In the fall of 2000, during an interview with Teresa Welch, a senior editor for the Austin Ledger, George W. Bush incurred the wrath of mainstream Republicans by making an off-the-cuff remark that seemed to support liberal policies. When asked by Welch if the candidate’s privileged upbringing limited his ability to represent the needs of minorities and middle class voters, Bush said he had always admired the success of Lyndon Johnson’s signature social program, The Great Society….
Uhmm. Actually, that never happened.
I conflated an imaginary interview, conducted by a fictitious senior editor from the Austin Ledger, with a true event that occurred in 2008.
The real story went like this:
LAS VEGAS By Shailagh Murray -- They've argued health care, free trade, immigration reform. Yucca Mountain? Been there, done that. But here's a debate no one saw coming in the Democratic primary: the legacy of Ronald Reagan.When viewed in context, the statement seemed innocuous, albeit insensitive to the members of the Democratic base. And even though many of Obama’s supporters quickly asserted that the real message was about transformation, not about something as nefarious as supporting Republican ideals, the underlying message was a very clear repudiation of liberal policies, described as “excesses of the 1960s and 1970s.” For the millions of progressives who had contributed time and money to assist the Illinois Senator in achieving his bid for the White House, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
Sen. Barack Obama opened the door when he said the following in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal:
I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.
However, his comments went beyond simply noting a fact. Obama portrayed Reagan as a leader who carried out a necessary mid-course correction for the United States and helped restore a spirit of dynamismThat slight of hand, the ability to integrate incongruent messages into campaign rhetoric, has been Obama’s trademark, a tactic that he used successfully in 2008 to pull off one of the most deceitful political coups in American history. More than any other politician in recent memory, Obama understood the power of the spoken word. And he used carefully crafted words, mirroring traditional Democratic values, to convince progressives that his administration would reverse 30 years of damage caused by conservative influence.
In this attempt to position himself as some post-partisan leader able to praise the accomplishments of Ronald Reagan, there was a troubling mix of naiveté and opportunism. In truth, real accountability was never part of Reaganism.
But five years into his presidency, it’s easy to see that his campaign promises were meant to hide his true political agenda.
When it became clear that he was a neo-liberal, and not the liberal that he portrayed, it was easy to recognize the deceitful methods that he has used to promote his objectives. For example, when he wants to introduce an unpopular policy, he gives an inspiring, eloquent speech that seems to support progressive ideals, and then he quietly sets in motion the new policy, which is usually the opposite of what he has promised during the speech. And then he supplies his followers with talking points to obfuscate and spin the intent of his actions
That type of obfuscation is a standard method used by neo-liberals to accomplish political goals. In fact, Obama’s presidency could have been taken straight from the pages of the neo-liberal playbook.
Neo-liberals in action.
After helping repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, Bill Clinton said this:
“Removal of barriers to competition will enhance the stability of our financial services system.”Neo-liberalism is one of the most morally and ethically bankrupt political movements in American history. It simply achieves its objectives by means of deceit.
Removing those barriers did exactly the opposite.
And Barack Obama brought back to the top ranks of economic policy-making the very people who had advised Clinton to support financial deregulation. – Paul Starr
The Washington Examiner
President Obama has hired more than 100 lobbyists in his administration, a new academic study reports. This doesn't match Obama's campaign promise to exclude lobbyists, or his pretenses of having kept that promise.Noam Chomsky defined neoliberalism this way:
"President Obama's public rhetoric on contact with lobbyists does not always accord with his private actions," lobbying scholar Conor McGrath writes in the latest issue of the Journal of Public Affairs.
Neo-liberalism refers to the policies and processes whereby a relative handful of private interests are permitted to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit. Associated initially with Reagan and Thatcher, neoliberalism has for the past two decades been the dominant global political economic trend adopted by political parties of the center, much of the traditional left, and the right. These parties and the policies they enact represent the immediate interests of extremely wealthy investors and less than one thousand large corporations.The Reno Gazette-Journal interview, mentioned earlier in this article, provided the first hint that Obama’s true inclination was to support conservative policies. And throughout his presidency he has stayed true to the neo-liberal ideals described by Chomsky. Even worse, his policies have produced the exact consequences that Chomsky chronicled:
Aside from some academics and members of the business community, the term neoliberalism is largely unknown and unused by the public at large, especially in the United States. (Did you know there is an anti-neoliberalism movement being conducted worldwide?) There, to the contrary, neoliberal initiatives are characterized as free market policies that encourage private enterprise and consumer choice, reward personal responsibility and entrepreneurial initiative, and undermine the dead hand of the incompetent, bureaucratic, and parasitic government, which can never do good (even when well intentioned, which it rarely is).
The economic consequences of these policies have been the same just about everywhere, and exactly what one would expect: a massive increase in social and economic inequality, a marked increase in severe deprivation for the poorest nations and peoples of the world, a disastrous global environment, an unstable global economy, and an unprecedented bonanza for the wealthy.
The economic consequences of these policies have been the same just about everywhere, and exactly what one would expect: a massive increase in social and economic inequality, a marked increase in severe deprivation for the poorest nations and peoples of the world, a disastrous global environment, an unstable global economy, and an unprecedented bonanza for the wealthy.Noam Chomsky was prescient when he posted that warning in 1999.
When you view Obama’s presidency in its entirety – his words, his actions, and the fruits of his labor -- what you see is a pattern of anti-progressive, pro-conservative policies and actions that belie White House’s talking points.
The term “free markets” – an economic philosophy championed by this president and the Reaganites – is viewed by neo-liberals as the freedom to commit financial crimes without accountability, and certainly, under Obama’s leadership, the corporate criminals who caused the largest global crisis in history have been free from accountability and prosecution. To understand why this administration has not prosecuted one single Wall Street criminal, you must first identify the group of people who have demanded Obama’s loyalty:
These parties and the policies they enact represent the immediate interests of extremely wealthy investors and less than one thousand large corporations.
And Obama has protected them well.
There, in a nutshell, is this Administration. They didn't make a bad deal. We just don't understand it. Just as it was our fault, Mr. President, for not understanding your refusal of even the most perfunctory of investigations of rendition or domestic spying, or the other crimes of the Bush Administration, or why you have now established for those future administrations who want to repeat those crimes, that the punishment for them will be nothing.But Obama’s use of crony capitalism to achieve political objectives might be nearing an end.
Very early, in Obama’s presidency, many of us warned that he was leading the Democratic Party over a very steep cliff; that his policies would ultimately cause long-term damage to the Democratic brand. Now, five years later, those predictions are coming true.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday puts Obama's ratings at just 41 percent -- "his worst job approval rating in the survey’s history" -- and just above President George W. Bush's rating heading into the 2006 midterms, which cost Republicans the House. The erosion comes mostly among Democrats, a record 20 percent of whom disapprove.Chuck Todd:
The NBC/WSJ poll also had bad news for Obama's downticket effects this November, finding that 48 percent of voters say they're less likely to back a candidate who supports his administration, compared to 26 percent who say they're more likely to do so. Republicans have a 1-point edge as the party voters would prefer to control Congress -- inside the poll's margin of error but traditionally a sign that Republicans will fare well, according to the pollsters. (Alex Sink is a prime example).
Both NBC/WSJ and Bloomberg find a majority of Americans continuing to disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy.
"Right now, the ingredients are all there for the Republicans to have the year that they're looking for, which is win enough Senate seats to get control," Todd said. "The question is whether the president is gonna stagnate? Can he recover?"U.S. History.org
He ticked off a number of possible explanations for the poll's results, and suggested that Obama is "taking more of the hit" than anyone else for what voters view as the country's overall "dysfunction."
There are many factors that could contribute to low voter turnout. Many analysts cite growing alienation among voters. The scandals of the past several decades have engendered a cynicism that has led to a decrease in political interest, particularly among the nation's young voting population. There tends to be a correlation between self-efficacy — or the belief that an individual can actually make a difference — and voting. Some observers believe that the decline in voter turnout indicates that Americans feel less certain that they can have an impact than Americans of the 19th century. (Encouraging people to vote for the lesser of two evils is a tactic that has lost its impact)Political Trends Point to the End of Neo-liberalism
Political trends are measured by an accepted set of metrics, primarily, education, family values, religion, region, gender, and ethnic background, information that is easily collected and analyzed by professional pollsters. But that type of data is often unreliable because it reflects ‘current’ feelings of the public at large, which is a very liquid measurement at any given time. A more accurate way to identify current changes to the political landscape is to measure saturation points that herald the end of an era or a movement. And every indicator that I am seeing suggests the conservative and neo-liberal movements are no longer viable. They have reached saturation points in each of the following categories:
1. Political corruption
2. Influence peddling – including those who are setting issue agendas, and those who are controlling issue debates
3. Money – points of diminishing returns
4. Ideas – a dearth of fresh ideas in D.C.
5. Human suffering – the sheer number of people who have slipped into poverty and who now feel hopeless is staggering
6. Inequality – financial, and legal
7. Efficacy of a representative’s constituent’s voice and/or vote. Is the representative even listening to the voices of his/her constituents?
8. Command of the political dialogue (why have people stopped listening?)
9. Excitement – the ennui caused by a philosophy, candidate, or movement that has run its/his/her course
10. Transparency (or lack of transparency)
Also, outliers often hold keys to understanding political trends. The bulk of voters who are much more reluctant to accept change rarely recognize trends as they are happening, even though they are the ones who ultimately must embrace change before it takes hold. At this moment, the trendsetters who are creating the most political buzz are members of the new populist movement, people like Shakira, Kshama Sawant, Gayle McLaughlin, and Elizabeth Warren. You can also include state initiatives like the recent moves to enact single payer healthcare and a public banking system in Vermont. The recent surge in strength of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in California is notable.
But in regards to the upcoming midterm elections, the political fortunes of the national Democratic Party look grim, primarily because the party has suddenly found itself – as President Obama said about Putin – on the wrong side of history. We have invested too heavily in personal politics and social agendas, while ignoring the plight of the people around us. More than any other reason, we have failed to hold our leaders accountable for their unethical conduct.
Entering the 2014 election cycle, the progressive base is hurting, even to the point of believing that it has lost, or is losing, its identity. The neo-liberal leadership of the Democratic Party has become so corrupt that it’s impossible to separate the rampant, open, widespread, growing, insidiously entrenched and self-staining political corruption (Stephen Pizzo) from political ideals.
Who is winning the political dialogue in D.C.?
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After tonight’s special election to represent Florida’s 13th District in Congress, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:The Cook Political Report
“Republican special interest groups poured in millions to hold onto a Republican congressional district that they’ve comfortably held for nearly 60 years. Tonight, Republicans fell short of their normal margin in this district because the agenda they are offering voters has a singular focus - that a majority of voters oppose - repealing the Affordable Care Act that would return us to the same old broken health care system.
Charlie Cook, the editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, noted that Sink was an experienced candidate who previously had run for governor, while Jolly is lobbyist who was a political novice. “The expectation was that it would be close but that she should win,” he said. “The idea that Republicans underperformed in a district that Obama carried twice is laughable.” He added that it is “extremely rare” for someone to win special election and then lose the general election just a few months later.Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s response was so disingenuous that conservatives are now calling her Bagdad Bob. When you see a party’s spokesperson invent explanations that go beyond reason, then you know the party has run out of meaningful words to excuse its failures.
The Populist Movement
When a political party’s ideas no longer command attention, then you know people or movements that actually produce creative solutions can damage the party’s image.
So what I wonder is why the president is pushing the T.P.P. at all. The economic case is weak, at best, and his own party doesn’t like it. Why waste time and political capital on this project?And when you compare the prevailing opinion about the TPP -- that it is an attack on the American labor force based on 1990’s ideals, and that those ideals, when placed in action, have proven to be devastating to American workers -- then you know the Democratic Party has become bereft of constructive ideas.
My guess is that we’re looking at a combination of Beltway conventional wisdom — Very Serious People always support entitlement cuts and trade deals — and officials caught in a 1990s time warp, still living in the days when New Democrats tried to prove that they weren’t old-style liberals by going all in for globalization. Whatever the motivations, however, the push for T.P.P. seems almost weirdly out of touch with both economic and political reality.
Equally disastrous was the response of this administration to the 2008 recession. Obama’s policies have rewarded the criminals who caused the financial collapse, while decimating the lives of millions of people who once belonged to the American middle class. Given the monumental gap in incomes that has occurred during the last five years, it’s easy to understand why the Democrats are losing the war of ideas to members of the international populist movement, especially when you factor in the president’s opinion about who should be held accountable for those crimes. Remember, those crimes didn’t affect just Americans.
International pop superstar Shakira opens charity school in Colombia shantyPublic banking gets off the ground in Vermont
By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, March 8, 2014 10:04 EDT
Lomas de Peye residents used to fear that a strong gust of wind from the Caribbean would be enough to knock down their school. Then Shakira came to their aid.
The pop superstar recently traveled to this shanty town in Cartagena, on Colombia's northern coastline, to inaugurate a new 8,000 square meter brick school paid for through her charity foundation.
The $10 million school, built with funds from local and international donors Shakira's own money, includes a football field and enough classrooms for 1,700 students.
by David Atkins
Last weekend I mentioned in my longish essay on the future of the Left the need for maximalist policy at a local level, including a strong push for public banking such as exists in North Dakota.
Some good news in that vein: 15 Vermont towns have just voted to establish a public bank that will serve the people, not Wall Street.
Richmond, California Defies Wall Street to Help HomeownersCompare the anemic response to the housing crisis by the Obama administration (HAMP) to that of a Green Party mayor who has actually produced a creative, low-cost solution.
Despite enormous pressure from Wall Street and real estate lobby groups, the Richmond, California City Council voted Tuesday night (actually, after 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning) to take the next step to advance the city's plan to help financially-strapped homeowners, called Richmond CARES.
Other creative solutions include efforts by members of Occupy Wall Street to
construct affordable housing for homeless people, Kshama Sawant’s efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 in Seattle, the state of Vermont’s push to implement single payer healthcare, and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party’s push to end fracking in California.
As the Populist Majority website documents, voters across the political spectrum are seeking "left" solutions. Some examples:
· 73 percent say they are dissatisfied with the current state of the economy.
· 72 percent think the state of our economy is "not so good" or "poor."
· 65 percent think the recovery is weak.
· 81 percent are concerned that their income isn't keeping up with the cost of living. (They're right.)
· 43 percent say employment or "the economy" is our biggest problem.
The nation is still in an economic crisis -- a crisis of jobs, social mobility, wages and growth. We need to start focusing more on the lives that are being devastated by this crisis, and less on the artificial crisis of "debt reduction." President Obama's budget does too little, both rhetorically and economically, to address this crisis. At the same time, it contains changes that demonstrate populism's growing power and influence, and it's good to see that the president finally recognizes that the GOP will reject anything he proposes -- even their own ideas.So, why are we facing a midterm election loss to the most unpopular political party in modern U.S. history?
How should the independent left respond? Unaligned populists and progressives must not lose sight of the need for a more transformative economic vision. The Democratic Party, and especially President Obama's wing of it, must not define the leftmost boundary of political debate. If we are to see a "dream budget," we need to dream bigger than this.
Harry S. Truman:
I’ve seen it happen time after time…The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat…From Senator Bernie Sanders
[H]e says his political instincts tell him America is ready for a 'political revolution.'"Mike Lofgren:
We are living in the moment in American history where the problems facing the country, even if you do not include climate change, are more severe than at any time since the Great Depression. And if you throw in climate change, they are more severe. So the same old same old [Clinton administration Secretary of the Treasury] Robert Rubin type of economics, or centrist politics, or continued dependence on big money, or unfettered free-trade, that is not what this country needs ideologically. That is not the type of policy that we need. And it is certainly not going to be the politics that galvanizes the tens of millions of people today who are thoroughly alienated and disgusted with the status quo. People are hurting, and it is important for leadership now to explain to them why they are hurting and how we can grow the middle class and reverse the economic decline of so many people. And I don’t think that is the politics of Senator Clinton or the Democratic establishment."
[In the US] there is now a deep but as yet inchoate hunger for change. What America lacks is a figure with the serene self-confidence to tell us that the twin idols of national security and corporate power are outworn dogmas that have nothing more to offer us. Thus disenthralled, the people themselves will unravel the Deep State with surprising speed.If you haven’t read the 2012 Democratic Party platform, then it’s worth the time it takes to read the document simply because the mixture of hubris, mythology, and neo-liberal spin that has defined the Democratic Party’s values under Obama’s leadership have no resemblance to the realities that most people are experiencing. Unlike the 1968 Democratic Party platform, which valued human dignity and emphasized correcting injustices (and then developed policies that actually worked), the 2012 platform is nothing more than a long litany of mythological accomplishments that Obama has never attempted. For example:
The President knew from the start that to rebuild true middle class security, we can't just cut our way to prosperity. We must out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build the world. We need an economy that creates the jobs of the future and makes things the rest of the world buys—not one built on outsourcing, loopholes, or risky financial deals that jeopardize everyone, especially the middle class.I guess they forgot about the TPP.
The Republican Party has turned its back on the middle class Americans who built this country. Our opponents believe we should go back to the top-down economic policies of the last decade. They think that if we simply eliminate protections for families and consumers, let Wall Street write its own rules again, and cut taxes for the wealthiest, the market will solve all our problems on its own. They argue that if we help corporations and wealthy investors maximize their profits by whatever means necessary, whether through layoffs or outsourcing, it will automatically translate into jobs and prosperity that benefits us all…If you substitute the words “The Obama administration” for the words “The Republican Party,” then you have described the events of the last five years.
Consider the new financial records set during Obama’s presidency:
The largest income inequality in U.S. history
Unions have been thinned to the lowest level in U.S. history
Largest number of deportations
Largest number of drilling rigs (offshore)
Largest number of unemployed American’s since the Great Depression
Largest number of privatized prisons
Lowest number of white-collar prosecutions
In the 10 previous recessions since the Great Depression, prior to this last recession, the economy recovered all jobs lost during the recession after an average of 25 months after the prior jobs peak (when the recession began), according to the records kept by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. So the job effects of prior post Depression recessions have lasted an average of about 2 years. But under President Obama, by April, 2013, 64 months after the prior jobs peak, almost 5½ years, we still have not recovered all of the recession’s job losses. In April, 2013, there were an estimated 135.474 million American workers employed, still down about 2.6 million jobs from the prior peak of 138.056 million in January, 2008.Keith Olberman
Obama’s so-called recovery included the longest period since the Great Depression with unemployment above 8%, 43 months, from February, 2009, when Obama’s so-called stimulus costing nearly $1 trillion was passed, until August, 2012. It also included the longest period since the Great Depression with unemployment at 9.0% or above, 30 months, from April, 2009, until September, 2011.
Even Jimmy Carter produced 4 times as much economic growth during his one term as Obama did during his entire first term. In fact, as Anderson notes, real GDP growth under Obama has been the worst of any President in the last 60 years!
But it’s even worse than that. Obama’s real GDP growth has actually been less than half as much as the worst of any President in the last 60 years. In other words, even if you doubled actual GDP growth under President Obama, it would still be the worst record of any President in the last 60 years!
It is not disloyalty to remind him (President Obama) that we are not bound to an individual, we are bound to principles. If the individual changes, or fails often and needlessly, then we get a new man. Or woman. None of that is disloyalty. It is self-defense. It is the acknowledgment that, as my hero Thurber wrote, you might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backwards. That is what the base is saying to this President about his presidency.Actually, the part about “we arise again and take our stand for what is right” has already begun.
This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip of a bitter cup, which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and political vigor, we arise again and take our stand for what is right.
If you do the math, so to speak, then you know that change is coming.
It is coming as a populist movement that will sweep away conservative dominance, beginning with the end of neo-liberalism. The worst possible move the Democrats could make at this point in time -- at a pivotal moment when the neo-liberal philosophy is dying -- would be to nominate another neo-liberal to run for the White House. Let's hope the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is prepared to embrace the new populism.