Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Unmitigated Gall of the Obama Campaign

You've all heard by now that Scott Walker survived his recall election, thanks in part to the scads of money poured into his war chest from out of state.  You've no doubt also heard that he outspent his challenger nearly eight to one, and that Obama avoided Wisconsin like the plague, even though he was in the neighborhood (Minnesota and Illinois) recently. This, despite his famous promise  during his first campaign that he'd be putting on his comfortable shoes to help the unions. And a lot of people are royally miffed that the most he could do was tweet one teeny tweet on Election Eve, saying good luck to the public unions and the Democrats.  He did not contribute a penny of his own campaign millions to the effort, although to be fair he finally allowed campaign volunteers to travel to Wisconsin to get out the vote. In January 2011, when throngs of protesters first converged on the capital, the White House ordered Organizing for America (now Obama for America) out of Madison when it learned volunteers were aiding the demonstrators.

It was during that time that Obama, fresh off the midterm defeats, was on his austerity kick. He was feverishly accomodating Republicans in their phony deficit hawk rampage and made the "difficult choice" to abandon the unions when the GOP accused him of meddling in Wisconsin.

The Obama machine, while claiming the Scott Walker win is no big deal in the grand scheme of things, is nevertheless wasting no time trying to cash in on it. I just checked my spam folder -- here's what arrived from campaign honcho Jim Messina:
Karen --
What just happened in Wisconsin wasn't an accident.
Republican Governor Scott Walker and his allies outspent the Democratic challenger nearly EIGHT to ONE -- and one of the most unpopular governors in the country managed to hold on.
This result is direct confirmation that all the outside money that's poured into elections this cycle can and will change their outcome. And it's exactly what could happen on the national stage unless we can close the gap between special interests and ordinary people.
The hell with helping the locals in the backwaters, though. It's Barry and the national race that counts. And ordinary people? Gimme a break! He just spent Monday night canoodling with hedge fund managers in New York City before flying out to California today to rake in more millions from some real special ordinary rich people.

In the case of Wisconsin, a resurgence of a potential national labor movement became subsumed by electoral politics and party machines -- themselves even further corrupted by the addition of limitless, often anonymous, corporate money. Grassroots got choked out by Koch Brothers astroturf. Now the Obama campaign swoops in for its share of the spoils.
 Walker was challenged because he's spent the last year and a half promoting special interests and Republican ideologues while taking away a seat at the table for middle-class families. But when his job was on the line, those same interest groups repaid the favors -- and were willing to spend nearly EIGHT times as much money as the Democratic candidate and his allies raised.
This is the playbook Mitt Romney used in primary after primary against Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
His ad buys were overwhelmingly negative, and he and his backers poured money into whatever state was next until they got the result they wanted.
Now, imagine this same scenario playing out again in Wisconsin in November, and in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, and the rest of the battleground states.
Yeah, my heart is going pitter-patter with trepidation. Boo-hoo for Wisconsin, but that doesn't matter. Because it is Obama who matters. Only Obama. Notice how carefully Messina avoids any mention of the word "unions" -- which was what the recall attempt was really all about. According to the New York Times, his campaign is heartened by exit polls showing that not a few Walker supporters also happen to be Obama supporters. Hmmm....
 The other side has the money. They know they can buy the election if they spend it. And they are being told every day by Mitt Romney that he will do exactly what they want him to. 
We can stop them.
Please donate $15 or more to support President Obama and make sure people, not special interests, decide this election. (there follows a link to BarackObama/Wisc. so they can keep their Wisconsin money separate from their regular money.)

This is what the Obama machine does. It passive-aggressively sets lesser Democrats and a few liberal pet causes up for defeat, then uses those defeats to raise money, money, money for itself. It happened a few days ago when Congress killed that phony equal pay bill -- a bill the Democrats had punted on back in 2009 when they had more than enough votes to pass it. This law, incidentally, would not have forced employers to pay women what they are worth at all. It merely would have made it less cumbersome for females to sue for discrimination. It theoretically would have protected them from being fired for complaining about their crappy pay. It also put the onus on employers to prove all their workers were paid equitably, thus further setting it up for defeat. Of course, the bosses who do the firing could always claim dismissal for cause. This was a rather weak bill to begin with. No real teeth, and not enough labor cops on the beat to enforce it.

The White House had only started drumming up public attention for it a few days before the actual vote, with those cheesy e-cards I posted about the other day.
And the appeals for more War Against Women money by Democrats began arriving like clockwork, almost the minute the bill was put out of its misery.

People who keep track of such things estimate that Obama now spends fully one third of all his working hours canoodling with rich people at serial fund-raisers. According to Amie Parnes of The Hill,
Obama has spent the bulk of his time in California on fundraising junkets — including a much-hyped fundraiser with A-lister George Clooney, which pulled in $15 million. The California News Service estimated recently that 80 percent of his trips have included at least one fundraiser.
And when Obama visits the state on Wednesday and Thursday, with two stops in San Francisco and three stops in Los Angeles, he’ll reap the financial benefits of his endorsement of same-sex marriage, observers say.
Ted Johnson, who writes the popular Wilshire and Washington blog for Variety, points to one example as proof: Ticket demand for an LGBT gala Wednesday night in Los Angeles spiked after Obama’s gay-marriage declaration, and a separate dinner — hosted by “Glee” co-creator Ryan Murphy — was added to the schedule.
“The campaign is definitely seeing the demand in California this year,” Johnson said. “Just the fact that he was here three weeks ago and now he’s back is proof of that.”
Gimme, 'Cause You're Special


Denis Neville said...

Hard-times conservatism swindle with Obama and Democratic Party in on the con

“It has now been more than thirty years since the supply-side revolution conquered Washington, since laissez-faire became the dogma of the nation’s ruling class, shared by large numbers of Democrats as well as Republicans. And now, after all this has been going on for decades, we have a people’s uprising demanding that we bow down before the altar of the free market. And this only a short while after the high priests of that very cosmology led the world into the greatest economic catastrophe in memory…

“The conservative comeback…is indeed something unique in the history of American social movements: a mass conversion to free-market theory as a response to hard times…recession’s victims developing a wholesale taste for neoclassical economics or a spontaneous hostility to the works of Franklin Roosevelt.” - Thomas Frank, Pity the Billionaire

Instead of “Forward,” Wisconsin has turned its back on its progressive history. Just like Kansans, Badgers simply don't feel that they have anything to gain economically by voting Democratic. Why did Kansas voters choose self-destruction? According to Thomas Frank, “liberalism ceased to be relevant to huge portions of its traditional constituency, and we can say that liberalism lost places like Shawnee and Wichita with as much accuracy as we can point out that conservatism won them over… By all rights the people should today be flocking to the party of Roosevelt, not deserting it. Culturally speaking, however, that option is simply not available to them anymore. Democrats no longer speak to the people on the losing end of a free-market system that is becoming more brutal and arrogant by the day…along the way the things that liberalism once stood for – equality and economic security – will have been abandoned completely. Abandoned, let us remember, at the historical moment when we need them most.”

“The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice… They're coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's a big club, and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club. This country is finished." - George Carlin

Document the atrocities…“all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.”

Pearl said...

It's no longer the lesser of two evils. He doesn't deserve to win anymore than his opponents.

Jay - Ottawa said...

"People who keep track of such things estimate that Obama now spends fully one third of all his working hours canoodling with rich people at serial fund-raisers."

Who's minding the store?

Fund raising has become a black hole sucking away all energy invested in American politics. This black hole swallows the talent in every office of elected officials. The technical skill and historical memory of bureaucracies count for nothing anymore. As in Wisconsin, bureaucracies that used to get things done are now systematically reviled, blocked and broken, the ranks of their regulators thinned out and stymied whenever they do their job.

Unions, once nongovernmental guard dogs of the middle class, have had their teeth pulled one by one by every administration since Saint Ronald, The Great Communicator.

Without uncorrupted politicians, big unions and sound bureaucracies ideals and reforms no longer get the attention and technical backing needed to see the light of day as bills and laws.

They say black holes even suck away the light. It seems to me the majority of voters in Wisconsin and the nation are stumbling around in the dark. Noble chapters of American history are disappearing down this black hole of all-encompassing fund raising, along with the fortunes and the futures of average Americans.

Liberties are being sucked away, ever faster. Our democracy is dying; what’s left of it has become a scandal and is no longer a model or a magnet for other countries around the world. Many who once looked up to America now look down upon us.

This is the anniversary of the Normandy invasion. I heard Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” over the radio today. It echoes down the halls of Congress and this Administration as mockery.

Zee said...

@Denis, @John in Lafayette and @Kat--

A couple of threads ago we were debating whether the "VLT" from Sydney, Australia--who commented on a recent Krugman column--was indeed our own @Valerie Long Tweedie, also from Down Under.

Well, I have it on direct authority that "VLT, Sydney" is not "Valerie Long Tweedie," although I think we agree that if absolutely COULD have been her.

As @Valerie herself put it,

"I take a break from blogging to do some studying and another VLT takes my place! I am honoured that so many of the people I like and respect at Sardonicky were willing to sift through 941 comments to find one attributed to me!"

Oz is lucky to have two such intelligent and thoughtful "VLTs."

Denis Neville said...

“Make no mistake about it: the politics of envy won in Wisconsin and will now accelerate nationwide. But it's not envy of the rich. It's envy of the poor slob next to you, the one you closely resemble, who has the extra nickel you don't. His pension (on your dime, mind you) is that extra nickel.” - Gaius Publius, Americablog:

It’s Matt Taibbi’s the “good peasant,” who is “loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger, searching around for a non-target to mispunish.”

The poor are a frequent non-target mispunished by good peasants.

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” - Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara, Archbishop of Recife, one of the most significant figures in Liberation Theology and social justice

In today’s world, they substitute “socialist” for “communist.”

Race, too.

“Race is a political category that has staggering biological consequences because of the impact of social inequality on people’s health. Understanding race as a political category does not erase its impact on biology; instead, it redirects attention from genetic explanations to social ones.” - Dorothy Roberts, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century

Anne Fausto-Sterling, Bodies with Histories, Boston Review:

“In Chicago in 1980, black and white women died of breast cancer at the same rate. Today, despite being slightly more likely to get breast cancer, white female Chicagoans are half as likely to die from it. Could the difference in death rates be due to genetic differences between black and white women? A wealth of evidence suggests otherwise.

“The question of what exactly race is may be with us for while. But if we are dedicated to delivering social services and doing the right kind of laboratory research, we can, right now, address the comparative ill health of people of color, the poor, and the medically underserved.”

Zee said...

@Denis and @All--

For more insight into the demise of Liberalism/Progressivism, I recommend a look at Bill Moyers' interview with Eric Alterman, who wrote The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama.

@Valerie recommended it to me recently and it resonated so strongly that I bent her ear—metaphorically speaking—with four pages of commentary. Alterman focuses on two things: First, he asks the question, “Why do so many people of moderate views hold many quite-liberal beliefs, yet refuse to acknowledge those beliefs as “liberal?” Then, he answers the question by tracing out how Liberalism/Progressivism shot itself in the foot starting in the 70s with a devolution from lofty, broadly-based social objectives/programs—“equality and economic security,” in Denis's words—into “interest-group liberalism” that has alienated the remaining 80% of the electorate.

On the subject of Wisconsin, I think that there is more going on with voters there than the amount of outside money that supported Walker—though it certainly was important—or a headlong rush to embrace unfettered laissez-faire capitalism as a consequence of having been suckered by the extreme right.

Part of it is the increasing irrelevance of the Democratic party as observed by Denis. Alterman adds to that with this thought:

“...most people don't think that politicians are going to deliver on any of their promises. So even if you-- some guys promising to gut your Medicare and Social Security and another guy's promising to protect it, they're just promises. It doesn't matter. You might as well vote for the guy who looks and sounds like you, as much as possible. --Eric Alterman, on Moyers and Company

IMHO, much of America thinks it looks more Republican than Democrat these days for reasons beyond a newfound love for dog-eat-dog capitalism.

According to the Chicago Tribune,

“Act 10 ended the compulsory collection of union dues by government employers. It turns out that when workers have a free choice of whether to keep paying, many decide that it isn't worth the money. ...Wisconsin membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees plummeted from 62,818 in March 2011 to 28,745 in February 2012. At the American Federation of Teachers, 6,000 of 17,000 Wisconsin members have walked away.”

That's more than ONE-THIRD of teachers who have left the AFT! If they're so stupid that they too have been suckered by the right, that's a lot of stupid teachers that Wisconsin has in its employ.

Perhaps the union has become irrelevant to one-third of Wisconsin teachers for other reasons? Such as, perhaps, that the broader politics of the union no longer represents them and they just don't want to pay to support them?

Even the most casual glance at the AFT website reveals that the union is involved in areas far-afield from education, such as “Green Jobs in the Green Economy:”

“The AFT has joined the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental groups with big plans to make the nation more prosperous and leave the planet in better shape. With the addition of the AFT's 1.5 million members this July, the alliance now unites 8 million people in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy.”


Beyond that, AFT is involved in health care reform, the nursing shortage, and other things that have little to do with education.

While these may be noble causes, could it be that more than a few teachers have left the AFT because their dues are going to causes beyond education?

Oops. Out of characters again!

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – re: “demise of Liberalism/Progressivism”

Case in point, we're living in a moral emergency and

“Amidst the worst economic crisis (caused by capitalism), the politically active ‘progressive’ middle class is mobilizing to enact a policy of banning soda-pop as an allowable food purchase with food stamps. This is billed as middle class “caring” about us lowly “uneducated” poors and imposing such restrictions ‘for our own good.’ Yet they uttered not a single peep about the fact that many Costco’s, Safeway’s, and Whole Foods co-ops across the US refuse to accept food stamps, which would be of enormous healthy dietary benefit for those of us in the underclass who have been totally economically excluded and socially marginalized. If the middle class can mobilize civic leaders and politicians and whip up a “public health” frenzy over food stamp clients’ purchase of soda, then they can unleash with equal or greater fervor a push for food stamps to be accepted by stores that sell healthy foods (lean red meats, organic fresh produce, etc.) at an affordable price in bulk.” - Jacqueline S. Homan, author of Classism For Dimwits

I liked Alterman’s answer to why we don’t have socialism in the United States. Because the people who would have been the socialists in Europe were fighting with each other instead. And they still are.

The late Joe Bageant asked, “Why do they [the white working class] work so hard to screw themselves? It is because the screwees have no language of their own in which to talk to themselves, or to discuss their condition with others of their own class. When they speak at all of these things, they speak in the language of their screwers, a language in which terms such as “socialism,” “universal healthcare,” “welfare society,” “citizen entitlement,” “social taxes,” “solidarity,” “fair go,” and “common weal” are deemed profanities. Without language and the education to use it in defining concepts, their intellectual life is a constellation of deeply internalized corporate state-media imagery–commercials for the American brand entertainingly presented in a theater of political and social kitsch.” – Joe Bageant, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir.

Re: “education”

What’s up with all the teacher bashing - blame teachers and their unions – in this country? (the one thing that seems to enjoys bipartisan support) Why are we watching it happen? Why are so many buying into this? Undermine the job security, working conditions, and wages of one group of workers, the easier it is for employers to undermine them for all workers. It's a brilliant strategy to divide and exhaust the union, its resources, and its members.

"Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts." - Molly Ivins

re: decline AFT membership

Teachers, like nurses (having witnessed numerous unsuccessful attempts to organize them), (because they're mostly women?) are a pretty passive lot (Rose Ann DeMoro and National Nurses United exempted). They're generally apolitical and far too obedient. Nobody wants to rock the boat, even though it's capsizing around them. Especially nowadays with so many teachers being fired because of state and local budget crises.

How do you know someone is a liberal? He/she says, "This is the right thing to do for the greatest number of people."

“All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms is treason. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other." - Abraham Lincoln

Valerie said...

Obama is a despicable human being. I agree with Pearl.

P.S. Romney is also despicable but at least he doesn’t try to pass himself off as someone other than who he is.

Kat said...

Anyone know what size shoe Obama wears? I'm picking out some comfortable shoes to donate to OFA:

Zee said...


Re: “the politically active ‘progressive’ middle class,” capable of mobilizing in a massive way to effect trivial changes to our society while ignoring major issues, I laughingly agree.

Re: Alterman's remark on why we don't have socialism in the U.S. Well, I am grateful that we don't have true socialism here, as every attempt at real socialism has been a dismal failure. Unless you care to count North Korea as an ongoing experiment, the results of which are still out. Me? I think it's a failure.

I think we need more than a dash of European-style social market economy or mixed economy here in the U.S., as we have discussed previously. But socialism per se? I hope not!

Re: “Education” and “What’s up with all the teacher bashing - blame teachers and their unions – in this country?”

Why the demonization of teachers' unions? How about these as examples:

And if New York City's “rubber rooms” are the nation's most visible example of retaining bad teachers beyond all bounds of reason because it's too hard to fire them, every other school district in the nation has its own, more secretive mechanisms of keeping bad teachers on—thanks to unions—rather than going through the agony of trying to fire 'em.

Typically they get shuffled off to the districts' worst schools, where the administrations hope that they won't be noticed. So bad schools are made even worse, thanks to ironclad union contracts—entered into by politicians who reap the benefits of union support—that take “due process” beyond the brink of sanity.

So that, I think, is why teacher unions are demonized.

Teachers are wrongly demonized simply because they are the most visible targets as this nation faces an educational crisis. Our public education system is failing its students and is in serious need of reform. But it is failing for reasons that go far beyond the quality of our teachers—though there could be some improvement there, too, especially in grades K-8.

Yes, our schools are failing in part because we are spending less than we used to per student. And yes, teachers' salaries are not commensurate with their status as dedicated professionals, which they are—though they are not treated as such. These cutbacks are tragic. Of all the things that we might cut, education should be the very last.

But our public schools are also failing because they are no longer temples of learning. Rather, they have become great big daycare facilities for unruly children, because today's self-absorbed parents like it that way.

Unable or unwilling to manage their own children, or even help in their educations, solopsistic parents dump their children on the public school system not only to be educated, but disciplined, counseled, motivated, entertained and the list goes on...

I once asked a couple of retired teachers, significantly older than I am, what has changed so much “since I was a lad.” Their one-word answer: “Discipline.”

Today, it is probably harder to remove a disruptive student from school than it is to fire a bad teacher. Schools should be places to learn, not to act out. In my day—and probably yours—disruptive students were expelled, permanently. That usually got the parents' attention, and got them “re-involved” in their childrens' lives when the kids once again became their responsibility. But no longer, thanks to “progressive” school boards and district administrators.

Dedicated teachers wrongly take the blame for ALL of this, and more that I can't remark upon in this limited space.

Well, hit my character limit. More to follow, perhaps.

Zee said...


Re: “How do you know someone is a liberal? He/she says, "This is the right thing to do for the greatest number of people."

To which I might add, he/she also says, “And the devil take minority rights.”

Just my jaundiced view from the Conservative side of things.

Re: Abraham Lincoln—another quote on labor and the fruits thereof:

"Property is the fruit of is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built." --Abraham Lincoln

Words that I think Progressives should consider when viewing “the rich” as a bottomless source of funding for their various schemes. Even if I believe in progressive taxation, I often find Progressive claims—on behalf of society—to the wealth of others to be, well, rapacious. Just my personal perspective and something for a future discussion, perhaps.

Re: Joe Bageant. “Why do they [the white working class] work so hard to screw themselves? It is because the screwees have no language of their own in which to talk to themselves, or to discuss their condition with others of their own class.”

If the screwees don't have the language to discuss their condition, it's because the educational process hasn't provided them with it, or taught them how to learn it on their own. As I said earlier, our educational system is failing. I didn't have to go to university to learn what real “socialism” is. I learned it in my senior year of high school, reading a textbook entitled “The Three 'Isms:' Capitalism, Socialism and Marxism.” Are such things taught today? Or are they learning really important things like “If you criticize President Obama, you could be sent to jail?”

And I'm not so sure that the white working class is the only group that has been trained by the media—or their socio-political leaders—to have a, perspective as to what they might expect to have done to them by government, or for them :

In the absence of a real education, the spin-doctors indoctrinate people of all colors.

And finally,

Re: “decline [in] AFT membership” and unions in general.

Please note that I am not opposed to unions. My maternal grandfather was a union man, and he gave his wife and twin daughters a good living thereby; leading, ultimately, to my good life. Unions have served an essential function in creating the American middle-class.

But from my Libertarian perspective, I have no objection as to whether or not states choose to be “pro-union” or “ right-to-work.” That should be a local decision, based on local conditions and desires.

While unions can be a great force for good, they also have a long history of corruption and enrichment of the leaders at the expense of the led. The Teamsters Union—of which my warehouseman father-in-law was a lifelong member during his working years—certainly did him no good at the end, when he was laid off within days or weeks of achieving his full pension vestiture. I may not have the story completely straight as Mrs. Zee is loathe to recall those days, but the union was utterly worthless in helping her Daddy to find another job to complete his vestiture, and, in the end, he settled for far less of a pension than he was (very nearly) entitled to. He went to work part-time in non-union jobs for many years to fill in the void. Thanks, Teamsters.

Whoops, reached the character limit again. Yet more later, perhaps

Kat said...

Please don't get me started on the supersize soda ban or soda tax. Aaargh.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – re: “unions force for good; also corruption”

It is hard to appreciate the imperfect; easy to point to the corruption, violence and fraud of the worst labor unions. Those unions failed laborers. But the evidence suggests that, even in their imperfect ways, labor unions are far better than a world without them. What’s the alternative? Look at today. Powerless workers are at the mercy of the injustices of corporations who crush them in the absence of union resistance. Some form of collective resistance to limitlessly powerful corporations is essential.

Why do we live in the least progressive nation of all the advanced industrial democracies? Why does public policy always, always, drift in favor of the rich and powerful?

Weaker unions mean greater inequality, as shown by this EPI graph,showing that as union membership has fallen and income inequality has worsened—reaching levels not seen since the 1920s:

The systematic gutting of the labor law legislation [led by conservative Republicans and conservative courts] that unions won in the first half of the 1900s, and labor union's failure to stand against it, put labor into its death-spiral.

In his 1978 resignation letter from the President Carter’s Labor-Management Group after the defeat of labor reform legislation, Douglas Fraser of the UAW wrote:

“I believe leaders of the business community, with few exceptions, have chosen to wage a one-sided class war today in this country - a war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, the minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society. The leaders of industry, commerce and finance in the United States have broken and discarded the fragile, unwritten compact previously existing during a past period of growth and progress… The latest breakdown in our relationship is also perhaps the most serious. The fight waged by the business community against that Labor Law Reform bill stands as the most vicious, unfair attack upon the labor movement in more than 30 years… Corporate leaders knew it was not the "power grab by Big Labor" that they portrayed it to be. Instead, it became an extremely moderate, fair piece of legislation that only corporate outlaws would have had need to fear… At virtually every level, I discern a demand by business for docile government and unrestrained corporate individualism. Where industry once yearned for subservient unions, it now wants no unions at all… Our tax laws are a scandal, yet corporate America wants even wider inequities… The wealthy seek not to close loopholes, but to widen them by advocating the capital gains tax rollback that will bring them a huge bonanza. Even the very foundations of America's democratic process are threatened by the new approach of the business elite… For all these reasons, I have concluded there is no point to continue sitting down at Labor-Management Group meetings and philosophizing about the future of the country and the world when we on the labor side have so little in common with those across the table. I cannot sit there seeking unity with the leaders of American industry, while they try to destroy us and ruin the lives of the people I represent… I would rather sit with the rural poor, the desperate children of urban blight, the victims of racism, and working people seeking a better life than with those whose religion is the status quo, whose goal is profit and whose hearts are cold.”

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – re: socialism and European social democracies

Were we born on the wrong continent?

Do all those so opposed to European-style socialism have any idea what it is and how their lives would be different if they lived in a country that has it?

Thomas Geoghegan’s “Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?” is about European social democracy: fewer poverty-stricken elderly and children; six weeks' vacation time plus more paid holidays; less costly higher education, health care, day care; paid maternity and paternity leave; better old-age pensions and nursing-home benefits; lower unemployment; more successful small businesses. “The very constitutions of these countries, like the German Basic Law, make clear the purpose of the state is to protect people from the ‘excesses of capitalism.’”

And yet Germany, despite being a behemoth of European socialism, has managed to create a high-wage, unionized economy without outsourcing all its jobs overseas. American labor unions are one of only two potential checks on the unfettered autonomy of corporate executives and investors. As Hacker and Pierson contend, “It is surely no coincidence that almost all the advanced industrial democracies that have seen little or no shift toward the top one percent have much stronger unions than does the United States.”

Perhaps it is time to start paying attention to how other nations deal with similar vexing social and economic problems and adapt their best solutions in our own way that could provide our citizens with happier, healthier lives.

Jake Blumgart, “Actually Existing Social Democracy,” writes, "The emergence of social democracy was dependent, in most cases, on strong labor movements and mass socialist parties, and the U.S. had neither, so our welfare state is the weakest in the Western world. Now we have no socialist party and anemic unions and, subsequently, a bizarre, haphazard overhaul of the healthcare system, based on ideas popular among conservatives three years ago, is the best the center-left can do. My god, how can we live like this?”

Zee said...


There's actually more to that quote from Abraham Lincoln than I included in one of my earlier remarks:

“None are so deeply interested to resist the present rebellion as the working people. Let them beware of prejudice, working division and hostility among themselves. The most notable feature of a disturbance in your city last summer, was the hanging of some working people by other working people. It should never be so. The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds. Nor should this lead to a war upon property, or the owners of property. Property is the fruit of labor---property is desirable --- is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprize. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.” Abraham Lincoln, Reply to New York Workingmen's Democratic Republican Association (21 March 1864), Collected Works, Vol. 7, p. 259-260 (My bold emphasis.)

Who am I to argue with Abe, who clearly saw both sides of the ongoing Labor vs. Capital story?

As I said, I am not opposed to unions, or to the right of workers to organize. Nor, when I mentioned the long history of union corruption, did I mean to imply that I reject the “good” in favor of the impossible-to-find “perfect.”

What I do object to is being required to join a union in order to work someplace, knowing that part of my union dues will likely be used to support political candidates and causes that I may not personally support. I know that there are many ins-and-outs to U.S. labor laws that are supposed to allow an individual to get around this problem, such as not belonging to the union and paying only an “agency fee,” the use of which is supposed to be limited to collective bargaining activities, union administrative costs, etc.

But money is fungible, so who knows where that agency fee really goes?

I would like to see all union political activities separated from union dues altogether. That is, make it illegal for membership dues to be used for political activity. Members would be free to make additional contributions to a separate union fund that can be used for political activities.

I would be curious to know how much money union members would donate under such circumstances. But I am sure that unions would howl about even the very thought of such an arrangement.

This is the way the National Rifle Association operates, as I understand it. My membership dues—actually, I'm a Life Member—cannot be used for political activities. I have to make separate donations to the NRA Political Victory Fund, which is used for campaign contributions, and to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, which pays for lobbying activities. As I understand it, this separation is necessary for the NRA to maintain its status as a non-profit organization, though I could be wrong about that

Just a couple of thoughts on what would make unions palatable to more people.

I wonder how they handle those issues in Europe?

Zee said...


“Perhaps it is time to start paying attention to how other nations deal with similar vexing social and economic problems and adapt their best solutions in our own way that could provide our citizens with happier, healthier lives.”

No argument there. I see no reason that we should not look to other countries to see how they have dealt with their various problems, instead of insisting on always finding “uniquely American solutions.” That's what gave us ObamaCare.

It's my recollection that Lou Dobbs—scourge of Progressives!—back when he was still on CNN, ran a series looking at what any number of other developed countries did regarding health care. It was quite a good series, and Mrs. Zee and I spent quite a bit of time both watching it and urging our Congresscritters to have a look at the series and other countries' solutions to the health care problem.

But Nooooooh! We got the 2000pp+ ObamaCare abomination, a uniquely American mess that the majority of the American citizenry didn't want from the git-go.

So I'm all for looking at what other countries have done when searching for solutions to our own problems. So are some other Conservatives. There is, after all, nothing new under the sun.

Shifting gears, a Progressive friend of mine would arguewith you that social democracy (Progressivism) was actually a negative reaction to strong Socialist movements both in Europe and here, not a positive endorsement of true socialism. That was the topic of his senior thesis at one of the Ivy Leagues, and I'm actually about to read it now. He maintains that Progressives actually recoiled at the notion of true socialism—as do I—and sought to keep the best of socialism and discard the rest, which otherwise would amount to handing government ALL the keys to the kingdom, something that they thought government could not be trusted with.

And something that I would have thought you might oppose, too. We should trust government with as little as absolutely necessary while still working toward the goals expressed in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and the opening remarks of the Declaration of Independence.

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. ---James Madison, Federalist #51 (My bold emphasis added.)

Hence, the proverb, “That government is best that governs least.” --Henry David Thoreau

Don't needlessly give power away to the “gubbmint” in the FIRST PLACE.

While you may continue to maintain that Germany is “a behemoth of European socialism,” I think that is a mistake. You're talking to the “screwees” in the very language that the “screwers” want you to. And you will alienate the screwees.

Better to try to talk to the screwees directly, and dare to try to educate them. Europe is NOT socialist. It is, in general, a mixed economy or a social market economy. Most of their businesses are privately owned and profit-making. To call that “socialism” is to play directly into the hands of the screwers.

Just my humble opinion.