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What’s wrong with us? (0.44%)

12:23 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

To tell the truth, I’m still reeling from the November elections, a big, hard topic to write about. But it looks like, from the tone and high quality of recent comments here at MyFDL, maybe now is the time. Recently received an e-mail from Diane Gee of Wild Wild Left, a nice smaller blog asking for the return of former writers who’d drifted off during the 2012 election hell/season. My response gets into those damn election results (and my lament):

Diane and all,

Thanks for the e-mail and all the responses to the e-mail. Times are remarkably dark for the left as evidenced by the presidential race and results. I think we are all still reeling from them, which no one at my main blog, myfdl, has written about, me included. (I think the expression of anger and dark thoughts actually are just starting to come out now). Obamney received 98.33%, the far right 1.11%, and the left (Stein, Anderson, Barr) 0.44%. 0.44%. How do you grock that? How do you ‘build’ on it?

I think we need to breathe in and make sense of how remarkably bad left _politics_ are for it to have achieved point zero four four fucking percent in THIS economy. Until that reckoning comes to pass and the right things are done about our too comfortable, too set-in-its-ways house of the left, what is there to say when no one is listening?

fairleft

The problem isn’t just us, of course, it’s the times. This cool comment by chicago dyke (under one of those ‘faux clueless’ “we gotta hold ‘em accountable” posts by someone ‘left-famous’) makes a lot of the foundational points that might help us lefties figure out what’s wrong with something (link added):

chicago dyke January 9th, 2013 at 2:30 pm @55

personally, i think it’s too late and the one world “government” by the superrich is here to stay for a while.

that said, if you’re the hopeful type, spend your time organizing initiatives and ballot movements to do what they did in CA, and end the practice of gerrymandering. sort of amazing what neutral citizens were able to accomplish there, no?

also: note how the interwebs are a curse and a blessing. you know what is very noticeable about sites like this one? our age. where are the teens? i was politically active when i was young; why don’t we have lots of those here? i’m not trying to say the people here do a poor job; this is an excellent blog. but i can’t help but note i’m probably one of only a handful of people who have an electronica collection. and that’s dating myself compared to the 25 and under set.

finally, life at 10$/hr is harsh, and doesn’t leave for a lot of time for political activity. the death of the labor movement in this country, along with the decline of quality public education, is what is making all this horror possible. recognize we’re entering into a new “lost generation” and all that entails.

i don’t mean to sound hopeless. but i agree with a friend of mine (we were just talking about this yesterday) it will be at least ten years before a new, probably unpredictable political movement rises in this country and demands and enacts reform. if not revolution. so many of us are locked into a system that does not allow us to achieve such, right now.

(Electronica?) My response:

fairleft January 9th, 2013 at 10:21 pm @76 (In response to chicago dyke @55)

Yeah, yours is the good common sense assessment of what has already happened to the political/media system. “What should we do about it?” was my comment way up at @4.

Hell, I don’t know, but I think a lot of us older folks are just on automatic pilot, ’cause political discussion is part of what happened at dinner tables and in colleges back thirty, forty years ago. Younger people, the cut-off is really around 40, almost never have that background. Political discussion around the dinner table died because it’s embarrassing to do that unless you have an actual democracy that listens to you and doesn’t treat you like a sucker. And very few could pretend Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan were serious, honest people rather than ‘anything it takes’ salesmen. A couple of manipulating scam artists, and the same with the sold-out parties they belonged to – crass vehicles for redistributing income up. And more recently their successors Obama and Bush, the same thing.

Occupy was a failed attempt to at least have an actual democratic politics in the space of small downtown parks. It briefly inspired a lot of young people, but its failure and partial cooptation into ‘those scary Republican’ electoral politics surely has done the opposite.

Not much to work with on the hope front.

The only thing I’d say is that ten years is much too long a time frame. We could have very different politics soon if Obama continues to grind the economy down and redistribute money up. Basically, when the rich run things they do a progressively crappier job of it from the perspective of the bottom 80%, and we do have ways of letting our masters know we’re pissed off. Take a look around two years from now.

Okay, enough whining about post-democracy. I hate elections. No, better end on a more civilized note. Colin Crouch, from the preceding link:

Post-democracy is like post-industrialism. … All the institutions of democracy remain – we use them. It’s just the energy of the political system and the innovative capacity have moved to other spheres … to rather secret private discourse between great global corporations and governments.

Romney pulls ahead; Social Security makes or breaks Obama?; Hey Stein, attack!

11:40 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Romney is pulling ahead because of Obama’s bad debate performance, where the President decided not to attack Romney/Ryan on the main populist issue of the day, Social Security, commenting with gross foreboding to Romney, “I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position.” Joan Walsh writes,

I am bewildered about why [Obama] embraced Mitt Romney on the issue of Social Security, and let the entire first section of the debate, which was supposed to be about jobs, get derailed into a discussion of taxes and the deficit.

I’m not so bewildered as conventional Demopundits like Walsh. I think it’s clear that Obama is hoping to win re-election without playing the Social Security card. The reason is obvious: Obama’s main financial supporters want to cut Social Security, and therefore Obama wants to cut Social Security. If he nonetheless plays the S.S. card now, he will then have a hard time next month telling us “everything’s changed” and now we ‘have to’ cut Social Security.

The President and his advisers I assume learned from his failed 2011 effort to put the program on the table (i.e., to cut it). The people made him back off then. So he’s being stealthy and hoping to squeak through to re-election with minimal populist lies and maximal Wall-Street-pleasing ‘responsible austerity’ non-specifics.

Right now, Bernie Sanders and 28 other Senators are asking Obama to “oppose including Social Security cuts for future or current beneficiaries in any deficit reduction package.” If he doesn’t do that, Sanders and the Democrats are going to hold their breath till their faces turn blue. But they’ll still no matter what tell us all to vote for Obama. Lemmings and sell outs.

What I would love to see is Jill Stein sharpen her rhetoric and make ‘No Cuts to Social Security’ the center of her campaign, not just a sound bite. Here she is on Social Security (I deleted her ‘on the defensive’ verbiage as should she):

Q: How do you feel about privatizing Social Security?

A: Social Security needs to be protected. … we can hardly afford to trim back Social Security as would happen in a privatized system. We would challenge the very notion that Social Security is in crisis mode warranting messing with its foundations. It’s not in crisis at all.

Q: Do you support raising the cap on Social Security deductions, above the current limit of $106,000?

A: The cap could be lifted to ensure that Social Security should be solvent m without question forever.

NOW is the time for the Green Party to attack Obamney and his/their post-election plans to gut Social Security. Let Obama’s “I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position” be his epitaph. And/Or, let Stein and Green Party attacks be the stimulus that makes Obama come out and promise to defend and not cut back Social Security. So, uh, C’mon Jill, fire away!

James Galbraith for President

4:15 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

After reading James Galbraith’s speech in Selise’s diary, my sense is that the U.S. needs as its President an articulate master of the Keynes economic tradition. Galbraith seems the best of these strategically (though there are quite a few other cool economists to choose from (despite their systematic ouster from a failed ‘mainstream’ economics)). Galbraith’s the second-best-known left economist in the U.S. after Paul Krugman (who surely would not give up his NYT job for a long-shot Presidential campaign), he ‘looks Presidential’ when he’s shorn of his beard, he’s a vice-president of an important and reassuringly traditional liberal organization, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), he’s a good enough public speaker, and he might actually be pissed off enough to run. Also, he’s neither Ralph Nader nor Dennis Kucinich, one of whom is too old, the other untrustworthy and non-presidential, and both of whom (unfortunately) seem or would seem perennial candidate jokes to ‘bedrock America’.

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Yeah, I know, Galbraith seems very conventional and even a little boring and ‘not rad enough, dude!’, but here’s the deal: the only effective left attack in 2012 on a now right-wing Democratic Party — and one that is absolutely necessary to make — will be on its failed economic policy. Attacking the disastrously ineffective ‘market fundamentalist’ economics that nurses both parties is where a third, left alternative could find real resonance with however much of the American public we can get to hear it. (And, hell, if the Republicans win in 2012 and then their economic policies (of course) drastically fail, that leaves ‘us Galbraithians’ as the logical alternative, right?) So, I appreciate that Galbraith, through his leadership at ADA (see its policy positions here), indicates that he is a mainstream though dovish liberal on everything but economics. (Hey, correct me if I’m wrong…) That clean, boring, respectable vibe puts the focus where it needs to be, where it has to be: rescuing the economy from the vultures and the scammers, i.e., the rich and the corporations.

Dovish, though, because Galbraith is also Chair of Economists for Peace and Security. The group, by the way, has just pointed out that the premise for the bipartisan cut the deficit drive is false and the policy stupid and incredibly destructive. Specifically, its statement sez:

Deficit spending is normal for a great industrial nation with a managed currency, and it has been our normal economic condition throughout the past century. History proves, and sensible economic theory confirms, that in recessions, increased federal spending — not balancing the budget — is the tried and true way to return to a path of sustained growth and high employment.

More imporantly, as a practical “will he do it” matter, Galbraith appears to have given up hope on Barack Obama, so he might really want to challenge him next year:

President Obama has set his course. He has surrounded himself with the advisers of his choice and as he moves to replace [Larry] Summers we hear from the press that the priority is to “repair the rift with his investors on Wall Street.” What does that tell you? It tells me that he does not have President Clinton’s fighting and survival instincts. I’ve not heard one good reason all day to believe that we are going to see from this White House the fight that we want, … or any reason we should be backing him now.

The Democratic Party has become too associated with Wall Street. This is a fact. It is a structural problem. It seems to me that we as progressives need — this is my personal position — we need to draw a line and decide that we would be better off with an under-funded, fighting progressive minority party than a party marked by obvious duplicity and constant losses on every policy front as a result of the reversals in our own leadership.

Well then, let’s welcome Galbraith to lead one of those existing progressive minority parties, or ask him to be the man who Democratic primaries Obama, or let’s make a new party for him that he can lead into the November 2012 presidential election. Any of the above works for me. The stakes are high, a point which Galbraith makes very well (though I have deleted his unecessary and strategically boneheaded pessimism):

First, it seems to me that we as progressives need to make an honorable defense of the great legacies of the New Deal and Great Society — programs and institutions that brought America out of the Great Depression and brought us through the Second World War, brought us to our period of greatest prosperity, and the greatest advances in social justice. Social Security, Medicare, housing finance — the front-line right now is the foreclosure crisis, the crisis, I should say, of foreclosure fraud — the progressive tax code, anti-poverty policy, public investment, public safety, and human and civil rights. …

Beyond this, bold proposals are what we should be advancing now; even when they lose, they have their value. We can talk about job programs; we can talk about an infrastructure bank; we can talk about Juliet Schor’s idea of a four-day work week; we can talk about my idea of expanding Social Security and creating an early retirement option so that people who are older and unemployed or anxious to get out of the labor force can leave on comfortable terms, and so create job openings for younger people who, as we’ve heard today, are facing very long periods of extremely aggravating and frustrating unemployment; we can talk about establishing a systematic program of general revenue sharing to support state and local governments, we can talk about the financial restructuring we so desperately need and that we’ll have to have if we are going to have a country which has a viable private credit system and in which large financial power is not constantly dictating the terms of every political maneuver.

… And then, frankly, as was said … most elegantly by Jeff Madrick, in the long run we need to recognize that the fate of the entire country is at stake. Its governance can’t be entrusted indefinitely to incompetents, hacks, and lobbyists. Large countries can and do fail, they have done so in our own time. And the consequences are very grave: drastic declines in services, in living standards, in life expectancies, huge increases in social tension, in repression, and in violence. These are the consequences of following through with crackpot ideas such as those embodied in the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, as Jeff Madrick again outlined, such notions as putting arbitrary limits on the scale of government, or arbitrary limits on the top tax rate affecting the wealthiest Americans.

You can’t fight the madness with Obama’s Clintonian triangulation. We know where that led and leads again, the dreaded ratchet effect. Anyway, I say JAMES GALBRAITH, COME ON DOWN! Any suggestions for further action much appreciated.