"For the Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common history and heritage--by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future." -- John F. Kennedy
Many on the left, especially the base, have been mystified lately about so-called members of the Democratic Party defending Romney and Bain Capital, his capitalist -vampire private equity company by which he plundered the lives of thousands. So many genuine liberal Dems were chagrined to see first Corey Booker saying he was "nauseated" by the attacks on Bain Capital...and using the odd defense that "pension funds, unions and other common folk" were investing in it, so what's the problem?
The guy obviously has no financial sense, nor does he understand recent financial history and how it came to be that pension funds in the U.S. have been driven into narrow corporate 'downsize' options - via 401ks - to go into these private equity outfits. Meanwhile, in Germany, for example, workers have the option of using their pension money any which way they want, and are not compelled to stick to limited equity options when these plunder their own peers to enhance share price! In effect, the Wall Street 'stick it to 'em and screw 'em' paradigm doesn't dominate. But then German trade unions always have a prominent place at any bargaining table, while in the U.S. we see efforts across the nation to get rid of collective bargaining while never even considering a 'round table' for investment options comprised equally of business and labor.
When Booker uses a term like "nauseated" it also tells me the guy is a Neoliberal Dem. As I noted before, these Neoliberal dems are not real Democrats of the Kennedy, or Carter brand - but recent mutations who've come under the thrall of Wall Street, and Investment bankers. Their only god is the "free market" and they'll do anything to appease it- especially as the manipulators of the markets are the same ones to deliver the most campaign cash.
Some perspective on this is provided 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.
It was a return to the 1920s - if not the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century. Few industries seized the neoliberal high ground as firmly as the media and communications industries.
A new generation of economists trumpeted the value of applying market principles to all communication policy matters, as one of them put it, 'the ancient regime was often dominated by ad hoc prescriptions premised on shaky economics applied to dubious histories'.
Behind the mighty rhetoric, the stakes were clear. These corporations knew if they were granted First Amendment protection, their existence and operations "would be placed beyond the reach of majorities"
No surprise then that Bill Clinton (who also passed the 'Welfare Reform Act' in 1996) has also had kind words for Bain Capital. More than anything else, to me, Neoliberalism means the total capitulation of the political class to the deus ex machina of markets .....and devil take the hindmost. Which is why, no surprise, the Dems have ceased being staunch defenders of the working class for the last generation. Hell, they can barely bring themselves to defend the middle class! By the mid to late 1990s, the Dems were uniformly committed to the corporate-neoliberal idiom, including NAFTA, CAFTA and corporate globalization, as well as commitment to "free market standards" and the nostrum that "business is the righful ruler of society". It's enough to make a real Kennedy liberal puke his guts out.
And what of Bain Capital? Are they really the innocent little darlings the Neolib Dems make them out to be? William D. Cohan, a Wall Street deal-adviser for 17 years, wrote in The Washington Post: “Seemingly alone among private-equity firms,” Bain Capital under Romney’s leadership “was a master at bait-and-switching Wall Street bankers to get its hands on the companies that provided the raw material for its financial alchemy.” Cohan said Bain “did all that it could to game the system.”
And now a personal story:
For 28 years, Joe Soptic was a steelworker at Worldwide Grinding Systems. Soptic told Amy Goodman that after the company was bought out in 1993, his wife had to quit working, she didn’t have health insurance, and he couldn’t afford to buy it after his salary was reduced from $59,000 to $24,800 annually.
When his wife became ill with cancer, she went to a county hospital. When she died, he said, “I had this big bill.” Soptic was forced to liquidate his 401(k)s, which are now gone. He lost his job after the company declared bankruptcy under the control of Bain.
While 750 workers lost their jobs, Bain made billions of dollars in profit. Bain denied workers the severance pay and health insurance they had been promised, and their retirement benefits were reduced by as much as $400 a month.
But stories like this aren't unique! They are universal since this is how private equity firms operate. Go in for the value like a vampire seeking weakened and vulnerable prey, take over the company, then gouge out whatever remaining husk or residue is left and eliminate the rest. Hey, it ain't on us! This is how markets work, deal with it!
Randy Johnson had worked for nine years at an office supply factory in Marion, Indiana, when American Pad and Paper, which had been acquired by Bain, bought out the factory in 1994. Johnson was hired back, but without a union contract. He lost his pension plan, and his wages and benefits were reduced.
After an unsuccessful effort to negotiate a contract, the plant closed. Johnson and more than 250 of his fellow workers were fired. Johnson, who had tried to get Romney’s attention during the labor dispute, said, “I really think [Romney] didn’t care about the workers. It was all about profit over people.”
Profit over people!
Even more egregious has been the history of how Bain has adopted the classic crony capitalism template: Privatize the gain, socialize the costs (e.g. make the taxpayers pay up for your gains.) Exhibit A: In 1993, Bain owed the Bank of New England $38 million. The Bank went under and Romney et all negotiated a deal with the FDIC by which Bain could walk away with $10 million of that debt, sticking taxpayers with the rest.
Exhibit B: When Romney drove GST Steel into bankruptcy he and his Bain partners made $12 million in profit and another $4.5 million in "consulting" fees. He and Bain then stuffed the taxpayers for $44 million via underfunded pensions.
This crass, crony capitalist vampirism - which many deluded Dems seem to accept - demands economic populism as the antidote. Real economic populism is the only way by which the D-party can incite its base to action, or even vote anymore. If the Ds instead run from this populism, as they've largely run from the working class and poor, the Dems are but a few cycles from the destiny of the Whigs.
As for Corey Booker and his Neolib ilk, it's clear they need to be shown the door. In an interview he professes to be an "independent Dem". Hell, just go the whole hog and be an independent and start your own Neoliberal wing of the party, along with the other private equity loving Neo-libbers in your circle.
It's guys like you, who Wall Street's capitalist vultures have converted into perpetual political mendicants, and who have delivered to us a near useless duopoly. Thus, little really changes from one election cycle to the next.