Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Sanders Amendment Passes.....In a Manner of Speaking!

If anyone needs to know why I ceased being a Democrat, you need look no further than how the Senate Dems dealt with the Sanders-Harkin-Hirono Amendment which opposed the Social Security cut and tax increase known as the "chained CPI".

The amendment, simplified to the "Sanders Amendment" was introduced to put Senators, especially the weasly, pussified Dems, on record as either supporting or opposing this egregious and unpopular idea.

Well, while those into superficial politics might have guessed how the vote would turn out,  those of us in deep politics knew. We knew that the Neoliberally -compromised Democrats (the other side of the two-sided corporate coin party) would find some way to punk out. This they did in truth by expediently resorting to a "voice vote" - which leaves the back door open to a later deal including the chained CPI. So yes, the Dems' paper rejection was a victory of sorts for common sense, but on the other hand exposed them as weasels: they don't want to be on record as supporting the chained CPI but they don't wish to be on record against it either! In other words, they want to straddle the fence, clearly more terrified of losing their seats to the Repukes, or earning the ire of the Neoliberal media, than doing the right thing.

In a way, this feckless treatment of the Sanders' amendment makes sense, since so many Democratic Senators have been trying to help the White House get this policy into a "Grand Bargain". That group of traitors includes members of the so-called Gang of Six, a corporate- and billionaire-friendly “centrist” group whose members currently include Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia.  But the dirty little secret is that cutting Social Security is not something the political center wants. Poll after poll has shown, in fact, that a majority of voters across the political spectrum rejects the chained CPI or any other form of benefit cut. In fact, a recent poll showed that voters would prefer to increase Social Security benefits – and would be willing to pay more in taxed to do it.

The Democratic Party has already paid a huge price just for talking about Social Security cuts. A Social Security Works poll  showed that the party suffered a stunning 25-point plunge in public confidence between 2005 and 2010 on its ability to do a better job than its opposition to protect the program.

I mean, don't these weasels get it? Don't they get that if they ACT like Repukes, the people will treat them as such? No wonder these Senators wanted to vote in secret! If they’re keeping their powder dry for a Social Security betrayal, apparently they don’t want to have to add hypocrisy to their list of sins. But how can we best explain this basic lack of cojones, or courage? The clear giveaway that Dems had become populist turncoats was mentioned by Robert McChesney in his excellent book, The Problem of the Media, Monthly Review Press, 2004, p. 49:

"With the election of Ronald Reagan, the neoliberal movement had commenced. Neoliberal ideology became hegemonic not only among Republicans but also in the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Joseph Liebermann. Differences remained on timing and specifics, but on core issues both parties agreed that business was the rightful ruler over society."

Business the "rightful ruler of society"? In other words, the rest of us are mere cogs, or peons, not much better than the wretched drones stuffed into 2' b 2' cubicles to do the bidding of their corporate overseers!

But even worse, it discloses the virus of Neoliberalism is at the root of the rot in the current Democratic party - and why they have long since ceased fighting for the poor working man, and now can barely lift their voices to defend the interests of the besieged Middle Class - even as they prepare to cut the floor out from under us using a grand screw job......errrrr..."bargain"!

Now, it is a sad and sorry state that many of our populace have no grasp of Neoliberalism and appear to confuse it with traditional Liberalism. Liberalism in the traditional sense has always been about defending and expanding citizens' personal rights and liberties, whether for speech, property protections, or in the venue of economics in terms of social justice and fairness. The Liberal in the latter sense demands a LIVING WAGE for the working population, which is defined as a wage that would accommodate basic needs in any community, without having to work more than one 8 hr/day job.

Meanwhile, his Neoliberal counterpart says "Oh NO!" He argues the "free market" must decide wage scales and how many are hired and where hired. Never mind the "free market" has long since become coercive, as Charles Reich has noted ('Opposing the System', 1996). Because of centralization of many corporations and application of the same hierarchical managerial structure to all, the same rules generally apply. Workers therefore have no choice in setting their terms and conditions of employment. It is 'take it or leave it'. Hardly a free market!

The Neoliberal then, is all about worship of the free market and free market forces as basic empirical definers to how much an individual or society can attain. In his skewed universe, all would be well if the "market" would just be permitted free rein, laissez faire to the googolplex power, and devil take the hindmost! Deus ex machina anyone? This is why the Neoliberal pundit, wag or political hack now seeks to retrench benefits and entitlements, since he's invested in the basic thesis is each manjack ought to be able to make or earn his own way. If the government assists, then this "reduces personal initiative" to get ahead or so the Neolib argument goes! He doesn't seem to reckon that in times of insecurity most people will be driven be their most basic fears, not by some economic abstraction that doesn't exist.

Neoliberalism also extols the hegemony of the corporation as the fundamental unit of society, over flesh and blood humans. Oh, the Neoliberal will spout empty bromides and rhetoric proclaiming human worth and the need to contain or control corporate greed, but these are simple mechanical mouthings. For Neoliberal politicians, it's simple: it is those corporations that pay the bulk of his campaign expenses, via their contributions, and make his election runs possible. He dare not move beyond rhetoric to undercut their agendas.

How or where the Neoliberal toxin took hold in the Dem Party is a matter of conjecture, but most believe it started with pseudo-liberal Wuss Michael Kinsley, in an article in The Atlantic in the 80s. (Older readers may recall Kinsley sat opposite Pat Buchanan in the old CNN Crossfire series, and always got his butt handed to him by the Patster because of his meek bearing, weak, squeaky voice and weaker arguments). The piece defined market empirical measures as the optimum way to share benefits from taxes, etc. as opposed to merely giving money out to the needy and poor, a la Johnson's "Great society" in the 1960s.If a market measure didn't justify a support basis, say for unemployment benefits, or child health care, it wasn't to be done.

Why adopt this strategy? Kinsley and the honchos who were later to become the "DLC" (Democratic Leadership Council, aka "Republicans Lite") believed this was the best way to counter the Republican pro-business obsession. In other words, they were too goddamend lazy to develop a real narrative to counteract the re-punks so chose the easy path! Hence, DLC strategy in this regard enabled Bill Clinton to out maneuver the Repukes on welfare in 1996, by actually supporting a welfare to work reform bill. (Of course, this earned Bill the undying contempt of many Liberals).

If the Dems could beat the Repugs at their own game, via Neoliberalism, why not use it? Well, because ultimately, it would make consolidating an activist base (reared as such from the time of JFK) reluctant to consistently ally itself with them. This is why many old line Dems have simply stopped voting, period. They couldn't stomach how the D-party sold itself out for political expediency, and how it's lost the will to fight for the common man.

How far were the Dems prepared to go in their new Neolib conversion? Well as far or further than newly minted Evangelicals, all full of piss, vinegar, fire and brimstone. Oh, and calling the REAL Liberals all kinds of names like 'fifth columnists', and even 'commies', when we're the ones who used to give heart and soul to the party ....from the Kennedy era!

John Farrell, writing 7 years ago in his (then) Sunday Denver Post column ('Lost liberals ponder path back to power'), observed that:

"these new Dems have no intentions of ever going back to any kind of economic populism" (read: join the struggle for the working man, woman) again. He quotes in his piece author Thomas Frank ('What's the Matter with Kansas?') and the degree of the Dems' capitulation to the corporate overseers (ibid.):

"the Democratic establishment is absolutely determined to not let that old-school economic populism back in the door, they would rather lose elections. And they do. They lose and they lose and they lose."

As they will surely lose the upcoming 2014 mid-term elections, because by then - and with a "grand bargain' likely in place, the main supporters will be too disheartened to show up at the polls. So ...look for the pukes to take the Senate. But do not blame the voters!  Of course, having jettisoned the old school populism of FDR, JFK etc. they have lost other elections - lots, like in '80, '84, '88, and more recently 2000, 2004 and 2010. (Though many rightly argue Bush had the 2000 election handed to him by 5 Supremes). The Dems may also lose again, White House, in '16 - if they don 't get their act together and finally organize around a credible economic populism. But how can they when their paymasters, the corporate elites and power brokers, are the ones underpinning the Neoliberal thrust?

Unsettling as it may be, the Neoliberal germ is also what would explain, account for Obama's  Simpson-Bowles "Deficit commission" which set the stage for the current travesty, the  'Fix the Debt' bunch, driven by big corporatists and helped by mutts like Peter G. Peterson, see e.g. )

Is Obama himself a Neoliberal? Well, he betrayed his Neolib DNA at his (2010)  post-midterm/ post-mortem press conference by saluting Big Business and the "free market". He said:

 "The reason we've got an unparalled standard of living in the history of the world is because we've got a free market that is dynamic and entrepeneurial and that free market has to be nurtured and cultivated."

Yes, but not at the expense of the people, citizens! Also, it is wise to understand that we really have now is not a true free market, but a coercive  market. Charles Reich spelled out the difference: (Opposing the System, Crown Books, 1995, p. 22: )

A free market produces results that favor the health of society as a whole, because an essential balance is maintained. But in a coercive market, the balance is destroyed, the earning power of work and the standard of living of workers declines, and society as a whole is devastated while those with economic power gain an ever more unbalanced share of the nation's economic wealth.


Quite clearly, what we have is a coercive market which also explains many of the downscale indicators in our society - from the lack of decent paying jobs to the fact corporations can sit on $1.7 trillion while they send capital overseas, to the crumbling infrastructure. It also accounts for why the highest number ever is now reported receiving food stamps even as the artificial DOW climbs toward 15,000. Meanwhile, as Sen. Bernie Sanders noted in his article- guest blog:

"the wealthiest 400 individuals in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of America — 150 million Americans. The top 1 percent owns 38 percent of all financial wealth, while the bottom 60 percent owns just 2.3 percent"

Reality check anyone? Seems to me the Neoliberal coercive market is dictating terms, not any "free market"!

At one time the Dems stood for core principles and they constituted more than strategizing a temporary ensemble brought together every 4 years by dodgy rhetoric to win elections. Now, having sold out to the money changers, bankers and business assholes - not to mention the pseudo-free market, they are barely discernible from the Repugs. Two sides of one corporate party coin. Meanwhile what I and others want to know is:  Who’s defending Social Security and protecting middle -class expenses (especially medical)  and who isn’t?

The good news about this Sanders amendment vote is that it tells us that the Senate leadership understands that the “chained CPI” is politically toxic. The bad news is that they’re not willing to stand up for what they know is right and may actually  later vote it in, destroying their party finally and utterly.....because of the Neoliberal suicide imperative! Are any of these bozos listening to any of us, or anything other than $$$$$?

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