Propaganda is Bipartisan

 

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, consevatives were whipped into a frenzy by propaganda. During Russia-gate, it’s been the liberals turn to be whipped into a frenzy by  propaganda.

It appears that propaganda is bipartisan.

Going further, both liberals and conservatives are subjected to relentless psychological and emotional conditioning by the ruling classes and the corporate media since the day they were born. This propaganda assault largely consists of free-market and American exceptionalism appeals and has been repeated over and over in a manner to make it extremely clear that any contradicting views would be completely unwelcome and might negatively affect their social status and prospects for professional advancement.

Indeed, the higher ones social and professional status, the more intensive the propaganda. It’s no accident that the most sophisticated propaganda resides in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, media consumed regularly by the managerial classes. While these are all good sources of information and sometimes brilliantly written, their primary purpose is to reinforce the official narratives of the ruling classes.

Logic, facts, and actual evidence have little to nothing to do with this process. The goal of the media and other propagandists is not to deceive or mislead. Their goal is to evoke the pent-up rage and hatred simmering within and channel it toward the official enemy. It is not necessary for the demonization of the official enemy to be remotely believable, or stand up to any kind of serious scrutiny.

We witnessed it in the run-up the the invasion of Iraq where Saddam was depicted as the new-Hitler and now Russia-gate where Trump is depicted as Putin’s bitch.

Not that I’m surprised but nevertheless I’ve been completely dismayed by liberal reaction to the 2016 election, where they let the hatred of Donald Trump convert them into bloodthirsty cold warriors, as Max Blumenthal’s new book, The Management of Savagery, makes abundantly clear. The war on terror, which Trump questioned on the campaign trail, Blumenthal argues, led directly to the demonization of Russia. Trump’s anti-interventionist rhetoric, however disingenuous, triggered what Blumenthal calls “a wild hysteria” among the foreign policy elites. Trump called the invasion of Iraq a mistake, and he questioned the arming of Syrian jihadists and deployment of U.S. forces in Syria. He was critical of NATO. At the same time, he called for better relations with Russia.

“Joining with the dead-enders of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, who were desperate to deflect from their crushing loss, the mandarins of the national security state worked their media contacts to generate the narrative of Trump-Russia collusion,” Blumenthal writes. “Almost overnight, hundreds of thousands of liberals were showing up at postelection rallies with placards depicting Trump in Russian garb and surrounded by Soviet hammer-and-sickle symbols.”

What’s darkly amusing is that despite the contrasting tribal signals, Republicans and Democrats don’t differ very much. While they depict Republicans like Trump as the devil-incarnate, the Democrats are simply the other party of capital. For example, when in power the Democrats don’t offer any progressive programs, like retirement, affordable education, childcare, safety nets, green-energy, etc. When they do offer a healthcare plan, it’s a warmed over corporate boondoggle from the Heritage Foundation–Obamacare–with its legacy of falling life expectancy. Instead, both parties seem to believe in more or less the same things– markets as the solution to every problem, and a society that’s populated by greedy, self-interested, profit-maximizing consumers on the one side, and corporate managers on the other. And, of course, we know that corporations are people too, my friend.

The result is the functional equivalent of one-party rule.

And, this brings–ideological rigidity. Though, we might simply call it brainwashing, or propaganda.

Presently, the arrest of Julian Assange provides a window into the 2-Minute hate-fest that’s gripped both conservatives and liberals equally as a result of the pervasive propaganda.

Assange and Wikileaks is despised by conservatives for demonstrating the hollowness of American exceptionalism, with the leaking of the 2007 video of U.S. helicopter pilots nonchalantly gunning down Iraqi civilians, including children, and two Reuters journalists.

Assange and Wikileaks is loathed by liberals for exposing the sham of American democracy with the leaking of the way in which the DNC rigged the Democratic primaries against Bernie Sanders. #Resistance liberals also really, really hate Assange because they’ve bought into the narrative that he helped Russia “steal” the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton by hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails. That so many prominent American liberals are cheering this on is shameful. I believe that it’s rooted in their sense of betrayal over Wikileaks exposure of the machinations of the corrupt Democratic Party and their Wall Street favoured war-hawk, Hillary Clinton. None of what Wikileaks revealed was untrue, but they blame the failure of their deeply flawed candidate on it nonetheless.

It’s time to acknowledge that the bi-partisan propaganda that’s employed by our rulers is world-class. In response to criticism of George W. Bush’s misadventure in Iraq by Natalie Maines, conservatives destroyed their Dixie Chick albums. And, now with the Russia-gate cult-induced trance, liberals might as well shave their heads, put on robes and start handing out literature at the airport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Market Stalinism

 

I’ve come to believe that Friedrich von Hayek was projecting when he claimed that socialism would usher in The Road to Serfdom, when in reality the road to serfdom has been paved by 21st century capitalism as embodied and enacted by monopolies like Amazon and Facebook.

Neoliberal intellectuals like Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman argued that the market represents a superior solution to securing the individual citizen’s representation and participation in sociopolitical processes. Beginning with the Mont Pelerin Society, they increasingly questioned the role of the state as a collective decision-maker and social planner and elevated consumer sovereignty into the only norm according to which societal wellbeing could be measured. The market, not democracy was sacrosanct, which is why so many neoliberal economists supported at different moments in their career authoritarian or even fascist regimes. Preserving the marketplace was more important than preserving democracy.

Many theorists confuse neoliberalism with laissez faire, but neoliberals understand that the market utopia they desire requires state intervention. Early neoliberals like Hayek and Mises did not expect the neoliberal market order to just arise. They found it necessary to convince the population of the blessings of the neoliberal order, and they utilized the state as an indispensable and powerful tool in the attempt to create and safeguard this market based order.

Present day neoliberal capitalism has benefitted from the simultaneous withering of the state as it relates to you and I, along with increased coercive power of the state to enforce a market based order. The coercive power of the state (as long as they control the state), is because neoliberals (rightly) have always viewed democratic state power as a fundamental threat to the freedom of capital.

We can observe this dynamic with powerful monopolies, like Amazon, who are still dependent upon countries, states and politicians for everything from the exercise of coercive power over populations, to forced market activity, to military intervention, to maintaining the very trade treaties that stymie states’ popular sovereign powers. Not only has ideology become more obscene and the coercion more blatant, but the rule of monopolies like Amazon over our government has become both more coercive and more direct, as we’ve observed with the giant online retailers demanded subsidies in its search for a new headquarters.

The late cultural theorist Mark Fisher came up with an appropriate term for this phase of capitalist development. He called it: market Stalinism, where, “the idealized market was supposed to deliver friction free exchanges, in which the desires of consumers would be met directly, without the need for intervention or mediation by regulatory agencies. Yet the drive to assess the performance of workers and to measure forms of labor which, by their nature, are resistant to qualification, has inevitably required additional layers of management and bureaucracy.”

While neoliberalism promised us a world of efficiency, plenty, opportunity, abundance, and, ultimately, freedom, it has instead delivered a proliferation of bureaucracy, shortage, stultification, scarcity, and coercion. Despite the decades of “free market” or “free enterprise” propaganda, the reality is that neoliberalism has only truly delivered freedom for the billionaire class that rules our country. For the rest of us, we have a rigged, monopoly dominated, surveillance focused, financialized crony-economy.

Looking around, it’s become obvious that rather than freedom, neoliberalism has been an excuse for a 40 year looting spree by a sociopathic elite, who are uninterested in ruling a country that is falling apart, in some places resembling nothing so much as the Third World shit-holes that our president disparages.

That many Americans are becoming dimly aware of their precarious existence only feeds into this ongoing legitimation crisis embodied by the teacher strikes and labor militancy that appear to be the first signs of a nascent revolt against this oppressive market Stalinism. Both of our establishment political parties and the transnational oligarchs who own and control them are scared to death of the social democracy and working class revolts now on the ascendant, which threaten to undo 40 years of punitive austerity for us and record riches for themselves.

Luckily, American history provides an inspiring account of heroic activists who stand up to a nexus of state and corporate monopoly power. I’m talking, of course, about the Boston Tea Party where on December 16, 1773, American patriots boarded tea ships belonging to the hated East India Company anchored in the harbour and dumped their tea cargo overboard. At the time, the East India Company was the most powerful monopoly in the world, empowered by the British government to help maintain its sprawling empire.

Sound familiar?

Update: Senator Elizabeth Warren recently made national headlines with her plans to break up tech giants Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple, making it one of her signature proposals as she campaigns for the presidency. The notion should resonate and echo in our political memory—Teddy Roosevelt made his name as the trust-buster, for going after the great monopolies of the early 20th century in the name of the public interest. Twenty-first-century populist economics in America continues to be adorned the century-old piece of political syntax, “break ’em up.”

Warren’s essential rationale is that these tech companies act as monopolies and need to be cut down in size in order to promote more competitive markets, via traditional antitrust instruments such as the Sherman Act.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Narrative

 

The reason that I always doubted Russia-gate is because I read. A lot.

I started out with tons of fiction but then moved to non-fiction, with a heavy emphasis on the history of empires. Oswald Spengler’s, Decline of the West, A Study of History, by Arnold Toynbee, and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon, were roadmaps to comprehending our modern world, and, more importantly, to understanding the world’s most powerful empire–the American empire.

I also read the elite corporate media like the NY TimesWashington Post and Wall Street Journal, to keep up with the latest propaganda narrative they’ve constructed. I’ve come to realize that the most important function of U.S. corporate media is to fashion narratives that serve the imperial interests of their owners, the ruling class and the national security state that makes up the American empire. Indeed, for all of recorded history, those with wealth and power have been using whatever means to communicate they have at their disposal to control the ways people think and behave, using the power of narrative.

It’s been obvious for well before Donald Trump was gleam in the eye of the corporate media, that the military/industrial/complex (MIC), that maintains the American empire, was eager to pivot from the counterinsurgency heavy war-on-terror to a more traditional great power conflict. After all, you hardly need a 90 million dollar F-35 fighter to battle terrorists holed up in caves but you certainly do for a new cold war against Russia and China. It’s also obvious that the US establishment is desperate to prevent the ongoing global transformation of a world dominated by the United States to a pluralistic one composed of different powers collectively shaping a multipolar world.

Surrounding Russia with NATO, while undermining its economy with neoliberal fifth columnists has been the agenda of US policy makers since the end of the cold war, and these plans went into overdrive when Putin began to resist this assault. His deft maneuvers in response to the Ukrainian coup, and jihadi attack on Syria set off alarm bells across the neocon intellectual spectrum.

Russia-gate was the result. Indeed, even after the Mueller investigation concluded with no evidence of Russian collusion, the corporate media is still attempting to use the Russia hysteria they’ve already manufactured via the collusion narrative to create demand for more escalations against Russia.

This is how fucked-up the corporate media is. They are willing to propagandize the American people into supporting a new cold war that has the potential to turn hot, ending life on earth, all to please their plutocratic owners, their military-industrial complex sponsors, and the intelligence agencies with which they are aligned.

This dynamic was always perfectly clear to me. Again, because I read, a lot. Manufacturing Consent, anyone?

Over the years I’ve cultivated a number of trusted online sources, none so important as the late Robert Parry’s site Consortium NewsFrom Russia-gate’s outset, Consortium News adopted journalistic skepticism, led by founding editor, the late Robert Parry, with Ray McGovern, Daniel Lazare, Patrick Lawrence, Gareth Porter, Joe Lauria & VIPS in debunking all the bull-shit spewed out by the corporate media. 

Then, there’s my other go-to site–Naked Capitalism, maintained by the amazing Yves Smith, and the the superlative Lambert Strether. NC is my daily antidote to the corporate media. The links to other alternative sources are invaluable.

There’s also–Caitlin Johnstone, The Unz Review, Moon of Alabama, The Saker, Strategic Culture, Ian Welsh, Sic Semper Tyrannis, Zero Hedge, The Jacobin, The Baffler–that make up my alternative reading list. This non-corporate media diet helped me to understand that Russia-gate was always a propaganda narrative aimed at the professional class that makes up the modern Democratic Party.

Going further, Russia-gate was not only a conspiracy against Trump, largely in response to his 2016 election campaign commitment to restore diplomatic relations with Russia. Russia-gate also took the form of a witch-hunt directed against the alternative online media, which were depicted as “Russian bots,” or “fake news,” or simply “treasonous.”

For example, while the Washington Post (supported by the deep state) was spreading rumors on Russia’s alleged election meddling, it was also involved in engineering the blacklisting of independent media. In a Post article, reporter Craig Timberg wrote favorably about a website called “PropOrNot,” which had censored several hundred independent online news sources intimating that these websites and social media accounts were part of a Kremlin propaganda network.

In a weird coincidence, all of my online sources were on the black-list. Go figure.

While the Mueller report confirms that the corporate media were spreading propaganda in support of Russia-gate, it’s highly unlikely that they will ever apologize. It’s also unlikely that the censorship against the independent online media will stop. Instead, ahead of the 2020 election, it’s almost certain that the attacks on alternatives to the corporate media will intensify.

After all, the corporate media has a narrative to maintain.

The natives are getting restless.

 

 

 

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Epistemic Enclosure

 

Liberal intellectuals are going to have stop snickering at Fox News watching conservatives with the release of the Mueller Report.

The term “epistemic closure” has been used to refer to the claim that political belief systems can be closed systems of deduction, unaffected by empirical evidence, and by now it’s clear that the liberals who were glued to Rachael Maddow’s latest Russia-gate bombshell were just as deluded as any conservative global warming denier. Imagine how profoundly disorienting this moment is for liberals, who placed their faith in “Saint Mueller.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that both liberals and conservatives are holed up in their very own epistemic enclosures to the delight to the oligarchy that controls our country.

This same oligarchy responded to the 2016 election win with a fantastic story of Trump being a Russian agent under the express control of Vladimir Putin, rather than examining the disastrous neoliberal/neoconservative policies of the last 40 years. In doing so they deployed every aspect of the liberal corporate media to disseminate and relentlessly promote this story on a daily basis for nearly three years, and appointing a special prosecutor to conduct an official investigation in order to lend it the appearance of legitimacy. Every component of the ruling establishment (i.e., the government, the media, the intelligence agencies, that make up the deep state) colluded in a soft coup to remove an American president from office on the basis of an invented conspiracy.

For my readers who object to the term coup, what is giving the intelligence community veto power over the selection of a President other than a coup? And if Russia-Gate is what they did to Trump, imagine what they’ll do to Sanders.

What’s absolutely insane is that despite the certainty that he’s a Russian secret agent the reality is that Trump has been the most aggressively anti-Russian president since the Cold War. Yet nothing he did, no matter how hostile to the Kremlin–from sending arms to Ukraine to bombing Syria to perpetuating a new nuclear arms race to trying to knock off a Russian ally in Venezuela–could dent the certainty that this was all part of a cunning plot hatched by Putin.

Of course the Democratic Party, by focusing on weird neo-McCarthyite conspiracy theories about Russia, just handed Trump a winning issue to run on in 2020.

For example, Trump is going to explain to the American people that the Democrats, the corporate media, Hollywood, the liberal intelligentsia, and elements of the intelligence agencies conspired to try to force him out of office with an unprecedented propaganda campaign and a groundless special investigation. He is going to explain to the American people that Russiagate, from start to finish, was, in his words, a “witch hunt”.

You know what? In this instance he’s telling the truth.

And the corporate media.  After their shameful behavior in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I didn’t think they could sink any lower, but, Jesus Christ!

I’m sure there will be more exhaustive explorations into why the corporate media sucks the way they do, but Matt Taibbi’s latest is a good place to start.

“In the early months of this scandal, the New York Times said Trump’s campaign had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence; the Wall Street Journal told us our spy agencies were withholding intelligence from the new President out of fear he was compromised; news leaked out our spy chiefs had even told other countries like Israel not to share their intel with us, because the Russians might have “leverages of pressure” on Trump. CNN told us Trump officials had been in “constant contact” with “Russians known to U.S. intelligence,” and the former director of the CIA, who’d helped kick-start the investigation that led to Mueller’s probe, said the President was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” committing acts “nothing short of treasonous.”

None of this has been walked back. To be clear, if Trump were being blackmailed by Russian agencies like the FSB or the GRU, if he had any kind of relationship with Russian intelligence, that would soar over the “overwhelming and bipartisan” standard, and Nancy Pelosi would be damning torpedoes for impeachment right now.

There was never real gray area here. Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a “reckoning for the media.”’

Taibbi also comes to the same conclusion about liberal and conservative medias devolving into their own separate epistemic enclosures.

“This is a major structural flaw of the new fully-divided media landscape in which Republican media covers Democratic corruption and Democratic media covers Republican corruption. If neither “side” feels the need to disclose its own errors and inconsistencies, mistakes accumulate quickly.

This has been the main reportorial difference between Russiagate and the WMD affair. Despite David Remnick’s post-invasion protestations that “nobody got [WMD] completely right,” the Iraq war was launched against the objections of the 6 million or more people who did get it right, and protested on the streets. There was open skepticism of Bush claims dotting the press landscape from the start, with people like Jack Shafer tearing apart every Judith Miller story in print. Most reporters are Democrats and the people hawking the WMD story were mostly Republicans, so there was at least some political space for protest.

Russiagate happened in an opposite context. If the story fell apart it would benefit Donald Trump politically, a fact that made a number of reporters queasy about coming forward. #Russiagate became synonymous with #Resistance, which made public skepticism a complicated proposition.”

The problem, as I see it, is that the corporate media pretends to be dispassionate, objective and fair. The Washington Post goes as far as saying that they’re upholding our Republic with their tagline–“Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Yeah, right.

The truth is that they’ve become little more than propaganda, custom tailored to their respective tribal enclosures.

It gets worse. Russia-gate has been sucking up massive amounts of political attention the past three years. Imagine if all that energy had been devoted instead to fighting against Trump’s billionaire’s tax cuts and freeing up corporations to pollute more or any other number of battles that could have been fought?

There’s one more point to make. Not that I’m gloating, but how did an amateur see through all the bull-shit and point out what a fantastically unbelievable story Russia-gate always was?

We’ll discuss that in a future post.

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No Illusions

 

I’ve been getting a lot of pushback from liberal friends about my disdain for Democrats. “You’re helping Trump,” with your criticism of the blue team, they tell me.

Let me be clear–I’ve come to despise the tribalism that passes for politics. Instead, the identity politics practiced by team blue and the culture war practiced by team red are mutually reinforcing, in that they both beguile their respective supporters, to the delight of the plutocratic owners of both parties. For instance, we have one party that’s committed to Wall Street and to neoliberalism and is deeply and earnestly committed to a notion of diversity and multiculturalism, and another party that’s committed to Wall Street and neoliberalism, and is deeply opposed to multiculturalism and diversity.

With all of the challenges facing us, we can’t afford to have illusions about our enemies or our so-called allies. With that in mind, I’ve come to hate the Democrats more than Republicans because of their duplicity. I expect the Republicans to be evil, and they don’t disappoint, but the Democrats pretend to support progressive policies when it’s simply kayfabe.

“The problem we have is actually with the Democrats,” said Jessica Early, a nurse practitioner and health care justice organizer, in a 2017 interview with Truthout. “We know how Republicans are going to vote on this issue. The obstacle we face is getting Democrats who will support us into office.”

To understand why the Democrats have become the way they are it’s important to understand some history. The term “New Democrats” refers to an ideological and strategic movement that argues the U.S. is fundamentally a center-right country and the Democrats must embrace this — and corporate donors — to win elections. During the 1990s it was the most powerful wing of the party: Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden and most of the party’s top names were on board.

Our last President–Barak Obama–was also a “New Democrat”, something that a lot of liberals don’t want to acknowledge.

I’ve long been critical of Obama, having read The Audacity of Hope, where Obama professed his admiration of President Reagan, and the writings of political scientist, Adolf Reed Jr., who warned us about Obama, before the Senator from Illinois was elected President. I wasn’t alone. Many progressives have pointed out that hope and change were largely symbolic rather than substantive, and that Obama failed to use the transformative period after the Wall Street Crash to transform our extractive financial system, while his Justice Department let Wall Street criminals off the hook. Obama also deported staggering numbers of immigrants, supported fracking, killed American citizens with drones (and then made sickening jokes about it), killed lots more non-American citizens with drones, conducted violent regime-change operations in Libya, Ukraine and Syria, promised “the most transparent administration ever” and then was “worse than Nixon” in his paranoia about leakers, and pushed a market-friendly healthcare plan based on conservative premises instead of aiming for single-payer.

Obama’s defenders respond to these criticisms by blaming mean Republicans, but nobody forced Obama to nominate Joe Biden as Vice-President, or Tim Geithner as his Treasury Secretary. No one forced Obama to single out charterization advocate Arne Duncan for Education Secretary, and push a horrible “dog-eat-dog” funding system called “Race To The Top.” The Republicans certainly didn’t force Obama to choose Hillary-we came, we saw, he died-Clinton, as his Secretary of State.

Obama supporters think all of this is deeply cynical and unfair. But, as I said, we can’t afford to have illusions about our enemies and especially about our so-called allies.

And Trump, like so many before him, has been projecting with his well publicized disdain for socialism. After all, his MAGA regime, is simply a variant of Herrenvolk socialist-democracy, a system of government in which only the majority ethnic group participates in government largess, while minority groups are disenfranchised. Again, some history is in order. To be brutally honest, the New Deal was socialism for white people, as African-Americans and Hispanics were largely excluded from the government largess. This, I believe, is the America that Trump supporters long for.

The problem for all of us is that the owners of both parties have moved past offering benefits to average Americans. The logic of extractive capitalism mandates that the same policies of structural adjustment that gutted Third World countries must come back to the homeland. Indeed, since the 1970’s, Americans have been ravaged by four forces — financialization, monopoly, the implosion of the job, and austerity.

We’re used to thinking that offshoring simply transferred jobs from the US to Mexico, or India, or China. But the truth is subtler, and more ruinous. As jobs went to corrupt nations without decent labour or environmental laws, a boomerang effect happened. Our plutocratic owners discovered that they could do here what they had done there, and so they began stripping away everything that created the American Middle-class. Because the US economy was increasingly composed of monopolies, giant companies, banks, and investors had the power to do so with impunity. Speculators began raiding pension funds. Managers began stripping away benefits of every kind, from childcare, to vacations, to healthcare.

Until at last–we have the United States of Precariat, where a con-man like Trump could be seen as an agent of change.

The salient question is what are we going to do now?

We can continue to fight each other over cultural or identity politics like crabs in a pot of water, or we can focus on the real enemy.

It’s now or never.

The water is almost boiling.

 

 

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Selfishness is not a Virtue

 

How did we go from a nation that reformed capitalism with the New Deal, defeated Germany and Japan in WWII, rebuilt Europe, put a man on the moon, and created the Internet; to riven by inequality, overcome by addiction and helplessness, fearful of immigrants and wallowing in corruption?

Selfishness.

The dirty little secret of the economic system that we use to organize our world–neoliberalism–is that it’s predicated on everyone being a selfish-asshole and only looking out for themselves.

However, examining American history, it’s clear that this economic dynamic goes against everything that our founders envisioned when they designed the republican-democracy enshrined in the Constitution. Our founders understood that a republic absolutely requires citizens to sacrifice their own self interest when it conflicted with the general welfare. In fact, the actual conception of civic virtue in a republic is by its very nature fundamentally contrary to the basic tenets of neoliberalism, that posit that selfish interests will result in the best and most efficient allocation of society’s resources.

Going further, it’s become obvious that neoliberalism and the importance it places on selfishness and self-interest is a fundamental rejection of republicanism.

As a primer, a republic is a system of government in which all citizens have an equal right to select their governing representatives, equal access to those representatives, and equal standing before the law. A republic is not a democracy, but a republic is always democratic in form: all citizens have an equal right and access to the electoral process through which government officials and representatives are selected.

In the Introduction to Securing the Fruits of Labor: The American Concept of Wealth Distribution, 1765–1900 (Lousiana State University Press, 1998) James L. Huston writes, “…the essence of the historical interest in republicanism  is lodged in the word virtue, which means a willingness to forgo self-interest in order to pursue the general welfare. The search that so many historians have engaged in is to find when self-interest triumphed over virtue, when liberal capitalism overran republicanism.”

Led by neoliberal and propaganda charlatans like Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, David and Charles Koch, Karl Rove, and Frank Luntz, the US has abandoned virtuous republicanism for a corporate totalitarian state.

Objectivist author, Ayn Rand perfectly summed up this selfish value system.

No wonder our country is so fucked-up.

Let’s be clear–these neoliberal intellectuals have taken selfishness and self-interest, to their logical capitalist extreme, and in so doing provided us the caricature which demonstrates why republicanism will never be in harmony with neoliberalism.

The good news is that Americans are starting to recognize just how destructive neoliberal selfishness is and the immense damage it has wrought.

The polls showing enormous public support for the key progressive initiatives terrify the neoliberals. Sanders’ 2016 policy initiatives have transformed the Democratic Party candidates’ policy proposals for 2020. Warren’s policy proposals are having a similar effect. Polls show broad support for the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, a jobs guaranty program, a tax system that would reverse the current race to plutocracy, the restoration of the rule of law, breaking up monopolies (particularly banking and Silicon Valley), and a meaningful minimum wage.

President Trump, Fox News, and neoliberal economists have attacked these policy proposals precisely because the public overwhelmingly supports them. These attacks form the selfish neoliberal meme that the government cannot and should not act to protect the public. Government should get out of the way by privatizing key industries while everyone should act in their own selfish interests to maximize the economy.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hearing a version of this story my whole life and it’s wearing thin. At this point it’s beyond obvious that the only ones served by a nation of selfish-assholes are the plutocrats and their political and media lackeys.

We’ve been discussing global weirding and the importance of a Green New Deal in response to the looming disaster, but it’s obvious that neoliberal selfishness will absolutely preclude action to save our world. For example, it’s insane to keep adding to global climate change. It’s insane to claim that we can afford to cripple our planet’s climate but cannot afford to prevent the catastrophe.

University of Missouri Kansas City, economics Professor Bill Black, says that the antidote to neoliberalism is Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). He also defines socialism as the opposite of selfishness and places it in the proper perspective.

“If neoliberals want to define as “socialism” an effective government that produces markets in which honest people prosper and we imprison or at least drive from the markets the elite cheaters, then we are all socialists.  An economic system without an effective rule of law and with massive negative externalities such as global climate change is a suicidal kleptocracy.  If neoliberals want to define that as “capitalism,” they should get used to the public rejecting it as an ideology that is as economically illiterate as it is inhumane and unethical.  Kleptocracy and plutocracy invariably corrupt and ruin democracy.  The truth is that honest markets and governments are complements and that the most effective economies are ‘mixed-economies.”

We’re at a turning point in America. We can continue the same disastrous policies or we can try something radical like rejecting selfishness and rediscovering virtue.

Our children are showing us the way.

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Not a bug but a feature

 

The 2020 election is set to be a barnburner with over a dozen Democratic challengers lining up to take a shot at Trump.

With that in mind this article by neoliberal economist Brad DeLong caught my eye.

DeLong, who served as deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy in the Clinton administration and is one of the market-friendly neoliberal Democrats who have dominated the party for the last 20 years. Yet DeLong believes that the time of people like him running the Democratic Party has passed. “The baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left.” DeLong wrote. “We are still here, but it is not our time to lead.”  DeLong continues: “Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy. And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”

What amuses me, besides DeLong’s potty-mouth of course, is that he seems oblivious to the structural dynamic in American politics, where the Republicans do horrible things while the Democrats pretend to oppose them. Wash, rinse, repeat. This scenario is what I’ve come to refer to as kayfabe, where much like pro wrestling, there’s a noble hero who pretends to battle an evil villain.

We’ve been discussing global weirding and the importance of a Green New Deal (GND), while noticing the Democratic resistance. The cause was taken up by a number of climate and environmental groups, which organized sit-ins and demonstrations in order to get the attention of Democratic congress members. But their efforts failed. The proposal for a select committee on the GND was killed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), who instead decided to revive an old House panel on climate change from 10 years ago. It’s clear that many of the most powerful Democrats in the House are not interested in forming a committee with a mandate anywhere close to what Green New Deal advocates had originally proposed.

Health care is another example of a major policy issue where Democrats collude with Republicans to stymie reform. On Sept. 13, 2017, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the Medicare for All Act, a bill aimed at establishing a single-payer health care system in the United States. If passed, the legislation would ensure comprehensive health care for all Americans at a cost significantly lower than what the United States currently pays. A recent Reuters poll revealed that the bill is incredibly popular, with 85 percent of registered Democrats and 52 percent of registered Republicans expressing support for it. In total, 70 percent of voting Americans support the legislation. And yet the Democratic leadership has been secretly informing the giant health insurers they have nothing to worry about Medicare for All.

Meanwhile, despite Democrats depicting Trump as some sort of evil Stalinist/Hitler, they’ve hardly made any effort to oppose his policies or his court appointees. If Trump is the madman that Democrats make him out to be, why would they entrust him with powers that the founders of America never envisioned when they drew up the US Constitution? If Democrats hate Trump so much, why do they keep voting in lock step with Republicans to give even more money to the military-financial complex?

Indeed, from instituting a 70 percent marginal tax rate to marijuana legalization to breaking up the big banks to the influence of big money in politics, the same pattern holds: the leadership of the Democratic party has either been silent or outright antagonistic toward many of the most popular policy proposals.

Circling back to DeLong’s comments about the Democratic Party, I’m not sure if he being coy or really doesn’t comprehend the kayfabe reality of American politics. What’s certain is that he’s absolutely correct in his assessment that the time of people like him (read–neoliberal Democrats) running the Democratic Party has passed, and that the “baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left.”

I’ve come to believe that Trumpism emerged from the historical transformation of the “New” Democrats. The New Deal was the most ambitious attempt to reform capitalism in history. But by the late 1970’s, the propagators of neoliberalism began to reverse these policies, creating our current situation of extreme economic inequality and corporate oligarchy. By becoming the other party of capital, the “New” Democrats eliminated any alternative to the neoliberal austerity, which has been a catastrophic failure everywhere it has been tried, creating misery, stalling growth, wiping out the hopes of whole generations, and enflaming right-wing populism.

The 2008 election and the 2016 election were both attempts by the American people–frustrated by a federal state that seems indifferent to their needs–to reject the neoliberal status quo. Crucially, Obama’s failures to address the underlying causes of the 2007-2009 world financial crash set the stage for the election of Donald Trump.

Here’s a prediction–if the Democrats resist this move to the left the next Trump will be worse, while the catastrophic problems that plague our country will intensify.

 

 

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