Monday, April 16, 2018

Fraudulence of the Democrats

In the interests of my mental health, I've taken a break from the Nooze and the Internet and blogging for the past several days.

So I have nothing to write about the media feud between Donald Trump and James Comey, because spats between plutocrats have no bearing on how the bottom 90 percent of the American population struggles to survive day to day. I also skipped the over-hyped interview on ABC Sunday night, and I don't plan to waste my time slogging through Comey's self-serving book, let alone perusing the morning-after annotated transcripts of the George Stephanopoulos gab-fest being served up by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Comments sections are limited to readers picking a side and rooting for their favorite rich guy. Thanks, but no thanks.

As for the bombing of Syria, it is really quite amazing that the mass media aren't falling in line this time around, and calling Trump "presidential." As a matter of fact, the president has fallen so far within the approved line of expressing venom toward Russia that their whole #Russiagate narrative would be falling apart were it not for Comey keeping it on life support. (Yes, even though I boycotted the Nooze, it was impossible to completely avoid the multiple teasers of Comey saying it was "possible" that prostitutes were peeing all over each other, if not upon Trump directly.)

So at least they're finally making a stab at going after Trump's sleazy business empire by way of his "fixer," Michael Cohen. This is decades after they gave him a free pass over his sleazy gambling empire in New Jersey, for the mere fact that even in bankruptcy, he was deemed too big and newsworthy to fail on the public stage. Plus, too many corrupt Jersey politicians (in both parties) and law enforcement officials had been in cahoots with him.

 Meanwhile, centrist Democrats, through one of their favorite media spokespeople, are still doubling down on running as the true party of fiscal responsibility and thinking that they can win the midterms on the same wonkish pragmatism that cost Hillary Clinton the presidency. More likely, they're not really interested in regaining the majority at all, because raising money off the largely astroturfed #Resistance and keeping Trump and the GOP right where they can self-righteously flail at them in outrage is really their endgame. What would they possibly do without Trump to kick around? People might start realizing they're still the liberal wing of that Bird of Prey that Upton Sinclair wrote about a century or so ago.

So the gist of David Leonhardt's New York Times column is not that deficits shouldn't matter when people are needlessly suffering and dying and struggling in the richest country on earth. What he finds outrageous is that the Republicans are fake deficit hawks, and the Democrats are the true deficit hawks.  Pundits have finally - finally - realized that media darling Paul Ryan was a con artist and a phony hawk this whole time, what with those humongous  tax cuts for the rich and all. A phony epiphany is apparently better than no epiphany at all.

Still, Leonhardt thinks the Dems aren't getting the credit they deserve for being the more honest Social Darwinists. Whenever they give crumbs to one group of vulnerable people, they always neuter themselves by taking from another vulnerable community. It's what Barack Obama often insipidly called his "balanced approach." (Too bad, according to Leonhardt, that the media also refuse to acknowledge that Obama's great failure as president was his refusal to carpet-bomb Syria's chemical weapons arsenals when he had the chance. Letting Trump claim that glorious victory is almost too much for the liberal class to bear, apparently.)

But back to the main Dollars Over the Demos theme, as Leonhardt writes:
Ever so slowly, conventional wisdom has started to recognize this reality. After Ryan’s retirement announcement last week, only a few headlines called him a deficit hawk. People are catching on to the con. But there is still a major way that the conventional wisdom is wrong: It doesn’t give the Democratic Party enough credit for its actual fiscal conservatism. Over the last few decades, Democrats have repeatedly reduced the deficit. They have raised taxes. They have cut military spending and corporate welfare. Some of them have even tried to hold down the cost of cherished social programs. Obamacare, for example, included enough cost controls and tax increases that it’s cut the deficit on net....
 So it would certainly be false to claim that Democrats are perfect fiscal stewards and that Republicans are all profligates. Yet it’s just as false to claim that the parties aren’t fundamentally different. One party has now spent almost 40 years cutting taxes and expanding government programs without paying for them. The other party has raised taxes and usually been careful to pay for its new programs.
The Dems' claim to having cut military spending on paper (due to the bipartisan Sequestration fraud of an excuse to punish regular people in the name of fiscal responsibility) was more than offset by a sleight-of-hand maneuver, appropriating billions of dollars in unaccountable "contingency" funding to the Pentagon during Barack Obama's presidency. This included half a billion dollars in 2016 alone for more of the Predator drones used in Obama's secretive and unaccountable assassination program, as well as $8 billion for the military's slush fund for miscellaneous secret programs that year.

My published comment on Leonhardt's deeply dishonest piece:
Nowhere in this column is there any mention of the bipartisan profligacy of the permanent war/surveillance state. Congress traditionally has given the Pentagon and the "intelligence" community carte blanche to do their violent unaccountable things with only the slightest levels of token oversight.

Yes, Democrats are more "fiscally responsible" regarding taxes. But during the cycles that they're in power, they're very willing to wheel and deal with the GOP on cuts to the social safety net. It was only due to the recalcitrance of the Tea Party that President Obama was unable to achieve his own "Grand Bargain" with House Speaker John Boehner, after the so-called Cat Food Commission for Fiscal Responsibility had also failed to make "sensible" cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The Democratic Party abandoned the poor and working class decades ago in the name of this "fiscal responsibility." And they wonder why millions of financially strapped people turned to the fake populism of Donald Trump in the last cycle.

Desperate people don't vote for wonks, pragmatists, fiscal hawks and a better life for themselves someday, but just not right now. If you don't believe me, look at what's happening to Gov. Cuomo in New York State. The Working Families Party abandoned him for the sole reason that he has stiffed working families in the interests of his oligarchic backers.
It's a testament to its hard-centrist ideology that the Times dismissively characterized this rather bland offshoot of the Democratic Party (they ditched Zephyr Teachout for the thuggish Andrew Cuomo in his second campaign) as "progressive die-hards." It's also a testament to the corporate capture of labor unions that several of them ditched the Working Families Party over the weekend in order to display their own slavish Trump-like loyalty to Andrew Cuomo.


voice-in-wilderness said...

So where does this leave us as voters if the GOP and Democrats are the same at their core, even if they are different in things like gratuitous cruelty to the poor and denial of science facts? There are various terms for this political state, such as Wolin writing of Inverted Totalitarism.

Doesn't this beg the question of whether we should bother to vote in national elections? That question lurks in the idea, expressed in various ways and attributed to various personalities, that we would not be allowed to vote if it made any difference.

Where is there hope at a national level? For example, I admire the way Andrew Bacevich analyzes our military issues, but in the end he has no solution except to vote all the current devils out of Washington. And that is not going to happen.

This all reminds me of a saying I picked up in college: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you sick"!

Jay–Ottawa said...

I agree with Voice; the truth just makes us sick. And there is no medicine yet discovered to correct the problem. At some point the truth, which is being hammered home every day on sites like this, must hand off to an idea, an action, that provides a cure, a solution, a change for the better. Nothing will change as a result of our endless litany of criticism of the status quo.

A couple of big unions just pulled away from Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Andrew Cuomo in New York. Thanks a lot to former allies, the unions, most said to be as corrupt as the rest of the political scenery.

Not voting for either major party has its merits, although I do secretly hope that Trump & his cabinet and the disgust they engender will make it possible for the House and Senate to change hands in 2018. Unfortunately, the new hands will be the same old Democratic party hands. Same neolibs, same neocons, but better manners as they too destroy the world. As we all know by now, one wing of the duopoly is as bad as the other.

There just might be a grain of truth in the notion that voting for a third party is an empty exercise. Stein’s Green party is feeble and there were reports that its chief of staff, not a real progressive, pulled a coup and really does not represent the grass roots majority or the basic ideals of the Greens. Furthermore, many activists in the Greens seem content to stay small and insignificant, but justified.

So what do we do with the sickening truth? Hedges says the only thing left is to go into the streets in great numbers and stay there until the elites get spooked. Who among us is ready to commit to that course?

Jay–Ottawa said...

Picketing is one way to fill the streets with meaningful protest. Teachers are picketing hard in Red States, of all places. May their union leaders not betray them.

Anna Radicalova said...

Fuck the Parties. Let's just address the issues to expand consciousness and work our way to a paradigm shift. Then the politicians and parties will drag themselves kicking and screaming to the correct position.

I like this idea:

"Maybe what the nation’s embattled peace activists need to do, instead of just marching or demonstrating, is to start a campaign of painting messages directly on the evidence all around us of our nation’s dilapidated infrastructure of crumbling bridges, roadways and schools attributing each to the vast expenditure on the military. I’m imagining a rusty bridge with bold red words saying “The $4-million cost of three Tomahawk missiles used to attack Syria could have fixed this,” or a pot-hole-riddled stretch of interstate boldly painted with large white letters saying: “This stretch of highway repairable for the $100 million price of one F-35 fighter.”

Anna Radicalova said...

Along the same lines of working to re-frame narratives, shatter illusions, and create a paradigm shift:

"They work so hard to manufacture support for war because they require that consent. If the oligarchs try to launch a war against a disobedient nation amidst very clear opposition from the public, they will shatter the illusion of freedom and democracy that their entire empire is built upon, and then they’re exposed. Corporatist oligarchy has succeeded in weaving its web of dominance because its oppression has thus far remained hidden and its depravity disguised as humanitarianism. They cannot expose themselves by transgressing a loud NO from the public or else the masses will realize that everything they used to believe about their country, their government and their world is a lie.

They won’t risk that. We can force them into retreating from open war by circulating facts and information and keeping a healthy level of skepticism circulating among the public. Watch them squirm, move goalposts and shift narratives, and point and yell about it whenever it happens. We can win the media war against the propagandists. We have truth on our side."

Jay–Ottawa said...

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