Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Democratic Pandering Is a Warm Puppy

The Democratic Party can't promise you nice things like a debt-free education, guaranteed job and income, or single payer health care. But thanks to one of its billionaire donors, it can at least offer you a therapy dog to hug and pet and alleviate your misery while they herd you to the voting booth for the November midterms.

A voter drive called "Pups to the Polls" is aimed at college students in eleven "battleground states" throughout the country. The young people returning to campus are greeted by professional dogs who will allow themselves to be cuddled while their political handlers do the actual herding.

The A.P. reports,  
NextGen America, formed by billionaire activist Tom Steyer, hopes to be a game changer. Steyer is investing more than $30 million in what's believed to be the largest voter engagement effort of its kind in US history.
 The push to register and get pledges from college students to vote is focusing on states such as Wisconsin, Virginia, California and North Carolina with competitive races for Congress, US Senate and other offices...
"We want them to know they need to show up and when they do, we will win," said NextGen's Wisconsin director George Olufosoye. "We want them to know they have power."
Empowerment is no further away than the nearest warm puppy, they croon as they accuse those deplorable Trump voters of not living in "the reality-based community." 

Come to think of it, the warm puppy gimmick is really nothing but the kinder, gentler cousin of the classic Peanuts football con:

I mean, just pay attention to the salesman from NextGen (which actually sounds more like a new drug or an iPod than the name of a voter drive organization). We need them to show up so we can win. In other words, ask not what the elites can do for the proles, but what the proles can do for the elites. The Democratic Party is not even offering them a bare bone, or heaven forbid, letting them take the puppies home with them.

Now, to be fair, it's not that the Democrats are offering absolutely nothing to voters other than frenzied hatred for Donald Trump and irrational fear of Russia. As a matter of fact, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is magnanimously co-sponsoring a bill with Martin Heinrich (D-NM) which would direct government economists to measure  how much "growth" the alleged middle class is enjoying.  Not that they'll do anything to rectify wealth inequality, mind you, but at least they'll recognize its existence in order to show voters how much they care.

As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman sugarcoats the proposed legislation:
This is a really good idea...

There was a time when asking who benefits from economic growth didn’t seem urgent, because income was rising steadily for just about everyone. Since the 1970s, however, the link between overall growth and individual incomes seems to have been broken for many Americans. On one side, wages have stagnated for many; adjusted for inflation, the median male worker earns less now than he did in 1979. On the other side, some have seen their incomes grow much faster than the income of the nation as a whole. Thus C.E.O.s at the largest companies now make 270 times as much as the average worker, up from 27 times as much in 1980.
Notice the soft-pedaling: the link between profits for the owners and income for the workers "seems to have been broken" rather than the gap already scientifically proven to have been growing ever wider with every passing year. Wages have stagnated for what Krugman dismisses as an ephemeral "many" rather than the actual vast 90% majority, while "some" are getting richer by the minute.

But Krugman has a facile explanation. You see, decades' worth of rigorous research proving beyond a a shadow of a doubt that we have devolved into an oligarchy won't hold a candle to the actual government doing its own redundant studies. For some reason, Krugman thinks that "people" will pay more attention to government economists than they do to private or academic economists, ignoring the fact that like every other elite group of experts, the economics profession uses the Washington revolving door with abandon.
 But there’s a big difference between estimates produced by independent economists and regular reports from the U.S. government, both because the government has the resources to do the job more easily, and because people (and politicians) will pay more attention. That’s why the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a progressive think tank, has been campaigning for something like the Schumer-Heinrich bill.
Krugman doesn't mention that the Washington Center for Equitable Growth is actually a rebranded subsidiary of John Podesta's Clintonoid think tank, the Center for American Progress, or that Heather Boushey, its director, was also the chief economist of Hillary Clinton's ill-fated presidential transition team, or that it actually wrote most of the Schumer-Heinrich bill.

He doesn't mention that the Washington Center for Equitable Growth is funded by subprime mortgage billionaires Herb and Marion Sandler and that it is staffed by some of the same economic experts who helped create the subprime mortgage crisis and financial collapse of 2007-2008. 

The Sandlers, like many liberal oligarchs, have whitewashed their ill-gotten gains and given away a lot of their money to such worthy organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as providing the seed money to launch the independent media enterprise ProPublica. The Schumer-Heinrich legislation is therefore very much the spawn of neoliberal philanthrocapitalism, which has effectively supplanted representative democracy as the driving force of social and economic policies.

Boushey, unsurprisingly, is full of praise for the Democratic minority agreeing to study a humanitarian crisis to death rather than actually doing anything about it. It is not in the interests of the Sandlers and the rest of the ruling class to do anything about it:
We commend Sens. Schumer and Heinrich for introducing this legislation. This is an important first step toward understanding how today’s economy is or is not working for most U.S. families.
It is not enough to know how rapidly the economy is growing. Americans want and need to know how the economy is performing for people like them. Evidence shows that broad-based economic growth is key to building a strong economy, and that starts with collecting the data that allow policymakers to understand how the economy is performing for all Americans.
Yes indeed, the majority of Americans who don't have enough money in the bank to pay for a $500 emergency car repair are just dying to find out precisely how the economy is not working for them.  We will feel so full and replete with this knowledge, so stuffed with facts and figures, that we will forget all about eating.

Here is my published Times comment to the Krugman stenography:
Schumer has certainly picked a convenient time to "measure" just how badly people are getting shafted. It is all too typical: pre-election season, Wall Street-beholden politician feigns interest, introduces a bill to merely study the problem until it either dies in committee or is whittled down to nothingness by the corporate lobbyists. All he needs to do is pick up any newspaper or even search Google to learn that Jeff Bezos makes the median Amazon salary every nine seconds. or put another way, raked in $6 billion in just nine seconds. That was in April 2016, so it's probably even worse now.

 We don't need another stinkin' study by some group of economists to know that wealth inequality is the worst it's been since the last deregulated Gilded Age - which by the way, came to a temporary screeching halt when FDR came to power and legislation like Glass-Steagall was enacted.

 So I'll believe Chuck Schumer is concerned on the day he introduces legislation reinstating Glass-Steagall, and gives full-throated support to Elizabeth Warren's Accountable Capitalism Act, which would give more power back to workers, rather than dividing the spoils of growth among CEOs and shareholders.

Meanwhile, Trump is suddenly concerned about the deficit, and just decreed that federal workers will get no pay raises. Would he be Trump if he didn't create yet another scapegoat from the depths of human anguish in this country? It's the corruption, stupid, and it goes way beyond Trump.
So this is your choice, voters. Hug a puppy or read a study. Or if you want to go really big and bold, do both. Empower yourselves!

I haven't yet researched Warren's Accountable Capitalism Act, which sounds good on the surface despite the oxymoronic title. Capitalism by definition is not accountable, its only purpose being to plunder, grow, plunder, hoard, plunder some more, suck dry and ad infinitum. But the gist of her bill dictates that corporations be forced to sign a government contract giving workers 40% membership on corporate boards of directors and be forced to share the profits instead of hoarding them or doling them out to a handful of wealthy investors.

The Warren bill doesn't take into account that major corporations are transnational or at least multinational and therefore are not under the control of any one government. They swear no patriotic allegiance whatsoever. How would this legislation, even if it did miraculously pass a corrupt Congress, ever be enforced?

Since corporations own the place, i.e. the entire planet, then social democracy must be both legislated and enforced on a global scale if it is to work for everybody.

So we need to not only hug puppies, we need to bring them out on the streets with us and howl in unison, and afflict the comfortable like there's no tomorrow. Believing that the same people who screwed us will now save us is like Charlie Brown believing that Lucy has suddenly turned nice. 


Will said...

Hey Karen/Rima,

Here's a very popular tweet by @nachdermas from last week that your post just reminded me of:

STUDENTS: why is tuition $25,000 a year. why am i being taught by adjuncts making $5000 per class. why does the football coach make $1 million. why is—

UNIVERSITY: did someone say “heckin cute pupper”?! we’ve got DOGS you can pet in the library to relieve your stress & anxiety!

Jay–Ottawa said...

OK, Schumer and his legislative team in the backroom are a DNC con, but don't forget we've had the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) slugging away since 1991? That's where you'll find real live progressives (all Democrats) working within the bowels of the beast, so to speak, to clean them out. Eventually.

There are now 75 members of the CPC, a force. They write hard-hitting papers and build beautiful platforms. They are masters at compiling talking points. Bernie himself was one of their founders back in 1991––now do you believe in the CPC?––before he was elevated to House of Lords.

Who here does not believe the CPC is the creme de la creme of progressivism in Washington? They are the best we've got, every one holding office, on the job all the time. They recently published an exemplary alternative budget, called "The People's Budget." YES! Excellent timing as we trudge towards the polling booths. Who needs a Third Party as long as those CPC insiders with real power are hammering out the message? But be patient; good ideas take time to draft into a bill.

OH WAIT! Ralph Nader just deconstructed la creme de la creme's 40-page "People's Budget" and found it full of omissions and airy vagueness. Once again, the CPC talks the talk, but breathes not a word about the walk that ought to follow––by CPC members themselves for starters.

"[T]he CPC’s “People’s Budget” ... doesn’t address very weak corporate crime enforcement, to repealing specific anti-labor laws, like the Taft-Hartley Act, to being number-specific in cutting the bloated, corporate crime-ridden military budget, or even giving a number to a higher minimum wage."
"Its wonky style does not lend itself to on the ground campaigning before voters hungry for regaining control over their lives and looking for changes that restore self-reliant economies detached from the speculative risks and greed of the global corporate disorder."

Picky, picky Nader, always wanting specifics. What a spoilsport.

Karl Kolchak said...

Maybe the Catholic Church should offer free puppy hugs to its thousands of former child victims.