Many of you probably saw this photo from two weeks ago of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, a member of the Conservative Party (Tories), delivering a speech on why the UK's austerity budgets are part of the Tories' plan to permanently shrink the size of the government:
Yes, he's extolling his intentions for inflicting more suffering on the working and middle classes of Britain---while standing in front of a golden throne.
The photo was taken by a freelance writer who was working as a server at the banquet, who penned an excellent complementary editorial for the Guardian:
In his speech, Cameron talked about a "leaner, more efficient, more affordable state". He argued that austerity could be a permanent government policy; a way of trimming down the administrative excesses of some public services. He framed it in the context of the current tough living conditions – a minimising of state spending, as it "comes out of the pockets of the same taxpayers whose living standards we want to see improve".Mark Blyth, the author of the must-read book Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, called this out for the class warfare that it is:
The political content of what Cameron is saying is obviously more important than where he was saying it, but I don't think the latter is irrelevant. I have a fundamental problem with a man who sits on a golden throne and lectures us about spending less, like a modern-day, white-tie clad sheriff of Nottingham. And all around him, the insidious stain of austerity creeps across the country, manifesting in the bedroom tax, rising tuition fees and the closure of public services that vulnerable people depend on.
Each of us has just one chance at existence, and so many people's lives are being blighted by these cuts. If this is the cruel and damaging reality of permanent austerity, then we should be telling Mr Cameron we don't want it.
Now why is this a "class specific" put option? Over the past 35 years the UK has become an increasingly unequal country, with those holding appreciating assets (mainly housing in the south) and high incomes (mainly financial salaries and bonuses) reaping most of the gains. These are also the folks that cashed in that insurance policy when the banks failed – they got their assets bailed. The balance due for this cashed-out insurance policy is still either tax increases – which as we saw with the fate of the 50% income tax rate and heard on Monday with regard to corporations, is off the table – or more cuts to government spending. So who pays?That same week, the Tories were trying to erase all web content of their broken promises---healthcare spending, green investment, transparency, etc.--from the Internet.
The nice thing about cutting government spending in a highly unequal society, at least for the coalition, is that it doesn't affect those with most of the assets and income. These folks don't rely on government services, and their assets and incomes are, thanks to government policy, on the rise once again. They are also the folks that fund elections and show up to vote.
Perhaps the real message of Cameron's speech is then the following? If austerity doesn't work, just pump up the assets of those who matter and pass the cost on to those who don't through spending cuts since they will not vote for you anyway. Then tell tall tales about "out of control" spending habits, despite the evidence, while assiduously avoiding taxing your constituents. This used to be called class politics. Maybe it will once again be recognised for what it really is, even without the gold chains and the throne in the room as a clue for the uninitiated.
And who will be helping the craven Tories to stay in power in the 2015 general elections? Why, none other than top Obama adviser Jim Messina. The BBC reported on this back in August:
The Tories are hoping to emulate Mr Obama's re-election against a backdrop of economic problems. Many other governments that have sought re-election during economic turbulence have been punished by voters at the ballot box.That Messina would see kindred spirits in the Tories should, unfortunately, come as little surprise.
The Conservatives are also thought to hope that Mr Messina will bring to their operation the same binding marriage of social media and political organisation that many in the US credit with securing Mr Obama a second term.
There's Messina's coddling of Wall Street:
Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, assured a group of Democratic donors from the financial services industry that Obama won’t demonize Wall Street as he stresses populist appeals in his re-election campaign, according to two people at the meeting.There's his defense of the Blue Dogs and contempt for progressive advocacy groups:
At the members-only Core Club in Manhattan, Messina provided a campaign briefing last night for some of the president’s top donors, including Ralph Schlosstein, chief executive officer at Evercore Partners Inc., and his wife, Jane Hartley, co-founder of the economic and political advisory firm Observatory Group LLC; Eric Mindich, founder of Eton Park Capital Management LP; and Ron Blaylock, co-founder of GenNx360 Capital Partners.
In March 2009 the Campaign for America’s Future, a top progressive group in Washington, launched a campaign called “Dog The (Blue) Dogs” to pressure conservative Blue Dog Democrats to support President Obama’s budget. When he heard about the effort, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, who was regarded as the Obama administration’s designated “fixer,” called CAF’s leaders into the White House for a dressing down, according to a CAF official. If the group wanted to join the Common Purpose Project, an exclusive weekly strategy meeting between progressive groups and administration officials, CAF had to drop the campaign. We know how to handle the Blue Dogs better than you do, Messina said. Not wanting to sour its relationship with the White House at this early date, CAF complied, and the campaign quickly disappeared from its website. Despite Messina’s assurance, however, the Blue Dogs would remain a major obstacle to the realization of the president’s legislative agenda.Messina also tried to crush any progressive criticism of the lobbyist-driven strategy for creating the Affordable Care Act, the strategy that he and his former boss Max Baucus preferred:
During the healthcare fight, Messina used his influence to try to stifle any criticism of Baucus or lobbying by progressive groups that was out of sync with the administration’s agenda, according to Common Purpose participants. “Messina wouldn’t tolerate us trying to lobby to improve the bill,” says Richard Kirsch, former national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now (HCAN), the major coalition of progressive groups backing reform. Kirsch recalled being told by a White House insider that when asked what the administration’s “inside/outside strategy” was for passing healthcare reform, Messina replied, “There is no outside strategy.”Coddling Wall Street, expressing an elite disdain for grassroots advocacy (over much preferred corporate lobbyists), and viewing social issues as an unpleasant side show (if not viewing them with outright hostility)? Why, he's a perfect Tory!
The inside strategy pursued by Messina, relying on industry lobbyists and senior legislators to advance the bill, was directly counter to the promise of the 2008 Obama campaign, which talked endlessly about mobilizing grassroots support to bring fundamental change to Washington. But that wasn’t Messina’s style—instead, he spearheaded the administration’s deals with doctors, hospitals and drug companies, particularly the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the most egregious aspects of the bill. “They cared more about their relationship with the healthcare industry than anyone else,” says one former HCAN staffer. “It was shocking to see. To me, that was the scariest part of it, because this White House had ridden in on a white horse and said, ‘We’re not going to do this anymore.’” When they were negotiating special deals with industry, Messina and Baucus chief of staff Jon Selib were also pushing major healthcare companies and trade associations to pour millions of dollars into TV ads defending the bill….
Messina was adamant about shielding Baucus from any public pressure, whether it be concerns over the absence of a public option in the Finance Committee bill or his fruitless negotiations with GOP senators, Kirsch says. “The aggressive suppression of outside pressure was done by Messina,” he adds. “I can’t imagine that the president knew about it.” Messina and his allies tried to stop HCAN from sending a letter to senators expressing displeasure with Baucus’s bill and also tried to prevent the group from running a TV ad praising the House version of the bill. HCAN’s organizer in Montana, Molly Moody, was banned from Baucus’s office and prevented from attending his public events.
The day after seeing the Cameron golden throne photo, something else caught my eye:
Jim Messina and John Podesta, top former aides to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton respectively, are currently in talks to co-chair a board backing Hillary Clinton — a plan that, should it come to fruition, would be a dramatic early symbol of party unity behind the former secretary of state.That's right: the man who will be heading the efforts for the Tories' re-election in 2015, further inflicting painful cuts on the UK's poor and middle-class, might be the same one behind Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid. It really makes you feel ready for Hillary, doesn't it?
Three sources with knowledge of the plans said Messina, an Obama insider who ran the president’s campaign last year, and Podesta, a longtime advisor to Bill Clinton, are in discussions to join the board of Priorities USA, the multimillion-dollar super PAC that backed President Obama’s reelection effort last year.
The men would chair a board of former elected officials and donors who would announce their support for Clinton’s possible White House bid in 2016. Messina’s presence, in particular, would signal that key Obama loyalists have lined up behind Clinton and are ready to essentially forgo a primary.
In my humble opinion, any Democratic consultant who campaigns for a center-right/right-wing party in another country should become persona non grata in Democratic circles at home. If the Democratic Party wants to profess "progressive values," it should employ or associate with consultants who push reactionary values elsewhere.
Back in April, Salon writer Alex Pareene invented something called the "Mark Penn test" for Hillary Clinton's candidacy:
The question for someone considering whether or not to support Clinton in 2016 is, will a Clinton 2016 campaign pass the Mark Penn Test? The Mark Penn Test, which I just invented, determines whether or not a person should be trusted with the presidency, based solely on one criterion: Whether or not they pay Mark Penn to do anything for their campaign. Paying Mark Penn means you’ve failed the Mark Penn Test.I'd like to invent a complementary test: the Jim Messina test. The instructions are the same.