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Now that we’re in the era of the 45th republican administration the battles we fight are more basic.  Defending basic rights of people and defending the societal institutions that promote equality in society.  That is where we are now.  But back in the first term of the Obama presidency he had it all, majorities in both houses and what came of it?  Pretty much nothing and in this Q&A interview with Thomas Frank, some of the reasons for the Obama flop are teased out and discussed candidly.

 

The book is about how the Democratic Party turned its back on working people and now pursues policies that actually increase inequality. What are the policies or ideological commitments in the Democratic Party that make you think this?

The first piece of evidence is what’s happened since the financial crisis. This is the great story of our time. Inequality has actually gotten worse since then, which is a remarkable thing. This is under a Democratic president who we were assured (or warned) was the most liberal or radical president we would ever see.  Yet inequality has gotten worse, and the gains since the financial crisis, since the recovery began, have gone entirely to the top 10 percent of the income distribution.

This is not only because of those evil Republicans, but because Obama played it the way he wanted to. Even when he had a majority in both houses of Congress and could choose whoever he wanted to be in his administration, he consistently made policies that favored the top 10 percent over everybody else. He helped out Wall Street in an enormous way when they were entirely at his mercy.

He could have done anything he wanted with them, in the way that Franklin Roosevelt did in the ’30s. But he chose not to.

Why is that? This is supposed to be the Democratic Party, the party that’s interested in working people, average Americans. Why would they react to a financial crisis in this way? Once you start digging into this story, it goes very deep. You find that there was a transition in the Democratic Party in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s where they convinced themselves that they needed to abandon working people in order to serve a different constituency: a constituency essentially of white-collar professionals.

That’s the most important group in their coalition. That’s who they won over in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. That’s who they serve, and that’s where they draw from. The leaders of the Democratic Party are always from this particular stratum of society.

 

There is no party of the working class, or even ones making half-hearted attempts to look like it any more in the United States.  The interests of the great majority of Americans simply have no place, and no voice in the US democratic system.

I hearken back to my country whose political game of hot potato has historically fluctuated between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party – it is the same shit – with the liberals selling out the middle and lower classes at a slightly lower rate than the conservative manage to do every time they are in power.  We have a viable third party in Canada the New Democratic Party – that through the near heroic efforts of leader lost to cancer – could have formed the first avowedly socialist government (we’re pretty social democratic here by default, despite the neoliberal cancer that is US politics) in Canada’s history.

That hope was shot to shit by one of the greatest miscalculations in Canadian political history – the new NDP leader, Tom Mulcair unwisely thought that moving to the political centre was the best course of action riding the late Jack Layton’s orange wave of support.  And in our last election the NDP (the MF NDP) was outflanked by the liberals ON THE LEFT and was, once again relegated to second opposition status in the house of commons (Lib 184, Con 99, NDP 44).

The NDP ignored the boilerplate election strategy that has held true for nearly every Canadian election – run centre left, and govern centre right.  Tom Mulcair ignored this simple nugget of truth and now we have the world’s darling Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party ruling the nation from the centre right and showing more and more contempt for the middle class that so dutifully elected them.

What gives?  In the US Thomas Frank contends it is the Democratic Party’s obsession with the professional class to the exclusion of all others.

What’s the content of the ideology of the professional class and how does it hurt working people? What are their guiding principles?

The first commandment of the professional class is the idea of meritocracy, which allows people to think that those on top are there because they deserve to be. With the professional class, it’s always associated with education. They deserve to be there because they worked really hard and went to a good college and to a good graduate school. They’re high achievers. Democrats are really given to credentialism in a way that Republicans aren’t.

If you look at the last few Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Obama, and Hillary Clinton as well, their lives are a tale of educational achievement. This is what opened up the doors of the world to them. It’s a party of who people who have gotten where they are by dint of educational accomplishment.

This produces a set of related ideas. When the Democrats, the party of the professionals, look at the economic problems of working-class people, they always see an educational problem, because they look at working class people and say, “Those people didn’t do what I did”: go and get advanced degrees, go to the right college, get the high SAT scores and study STEM or whatever.

There’s another interesting part of this ideology: this endless search for consensus. Washington is a city of professionals with advanced degrees, and Democrats look around them there and say, “We’re all intelligent people. We all went to good schools. We know what the problems are and we know what the answers are, and politics just get in the way.”

This is a very typical way of thinking for the professional class: reaching for consensus, because politics is this ugly thing that you don’t really need. You see this in Obama’s endless efforts to negotiate a grand bargain with Republicans because everybody in Washington knows the answers to the problems—we just have to get together, sit down and make an agreement. The same with Obamacare: He spent so many months trying to get Republicans to sign on, even just one or two, so that he could say it was bipartisan. It was an act of consensus. And the Republicans really played him, because they knew that’s what he’d do.

And we all know how well the Obama Care legacy is going today.  The current set of storm trooper Republicans give exactly no fucks about consensus, bipartisanship, or really anything except enriching and enshrining the 1% as the ruling oligarchs of the US.  And the confounding thing is this – people who are getting hit hard voted this republican administration in.  They took the small mined demagogue and made him their hero, unaware or uncaring of his pedigree and his allegiances with basically all of the forces that are directly fucking the populace over.

The last American election is a stinging indictment of the Democratic Party and how utterly disconnected they are with the majority of Americans.

“A lot of progressives that I talk to are pretty familiar with the idea that the Democratic Party is no longer protecting the interests of workers, but it’s pretty common for us to blame it on mainly the power of money in politics. But you start the book in chapter one by arguing there’s actually something much deeper going on. Can you say something about that?

Money in politics is a big part of the story, but social class goes deeper than that. The Democrats have basically made their commitment [to white-collar professionals] already before money and politics became such a big deal. It worked out well for them because of money in politics. So when they chose essentially the top 10 percent of the income distribution as their most important constituents, that is the story of money.

It wasn’t apparent at the time in the ’70s and ’80s when they made that choice. But over the years, it has become clear that that was a smart choice in terms of their ability to raise money. Organized labor, of course, is no slouch in terms of money. They have a lot of clout in dollar terms. However, they contribute and contribute to the Democrats and they almost never get their way—they don’t get, say, the Employee Free Choice Act, or Bill Clinton passes NAFTA. They do have a lot of money, but their money doesn’t count.

All of this happened because of the civil war within the Democratic Party. They fought with each other all the time in the ’70s and the ’80s. One side hadn’t completely captured the party until Bill Clinton came along in the ’90s. That was a moment of victory for them.”

So, I’m thinking third a third party is necessary in the US.  The cynical side of me thinks that there will actually be one in the US.  Not to have a party that represents the people, but as a corrupt puppet of a party meant to siphon off revolutionary zeal and progressive rage to safeguard the oligarch’s corrupt and self-serving ‘democratic’ system that is currently in place.

   The adage that says ‘a capitalism will sell you the rope to hang him with’ comes to mind while reviewing the latest round of Feed the Rich that is going in in the United States.  It is frightening the pace at which the plutocrats are lining their pockets and fleecing the general population of the United States.

The dogmatic slumber brought on by the corporate class has never seemed so intense and impenetrable as it is now under the current Republican administration.  Grievous actions and policy just seem to float by carried on waves of expressed outrage, but tangible action/opposition never results.   If the US was a functioning democracy, the streets should have been and still should be filled with people decrying the malfeasance being carried out in their name.   But what is happening – crickets, and very quiet obsequious ones that that.

So, it is time to stoke some anger and rage at the current political order.  Le me help you get started with this snipped from an article by Paul Street writing for Counterpunch.

 

“Here we are now, half a year later, careening into a dystopian holiday season. With his epically low approval rating of 32 percent, the orange-tinted bad grandpa in the Oval Office has won a viciously regressive tax bill that is widely rejected by the populace. The bill was passed by a Republican-controlled Congress whose current approval rating stands at 13 percent. It is a major legislative victory for the Republicans, a party whose approval rating fell to an all-time low of 29 percent at the end of September—a party that tried to send a child molester to the U.S. Senate.

The bill itself had an approval rating of 25 percent prior to passage.  No wonder. The arch-plutocratic tax “reform:

+ Drastically slashes the corporate tax rate without closing loopholes and deductions that allow the nation’s already cash-flush corporations to register their profits overseas and while doing nothing to switch corporations’ focus from maximizing short-term returns to investing in the creation of more jobs and higher wages.

+ Encourages corporations to invest in automation without offering any assistance to displaced workers.

+ All but eliminates the estate tax for the nation’s richest families.

+ Adds $1.5 trillion to the nation’s debt over the next decade, setting the stage for major slashes to the nation’s three biggest social insurance programs – Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare (they will be cut back in the name of “scaling back” so-called entitlement programs to “reduce the deficit.”)

+ Gives a major tax cut on profits multinational companies have stashed in offshore tax havens.

+ Cuts taxes on “pass through” businesses – a benefit that will be disproportionately enjoyed by the rich.

+ Makes it easier for rich people to classify themselves as businesses to get a tax break.

+ Increases the complexity of the tax code.

+ Tightens deductions for lower- and middle-income wage-earners.

+ Subsidizes private and religious schools, a boon to corporate school privatizers and the religious right.

+ Repeals Obamacare’s individual mandate, which will leave millions without health insurance and raise the cost of health insurance.

The GOP tax bill rewards the already rich and punishes the poor at “a time,” The Atlantic notes, “when post-tax corporate profits have hovered at a record-level high for the last seven years, and the 1 percent’s share of total income is higher than at any time in the second half of the 20th century.” It is what New York Magazine calls a huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans.”  It is “certain to exacerbate income [and wealth- P.S.] inequality at a time when the playing field is already heavily tilted to towards the rich.”

The New Gilded Age is slated to become yet more grotesquely unequal. As Trump might, it’s unbelievable. The nation’s economy is already so savagely unequal that the top 10th of its upper 1 percent owns as much wealth as its bottom 90 percent. Its corporations are raking in record profits. Half of its citizens have no savings. Half its population lives in or near poverty. Twenty-one percent of its childrenare growing up at less than the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level, and 41 million Americans—12.3 percent of the population—are “food insecure.” Not disparate enough!

The dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats, the party of “inauthentic opposition,” are hardly more popular than the radically regressive Republicans.”

If there was ever time for a third party in the US, it would be now.

 

   If you have not already subscribed to Tom’s Dispatch, I urge you to do so at your earliest opportunity.  Tom’s Dispatch features a talented group of individuals who research and write with honesty, clarity, and integrity.  Adding them to your online reading can only add to your understanding of the world.

This excerpt is from an essay by Bill Moyers titled “Money and Power in America”.

“The movers and shakers — the big winners — keep repeating the mantra that this inequality was inevitable, the result of the globalization of finance and advances in technology in an increasingly complex world.  Those are part of the story, but only part. As G.K. Chesterton wrote a century ago, “In every serious doctrine of the destiny of men, there is some trace of the doctrine of the equality of men.  But the capitalist really depends on some religion of inequality.” 

oligarchyExactly.  In our case, a religion of invention, not revelation, politically engineered over the last 40 years. Yes, politically engineered.  On this development, you can’t do better than read Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of political science.

They were mystified by what had happened to the post-World War II notion of “shared prosperity”; puzzled by the ways in which ever more wealth has gone to the rich and super rich; vexed that hedge-fund managers pull in billions of dollars, yet pay taxes at lower rates than their secretaries; curious about why politicians kept slashing taxes on the very rich and handing huge tax breaks and subsidies to corporations that are downsizing their work forces; troubled that the heart of the American Dream — upward mobility — seemed to have stopped beating; and dumbfounded that all of this could happen in a democracy whose politicians were supposed to serve the greatest good for the greatest number. So Hacker and Pierson set out to find out “how our economy stopped working to provide prosperity and security for the broad middle class.”

In other words, they wanted to know: “Who dunnit?” They found the culprit. With convincing documentation they concluded, “Step by step and debate by debate, America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefitted the few at the expense of the many.”

There you have it: the winners bought off the gatekeepers, then gamed the system.  And when the fix was in they turned our economy into a feast for the predators, “saddling Americans with greater debt, tearing new holes in the safety net, and imposing broad financial risks on Americans as workers, investors, and taxpayers.” The end result, Hacker and Pierson conclude, is that the United States is looking more and more like the capitalist oligarchies of Brazil, Mexico, and Russia, where most of the wealth is concentrated at the top while the bottom grows larger and larger with everyone in between just barely getting by.

Bruce Springsteen sings of “the country we carry in our hearts.” This isn’t it.”

BraceyourselfOh Canada! Producer of so much oil and making strides to export it to other countries just had its first jump in gasoline prices.  One question to contemplate is that rather than exporting oil to other countries wouldn’t it be nice to stabilize the domestic market supply and give Canadian consumers a break at the pumps?  Wouldn’t a steady rate of return and a Canadian public that doesn’t hate your guts be a good thing?

“Sorry Canada-friends!”, says the Oil Industry there are bottom lines to fatten up – the door to fuck-right-off is on your left please use it at our convenience, plebs!

Oh, and the usual excuses about market instability.  I really enjoy paying for market jitters and financial speculation.

“McTeague blamed jitters and excessive financial speculation over instability in the Middle East for “distorting” fuel prices.

Meanwhile, he noted, actual supply for crude has never been better.

 I love the fresh pungent smell of oligarchy in the morning.

Laura Lau, a senior vice-president portfolio manager with the Brompton Group specializing in natural resources, said the markups are a direct reflection of international headlines.  The risk premium for oil has soared, even though the unrest hasn’t stopped crude from flowing.

“We could see some relief, but it depends on what happens in Iraq,” Lau said. “If it escalates, we’ll probably see it go up. If it’s resolved or the intensity comes down, we could see oil and gasoline prices come down.”

She noted that no shortages have been reported so far, although oil companies in the region have begun to withdraw nonessential staff following the violent siege of northern Iraq’s Baiji refinery by Sunni militants.

“So could oil production be reduced? Yes,” Lau said. “But right now, it’s more the threat of it than the actual reality.“

This just in, lone Donkey in Iraq pisses on Pipeline – Corrosion could destroy Iraq Oil forever! Oil Barons in North America: Raise the prices, call it “market-forces” and let’s get to work acquiring that 5th yatcht, STAT!!!

Comments on the CBC article nail the BS surrounding the gas gouging:

“These price hikes are pure BS. Only 6% of the oil used in the North America comes from Iraq. The 2 biggest sources are 28% Canada and 16%Saudi Arabia. Then we have Mexico and Venezuela at 11% each with 27% coming from various sources. So to say the price of fuel is rising (in North America) because of a conflict in Iraq is a lie.”

Of course if it is a profitable lie for the right people then it isn’t really a lie then, is it?

[Source: CBC.CA]

 

Bonus Round!

Profitability above all!

robiraq1-510x332

Graph (1) above: as experience has shown, Americans love a good fairy tale. In the case of U.S. involvement in Iraq we have been fed a long series of substantially unrelated rationales from political ‘liberation’ (1990-1991) to WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) and democratization (2003 – 2006) and now on to ‘re-stabilization.’ Left unstated are economic interests like oil company profits, munitions sales and contracts for rebuilding what the U.S. has destroyed. Graph (1) illustrates the relation of oil prices to oil company profits. Wars against oil-rich nations raise the price of oil to the benefit of international oil companies. What do one million dead and four million displaced human beings matter when profits are to be ‘made?’ Source: Reuters.

We’re running out of canaries people, wake up and smell the system you’re living in.

A big thanks to Moe over at Whatever Works for finding this short video on our ISP’s.   Just watch the free market in action…

Keeping with the light blogging schedule, this is a repost from Alter.net about why the people of OWS are so ticked off and why they are protesting.  Consider it a primer to help in understanding their positions.

1. Wall Street caused the crash: Unless you are suffering from financial amnesia, you should remember that it was Wall Street’s reckless gambling that did us in. It was Wall Street banks and hedge funds, not home buyers, who created the enormous demand for high-risk mortgages to pool, to securitize, and to turn into Ponzi-like gambling structures with names like CDOs, CDO squared and synthetic CDOs. It was the money-grubbing rating agencies that blessed these pieces of garbage with AAA ratings. As a result, trillions of dollars of worthless toxic assets polluted our financial system. When the bubble they induced burst, our system crashed, causing 8 million working people to lose their jobs in a matter of months due to no fault of their own. Anyone who still blames low-income home buyers, or regulations or Greece — or anyone other than Wall Street — should be checked for dementia.

2. The Wall Street crash directly caused the gravest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression: We’re three years into the worst jobs crisis since 1937. Upwards of 29 million people are out of work or have been forced into part-time jobs. The number of people who have been jobless for more than 26 weeks is at post-WWII record levels. And there’s no end in sight to this misery. Meanwhile, Wall Street’s representatives in Washington want us to focus on cutting public employment and public services to address the debt that Wall Street itself precipitated. WE wouldn’t have a debt crisis were it not for the bailouts, the crash, the lost jobs and the soaring cost of jobless benefits that can be laid at Wall Street’s door. (The debt was also caused by tax cuts for the rich, and the bankers certainly don’t want to talk about that.) For those diversionary debt tactics alone, Wall Street should be occupied until it pays to replace the jobs it destroyed.

3. Wall Street profited from the bailouts and remains unaccountable: Taxpayers provided trillions of dollars in cash and asset guarantees to the wealthiest bankers and hedge fund managers in the world. But nothing was extracted from them in return. Here’s one egregious example: Goldman Sachs paid $550 million in SEC fines for selling mortgage-related securities that were designed to fail so that a large hedge fund could bet against them. The securities failed as planned and the hedge fund pocketed $1 billion in profits. But after we bailed out AIG, Goldman Sachs picked up nearly $12 billion for similar bets that AIG had insured. Goldman Sachs collected 100 cents on the dollar and those dollars were ours.

4. The super-rich are getting richer: When the economy was crashing during 2008, high frequency traders in hedge funds and banks made upwards of $20 billion from the turmoil. This trading scam provided no redeeming value to our economy. Rather, it was a hidden tax on our sorrows — a transfer of funds from the many to the few. In 2010 the top hedge fund managers “earned” over $2 million an HOUR! The top 25 hedge fund managers took in as much as 650,000 teachers. Young people have the right to question these lopsided values. All of us have the duty to do something about it.

5. The super-rich are paying lower and lower taxes: While the government pleads poverty when asked to create a massive jobs program, our financial elites use every loophole available to avoid taxes. In 1995, the 400 wealthiest families paid about 30 percent of their income in taxes (after all deductions). Today their effective rate is less than 16 percent. And for what? What did society gain from their retained wealth? Not jobs, not debt reduction, only more Wall Street gambling.

Read the rest of this entry »

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