Thursday, July 19, 2018

drowning in dribble: flashback to the cotton days of Dem neo-liberalism


We have not heard from one of the older themes of neo-liberalism in a while – so much so that we are in danger of forgetting it. But we shouldn’t, because surely it will come back, bad penny that it is. This is the theme that, as a New York Times story put it in 1992, the accusation that politicians “tell people what they want to hear”.
In 1992, this was a strong theme in the Democratic party. All the young wonks had driven out the bad New Deal relics, and they were ready to tell people what they didn’t want to hear: we couldn’t afford any of that new deal garbage any more!
What we needed to do was freeze the minimum wage, help the “poor” by expanding the earned income tax credit, and wean the middle class from their addiction to “special interest” stuff. All that porkbarrel stuff. All that stuff that the government did – which, tragically, denied the private sector of its opportunity to go in and do a better job of, say, piling up debts so that people ended up serfs off the credit card companies to maintain their lifestyle.
In the context of 1992, the fear that he was "telling people what they wanted to hear" made candidate Bill Clinton jettison his early promise to lower income tax for the middle class, pleasing a now semi-forgotten dweeb named Tsongas, a neo-lib hero who went about telling people not to look at the massive inequality that had resulted in a historic jump in the amount of concentrated wealth at the top – but to look at their own lousy lives, lousy habits, and their freeloading tendencies, and allow politicians to punish them good and proper.
Cause of, uh, the deficit.
That terrrribble deficit.
This fell like music on the ears of the New Democratic wonks. When candidate Clinton was elected president, he even appointed an economist to advise him from the “Progressive Institute”, a dude name Robert Schapiro, whose claim to fame was to dismiss minimum wage raises as old hat. New hate was the kind of negative income tax stuff advocated, in the sixties, by Milton Friedman.
Milton Friedman.
Here’s a coda to this little story of idiocy. In 1994, the economy started picking up again. Very respectable growth. 3 percent. Per capita income was up 1.8. But, economists admitted, “puzzled”, median household income actually fell Gee, how did that happen? Most of the benefits “flowed to the wealthiest Americans.” Everyone, according to the Times, was puzzled. Peace. Prosperity. “The numbers may help explain voter discontent that threatens to turn next month’s elections into a nationwide rebellion, despite an expanding economy and relative international peace.”
The election of 1994 sealed the deal, as the GOP romped, with their contract for America, while the Dems went down, holding the line on not "telling people what they wanted". The Clintonites decided in the aftermath to double down – helping the “poor” and preaching the doctrine that the middle class would be best helped by the private sector. The inequality of 1993 exploded. But for a while, the business cycle lifted the working class - the median income set.
Ah, the "poor". How did the "poor" figure into all this.
This concern for the poor sounds morally astute. But in fact it is sociologically dumb. It is no coincidence that the neo-libs went on about the poor even as the plutocrats cleaned up. Because this moral crusade is sociologically dumb: the “poor” are not a class in the usual sense. People who are middle class go into and out of poverty. And the poor aren’t the beggars on corners, but the part time workers at Amazon. Poor doesn't describe a position in the system of production of the capitalist economy, because that would, uh, reminds us that the workers make the wealth. The rhetoric around the “poor” is used, consistently, by neo-libs to bash socialist policies like free tuition at public colleges and universities. This, we are told, only helps the “middle class”. By such dribble the supposed parties of the “left” have been drowned.
The recent article by Joe Lieberman, of all rotten people, is a reminder of what that politics was about. For Lieberman, Ocasio-Cortez is a great threat to our republic, a politician who just “tells people what they want to hear.” And we can’t have that!
It does look like there is a blue wave coming. I fear, however, that it will dissipate in the kind of puddles of dribble that Dem honchos have favored since the 90s. I fear there will be more talk about the deficit than about inequality. Let's hope that the old fossile neo-libs don't crawl over Dem politicos, cause if they do, we really are doomed. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

I've seen the future and its murder


You know who interfered in our elections? The Supreme Court interfered in our elections. Striking down the 1965 Civil Rights provision that supervised the election process in the South allowed, for instance, Trump to win in N.C. That there were 65,000 less black votes in 2016 than in 2012 - instead of about a 120 thousand more - is the direct result of Republican actions. By not expanding the Civil rights act to Wisconsin, which under its Shitty governor has pressed the id card voter thing - see here and here:- the Supreme court was defintely putting its thumb on the scales for the GOP. Expect more of that. Russian trolls on fb did not win for Trump. John Roberts did. And the House of Unrepresentatives and the cockeyed Senate are going to keep that happening. The attack on American democracy is coming from the structures put in place during the 170 years of unchallenged white supremacy. As we head further into the century of bringing down the Holocene, we are going to have an American ruled by, among other things, a senate in which 50 members will come from 30 percent of the population, if current trends hold. And guess what? That 30 percent of the population is from places like Idaho and Utah, the white white white areas. The whole structure of the American republic is on a collision course with the brief liberal interlude that lasted from the 30s to the beginning of the eighties. 
Don't bet on this ending pretty.

Monday, July 16, 2018

cut it out, liberals.

The Russophobia passing through the liberal sphere in the U.S. is comic, if not rather sinister. The discovery that Putin is Dr. Evil is a little belated, and heralded with the usual U.S. amnesia. Hmm, what country was it, long ago and far away, that supported Putin's patron, Yeltsin, an incompetent drunkard, as he ran for president of Russia? Ah, yes, that was the Americans under Clinton. They were quite proud of using the media, which was pretty much under oligarchic diktat, to wage the kind of one sided campaign that makes for the election of world historical bandits. Did the Clinton administration think twice about, say, helping a government that was waging a dirty war in Chechnya? No. As a reminder of how Russia went from Yeltsin to Putin, a good amnesia lifter is this article by Tony Wood in the LRB.
The mania of the Russophobe contingent has drawn in remarkably unsavory characters, who first made their mark flogging Islamophobia, or promoting ever more American intervention and war. Trump no doubt has a secret with Russia - which seems to me to be flouting U.S. sanctions on Russia, a common enough business crime. Because it is a business crime, CEOs are rarely treated to prison for it - like, say, truly horrendous things, like being late on paying for your parking tickets in Ferguson, MO. Instead, they do the trial, sign the agreement that they weren't guilty, pay the fine, take the tax deduction, and hire the Justice department flunky after a suitable time interval at a grossly bloated salary. This isn't called bribery, but meritocracy. Trump, being extraordinarily stupid, hasn't gone this route.
There are literally hundreds of ways the American dream has failed the majority of Americans. There is, actually, one successful way for the Dems to campaign: promise that their voters will be richer. Which is a thing the government can easily jumpstart. The reason wages were high in the 60s and 70s and lag now to the point that we are looking like the 1910s is that neither party cares. The GOP maliciously doesn't care, while the Dems don't care in the nicest, concern trolling way. Well, cut that out Dems. And don't expect Russophobia to bring you to the promised land. Cause that is just stupid.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Fred and Velma explain

Adam is going on a Scooby Doo trip. Every day, he watches that cartoon, which I have never loved. Or liked. But it occurred to me, as the pattern of the show fell rigidly into place, episode after episode, that the part at the end where Fred and Velma explain everything in the smarmiest way possible must be the model for today's journalists. Vox, for instance, could just rename itself: Fred and Velma explain. Which would explain a lot!

olivier blanchard and the free lunch: a comedy of errors

  The neolib economist Oliver Blanchard tweeted a very funny comedy bit, in which he played the part of “social democrat”. And he wrote: “As...