Thursday, April 17, 2014

Oligarchy USA

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the rich have an outsized influence on politics. There have been signs and symptoms of the wealth pestilence all over this land. Premature deaths, one in five children in poverty, the worst income disparity since the Gilded Age, the highest incarceration rate on the planet. It's just that it couldn't be absolutely, scientifically established that a plague of oligarchs has descended upon us, chewed us up, digested the nutritious bits, and upchucked the rest.

Until now, that is.The pathology report is in, folks. At long last, we have irrefutable proof that yes indeed, the one indispensible nation has been subsumed by a bona fide oligarchy. Benjamin Page, the Northwestern academic who proved one year ago that the ultra-rich have an outsized influence on policy, has just published a new paper with a Princeton colleague that makes the death of democracy official. So we can either let the embalming and the dirge commence, or we can go all Dr. Frankenstein on the carcass and attempt to reanimate it.

Of course, the corpse has been rotting away for quite some time now. We've been sickened by the stench for decades, despite the cheery and unrelenting death denialism propaganda from the corporate media and political snake oil salesmen. We've been taught to equate citizenship with consumerism, a booming stock market with a healthy economy. We've been brainwashed into viewing politics a tribalistic spectator sport, and universal human rights as a lottery that we all must enter for that slim-to-none chance to win.

The powerful are able to maintain the con because, as serendipity would have it, the economic elites and the regular shlubs often want the same things. For instance, since rich and poor alike favor marriage equality, gay rights policies are on the ascendant.

 "Ordinary citizens, for example, might often be observed to 'win' (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail," say the report's authors.

 Among the other findings of Page and Martin Gilens:
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. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.
 When a majority – even a very large majority – of the public favors change, it is not likely to get what it wants.  In our 1,779 policy cases, narrow pro-change majorities of the public got the policy changes they wanted only about 30% of the time. More strikingly, even overwhelmingly large pro-change majorities, with 80% of the public favoring a policy change, got that change only about 43% of the time.
  When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.
The authors also indirectly scoff at the standard blame-the-victim canard that we citizens get the government we deserve either by not voting, or voting against our own economic interests.  Um -- if you accept the findings of this study (which I do)  you can vote early, you can vote often, you can vote for your own interests till the cows come home, and it still won't do you a damn bit of good. They conclude:
Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does. Perhaps they know better which policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends, when deciding which policies to support. But we tend to doubt it. We believe instead that – collectively – ordinary citizens generally know their own values and interests pretty well, and that their expressed policy preferences are worthy of respect  Moreover, we are not so sure about the informational advantages of elites. Yes, detailed policy knowledge tends to rise with income and status.
Surely wealthy Americans and corporate executives tend to know a lot about tax and regulatory policies that directly affect them. But how much do they know about the human impact of Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, or unemployment insurance, none of which is likely to be crucial to their own well-being? Most important, we see no reason to think that informational expertise is always accompanied by an inclination to transcend one's own interests or a determination to work for the common good. All in all, we believe that the public is likely to be a more certain guardian of its own interests than any feasible alternative.
Amen to that. Wealth does not necessarily correlate with intelligence, nor poverty with stupidity. 

The rich, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, are different from you and me. Yeah, retorted Ernest Hemingway -- they have more money.

And don't forget the power of their influential fascist jackboots pressing down ever more sadistically upon the neck of democracy's corpse. The rich are too stupid to realize that gluttonous feasting upon the diseased, the dying and the dead is harmful to their own health. Those ivory towers they build upon the weak foundations of an overflowing graveyard will soon tumble and fall.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Say Hello to the Neocon Times

The Gray Lady donned her dull, leaden body armor today for two boringly bellicose homepage articles. As her clarion call for war rings resoundingly hollow, you might call this dissonant tune Iraq Deja Vu All Over Again.

 First, the unsigned editorial, which disdains any shades of gray, leaden or otherwise, and simplistically reduces the subject to Russia Bad, USA Good. I would hazard a guess that if the editorial was not directly penned by Dick Cheney, Ronald Dumsfeld, Robert Kagan, or any of the Bushie neocons still lving and thriving on the taxpayer dime and heart, then it was written under the influence of drugs or with a weapon pointed at their sweaty typing fingers. Without one trace of shame or irony, the Times proclaims that Putin is fomenting "Soviet-style propaganda" and nobody outside Russia is buying his claims that the right wing coup in Ukraine was a right wing coup. So I guess that makes most of the reader-commenters and most of us looking outside the corporate media for our news "nobodies."

And for a lesson in how not to write pro-war propaganda to make it seem like independent journalism, be sure to read David Herszenhorn's subtly headlined "Russia Is Quick To Bend Truth About Ukraine's Political Crisis."

(If only the Times were so bold in other areas, and blared headlines like "Republicans' Criminal Lies About Climate Change" or "Obama Brags About His Drone Murders" or "United States Devolving Into Fascist Police State" then maybe I could forgive them this latest little jingoistic peccadillo.)

Herszenhorn begins thusly:
And so began another day of bluster and hyperbole, of the misinformation, exaggerations, conspiracy theories, overheated rhetoric and, occasionally, outright lies about the political crisis in Ukraine that have emanated from the highest echelons of the Kremlin and reverberated on state-controlled Russian television, hour after hour, day after day, week after week.
Wow. He could have been talking about crypto-fascist CNN's shock 'n' awe Iraq War trailer, back when every American corporate hack worth his salt was clamoring to be embedded with the troops. Or when the Times falsely reported on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and thus allowed Cheney to go on TV and point to the Times as proof of same. He might even have been talking about crypto-fascist CNN's more recent warm-up acts for the pre-empted-by-Putin bombing of Syria. Or its jingoistic coverage this week of the "Boston Strong" pep rally for a proxy war (or the MIC's hoped for real war) with Russia.

To Herszenhorn's tepid credit, he does mention further down in his article that, yeah, maybe the Murkans have also been indulging in a bit of propaganda themselves. But only further down in the article:
There is no question that the new Ukrainian government and its Western allies, including the United States, have engaged in their own misinformation efforts at times, with officials in Kiev making bold pronouncements in recent days of enforcement efforts that never materialized. On Tuesday, some American officials were spreading unverified photographs allegedly showing Russian rocket launchers carried by pro-Russian demonstrators in eastern Ukraine.
I hope you didn't miss the subtlety. When the USA does propaganda, it only does it occasionally. When Russia does it, it's unrelenting torture. Those poor people apparently are never allowed to even sleep. The Times, as megaphone for the White House, wants you to know this. And such is the desperate tone in the article that the White House must surely realize that its efforts to win the hearts and minds of the public are going for naught.

The public is too weary, too broke and too cynical for any more phony patriotism. And the small segment of the public that is paying attention is hopping mad and more sympatico with our fellow victims of neoliberal austerity in Ukraine than we are with our own elected officials.

These are the neocon times that try men's souls.

If you crave honest coverage of the Ukraine situation, avoid the Times and the equally dishonest and war-mongering Washington Post. Seek out instead various European publications, such as Der Spiegel. And don't miss the latest from Polk-winning Robert Parry, who encapsulates the whole sham in as clear and cogent a way as I've yet read.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Corruption in a Vacuum Tube


In today's disappointing New York Times column, Paul Krugman correctly blames the predatory financial industry for "undermining our economy and our society."

But he refrains from blaming the political system in general and the Obama administration in particular, even though "there is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America’s return to Gilded Age levels of inequality." Instead, he writes that "we" are giving vast amounts of public money to the same people who screw the little guy every single minute of every single day (the words after "we" are mine, not Krugman's).

Besides never defining "we" he was vague about who to blame besides the greedy "flash boy" sociopathic traders highlighted in the recent bestseller by Michael Lewis. Instead, he laments that unfathomable piles of money are simply going to waste:
How much waste are we talking about? A paper by Thomas Philippon of New York University puts it at several hundred billion dollars a year.
Mr. Philippon starts with the familiar observation that finance has grown much faster than the economy as a whole. Specifically, the share of G.D.P. accruing to bankers, traders, and so on has nearly doubled since 1980, when we started dismantling the system of financial regulation created as a response to the Great Depression.
What are we getting in return for all that money? Not much, as far as anyone can tell. Mr. Philippon shows that the financial industry has grown much faster than either the flow of savings it channels or the assets it manages. Defenders of modern finance like to argue that it does the economy a great service by allocating capital to its most productive uses — but that’s a hard argument to sustain after a decade in which Wall Street’s crowning achievement involved directing hundreds of billions of dollars into subprime mortgages.
Wall Street’s friends also used to claim that the proliferation of complex financial instruments was reducing risk and increasing the system’s stability, so that financial crises were a thing of the past. No, really.
If there was a Republican administration cop not only asleep on the beat, but cheering the criminals on, I think Krugman would be naming names in this latest column. Actually, he does name Chris Christie, but only to compare the flash- trading fiber-optic tube under the Hudson River with the New Jersey governor's own canceled commuter tunnel. Democrats, as usual, receive Krugman immunity from polemical prosecution.

So, here is my published comment to Mr. Krugman:
There's a bill floating around that would slap a tax of only three pennies per $100 on those scammy high speed trades. It would raise an estimated $352 billion over ten years. Think of all the projects for the greater social good that such a tax could fund. Schools, jobs, infrastructure repairs, expansion of Social Security. What a great first step toward leveling the playing field and fighting back against the worst income inequality since the Gilded Age!
But guess who's adamantly opposed to this mild Robin Hood tax? President Obama, that's who. He's afraid that upsetting the volatile market would make Mr. Market more volatile. It's the same excuse his Attorney General uses for not prosecuting the Wall Street mob. Their rackets might actually lose money. Their feelings might get hurt. Jamie Dimon might move JP Morgan Chase out of the country. And then where would all the money for the election of complicit politicians come from?
Meanwhile, senatorial leaders like Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) openly complain to all who will listen that the vampires of finance are being unfairly demonized. "Left-wing blogs are the mirror image of the Tea Party," he fumed to The New Republic a few months ago. "They just have less credibility and less clout."
With Dem friends like that, who needs the Grand Guignol Party? Tax the rich, jail the banksters, ban legalized bribery, impeach half the Supreme Court, support Sanders and Warren.
Otherwise, it's R.I.P. democracy.
For a more refreshing overview of reality, here's a Guardian piece by Glenn Greenwald, which also links to the excellent PBS documentary "The Untouchables." The film, which aired a year ago, does place the blame for our continuing economic woes squarely upon the political corruption within the Obama administration. The film was so scathing that Holder henchman Lanny Breuer was forced to quit within days of its airing, purely for appearance's sake of course. Meanwhile, the gambling continues, and all the pundits express shock whenever a new blockbuster bestseller hits the stands and repeats the same old story over and over and over again.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Debtor Dynasties

 (Updated below)

The Kochs and the Waltons have their patrimonial dynasties.

The Bushes and the Clintons have their political dynasties.

And just so we won't feel left out, we regular folk have been gifted with our very own debtor dynasties.

Now that the deficit hawks and the plutocrats who own them have been at least temporarily rebuffed in their quest to trim (Democrats) and slash (Republicans) the safety net, the poobahs have decreed that we are now responsible for our ancestors' alleged Social Security overpayments, even if they date back to the last century.

So, if you were hoping for an income tax refund this year and you were orphaned as long ago as the 60s, and your surviving parent or guardian had collected survivor benefits to feed and clothe you, the government just might try to claw some of that money back. They don't even have to supply you with any proof of overpayment. They don't have to obey the various laws exempting children from the debts of their deceased parents. They just keep the money you were counting on to feed and clothe yourself and your own children.

Marc Fisher of the Washington Post has the whole unbelievable story:
A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.
When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.
Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.
All told, writes Fisher, almost $2 billion in refunds have been intercepted by the Treasury this year alone. Very old alleged debts account for $75 million of the confiscated money. And it's all the result of a sneaky little rider tucked into the Farm Bill three years ago. You remember the Farm Bill, the latest version of which cut several billion dollars from the food stamp budget? And which President Obama glowingly touted as shrinking the deficit? (along with shrinking millions of stomachs from lack of food.)

According to the Post, not one government official was willing to take credit for confiscating tax refunds from those hard-working Americans. Obama, though, loves to praise people for their "grit and resilience," for having no choice but to accept those euphemistic hard choices. I hope somebody asks him about this, newly fresh as he is from his Texas speech where he praised himself as the human culmination of LBJ's Civil Rights legislation. I would like to hear about the discrepancy between his civil rights and those of Ms. Grice (she is black) and thousands like her.

Ironically, she works for the federal government (Food and Drug Administration), so this is pretty much a quadruple whammy for her. First, Obama froze her pay. Then, Obama instituted the Insider Threat program requiring her co-workers to turn her in if she has personal or financial problems. Third, she was furloughed last year when the government shut down. And now, the government is taking back nearly $3,000 of her hard-earned money in order to satisfy a debt that may or may not be valid. Luckily, she has a lawyer to sue on her behalf. Whether she is now considered a threat for talking to the press is another story.

Update: Ms. Grice's senator is shocked, shocked at this travesty she knew nothing about, and has hastened to write a strongly-worded letter to the Social Security Administration requesting that their conscience be their guide in future generational thefts. 

Update 2: The Social Security Administration dug deep and located the remnants of its moral compass. I say remnants because due to popular outcry, it will only "suspend" clawing back from survivors alleged over-payments to deceased relatives pending a more thorough review, and only for alleged debts less than 10 years old. So your parent or guardian received payments on your behalf after 2003, you're still on the hook if the government says you are. It's a good thing this is an election year -- that miraculous time when congress critters get all interested in doing stuff for their constituents, and clamoring for press time to brag about same.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Case of the Millionaire Carpetbagger

Things are really starting to heat up in the 19th Congressional District of New York. Not only is an uber-wealthy political neophyte attempting to buy a seat, he just committed the ultimate faux pas. He refused to be interviewed by Politico! They came all the way up to his Ulster County HQ to talk to him, and the door was locked! Then they went to the private investment firm he started to loan money to local businesses to "create jobs" in this economically struggling backwater of a district. (full disclosure: I live here) And he wasn't in that office, either. So then they went to his palatial residence -- and they couldn't even get past the gates. 

It looked as though Sean Eldridge, like the hapless car salesman in Fargo, was "fleein' the interview."

Even before this brouhaha, I had been totally fired up about the mid-terms. My official choice this fall is between incumbent Chris Gibson, last year named the House's most liberal Republican, (yeah, what an oxymoron) and Democrat Sean Eldridge, the 20-something plutocratic arriviste who bought a luxury estate in a nearby town for $2 million cash so that he could then buy (oops, I mean "run for") Gibson's seat. He and his spouse, Facebook co-founder and New Republic owner Chris Hughes, had previously bought a different luxury estate in a downstate New York district to run against Tea Partier Nan Hayward, but that plan became moot once another wealthy Wall Street Street Democrat, also named Sean (Maloney), defeated her in 2012. Sean & Chris & Chris & Sean. The mind reels.

Like Politico, I have not yet met Sean E., but he, or maybe one of his many handlers, emails me constantly, urgently asking me if I got the last email asking me to sign another petition for immediate delivery to John Boehner, who no doubt will collapse in surrender upon reading it. Earlier this year, Sean the multimillionaire asked me to donate $5 to his campaign as a sign of my outrage over Congress's failure to extend federal unemployment benefits. One thing in Sean's favor is that he favors campaign finance reform. Which I suppose is an easy thing to favor if you're basically financing your own campaign.

I've looked for Sean around town, thinking maybe he'd be out and about, meeting and greeting, or maybe handing out glossy brochures in front of Stop N Shop. What I do see in front of Stop N Shop is a big (mostly empty) bin for any extra groceries people can spare for the hungry people who just got their food stamp stipends slashed in a fit of bonhomie by the millionaire Congress Sean aspires to join. So any spare change is going for peanut butter and Cheerios for my neighbors. Sorry, Sean. I cannot help you meet your goal by the magical midnight hour. Count yourself lucky, though, that you already scored your prince. You will never know how it feels to wake up in rags among rotting pumpkins.

Besides investing in entrepreneurs by loaning them his own personal money, Sean's idea of engaging with the community includes plunking down vast amounts of personal cash to feast at overpriced eateries in an overpriced tourist trap town up here called Woodstock, so as to help boost our struggling economy. And also by donating some unbelievably pricey 3-D printing technology to SUNY-New Paltz -- rather than, say, funding scholarships for needy indebted students, or helping sustain its excellent art and theater programs. Centrist Dems, as you know, are very keen on STEM training for those low-wage jobs of the future!

Plus, there is money to be made. The neoliberal venture also involves a $1 million state economic development grant from Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as probable totally tax-exempt status for at least a decade courtesy of Cuomo's new "StartUpNY" public-private initiative. (Private profit at public expense. But jobs, jobs, jobs of the future!) Incidentally, the SUNY press release on Eldridge's investment makes absolutely no mention of his Congressional run.

Like me, maybe you were wondering if Sean Eldridge is too good to be true, or even if he really exists. Well, rest assured, he lives and breathes the same air as we do -- in 3-D, no less. Unfortunately, judging from this radio interview, he sounds like he borrowed all his canned talking points from Barack Obama. Words like future, skills, entrepreneurs, opportunity and gridlock fly fast and furious. Which is not surprising, seeing how he got his political start, while still in college,volunteering for Obama. He even met his future husband during the Obama campaign. But meanwhile, an empty suit channeling an empty suit does not bode well, despite having SKDKnickerbocker, a lobbying/PR firm run by former Obama adviser Anita Dunn, doing his publicity.

To
be fair, the Politico accusations of willful non-accessibility are sort of unfair. Because when Sean and his hubby first burst upon on the local scene, they graciously gave an exclusive interview to the New York Times. Had I not read about a person wanting to represent me on the front page of the Times, instead of, say, in the local weekly, I never would have known he existed. You can't imagine how fired up I became as I read this:
Two years ago, Sean Eldridge and his husband, the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, bought a $5 million estate in Garrison, about 50 miles north of New York City. It offered 80 acres of rolling fields and a farmhouse once owned by a Vanderbilt. It would also allow Mr. Eldridge, 26, to run for the local Congressional seat if he chose to.
But that seat appeared unattainable, and soon the couple’s gaze shifted north, to the neighboring district. In January, they bought a $2 million modern home here overlooking a reservoir, laying the groundwork for Mr. Eldridge’s campaign for their new local Congressional seat, New York’s 19th.
Word of Mr. Eldridge’s political plans has delighted the friends who make up his social circle: Donors to his exploratory committee include George Soros, the billionaire financier, and Sean Parker, the tech entrepreneur behind Napster and Spotify.
The locals, though? Not so much, apparently. It's really been a series of provincial faux pas for this plutocratic transplant to the provinces.  Before the awkward moment involving Politico, the first awkward moment was when he neglected to install a mailbox at the gates of his third residence, and his voter registration form was returned to the Elections Board as undeliverable. But in his Times interview, he convincingly scoffed at the notion that his move to rustic Ulster County had anything at all to do with personal political ambition:
“The Hudson Valley is my home,” he said. “It’s where I work. It’s where I got married.”
Mr. Eldridge said he and his husband, who also own a loft in SoHo in Manhattan, were settling into their new upstate home. He described a routine that includes grocery shopping and dining in Woodstock, the artsy enclave nearby. “We’re very involved in the community,” he said.
Mr. Eldridge’s supporters note that for all the trappings of wealth he now possesses, Mr. Eldridge grew up in a middle-class community in Ohio, where both of his parents were doctors; they say he has a genuine understanding of people of modest means.
And while the 19th District has vast stretches of rural, conservative communities, it is also home to more Democratic-leaning places, like New Paltz and Monticello, that could give his candidacy a lift.
“He clearly has a bright future,” said Mike Hein, a Democrat who is the Ulster County executive.
And that brings us to yet another faux pas in the unrelenting series. It seems Sean never bothered to personally call upon the Kingston (the county seat) mayor before he emailed him, casually asking for his endorsement. Mayor Shayne Gallo was neither amused nor impressed:
“I was extremely surprised, and I was offended,” he said. “I would think it would be prudent … if not politically polite and respectful, to reach out to those who’ve gone through this process and who are local yokels and who are stakeholders in the community you hope to represent.”
“Considering that someone isn’t from the area, wasn’t born or raised in the district, doesn’t have an established record in public or private service, nor any notable achievements in our local or regional economy … I’m very perplexed by that,” the mayor said.
OK, one more faux pas and I'll quit, I promise. When Sean Eldridge forked over that $750,000 for the 3-D printing venture in New Paltz, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) was on hand to gush over the gift, but with the caveat that such technology has a worrisome tendency to be used for nefarious purposes, as in terrorists sneaking undetectable plastic guns past TSA gropers and onto airplanes.

And Sean responded, "Although there's no silver bullet for economic growth in the Hudson Valley, we believe that 3-D printing has tremendous potential to grow our economy, spark innovation and create jobs in the region." 

Plastic bullets, yes. Silver bullets, no. 

Plastic candidates? About a billion bucks a dozen.

 
Third Home a Charm?


A Weaponized Human Refuse Dump

It's bad enough in the most drastic epoch of wealth disparity in American history that most people are suffering economically. What makes this particular era so heinous is that the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed, and the underemployed are being kicked when they're already down. They are being ground into human mulch for dumping in a vast neoliberal landfill. People are not only poor, their poverty and suffering have literally been deemed crimes by the elite class of sociopaths running the place.

As Henry A. Giroux puts it in his new Truthout essay,
Economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich have argued that we are in a new Gilded Age, one that mimics a time when robber barons and strikebreakers ruled, and the government and economy were controlled by a cabal that was rich, powerful and ruthless.[3] And, of course, blacks, women and the working class were told to mind their place in a society controlled by the rich. What is often missing in these analyses is that what is new in the second Gilded Age is not just about the moral sanctioning of greed, the corruption of politics by big money, and the ruthlessness of class power.
What is unique is the rise of a brutal punishing-incarceration state that imposes its power on the dispossessed, the emergence of a surveillance state that spies on and suppresses dissenters, the emergence of vast cultural apparatuses that colonize subjectivity in the interests of the market, and a political class that is uninterested in political concessions and appears immune from control by nation states. The second Gilded Age is really a more brutal form of authoritarianism driven by what psychologist Robert Jay Lifton rightly calls a "death-saturated age," in which matters of violence, survival and trauma now infuse everyday life.
Giroux points out that for the first time, an entire generation has been condemned to lives of debt and hopelessness. Other recessions and depressions in our history have ended. This one is being extended, by deliberate design:
What has changed about an entire generation of  young people includes not only neoliberal society’s disinvestment in youth and the permanent fate of downward mobility but also the fact that youth live in a commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment that is unlike anything experienced by those of previous generations.  Nothing has prepared this generation for the inhospitable and savage new world of commodification, privatization, joblessness, frustrated hopes, surveillance and stillborn projects. The present generation has been born into a throwaway society of consumers in which both goods and young people are viewed increasingly as redundant and disposable or they are merely valued as consumers and commodities. In this discourse, young people are not seen as troubled but viewed as a source of trouble; rather than viewed as being "at risk," they are the risk and subject to a range of punitive policies.
So what can be done to prevent even more of us being treated as garbage by Neoliberal Waste Management? Writes Giroux,
It will not be enough only to expose the falseness of the propaganda pumped out by the commanding neoliberal cultural apparatuses. We also need to create alternative narratives about what the promise of democracy might be for our children and ourselves. This demands a break from established political parties, the creation of alternative public spheres in which to produce democratic narratives and visions, and a notion of politics that is educative, one that takes seriously how people interpret and mediate the world, how they see themselves in relation to others, and what it might mean to imagine otherwise in order to act otherwise.
He suggests alliances among disparate groups of feminists, immigration activists, organized labor, teachers, students -- and independence from and rejection of the two corporate political parties. Such solidarity is already manifest in spots -- for example in Chicago, where immigrants, mental health self-advocacy groups and teachers regularly join together to protest Mayor Rahm "One Percent" Emanuel's relentless privatization of education and housing and public sector jobs.

Read Giroux's whole piece. First, you get depressed. Then you get mad. Then you get inspired. And finally, you get moving.

Not to be confused with MoveOn, of course. Because you know what happens in those fake progressive, party-aligned veal pens? You eventually get chopped up and eaten up. And of course you know what happens to the leftovers. They're thrown out instead of saved. It's the American way.

So let's put the ruling class on a diet. If we refuse to be the food on their plates, it will be kind of impossible for them to throw us down their gilded garbage chutes. Right?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Oh, Those Demonizing Dems

I don't know what's funnier: that Beltway insiders are professing shock that Democrats are boldly demonizing the Supreme Court, or that the corporate Democrats in mid-term election mode actually think they'll be taken seriously as raging born-again populists.

Because when Senator Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) rails against predatory plutocrats, hilarity not only ensues -- it explodes:
“They wish to dismantle all limits on giving, piece by piece, until we are back to the days of the robber barons, when anyone or anything could give unlimited money, undisclosed, and make our political system seem so rigged that everyone will lose interest in our democracy,” Schumer said of the court.
Um, Chuck. The political system doesn't seem rigged, it is rigged, thanks in large part to your own complicity. Maybe people have lost interest in our democracy because in actuality, the system is on the fast track to an oligarchy. This did not start with the McCutcheon vs. FEC Supreme Court decision or with the Koch Bros, Chuckie.

Schumer is said not to be interested in the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee, purely because too-incessant public posturing against the very predators who finance him might dry up the dollars, even though it's simply posturing. Plus, he is in line to replace Harry Reid.  And being forced to go soft on Wall Street as banking leader could hurt his chances for the leadership. Those dreaded lefty bloggers might give him a hard time.

But still, it's explosively hilarious that Schumer is now publicly demonizing the robber barons, given that his last target was "lefty bloggers" who demonized... the robber barons!

From the December New Republic interview with Isaac Chotiner:
IC: It seems like one difference would be the approach to Wall Street. I assume you’re not supporting a reinstatement of Glass-Steagall,3 which she (Elizabeth Warren) is sponsoring?
CS: No.
IC: You and Mayor Bloomberg, in 2007, said that reregulating Wall Street would cause people to flee overseas to London. That is very different than Warren.
CS: It has got to be, to me, a careful balance, OK? Wall Street excesses helped lead to the Great Recession. And to sit there and do nothing, or do what the Republicans want—repeal Dodd-Frank—makes no sense. But on the other hand, I think that you just don’t attack Wall Street because they’re successful or rich.
I just unsuccessfully, with Bloomberg, supported raising the building height in midtown Manhattan, so we could build more office buildings. Office buildings are our factories—imagine the people of Michigan saying, “We don’t want to build a new auto factory, because the Ford family will get richer, or the person who builds the factory will make money.” You’ve got to look at the effect on average folks. The vast majority of the people employed by Wall Street are the secretary who goes in to work on the Long Island Rail Road, who makes fifty, sixty, seventy thousand dollars a year. I’m not saying Elizabeth does this, but there are some on the far left who just have a visceral hatred of Wall Street. It’s counterproductive.
Um, Chuck. Comparing Wall Street to Detroit is disingenuous. Your office buildings are not factories that manufacture things. They are the corrupt centers of the vampiric financialization of the entire global economy, the direct cause of the most soul-crushingly extreme wealth disparity in the history of the United States.
CS: You don’t want to go after them for the sake of going after them. The left-wing blogs want you to be completely and always anti–Wall Street. It’s not the right way to be.
IC: So are the left-wing blogs as bad as the Tea Party ones in this case?
CS: Left-wing blogs are the mirror image. They just have less credibility and less clout.
Chuck, Chuck, Chuck! There goes your falsely equivalent centrism again.The "left" goes after things based on reality -- like the widespread documented unprosecuted mortgage fraud by the robber-bankers. The right goes after things based upon their own lies, such as their chronic climate change denialism.
CS: It’s sort of funny. People on Wall Street think I haven’t done enough for them, and people on the left think I’ve done too much for Wall Street. On this one, I go by my internal gyroscope, and I’m pretty happy about where I’ve come down.
I had one of those gyroscopes when I was a kid. They spin and they spin and they spin. And when they come down, they come down with an annoying little clatter. Until the controlling player re-attaches the string and spins it a little more. They tilt at crazy angles, but with enough practice you can even get one to walk on a tightrope. It's sort of funny.

This time around, the spin is that it's safe to demonize the Supremes as long as you pretend that they're not every bit as controlled by the Wall Street's oligarchic strings as you are. As if the robber barons aren't the continuing source of your own continuing grasp on raw political power.As if you think you can pound the table for Wall Street deregulation with your right hand and pound the table for the victims of Wall Street with your left.

It would be sort of funny if it weren't so mind-numbingly corrupt.