Monday, July 2, 2018

Chuck Schumer, Comedian

My senator, Chuck Schumer of New York, wants me to call my senator to express my displeasure with Trump's Supreme Court nominee.

The rights of organized labor depend upon my phone call, but even more, the fates of Roe v Wade and the "Affordable" Care Act depend upon me and a couple hundred million other Americans picking up the phone and imagining, if only for one minute, that we still live in a democracy and that our voices count.

Chuck. for some reason probably related to sheer longevity, (he's never had any career but that of a Democratic machine politician) is now the senate minority leader. Proving that longevity doesn't equal strength, he has written an op-ed in the New York Times as much as admitting that his party has thrown in the towel over the Supreme Court. The only pathetic gambit he has left is gaslighting and guilt-tripping liberals:
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement has created the most important vacancy on the Supreme Court in our lifetimes. Whoever fills Justice Kennedy’s seat will join an evenly divided court with the ability to affect the laws of the United States and the rights of its citizens for generations. Enormously important issues hang in the balance: the right of workers to organize, the pernicious influence of dark money in politics, the right of Americans to marry who they love, the right to vote.
Perhaps the most consequential issues at stake in this Supreme Court vacancy are affordable health care and a woman’s freedom to make the most sensitive medical decisions about her body. The views of President Trump’s next court nominee on these issues could well determine whether the Senate approves or rejects them.
As a big recipient of Wall Street largesse himself, Schumer can well afford to ignore the fact that the very unlamentable Kennedy is the Supreme who actually wrote the odious majority opinion in the Citizens United case, glibly granting wealth the same rights to speech as flesh and blood humans. And the "affordability" of the political football known as Obamacare is very much up for debate. If anything, the moniker is downright cynical, given that much of this non-surance is too unaffordable to use for way too many people.
 Deep-pocketed conservative special interests are chomping at the bit to take down the health care law. They will sponsor any conceivable litigation against the Affordable Care Act with the potential to reach the Supreme Court. A reliably conservative majority makes it much more likely that one of those attempts succeeds.
Of course, President Trump’s nominee will not admit that they would vote to overturn a woman’s freedom to choose or gut protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Just like Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Roberts and Samuel Alito before him, the next nominee will obfuscate and hide behind the shopworn judicial dodge, “I will follow settled law.” (But as we have seen in many decisions, including the Janus ruling this past week, settled law is only settled until a majority of the Supreme Court decides it is not.)
Chuck doesn't mention that enough of his Democratic colleagues, not least of whom was then-Senator Joe Biden and his defense of  then-nominee Clarence Thomas over sexual harassment claims, have regularly, albeit "reluctantly" voted to confirm these conservative nominees. They will likely do so again - reluctantly and with the deepest of reservations, of course. Because in the end, the interests of their most important constituents - the very wealthy donor class - are what matter. 

Now, get yourselves ready for Schumer's inevitable dog whistle to his most important constituents:
For Americans who value our rights and the progress our country has made over the last decade, it is no longer enough to wait until November to safeguard the rights and opportunities we enjoy today. The Republican majority in the Senate is razor-thin. One or two votes in the Senate will make the difference between the confirmation and rejection of an ideological nominee. If the Senate rejects an extreme candidate, it would present President Trump the opportunity to instead select a moderate, consensus nominee.
Who has made "progress" over the past decade other than the rich? What opportunities and rights are regular people supposedly enjoying right this very minute? Schumer pretends to care about the evisceration by the court of  collective bargaining rights, but I don't ever remember him championing the rights of striking teachers. The big giveaway in that paragraph is that the feckless Schumer will gladly confirm a more "moderate" candidate of Trump's choosing, someone who will defend private insurance predators and abortion rights but will not necessarily defend the rights of poor and working people to live. He will happily confirm a centrist judge who will allow the wealthy few to continue enjoying their inordinate rights, privileges and progress. Chuck ignores the real extremism: that deaths from despair in the US are increasing solely because of corporate-friendly policies, and that the CEO to worker pay ratio is more than 300 to 1.

To that end, the Senator from Wall Street gives Times readers with phones and email accounts his preferred talking points:
  If you do not want a Supreme Court Justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade and undo the Affordable Care Act, tell your senators they should not vote for a candidate from Mr. Trump’s preordained list. Democrat, Republican, independent, liberal or conservative — we should all want a more representative process for choosing the next Supreme Court justice.
If you want the rights of the poor and working classes to be protected more than you want the Great Insurance Protection Racket Act protected, then don't bother.

My published response to Chuck has been disappeared from the thread twice so far. So while it's still standing, for the time being, here goes:
Well, Mr. Schumer, since you are my senator, there is no need to call you with regard to Trump's Supreme Court pick. We know where you stand on Roe v Wade and the ACA... although I do seem to remember that you threw health care under the bus in 2014.

It was a mistake, you said, to pass it in 2010 when most Americans were struggling to survive in the wake of the Wall Street collapse. You remember - that time Main Street got screwed so that the Big Finance could get even richer off the backs of the rest of us?

Fast forward to 2016 and the merely technical election of Trump - a man who rose to power amid the austerity politics of 1970s New York, with the full complicity of the Democratic machine. And now fast forward to 2018 and you have the gall to write that "we" have to stop Trump - because the New York machine never stopped him when they still had the chance, all those many decades ago. Instead, the state and city gifted him with untold hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of tax breaks and incentives. That's when the Dems themselves began turning right and favoring the interests of the big banks and business leaders over the rights of the working class. Hospitals and fire stations were closed so that Trump could prosper.
This goes so far, far beyond the appointment any one reactionary unelected Supreme Court justice. But nice self-serving try, Mr. Schumer, pretending that our phone calls to a corrupt Senate have more clout than the corporations running the place.
For the lowdown on how Trump rose to power and fortune in the 1970s with the help of the Democratic machine and the rightward lurch of liberals into the arms of finance capital, and the invention of manufactured crises and ensuing austerity policies nationwide, I highly recommend reading "Fear City" by historian Kim Phillips-Fein.

As noted in the New York Times review of the volume, published last year:
Of course, the definition of liberalism was shifting too. The postwar boom that had enabled the ambitious Great Society programs of the 1960s was over, and so too was the full-throated commitment to progressive bulwarks and principles, to labor unions and an activist government. Many of the men — and they were almost all men — who emerged from the private sector to help steer New York out of the fiscal crisis were Democrats, but not of the Beame vintage. A case in point is the financier often credited with rescuing the city, Felix Rohatyn, the master fixer who helped bring together the banks and unions, while persuading the city’s leaders to reduce their spending and rethink their budgets. Here he is portrayed in a less flattering light, not as ill-intentioned but as the most prominent member of a group of unelected financial executives making critical decisions about the future of the city without any input from or accountability to its citizens.
(Chuck was getting elected to the New York State Assembly at around the same time Donald Trump was making his moves on distressed properties and people in the Big Apple. They've always had a "pragmatic," transactional, deal-making kind of relationship. As Nancy Pelosi once put it, these two guys can speak Noo Yawk to each other. Chuck even thinks that Trump "likes" him despite everything. And that is most likely true, insofar as someone as paranoid and dogmatic as Trump can actually like anybody).

So, as Kim Phillips-Fein recounts in her excellent history, Trump had hired Democratic Governor Hugh Carey's chief fundraiser to lobby New York City's unelected, banker-heavy Urban Development Corporation for the acquisition of the Commodore Hotel. To date, Trump has pocketed well over $350 million in public money from that deal alone. Despite, or really because of, his sleazy bombast, Trump was a valuable commodity to the liberal politicians (in thrall and in onerous debt to the big banks) in office at the time. He continued to be a valuable commodity, because his success encouraged other sharks and investors to come buy and sell property in the near-bankrupt city, thus appeasing the bond-holders and possibly even averting a worldwide bond market collapse, due to the fear and jitters of the investor class. Trump's addiction to publicity and risk was instrumental in making New York a "home away from home" for the global elite. He was a key player in the Democratic Party's rejection of the New Deal and the Great Society, and the transformation of the metropolis into the wealth disparity capital of the US, if not the entire world, that it now is.

In light of the shock victory of democratic socialist candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of The Bronx in last week's Democratic primary, I found this passage in Phillips-Fein's book to be particularly and deliciously ironic:
 Donald Trump and the developers who exploited the city's desperation to build their towers had little interest in the rest of New York. The fact that millions of dollars went to subsidize their building projects instead of restoring public services or promoting recovery in the poor and working-class neighborhoods of the city never registered as a moral concern. Quite the contrary: the mood among the city's new elite in the wake of the fiscal crisis was confident and upbeat.... As the seventies drew to a close, Trump commented to the newspapers that he believed things were looking up for the city -- it was clearly on the road to recovery. 'I'm not talking about the South Bronx,' he elaborated, perhaps unnecessarily. 'I don't know anything about the South Bronx." (quoted in Wayne Barrett, Donald Trump Cuts the Cards, Village Voice, 1/22/79.
Suddenly The Bronx is right back on the map. The corporate Democratic machine is running out of gas, grinding its old rusty gears in feeble protest. And the only voice the Grand Old Guignol Party has left is Donald Trump's own tooting, off-key clown horn. The concept of a "moral economy" is again on the ascendant due to the blatant immorality at the core of the class war.

Maybe, just maybe, things are turning around.  They are revolving. And I don't mean the revolving doors between Washington and corporate America, either. I mean revolving as in revolution.

Never has the directive to "call Congress and make your voice heard" sounded more ridiculous, especially coming from the minority leader of the Senate. I gave up calling him when he answered my questions and views about Single Payer health coverage with the same boilerplate email, saying he is really liberally open to having conversations and debates about how to make the "Affordable" Care Act better.

This is a guy who once called for Homeland Security TSA agents to man all the New York subway platforms and do Rapiscan probes and body searches on terroristic commuters as well as establishing "no ride" lists for trains.

People are out on the streets, displaying some actual solidarity with immigrant and refugee families. The struggle might not be ultimately successful, but at least it's a struggle, after a whole stultifying decade of neoliberal Obamism/Clintonism.


Mark Thomason said...

Schumer's op-ed left out the key words it was written around: "send money." That is all he cares about. That is what he really seeks with this, not phone calls to himself or other Senators.

Clueless It Seems said...

Fantastic as always. There will be a revolution but I won't be around to see it (I'm nearly 70). An end to classism (is that possible?) will happen when kapitalism dies. Meaning old white men and other oldsters will die off and the lies that go with it. The only expat I actually know says "... follow the money, honey..." He's correct.