Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Paine v. Establishment Pains-In-Asses

"These principles had not their origin in him, but in the original establishment, many centuries back; and they were become too deeply rooted to be removed, and the augean stable of parasites and plunderers too abominably filthy to be cleansed, by anything, short of a complete and universal revolution."

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine could just as well have been writing about why the liberal hand-wringing "resistance" to Donald Trump is so ineffectual. What is really needed is not just a so-called Blue Wave in the congressional midterms, but a global revolution against the whole rotten global tyranny of finance capitalism. No matter that Paine was talking about the revolution against Louis XVI of France, who actually was more a weakling than true corrupt despot in the mold of his Trump-like ancestor, Louis XIV.

The "revolution" and freedom we're supposedly celebrating today was actually one group of rich men - the "Founders" - disentangling themselves from another group of rich men in Great Britain. Their aversion to taxes and their embrace of the institution of slavery, which was already well on the way to abolition in the British Empire, was at the heart of the Declaration of Independence. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would not be granted to enslaved people in America for nearly a century. And it was only granted on paper, and only for a little while, until the Jim Crow laws superseded both the "aspirational" Declaration and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

The pursuit of happiness for the owners of capital has always been contingent upon their freedom to oppress, enslave and even kill those they consider disposable. America has been at war, at one place or another, for a grand grotesque total of 223 years since the Declaration was signed in 1776. So Paine was right when he wrote:
"To establish any mode to abolish war, however advantageous it might be to nations, would be to take from such government the most lucrative of its branches."
"Each government accuses the other of perfidy, intrigue, and ambition, as a means of heating the imagination of their respective nations, and incensing them to hostilities. Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government."
All courts and courtiers are alike. They form a common policy (or "narrative") which is separate and detached from the rights of people and nations. It's commonly known in the US as the Duopoly, or the good cop/bad cop two party system, or perhaps even more accurately, the Duplicity.

 Paine wrote, 
 "And while they agree to quarrel, they agree to plunder. Nothing can be more terrible to a Court or a Courtier than the Revolution....They tremble at the approach of principles, and dread the precedent that threatens their overthrow."
While we don't have the hereditary succession of a monarchy, we do have an aristocracy. We do have both political and media dynasties, which have more and more consolidated power unto themselves. 

And it's no accident that this American aristocracy, besides its orgy of violent wars both at home and abroad,  has waged a virtual war on public education in recent years. And that is because, as Paine wrote: "The more ignorant the country, the better it is fitted for this species of Government" (of hereditary succession, or what's today euphemized as the "meritocracy" of the elites).

As we celebrate 241 years of freedom, The Duopoly is currently in a virtual storm of overreaction to the "shock" primary election of 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who unseated one of the most powerful congressional Democrats in the country. But unlike the establishment's open disdain for Bernie Sanders during his own primary battle against Hillary Clinton in 2016, they're treating Ocasio-Cortez like a comparative rock star. She's young, she's charismatic, she's attractive, and she's Latina. So the pundits are sadly unable to fall back on attacking her as too old, too white, too crabby and too sexist as they did Bernie, despite the fact that her platform is nearly identical to his. They therefore will try to celebritize her into watered-down ineffectiveness. Her "story" will outweigh the policy proposals they find so dangerous to their self-interest.

They're obviously trying to co-opt and monetize her for their own ends, inviting her on all the political talk shows and plastering her picture all over the front pages. It seems to me that they're trying to make the best of a bad (for them) situation, in hopes that her popularity will spur more disaffected young people to pull the lever for Democrats across the board in the November midterms. Once she arrives in Washington, they'll try to relegate her to the sidelines. They will definitely order her, as they do with all her fellow reps, to immediately hit the phones and fund-raise for the Party for at least half of every working day.

A prime example of this attempted co-option is a Tweet sent out Tuesday by one of Barack Obama's closest and most trusted advisers, tamping down the notion that Ocasio-Cortez is even a lefty:
Valerie Jarrett Retweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Love seeing define herself rather than letting others do it for her. Seems like the right North Star to me 💥
Valerie Jarrett added,

 If you need more proof of the game that is afoot, the corporate media's chief liberal Bernie Bro-basher, Paul Krugman, posted a column on Tuesday very tepidly reversing his negative position on Medicare For All and limply applauding Ocasio-Cortez, insofar that it's unfair to compare her to a Tea Partier as some of those other centrist pundits are so unfairly doing. She is a "reasonable Democratic radical" as opposed to an insanely independent radical like Bernie. In other words, Krugman is falling in Obama/Clinton/Party line, and patting her on the head. He helpfully links to her campaign website, which to his passive-aggressive satisfaction entirely omits any wonkish details of her platform. And then he sneakily equates Medicare for All with the bait-and-switch "public option" being proffered by centrist Democrats posing as progressives for purposes of re-election.
So, about Ocasio-Cortez’s positions: Medicare for all is a deliberately ambiguous phrase, but in practice probably wouldn’t mean pushing everyone into a single-payer system. Instead, it would mean allowing individuals and employers to buy into Medicare – basically a big public option. That’s really not radical at all.
Krugman is disingenuous, if not downright duplicitous. My published response:
 Well, this piece from Paul Krugman is certainly an improvement over his nay-saying re Medicare For All around the time that Bernie Sanders was giving Hillary Clinton such a run for her Wall Street money.

Even so, there's still that lingering "but where are the details?" little dribble of cold water implicit in his defense of this good and sane and non-radical proposal. So I would suggest that anyone interested in the details visit the Physicians for a National Health Plan website for links to both Medicare For All bills now in Congress, as well as a wealth of other helpful info:

For those who still insist we must retain the austerian "pay-go" method of financing things that will help make people's lives better, Modern Monetary Theory is finally entering the mainstream. More here:

The politicians who have no qualms about mindlessly appropriating more than a trillion dollars to our endless war machine and surveillance state should absolutely be called out on their hypocrisy every time they insist that there is just no money for Single Payer or a federal jobs guarantee, or that we have to rob from the poor to pay for the poor. The politicians who spout such nonsense are in thrall to the big money interests running this show. It's high time that the tycoons of unfettered capitalism get booed off their self-serving propaganda stage.


Bachelard said...

Thank you sooo much for your (#2 rated!) NYT comment about Krugman's slimy reversal. I stopped reading him regularly during the Clinton campaign after years of near-adoration. It will be interesting to see if he bothers to explain himself. I give him credit for admitting he was wrong now and then in the past, but it's hard to imagine any believable explanation other than craven scribbling of propaganda in this case. Keep up the good work, Karen.

Anonymous said...

JK says
Your PNHP link reads "A single-payer system would be financed by eliminating private insurers and recapturing their administrative waste. Modest new taxes, based on ability to pay, would replace premiums and out-of-pocket payments currently paid by individuals and business".

Fantasy. Written by good hearted doctors, not financiers or economists.

Currently UNH (United Healthcare) is trading at $250.0/share, up $182/share from 5 years ago. They have $241 billion in market capitalization, 88% of which is owned by institutional investors. So, when the good doctor writes that single payer will be "financed by eliminating private insurers", just how does that come about - peacefully?

At some point the Sanders camp chanting "single payer for all" is about as meaningful as a trumpbot chanting "build the wall and make Mexico pay for it". Its all instrumental political speech meant to put people into camps, not figure out a way forward. Sanders message can be summarized as 'we doing it wrong, and the healthcare costs are outrageous'. They are, but that isn't a plan to transition a for-profit system into a non-profit system. Who are the investors in UNH? Many of them are Sanders campers chanting for single payer - they don't know where their 401k money is invested. Until someone can dewonkify the transition plan I'm calling bullshit on every stripe of politician who is using moral outrage as the be-all and end-all of their message. No plan - no vote.

voice-in-wilderness said...

OK, here's my take on where we are in this country. Karen is correct in calling out and detailing the way neoliberalism works and how the Democratic party has embraced it for decades, shunning Bernie, Warren, and others who strongly push a progressive or populist message. But our main alternative is the GOP which has lost its mind and any interest in governing, working to let the rich and powerful loot the country while tossing a few biscuits to passionate single-issue voters.

The Supreme Court will be very conservative for decades by the time Trump finishes his appointments. I see no chance for Citizens United to be reversed either in the Court or by Constitutional amendment.

So we have what Sheldon Wolin called inverted totalitarianism. Where do we go from here? Do I figure I'm old enough to probably be OK and to be thankful that I'm not in high school and looking at a grim future, as I watch the world and our country come apart in terms of environment and politics?

P.S. Amazingly, here in the Live Free or Die state, our four members of Congress are all women. But they are all Democrats and with no power to undertake real change (not that they all would necessarily want to).

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ JK

LOL. Troll alert! Droll mischief in the form of fat neolib ducks too easy to shoot down, like ...

--UNH's obese bottom line and its fat stockholders are dispositive proof of US healthcare's superiority;

--then let's poke the Bernie Bros hornets' nest by mocking their pet senator and his fantasies; add false equivalence between Bernie and Trump here;

--"good hearted doctors" (let's talk down to the PNHP crowd) "good hearted doctors" should stick to their prescription pads. They don't know nuthin 'bout economics, statistics and the arcane technicalities of private health insurance premiums and reimbursement.

All red meat tossed at us single payer naifs for to waste our time responding. But it was funny!
[slaps knee and begins to curl into modified fetal position while laughing]

Karen Garcia said...

The overreaction by neoliberals is too hilarious. The funniest I've read so far is an anonymous tweet on Krugman's thread from someone at the anonymous "PropOrNot" blacklist site, which became so notorious for linking progressive websites with the Russian Plot Against Democracy. They are apparently diehard Krugman fans, and are very upset that PK is being called out on his hypocrisy. They are already linking homegrown democratic socialists like Ocasio to Russia. Wow, who ever coulda seen that one coming?

Corey Robin has a new post up about so-called public intellectuals like Krugman who are suddenly switching ideologies and positions according to how the wind blows on any given day. (see my blog roll).

Some anonymous liberal sexist jerk named "Jack Be Quick" told me that I am irrational because I don't sufficiently appreciate Krugman's lifelong devotion to rationality and math. It must be my female hormones, I reckon. Meanwhile, we must defend Roe v Wade as if it was the only lifeline that women will ever need to ensure their economic survival. And support immigrant women and children by calling for the banning of ICE, but say nothing about their continued imprisonment in the "family detention centers" that mushroomed during the last Democratic administration.

Anna Radicalova said...

Democrats desperately want AOC to join The Club. I wonder what they'll promise her.

Excellent post, Karen!

Anna Radicalova said...

Re: Medicare For All

Every time I pass the local State Farm Insurance office, I see the sign in front advertising their services for investments as well as health insurance. That always sobers me to the fact that the private health insurance racket that Saint Obama pushed through will never die. It's as immortal as corporate personhood.

We can blame Bill Clinton first for screwing with Glass-Steagall, then Barack Obama for fighting tooth and nail to give our lives and health to the insurance industry to profit from. Now the insurance industry is a conglomerate of financial services, health insurance brokers, and home and auto insurers. Wealthy and powerful.

An American Family Insurance agent told me years ago that post-9/11, Congress required the insurance industry to apply a small tax to every policy issued, presumably to hold in reserve to pay out for terrorist attacks so they wouldn't be bankrupted by claims. It was another bailout for rich corporations, although well hidden. Don't look for it in the small print on your policies. It's written in invisible ink.

Congress will protect the insurance industry as if their lives depended on it. Our lives are meaningless unless it's to send campaign donations to Chucklehead Schumer and the rest of those corrupt PoS.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Tom Paine was an important element of what historian/sociologist Charles Tilly studied as 'social movements' that arise in the wake of contentious politics. (Full disclosure: In addition to looking up Tilly in Wiki, I'm rereading his book "The Vendée," which tries to understand the counter-revolution in northwestern France after 1789.) Surprisingly, social movements are a relatively modern phenomenon, observed and defined by Tilly as first arising in late 18th Century Great Britain.

On this side of the ocean, about the same time, Paine's medium in support for a budding social movement in the colonies was the pamphlet. Can we say that Paine's spirit and medium live on through blogs like Sardonicky and others listed in Karen's blogroll? The electronic pamphlet, or blog, isn't the only specialty needed for a latter day social movement to take off, but it is an important and indispensable element of a modern social movement. In other words:

Paine : pamphlet :: Garcia : blog.

Happy Independence Day, everybody, whether you celebrated last weekend, this Wednesday, or will this coming weekend.

Erik Roth said...

About John Nichols , Gore Vidal said:
“Of all the giant slayers now afoot in the great American desert, John Nichols’s sword is the sharpest.”

I assert that Karen Garcia has a blade equally sharp, slashing along side as well.