Monday, October 3, 2016

Subterranean Berniebro Blues

Stop the presses! A "leaked" audio of Hillary Clinton schmoozing with rich people last February about underemployed youth who are sadly stuck in Mom and Dad's basement is making the rounds of the Internet. It's being touted as proof positive that Clinton despises lefty millennials as much as she abhors righty deplorables.

It proves no such thing; Clinton actually urges her wealthy donors to pity the poor basement-dwellers, who "feel" as if they have no ladder of opportunity out of their depths. And as for the other "big reveal" in the audio, that Hillary is a self-declared centrist drifting between center-left and center-right, is actually something that she's admitted to her whole political life. 

Here's what she said about the Baristas in the Basement:
 Some are new to politics completely. They’re children of the Great Recession. And they are living in their parents’ basement. They feel they got their education and the jobs that are available to them are not at all what they envisioned for themselves. And they don’t see much of a future. I met with a group of young black millennials today and you know one of the young women said, “You know, none of us feel that we have the job that we should have gotten out of college. And we don’t believe the job market is going to give us much of a chance.” So that is a mindset that is really affecting their politics. And so if you’re feeling like you’re consigned to, you know, being a barista, or you know, some other job that doesn’t pay a lot, and doesn’t have some other ladder of opportunity attached to it, then the idea that maybe, just maybe, you could be part of a political revolution is pretty appealing. So I think we should all be really understanding of that and should try to do the best we can not to be, you know, a wet blanket on idealism. We want people to be idealistic. We want them to set big goals. But to take what we can achieve now and try to present them as bigger goals.
 I've been getting kind of sick and tired of this whole basement-dwelling stereotype for the Lost Generation. It diminishes the agency of people at the same time that it perpetuates the common neoliberal trope that suffering populations are emotionally disturbed rather than rational responders to a crisis caused by unfettered capitalism and record income inequality.

In her fund-raising speech, Hillary simply echoed the anodyne rhetoric of Barack Obama and other "New Democrats" who like to play Doctor Freud when assessing such social outrages as police brutality. Those black communities "feel like" they're getting picked on whenever one of their members is assassinated for no apparent reason. The solution is for better community relations. Cops and citizens should get along as though they were equals, just as privileged elites should understand the "mindsets" of the young, the restless and the hopelessly naive.

She reveals the standard propaganda ploy at the end of her spiel to her wealthy backers: package the very minor initiatives that would benefit regular people as  "bigger goals." In other words, her governing strategy will be to keep their foolish hopes alive. She'll crank the bullshit meter up as high as it will go.

Another reason that the "Berniebros in the Basement" trope is so damaging is that it dog-whistles to the well-off that the working class and the unemployed are "the other." They're somehow threatening. They might take to the pavement. And so it's no coincidence that a dark creepy cellar is also the favorite mythical haunt of terrorists building their bombs.

 Here's FBI Director James Comey and his Homeland honchos warning Congress of the scourge of pajama-clad bad young people holed up in their basements. Extremism is extremism, whether it comes from those demanding a living wage or whether it comes from what Comey calls "terror tumors" metastasizing in the first circle of domestic hell:

It's comforting for the Neoliberal Thought Collective to relegate the young people they're feebly trying to woo to the nether regions. It sure beats planting the idea that they could or should take to the streets in direct actions against the repressive free market system that has replaced democracy. Wallow in the basement, come up to vote, then get back down there where you belong. There's a tornado on the horizon named Donald Trump, so you'd best take cover.

 And take Hillary's advice, donors! Please refrain from insulting the kids right to their faces. Acknowledge their idealism even as you ever so subtly denigrate them behind their backs.

The Baby Boom generation of aging leaders and moguls, of which Hillary is an integral part, probably remember the 60s Bob Dylan hit, Subterranean Homesick Blues, all too well:

 "Johnny's in the basement mixing up the medicine / I'm on the pavement thinkin' about the government."

Basement + Free Thought = Terror. Lock the cellar door, elites, and throw away the key. If they don't submit willingly, you can always provide a little guilt-tripping gaslight to change hearts and minds.

And millennials: adjust your eyes to the darkness if you ever hope to find those rickety ladders of opportunity. Self-medicate if you must; it will help perpetuate the elites' propaganda that young people are drugged-up slackers who want a lot of free stuff, like education. And don't ever forget to vote. It is your solemn duty as a consumer-citizen.
 Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
’Cause the vandals took the handles.


Tim Berry said...

I like this essay.

voice-in-wilderness said...

A fundamental problem is that there are not going to be enough jobs, either in the USA or around the globe. I would guess there could be as many as 1 billion people right now for whom there is no meaningful work. Automation continues and is affecting more and more white collar jobs. The population is exploding, even in the USA, projected to go from 323 million now to 398 million in 2050 (75 million in 33 years!).

The major media, including our beloved NYTimes, go through a monthly ritual of reporting the current unemployment statistics from the BLS. They routinely underplay the lack of jobs in two ways: (1) they report the U3 statistic rather than the much more realistic U6 statistic (with discouraged workers and long-term unemployed); (2) they fail to point out that we need about 125,000 new jobs per month just to keep up with population growth. And none of this addresses the quality of the jobs.

In a compassionate, people-oriented society this would mean developing a tax structure to strengthen the social safety net, to make sure everyone has basic health care, education, and housing. Maybe that will happen somewhere, but not in the USA!

To make the point about not enough jobs, I sometimes propose this thought experiment. Suppose you had Gd-like powers and by waving a magic wand you could instantly give everyone the education and experience to qualify for any job. You could instantly create as many teachers, nurses, plumbers, electricians, doctors, cutting edge IT specialists, automotive technicians, CNC programmers, etc, etc. Where would they all find jobs?

Elizabeth Adams said...

Hoarding of wealth is an illness and belongs in the DSM-IV. We need to be able to take back the "chips" and redistribute them, and then keep them in constant play via taxes. Taxes are what the hoarders pay in order to stay out of the psych ward. Guaranteed income is what we need, if we are going to continue with a monetary system at all. A 30-hour or less work week is plenty to feel and be useful as a productive member of society, and our definition of "work" needs to be broadened. We need more time for play, love, and creativity. We need more time to reconnect with our family, friends, neighbors, and the planet we are destroying -- before it's all gone.

And thank you, Karen, for pointing out very clearly all the key words and phrases that show HRC's contempt for and complete misunderstanding of the generation being thrown under the bus.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Good comments about the nature of work and the quantity and quality of jobs.

The business pages devote most of their space to talk about money, the stock market and profit. Once in a while, a pretty good story about the type of work that ennobles the worker and produces something useful for society.

Attention, economics majors: Is there some kind of inverse relationship between obscene profits and widespread unemployment?

Meredith NYC said...

Corporations are legally confiscating and extracting the proceeds of the country's productivity, from people or machines, and then hoard wealth.

Without unions and their countervailing power setting norms for all workers, the elites can set their lower labor costs without much pushback. Profits from offshoring our jobs are then applied to political campaigns for more advantage.

Other countries still have unions on corporate boards giving input to policy. We should see what they’re doing re automation.

Some countries are talking about a guaranteed income for all regardless of work. If automation keeps productivity high without human workers, corporations can't stay with the old model, and take most of the profits. Our productivity has to benefit all, to avoid a revolution.

Look at the huge increase in CEO/worker pay ratios over the decades.

Compare to our past virtuous cycle--workers got more education/training, went into more skilled, higher paying occupations, salaries rose, they paid more taxes back to govt to support public services---and low college tuition. Their rising salaries and buying power increased consumer demand for products we made here, which fueled mass production, business profits and prosperity.

How can this be adapted to automated work systems? Wasn't there increased automation after WW2, yet increased prosperity for all?
Robert Reich says, the US must spend money on retraining workers laid off by off shoring jobs in our trade deals, and by automation. He says the US didn't do that after Nafta.

Unknown said...

Wow, Karen this is pretty chilling
I have a 25 year old who has moved back home after getting a good education and a good job
It is I who is in the basement

Jay–Ottawa said...

My hat is off to the New York Times! (Yes, yes, it's really me here.)

A few days ago, the Times must have published yet again yet another editorial 'splaining how Third Parties (boo! hiss!) hurt liberal causes, as when Ralph Nader caused the defeat of Al Gore in 2000. Yeah, right.

So why am I applauding the Times? Well, this morning they let see the light of day Nader's response––as a letter-to-the-editor, not an op-ed. (Won't get as wide a reading as if it were given equal prime space like the editorial essays, but, hey, thank God for small favors.)

For readers who have reached the age of reason, Nader's reply is a succinct barrage that sinks the lie that Third Parties cause bad things to happen to good Democrats. Memorize it to carry you through the month ahead.

Kat said...

jay-- because Bush instigated the disastrous invasion of Iraq, we must vote for the senator that authorized said invasion. Makes perfect sense!

It s nine AM and I am on the line with my stupid credit union. I'm fifth in line! Fortunately, it is not time wasted. I will be sure to ask about their home equity line of credit that requires no equity and other "unique" products.

Pearl said...

“ I've been getting kind of sick and tired of this whole basement-dwelling stereotype for the Lost Generation. It diminishes the agency of people at the same time that it perpetuates the
common neoliberal trope that suffering populations are emotionally disturbed rather than rational responders to a crisis caused by unfettered capitalism and record income inequality.”

Karen: how about some informative columns about what is really happening with the millenials instead of continual reporting on Hillary’s musings. We need much needed facts from their mouths. And meanwhile, how about reporting some of the real work happening behind the scenes via Bernie Sanders and other active progressives regarding support and advertising of many great young people with impeccable records running for office in the nation. There are many new groups under the umbrella of various ‘political revolution thinking’ leaders, working together to create change during the next election and I am receiving a great deal of information about what is going on via progressive postings but don’t see any of it reported in Sardonicky. You said you would try and keep an open mind about Bernie’s future activities. He is still in the forefront of pushing for change with many other leaders and ignoring this important fact is not offering needed information to many readers besides our regulars, who are looking for answers.

Trump is no longer a threat as he is destroying his campaign all by himself and we are stuck with Hillary. It makes no difference now regarding whom to vote for regarding the Oval office, but it does make a difference to vote for and support new voices and keep a balance in reporting what is happening at the bottom of the political heap these days.

And Jay, a third party at this time of history in the U.S.A. only causes more conflicts and divisiveness. Look at its history in the many years before the Green Party.

Elizabeth Adams said...


An interesting thing is happening on Facebook. Multiple Bernie groups have been co-opted (rumor at this time is that they are being bought) by pro-HRC operatives. Pro-Stein sentiments are being shut-down, and those who persist in uttering them are booted. Many now-Green supporters have voluntarily left. Efforts are being made to funnel these various former-Berners into one solid, huge pro-Stein group.

I disagree that third party support "causes" more divisiveness. The current duopoly (as manufactured by the oligarchy/plutocracy/corporatocracy) created it and owns it. Third party support is actually resulting in unification of the masses, who have had it with the limited menu put before them.

annenigma said...

@Pearl re: Bernie Updates

Here's a few for you.

Bernie initially endorsed Tim Canova, but after conceding to and endorsing Hillary Clinton, Bernie surprisingly distanced himself from Canova. His 'Our Revolution' did not list Canova and Bernie did not campaign for him in Florida. Canova lost to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz by a wide margin.

Bernie switched his party registration from Democrat back to Independent within 72 hours of losing his bid for the nomination. So he's trying to change the Democratic Party from the inside by staying on kind of on the outside? Or something like that. He doesn't sound committed to the two-party system.

After conceding to and endorsing Hillary Clinton, Bernie purchased his third crib, a lakeshore vacation home.

You cold check out Maybe Karen could add it to her blogroll if she thinks it's worth it. You can also read:

Pearl said...

Annenigma and others: Please read this lengthy article covering a great deal of what has happened in regard to changing organizations where Bernie had no say. Hope you can get it from the below information. Lots about the current situation.
From the Atlantic magazine, 'How the political revolution failed Tim Canova'.

Bernie Sanders never showed up, and former staffers at Our Revolution believe the organization's 501(c)(4) status hurt Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s primary challenger.

Read More:

Ste-vo said...

@Pearl, I gave up on the Atlantic a long time ago.
Kind of like I have given up on AmeriKa and Vermont!

Pearl said...


Don't give up on this article as all the facts about how changing organizations from a Political Revolution to Our Revolution did not allow any funds to be given to anyone running for office in its new form which was the reason Bernie could not fund Tim Canova legally. Plus other interesting information that was misreported in the press as usual about current events. At least try and go in a different direction instead of giving up.

Pearl said...

And as for the comment about Bernie and Jane's acquisition of a vacation home, it was certainly not from political donations as was reported in some articles. Jane had inherited a vacation home from her parents some time ago which was too far for them to travel to and she had sold it in order to buy their own recent vacation home. Basically it was a trade and not a sale. I suspect Bernie and family live much less luxuriously than all his fellow Senators.

I always find interesting tidbits when tracing rumors and questionable comments about someone. If I find anymore of interest I will let you know.

Karen Garcia said...

"Down With Tyranny" is, in my opinion, the go-to site for excellent coverage of local races and progressive candidates from all across the country. Find it on my Blogroll.

Pearl: I am the only person writing a few times a week on this blog, which is just one of the many, many, many left-leaning sites on the Internet. If you scan the thousand or so posts I've written over the past several years, I think you'll find that I have indeed provided plenty of detailed commentary on a wide variety of topics. Barring an unforeseen circumstance,Hillary will be the next president, so I do tend to give her "musings" probably more than their fair share of critical coverage. My bad!

As ever, I welcome links to interesting pieces as well as suggestions from readers for new sites to include on the blogroll.

As a matter of principle, however, I don't include candidates'/politicians' websites or PACs on the list. Ditto for "yuge" commercial publications like The Atlantic. I used to have Salon on the list, but axed it when they devolved into clickbait.

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ Pearl

Let me echo Ste-vo's assessment of The Atlantic. Without getting into the weeds concerning The Atlantic, I should warn you that while its articles are polished, its political slant is suspect and has been for a long time.

For example, it was all in for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. When that cakewalk turned sour, The Atlantic argued that the Pentagon's tactics were wrong, not the Administration's original decision to go to war. When The Atlantic's pro-war editor Michael Kelly went to Iraq for some first-hand reporting he, unfortunately, became the first American journalist (embedded) to die there in action. The Washington Post, the New York Times. the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal––all saluted him in their obits. Birds of a feather. It does not surprise me to hear that today The Atlantic adores Bernie, one of the finest sheepdogs seen in years.

In its 159 years, The Atlantic has endorsed only three candidates, Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, and this week, Hillary Clinton. See a trend?

Today, I was in the car a lot, along the border. One headline heard over the radio from the US was that Bernie is popping up at rallies in big cities and big campuses of the Midwest this week, still drawing big crowds of millennials, all to endorse Hillary Clinton. Woof, woof. Meh.

One cannot support political reform from the inside* of the Democratic Party and support Hillary Clinton at the same time without crashing head-on into oneself on the road to oxymoron.

*more or less (h/t Annenigma)