Happy New Year, folks. I hope some of our issues will finally be properly addressed this year. After a few weeks off from Daily Kos to make presents, visit family and friends and otherwise ignore the brutal realities of our collective existence, I hope to keep a more frequent diary this year.
To that end, I looked in the bottom of my red Santa bag and found a gift for the Democratic Party. Now buying presents for our political elites does not come easy for me, since their collective efforts have pretty much ruined my economy, destroyed my ability to earn a living wage or pay back those obscene, student loans that gather in the corner (quite literally my only debt). And since I am a native New Yorker, our Rambo-without-a-jock-strap, imperial foreign policy has brought a reign of destruction down on almost everyone I love. Continuing these policies means my government is putting my loved ones in harm’s way to protect the interests of global capital. So you might say I’m a little pissed at them.
But the spirit of the holiday puts me in a generous and forgiving mood, so there's even something in my Santa bag for our political leaders. What did I give them? Please read on..................
Getting a Grip on the Holidays
In my travels around NYC this season, I noticed a New York Daily News headline alerting the reader to their leading editorial. "Get a grip!" the headline screamed and made reference to the fact that President Obama was incensed over a bloody mess that the government made. I thought they were talking about health care reform. Alas, it was just another paranoid rant about security.
But whether we are talking about health care reform, domestic security, our out-of-control wars, our cannabilized educational system or our depressed economy, the desire to scream "get a grip," at our government seemed to fly easily from the lips of everyone I met this season.
Needless to say, finding a present for President Obama and the Democratic Congress was not high on my priority list, especially since their willful refusal to address the economy from the bottom up -- and the legacy of neoliberal/neoconservative socio-economic policies that have gutted our job market -- has meant my economic fortunes remained in the toilet. We’re now on the ninth day of Christmas, but there’s still one more present left in my red, Santa bag. And the holidays always leave me in a generous and forgiving mood.
Occam's Razor: The First Stroke
To help the Democratic Congress survive the next election, I’m giving them a razor blade. Its an Occam Razor, to be exact. Well used and still sharp after several hundred years of productive use. There's an inscription on the side that says, "the explanation or strategy, with the fewest variables, tends to be the correct one." Another way of putting it is "The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."
If the Democrats use this Razor carefully and bravely, they will -- with a few deft strokes -- solve a myriad of problems and ensure their success in the upcoming and future polls. May it help the Democrats solve the following problems:
War – If you can't win, get out. We can't win either of these wars, so our only rational response is to take our bombs and soldiers and go home. Even our benign presence on a street corner or standing in the shadows behind our chosen puppets, only makes the situation worse. Sun Tzu understood that 2300 years ago: not all wars can be won. And even if they could what do we get for our efforts? Trillions of dollars wasted, thousands of people dead, our enemies emboldened and empowered, new 'hot spots' (like Somalia and Pakistan) lighting up because of our presence in the region, and our reputation and economy in tatters. Apply your new Occam’s Razor to this problem, cut our losses and get out fast.
With the same carefully chosen swing of your new Occam's Razor you can also address the so-called 'domestic security' problem that seemed to dominate the news this past week.
Domestic Security – See the previous issue for the solution. These wars don't make us more secure, they are making us vulnerable and insecure. When all a terrorist needs are chemicals that can be found under any kitchen sink or in any barn, you need to demilitarize minds, not arms, to make us more secure. Neither Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Palestine/Israel are a part of the United States, we should not be spending more money on them than we do the taxpayers of this country. Especially when our presence there makes our enemies stronger and legitimates their grievances. Stop waging war in the Muslim world and our enemies will have less reason to blow us up. This imperialistic fantasy of ours, that we are the 'chosen people' to serve as the world's policemen, leads us to disaster every time. Only the craven, the opportunistic and the overly powerful want us to do that job. We will be far safer when the world polices itself and we attend to our own problems. Getting out of the Mideast is the first critical step to taking our place among nations, not as their self-imposed leader. Nobody likes foreign gunboats in their harbors making demands. Its not terribly neighborly and leads people to extreme measures to make us go away.
Getting out of these wars is truly a deft use of Occam’s Razor. It will save trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. It will improve domestic security because it will reduce the ardor of our enemies to blow themselves up at our expense. And – this is what makes is such a clever gift – it frees up money to rescue our devastated economy.
Occam's Razor: The Second Stroke
Having profoundly changed the world in one broad stroke of your new Occam’s Razor, I suggest using it to clear the bullshit out of the Democratic Party. No, I don’t necessarily mean specific individuals, loathsome though some of them may be. Rather, use your new Occam’s Razor to cut a clean ideological line between the neoliberalism of the Clinton era and a truly progressive liberalism. Some of those scoundrels will end up on a cutting room floor anyway, once the ideology that drives their career is repudiated and abandoned by the Democratic Party.
Ideology – Neoliberalism is simply the velvet glove that hides a neoconservative fist. If the Democratic Party base wanted a continuation of the free-trade, pro-corporate, deregulated economic policies of the 1990's, Hillary Clinton would have been the Democratic nominee in 2008, Al Gore would have won in 2000 and Senator Kerry might even have been electable in 2004. But as those elections proved again and again, the Democratic Party base is opposed to those policies that punish the poor, impoverish the working class, disempower everyone for the benefit of international capital and lead us into unwinnable wars in foreign countries trying to shove our economic system down their throats. The economic realities that flow from this ideological line of thinking have led to disaster at home and abroad. It was always a fraud, a con, a dishonest line of argument that made the rich richer, the poor a great deal poorer and disempowered everyone from being able to do something about it. It leads to rampant corruption and turns social concerns into playgrounds for profit, while making the world a more miserable place to live in.
Neoliberalism is a recipe to ensure that poor and working people sniff in disgust at the Democratic Party and either stay home on election day or show up angry and in an unpredictable mood. The average punter may not be able to define what 'neoliberal' means, but they know from the methane smell that its bullshit. The quickest way to kill Democratic Party fortunes is to apply neoliberal ideas and solutions to social and economic concerns. If 1994 is any guide, that's a 2 year window to mismanage one's mandate and give it away to the political opposition.
The goal with your second stroke of Occam’s Razor, is to cut away the fat-producing ideological beliefs that capitalism has all the answers to social problems, that greed is a moral good, the private sector can do the job of government better, that ‘free trade’ will create world peace, that deregulation will be good for the economy, that all money, resources and labor should be privatized and poured into the trading markets. If your next swing of Occam’s Razor is successful, all that trash will be finally separated from the work of government. Let the Republicans wrap themselves in that wasted fat, they'll look like fools to all but their most rabid devotees.
This second cut will be trickier than the first. So hold your Occam’s Razor high and away from your body and bring it down in a strong, broad sweeping motion, cutting out the private contractors in the military and all the software companies, consultants and private contractors throughout the executive. With the edge of your blade, cleave all their policy reports, recommendations and projects into the trash. As you do so, you should also clear all those the Clinton and Bush holdovers and other corporate hacks from Obama’s cabinet (like Duncan, Geithner, Summers, Bernanke, etc.) into the trash with their policies. Your blade should come down cleanly between the institutions of the state on one side and the parasitic corporations -- and their syncophantic advocates -- on the other. Use the ideology of neoliberalism as your guide while you cut, cleaving that fraudulent ideology from government, your party and your minds.
If you do this cleanly, your second stroke of Occam’s Razor will save billions, if not trillions, of dollars, and cleanly divide the social tasks between the public and private sector, protect national resources and citizens and give the federal government its first opportunity to function properly in decades.
Neoliberalism Costs Too Much
If you've used your new Occam's Razor properly, you may notice that you've saved a great deal of money in Education, Health, Housing, Defense, now that the greedy hand of the private sector have been removed from the budgetary process. Use that money wisely to hire teachers, not software and publishing companies; road workers, not contractors; accountants and lawyers, not consultants and subcontractors; social workers, not defense-contractors-masked-as-social-work-agencies. Take the savings from the Defense Department and pare down the deficit, since our war industry is primarily responsible for our 12 trillion dollar national debt. If you only caught half the defense budget in your swing of Occam’s Razor, we’ll still spend more on war than most of our allies and enemies combined. But we'll have saved billions.
Some may poo-poo the importance of this second swing of the blade, but it is the most crucial to the Democratic Party’s future. Its what divides the Democratic Party leadership from its base is the sense that we're all just patsies for a big, fat political-corporate con game. We vote for a 'New Deal, but the Democratic Party leadeship gives us flaccid, pro-corporate leadership instead. Invariably, the base responds by staying home in the next election (see the 1994, 2000 and 2004 elections for evidence). This is the core of the argument when you hear people say, "I can’t tell the difference between the two parties." What they mean is that both parties serve the same corporate masters and we’re left to choose in a crooked shell game. Democrats get elected, their promises get perverted to the needs of major corporations, their base gets disenchanted and they don't show up to the polls. Does this pattern sound familiar?
By applying your brand new Occam’s Razor to the important – and all too overlooked – issue of ideological hypocrisy, you’ve also finally made a clear distinction for voters between the Democratic Party and the Republicans. And we’ll all be spared those heart-breaking speeches from Democratic Party politicians about ‘bipartisanship.’ We know too well that’s just a code word for ‘sell out.’
Having rid yourself of neoliberal thinking, take advantage of the situation to put our out-of-control private sector under the direct thumb of government. No, greed is not a virtue. No, a corporation isn’t a citizen. Yes, people have a right to go out there and sell their wares in the marketplace, to inovate and create, but private profit does not trump human need. Corporate America should not be allowed to abuse their workers, poison the landscape, cheat or rob their customers. No corporation should have more rights than individual citizens, let alone whole communities or municipalities. Any corporation that is too big to fail is too big and no one -- citizen, executive, investor or politician -- should be above the law.
Once you've removed the poisons of neoliberalism -- as a legitimate political and economic ideology -- from the business of government, it will be easier for the Democratic Party to find common ground with its political base, to clearly recognize what their base expects from them and to reform our government in a manner that satisfies them. Time is running out, so the next ten months should be action-packed, if you use your Occam's Razor wisely and bravely.
Occam's Razor: The Third Stroke
Having solved three problems with one stroke of your new Occam’s Razor, having cleaned up government, saved trillions of dollars, begun the process of making government work for the people and straightened out your message with your second stroke, you now have the resources to address the central issue that will define the 2010 election: the job market.
The Job Market – As Bob Marley pointed out, a hungry mob is an angry mob. Americans need jobs. Having cut the private contractor out of government, there should be no shortage of social needs to address. Spend the money on a WPA program and rebuild our social safety net. Put people to work directly. Make sure they are well-paid.
Rebuild the economy from the bottom up, not the top down. Save the depositor, not the bank. Save the worker, not the company and save the community, not just its most privileged or well-positioned citizens. If you want the people who showed up to the polls in 2008 to come back, you had better take care of their bread and butter issues. Symbolism means nothing to the poor and working class. Flaccid words and crocodile tears just make them angry. Only meat and potatoes will even register as positive help. Keeping them waiting only pisses them off, and they’ve already been waiting for over a year.
If you find you have a gift for using your new Occam’s Razor, try to clean up our bogus social and economic statistics as you complete your third stroke of the blade. The GDP, GNP and other nationally aggregated statistics should be on the cutting room floor with all the other mythological nonsense that we use to define our universe. Be sure to clean up our definitions of poverty – the most shabbily-developed statistic in the federal arsenal – and our massaged unemployment statistics while you are at it. Our current statistical models only obscure the depth of our economic woes and lead to weak solutions instead of more profound and substantial change.
Occam's Razor Will Save the Democrats
In three clean strokes, you have gotten us out of war, cut our budgetary deficits, improved the functionality, efficiency, accountability and transparency of the federal government, cleared the air of bullshit and hypocrisy and brought jobs home for the folks. This is the beauty of Occam’s Razor.
I would have given the Democratic Party this present last year, but the neoliberals were just so full of themselves that I figured they’d stare at the worn handle of the Occam’s Razor and avoid it like the New Deal. But now that the neoliberals have had a full year to screw up health care reform, economic stimulus, the budget and our ever expanding war in the Mideast; now that they are shaking in fear at the prospect of reliving their 1994 defeat, perhaps they will pay more attention to this gift now.
I hate to sound like the Ginsu knife salesman, but I believe that this little Occam’s Razor is the Democratic Party’s most important gift of the season. Winding down the wars, clearing the neoliberals – and their budget-busting, corruption-breeding policies – out of government and getting a jobs program going and making those who created this mess pay for their avarice will position the Democrats nicely to handle the mid-term election bounce. Then they can use their Occam’s Razor to tackle those problems they bungled or ignored in their first year in office, such as health care reform (single payer this time, please), economic stimulus, corporate regulation and reform, civil rights, education investment, rebuilding our social welfare system, renegotiating free trade agreements to properly protect living wages and taxation reform.
May the Democrats use this Occam’s Razor well and for the best purposes of all. If not, we’ll be dealing with the Republicans more seriously in a year’s time and they use Occam’s hatchet.