Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Skewering A Denver Post Letter Writer's Anti-Bernie Screed Using A Dose Of Reality - And Reason

Image result for brane space, Bernie sanders

The growing hysteria over Sen. Bernie Sanders' rise, now with 3 primary wins under his belt, was evidenced in no more extreme form than in a recent letter  (by a "Glenn Dotter") to The Denver Post (Feb.23, p. 3D).  It also merits a cogent response, using appeal to reality combined with reason.  Dotter writes (ibid.)

"Bernie Sanders is a millionaire through capitalism, yet thinks we should become socialist. So capitalism is good for him, but not  us." 

Okay, let's back up here.   Before about 2016  Bernie had roughly the same net worth as wifey and myself have now, roughly $750,000.   That was not through any excess or predatory use of capitalism  - but rigorous saving and  living well below our means for two decades, as Sanders and wife Jane also did.  In addition, at least 40 percent  of that net worth derives from the current value of our mortgage-free home (always included in net worth) - as also applied to the Sanders before 2016.     What hurtled Bernie over the threshold to become a "marginal" millionaire by  2016 were the sales of his books.  Yes, if you want to say capitalism "made him" a  millionaire, ok.  But it wasn't 'gratis' like Trump, i.e. via $400 m from his daddy, but through dint of hard work and having created something of value.  Not via exploitation of labor as predatory capitalists have done, including Trump in his real estate grifting.  And as Sanders was quoted at the time - for the benefit of Dotter and others:  

"If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too,” 

So, the form of benign capitalism that values creativity and hard work, yes, did redound to Sanders' benefit as it could to someone like Dotter - or anyone else. But let's not conflate capitalism that provides a market for such creative works and their sales, and the predatory capitalism Sanders has consistently railed against (and which the corporate media and Neoliberal websites -  like Politico etc. - constantly conflate.)  

So, in effect, no one is denying Dotter or his ilk the markets to become millionaires in their own right if they have the will and pluck to do so and not sit on their butts and just complain about others' success.   The form of capitalism Bernie is really trying to spare Dotter from is the predatory variety that would work him 12 hours a day, with no overtime, no days off for illness, and oh yeah... downsizing him before he can collect a pension, or health care benefit.

Dotter's blinkered bloviation goes on:

"He wants the Democrat vote but refuses to join their party."

Here Dotter, by the use of the  pejorative "Democrat" (instead of Democratic, which drives Janice crazy)  gives himself away as a likely Limbaugh follower and right wing tool.   And for his information, Bernie didn't join their party for the same reason fellow Maine Independent Sen. Angus King hasn't: he's an independent. BUT - he caucuses with the Dems - like Sen. King does- and gives them the two extra critical votes needed on many issues. (Like saving Obamacare back in 2017).  So this complaint is irrelevant and nitpicking, especially as the party itself has validated Sanders as a bona fide contender. (Obviously realizing he has a huge support backing, which would be alienated if Sanders was denied)

Dotter fulminating again:

"So what message do they have for us? Increase taxes, punish success, shut down industries, increase unemployment,   take away your health insurance, and make America a socialist country, where they have the power to become billionaries."

Okay, let's dissect this hysterical, paranoid piffle bit by bit.  First, any such policy change as increasing taxes, or changing the health insurance system would necessitate laws passed by congress. Sanders can't do so on his own, by fiat as it were. As even the WSJ acknowledges in a recent 'Heard on the Street' piece, e.g. 'Health Care Fears Are Overdone',   Feb. 3rd, p. B10:

"Even in a scenario in which a 'Medicare for All' advocate wins the nomination, and even the presidency, overhauling health policy isn't realistic without Congress on board. Building consensus among lawmakers  and other stakeholders won't happen overnight."

Indeed, and won't happen, period, if  the Republicans (and Mitch McConnell) remain in control of the Senate. So while Bernie, as well as Warren, can talk all they want about their proposed health system changes (and I concur with most, except forcing people out of existing plans that have more net benefits),  the chances of any real changes in this regard are slim and none. Ditto for any 'Green New Deal' or any other major policy change which requires congressional input.  So all this fretting about what Bernie will or won't do is like worrying about what will happen to humans if aliens from the Tau Ceti system land next year.  It's a colossal waste of mental energy.

As for "increasing unemployment" - Dotter ought to bestir himself to read a bit more (e.g. "AI Threat Targets Higher Paying Jobs', WSJ,  yesterday, p. A2) wherein we learn:

"Artificial intelligence - programming machines to think more like humans - is expected to alter American work on a scale similar to robotics....The most vulnerable occupations include marketing specialists,  financial advisers and computer programmers - jobs that tend to pay higher wages and skew male".

And in previous posts I've already covered how AI as well as other automation is displacing lower end jobs as well as higher, i.e.

 As for Dotter's babble about "making America a socialist country" - it already is, in many ways, such as the existing social insurance system with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.  Which btw, Trump wants to dismantle, as per his latest budget.   What Bernie wants to do is make these stronger, not bait for reduction to support more Trump- GOP tax cuts. The WSJ has had several pieces recently, e.g. by Gerald Seib et al,  noting that if Trump is re-elected he wants to extend his tax cuts, adding another $7 trillion to the national debt by 2035, and $1 trillion more in deficits by the end of his first year of 2nd term.   Is that what Dotter wants, really?  

As for his claim of having the power to become "billionaires" (who is "they", by the way), that is absolute balderdash.  That power only exists in Dotter's febrile brain not in reality.  This is given "they" would be voted out long before that ever happened. It isn't like Bernie - or any Dem - can suddenly become Robert Mugabe II on taking office!   But this overlooks the fact that Sanders has no intention of becoming a "billlionaire" including that most of these guys are born (inherited money) not "self-made".    This was pointed out by Michael Parenti in his book The Dirty Truths.

The jabber about "shutting down industries"  is also straight out of the Rush Limbaugh paranoid commie playbook - which you can hear any day you are inclined to waste time to listen to that fat gasbag.   The meme is simple, and ties into the conflation of democratic socialism with communism, a meme that even Oprah Winfrey had to be corrected on by a Danish woman she interviewed, .e. g.

Oprah got perfect response from Danish woman  

What is instructive to see in this video is the transformation of Winfrey's visage to one near panic and disbelief, before the women straighten her out on socialism, and the more relaxed, rational countenance after.

My first exposure to democratic socialism in fact came about while living in Milwaukee in the 1950s. At that time, Frank P. Zeidler was the city's  last Socialist Mayor,

 I  thank my mother for educating me on the contributions of Mayor Zeidler - who was a member of the Socialist Party of America. On assorted streetcar trips in the early 1950s (back from her night school - teaching English to the foreign-born)  she'd point out special landmarks and places in Beer City and inform me how these were there thanks to the efforts of Milwaukee's Mayor.

Before Mayor Zeidler, Emil Seidl became Milwaukee's first Socialist Mayor in 1910, followed by Daniel Hogan who lasted from 1916-1940 keeping the city out of debt during the Great Depression. Zeidler,  in his mayoral election campaign, noted the problem of ethnic division in other parts of the country and how this was exploited – especially by wealthy Republicans- to keep working class people divided. Zeidler vowed, if elected, he’d ameliorate these divisions and ensure all Milwaukeean Working class folks benefited – whether Croatian, German, Polish or whatever. Zeidler ended up winning three terms, enduring from 1948 until 1960 and turning Milwaukee into a prosperous post-war city.

Jobs proliferated, especially in major manufacturing (Allis –Chalmers etc.) while the Breweries hired thousands with excellent pay and benefits, including health care. Housing abounded as well, affordable housing off of Greenfield Ave. and Teutonia and in other suburbs to the north and west. Parks, meanwhile, were the envy of many other cities for their beautiful layouts, amenities and services. I can still recall going to Washington Park (across the street from where my family lived on W. 48th and Cherry Streets) on the 4th of July for band performances and later fireworks. 

So my appreciation for a respectable, beneficial socialism commenced at a very early age, and was reinforced by further study of many different socio-economic systems as part of a wide-ranging liberal arts education.  One sorely needed today, especially by the likes of Dotter and the Dem establishment making so much 'hay' over Bernie's democratic socialism.  

What the breathless, panic-stricken voters need to do (including the elderly blacks now set to make up their minds in SC- but clinging to Biden) is to take a deep breath, chill, and think whether they really want to continue to be under the yoke of the mega wealthy,  Trump tax cut -benefiting exploiters.   Do they really wish to remain as house slaves on their neoliberal capitalist owners  minimum wage plantations? Or are they prepared to embrace some political courage to cease making the rich richer and themselves  poorer?  We will see - certainly with SC on Saturday, and on Super Tuesday next week.

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