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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?


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.

Obama on Jobs: ‘Nothing to Do But Wait’

7:46 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

The weak May job report has exposed the helplessness and denial of neoliberalism when faced with an economic crisis that ‘does not compute’. And Obama and his advisors are such true neoliberal believers:

So ‘Creating Jobs Ain’t Our Job’ is now the Obama jobs program? Jeff Madrick, citing research by Andrew Sum, tells us where we are at after two years of ‘recovery’ (emphasis in original):

… There has never been an economic recovery since World War II nearly as bad as this one.

Yes, there has been GDP growth, but it has almost all gone to profits, not pay. By most measures, there are still fewer jobs today than there were at the bottom of the recession. Just as disturbing, there has been no increase in wages. There are many measures of wages and salaries, but Sum and his group found that average hourly earnings of all private sector wage and salary workers were unchanged over the seven-quarter recovery. The typical or median full-time worker lost ground over this period. …

For the first time in more than sixty years, aggregate wages and salaries adjusted for inflation did not rise after seven quarters of recovery. What did rise was corporate profits — and sharply. Here’s the stunner, as Sum calculates: Pre-tax corporate profits in 2010 dollars rose by $464 billion and real wage and salaries in 2010 dollars fell by $22 billion.

But President Obama is a Reaganite when it comes to government being part of the jobs solution. This, from his Saturday radio address, is especially revealing:

Now, government is not – and should not be – the main engine of job-creation in this country. That’s the role of the private sector. But one thing government can do is partner with the private sector to make sure that every worker has the necessary skills for the jobs they’re applying for.

So, after arguing the self-evident (your opponents on the left are NOT asking government to be the MAIN engine of job creation, at most we’re asking it to create jobs for the unemployed 9.1%), Obama then transitions to the feeble role his mind does see government playing in the nation’s economic life. School and skills training. Pathetic.

What are we going to do with this President and these politics, knowing the Republicans are even worse on jobs? Well, on the one hand there is no reason the U.S. can’t have a strong, full-employment economy, while, on the other, there is the political corruption, ownership, of both parties by big corporations, the banks, and the rich. And that crowd, as part of the continuing program Madrick refers to of re-distribution from the middle to the top 5%, is hell-bent on bringing ‘European-style’ austerity to the U.S.

Far from being ready to spend more on job creation, both parties agree that it’s time to slash spending — destroying jobs in the process — with the only difference being one of degree. – Rule by Rentiers (Paul Krugman)

So we end up with this, Obama and the Republicans united on austerity, budget and job slashing during a deep, long-term recession.

In reaction to that, at minimum I hope the real left doesn’t use the next five years (it will take at least that long to de-neoliberalize) simply badgering ‘its’ party, the Democrats, to concede a little on jobs or cool it on neo-liberalist extremism. The President concedes or misleads for the election year and then after the election goes right back serving us corporations-and-banks-subservient neoliberalism.

That’s exactly what happened with Obama in 2008 and Clinton in 1992. Obama, selected through a political contest dependent on investor class, banker and big business money, may double-talk or lie to us again in 2012, but post-election he will be the same old servant of neoliberalism and corporate globalization. That’s what owns him. As for the party’s 2016 nominee, if he/she submits to the same thoroughly corrupted electoral process, we can reliably say he/she will be just another Obama.

So, while this column by Robert Reich – Why the President Must Come Up With Demand-Side Solutions, And Not Go Over to the Supply Side – like many others is right about the immediate economic policy move that would’ve already happened if the President weren’t intellectually and literally sold out, and might still happen as a temporary election season treat, it’s missing the forest.

Yes, good progressives like you, me, Reich and RJ Eskow – If the President Won’t Do Something About Jobs, Who Will? – may browbeat the President into at least trying to pass (instead of attacking as he does now) a jobs bill, but this is not as if you’ve effected permanent change by enlightening the inside of the Obama’s brain. No, when the letter-and-email campaign quiets, the same old neoliberal ‘government is the problem not the solution’ President, the same old neoliberal party, goes back to advancing the interests of the money power that owns them.

Punditry advocating for what everyone knows is correct policy, neo-Keynesian stimulus, is easy but not enough anymore. Real left analysts need to do two additional things. First, tell us why this is happening, why both parties are pushing, very hard, economic policy sharply counter to the people’s interests. Paul Krugman has that diagnosis:

What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I’m increasingly convinced that it’s a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.

Second, however, Krugman and the best of the leftist writers must tell citizens what to do. What should we do with the knowledge that a rentier elite (or whatever you wanna call fat cats) owns economic policy? Krugman doesn’t do that. Certainly the solution can’t be “Do the Same Thing in 2012 I Said to Do in 2008, Vote Obama.”

In fact, maybe this terrible ‘Obama on Jobs’ week can teach us that a revolt against the rentiers and their allies will have failed if their number one ally – Barack Obama – remains in the White House, and it will also have failed if Barack Obama is replaced in the White House by a Republican even more subservient to that elite. A leftist punditocracy would be reminding us of those twin facts, and then would advocate for a non-neoliberal Presidential candidate, or at least a candidate not owned by large corporations, money, and transatlantic rentiers. James Galbraith or someone similar, come on down?

In a a comment a couple days ago I complimented Liz Berry (I hope that’s how she understood me) for getting our current politics right:

What you’re basically talking about is understanding our politics as class politics, and that the enormous amount of money given by one class to both parties means they are both on the upper-class side of the war. The rest of us, middle-class, working class, working poor and unemployed, are on the other side. …

metamars has a good point (and a good idea, to primary the heck out of the Democrats). What are we gonna do about it? … let’s keep our eyes on the prize. We should use the current era of economic insanity (cutting deficits during a deep recession) and leverage that into grabbing the political system away from the upper class. 2012 is a time to make our perspective known, but it’s only the first step toward a realistic prospect of victory in 2014 and/or 2016, if the economy gets worse as unfortunately it seems it will.