|(graphic by Kat Garcia)|
David Brooks, concerned that the president he frequently canoodles with is in "stately decline," has a solution. Barack Obama can battle Lame Duck Syndrome by appointing commissions made up of the Davos/Aspen Ideas Festival crowd to lay out the framework for his successor's agenda! Obama
can become a Whig, and follow in the pragmatic footsteps of Lincoln! Never mind that Abe forsook Whiggery because of its regional factionalism and became a Republican. Brooks is counting on readers not to have boned up on any actual history.
In the world of David Brooks, Obama is finally at that point where he is free to transcend mere factionalism and pandering to Congress and voters and donors by allowing various outside influence peddlers (the Opportunity Coalition) to move in and dictate policy for the remainder of his term:
This means he will have the opportunity to build what he himself could have used over the past few years: An Opportunity Coalition. He’ll have the chance to organize bipartisan groups of mayors, business leaders, legislators, activists and donors into permanent alliances and institutions that will formulate, lobby for, fund and promote opportunity and social mobility agendas for decades to come.
President Obama could travel the country modernizing the Whig impulse, questioning current divisions and eroding the rigid battle lines. More concretely, he could create a group of Simpson-Bowles-type commissions — with legislators, mayors, governors and others brought together to offer concrete proposals on mobility issues from the beginning to the end of the life span.Brooks, in his usual roundabout mushy way, is giving the stamp of elite approval to an Obama agenda that already exists, and has existed since the beginning of the president's political career. Obama has always served the Masters of the Universe, who are currently trying to take cover from the Inequality Craze behind the gilded walls of their charitable-industrial complex and their various corporate-funded think tanks. He's always traveled the country in a frenzied non-stop campaign to prop up business. Obama already created his Simpson-Bowles Commission, his White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness made up of Forbes 400 billionaires. His Justice Department has already invited the Malefactors of Great Wealth to partner up in the Fight Against Criminal Accountability. Obama has always been a congenial host to the movers and shakers of the global oligarchy.
Brooks is being disingenuous when he suggests that Obama needs to set a new cooperative agenda for his successors, because Obama is merely the latest front man of the de facto oligarchy. These global power players got their start with RRRR (Ronald Reagan's Randian Revolution), continued their assault all through the centrist Clinton triangulation years, made a killing both literally and figuratively during the Bush Neocon era, and then saw their wealth skyrocket to dizzying heights under Obama's reign as the wealth gap widened to historic proportions.
Brooks telling Obama to play nice with the plutocrats is like calling Genghis Khan a couch potato, and to get on with the plundering already.
It's all part of the same old shell game of the media-political complex.
And, oh so coincidentally timed with the advice in Brooks's column, the president invited a whole cabal of tax-phobic CEOs over to the White House so that they can "voluntarily" and magnanimously pledge to hire more long-term unemployed people, and try to placate the increasingly restive masses for yet another day via crumbs, phony pledges, (I got a pen, yo!) and photo-ops. The outlandishly wealthy are so rattled by the specter of pitchforks and torches that even such misanthropes as Rupert Murdoch and the Waltons are being forced to pretend to care. And to show how personally accomodating he is, Obama even invited the CEO of Bank of America over for Concern-Fest,right in the midst of the DOJ trying to extract a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud settlement from the bank.
As Robert A. Isaak explains the strategy in his book "The Globalization Gap,"
The only ones who ultimately accept the power of the super-rich individual are other excessively wealthy people who perceive a common bond and, presumably, a network of interests for their own long term security. Yet the affluent need to have the poor be marginally successful economically for much the same reason that the farmer needs to fatten up the cows before taking them to market. Absolute poverty leads to greater uncertainty and absolute chaos.Brooks is simply slapping new phraseology (neo-Whig) on the same old agenda of the never-ending class war. And by shilling for the neoliberal Clinton Global Initiative, he also seems to be doing his best to set the stage for Hillary's Coronation. My published Times comment to his latest obfuscatory epistle:
Just what we need: a permanently enthroned power structure of philanthropic plutocrats pretending to solve the same social and economic problems they had an intimate hand in creating.
The fat cats... oops, I mean "thought leaders" -- fresh from their paranoid sojourn in Davos, are feeling nervous about the ever-widening wealth gap and opinion polls showing that the masses are mad as hell about their station in the Feudalistic States of America.
And thus does Income Inequality, only lately touted as the "defining issue of our time" get bowdlerized into ephemeral "ladders of opportunity" to encourage us to dream big, work hard, and shut up.
David Brooks's neo-Whig Party is just another name for the plutocratic cult of centrism, in which the rich get richer, and the poor get a little training and the nirvana of a meager $10 minimum wage if they're lucky enough to score a McJob. This grotesque opportunity cult supposedly will make up for the recent unbelievably sadistic slashing of food stamps for hungry families with children, discontinuation of federal unemployment benefits, and retention of most of the cuts of the Sequester.
Instead of Simpson-Bowles Catfood commissions and gap-widening Clintonoid "initiatives" that feel our pain while throwing us to the curb, we need to expand Social Security, ensure Medicare for All, get the money out of politics, and give the pathological rich their own unique opportunity to experience the joy of progressive taxation.