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    • The Problem With Neoliberal “It’s Never Been Better” Triumphalism
      Saying that humanity is currently the best off it has ever been (a dubious proposition in any case) is like saying “I’ve never been warmer” as you burn down your house. People like Pinker have been trotting out stats to claim that we’ve never been better off. Those stats are questionable, based on a definition […]
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While we were watching OccupyWallStreet…

… it appears that our Congress was paying absolutely no attention at all.  Greg Sargent’s Plum Line has the gritty details about how Republicans, and some Democrats, are planning to vote down Obama’s jobs bill.  The entrails do not look good for Democrats in red states that oppose the bill according to Stan Greenberg:

Top pollster Stanley Greenberg is not shy about criticizing the White House when he thinks it’s warranted, and his opinion is widely respected by Democrats in Congress. So if Greenberg tells moderate Senate Democrats that they vote against Obama’s jobs bill at their ownperil, will they believe him?

In an interview with me this morning, Greenberg made a strong case that moderate Senate Democrats in red states would be foolish and shortsighted if they vote against the American Jobs Act today, as some of them appear to be prepared to do. The White House and Dems have been railing against Republicans for opposing the jobs bill, but if a few Senate Dems defect, and a simple majority of the Senate doesn’t support it, that will dilute the Dem message that Republicans are the key obstacle to progress on the economy.

But Greenberg’s case for voting for the bill went significantly beyond this concern about overall party messaging. He argued that moderate Democrats who vote against it are actually imperiling their ownreelection chances.

“They reduce their risks for reelection by showing support for a jobs bill that’s going to be increasingly popular as voters learn more about it,” Greenberg said. “They have to be for something on the economy, and this the kind of proposal they should support. If I were advising them, I’d say you want to be backing a jobs bill with middle class tax cuts paid for by tax hikes on millionaires. Moderate voters in these states very much want to raise taxes on the wealthy to meet our obligations.”

That bill leaves a lot to be desired for sure, but those of us out of work need jobs.  If the OccupyWallStreet movement hasn’t gotten through to Congresscritters yet, let me spell it out: Any organized opposition to putting people to work is going to be extremely unpopular.  Maybe that will fall most heavily on the Republicans, but I recall that it wasn’t too long ago that Tim Geithner said on behalf of the Obama Treasury Department that life was about to get a lot more unpleasant for the unemployed.

You know, I just find that unacceptable.

If the (inadequate) jobs bill goes down, expect a lot more unpleasantness between the 99% and the people who are standing in the way of living wages and decent healthcare.  If Congress is this politically tone deaf, a good number of them need to be replaced.  If I were them, I’d be cautious because OccupyWallStreet looks like the perfect forum to explore starting a third party and there is enough time between now and November 2012 to make a difference.

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Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away

I go to a Mad Men blog these days to chill out from politics.  If you follow Mad Men, you know that Betty Draper found out who her husband really is and that, added to all of the other emotional insults she’s taken over the years, has forced her to come to some decisions in her life.  The first is that she doesn’t love him anymore.   She’s been flirting with a Republican political operative (back in the days when there was such a thing as a liberal Republican) but she rebuffs him in his office when he wants to boff her on his sofa.  It’s tawdry, she says.  And she walks away.  Two episodes later, he proposes to her.  He still hasn’t slept with her.

One of the commenters at Basket of Kisses says that Betty is using a classic negotiation technique: she comes to the table prepared to walk away from it.  There is a line she isn’t willing to cross.  (We’ve seen Betty do tawdry so we know she can.  It’s just that her other little fling didn’t have any high stakes attached to it.)  When it comes to the rest of her life, Betty is being very choosey.

Last year, we were hotly criticized for not jumping on the Obama bandwagon.  We were called every name in the book.  We were told we were jeopardizing the lives of other women because we wouldn’t budge even in the face of Deomcratic scare tactics when it came to abortion.  Some of this was because we doubted the sincerity of a party that scrubbed all references of reproductive rights from most of their candidate’s websites.  But mostly it was because there was a line we were not prepared to cross.  We were not going to let the Democratic party benefit from our votes when we knew they had disenfranchised many of us during the primaries.  We were not going to let the party take our votes for granted.  If they wanted them, they needed to give us something first.  They didn’t and we didn’t.  We walked away.

In retrospect, I think that was a good move on our part.  It revealed the Democratic party for what it really was.  They were mean and nasty to us.  They called us “bitter knitters”.  We were old, uneducated women.  We were racists.  Jon Favreau sent us an FU postcard.  For awhile there, before the economy tanked, they were very worried that we would actually make a difference.  There is power in walking away.

I blame the party for depriving my friends of the pure joy of seeing the first African-American elected as president of the United States of America.  I watched a sea of elation in Bryant Park in Chicago on a TV in a little bar in Manhattan and suddenly, I was one with that crowd.  I was filled with joy and exhileration.  But no one around me was celebrating.  The women I was with saw themselves as roadkill on the way to Obama’s victory.

But we walked away.  And now we have been vindicated.  They really were the awful, big business compromised, evangelical voter toe suckers and all around unprincipled players we thought they were.  The might have run us over but at least we didn’t hop into bed with them.

The rest of the left blogosphere has a choice.  They can continue to be fucked over by these assholes or they can preserve the rest of their dignity and walk away.  The road to rehabilitation starts by ripping up your party card and mailing it to Donna Brazile.  Then, join the rest of us.  We’re the third party.  We’re the rapidly growing group of voters in every state that designates themselves as unaffiliated.  We’re the potential 30% of elected female officials who will change this country.  We’re the people who don’t have to hold our elected officials accountable anymore because we are through dealing with them. And I think we have finally achieved the critical mass to become our own third party.

Just walk away.


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The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Cycle of Corruption

MarkTwain_arts Mark Twain, in “Cannibalism in the Cars,” suggested that cannibalism of the body politic is a logical outcome of the practice of the political values of the elected representatives of the United States, in dire circumstances. What would occur, if such dire circumstances did not require a natural disaster, but became a systemic feature of the political landscape?

doncamp

The current economic crisis and America’s abject failure to provide economically-efficient, affordable healthcare are two examples of dire circumstances that are systemic features of America’s political landscape. Both crises are the results of bad governance. Both circumstances are direct products of the growth of influence of en-corporated political interests (encorps) in the system of governance of the United States. Bad governance, in both cases, involves a betrayal of the public trust that is manifested in not regulating the encorps in a way that protects the public’s interests, especially with respect to not meaningfully regulating the encorps ability to influence government officials.

The United States was born wary of the power of vested interests to influence public policy. Alexander Hamilton’s comments in the Federalist Papers are an example of this concern. .

In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community, by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their trust, which, to any but minds animated and guided by superior virtue, may appear to exceed the proportion of interest they have in the common stock, and to overbalance the obligations of duty.

Unfortunately, keeping the vested interests out is not a simple matter. How can it be when parties themselves are collective expressions of a set of weighted interests? Frankly, it is sensible for people of like purpose to strive together to achieve their aims, and there is nothing necessarily insidious about the practise. In fact, it’s a cornerstone of Democracy and civil society.

It is also, however, the entry way for corruption because the crux of the matter is not that people have differing and competing interests: it’s that they differ so greatly in terms of their power to realize those interests. When the power to realize those interests is used to unjustly deny the interests of less powerful, but equally or more deserving citizens, through a donation that is traded for a piece of unjust legislation, then it can be said that a positive feedback loop of corruption has been initiated.
The overly simple analysis that follows attempts to describe the basic workings of this system.
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