Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank

book jacket bright yellow with cartoon pointing index fingerListen Liberal or Whatever happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank, (2016) [apologies in advance for such length without breaking out headers and subheads]

AWESOME BOOK! Nails it! Perfectly captures why Bernie Sanders supporters are baffled by the non-democracy of the Democratic Party. It USED TO BE the Party of the People, but it turned it’s back years ago, and did so deliberately, as one of my now favorite authors describes in this book.

I thought I had posted about his books before but cannot find now; he is most famous for “What’s the matter with Kansas” and I will post later. (It is also a good video – I especially was horrified at the power of too much money in the hands of some people, like the guy who built a “museum” on Creationism; especially the part with the dinosaur grazing peacefully next to a small boy.)

I have been saying similar things about WTF has happened to the democratic party I have voted for all my life. Yes sometimes the lesser of two evils, but I always thought fundamentally the commitment to workers and social justice were the values of the party. So I was truly shocked, but kind of not surprised to learn that Hillary had been a Goldwater supporter back in the day. Yeah, yeah, don’t get in my face, people can change. But I’m not sure she did or if she just calculated the odds of  achieving her ambition to become the first woman president was absolutely more likely in a democratic party, never the republicans.  It has never been more obvious than this 2016 election that the process of presidential nominees has been a queue of people who tow the line of the real power behind the politicians, financial and corporate donors.

I kept wondering, why are all these people supporting her? The Bankruptcy Act vote killed any chance of me voting for her. Plus the war. Plus fracking that has been an issue from me from the start, especially from people so naive as to think it was without consequences. Seriously, what has she done for women? Did she do anything about the ERA when she was senator? Hatch or Hyde (now she’s claiming righteousness on Hyde but I don’t see any reason to believe she will choose or be able to do anything. And as far as racism goes, what has she done????? She must have done something but I sure don’t know what. What has she done for people at all? She had something about children healthcare but also promptly forgot that Bernie was right there with her ON STAGE when she was taking credit for it. And failed to recall his help!

Then too, look at Bill Clinton’s record. Not what you would expect from a democratic president if you assumed that as the representative of the party his actions reflected on what FDR stood for: the people. Time and again he did not advocate for workers; killing welfare as we knew it (because Amuricans don’t think your starving is their problem) and boasting about how he cut it – NOT BECAUSE PEOPLE DIDN’T NEED IT STILL – but the simple expulsion of the needy by rule of law, requirements (drug testing, bedroom checking) for qualification (abject poverty, versus working poor) really isn’t something to brag about. At least, not when you pretend you are for the “people” and not for Wall Street. Then there was the mass incarceration. We now have more prisons than universities and colleges I saw somewhere. That’s the priority. Lock someone up at a cost of $60,000 or more a year, but God Forbid they should get free tuition, or basic income or building subsidized housing instead of prisons.

In his introduction, Frank points out the stark reality:

According to official measurements, the last few years have been a time of brisk prosperity, with unemployment down and the stock market up. Productivity advances all the time. For those who WORK FOR A LIVING, however, nothing seems to improve. Wages DO NOT GROW [except CEOs]. Median income is still well BELOW where it was in 2007. Workers’ share of the gross national product (as opposed to the share taken by investors) hit a RECORD LOW in 2011 — AND THEN IT STAYED THERE RIGHT THROUGH THE RECOVERY. It is there TO THIS DAY; economists now regard its [the workers’ share] collapse as a QUASI-PERMANENT development.

So that truly sucks. But the great invisible hand is impervious to justice, and no neoliberal is going to contest the great god of the market. What I don’t understand is WHY CAN’T THEY SEE IT IS ALL A LIE? Unregulated capitalism is not a good thing: slavery would be an ideal model of employment if it were! As it is, most of us are wage slaves and living paycheck to paycheck, fearful and anxious and suicidal at the thought of being fired even when your job and your bosses suck, and you are unrewarded because you are not a manager (the only way to get more pay is to leave the job you are skilled at). No job means homelessness, no car, no job, no health, and limited or MEANS TESTED assistance so that you have to sell everything you own to get a SHORT-TERM helping hand even when there is a huge LONG-TERM employment problem.

I remember how so many people called for a new Work Projects Administration (WPA) was called for when unemployment was so bad. The country sure could have benefited from work along the lines of the National Parks improvements and so many other wonderful things that were done back in the day. Even the Arts caught a break with government sponsored photography projects and theater and painting and more. No Republican and Neoliberal Democrats would never ever pass some “idealistic” programs today. More’s the pity.

From the middle of the Great Depression up to 1980, the LOWER 90 PERCENT took home some 70 percent of the growth in the country’s income. Look at the same numbers beginning in 1997 — from the beginning of the New Economy boom to the present — and you find that this same group, the American people, pocketed NONE of America’s income growth at all. [!!!!] . . . The country’s financiers, managers, and professionals — ATE THE WHOLE THING. The privileged are doing better than at any time since economic records began.

To be a young person in this economy, just out of school and starting to feel the burden of NOW-INESCAPABLE STUDENT LOANS [bankruptcy no longer an option, thanks, Hillary], is to sense instinctively the downward slope that most of us are on these days. People who are twenty-five [25] today are doing worse than people of that age ten [10] years ago, and MUCH WORSE than people who were twenty-five [25] back in 1996. The same is true, incidentally of people who are [35, 45, probably 55], but for the young this reversal of the traditional American trajectory is acutely painful: they know that NO AMOUNT OF LABOR WILL EVER CATAPULT THEM INTO THE RANKS OF THE WINNERS. (p.2)

People are too stressed, too vulnerable, too afraid, too overwhelmed, and too full of despair to fight back. There is in fact, very little any one person can do when the system can squash you like a bug. When the purpose of government is not seen as a force for necessary social justice in the face of the madness of corporate and personal greed, but rather claims if you are poor it is because you deserve to be poor. They, on the other hand, got where they are on MERIT. And, tragically, Obama is “proof” that “anyone” can become president if they work hard enough (are smart, make the right connections, get financial support of others to run for office, and have an ivy league pedigree). This, as the author notes, is the face of the new democratic party: the creatives, the professionals, the ivy leagues, the Rhodes scholars, the elite of the elite, the smartest people in the room (choke). I like smart people, don’t get me wrong, but smart people with a heart are better than smart people who don’t give a damn about less fortunate people. Even worse, say on the Republican side of things, are heartless people that are stupid and ignorant as well (does the image of W pop into your mind? it should!).

Capital gains tax is less than earned income tax. Why? Because the rich disproportionately achieve wealth by capital gains. Yet they convince workers that they should want to keep it low because they would get hit with taxes if they sold their homes for more than they paid. Not really such a problem these days, post-crash, but instead of buying this line of reasoning, one could ask, why not have homes be exempt from capital gains if they are worth less than $500,000? That would probably cover 99% of homeowners. I know there has been some fiddling with this provision based on first time home buyers or what not, but the point is the same: Why should the rich be privileged with low taxes on all the kinds of investments they are able to make because they have so much extra money they can afford to invest and never face risk of homelessness.

Similarly, why do corporations get all kinds of tax breaks and subsidies, as well as special treatment for bankruptcy when ordinary people don’t get the same consideration.

The answer is MORALITY. People who work for shit wages are more moral than people who refuse to work for shit wages and so unemployment is to be shamed, and certainly not subsidized for more than two years! Wouldn’t want them to get comfortable not having to work for a living, like the investor class that sits back and rakes it in of the backs of the shitty paid workers.

At the other end of the social ladder, meanwhile, it is all upside all the time. In 2012, corporate profits (measured as a share of gross domestic product) hit their highest level on record. In 2014, according to a much-discussed think tank report, the total of all the BONUSES handed out on Wall Street was more than TWICE AS MUCH as the TOTAL earned by EVERY PERSON in the country who worked FULL-TIME FOR MINIMUM WAGE. Measured in terms of wealth — of property and investments, stocks and bonds — matters are even more perverse. One particularly lucky American family, in fact, has as much wealth as does 40 percent of the AMERICAN POPULATION. The main accomplishment of of the six individuals who make up this fortunate bunch was to inherit shares in Wal-Mart, the retailer that has sucked the life out of thousands of middle-American towns. Sucked the wealth out of those towns and spent it on the six Wal-Mart heirs’ tasteless mega-mansions, their degrees from prestigious colleges, their fancy racecars, and their sports teams. They own a bank, a ballet company, an art gallery (where you can see Norman Rockwell’s painting of Rosie the Riveter), and of late, the Wal-Mart bunch have begun “reforming” the public schools your kids go to.

But ask any Republican and the ESTATE TAX aka the death tax will be the first thing Billy Bob will staunchly protest! [pardon the stereotype] For some reason, I would bet 90% of Americans believe they have an “estate” that would be charged the estate tax. But that is not true. Yet boy, when such a bill comes before Congress, the squeals of protest come from such sources, justifying time and again the massive accumulation of wealth exponentially by the rich. The rich get richer and richer and richer and richer and richer.

The government gets less and less revenue for programs of social justice and equal protection. And, given the majority of the House being Republican, even if there was an increase in the inheritance tax, they would choose to fund some other $43 million dollar gas station in Iraq, or a few more boondoggles like the giant balloon they had to shoot down that was an insane amount of money, like $400 million.

There is obviously plenty of serious graft and corruption and profiteering going on in government, but it is probably not primarily single mothers needing food stamps. Rather it is the military industrial complex that infamously charged $400 for a toilet seat as I recall, and some other outrageous amount for a hammer. Of course, if we had MORE GOVERNMENT employees to audit and supervise such contracts (especially the lovely no-bids kind) then they wouldn’t be able to get away with their theft. But no, the Republicans declare the GOVERNMENT is the problem, not those good corporate citizens that are a product of unfettered capitalism and corruption. After all, they keep telling us that corporations purpose is to MAKE PROFIT FOR THEIR SHAREHOLDERS, even though that is not true. Read the history of corporations, or any history about them, and you will find that corporations were intended to be formed to benefit the community and could have their charters revoked for wrongdoing, like price-fixing, collusion, racketeering, price-gouging, profiteering, and all the things that UNREGULATED capitalism thrives on, despite the serious adverse impact on the people.

And that’s where we are, eight years post-hope. Growth that doesn’t grow; prosperity that doesn’t prosper. The country, we now understand, is simply no longer arranged in such a way as to make its citizens economically secure. (p. 3)

And I would add, the politicians of both parties like it that way: wage slaves and canon fodder. Women and people of color earning less than a white man when it is a problem that could easily be fixed if any of the professional class chose to do so, or were put in jail for failure to do so.

This massive growth of inequality had a point when things could have gone differently: when Barrack Obama became president.

The president had carefully surrounded himself with some of the brightest minds of our time. Congress was controlled overwhelmingly by member of his own party. The public was prepared to back him in the most far-reaching reforms. History had dealt Barrack Obama four aces. He could not lose.

Yet that is pretty much what happened. The crisis went to waste. The hero we put behind the wheel didn’t heed the GPS device telling him to turn. He saw the warning lights flashing, and he heard that disturbing pounding under the hood, but he kept right on going. . . . the system emerged largely unchanged. The predators resumed operations. Everything pretty much stayed the same. (p. 6)

And Hillary is going to do her best to keep it ever so. Because she, like Obama, and like Bill before that, are not and have not been “democrats” for a long time. They say things expected from a democrat, but they do not do a damn thing to change things to the massive return to sanity, compassion, and the needs of the 99% of Americans.

President Obama himself has said that inequality is the ‘defining challenge of our time.’ That is a sweeping statement, but think about it for a moment and you realize it isn’t anywhere near sweeping enough. ‘Inequality’ is shorthand for all the things that have gone to make the lives so measurably more delicious, year after year for three decades — and also for the things that have made the lives of working people so wretched and so precarious. . . .

Inequality is not an “issue” as that term is generally used; it is the eternal conflict of management and labor, owner and worker, rich and poor — only with one side pinned to the ground and the other leisurely pounding away at its adversary’s face.  (p. 7)

The Republicans started it of course, thanks St. Ronnie, and don’t get me started on Bushes, especially W [insert much cursing here]. “These days Republicans are rolling in deep fantasies of persecution and capitalist authenticity; not only will they not reverse course, but they often seem lost to reason itself.” (p. 8) Well said, sir. The thing is, we expected the Democratic party to protect the middle class. “Shared prosperity was once the party’s highest aim; defending the middle-class world was a kind of sacred mission for them, as they never used to tire of reminding us.” Unfortunately, they never manage to do something about inequality. Sure the Republicans are obstructive, but the Democrats don’t even seem to make an effort to try. And now Hillary is asking us to accept “incremental change” however I have to note that she did not say specifically that the change would be in the favor of the workers. She couldn’t even bring herself to go for the $15 minimum wage, settling for a rhetorical $12 when assessments show that given rent prices and other factors, to have the same buying power of 30 years ago or so, $22 per hour is necessary to be able to afford rent. They do nothing.

Instead they offer the same high-minded demurrals and policy platitudes they’ve been offering since the 1980s. They remind us that there’s nothing anyone can do about globalization or technology. They promise charter schools, and job training, and student loans, but other than that — well, they’ve got nothing. (p. 9)

Trying to pinpoint where and when the hope drained out of the Obama movement is something of a parlor game for my disgruntled friends. Some say they lost their faith in Obama even before he took office, when he named the bailout architect Tim Geithner [boo hiss] as his choice for Treasury Secretary and the deregulation architect Larry Summers as his main economic advisor. A big chunk of the public came to believe the fix was in two months into his first term, when a round of BONUSES — not reprimand or INDICTMENTS, mind you, but BONUSES — went out to executives of the financial sinkhole known as AIG. (p. 12)

The “nothing has changed” header he used comes from a quote by a Wall Street mogul to a journalist after he and his buddies met with Obama on March 27, 2009. The famous “pitchfork” line was a joke on us. The thing that I am most ashamed of is that I still believed at that point that DEMOCRATS gave a damn about people. As he describes elsewhere in this book, Bill Clinton came close to screwing us on Social Security with the casino Wall Streeters wanting to get their grubby little hands on all that money to play their thieving games with; it is NOT just the Republicans who are willing to sacrifice 99% of us to keep their positions of power and privilege.

And obviously, if you think Hillary Clinton is going to be any different, you are too deluded to be taken seriously and I pity you because that will stop you from seeing the truth that the Democratic Party is and has been corrupt, despite their pretty talk, for decades.

I clung to the “hope” for a little while longer than that. I can remember the exact moment when I finally gave it up — it was the first time I heard the phrase “grand bargain,” Barack Obama’s pet term for his proposed deficit and tax deal with the Republicans. In a split second I understood the whole thing: that big compromises like this were real to the president, but “change” was not. I had known that Obama had a passion for CENTRIST talk [the former Republican normal]; everyone did. Bipartisan CONCILIATION was the theme of Obama’s famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. It was one of the themes of his 2008 stump speech, when he talked so inspiringly about “the politics of addition, not the politics of division.”

What was shocking about all this was to realize that Obama believed these cliches. Consensus, bipartisanship, the “center”: those were the things this admirable and intelligent man was serious about — the kind of stale, empty verbiage favored by Beltway charlatans on the Sunday talk shows. The other things Obama used to say — like when he connected deregulation, corruption, and income inequality in his Cooper Union speech in 2008 — those things were just to reel in the suckers. The suckers being the people who could hear the pillars of their middle-class world snapping. The suckers being the people who could see that the system was crumbling and thought maybe we out to do something about it. (p. 12-13)

And what makes me crazy about this is that after decades of Bushes and Reagan, plus the Senators for life (seriously, check out the Wikipedia entry on HOW EFFING LONG THOSE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN IN POWER!]. OMG, I was just looking for the link and found this page on the Congress generally and am APPALLED at how far away from taking the House, the budget makers, back from Congress. Holy moly, that post Obama midterm killed us, perhaps for all time! And then I got distracted by the WOMEN IN CONGRESS link, and was reminded that 14 times when women became Senators, they were appointed to fill their husbands seat. How weird is that? Not good enough to get elected on their own terms, but presumably, willing to carry on exactly as their spouses would have voted.

Oh and another effort to find the right page gave me the 17th Amendment that allows for direct voting for senators — AND SOME STATES HAVE STILL NOT RATIFIED THAT AMENDMENT! and a few waited 100 years! Well, rats. I know I screen shot it or bookmarked it, but can’t find it now. The point is that many many Senators, and thanks to gerrymandering, House Representatives, have been elected and re-elected for DECADES. They put a stop to it with capping the best president ever (FDR) because he was crimping the fat cats style, but will never pass an amendment to term limit or force retirement for themselves. Similarly the constant death watch on the Supreme Court is painful. I would say term limits there too, but want Ruth Bader Ginsberg to serve as the conscience of the nation FOREVER.

The Founding Fathers are surely rolling over in their graves as the mess that government for the people has become; they didn’t expect people to make their life’s work in politics, or for that matter, to live to be 100 and still be serving like Strom Thurmond did.

Consensus today is not what it was back in the day. I was dumbfounded to learn that apart from drawing the line at Robert Bork’s nomination to SCOTUS by Reagan, the Senate confirmed Scalia by 98-0. How could the democrats have done that? Bork, by the way, was one of the misguided “originalists” like Scalia and Thomas (insofar as he has any thoughts or philosophy). Bork also came to power as Acting Solicitor General because after the original one and his deputy refuse to obey Richard Nixon’s order to fire Kenneth Star for the Watergate break-in, he did fire Star. Ralph Nader filed suit, and won, but by then Bork had resigned. [rough summary of Wikipedia entry]

Bork, was one of three nominees to have had the ACLU objected to their nomination. Associate Justice William Rehnquist was another controversial nomination to become Chief Justice (Reagan again). Indeed, Scalia basically got the job on the court because the committee was “tired” (Wiki) from the controversy over Rehnquist’s promotion. So it is very very sad that he was not closely questioned about his views. Much was made of him being the first Italian-American to be on the court. And at the hearing, his wife and NINE CHILDREN were there to support him. Sigh.

But back to the business at hand. Obama did not know it at the time, but the Republican cabal met at the time of his inauguration to vow to obstruct him at every turn. I’m not sure why he believed they would do anything different. He was certainly an inexperienced Senator to make the jump. He got the most money from Wall Street of any of the candidates. Did they know something we the people didn’t? Certainly Hillary would have fared badly as well. But maybe the blowback from bigots and racists would not have rushed so abruptly to the forefront of our now dreadfully psychopathic hatred of all that is non-white man positive. I venture this merely as a similar argument that Ruth Bader Ginsberg commented about regarding abortion rights, that it was too abrupt and caused the reactionary movement of the forced birthers. I do not necessarily agree with her on that point, but due to my great respect for her, I have to at least give it serious consideration. But the problem is that WOMEN WERE DYING to get abortions, so I don’t think we could wait or should wait. You do not delay doing the right thing while people are dying. You do the right thing and then STAND THE FUCK UP FOR IT. Something the democrats have failed to do on far too many social issues while mouthing platitudes.

Consensus for the democrats has proven to be equal to capitulation before the fight begins. And then they give more and more and more. I cannot believe that ANYTHING was accomplished given the wishy washy begging for crumbs Obama has done. In fact, I believe he was only “allowed” to accomplish anything in the Grand Bargain because it was what the corporations wanted. Healthcare is the most obvious case in point. While eliminating pre-existing condition clauses was a good thing, it is NOTHING like the single payer he promised. Even Hillary has given up her fight for single payer — or any serious reform of the party to return to supporting the 99% since she thinks settling for “half a loaf” (that phrase by her soooo pisses me off). People die because of this refusal to do what civilized developed nations do rather than let billionaires and their corporations just keep socking more money than they can ever spend in a lifetime away instead of sharing it when it is the WORKERS that make their wealth possible.

Education is sadly and badly adrift when people do not know basic things like the term “muckraker” and the authors that exposed horrific conditions of labor and the development of labor laws to prevent exploitation of 5-year-olds in mines. Or injured people on the job forever crippled being cast aside JUST BECAUSE CORPORATIONS COULD. Or excluding part-time workers from benefits — oh WAIT, that still exists! Two weeks vacation AFTER A YEAR OF FULL TIME EMPLOYMENT on less than a living wage? Thank you so much my corporate overlords. Not that we can afford to do anything with the time, so we may as well work. Unless of course, they do not allow it to accumulate, which should be wrong but I don’t know that it is illegal. But of course, better to bank it in case you get sick!

He [Obama] believed the same tired partisanship-deploring platitudes as everyone else. Unemployment could hit 50 percent, foreclosures could sweep through entire states, there could be riots in every city in the land, and the TV hosts would still be moaning about how dreadful it is that Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on things.

Which brings us face-to-face with our mystery: how is it that, in our moment of need, a fake crisis like the problem of “extreme partisanship” was able to trump the real deal?

These are not Obama’s shortcomings alone. They are failing OF THE PARTY HE LEADS. They are, in a word, OURS. It’s time to own up. (p. 13)

And that is why Bernie Sanders must be the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. If he is not, then never Hillary, because she is NOT a true Democrat. Just like Bill was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He cut welfare by cutting needy families off, not by reducing the need. He imprisoned so many people (particularly not white boys) that we have more prisons than colleges. He killed the manufacturing and middle class with NAFTA and Hillary will do the same with TPP etc. if Obama doesn’t it get it done first. Imagine a treaty that allows corporations to sue America for REGULATIONS that prevent them from making maximum profits when the regulations are necessary to preserve, say, life’s essential clean water? AND OBAMA IS FOR THAT!!! How can anyone know this and think the Democrats are the good guys any more?

Why are Democrats so bad as economic justice, the author asks. Money in politics, sure. But the troubling thing about the Democratic failure to support ANYTHING that would provide ANY BASIC economic security cannot completely be answered by “oligarchy” alone. Why are there so many assholes (mostly republican but probably a bunch of democrats too even if they are too chicken to say so) who “don’t want my tax dollars to support . . .” pretty much anything except maybe the military industrial complex.  But ABORTION is a great example where the Democrats have ceded ground until there is nothing but a small step from the cliff of re-criminalization and other severe penalties. “Your mortgage is not my problem” was a meme I saw recently. No compassion, lots of judgment, not even necessarily people’s fault — we KNOW Wall Street is to blame. But did homeowners get bailed out, no of course not. This never even was up for discussion by Democrats as far as I know. They could have done lots of things, like force the banksters to lower interests rates, covert balloons to fixed interest, re-compute the value of the mortgage to be the new market reality. But the liberals buy into the myth of another hierarchy as Frank points out:”one of merit, learning, and status.”

Of course, if you are an originalist (as stupid as that is) then only white men of property could vote, women would be chattel (particularly married women who would not even have the right to their children), and obviously, there would be slavery. Frank quotes James Madison on the issue of class caused factions:

Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests grow-up of necessity in civilized nations and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. (p. 17)

He also quotes Thomas Hart Benton, the Senator, not the painter, a “fiery Democrat in the Jacksonian tradition.”

‘There are but two parties, there never has been but two parties,’ Benton thundered in 1835,’founded in the radical question, whether PEOPLE, or PROPERTY, shall govern? Democracy implies a government by the people . . .  Aristocracy implies a government of the rich. . . and in these words are contained the sum of party distinction.’ (p. 17 capitals the author’s)

He points out that while the Democrats “have fancied themselves as the ‘Party of the People,” but points out that is not always reality:

After all, the Party of the People was also, once, the Party of Slavery and the Party of the Klan.”

And as a reminder of what a true Democrat believes, he quotes William Jennings Bryan in 1896 (The Cross of Gold speech at the Democratic National Convention):

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do-prosperous, their prosperity will LEAK THROUGH on those BELOW. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.

WOW! Do you think whoever invented the policy of  “trickle down economics” was aware of this speech? Probably not; seems to have been developed under Reagan, not the most literate of presidents (though better than W, but it wouldn’t take much, though in something I read, maybe it was The Bush Tragedy, it claimed he read more than was widely believed).

And he quotes Franklin Roosevelt on “economic royalists” in 1936:

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor — these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. . . .Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities. Throughout the Nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. (p. 18)

And Harry Truman in 1948:

The Democratic Party represents the people. It is PLEDGED to work for agriculture. It is pledged to work for labor. It is pledged to work for the small businessman and the white-collar worker. The Democratic Party puts HUMAN RIGHTS and HUMAN WELFARE first. But the attitude of the Republican gluttons of privilege is very different. The bigmoney [sic] Republican looks on agriculture and labor MERELY AS EXPENSE ITEMS in a business venture. He tries to push THEIR SHARE of the NATIONAL INCOME down as low as possible and increase his own profits.And he looks upon the Government as a tool to accomplish this purpose.

So it is no surprise that Bill Clinton got something of a pass by his democratic peers, despite his serious damage to the people. And the atrocities of W and his cronies has sort of usurped the collective memory on the evil that the Clintons did (Hillary Bankruptcy Act 2005, wars, etc.). And Obama did not live up to his promises but he gets a pass because the Republicans were simply so outrageous in not even trying to disguise their obstruction. But he still FAILED on single payer, and he seeks to hand over the country to the corporations through more “free” trade agreements. The Democratic party is no longer the party of the people that is described by the notable people quoted above.

Frank extensively describes the new constituency of the “well-graduated” and meritocracy of the current Democratic party.

It was the educational pedigree of the then-forming Team Obama that won the columnists’s esteem. [David Brooks at NY Times] Nearly every person Brooks mentioned — the new president’s economic advisers his foreign policy advisers, even the first lady — had collected a degree from an Ivy League institution, more than one in most cases. The new administration would be a “valedictocracy,” Brooks joked: ‘rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes.’ (p. 20)

Elsewhere Frank talks about the love of “creators” and “innovators” and other well-graduated or smart people (professionals), especially tech entrepreneurs to the extent that the rhetoric sounds like the Democrats in power have deluded themselves into believing that all it takes to break out of poverty is a good education and a good idea, and voila, you have a billion-dollar start-up. The fact that all of these people, especially the retention of Geithner (OMG he is younger than I am and he controlled the economy years ago) and Summers  (the asshole that advocated the repeal of Glass-Steagall under Bill Clinton’s tenure (another negative in the Clinton legacy) was damaging beyond words.

[Professionals are] “a prosperous group, the people with the jobs that every parent wants their child to grow up and get. In addition to doctors, lawyers, the clergy, architects, and engineers — the core professional groups — the category includes economists, experts in the international development, political scientists, managers, financial planners, computer programmers, aerospace designers, and even people who write books like this one.

Professional are a high-status group, but what gives them their lofty position is learning, not income. They rule because they are talented, because they are smart. A good sociological definition of professionalism is ‘a second hierarchy’ — second to the main hierarchy of money, that is — ‘based on credentialed expertise.’ Which is to say, a social order supported by test scores and advanced degrees and defended by the many professional associations that have been set up over the years to define correct practice, enhance professional ethics, and WAGE WAR on the unlicensed. (p. 22)

And that last bit is extremely important. One of the reasons the banksters got away with so much graft is that they were credentialed and well-compensated and mostly well-graduated elites that developed “creative” financial instruments too complicated for we mere mortals to understand, although thanks to some analysis since the collapse (see The Big Short, a great book and movie) I know understand how simple it really was as long as you recognize that (a) none of those people gave a shit, (b) they didn’t get indicted or fired but got bonuses so why not pull shit, and (c) people are greedy, stupid, and corrupt.

The professions are autonomous; they are not required to heed voices from below their circle of expertise. . . . Professionals certify the expertise of insiders while negating and dismissing the knowledge-claims of outsiders. . . . Specialized knowledge is, of course, a necessity in this complicated world of ours. . . . And so nations grant professionals their elevated status, the sociological theory continues, in exchange for a promise of public service. The professions are supposed to be DISINTERESTED occupations or even “social trustees”; unlike other elements of society, they are not supposed to be motivated by PROFIT or GREED.  (p. 23)

I don’t agree with this sociological theory. I think people become lawyers because they want to be wealthy. Doctors want to earn money too, but also have some excess of confidence in order to become one, and damn smart, and so they are kind of greedy but also prestige seeking (and quite rightly). But I absolutely agree that we expect professionals to behave in an ethical way, though there is absolutely no reason for us to hold such a belief. I do not agree that we can truly expect professionals to “answer to a spirit more noble than personal gain.” At least, not in America. If we did, then professional TEACHERS would be highly paid instead of demonized (apart from the misogyny and female sex dominance in pre-college teaching). Every Republican I have ever heard discuss teachers has uniformly condemned them for their luxurious 9 month year and “short” days, conveniently forgetting class preparation and paper and test grading, and more, like being prepared to shield the students with their bodies when someone decides to shoot up another school.

As a political ideology, professionalism carries enormous potential for mischief. For starters, it is obviously and inherently UNDEMOCRATIC, prioritizing the views of EXPERTS over those of the public. That is tolerable to a certain degree — no one really objects to rules mandating that only trained pilots fly jetliners, for example. But what happens when an entire category of experts stop thinking of itself as “social trustee”? What happens when they abuse their monopoly power? What happens when they start looking mainly after their own interests, which is to say, start acting as a class? (pp. 24-25)

Again, I seriously doubt that professionals mainly ever considered themselves any kind of social trustee. Enron. Savings and loan scandal (involved Neil Bush, yes those Bushes). Drunk pilots. Non-fiduciary financials (recently being addressed, but how can you not believe that the banksters and their ilk HAD NO LIABILITY or obligation to act in the best interests of their clients?

Liberalism itself has changed to accommodate its new constituents’ technocratic views. Today, liberalism is the philosophy not of the sons of toil but the “knowledge economy’s winners: the Silicon Valley chieftains, the big university systems, and the Wall Street titans who gave so much to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. . . . “wired workers” who will inherit the future, for example. They are a “learning class” that truly gets the power of education. They are a “creative class” that naturally rebels against fakeness and conformity. They are an “innovative class” that just can’t stop coming up with awesome new stuff.

The phrase I will apply to them in the pages that follow is the “liberal class,” a designation I borrow from the [awesome] radical writer Chris Hedges, although with a pretty big caveat. The premise of Hedges’ book on the subject, Death of the Liberal Class [excellent!], is that the cohort behind liberal politics is disappearing or has lost its nerve. He writes to mourn their passing; I write to protest their triumph. (p. 29)

I don’t recall Hedges book as mourning the passing of authentic liberalism. Will maybe recheck my post on his book.

Frank points out that the liberals have done the best supporting the cult of meritocracy and want no condition (race, gender, etc.) to stand in the way of people becoming part of the meritocracy. However, as Bill Clinton’s heartless elimination of welfare as it was known, and whoever limited unemployment to two years, and financial aid for a certain number of years FOR LIFE, are not areas of concern to these elites. The liberals have failed to provide basic common decent standards of living for the poor single moms that they have forced to give birth by denying them financial assistance of the government to appease the RELIGIOUS RIGHT instead of defending the separation of church and state. Or the unconstitutional intrusion on the bodily autonomy of women by the State for that matter.

Postal banking, universal basic income, and of course SINGLE PAYER healthcare are just a few of the basic economic security issues that the liberals could and should address, but they are not going to as long as they allow corporations to have more rights than actual people, let money be considered speech, and wring their hands at their inability to take a stand and accomplish something for the 99% of us that need the government to advocate and make laws that help instead of harm them (Bankruptcy Act, 2005, Hillary, etc.). Ditto for free public universities (like the olden days), a living wage, paid family leave, a minimum of a month paid vacation, and student loan debt relief.

Only Bernie Sanders has advocated for systemic economic changes to allow workers to regain the share of the GNP that they once had before the profiteering and corruption took all the profit from increased worker prosperity.NO MAINSTREAM DEMOCRAT will support must less do whatever it takes to make any of this happen. And, alas, the country is all too unfortunate to have so many ignorant people who don’t give a shit about anything but themselves and plan to vote that way. Even when it is against their own interests because they are either cowed into submission (vote Hillary! unite the Party), they can’t afford to be activist in time or money, or they believe the lies both of the duopoly propagate via mainstream billionaire propaganda machines under the guise of “news” and with the laughable slogan of “fair and balanced” which it hasn’t been for decades.

Another reason we know that a party of professionals will care little about inequality is because professionals themselves care little about it. While this segment of the population tends to be very liberal on questions of civil liberties and sexual mores, the sociologist Steven Brint tells us that professionals are “not at all liberal on economic and equality-related issues.” On anything having to do with organized labor, as we shall see, they are downright conservative. (p. 30)

Part of this comes from the great American bootstrap myth. They managed to succeed to the professional class, and so could anyone else who really tried. If not, they deserve to be poor. They must be lazy, or sluts, or stupid. No helping hand for those many UNDESERVING POOR. The fact that we have a phrase discriminating between the DESERVING POOR and the UNDESERVING POOR speaks volumes in the judgement of liberals and conservatives. I guarantee you that non-white people are systemically believed to be UNDESERVING, and women with children — especially women of color — even less than human (embryos having the full rights of humans).

Meritocracy is what makes these ideas fit together; it is “the official professional credo.” according to one group of sociologists — the conviction that the successful deserve their rewards, that the people on top are there because they are the best. This is the First Commandment of the professional-managerial class. (p. 31)

Skills are not valued; management is the only way to make the big money. They promote people away from what they do well to attend meetings and little else, and yet they get double and more salary for these actions. Like the unjustifiable CEO pay of millions and millions when they bring down their own companies from mismanagement. But until the fall, those “performance bonuses” and stock option rewards for “retention” just keep rolling in, unlike the female secretary who makes less than the male janitor because she is a woman.

These days meritocracy has come to seem so reasonable that many of us take it for granted as the TRUE and CORRECT measure of HUMAN VALUE. (p. 31)

Lawyers get the big money and prestige and are valuable, the legal assistants doing the majority of the actual work, not so much. Nurses get squat and disrespect by Doctors, and paid a whole lot less, yet your life more directly may depend on the nurse’s competence.

There is no solidarity in a meritocracy. (p. 32)

As we shall see, leading members of the professional class show enormous respect for one another — what I will call “professional courtesy” — but they feel PRECIOUS LITTLE SYMPATHY for the less fortunate members of their own cohort — for the ADJUNCTS frozen out of the academic market for tenure, for colleagues who get fired, or even for the kids who don’t get into “good” colleges. That life doesn’t shower its blessing on people who can’t make the grade isn’t a shock or an INJUSTICE; it’s the way things OUGHT TO BE.

This has all sorts of important consequences for liberalism, but let us here take note of just one before proceeding: professional do not hold that other Democratic constituency, ORGANIZED LABOR, in particularly high regard. . . . One reason for this is because unions signify lowliness, not status. But another is because solidarity, the core value of unions, stands in stark contraction to the doctrine of individual excellence that every profession embodies. The idea that someone should command GOOD PAY for doing a job that doesn’t require specialized training seems to professionals to be an obvious fallacy. (p. 33)

Even Bernie Sanders falls for the liberal ideal that education is the solution to all economic and some social issues. However, education means college, not vocational training, for example. Vocational training is not held in high regard, yet we all need plumbers and electricians and auto mechanics. And they make a good living, but these careers are not prestigious. Why not? Plenty of these same liberals are not capable of doing plumbing, electrical work, or fixing their cars. But I guess because the professional class can BUY these services, they don’t consider them important. Hmm. And yet, we buy a lawyer’s services, and a doctor’s services. I guess they get more prestige because of the exclusivity, their jargon, their complex rules, and the true fact that their capabilities truly do have life-altering consequences. Although, I suppose a badly repaired car, or screwed up electrical job, could kill you too. Plumbing failures are simply revolting for the most part!

The weird thing is, with the liberals banking so much on education as a solution to social problems, why then do they not ADVOCATE for free tuition?  What about the lifetime of debt at usurious rates? As I said before, non-dischargeable in bankruptcy PLUS when debt is forgiven the IRS tax code treats that debt forgiveness as INCOME so you owe taxes on anything forgiven. Maybe you have no actual income because you can’t get a job with that English lit degree so you live at home with Mom and Dad but according to the IRS, you owe tax on say, $100,000 of student loan forgiveness. That puts you in a heck of a tax bracket. AND THE THING OF IT IS, you don’t have any money because if you did you wouldn’t need loan forgiveness in the first place. Or if tuition wasn’t insanely overpriced while simultaneously cutting library budgets, relying on adjuncts paid peanuts, not a living wage, and other quality issues. We can’t all be entrepreneurs or hedge fund managers; someone has to do actual physical labor.

Despite the favorite Sixties slogan, professionals DO NOT question authority; their job is to apply it. (p.37)

That’s why there are so few whistleblowers I think. The adverse consequences are severe.

Economics is one area that professionalism is very problematic. Anyone who has listened to the drivel of trickle-down economics knows it is bullshit, but it became the law of the land, despite or maybe because of the failure to prevent the poor from getting poorer while the rich became richer than huge percentages of the population of America. It can all be traced back to a particularly stupid but apparently persuasive economics professor, Milton Fiedman, and the University of Chicago. His ideology infected Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and a bunch of other people who got into positions of authority to act on their demonstrably false theory of economics. But it has also become the ideology of neoliberals too, so we are screwed unless progressives can turn the Democratic Party back to the people and serve economic justice instead of privilege. You may recall I mentioned Larry Summers earlier.

When the merit-minded President Obama wanted economic expertise, to choose one sad example, he sought out the best the economics discipline had to offer: former treasury secretary and Harvard president Larry Summers, a man who screwed up time and again yet was shielded from the consequences by his stature within the economics profession. (p. 39)

You really must check out the link above for the end of his Wikipedia entry. The mention of his praise of Friedman after his death included a declaration that “Democrats are all Friedmanites now” just about made me barf. The pop culture references are amusing/disgusting too. Huge “free market” fan, obviously. I expect he would repeal all labor and safety laws including child labor laws in the name of the “free” market. Oh, and he thinks presidents should be restricted to one term. No text in Wikipedia on his opinion on SCOTUS terms or Congress.

Frank cites a few people who managed successful government careers without college degrees, including Truman!

Thurman Arnold, the Wyoming-born leader of FDR’s Antitrust Division [which is no longer being enforced], wrote a scoffing and derisive book called The Folklore of Capitalism. Just trying getting a job in Washington after pulling something like that today. (p. 40)

But wait, there are more reasons to worry about this elevation of the professionals on merit and credentials, despite how it would seem that these must be the best people for public office.

A third consequence of modern-day liberals’ unquestioning, reflexive respect for expertise is their blindness to PREDATORY BEHAVIOR if it comes cloaked in the signifiers of professionalism. Take the sort of complexity we saw in the financial instruments that drove the last financial crisis. For old-school regulators, I am told, undue financial complexity was an indicator of likely fraud. But for the liberal class, it is the opposite: an indicator of sophistication. Complexity is admirable in its own right. The difference in interpretation carries enormous consequences. Did Wall Street commit epic fraud, or are they highly advanced professionals who fell victim to epic misfortune? As we shall see again and again modern-day liberals pretty much insist on the latter view, treating Wall Street with extraordinary deference despite all that went on in the last decade. . . also take note of the widely shared view among Democrats that Wall Street is a place of enormous meritocratic prestige. . . professionalism . . . buttressed by its complicated technical jargon . . . to protect itself from the scrutiny of the public. (p. 40)

The author goes on to discuss David Callahan, author of Fortunes of Change, a book that dared to criticize the liberals’ meritocracy.

As an example, Callahan points us to the D.E. Shaw Group hedge fund, which was founded by a man with a PhD from Stanford who fives enormous sums to Democratic candidates and who also employed former Treasure Secretary [wait for it] Larry Summers for a few years between Summers’s gig as president of Harvard and his next gig running President Obama’s National Economic Council. Callahan quotes at length from D. E. Shaw’s [the hedge fund] recruiting materials:

“Our staff includes a number of Rhodes, Fulbright, and Marshall Scholars, Putnam Fellows, and the winners of more than 20 medals in the International Math Olympiad. Current employees include the 2003 Women’s Chess Champion, a Life Master bridge player, and a Jeopardy winner, along with a number of writers, athletes, musicians, and former professors. Over 100 of our employees hold PhDs, almost 40 are entrepreneurs who previously founded their own companies, and approximately 20 percent are published authors whose work ranges from highly technical papers in specialized academic journals to award-winning mystery novels.”

To this honor roll of intellectual and financial achievement, Callahan appends the following observation: ‘This is definitely not the Sarah Palin demographic.’

No. But neither is it a demographic with any particular concern for the fate of working people. (pp. 42-43)

I am really starting to hate “smart” people. And I remember in particular, a line, I believe it was Bill Mahr, who said, “I want a smart president!” I thought I agreed, especially in the contrast to W. But I think that Bernie Sanders idealism is better than simply smart, we need people with compassion and an ability to see beyond their bubble of meritocracy.

Wow, I would really like to keep on writing because there is so much more good stuff, but I really have to turn the book back in to the library and you should just buy it anyway!

The previous text was all from the first chapter! In chapter two I was delighted to see a subhead “The Powell Memo of the Democrats.” The Powell memo is a somewhat unknown and yet infamous game plan for the Republicans to do what they have done: take the Republican Party far far right and conjoin with religious fanatics to take over the country and eliminate all I hold dear. Discussed in a book called Who stole the American Dream? Can we get it back? by Hedrick Smith in 2012. Frank notes that in 1968 the Democrats biggest constituency was organized labor and they had “mobilized millions of working-class voters” in vast efforts.

Labor’s reward was as follows: by the time of the 1972 presidential contest, the Democratic Party had effectively kicked the unions out of their organization. Democratic candidates still wanted the votes of working people, of course, as well as their donations and their get-out-the-vote efforts. But between ’68 and ’72 unions lost their position as the premier interest group in the Democratic coalition. This was the result of a series of reforms authored by the so-called McGovern Commission, which changed the Democratic party’s PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATING SYSTEM and, along the way, changed the party itself.

Most of the reforms the McGovern Commission called for were clearly healthful. For example, it dethroned state and local machines and replaced them with open primaries, a big step in the right direction. The Commission also mandated that delegations to its 1972 convention conform to certain demographic parameters — that they contain predetermined percentages of women, minorities, and young people. As it went about reforming the party, however, the Commission overlooked one important group: it did nothing to ensure representation for working-class people. . . . Neglecting workers was the opening that allowed Republicans to reach out to blue collar voters with their arsenal of culture-war fantasies. No serious left politician would make a blunder like that on purpose.

But they did, reader. Leading Democrats actually chose to reach out to the affluent and to turn their backs on workers. We know this because they wrote about it, not secretly — as in the infamous “Powell memo” of 1971, in which the future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell plotted a conservative political awakening — but openly, in tones of proud idealism, calling forthrightly for reorienting the Democratic Party around the desires of the PROFESSIONAL CLASS.

I am reffering to a book called Changing Sources of Pwer, a 1971 manifesto by lobbyist and Democratic strategist Frederick Dutton who was one of the guiding forces on the McGovern Commission. Taken along with the Republican Powell Memo, it gives us the plans of the two big party organizations as the country entered upon the disastrous period that would give us Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Gingrich, and the rest. Where Powell was an arch-conservative, however, Dutton was a forthright liberal. Where Powell showed a certain cunning in his expressed desire to revere the flow of history, Dutton’s tone is one of credulity toward the inflated sense of world-historical importance that surround the youth culture in those days. . . .

Dutton’s argument was simple: America having become a land of universal and soaring affluence, all that traditional Democratic stuff about forgotten men and workers’ rights was no as relevant as a stack of Victrola discs. And young people, meaning white, upper-middle class college kids — oh , these young people were so wise and so virtuous and even so holy that when contemplating them Dutton could scarcely restrain himself. They were “aristocrats — en masse,” [and more nauseating rhetoric]. (p. 47-49)

I was shocked to learn that Jimmy Carter, who has been subject to a kinder, gentler assessment now that he nearly died and may well do so in a few years (now 90 years old), had actually enacted “the first of the era’s really big tax cuts for the rich and also the first of the really big deregulations.”

As though to prove how tough and post-partisan he could be, in 1980 he and Paul Volker, his hand-picked Fed chairman, put the country on an austerity diet that was spectacularly punishing to the ordinary working people who had once made up the Democratic base.

Carter turned out to be a sort of archetype, the first in a series of passionless Democratic technocrats. That the working people felt the brunt of Carter’s policies was no coincidence; this was not a group for whom his administration felt a great deal of sympathy. In a 1981 interview look back at the administration’s deeds, Carter adviser Alfred Kahn, an economist, had this to say about the fights over deregulation and inflation:

‘I’d love the Teamsters to be worse off. I’d love the automobile workers to be worse off. You may say that’s inhumane [ya think?]; I’m putting it rather badly but I want to eliminate a situation in which certain protected workers in industries insulated from COMPETITION can increase their wage much more rapidly than the average without regard to their MERIT or to what a FREE MARKET would do, and in so doing exploit other workers.’

This is a Democrat, remember, and what he was objecting to was the way unions supposedly allowed workers to prosper ‘without regard to their merit.’ (p. 54)

How appalling is that!!!! A humane view would have helped all workers prosper like the unions did.

All the bright young Democrats with the post-partisan ideas were saying the same thing. All through the seventies and the eighties, in fact, new waves of liberal thinkers kept washing up, divining from the political stars the same ideas: that labor unions were an economic drag and/or dying fast; that industrial society itself had gone into eclipse [must check when NAFTA eclipsed industrial power].; and that the future belonged to people like them, meaning — always — affluent professionals or some other highly educated and market-savvy cohort.

The most exciting of these bright young thinkers were the tech-minded Washingtonians who called themselves the “Neo-liberals”; in the early 1980s their bold thinkings were the subject of a manifesto, an anthology, a collective biography, and countless news stories. To the reader of today, however, what stands out in their work is the DISTASTE they expressed for organized labor and their enthusiasm for high-tech enterprises. The 1983 Neo-Liberal manifesto, for example, blamed unions for the country’s industrial problems, mourned all the waste involved in the Social Security program [!!!], and called for a war on public school teachers so that we might get a better educational system and thereby “more Route 128s and Silicon Valleys.” (p.56)

You get the idea. It gets worse. On page 57 he begins a real eye-opening discussion of something I had never heard of: the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). “As the DLC saw it, whenever Demlocrats lot an election, it was because their leaders were too weak on crime, too soft on communism [!!!], and too sympathetic to minorities. [!!!!]” (p. 57)

The DLC had a single-factor theory of politics: that voters had grown disgusted with the cultural liberalism of the post-McGovern era. Why did Carter lose in 1980? Too damn liberal. Why did Mondale lose in 1984? Still too liberal. Why did Dukakis lose in 1988? Liberal again. The DLC aslo had but a single prescription for this malady: the Democratic Party could only win if it moved to “the center,” severing ties with its constituent groups and embracing certain free-market policies of the RIGHT. The essential flaw in this neat little syllogism flashed on and off like a neon sign — that all three of the Democratic candidates in the 1980s had followed this exact strategy of shifting rightward and had lost anyway.

What made the DLC succeed where others had failed were the contradictions it managed to juggle. It was a bluntly PRO-BUSINESS force — friendly with lobbyists and funded by corporate backers — that nevertheless proclaimed itself as a warrior for the working class. . . .

Why working class voters were supposed to pine for balanced budgets, free-trade treaties, and the rest of the items on the DLC wish-list was a mystery. The answer, it would soon become clear, was that the DLC didn’t really care all that much about working people in the first place. The aim of the group was to capture the Democratic Party for its lobbyist supporters by whatever means were at hand, and in the 198s, claiming to represent the overlooked middle American probably seemed like a good gambit.

By the early 1990s, however, the DLCs proletarian period was over. Instead, the group used different rhetoric to persuade Democrats to let them drive. Now its leaders talked about getting “beyond left and right,” and occupying the ‘vital center,’ about themselves as visionary “New Democrats,” empty phrases that nevertheless carried — that carry still — the “postindustrial, global economy.” It was in order to “do business” in this new realm, the group’s many manifestos declared, that we needed to reform “entitlements” (i.e. Social Security), PRIVATIZE government operations, open charter schools, get tough on crime, and all the rest of it. (pp. 56-57) 

In revealing this backroom cabal plotting that both Clintons participated in, including Bill as Chair or President or whatever their leader was called, you can see that this DLC was a crucial and overarching framework for Democrats to become Republicans while Republicans went bat shit crazy. And workers lost and lost and lost some more.

Extensive and fascinating on Bill Clinton’s time in office is covered and very unexpected things went on I had no idea about once again; like the near cooperation by Clinton with Gingrich to kill Social Security. And the ultimate betrayal by Clinton: “the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial from investment banking since 1933.” (p. 102)  It is very hard to accept the fact that it was a democrat that was so stupid as to do this. Along with support from his co-president Hillary I am sure. And that is why she doesn’t want to repudiate that as a serious mistake by hubby. And why she doesn’t now advocate to fix things by reinstating it. And why no Neo-Liberal democrat will ever be able to break up the banksters and why people will continue to suffer as the millionaire class continues to ignore us. We have pitchforks but they have NSA, militarized police, inadequate and powerful hostile judicial systems and bloody expensive too. I still cannot believe that we bunch of cowards ever won the World Wars. The sheer slaughter and massive waste (Gallipoli) is staggering to contemplate. The drones and wiretapping and email monitoring and Google searches and basically participating in a panopticon of our own making (Google, Facebook, WordPress!) means that they know where we live and they can get us at any time and they can ignore any and all our of rights in the name of the Patriot Act and Homeland Security. The consequences were bad for the workers back in the thirties when they were brutally put down by police acting for corporate bosses, but somehow it seems that it will be worse now, maybe because of technology, perpetual surveillance, lack of money (can’t keep it bank since that can be frozen). Can’t afford to eat if you don’t have a job — one other good reason for the government to provide only minimal subsistence rather than a decent quality of life, just enough to keep the pitchforks at bay and yet, give as little as possible to prevent empowering any actual movement for change.

It is really fascinating how so many names crop up so often, and not in a good way. Rat bastards get to be on the cover of Time magazine for example.

A little earlier in 1999, Summers had made the cover of Time magazine, along with Greenspan and Rubin, as part of what the magazine called the “Committee to Save the World,” a swashbuckling team of professional class superheroes who intervened all around the globe when economies were in danger of blowing up. The story is one of the ALL-TIME GREAT EXAMPLES OF JUST HOW BAD JOURNALISM CAN GET when a scribe is encouraged to express his love for the powerful and his deep respect for ideas that every member of his socioeconomic cohort agrees upon. Time described Summers [yes, him again] as a “rocket scientist”; the sagacious Greenspan was said to understand that “markets are an expression of the deepest truths about human nature” [gag]; and Rubin was a WIZARD who had “remade the Treasury into an organization that is ‘more like an investment bank.'” Together they were “a kind of free-market Politburo on economic matters,” Time reported — the only people who mattered in President Clinton’s inner circle. (p. 103)

These men were the ones who mattered, unlike a woman:

Brooksley Born, who was the chair of Clinton’s Commodities Futures Trading Commission, had seen many ominous signs of impending disaster in certain reaches of the derivative industry; in 1998 she dared to propose that this rapidly growing market be brought under some kind of regulatory scrutiny. Born’s suggestion turned out to be the opposite of a no-brainer: the three members of the Committee to Save the World came together not only to crush her proposal but to do the reverse — to ensure the elimination of the weak regulation that did exist. The ultimate result of their efforts, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, signed into law by Clinton a month before he returned to private life, was a deregulatory debacle to which we can chalk up both the activities of Enron as well as the credit default swaps that brought the entire world economy to the brink of collapse in 2008.

Things ended badly for Brooksley Born, but Robert Rubin left the Treasury Department in glory just a few days after the measure repealing Glass-Steagall had passed the Senate. Four months later he took up work at Citigroup, which by coincidence was the largest beneficiary of the repeal (it allowed the giant bank to merge with a giant insurance company). Rubin had come from Wall Street, delivered enormous bailouts and long-sought deregulation to his old colleagues, and then return to the top ranks of an industry enjoying its most prosperous years in history. (p. 104)

Perhaps my favorite few lines in the book are on page 105:

It’s striking that so many of the great economic initiatives of the Clinton presidency led eventually to CATASTROPHE. But waht really makes this story poisonous is the LIBERALS by and large convinced themselves for many years that nothing had gone wrong at all. Everything Clinton’s team had done was an act of professional-class consensus. Because most of the fuses lit by Clinton and Co. didn’t actually detonate until after he had left office. . . they found it easy to absolve the Democrat from blame.

Please note that recently Hillary proclaimed that she would have Bill be the economy czar or some such role if she is elected president. She claimed it would be good because “we know” he knows how to make the economy work. This is either disingenuous and flippant, or tragically ignorant belief about what Bill and she accomplished in his presidency.

It wasn’t Ronald Reagan alone who did it [free market as ideal]. What distinguishes the political order we live under now is consensus on certain economic questions, and what made that consensus happen was the CAPITULATION of the DEMOCRATS. Republicans could denounce big government all they wanted, but it took a Democrat to declare that “the era of big government is over” and to make it stick. This was Bill Clinton’s historic achievement. Under his direction, as I wrote back then, the opposition “ceased to oppose.” (p. 106)

The most shocking thing to me, ever worse than learning about the DLC cabal, was the secret negotiations between Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. They were not the enemies they pretended to be. SOCIAL SECURITY PRIVATIZATION was the object of Clinton’s outreach to Gingrich. (p. 107)

According to Steve Gillon, the historian who uncovered this episode in his 2008 book, the Pact. privatization in some form had become attractive to politicians in both parties at that time; the word he uses to describe this growing attitude is “consensus” as in: the “growing consensus on both sides of the aisle in favor of having Social Security tap into the stock market to increase the rate of return on retirement funds.”

Or as we now know, lose trillions of irreplaceable dollars of people who paid in their whole lives and have nothing else to use for retirement when the crooks of Wall Street treat life savings as play money. Socialized risk, private rewards.

Bill Clinton and Obama were both closer to the Republicans on several issues. Obama’s Grand Bargain. Clinton’s “NAFTA, welfare reform, and bank deregulation, all of them made into law by cooperation between the Democratic president and the Republicans in Congress.”

In a footnote he adds “Commissions pursuing predetermined conclusions and building fake consensus seem to have been something of a specialty of the Clinton White House. Hillary Clinton famously set up a great host of them during her push for health care reform in 1993.” (p. 109)

“What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.” (p. 115) This is what our reality is today, thanks to Clintons’ welfare reform.

But the poor needed to lean discipline. That seem to have been one of the ideas behind NAFTA: People employed in manufacturing had to accept working harder for less or else watch their jobs depart for Mexico. Discipline was the point of the ’94 crime bill too. The poor were to live in a state of CONSTANT SUPERVISION where there was “zero tolerance” for those who stepped out of line. Mercy was to be a luxury item now, a thing reserved for those who could make big donations to the Clinton presidential library.

Discipline was most emphatically the point of Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform. This measure, as I said, deleted the longstanding federal guarantee to the people at society’s lowest rung and shifted the obligation to care for them to the states, which were permitted to go about the task however they wanted. States could outsource the program, turn applicants away, give them whatever amount they thought was right, and so on. The only requirement was that NO ONE COULD STAY ON THE ROLLS beyond a certain length of time. The new law made no provision for job training or anything similar, even though the man who signed it was the same person who loved to repeat that “what you earn depends on what you can learn.” For these people it was different: just get out there and work.

Some got the carrot; others got the stick. “Once the Democratic party had adopted this theology,” Christopher Hitchens pointed out in 1999, “the poor had no one to whom they could turn. The immediate consequence of this was probably an intended one: this creation of a large helot underclass disciplined by fear and scarcity, subject to endless surveillance, and used as a weapon against any American worker lucky enough to hold a steady or unionized job.”

This whole attitude, though not discussed here, deserves deeper review. Welfare reform principally hurt single mothers who were forced into a wage earning labor market for less money than a white man (women of color, as usual, worse off), who remain at less than a living wage. Plus they had to pay for daycare. MOTHERHOOD may be a sanctified concept to American politicians but they don’t put any money where their rhetoric is. How stupid is it that a woman who has just had a baby after 9 months of pregnancy (no man can ever understand that this is not like carrying around a sack of flower) rarely qualifies for paid leave, even for a few days. When you work paycheck to paycheck and you don’t put in the hours, you don’t get paid.

Motherhood is a JOB. They want to force birth, they praise this womanly role to the hilt. But show me the money. No one wants to pay for another’s spawn. They are willing to budget a million dollars to drug test welfare mothers (and my favorite, choke, bed checks, to make sure you aren’t having a relationship with a man who automatically would be obligated to support you and your family, whether you want that or not, or if he can or not). Imagine how much more the families could do with that million dollars being available to buy diapers for one example.

Another goal of welfare reform was reducing what used to be called the “illegitimacy rate.” By removing society’s guarantee for single moms, its proponents use to say, we would change the incentives and give people [mothers] a nudge, and soon everyone would get married before they had kids.  (p. 117-118)

Of course, that is completely unfounded and unreasonable. To start with, they don’t fund complete sex education. They don’t want to have insurance coverage for contraception. They don’t want to pay for abortions. They don’t want to provide day care so mothers can work. Mothers have a job, raising the kids, however they come into the world, especially if the State forces them to carry to term — even damaged or non-viable pregnancies. Then there is the massive amount of rape in the country. Domestic abuse, broken condoms, failed contraception, disease, Zika virus, the list of issues goes on and on. The extreme bullshit of allowing EMPLOYERS to determine if you may use birth control and not even wanting third party insurance to be allowed is INSANE. If the government has a vested interest in women reproducing then they damn well need to pay the women who do so, and with cash, not some lame tax credit. Enough so they can afford a roof, food, and other basic necessities.

Now to today, the presidential election and the hubris of the anointed one, Hillary Clinton. We have established that her husband accomplished horrific damage to many people, and how did the Democratic party respond to this? Praise at the elites. Once again we face the choice of the “lesser of two evils” that the Democrats are now more known for than any lingering “party of the people” bullshit.

As we know, many Democratic leaders regard such voters as people who have nowhere else to go. Regardless of HOW POORLY Democrats perform on inequality matters, they will never be as awful as those crazy Republicans. [especially this year]

People do find other places to go, of course — they stay home, they join the Tea Party, whatever. But my purpose ere is to scrutinize the tacit Democratic boast about always being better than those crazy Republicans. In truth, what Bill Clinton accomplished were things that no Republican could have done. Thanks to our two-party system, Democratic politicians carry a brand identity that inhibits them in some ways but allows them remarkable latitude in others. They are forever seen as weaklings in the face of the country’s enemies, for example; but on basic economic questions they are trusted to do the right thing for average people.

But maybe not anymore considering the crowds at Bernie Sanders rallies since he is authentically calling for change.

Okay, that’s it. You really need to read the rest of the book. He talks about the many many things Obama could have done but did not. You know from Hillary’s record and Bill’s what you will get with her. And hopefully it is obvious that the Republicans are not even to be considered.

Most importantly though, while the presidential choice is crucial, at one level at least to make any progress Democrats must take back Congress. Try to vote progressive (though not sure how many primaries are left) but at least, sad to say, vote democratic down ticket. If Bernie is excluded and none of the lawsuits about election fraud aren’t decided in time [please, not another Supreme Court intervention], then I am going to go green. Maybe that will be able to be the seed that becomes home to the progressives since it is clear that the Democratic Party has turned away from the people.


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