. They could not believe I paid that little attention to football.

Bread and circuses dude!

greg b
Bread and circuses, exactly.

What we need is a CFB season that runs from mid August to mid February. That’ll take these secessionist out of commission for 6 months.

Ishmael
greb b —

There is a reason that OU has one of the best cardiac care units in the state at Owens Stadium. A large number of overweight football fans with OU engraved in their teeth have coronaries while attending the game. Rather sad really.

craazyman
Once football season gets underway, folks will calm down.

It’s always hard right now, waiting for the big show to start and the cool skies of autumn. Nobody will riot or rebel as long as the NFL is on the tube and the beer is flowing. Really, think about it. Then it’s Christmas and rioting is out of the question.

I actually saw Orion in the eastern sky at 4 am last night. It was like a prophet of tranquility, the reassuring return of an old friend, majestic and eternal. This is what the Greeks had in mind, with all those statues, that balance and poise. As soon as the leaves go, everything will be OK. Even if the market dives.

I worry more about Mexico. Pretty soon they’ll all be here and there won’t be anyone left there because they’ll all be either dead or gone. And when they get here, they’re usually on their best behavior. Most of them, anyway. Nobody really wants to be a communist. It’s just a compromise like going on a diet.

paz
I have no doubt you are correct about Orion bringing much relief to the Greeks after a summer of chaos.

Having lived through the Mexican economic crises of 1994 I can say their solution and our solution look very similar. It might be because they have one of the same principal architects, Larry Summer.

The 1994 crises consolidated wealth into a small number of hands, especially Carlos Slims, but collapsed the authority of the central government… mostly because of unemployment.

Although there hasn’t been an open revolution in Mexico, regional forces are now more powerful than the central government..

Anyway, I think if you want a good preview of the United States in a few years you need only look at Mexico’s history. Remember the Zetas, the infamous evil drug lords were once prized special forces operatives. Trained here in good ‘ol USA. If the crisis continues I don’t see a ‘revolution’ per se.. but a collapse of central government authority and the rise of opportunists: Pendergasts, Rockefellers, and probably a General Jack D. Ripper mumbling aimlessly about precious bodily fluids…

But cheers! For now, Orion is upon us and we can slumber ’till the ides of March.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef
Craazyman, speaking of the NFL, bread and circuses, do you know if a gladiator ever became a Roman emperor? Or they were simply happy to be the emperors’ lovers?
craazyman
I think many were gladiators given the way they did politics in those days.

Some out of necessity after they became emporer, and others to get there.

But I think Commodus actually performed as one on many occasions, after he was emporer, if I remember my Gibbon. There were probably a few others. They all seem completely nuts to me. But then, so do most people, even now. LOL.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef
Two things

1) Do not fear pain (for you fearmongers and debt-fetish-ists) – no more short-cuts. If China could undergo a chaotic Cultural Revolution in the 60’s, and today still own America, America can handle anything.

2) Make sure pain is shared equally – if you can do this, people will buy the former without having to resort to calling others deficit-terrorists.

I look forward to a real leader to tell us that, instead of issuing more debt.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef
I know this question has not been asked in at least 2 generations, but the time is fast approaching:

Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves (I am talking about pain sharing) today so future geerations can have a fair chance to compete with other nations?

This means stop worrying about a second dip and start thinking about the fundamental problems that a crisis like this affords us to an opportunity to correct but we have so far not done.

So, forget about more infrastructure projects, more debt, etc.

Hugh
I was just writing yesterday that yes, it could happen here, that revolution has been in the air many times in US history. As I have also said many, many times, the system is unsustainable and our elites are so given over to looting that they are incapable of reform, even to save themselves. And I have pointed to 2011 as the time when we are most likely to hit the wall. We will have another collapse and when that happens the odds of revolution will be higher than at any time since the 1770s. I cannot over emphasize just how corrupt and committed to corruption our leadership is. Our economic conditions are pretty bad but it is the complete corruption of the political system that takes this and renders the situation catastrophic and revolutionary.
Ronald
Let me get this straight, since Americans are not buying a new car with the tow package for the boat and ATV every 3 years combined with numerous remodeling projects on the house and of course landscaping for the new 2nd vacation home, we should now expect a revolution in fact an armed take over by the left or right!
Hugh
This is the modern version of “Let them eat cake,” right? What your probing analysis fails to take into account is 15 million unemployed, 25 million un- or under employed, and several million beyond these that the BLS no longer even bothers to count. Total un and under employment in the economy is probably close to 30 million or 20%. Add in the tens of millions of homeowners holding underwater mortgages and millions who are either in or will be going into foreclosure. Recognize that most of these are families, not single individuals. Look too at the levels of personal debts of all kinds. Then consider our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and deteriorating education system. And let us not forget that 1% own a 1/3 of the country or that the top 10% own 2/3 of it. Or that our elites nearly drove the whole economy off the cliff in 2007 and 2008. Or that they only avoided this by massively bailing themselves out at everyone else’s expense. Or that they then proceeded to pay themselves out of this largesse huge bonuses like nothing had happened.

Yeah, it must all be about those 2nd vacation homes. Your mentality is precisely what makes revolutions inevitable.

i on the ball patriot
Ronald, there is NO “new car with the tow package for the boat and ATV every 3 years combined with numerous remodeling projects on the house and of course landscaping for the new 2nd vacation home” going on here …

[Jun 23, 2010] Sham democracy how the media and two-party system stymie competition from independent and third party candidates CAIVN

by Damon Eris

Wed, Jun 23rd 2010


Ideological polarization has created an environment in which Democrats and Republicans are virtually incapable of coming to any sort of agreement. However, they almost never disagree when it comes to barring third party and independent candidates from joining in forums and debates, and even from participating in the electoral process by means of highly restrictive ballot access laws.

The reason for this is not difficult to discern. Independent and third party politics represents a threat to the ruling political establishment and the cozy duopoly that forms the basis of the two-party state.

The corporate media are complicit in maintaining and reproducing this state of affairs. Last week, the Florida Press Association and Florida Society of Newspaper Editors held their annual convention, where they hosted a forum for the Sunshine State's candidates for US Senate. Four candidates were invited, Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist, Republican Marco Rubio, and two Democrats, Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene. One would not know it from this line-up, but there are more than seven declared third party and independent candidates for the office, including Libertarian Alex Snitker and Constitution Party candidate Bernie DeCastro, both of whom have qualified for ballot access.

Much to his credit, Snitker attended the forum to protest his exclusion from the event. According to a press release, the Libertarian stepped up to the floor microphone and asked to be included in the forum, but the request was denied by FPA President Dean Ridings who called for security to escort Snitker from the room.

The organization's justification for excluding Snitker from the event reveals how the media actively support the ruling political establishment in the guise of impartial objectivity. Only candidates who had received 10% support in a major poll were invited to participate in the forum. This sounds reasonable enough at first. However, a moment's thought reminds us that third party and independent candidates are rarely, if ever, included in any major polls! The majority of such polls, many of them commissioned by major media outlets themselves, allow respondents to choose between Democrats and Republicans by name, but only offer the choice of "some other candidate" as an alternative.

The Florida Senate race is admittedly something of an exception. Crist's independent candidacy simply cannot be ignored since he is the state's governor. Nonetheless, if inclusion in a forum is conditional upon demonstration of support in major polls, but candidates are excluded by name from those very polls, then this seemingly "objective" criterion of support is nothing more than a fraud by means of which independent and third party candidates are barred from consideration as viable or legitimate alternatives to their Democratic and Republican counterparts.

Unfortunately, in the United States, this is the rule rather than the exception. In April, an independent candidate for governor of Vermont was arrested for interrupting a debate from which he had been excluded. Media reports justified his exclusion by stating that the forum was intended only for candidates who would be participating in the Democratic primary; however, it was later revealed that the Republican candidate was also invited to the event but declined to attend.

In March, a religious 501(C)(3) organization reportedly canceled a scheduled election forum rather than include third party, California gubernatorial candidate Chelene Nightingale in the event. In October 2009, no third party candidates for mayor of New York City were included in debates hosted by major media organizations, and a number were ejected from the venues for protesting their exclusion.

During the 2000 presidential election, Ralph Nader was not only excluded from participating in the debates organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, he was also physically prevented from entering the venues by private security. The Commission – which is nothing more than a front group for the Democratic and Republican parties, led by former heads of the Democratic and Republican National Committees – excludes all candidates who have not demonstrated 15% support in at least five national polls. Sound familiar?

How much longer will we pretend that the only viable candidates for public office are those forced upon us by the party machines in collusion with the corporate media?

* Editor's note: Having proved instrumental in drafting the recently passed nonpartisan, top two open primary (Prop 14), CAIVP has also publicly challenged the California legislature to remove the onerous ballot signature barriers for Decline to State candidates. If the legislature does not comply by July 2, CAIVP is prepared to file a lawsuit. Read more here.

America Plays Into The 'Two Party' Sham Yet Again By Kathy Fisher

11-7-6

We missed the boat when voters insisted on playing the two party system scam again.

The citizens say they want to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets, they want health care reform, they want their jobs to stop pouring out of the country. But that can't and won't happen until we settle the Israel/Palestinian problem. 14 in one family were killed today by the Israeli army. It won't happen until we stop the tens of billions of dollars going into the Bush fraud 'war on terror.' We need complete electorial reform and there needs to be a criminal investigation for fraud and treason while the Bush junta is still in power.
Remember how Pelosi said she would have supoena power...and then did a complete turn around and said: "there will be no impeachment under her rule"? Remember?
So, what makes you think it will be easy and honest now with the Democrats in control of the House? Did you forget how they have voted FOR the Bush/Cheney illegal, outrageous, treasonous anti-Constitution, anti-Bill Of Rights 'Patriot Act' legislation...and how they support Bush's butcherous, hideous Iraq war? And how most of them continue to give the most racist, dangerous nation on Earth billions and billions of our tax dollars to continue building its thermonuclear arsenal while carrying out the genocide of the Palestinian people...not to mention paying for the recent slaughter in Southern Lebanon?
What tiny piece of the pie of change will you be satisfied to eat...at the expense of the meat and potatoes we'll all starve for?
Labor law reform? Unions leaders need to get busy getting their act together, too. Remember the last time we had 'Democratic control' in power and how we were promised labor reform? They didn't deliver that either.
Insiders and power brokers, blackmailers, AIPAC, JINSA, ADL and mega corporate money and incfluence run BOTH parties. When will Americans get a grip on that reality? Pelosi is a LIAR. End of story. She will continue to sit down with the village idiot at luncheons and dinners and decide whether she'll have chicken or poached salmon.
She said in her election day speech that the Democrats must get the PAC money and the corporate interest out of politics. Same old rhetoric. Same old BS. And don't forget how she has virtually pledged her soul as an Israeli First Lady. So, you can count on our tax dollars continuing to pour into that festering pocket of deceit and anguish-causing country non-stop. The 'Democrats' will vote to continue to kill for Israel directly and indirectly every step of the way. Nothing will change.
Next, the dumb Dems will begin to push the Hillary ticket for 2008, claiming it will make all the difference in the world when the Democrats take complete control of Washington. Hillary is not a labor friendly candidate, either. Her prodigiuos, egregious record of gross hypocrisy and opportunism speaks for itself. And yet she may well end up being the next democrat Presidential choice.
And one more time: the Pro Patriot Act/Pro War Dems are supported by their own group of corrupt corporate lords and masters, and scores of special interest groups
If you rejoice in this insignificant amount of change in Washington, then you, my friends, are very easy to please (read: deceive), indeed.
What a frigging joke.
Is there hope? Gee...three independents were voted in.
Good luck.

[Nov 18, 2010] Booker Rising Alan Keyes on America's Two-Party System

www.bookerrising.net

The conservative activist and America's Independent Party member writes: "Let’s ponder for a moment the old management metaphor about the frog and the cooking pot. The American people are the frog, and socialism is the stew. But too many Americans still miss the point that the sham two-party system is the cooking pot. People hoping to preserve America’s liberty have time and again hoped that a change of party would end the steady deterioration of democratic, republican self-government. We have all heard, and in the past heeded, the siren song of the GOP partisans who promise that they can change the party from within. What they are really doing is chanting the mesmerizing mantra intoned to help guarantee socialist elite success – 'Stay in the pot! It’s all that you’ve got! Stay in the pot!'"

Mr. Keyes continues his commentary about the two-party system: "I think it’s long past time that Americans awaken from this deadly political delusion and remember that we are people, not mindless amphibians. What is more, we are heirs to a political heritage intended to make sure that America’s political establishment serves up policies that suit the palates of the people who patronize it. Do we still have a taste for liberty? If so we need to find a better recipe for the preparation of political results than an elitist system that consistently mistakes the resources and liberties of the people for fodder meant to serve their ambitious appetites."

To comment on "America's Two-Party System" post, click here.

[Jul 1, 2010] The Myth of the Rational Voter Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies

Amazon.com

Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" (Phoenix, AZ.) Boring and Adds Nothing to Today's Issues, June 10, 2009

"The greatest obstacle to social economic policy is not entrenched special interests but the popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs and personal biases of ordinary voters." I thought that was a good introduction and eagerly dived in. Then it all fell apart, beginning with page 1 and Caplan's assumption that free trade is unequivocally good for America.

Clearly free trade was good for America just after WWII when we were the only industrial entity of any consequence standing. Want cars, steel, electronics, refrigerators, TVs - whatever, we had it and they probably didn't. So Americans made out like bandits.

Today, its the Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Japanese, etc. who are raking in the benefits. While Americans lose jobs, pensions, health care coverage, and move to lower-paying jobs, economists remain isolated in their 18th century theories of free-trade developed in an era of only minor differences in standards of living, wage levels, and major limitations in communication speed and transportation.

On a macro level, Americans are also losing manufacturing capacity and skills. Shocked to see a senior Mattel executive publicly apologizing to the Chinese over issues leading to the recall of Chinese manufactured toys? Undoubtedly the Chinese have more than a little power over Mattel (and other toy makers), given that at least 75% of toys are now "Made in China" and we would have difficulty quickly substituting our own capabilities for theirs. In WWII the U.S. turned the tide of battle with its ability to mass-produce quality armaments. Today we have difficulty producing IED resistant vehicles and the most effective body armor.

The dollar's purchasing power is already another victim of today's free trade, with potentially far worse declines possible. Suppose we now suddenly decided to "bite the bullet," stop buying most low-cost items from China and reinvigorate our own manufacturing? Would China threaten retaliation by dumping the trillions of dollar IOUs they hold, wrecking our currency? Could we afford that risk?

Perhaps economists (including Caplan) will join the 21st century when Asian economists begin taking their jobs via Internet instruction in American colleges and universities. It is time to update their popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs, and personal biases.

Gaetan Lion 1.0 out of 5 stars The Myth Caplan is rational, July 20, 2010

Caplan's thesis seems sensible. The voters are irrational as they have systematic biases including anti-market bias, anti-foreigner bias, anti-trade (or pro-protectionism) bias, and pro make-work bias. In turn, the voters elect politicians that reflect their biases. And, politicians execute detrimental social policies that reflect the biases of the voters. However, Caplan thesis is wrong on numerous counts.

First, the voters are not irrational. They are ignorant of counter-intuitive economic concepts. Those are two different things. One entails voters are crazy; they are not. The other entails they don't know macroeconomics; and they truly don't.

Second, politicians govern to get reelected. And, their main master is the economy as measured by GDP growth, inflation, and unemployment. Whether they are responsible or not for such indicators, politicians will suffer the blame or get credit for them. The pressure of delivering a strong economic performance easily overcomes any of the biases Caplan mentions.

Third, on economic policy it is often technocrats, not elected by voters, who run the show. Politicians are mainly lawyers not economists. On complex macroeconomic policies technocrats control the agenda. The main two ones are the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. These two pretty much dictate fiscal and monetary policies respectively. They also work jointly in times of crisis. A good example is the recent financial crisis. The various bail outs, fiscal stimulus, TARP plan, etc... were not initiated by George Bush or Obama. They were orchestrated by Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury under Bush, and his successor Timothy Geithner, and Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Fed. The public's strong anti-bank populist sentiment had no influence whatsoever on the implementation of those bail outs. Thus, recent history represents a devastating blow to Caplan's theory.

Fourth, international trade is another area that trumps Caplan's theories. His favorite theoretical examples address voters bias for protectionism and import tariffs. But, matters of international trade are now almost entirely subordinated to supranational entities such as the WTO. Additionally, you can't find a nation more in favor of free trade than the U.S. The latter has signed bilateral free trade agreements with North America (NAFTA) and many other countries. This is another embarrassing rebuttal to Caplan's theories that voters' biases result into poor economic policies. They don't. Political leaders and technocrats ignore voters' sentiments whenever they have to.

Fifth, Caplan's faith in the markets appears delusional. In his view, because democracy results in poor policies reflecting irrational voters' biases, you need an alternative. And, his alternative is the market. Quoting Caplan: "If people are rational as consumers but irrational as voters, it is a good idea to rely more on markets and less on politics." The timing of his libertarian manifesto could not have been worse. It gets published in 2007 just as we experience two spectacular market failures. The first one had been brewing up for decades: the health care crisis. That's where we found out that an unrestrained for profit health care system does not work. The second market failure was the aftermath of financial deregulation that had taken place over a decade and resulted in the current financial crisis. We should also add the recent market failure of unregulated deep sea oil drilling (the BP incident). So, for Caplan to state we should replace government by markets whenever we can is irrational.

Sixth, another weakness of Caplan's theory is that he uses data that is often over 20 years out of date. Such is the case, when he states that the elderly are less supportive of Social Security than the remainder of the public. He also states that women are less pro-choice than men. Had Caplan used current findings, it is likely that the opposite would be true.

Additionally, Caplan trips himself over basic economic concepts. Just as he goes on that economists are so smart and the rest of us are not; he demonstrates he is himself not so clear on economic concepts. Thus, when he attempts to teach us the basics of labor specialization he immediately contradicts himself. Quoting him on page 17: "If Crusoe's belief is correct, he wisely specializes in agriculture and has Friday do other kinds of work. But, if Crusoe's belief is blind to prejudice, keeping Friday out of agriculture reduces total production and makes both men poorer." As you noticed, whether Crusoe is correct or prejudice, the result is exactly the same.

David Moore wrote a far superior book pretty much on the same subject: The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls. Moore's main point is that the public is often unqualified to answer polling questions. Meanwhile, such polls are mistaken for the voice of the Nation. But, again ignorance and craziness are not the same thing. Moore understands that. Caplan does not.

Nicole (Chicago)"Don't confuse us with the facts!", June 8, 2007

Many people have noted that democracy seems not to work - policies are implemented that often are not in the best interest of voters, and when voters are surveyed they routinely lack even the most basic civic knowledge. The way people have typically answered this problem is to say that voters are uninformed, and that if they simply had more access to good information, they would use that information to make better choices. But even so, the tiny informed minority will sway elections because the uninformed majority will vote at random.

Here, Caplan directly challenges that view by asserting that voters are not simply ignorant but irrational, and that this is in fact predicted by economic theory. Voting is not like shopping - it is more like making use of a commons, because the costs of a "bad" vote are borne by the public at large, and the chance of an individual casting the deciding vote is tiny. Therefore, people will vote for what makes them feel good without bothering to find out whether it really is good - it simply doesn't matter. Caplan explores four systematic biases voters hold against good economic policy - antimarket bias, antiforeign bias, make-work bias, and pessimistic bias. The fact that systematic bias exists means that the irrational majority does not in fact vote at random, so it's the irrational voters deciding who wins elections rather than the small, informed, rational minority. Voters get what they want, it's just that what they want is actually bad for them - and they don't care!

Caplan makes a persuasive case for viewing the average voter as irrational rather than simply ignorant, though admittedly I am sympathetic to this idea to begin with. I wish he had been able to include more recommendations in his conclusion, but this should be a promising area for further research.

Howie (North by Northwest) 5.0 out of 5 stars A well-researched, well-written book, December 17, 2007

Caplan's take on democracy can by summarized as follows: first, he accepts two arguments FOR democracy by democratic enthusiasts, 1. voters are largely unselfish; 2. politicians usually comply with public opinion. He then adds his point: 3. voters are irrational (they have "systematically biased beliefs", or in layman's terms, they have false beliefs).

Caplan develops a theoretical framework to prove that it is in fact rational for voters to be irrational because the "price" of their irrationality is low in politics.

The book mainly consists of the following themes: 1. the history of people's economic misconceptions; 2. empirical evidence of systematically biased beliefs; 3. the "rational irrationality" framework and why systematically biased beliefs lead to democratic failure; 4. prescription for overcoming democracy's weakness.

I think Caplan succeeds pretty admirably in 1, 2 and 3, but he is relatively terse at 4. But this is understandable: if you take his arguments seriously, then unless every voter (or at least the "median voter") has a Ph.D. in economics (in fact, she needs to be a libertarian economist!), the outcome of democracy will not be efficient. Increasing the electorate's education, etc. level will somewhat mitigate the situation, but as Caplan himself proves, this is hardly enough (education is not sufficient to eradicate all systematically biased beliefs).

As to the book itself, it is quite readable. I knew about his work before reading the book, what surprised me was how he mixed it with the history of economics with his own research, with quotes and all.

It's also interesting to note that (at least according to my observations) mainstream public choice (the economic approach of studying politics) economists tend to downplay Caplan's work, maybe it is because Caplan's work cuts to the core of public choice (the "rational choice" approach)? Or maybe they really think his work is not much different than rational ignorance? Now that his book seems to have gathered a lot of publicity, maybe others will take a second look.

The only weakness of the book is the part that he repudiates the accusation that economists have "market fundamentalism". His point is basically 1. markets, when free of failures, will lead to efficient outcome (first, "positive", premise); 2. Caplan does not say this, but in most economists' thinking, there is also an implicit second, or "normative" premise, which is that efficient outcome is desirable. In fact, most economists tend to shy away from this conclusion and maintain that they only specialize in cost/benefit analysis and do not make such judgment, but from their passionate, enthusiastic and sometimes vehement arguments for free market, it is not too difficult to detect such deep-rooted belief -- that "free market is good". 3. economists do not always assume there are no market failures, therefore they are not "market fundamentalists". But this is typical economists' thinking: in order to argue with them, you must accept their first premise first, and implicitly also accept the second premise, then the debate about "market fundamentalism" naturally reduces to argument about whether there are market failures. But, they are people who do not accept even the first premise, and there are more -- on moral grounds, etc. -- having difficulty accepting the second. I am not saying I agree with these people (but I have not been blinded by the ivory tower yet, so at least I know the existence of such people and such views). It is very typical of economists to not even acknowledge such views, or pretend they do not exist. It is not an easy task to face these people face-to-face, listen to their arguments, then come up with your own arguments to correct their "biased beliefs", but a good economist should not be daunted. However, this is not a big blemish in an otherwise well researched and well written book, so I am still giving it 5 stars.

[Oct 27, 2007] Implications of Plutonomy by Girish Mishra

ZNet South Asia

Almost two years ago, Ajay Kapur, a prominent global strategist of the Citigroup and his two associates, Niall Macleod and Narendra Singh, came out with a paper “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.” If the formulations contained in this paper are correct, they will have far reaching implications, upsetting long-standing understandings of economists all over the world.

Ajay Kapur and his associates assert that world is getting divided into two blocs, namely, the Plutonomy and the rest. The term ‘Plutonomy’ is derived from, Plutus, the Greek god of wealth. America, Britain and Canada are the key Plutonomies, powered mainly by the wealthy. In Plutonomies, the rich dominate the economy as they account for most of the consumption expenditures, savings, current account deficits, etc. Obviously, in the Plutonomies, economic growth is powered by the wealthy. The rest of the population does not have much of a role in the economy.

Kapur and his associates claim: “Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Ages and Roaring Twenties in the U.S.” Common drivers of Plutonomy in each case have been “Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions.” These conditions benefit the rich and educated of the time because only they are in a position to exploit them. Income inequality has been a prominent feature of Plutonomy. In the present day world Plutonomies are given birth to and sustained by revolution in information and communications technology, financialization, globalization and friendly governments and their policies.

In a Plutonomy, consumers do not have their nationality. Thus there is no U.S. consumer or British consumer. Globalization has converted the entire world into a single integrated market. “There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie. Consensus analyses that not tease out the profound plutonomy on spending power, debt loads, savings rates (and hence current account deficits), oil price impacts etc., i.e., focus on the “average” consumer flawed from the start… Since consumption accounts for 65% of the world economy, and consumer staples and discretionary sectors for the MSCIAC World Index, understanding how the plutonomy impacts consumer is key for equity market participants.”

Kapur & Co. assert that Plutonomy is not going to go away but will get stronger and stronger, “its membership swelling from globalized enclaves in the emerging world, we think a “plutonomy basket” of stocks should continue to do well These toys for the wealthy have pricing power, and staying power.”

The share of the wealthy in the national income has been increasing. The top 1% of households in America, i.e., about one million households accounted for around 20% of overall U.S. income in 2000, slightly lower than the share of income of the bottom 60% of households put together. In other words, about one million households on the top and the bottom 60% households had almost equal share in the national pie. The top one per cent of households accounted for 40 per cent of financial net worth, more than the bottom 95 per cent of households put together.

Kapur & Co. assert: “We posit that the drivers of plutonomy in the U.S. (the UK and Canada) are likely to strengthen, entrenching and buttressing plutonomy where it exists. The six drivers of the current plutonomy: (1) an ongoing technology/biotechnology revolution, (2) capitalist friendly governments and tax regimes, (3) globalization that re-arranges global supply chains with mobile well-capitalized elites and immigrants, (4) greater financial complexity and innovation, (5) the rule of law, and (6) patent protection are well ensconced in the U.S., the UK and Canada. They are also gaining strength in the emerging world.” Further, “Eastern Europe is embracing many of these attributes, as are China, India, and Russia.”

When the top, say one per cent of households in a country see their share of income rise sharply, a Plutonomy emerges. This is witnessed often in times of frenetic technology/financial innovation driven wealth waves, accompanied by asset booms, equity and/or property. Feeling wealthier, the rich decide to consume a part of their capital gains right away. In other words, they save less from their income, the well-known wealth effect.

They claim that the rich have become the dominant drivers of demand in many economies. They have started dominating income, wealth and spending. According to a recent article by George Ip “Income Inequality Gap Widens” (The Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2007): the richest Americans have been cornering greater and greater share of the national income. The wealthiest one per cent of Americans earned 21.2 per cent of national income in 2005 while they earned 19 per cent in 2004 and 20.8 per cent in 2000. On the other hand the bottom 50 per cent earned 12.8 per cent of national income that was less than 13.4 per cent in 2004 and 13 per cent in 2000.

Since the wealthy appropriate most of the national income, the pattern of production is fashioned to meet their demand. It is estimated that America’s richest half-per cent consume, on an average, goods and services worth $650 billion a year. In a Plutonomy like America, “the wealthy account for a greater share of national wealth, spending, profits and economic growth … the top 20 per cent of income earners account for as much as 70 per cent of consumption in the United States. Like it or not… spending by the rich was propping up the economy, even as the middle and lower classes were struggling.” Further, “In this new plutonomy, with “rich” consumers and “everyone else,” companies that serve the rich are prospering. From department stores to hotels to automakers to homebuilders, businesses in every industry was adapting to an increasingly hour-glass-shaped economy, selling to the status-seeking rich, and the penny-pinching middle and lower middle classes.”

The Plutonomy thesis presented by Ajay Kapur & Co. implies that there will be no “realization crisis” nor will there be any need for the Keynesian prescription of an active role of the state in augmenting the volume of effective demand. In other words, no public works and welfare activities are to be undertaken wherever Plutonomy is in ascendancy. “New Deal” of Roosevelt has become irrelevant. The same is the fate of William H. Beveridge’s recommendations for creating a welfare state. Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, and Indira Gandhi (with her slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao’) are to become irrelevant. Present day slogans like ‘Congress ka Hath Aam Adami ke Sath’ and ‘the inclusive growth’ are nothing but hollow ones.

Karl Marx was the first to point out that capitalism was bound to face “realization crisis”, i.e., capitalists might not realize the value inherent in commodities because they might find the total volume of demand falling short of the volume of supply. Thus capitalists would not be able to sell the entire volume of output. This could be due to anarchy of production and productivity increasing much faster than the wages.

Karl Marx’s claim was outright dismissed by the ruling orthodoxy because till 1929 it continued to stick to the dictum “supply creates its own demand,” based on the law of markets put forth by the French economist Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832) in a book published in France in 1803 (translated into English as “A Treatise on Political Economy, or the production, distribution and consumption of wealth,” and published from Philadelphia in 1855).

Say held that there could be no demand without supply. The power to purchase could get augmented only by more and more production. Hence there could be no problem of unsold commodities. If everything was normal and there was no interference by the government, trade unions and other quarters in the functioning of market, it would clear. In other words, economy would be self-regulating, provided all prices, including wages were flexible enough. A free market economy was always supposed to maintain full employment. Hence there would be no glut. This approach collapsed in 1929 when the Great Depression set in. This was the most severe and prolonged General Crisis in the history of capitalism.

Keynes tore this orthodoxy to pieces. Contrary to the assertion of Say’s followers there was mass involuntary unemployment because the realization crisis had forced the factories to down their shutters and lay off the workers. This deepened the crisis further. Keynes demonstrated that Say was wrong when he believed that there was only transaction demand for money. In fact, there were precautionary and speculative demands for money. Because of this people might not spend all their earnings on buying goods and services. The greater this leakage, the greater was the impending fear of the phenomenon of unsold commodities. He analyzed the factors behind these two motives.

Keynes suggested an active role for the state in order to augment and maintain the volume of demand to enable the market to clear and ward off the danger of realization crisis. From this arose the strategy of welfare state. In the course of time, state assumed the responsibility of creating employment opportunities and poverty reduction.

This thinking remained prominent, in spite of onslaughts by Mises, Hayek and the Chicago school, led by Milton Friedman, but the process of its burial began with the rise of Thatcher-Reagan line of thinking, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Washington consensus-based globalization, thrust indiscriminately on the entire world. Now, it appears, the danger of realization crisis emanating from a general crisis of capitalism is almost forgotten. Extolling the virtues of consumerism and ‘shop till you fall dead’ appear to be the instrument for raising the volume of effective demand. There is, however, a catch, more so in developing countries, where the seeds of plutonomy will take a long time to germinate. The overwhelming mass of people lack employment opportunities and income to survive, but they have the power to unseat the government, notwithstanding all the propaganda about glowing future. Didn’t Keynes say, in the long run we all will be dead, so what is relevant is the present and immediate future?

E-mail: gmishra@girishmishra.com

[Oct 11, 2007] Plutonomics 101 - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By George F. Will

Thursday, October 11, 2007 WASHINGTON

Enough, already, with compassion for society's middle and lower orders. There currently is a sympathy deficit regarding the very rich. Or so the rich might argue because they bear the heavy burden of spending enough to keep today's plutonomy humming.

Furthermore, they are getting diminishing psychological returns on their spending now that luxury brands are becoming democratized. When there are 379 Louis Vuitton and 227 Gucci stores, who cares?

Citigroup's Ajay Kapur applies the term "plutonomy" to, primarily, the United States, although Britain, Canada and Australia also qualify. He notes that America's richest 1 percent of households own more than half the nation's stocks and control more wealth ($16 trillion) than the bottom 90 percent. When the richest 20 percent account for almost 60 percent of consumption, you see why rising oil prices have had so little effect on consumption.

Kapur's theory is that "wealth waves" develop in epochs characterized by, among other things, disruptive technology-driven productivity gains and creative financial innovations that "involve great complexity exploited best by the rich and educated of the time." For the canny, daring and inventive, these are the best of times -- and vast rewards to such people might serve the rapid propulsion of society to greater wealth.

But it is increasingly expensive to be rich. The Forbes CLEW index (the Cost of Living Extremely Well) -- yes, there is such a thing -- has been rising much faster than the banal CPI (consumer price index). At the end of 2006, there were 9.5 million millionaires worldwide, which helps to explain the boom in the "bling indexes" -- stocks such as Christian Dior and Richemont (Cartier and Chloe, among other brands), which are up 247 percent and 337 percent respectively since 2002, according to Fortune magazine. Citicorp's "plutonomy basket" of stocks (Sotheby's, Bulgari, Hermes, etc.) has generated an annualized return of 17.8 percent since 1985.

This is the outer symptom of a fascinating psychological phenomenon: Envy increases while -- and perhaps even faster than -- wealth does. When affluence in the material economy guarantees that a large majority can take for granted things that a few generations ago were luxuries for a small minority (a nice home, nice vacations, a second home, college education, comfortable retirement), the "positional economy" becomes more important.

Positional goods and services are inherently minority enjoyments. These are enjoyments -- "elite" education, "exclusive" vacations or properties -- available only to persons with sufficient wealth to pursue the satisfaction of "positional competition." Time was, certain clothes, luggage, wristwatches, handbags, automobiles, etc., sufficed. But with so much money sloshing around the world, too many people can purchase them. Too many, in the sense that the value of acquiring a "positional good" is linked to the fact that all but a few people cannot acquire it.

That used to be guaranteed because supplies of many positional goods were inelastic -- they were made by a small class of European craftsmen. But when they are mass-produced in developing nations, they cannot long remain such goods. When 40 percent of all Japanese -- and, Fortune reports, 94.3 percent of Japanese women in their 20s -- own a Louis Vuitton item, its positional value vanishes.

James Twitchell, University of Florida professor of English and advertising, writing in the Wilson Quarterly, says this "lux populi" is "the Twinkiefication of deluxe." Now that Ralph Lauren is selling house paint, can Polo radial tires be far behind? When a yacht manufacturer advertises a $20 million craft -- in a newspaper, for Pete's sake; the Financial Times, but still -- cachet is a casualty.

As Adam Smith wrote in "The Wealth of Nations," for most rich people "the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches, which in their eye is never so complete as when they appear to possess those decisive marks of opulence which nobody can possess but themselves." Hennessy understands the logic of trophy assets: It is selling a limited batch of 100 bottles of cognac for $200,000 a bottle.

There is some good news lurking amid the vulgarity. Americans' saving habits are better than they seem because the very rich, consuming more than their current earnings, have a negative savings rate.

Furthermore, because the merely affluent are diminishing the ability of the very rich to derive pleasure from positional goods, philanthropy might become the final form of positional competition. Perhaps that is why so many colleges and universities (more than 20, according to Twitchell) are currently conducting multi billion-dollar pledge campaigns. When rising consumption of luxuries produces declining enjoyment of vast wealth, giving it away might be the best revenge.

George F. Will is a columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek. He can be reached at georgewill@washpost.com.

The Wealth Report - WSJ.com Plutonomics

It’s well known that the rich have an outsized influence on the economy.

The nation’s top 1% of households own more than half the nation’s stocks, according to the Federal Reserve. They also control more than $16 trillion in wealth — more than the bottom 90%.

Yet a new body of research from Citigroup suggests that the rich have other, more-surprising impacts on the economy.

Ajay Kapur, global strategist at Citigroup, and his research team came up with the term “Plutonomy” in 2005 to describe a country that is defined by massive income and wealth inequality. According to their definition, the U.S. is a Plutonomy, along with the U.K., Canada and Australia.

In a series of research notes over the past year, Kapur and his team explained that Plutonomies have three basic characteristics.

1. They are all created by “disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist friendly cooperative governments, immigrants…the rule of law and patenting inventions. Often these wealth waves involve great complexity exploited best by the rich and educated of the time.”

2. There is no “average” consumer in Plutonomies. There is only the rich “and everyone else.” The rich account for a disproportionate chunk of the economy, while the non-rich account for “surprisingly small bites of the national pie.” Kapur estimates that in 2005, the richest 20% may have been responsible for 60% of total spending.

3. Plutonomies are likely to grow in the future, fed by capitalist-friendly governments, more technology-driven productivity and globalization.

Kapur says that once we understand the Plutonomy, we can solve some of the recent mysteries of the American economy. For instance, some economists have been puzzled (especially last year) about why wild swings in oil prices have had only muted effects on consumer spending.

Kapur’s explanation: the Plutonomy. Since the rich don’t care about higher oil prices, and they dominate spending, higher oil prices don’t matter as much to total consumer spending.

The Plutonomy also could explain larger “imbalances” such as the national debt level. The rich are so comfortably rich, Kapur explains, that they have started spending higher shares of their incomes on luxuries. They borrow much larger amounts than the “average consumer,” so they have an exaggerated impact on the nation’s debt levels and savings rates. Yet because the rich still have plenty of wealth and healthy balance sheets, their borrowing shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

In other words, much of the nation’s lower savings rate is due to borrowing by the rich. So we should worry less about the “over-stretched” average consumer.

Finally, the Plutonomy helps explain why companies that serve the rich are posting some of the strongest growth and profits these days.

“The Plutonomy is here, is going to get stronger, its membership swelling” he wrote in one research note. “Toys for the wealthy have pricing power, and staying power.”

To prove his point, he created a “Plutonomy Basket” of stocks, filled with companies that sell to the rich. The auction house Sotheby’s is on the list, along with fashion houses Bulgari, Burberry and Hermes, hotelier Four Seasons, private-banker Julius Baer and jeweler Tiffany’s. Kapur says the basket has risen an average of 17% a year over the past year, outperforming the MSCI World Index.

Of course, Kapur says there are risks to the Plutonomy, including war, inflation, financial crises, the end of the technological revolution and populist political pressure. Yet he maintains that the “the rich are likely to keep getting even richer, and enjoy an even greater share of the wealth pie over the coming years.”

All of which means that, like it or not, inequality isn’t going away and may become even more pronounced in the coming years. The best way for companies and businesspeople to survive in Plutonomies, Kapur implies, is to disregard the “mass” consumer and focus on the increasingly rich market of the rich.

A tough message — but one worth considering.

Permalink | Trackback URL: http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2007/01/08/plutonomics/trackback/

For the super-rich it's all give and take - at record levels Business The Guardian

The wealth of the world's super-rich soared last year at the fastest rate for seven years. The rise in riches was accompanied by a surge in charitable giving to $285bn - believed to be a record.

The downside for the super-rich was that the cost of their favourite luxury products and activities rose at nearly twice the average rate for goods and services.

The 11th annual study of 71 countries by investment bank Merrill Lynch and consultancy firm, Capgemini found that buoyant economic growth across the world pushed the riches of "high net worth individuals" (HNWI) up by a hefty 11.4% last year. The dramatic increase took the total prosperity of the world to $37.2 trillion - equivalent to 15 times the annual output of the UK economy.

High-net worth individuals are those with $1m (£500,000) to invest in financial assets excluding first homes. Ultra high-net worth individuals have $30m at their disposal.

Britain had the fourth biggest number of the world's wealthiest, with a total of 484,580 high-net worth individuals, up 8.1% from 2005. Only the US, Japan and Germany have more. Britain is home to 16.7% of Europe's super-rich.

Part of the rise in world wealth last year came from booming stock markets. The Dow Jones world index, for example, increased by a solid 16.4%.

The boost in cash held by the world's millionaires and billionaires gave way to a surge in philanthropy, the report said. Rich individuals donated 7% of their wealth to charity, while the ultra-rich donated more than 10% to these causes. This charitable giving amounted to more than $285bn globally. Warren Buffett, the world's second-richest man, added to the trend last year when he donated 85% of the $45bn earned from his lifetime of investments to a foundation established by Microsoft's Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.

"Philanthropy is central to what wealth managers are having to do; it cannot be ignored," said Nick Tucker, a Merrill Lynch executive director and co-author of the report. "New wealth especially are keen on this."

Environmental and socially responsible investing were no longer niche categories. Nearly half of all British investment firms invest more than 10% of the assets under their management in socially responsible projects, a rise of 20% from 2004.

The report predicted that global wealth was expected to grow by 6.8% each year until 2011, pushing the total amount to $51.6 trillion, though Mr Tucker warned that a slowing world economy may put a brake on the soaring expansion of wealth over the coming years.

"With many central banks tightening monetary policy, the period of high liquidity that has stimulated recent growth may soon come to an end. The growth rates of Asia and Latin America are expected to ease back as global demand slows. The dual risks of rising energy prices and geopolitical conflicts are a continued threat, adding a level of uncertainty to our current forecasts."

Britain in particular was facing slowing growth, and therefore a lower generation of wealth, as a result of higher inflation and low household savings rates this year.

There were 9.5 million HNWIs last year, according to the report - a rise of 8.3% from 2005. Europe saw its wealth increase at the sharpest rate since 2000, with a rise of 7.8% to $10 trillion. The performance of financial markets in eastern Europe in particular was a key driver in this, Mr Tucker said. Ultra-HNWIs also rapidly increased by 11.3% to 94,970 last year.

The largest share of the growth in the world's higher net worth population came from Singapore and India, where numbers rose by 21.2% and 20.5% on the year respectively. This continued the rise of a new elite of super-rich individuals in developing nations as their economies expanded, in the case of India and China at rates more than triple that of the UK.

Many of these emerging economies, which included Russia, were gaining strength from domestic private consumption, competitive services and manufacturing sectors.

Wealth generated in Latin America, the Middle East and Russia was buoyed up by high commodity and oil prices.

"The globalisation of wealth creation has accelerated," said Chris Gant, head of wealth management at Capgemini Financial Services. "If 2005 was characterised by a flow of investment to international funds from HNWIs, 2006 ushered in a new era whereby emerging economies leaped ahead with direct foreign investment, strong domestic demand and hefty stock market gains."

The report found that as the rich got richer, the demand for luxury products increased, making them more expensive. The Cost of Living Extremely Well Index (CLEWI) measured the cost of a basket of 42 luxury goods and services, including designer handbags, tuition at Harvard University and filet mignon.

Last year, this index rose nearly twice as fast as the cost of everyday consumer products. The CLEWI rose at 7% while the consumer price index increased by 4%.

The world's millionaires nevertheless devoted about a quarter of their "investments of passion" to yachts and private jets, dubbed "mobile mansions," and a fifth to art.

polyarchy Participation and Opposition Robert A. Dahl 9780300015652 Amazon.com Books

A. Arnold
Classic of political science that is still relevant today February 10, 2003

By 

Format:Paperback

Dahl's work, which has been cited by countless political scientists since it was first published, provides a useful framework for the examination of democracy (which is not quite equivalent to what he terms 'polyarchy'; democracy consists of a bit more than a polyarchal system). The book is particularly concerned with the two main variables of political orders: 'competition' (public contestation among various political actors) and 'participation' (defined with regards to the right to participate). Using these variables, these systems can graded based on whether they possess these qualities to a greater or lesser degree. While most modern political systems fall in a 'gray area' (they are neither perfectly competitive nor inclusive), Dahl believes that all should strive towards the ideal type, or polyarchy. Dahl goes on to outline the benefits of a polyarchal system and the various ways in which such a system can be achieved. Yet, Dahl also recognizes that the transition to polyarchy is neither inevitable nor invariably desirable. Certain conditions are needed in order for the full benefits of a polyarchy to be realized. Thus, the minimal nature of Dahl's conception allows flexibility in its application. This is why his notion of democracy, as defined through polyarchy, has been adopted time again by those engaging in the debate over democracy, including such luminaries as Samuel P. Huntington and Larry Diamond.

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The Last but not Least


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Last modified: August 13, 2014