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Pedantic Pandering from the Pillars of Progressive Pablum

1:36 pm in Uncategorized by welshTerrier2

Whew… talk about a one-two punch. First Krugman; then Obama.

Krugman started off so well. He had all the buzz phrases: rich man’s recovery, children of the wealthy, meritocratic ideology, oligarchic reality… and this: “the power of money is crowding out effective democracy.” And this: “whatever is causing the growing concentration of income at the top, the effect of that concentration is to undermine all the values that define America.”

Tell it, Brother Paul.

“Crowding out effective democracy”. “Undermining all the values that define America.” Yikes… that’s some pretty serious stuff. It sounds like the corpus Americana is in critical condition. What say ye, Dr. Paul? What say ye, Mr. Nobel prize winner? What say ye, Mr. NY Times? What say ye, Mr. Voix des Liberals? What prescription will you offer to sickly old Uncle Sam?

Ah, here we go… the article transitions with a very clear “What can be done?” Now we’ll get some answers. Ouch, the New Deal “seems politically out of reach” but “that doesn’t mean we should give up on smaller steps.” Paul’s only suggestion? He likes de Blasio’s call for “universal prekindergarten education, paid for with a small tax surcharge on those with incomes over $500,000.”

That’s it? Democracy is gone and that’s it? All the values that define America have been undermined and that’s it? Sheesh… if this doesn’t highlight the utter bankruptcy of liberal America I don’t know what does. It’s hard to believe the NY Times even wasted their column inches on such drivel.

But fear not… we also heard from Mr. Obama who was only slightly less dramatic than Mr. Krugman.

Appearing today on an ABC News program, Mr. Obama was interviewed by George Stephanopolous.

Stephanopolous: “Maybe a president just can’t stop this accelerating inequality.”

Obama: “No, I think the president can stop it.”

After blaming Republicans, Mr. Obama argued that globalization and technology were causing the loss of American jobs and that his solution included increased education, more infrastructure projects and tax incentives for businesses to create jobs.

Say what? Let me see if I’ve got this? We’re suffering from “accelerating inequality” and all that’s being offered is a few dead-in-the-water programs to address the situation? Ask yourself this: will the gap between rich and poor continue to increase if all of Obama’s suggestions were fully implemented? The liberals have nothing to offer beyond bandaid democracy. Let the wealth gap continue to grow. Do whatever you can to patch up the wounded. Let the extreme concentration of wealth continue to poison the good old US of A. We’ll offer some scholarships to the poor or maybe even a discount on student loan rates. Yeah, talk about revolutionary change. That oughtta do it.

Although it’s been said many times, many ways, we cannot leave in place any system that leaves so few with so much that they are able to write the rules and control both the government and the media. You need to understand that money is power and too much money is too much power. Even if you could impose a system that taxed the income of the super-wealthy at 100%, they would still be able to exert a perverting influence on our democratic processes. Got that? You cannot allow the current concentration of wealth to remain in place because it leads to oligarchy. The problem is not just income; it’s wealth.

So, all of it, i.e. all the liberal programs of the great safety net, fail to achieve the necessary objective which, of course, is real democratic government. You can’t get there from here. You can’t pay teachers more and reduce class sizes. You can’t save Social Security and Medicare. You can’t create jobs. You can’t provide increased opportunities to women and minorities. You can’t address climate change or our depleted-nutrition food supply. You can’t overturn the Citizens United decision. You can’t slice the military budget in favor of programs that benefit everyday Americans. In short, when wealth and power are as concentrated as they are, you just plain can’t. And that is the current state of liberal America and the Democratic party… they just plain can’t.

And so we go to war. We are mocked as “class warriors”. Our values, our country and our very survival is under attack by the ruling class and it is we who are mocked. There is only one solution “progressives” should be addressing and that is that the extreme concentration of wealth that exists must no longer exist. Until there are millions of us in the streets who identify with this message, we will have no power. When that day arrives, however, and it will, our first call should be for the voluntary surrendering of assets above some value. Consequences for those who fail to comply should be made very, very clear.

The Best Defense

9:43 am in Uncategorized by welshTerrier2

“The best defense is a good offense.”

There’s been plenty of squawking from the left and even from progressive Democrats about the Democratic Party.  Obama is seen as a centrist or a pragmatist or… well, pick your own label.  The bottom line is that he has done virtually nothing to advance any semblance of a progressive agenda.  Washington and the media seem to enjoy telling Americans what is “on the table” and what is “off the table”.  Perhaps it is time for an entirely new table.

The scope of discourse in the US is painfully narrow.  The entire framework of debate, often couched in dire terms about deficits and debt, has become focused on sacrifices Americans must make.  We’re told Social Security will go bankrupt and that Washington is here to help us avoid that by making painful, yet necessary, cuts.  We’re told that Medicare and Medicaid, while good programs, must be squeezed due to cost increases.

We’re told that America’s corporate taxes are the highest in the world and that they must be reduced for the US to remain competitive.  We’re told that massive subsidies to Big Oil must be preserved so that our energy needs can be met.  Hidden behind these and other corporate welfare programs, of course, is the not-so-subtle threat that your job will be exported if you raise any objections about them.

Democrats are playing on a table selected and controlled by right-wing Republicans.  When the question becomes “how much should we take away from the elderly, the poor and just common working folks” instead of “how much should we take away from Wall Street and its investors, from the military-industrial complex and from Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Pharma and the rest of the corporate welfare state”, there can be no progress on the progressive agenda.

So, let’s spend a little time talking about just what “going on offense” could mean.

The wars, unpaid for of course, ran up a $5 trillion (that’s trillion with a “t”) tab.  Who benefited from the great fear campaign?  Military contractors made a bundle.  Oil companies have seen record profits too.  If debt and deficits are a concern, that seems like the most sensible place to recoup (uncoup?) the money.  Declare both wars over; shut down foreign military bases; make deep… very deep… cuts in the military budget.  Why is no one in Congress discussing 25% cuts… 50% cuts… 75% cuts… even 90% cuts?  Could it be that those we elect are fearful about the political fallout… or worse?  I mean, we’ve all heard the phrase “guns or butter”.  Wouldn’t it seem reasonable to call for an honest national discussion about which priority Americans prefer?  The discussion is not even on the table.

Instead of subsidizing greedy multi-national industries that provide “necessities” to Americans, let’s talk about nationalizing them.  It is nothing less than propaganda to argue that “greed is good” and that the profit motive makes these companies successful.  What they’re doing is blackmail.  You can’t live without your food, your meds, your oil,  so we can charge you anything we like and you even have to subsidize our efforts.  That’s the perfect case for nationalizing these industries.  Throw the banks in there, too, while you’re at it.

Instead of talking about the amount of Medicare cuts, suppose we talked about providing Medicare for all Americans and expanding what is covered.  Even those on Medicare incur huge medical bills or are forced to buy supplemental coverage.  Let’s put an end to that.  Before we spend trillions “defending Americans” by fighting unnecessary wars around the world, how about defending the health of Americans right here at home?  Until all Americans have the opportunity to obtain quality health care at an affordable price, we have no business pumping our tax dollars into the military-corporate state.  That’s the priority I would establish; you won’t hear the issue discussed on the Sunday morning propaganda shows.  Such themes are “off the table”.

And let’s not leave Big Pharma out of the Medicare discussion.  If Medicare were allowed to negotiate prices using its massive buying power, the US could save roughly $130 billion per year.  To their credit, some Democrats raised this issue several years ago but it was defeated by the Republicans in Congress.  This issue, however, should have been the first words out of Obama’s mouth during the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations.  Perhaps he said something about it; I didn’t hear a word.  He certainly didn’t rally the American people to demand lower prices for Medicare drugs.  Another issue off the table.

Obama allowed the fiscal cliff discussion to wallow into a discussion of taxing the wealthy “a little bit more”.  Well, why not a lot more?  I had a chance to watch Richard Wolff on C-Span about a week ago.  He pointed out that FDR called for a 100% tax on all income above $25,000 (equivalent to about $350,000 today).  Think about that!  A 100% tax.  That’s called going on offense.  And taxing income isn’t good enough regardless of the rate.  We also need to start talking about taxing wealth.

Look, we’re in a class war and we’re losing very badly.  Our government does not represent our interests.  You can’t call it democracy, or even a republic, when we, the people, are not being represented.  The “get money out of politics” meme, while well-meaning, is a dead-end.  You can’t “get money out of politics”, or frankly do anything, unless you first demand leadership that represents you.  And, you can’t have leadership that represents you unless that leadership is willing to make a 100% commitment to engaging the class war.  That’s what going on offense means.

When Democrats, even liberal Democrats, are willing to fight against cuts but aren’t willing to truly engage the battle against concentrated wealth, corporate welfare and the corporatizing of our lives and our culture, the difference between Republicans and Democrats becomes very slim indeed.  Fighting against cuts, without a major realignment of our economy, inevitably leads to austerity measures.  Put another way, without going on offense, our future is a lost battle.

Are you still trapped in the matrix?

6:16 pm in Uncategorized by welshTerrier2

We are trapped by a self-perpetuating cycle of concentrated wealth and concentrated power. As wealth concentrates, power concentrates. As power concentrates, wealth concentrates.

To quote the eminently quotable Mr. Chomsky:

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The legislation, essentially bipartisan, drives new fiscal policies and tax changes, as well as the rules of corporate governance and deregulation. Alongside this began a sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drove the political parties even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector.

We waste our days highlighting the latest injustice… the latest madness. We are skilled observers and see most of them all too clearly. In the beginning, perhaps, labeling these symptoms could boast a small degree of educational value. Perhaps, even today, it helps build our community. The payback for such pursuits is small at best.

The risk is that we see these outrages as ends in themselves. We see them as requiring case-by-case solutions.

So, we speak about Obama’s crimes. We speak about the injustice of war and the lies and the money and the greed and the broken electoral promises.

We skewer the religious right and the Republicans or the corporatized media who do their bidding.

We align ourselves with a parade of identity groups… blacks, women, the elderly.

We speak of the need for third parties and we throw our support to one candidate or another.

We cannot get there from here… not with this approach.

To build the world we seek, power must be democratically distributed. And to achieve that, wealth, not just income, must also be democratically distributed. Any electoral success you might seek that fails to honor that vision is no electoral success at all. If you are campaigning for candidates or parties, they must, at their core, ascribe to the view that concentrated wealth, whether earned “legally” or otherwise, cannot be allowed to stand. Absent that, all other electoral activity is bankrupt. It is utter folly to believe you can effect change electorally without this prerequisite firmly ingrained in the population.

The mission also must not be to defend at any and all costs the ever-more-necessary social safety net. To be sure, until we are able to install a just government, such pursuits are honorable… and necessary. Charity, though, is best when the need for charity is least. If wealth were less concentrated, more of us would have more wealth to begin with. If power were less concentrated, we could build a society that serves all instead of serving just a few. Don’t make the safety net the ultimate goal. As wealth and power become more concentrated, as they have, the demands on the safety net coupled with decreased funding create an unsustainable situation. You cannot prevent the coming “austerity measures” until you democratize wealth and power. For those who would counter with the very recent elections in Greece and France, allow me to say that the jury is still out. You can win elections and still lose the game.

The first sparkle in a very, very long time was Occupy. Although news coverage was painfully slow in the beginning, there were a few months last year where Occupy was in the news almost everyday. That is clearly not the case now. While many are still deeply committed and very active, the level of activity, and press coverage, is nothing like it had been. Perhaps the “spring offensive” has yet to take off. Perhaps the flashy occupations have settled into a more mature form of movement building. Or perhaps the kindling burned up before it caught the big logs.

Some seem to believe that when things get really bad, the public will join together to topple the power structure. It often seems this is more likely to happen in countries outside the US. In the US, i.e. inside the heart of the beast, perhaps we have grown too soft and lazy or fearful of losing our creature comforts. Or perhaps we face the most sophisticated propaganda machine the world has ever known. Or perhaps, burning in each one of us is a passion for justice that will sooner or later take to the streets to demand change. Things still look painfully quiet inside my crystal ball.

You cannot regulate the undemocratic abuses of highly concentrated wealth and power because you have neither wealth nor power. You cannot swim against the tide of media indoctrination because you do not control the media… but someone does. There are certainly no easy answers here. The path to change can only occur through massive public education and, eventually, through revolution… hopefully peaceful. Such change is nowhere on the horizon.

I wonder how many of you would ascribe to the view that we must directly confiscate wealth to begin the process of building a truly egalitarian society. I see no other viable path to change. For those who agree, I wonder exactly how you think we should go about it.