Concentrated

 

Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods has raised alarms about economic concentration. No corporation epitomizes monopoly better than Amazon, who’s business model is predicated on losing money with their super-low prices in order to capture market share. Their dominant position then allows them to chose how to extract more profit, which is usually a combination of squeezing suppliers and raising prices. There’s also a long term strategy: The reason investors are pumping cash into Amazon is so that it can grow so big that eventually it will control enough market share to jack up prices and make a killing.

Even neoliberal publications are starting to take notice of the economic concentration represented by corporations such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. “A report by The Economist found that two-thirds of the U.S. economy became more concentrated between 1997 and 2012, and dominant companies are using their growing control to squeeze cash from customers. However, since the 2008 financial crisis, U.S. markets have become anything but free. Mergers worth $10 trillion have reduced consumer choices. Domestic profits are at record highs, competition has plummeted and the rate of small-business creation is close to its 1970s-era nadir. The problem is worst in the tech sector. Facebook and Google each control at least 40 percent of their markets.”

These high-tech monopolists, based out of Silicon Valley, are largely represented by the Democratic Party, and their rise has been nourished and cheered on by recent Democratic presidents–Bill Clinton and Barak Obama. This political/economy is part of a larger phenomenon that writer Thomas Frank has detailed in Listen Liberal, where the Democratic Party abandoned labor and embraced affluent white collar professionals who’ve been the big winners in our milieu.

The only problem with the Democrats strategy of assuming that workers and labor had no here else to turn in our duopoly is this guy that’s currently the president. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

In the process of abandoning labor and workers, the Democrats have turned away from promoting economic fairness. This political transformation has separated the Democratic party from it’s historical appeal and in the process handed the issue to Trump, who based his populist campaign on disgust with the status quo. The Democratic Party used to see itself as standing up for the common man and promoting economic fairness as part of the concept of political freedom. Now they’re reduced to throwing crumbs at the Americans who’ve been left behind by their “New Economy”, while describing them as “deplorable”.

If the Democrats were not so beholden to their wealthy benefactors they would have a ready made campaign, that would resonate with down-trodden Americans. After all, you’re not free if a giant corporation controls what you can buy, what you can read or even what you can think.

Political and economic writer, Matt Stoller makes an important point that bears repeating. “The Democratic Party was founded on the premise that citizens can self-govern, that the rich or educated aren’t better or more virtuous. The point of politics is for ordinary citizens to protect and preserve their political liberties. As William Findley, a Revolutionary-era Congressman, put it, “Wealth in many hands is many checks.” Most Democrats do not take this seriously; they certainly do not act on it. They think the agenda is to tax the wealthy and redistribute their wealth through social programs, or compel corporations to pay workers more, rather than taking on the historic concentrations of corporate power already corrupting our democracy at the root.”

Libertarians see the government only as capable of vast oppression, but that’s not the world we live in. American corporations, through their capture of the US government, have emerged as the new oppressor, with a control over our lives that would have shocked George Orwell, but maybe not Aldous Huxley.

Indeed, more and more of us are having our liberties crushed by this “Gov-Corp” behemoth. Small business owners, like myself, are burdened by costly regulations and taxes while mega-corporations are allowed to skirt them. New graduates are weighed down with student debts. Small farmers are driven out of business by meatpacking monopolists and seed and herbicide monopolists like Monsanto. We are all subjected to a for-profit healthcare system run by powerful health-insurance and pharmaceutical corporations.

What really pisses me off about this neofeudal arrangement is that the winners are described as “innovators”, when they’re just like the robber-barons of a century ago. Rent-seeking, monopoly, tax avoidance and regulation arbitrage are nothing new. The only thing that’s different is the Silicon Valley high-tech gloss, and the breathless hagiography of our corporate media.

 

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We Live in a Political World

 

Why hasn’t a left-wing populist party arisen in the US in the wake of the Wall Street crash and bail-out by the government? Why have labor unions, environmentalists, racial and ethnic minorities not created an alternative to the fully corporate Democratic Party? Why have activists shied away from the central issue of our milieu–rampant inequality brought about by the financialization of our economy?

For all the talk about the US as the “exceptional democracy” there’s an elephant in the room. You can’t have meaningful “democracy” in a nation where the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

The issues certainly exist for the rise of a genuinely left-wing, labor party to represent the millions of Americans who’ve been disenfranchised by our two party duopoly, as the enthusiastic rallies and record amounts of small donations for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election can attest. The austerity, the mounting student and consumer debt, the privatization and hollowing out of essential government services are all deeply unpopular.

The question of our time, one that we should be asking at every opportunity is–what kind of society allows this sort of fate to befall its citizens?

To answer this question is to understand the means by which our elite maintain their control, by dividing and ruling, making sure that we live in a society where social solidarity does not exist. Right now there is a sullen anger, percolating below the surface of polite society, that erupts sporadically with the mass shootings that have become a hallmark of American life.

If there’s any hope of avoiding a dystopian future where this sort of violence escalates then we need a real opposition party not a faux-opposition party like the Democrats who are caught between what Democratic activists want and what the donor class wants, as journalist David Sirota relates.

“Well I mean, you’ve got to ask the question why hasn’t there been more of a forceful, coherent policy resistance to Trump? I think it’s because the Democratic Party is constantly caught between knowing what it should do to win elections, which is propose a positive policy vision on issues that are popular. They’re caught between that and their donor class, and so there is this constant search by Democratic operatives and pundits and politicians to try to find on the Venn diagram, some middle ground. “Where can we satisfy the public and also appease our donors?” That crossover in the Venn diagram is getting narrower and narrower because what the public wants is becoming in direct opposition to what the donor class wants.”

This dilemna represents why Bernie Sanders was so threatening to the powers-that-be controlling the Democratic Party.

Sirota.“…  you can run competitive campaigns with a completely different paradigm, where you don’t have to answer to a donor class, and which frees you to run on issues that are wildly popular with the public. In fact, in the last election what we saw was that the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, if forced to choose, would choose the Democratic Party losing to a Republican rather than winning with a socialist, or somebody who was a true progressive.”

Come on down–Donald Trump.

Sirota also makes an interesting point that fleshes out some of what I’ve been thinking about the recent election, where the best thing about Trump’s victory was the fact that he awakened  somnolent Americans to the political world that we live in.

“Does resistance to Trump just become a slogan, a pop culture slogan that doesn’t mean anything? Yeah, it’s possible, and that goes back to what we were talking about originally, which is that a resistance that’s devoid of any meaning other than “Anybody but Trump,” if the resistance is, “Anybody but Trump,” or, “Anything but Trump,” then it I think misses an opportunity of political awakening to actually make that political awakening mean something for the policies that will govern us for the next many decades.”

It’s time to get going. With President Trump and mean-spirited Republican Congress, things are only going to get worse.

If you need an example of what’s coming down the pike, look to our mother country–Great Britain, where the recent Grenfell Tower fire has exposed the Conservative government of Theresa May as cold and uncaring to the tragedy. Going further, the Grenfell disaster has finally brought into sharp focus what Thatcherism and neoliberalism, has done to our world. The 58 people who died in the preventable fire did so because of austerity, deregulation, outsourcing and greed.

 

We live in a political world
Love don’t have any place
We’re living in times
Where men commit crimes
And crime don’t have any face

Bob Dylan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Washington Generals (Part 2)

 

How can the Democratic Party effectively oppose Trump and get back into power after they’ve lost over a thousand seats nation-wide since 2008?

Oh, I know. Maybe former Vice-President Joe Biden, a Democrat, can show up at a swanky Deer Valley con-fab and urge Republican Mitt Romney to run for the Utah Senate seat that may or may not be vacated by Republican Orrin Hatch.

Jesus-fucking-Christ, Mitt Romney, the rapacious Bain Capital executive who made a fortune by loading up American manufacturing companies with debt then firing the workers and off-shoring the jobs to some third-world hellhole, while Mittens and his pals walked off with millions?

Romney’s behavior, enabled by US tax law and encouraged by a cheerleading business press, was directly responsible for millions of Americans losing their previous middle/class status. These sorts of policies were not the result of technological or economic forces beyond our control but were political and economic decisions made by the US elite–people like Joe Biden and Mitt Romney.

Rolling Stone, gonzo-journalist–Matt Taibbi–well describes the morality of Romney when he was running for President in 2012 against Barak Obama, and his running mate–Joe Biden.

“The unlikeliness of Romney’s gambit isn’t simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it’s dusted itself off, it’s had a shave and a shoeshine, and it’s back out there running for president.”

The dirty little secret is that under the guidance of looters like Mittens, the American economy has become extractive rather than productive, switching from making stuff and providing services to engaging in complex financial shenanigans, as Taibbi relates.

“Romney’s been right with them on the front lines of the financialization revolution, a decades-long campaign in which the old, simple, let’s-make-stuff-and-sell-it manufacturing economy was replaced with a new, highly complex, let’s-take-stuff-and-trash-it financial economy. Instead of cars and airplanes, we built swaps, CDOs and other toxic financial products. Instead of building new companies from the ground up, we took out massive bank loans and used them to acquire existing firms, liquidating every asset in sight and leaving the target companies holding the note. The new borrow-and-conquer economy was morally sanctified by an almost religious faith in the grossly euphemistic concept of “creative destruction,” and amounted to a total abdication of collective responsibility by America’s rich, whose new thing was making assloads of money in ever-shorter campaigns of economic conquest, sending the proceeds offshore, and shrugging as the great towns and factories their parents and grandparents built were shuttered and boarded up, crushed by a true prairie fire of debt.”

Think about it–if an economy stops providing real wealth by making products and providing services, the only way for the top 10% to continue to become “wealthier” is by cannibalizing the bottom 90%, and extracting their wealth through the misery of others. This arrangement is the “New Economy” that the business press breathlessly reports on.

The whole edifice is built on debt. Many Americans are trapped in debt with virtually no possibility of paying it off.

And, guess what?

This sort of economic arrangement has consequences. While American may not understand all the details, they do understand that something is rotten. Trust in government, corporations and the press is at all time lows. The American people have also grasped the fact that the two major political parties do not promote the public interest, preferring instead to serve political/economic elites.

The Democrats are currently casting about for why they lost the Presidential election to an orange-haired freak. The fact that Biden would support a Romney Senate run well summarizes the abject corruption of US politics by an utterly selfish and hypocritical oligarchy.

If the Democrats were a real opposition party, Biden wouldn’t have been there glad-handing with Mittens and his greed-head friends. He’s have been there with a phalanx of workers protesting Mitten’s swanky affair while offering a different version of what America could be.

Update: From Black Agenda Report:

“Any real “resistance” to the Trump Administration’s policies in this period must be equally opposed to the machinations of the Clinton camp of the state. Anything less should warrant suspicion from resistance forces. One cannot separate the rise of Trump from the failures of the Democratic Party. It was the Democratic Party, not Trump, that pushed the political trajectory of the US even further rightward through its incessant collaboration with capital. Since the 1980s, the Democrats have led the way in the projects of austerity, mass incarceration, and war. These policies have understandably bred a high degree of cynicism among more left-leaning Democrats, requiring the intervention of the first Black President to keep “hope” for the party alive.”

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The Orb

 

We live in a post-satire world.

There is no more glaring example of this than the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, in Riyadh, where US president Donald Trump visited to participate in this Orwellian photo-op.

Seriously, the idea of Saudi Arabia, the worlds leading sponsor of terrorism, having a center for combatting terrorism is so mind-bendingly surreal that we have clearly passed into a new reality.

What’s truly astounding in a sort of The Emperor’s New Clothes way is that everyone knows that the Saudi’s are the worlds biggest supporters of terrorism, yet everyone pretends otherwise.

For example, in 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained in a diplomatic memo made public by Wikileaks that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

And, Vice President Joe Biden told a Harvard audience that “the Saudis, the emirates, etc. … were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war … [that] they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” (Quote starts at 53:30.)

Here’s what intelligence analyst Bernhard at Moon of Alabama, has to say about such developments.

“All these attacks by Takfiris, in Paris, in Brussels, Berlin and Manchester as well as in Libya, Syria and Iraq, have their ideological roots in Wahhabism, the extreme version of Salafist Islam promoted in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The roots of such terrorism are in Riyadh and Doha and will have to be fought there.

But the Saudi and Qatari rulers pay extraordinary amounts of protection money in the form of weapon purchases from British and U.S. companies. As long as they keep doing so they will be kept in place as useful props in the bigger scheme.

Like I’ve stated repeatedly, the war-on-terror is a sick joke, a never-ending conflict against an unconventional means of warfare. Meanwhile, the occasional terror attacks like Manchester, (which should be understood as blowback from the deployment of Sunni-terrorists to carry out western foreign policy), are supremely useful for keeping Americans in a state of perpetual fear. The war-on-terror, however, is the cash cow of the military/industrial/complex and they will give it up when we pry their cold dead hands from it.

The corporate media bombards us daily with the meme that the Russians have untoward control over the US government, without ever acknowledging the much more sinister Saudi influence.

If we really want to honor my fellow service members who gave their lives to defend us on this Memorial Day we should acknowledge what the war-on-terror has wrought.

Update: OK, maybe satire is not completely dead.

 

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The Other Ratchet

 

I’ve written before about how our political process is like a ratchet, where the Republicans apply rightward force, while the Democrats allow this rightward movement but whenever there’s a lull, they lock into place and prevent any movement back to the left.

The American political system, since at least 1968, has been operating like a ratchet, and both parties — Republicans and Democrats — play crucial, mutually reinforcing roles in its operation. The electoral ratchet permits movement only in the rightward direction. The Republican role is fairly clear; the Republicans apply the torque that rotates the thing rightward. The Democrats’ role is a little less obvious. The Democrats are the pawl. They don’t resist the rightward movement — they let it happen — but whenever the rightward force slackens momentarily, for whatever reason, the Democrats click into place and keep the machine from rotating back to the left.”

(Picture of a mechanical ratchet)

After observing our corporate media in the pre and aftermath coverage of Trump’s surprising victory, I’ve come to believe that there is a similar dynamic at work.

Within the corporate media the right/left dichotomy resembles the Republican/Democratic one. Fox News, of course, would be on the right, while MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR operate from a left that is much more centric, similar to the role the Democrats play in our political process. Fox, and the other conservative media consistently churn out a right-wing message, whether pertaining to domestic policy where there is a relentless focus on tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations they control, or foreign policy where the focus is on maintaining an all-American corporate empire. The so-called left media allows this right-wing message to go unchallenged, even joining it by incorporating conservative journalists as part of their ongoing effort to mitigate the constant accusation of liberal bias, however, when there is a brief lull, they lock into place and ensure that a authentic leftist challenge is blocked.

For example, during the 2016 presidential campaign coverage of Bernie Sanders was uniformly negative, and as the Wikileaks files demonstrated, actual collusion between the DNC and so-called left media to suppress any positive coverage of the socialist senator from Vermont.

And, now in the aftermath of Trump’s surprising win, the so-called left media has been in full attack mode, with many liberals gleefully cheering them on. But, what has been the focus of all the fury directed at Trump? Why Russia, of course, with hysterical coverage reminiscent of the early Cold War, in the process creating a sort of new McCarthyism.

Investigative journalist Robert Parry says that, “…given the determination of many key figures in the Establishment to get rid of Trump, it should come as no surprise that no one seems to care that no actual government-verified evidence has been revealed publicly to support any of the Russia-gate allegations.

There’s not even any public evidence from U.S. government agencies that Russia did “meddle” in the 2016 election or – even if Russia did slip Democratic emails to WikiLeaks (which WikiLeaks denies) – there has been zero evidence that the scheme resulted from collusion with Trump’s campaign.

The FBI has been investigating these suspicions for at least nine months, even reportedly securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page, an American whom Trump briefly claimed as a foreign policy adviser when Trump was under fire for not having any foreign policy advisers.

One of Page’s alleged offenses was that he gave a speech to an academic conference in Moscow in July 2016 that was mildly critical of how the U.S. treated countries from the former Soviet Union. He also once lived in Russia and met with a Russian diplomat who – apparently unbeknownst to Page – had been identified by the U.S. government as a Russian intelligence officer.

It appears that is enough, in these days of our New McCarthyism, to get an American put under a powerful counter-intelligence investigation.”

Understanding this media hysteria, it’s always important to look past the barrage of propaganda, and focus on the big picture.

Trump for all the negatives had actually proposed some very constructive steps towards improving our relations with nuclear-armed Russia, and reining in some of the excesses of  our all-American empire with his trenchant critique of NATO, which operates as an integral arm of Uncle Sam.

Ask yourself why, instead of  critiquing Trump for all the horrible policies that will harm average Americans, the corporate media is focussed like a laser on Trump’s relations with Russia?

In my opinion, it’s because Russia has challenged the US corporate empire and is seriously interfering with US plans for control over Eurasia. Even though our foreign policy is sold to gullible Americans as the never-ending war on terror while magically spreading democracy, the truth of the matter is that Washington intends to control critical oil and natural gas reserves in the Middle-East, establish military bases across Central Asia, and remain the dominant player in an area of that is set to become the most important region of the world. It’s The Great Game all over again, only this time it’s the US vs Russia and China in a struggle for all the marbles.

The anti-Russia hysteria in the media is equal to the pain the neocons who control US foreign policy are currently experiencing. Their global strategy of regime change and meddling in the affairs of nations around the world has met a roadblock. The real beef with Russia is that they will not let the US topple the Syrian and Ukrainian governments and install their own puppet regimes.

Of course, the corporate media can’t come out and tell the American people this uncomfortable truth, so the Russians are meddling in our elections.

We have clearly moved past of point of satire.

Update: Even Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein admits that there is zero evidence of Russian interference.

From Moon Over Alabama….

“But the political dimension of the dismissal is not about the Clinton email affair at all. It is about the “Russia interfered with the election” nonsense Clinton invented as excuse for her self-inflicted loss of the vote. The whole anti-Trump/anti-Russia campaign run by neocons and “Resistance” democrats, is designed to block the foreign policy – detente with Russia – for which Trump was elected. The anti-Russia inquisition is dangerous groupthink.

There is no evidence – none at all – that Russia “interfered” with the U.S. election. There is no evidence – none at all – that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign. The Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sits on the Judiciary Committee as well as the Select Committee on Intelligence, recently confirmed that publicly (vid) immediately after she had again been briefed by the CIA:

“Blitzer mentioned that Feinstein and other colleagues from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had visited CIA headquarters on Tuesday to be briefed on the investigation. He then asked Feinstein whether she had evidence, without disclosing any classified information, that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“’Not at this time,’ Feinstein said.”

 

 

 

 

 

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A Tale of Two Countries

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

When Charles Dickens wrote the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities it was in reference to London and Paris during the French Revolution, but his epochal depiction could well be America in 2017.

Indeed, our country has devolved into two separate but unequal entities, where it’s the best of times, while simultaneously the worst of times.

Matt Stoller has an important new post examining ex-President Obama’s decision to accept $400,000 for a speech on Wall Street at Cantor-Fitzgerald’s annual healthcare conference, where wealthy investors and for-profit healthcare corporations network in pursuit of mutually advantageous deals.

“For virtually his whole Presidency, President Obama operated according to a Hamiltonian worldview in which social justice and concentrated capital went hand-in-hand, where technocracy was seen as superior to democracy. It is that same moral vision that animated Obama in accepting nearly half a million dollars in speaking fee money. Obama was the damn President — he’s a smart guy, and yeah, this is who he should be spending time with and naturally this transfer of wealth is a just reward for him to live the lifestyle to which the virtuous class is entitled.

The endorsement of this worldview by Obama, and the disappointment it provoked in his supporters, is useful. It strips away the polish and PR sheen of the last eight years. Democrats are now uncomfortable, not with Trump, but with themselves. And they need to be, or they won’t learn to love democracy. Taking this money makes it clear what Obama believes, and what Democrats bought into when they invested so heavily into his administration and its policies. It draws a consistent line from the unsatisfying policy framework of Obama’s administration to what actually animated it. Not 13 dimensional chess, not GOP obstruction, but a philosophy that Democrats find distasteful on its own merits.

Obama’s good society was one in which a few actors in this class organize our culture using their power over our lives and liberties, because their virtue has enabled them to have the capital or credentials to do so. It’s why his policy agenda on the challenges of today’s political economy was education, early childhood education, and a higher minimum wage, rather than any means to liberate us from the concentrated financiers that organize our markets and our communities. They are doing this for our own good, for one day, maybe not you or me, but perhaps our children might be able to scratch and claw into this rarefied class. If, of course, they have the virtue and intelligence to do so.”

Stoller well describes the technocratic elite who’ve emerged as the winners in our society.

For this strata of Americans these are indeed the best of times. And why wouldn’t they think this way? They are themselves the beneficiaries of a global meritocracy which serves to validate their worth. They live in coastal cites that are booming with jobs in tech, finance, media, and other fields that highlight their educations at the greatest universities in the world. They work brutal hours and are rewarded with high salaries, frequent travel, nice cars, and cutting-edge gadgets.

What of the other 80 percent of the population that aren’t winners? For them, these are the worst of times. Not surprisingly, they don’t see the bankers who ruined their lives in such a positive light. What they see is a system that is fundamentally unjust, rigged, and shot through with corruption and self-dealing. They see Obama getting paid a half-million for a speech on Wall Street as a slimy bribe.

James Howard Kunstler describes the losers.

I live in a corner of Flyover Red America where you can easily read these conditions on the landscape the vacant Main Streets, especially after dark, the houses uncared for and decrepitating year by year, the derelict farms with barns falling down, harvesters rusting in the rain, and pastures overgrown with sumacs, the parasitical national chain stores like tumors at the edge of every town.

You can read it in the bodies of the people in the new town square, i.e. the supermarket: people prematurely old, fattened and sickened by bad food made to look and taste irresistible to con those sunk in despair, a deadly consolation for lives otherwise filled by empty hours, trash television, addictive computer games, and their own family melodramas concocted to give some narrative meaning to lives otherwise bereft of event or effort.

These are people who have suffered their economic and social roles in life to be stolen from them. They do not work at things that matter. They have no prospects for a better life — and, anyway, the sheer notion of that has been reduced to absurd fantasies of Kardashian luxury, i.e. maximum comfort with no purpose other than to enable self-dramatization. And nothing dramatizes a desperate life like a drug habit. It concentrates the mind, as Samuel Johnson once remarked, like waiting to be hanged.

What galls me is how casually the country accepts the forces that it has enabled to wreck these relationships. None of the news reports or “studies” done about opioid addiction will challenge or even mention the deadly logic of Wal Mart and operations like it that systematically destroyed local retail economies (and the lives entailed in them.) The news media would have you believe that we still value “bargain shopping” above all other social dynamics. In the end, we don’t know what we’re talking about.”

Stoller and Kunstler are describing two countries. On one hand we have the technocratic elite who live in a rarified world of seemingly boundless power and luxury. Though the members of this elite consider their own power and luxury to be completely legitimate, it is not. It is the product of a system that’s rigged to benefit them while the other vast majority of Americans languish in declining small cities and rural areas, working in menial service-sector jobs or scraping by on disability checks while medicating away the pain in an opioid daze.

This state of affairs can’t continue for much longer.

If only we had a political party who could propose an alternative to such an arrangement?

Update: This is absolutely right.

“The war we’re fighting against the oligarchy is first and foremost a media war, and we may be certain that any sympathies progressives maintain toward their establishment oppressors will be exploited. By letting ourselves really see Obama for the vicious ecocidal warmongering corporatist that he is and letting the resulting disgust wash through us, we are inoculating ourselves against sympathy for him and everyone like him. That disgust will serve as a kind of psychological gag reflex that rescues us from swallowing any more of their bullshit.”

 

 

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It’s the economy, stupid

 

In retrospect it seems obvious, but political scientist Corey Robin argues that Bernie Sanders did so well in the 2016 presidential election because he’s the first Democrat in forever to offer a trenchant political analysis of the US economy.

Of course, the Democratic Party doesn’t see it that way. They refuse to endorse Bernie’s critique of corporate power and the massive inequality present in the US economy. In the interview, Chris Hayes pushes Tom Perez to join Bernie in saying “the ruling class & billionaire class” are to blame for our problems. Perez refused.

Serendipitously, there’s a new book that provides a fascinating glimpse into the inner sanctum of the Democratic Party.

The just published account of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid–Shattered, depicts a campaign in search of a message and bewilderment when her rival offered a popular one. Hillary Clinton and her top aides never could get their heads around what made Bernie popular–this fundamental economic policy critique leveled by Sanders.

In reviewing Shattered, Matt Taibbi relates that the Clinton campaign viewed economic policy as irrelevant“The Clinton campaign in 2016, for instance, never saw the Bernie Sanders campaign as being driven by millions of people who over the course of decades had become dissatisfied with the party. They instead saw one cheap stunt pulled by an illegitimate back-bencher, foolishness that would be ended if Sanders himself could somehow be removed.” 

Indeed, Shattered offers an account of a campaign so out of touch, that Clinton has no idea the damage that successive “free trade” treaties had done to former middle-class American workers.

According to Taibbi, “Clinton frequently acknowledged to her aides that she didn’t have the pulse of the electorate or understand the political currents. When she did campaign in Michigan, Clinton resisted condemning global free trade deals, and then drew criticism in the local press for her tepid answers.”

This is your modern Democratic Party and liberal faction of the political class. They don’t really believe in anything, except raising money from rich constituents and whip-smart campaign consultants, selling a product–said political candidate–to a sullen electorate. As a bonus, they deploy identity politics, like race and gay marriage, to distract from the neoliberal economic policies that reward their wealthy benefactors.

Since the 2016 election many political observers have ascribed Trump’s stunning win to a darker form of conservatism combined with the sheer racism of the deplorable’s who trooped to the polls to pull the lever for the political novice, in the process spoiling Hillary’s coronation.

I call bullshit. For the Democratic Party and their liberal-intellectual-class it’s much easier to blame racism or the nefarious Russians rather looking in the mirror.

In my opinion it was the deteriorating economic situation among America’s former middle-class voters that fueled Trump’s win. Many of these same Americans voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, expecting Hope and Change. When they got neither and saw that Hillary was promising more of the same they took a flyer on Trump.

It was these worsening economic conditions that enabled a populist conservative like Trump to prevail–conditions that Clinton’s wing of the Democratic Party helped to create. For 40 years, working-class Americans have experienced stagnant or falling incomes, due to the policies of neoliberalism that New Democrats, like Obama and the Clinton’s have pursued.

It’s quite ironic that the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton, forgot her husbands overriding electoral focus in his successful  1992 presidential bid–it’s the economy, stupid.

Update: Former President Obama certainly didn’t forget the economy–his own personal economy.

“The rumors are true: Former President Barack Obama will receive $400,000 to speak at a health care conference organized by the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

It should not be a surprise. This unseemly and unnecessary cash-in fits a pattern of bad behavior involving the financial sector, one that spans Obama’s entire presidency. That governing failure convinced millions of his onetime supporters that the president and his party were not, in fact, playing for their team, and helped pave the way for President Donald Trump. Obama’s Wall Street payday will confirm for many what they have long suspected: that the Democratic Party is managed by out-of-touch elites who do not understand or care about the concerns of ordinary Americans. It’s hard to fault those who come to this conclusion.”

 

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