Posts Tagged Corporate Welfare

This is What Terrifies Progressives

Corporatism.

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is the merger of corporate and state power.” ~ Benito Mussolini

There are only two real parties in American politics, but perhaps not the ones you think. Our system promotes a two party state because of the mechanics of our elections. The winner take all system that we employ causes any major third party challenge to split votes off from the dominant party who’s views most closely match their own, thus throwing victory to the party most opposed to their views. This is why it is extremely unlikely, and exceedingly rare, to have a third party candidate win. I’m all for making changes to the winner take all system, but while we have this method, we need to figure out how to deal with the reality of how it works in order to elect more progressives.

Simply put, our issue is that we have one party that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporations and another is a partially owned subsidiary of corporations. It’s not so much the Republicans and the Democrats as it is the Corporatists and the Progressive-Populists. Or as Alan Grayson put it in reference to Occupy Wall Street on Real Time with Bill Maher:

…they’re complaining about the fact that wall street wrecked the economy 3 years ago and nobody’s held responsible for that. Not a single person has been indicted or convicted for destroying 20%, 20% of our national net worth accumulated over the course of two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that wall street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly owned subsidiary of wall street, and the other party caters to them as well. That’s the real truth of the matter…

http://cdn1.whosaystatic.com/app/025.7056/flash/VideoPlayer.swf?videoId=77327&vanityUrlRoot=BillMaher&width=620&height=346&adSupport=false&embed=true
Bill Maher on WhoSay

This is why even when we get reform, it’s usually watered down and full of corporate welfare (wealthfare). The much hyped and touted Affordable Care Act with its individual mandate is a huge giveaway to the health insurance corporations that are the problem in the first place. Yes, there are some good parts of the law and in the long run it may help move us toward a Medicare for All type solution, but with 60 Senators, a solid 257 seat majority in the House, and the Presidency, why couldn’t Democrats pass something better? Likewise, why was there such a struggle against creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? Why were the Dem’s so vexingly ineffective at creating real, lasting, and substantive change as a majority party? And why was 2010 such a bad year for D’s at the ballot box?

The simple answer is because the Corporatist still outnumbered the Progressive-Populists. Corporate Democrats like Max Baucus and the thankfully retiring Joe Lieberman (who was so Corporatist that the party activists kicked him out of the party in 2006) join with Corporatist Republicans (is there any other type?) to prevent progress. Progressive legislation is not only good policy, but good politics. When you pass popular legislation, people vote for you. I specifically refer to Progressive-Populists as such because it is the combination of popular ideas (ie. Populism) and ones that contribute toward social and economic justice, or progress, for the large majority (99%?) of regular people (ie. Progressivism) While this is a fairly simple idea, many Democrats either don’t get it, or are so busy collecting campaign donations from their corporate backers that they just don’t care.

This gets at one of the root causes of the problem. That we have a system that requires candidates to raise obscene amounts of cash in order to be heard allows those with obscene amounts of cash to simply buy the candidates. Generally speaking, the group of those with obscene amounts of cash include those in the top 1% and corporations. Corporations are mechanisms to aggregate wealth and therefore, the largest corporations usually have huge treasuries. With Citizens United v. FEC (pdf) giving corporations the ability to spend unlimited sums from their corporate treasury, the Corporatists will only become harder to beat. This is why we not only need a constitutional amendment making it clear that corporations are not people and overturning this atrocious ruling, but one that also allows for the creation of a publicly funded election system with matching funds, like Arizona’s original system before it was struck down by the Supreme Court.

This would not completely solve the problem, but it would go a long way toward that solution. One of the consequences of the publicly financed system in Arizona was that because it opened the doors to just about anyone to run for public office, it allowed a lot of extreme right wingers to take control of the state. There are three reasons for this, the first is that the right was/is more organized than the left in Arizona, the second being that legislators are paid a paltry $24K salary making it hard to recruit quality candidates, and the third is that most of the legislative districts are drawn in a way that whomever wins the primary in one party or the other will prevail in the general. This combination of factors allowed the right wing of the Republican party to take over that party and the state government because they found extremists who would be happy to make $24,000 that they could run and get elected in the primary and subsequently the heavily partisan general. The left has not been so organized as to take advantage of the system in a way that pushes their partisans to take more progressive stances. They have also had a hard time recruiting candidates in many areas that are winnable. Arizona has a system whereby each Legislative District elects 1 Senator and 2 Representatives. While doing some elections research, I came across many examples of elections when the Democratic party won a State Senate seat, but did not even contest the corresponding House seats. This has lead to occasional control of the Senate, but decades in the minority in the House. In fact, because online records only go back as far as the 1974 election, I can’t tell you when the Democrats last controlled the House.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, however, represents a new hope for Progressive-Populism. Many people have cautioned about outside forces, such as labor unions or Democrats, co-opting the movement, but why shouldn’t the movement co-opt the Democratic party?

It should. The party is ripe for a takeover. In poll after poll, large majorities agree with the policies advocated by OWS, yet many occupiers shun traditional politics, opting only to protest rather than protest and vote. Many believe it is time for a complete revolution, but the public is not ready for this and pursuing this path would be deleterious, leading to a 70’s style fizzle out. As Daniel Quinn put it in Ishmael in reference to the movement of the 60’s and 70’s:

“The revolt hadn’t been put down, it had just dwindled away into a fashion statement.”

OWS should still rally and protest in the streets, but in order to stay relevant and powerful, it must transition into the political arena. If the OWS movement funnels its energies into taking over the Democratic Party at the precinct committee person level and running its own candidates on the Progressive-Populist platform it espouses, it can take real political power to make the country over as it sees fit. Alternatively, OWS could endorse candidates and hold them accountable to their values. This will require taking on (and taking down) incumbent Corporatist Democrats who stand in the way of progressive reform and winning in places that are not currently thought of as winnable for Progressive-Populist Democrats. With the right candidate and the Progressive-Populist message, Democrats can win in every district in the country. While there aren’t many who’ve tried, I can point to bold progressives like Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson as examples of Progressive-Populist Democrats winning in heavily Republican territory. It may not be as dramatic as occupying Times Square, but occupying the chambers, halls, and offices of congress carries much more power to fulfill our common values of Justice, Liberty, and Equality.

Cross posted at Daily Kos

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Wow. Just Wow.

As part of the US Uncut movement, on April 1st I sent an email to the organizer of the local Tea Party group in a (perhaps naive) attempt to bring the two groups together around a common cause. Here’s my email:

Subj:Portland Uncut/Portland Tea Party Alliance?

Hi XXXXX,

I’m involved in the Uncut movement an was thinking that the Tea Party may be open to working together to get corporations who are not paying any taxes to pay their fair share. While I know that we may disagree on what represents a fair share and how those tax revenues should be used, I’m sure we can agree that the corporations who are paying nothing while making huge profits (or even claiming a tax rebate), are cheaters and need to pay into the system they use, just like the rest of us. As you said at the TP rally on tax day 2009, it’s not a partisan issue, so I hope we can come together around tax fairness for these corporate tax cheats. What do you think?

Ross Lampert

I had watched a video of the Oregon Tea Party event in 2009 where the organizer spoke and he seemed somewhat reasonable. I got a response back from him fairly quickly saying:

Ross,

I’ve cc’d your message to the current TP chair.

With kind regards,

XXXXX

I asked him to keep me posted, but never heard back. A friend from the Uncut movement asked me on the 21st if I ever heard back from them and when I said I hadn’t, he said it wasn’t surprising and sent me a link from their website to a posting called Rules for Republicans.

I read this and was blown away. I understand not agreeing with someone’s ideas or their reasoning, (see my series: Deflating Conservative Arguments), but this was way beyond the pale. This seems more like hate speech than any rational thought and it actually scared me. When we cannot have a conversation with people who disagree with us, when there is no trust, when they think of us as “evil”, what is next? This is the kind of talk that lead to the genocide of my people. This is the kind of talk that lead to the genocide in Rwanda. It is wretched and it doesn’t belong in our political discourse.

Here’s the first of the “Rules for Republicans”:

1. The era of liberalism is over.
Today there are no liberals in power; there are only radical leftists. They are the enemy, not the opposition. Their ideology is not simply wrong; it is evil.

In all quotes from this document, Italics are in the original, bold is emphasis added.

In their 8 stages of genocide, Genocide Watch outlines the first stage as Classification. This means dividing people into “us and them”. The main counteraction is creating universalism among the population. For instance, we’re all Americans. While Classification is not in and of itself problematic, when combined with the third stage, Dehumanization, it becomes a veritable tinderbox of hatred.

In this first Rule, it is clear that the author is not only classifying those of us on the left as “radical”, but also dehumanizing us. This is not an isolated incident. I know people on the other side who I strongly disagree with on many topics, but I don’t think of them as the enemy or as evil. I may think of them as misguided, deluded, inaccurate, lacking the facts or simpleminded. I may even have real hatred for the policies they advance. But evil? Really??? They think we’re EVIL?

2. It is impossible to be too cynical about the intentions, motives, and truthfulness of radical leftists.
They will always exceed our most horrifying expectations.

Wow, according to Rule 2, we’re not only radical and evil, we’re worse than evil! One cannot be too cynical about our intentions because they’ll always exceed one’s most horrifying expectations! Um…what? I don’t understand my intentions, I guess. I thought I just wanted what’s best for all of us. I’m not really sure what my motivations are either. I suppose they must be rooted in pure evil and borne of satanic vice. I guess I just don’t get myself…oh, that’s because I’m obviously not able to be truthful!

3. Radical leftists are continually seeking to destroy America’s historic foundations, particularly our Constitution.
Their goal is to rebuild upon the rubble according to their own evil vision and to gratify their insatiable lust for tyrannical power.

Oh, that’s my goal! I had no idea. It seems that the author of this document has no knowledge that the foundation of our republic is based on the work of the father of liberalism, John Locke. Our constitution was written by liberals steeped in Lockean philosophy. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, ya know, that quote so oft used by the tea party which is taken from some declaration is a paraphrase from Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government. According to Rule 3, we want to destroy the constitution! I’m not sure what our “evil vision” is that we want to replace it with, but this whole point is ridiculous. While I do think we need to amend the constitution to eliminate corporate personhood and thus help to roll back wealthfare (aka. corporate welfare and welfare for the rich), I’m not in favor of scrapping the document itself. Or at least I didn’t know I was…until now.

4. Radical leftists are continually seeking to infiltrate and undermine American institutions.
They are especially attracted to institutions where there are unearned wealth, sinecures, and ambiguous standards of accomplishment.

I’m not even really sure what this means. I suppose it means that we’re trying to destroy the government from within by…working? Or perhaps somehow gaining positions that require little or no work but pay anyhow? How? Your guess is as good as mine.

5. Our people must always be seeking to restore America’s tested, historic, foundational principles and to guard and protect our Constitution and our cherished institutions.

Again with the us vs. them. So, the Tea Party is the defender of true American values, principles and guardian of our constitution. Oh, I get it, if you say you support the constitution and its values and principles even while the politicians you support actively work to undermine those same institutions, values and principles, you’re the true patriots!

6. Civility must never trump truthfulness.
Civility is a highly commendable virtue; truthfulness is vastly more commendable.

‘Cause you can’t be both truthful and civil. Sometimes truth is indeed hard for someone to take, but it doesn’t mean you should be nasty in how you say it.

7. Ideology must never trump truthfulness.
We Republicans need to constantly examine our own ideological principles to make sure they are, first and foremost, true. Then we must proclaim them boldly and straightforwardly.

HahahHaHAHahhahhahHHAHhahAHHAhahahHAHahA!!! Oh, let me breathe for a second…hahahahhahHHhahhahhhahahahahHhaAhaHaHHahahAhaAhahahaahahaahhAhaaa. *whew* Wow…damn.

I don’t really even know where to start here. This is the most hilarious thing I’ve read from the right in a long time. They don’t usually know how to use humor, but this is outstanding. What?!? It’s not meant to by funny? Yeah, this must come from someone who doesn’t understand the meaning of the terms “ideology” or “truth/truthfulness”. If they did, perhaps they wouldn’t support people like Jon Kyl.

8. Never try to out-compassion a bleeding-heart radical leftist.
Conservatism is the most compassionate — and most truthful — political philosophy there is. Radical leftism, by contrast, is based on false promises intended not to better the lives of anyone, but to recruit gullible, ignorant people as “useful idiots.”

Another doozy. The last line in this Rule seems an awful lot like psychological projection. If Conservatism were the most compassionate political philosophy, why are there so many people going hungry in America? Why are there so many poor? Why after over 30 years of trickle down economics is there a growing income gap? These are not merely Republican problems, they are problems that both parties have contributed to over the years, mostly because they have both become more conservative and have thus followed the failed policies of supply side “voodoo economics“. If Conservatism was truthful, it would recognize its own failures.

9. Challenge radical leftists to live up to their own publicly proclaimed ethical principles.
They never do. They just fake it. (Cf. Alinsky Rule #4: “Make the enemy live up to their [sic] own book of rules.”)

Well, they may have a point here. A lot of what we believe in may be impossible to live up to in our current society because of the way our society is set up. I’m not sure it means we are faking it, it just means that some things are not possible to do. While I am all for living in a more ecological way, if I need to visit my family in Chicago, bicycling there is not really a viable option. I must say however, that there are an awful lot of members of the Tea Party who are on government support (social security, medicaid, medicare, employment insurance, etc.) or use government infrastructure such as roads or mass transit to attend the rallies to protest the taxes that pay for these services. While I try to live up to my ethical principles to my utmost ability, I’m not sure most Tea Party members even understand the impact of the policies they’re advocating upon their own lives. I also find it endlessly amusing that people on the right are quoting from Alinsky. Most of them have probably never read his work as it seems some of his statements are grossly misunderstood.

10. Refuse to use the favorite language of the radical left.
Their language is always intended to spread lies and propaganda and to create confusion, fear, and retreat, not to convey truthful information.

Again, this is intended to sow the seeds of distrust. It is one thing to be skeptical, but quite another to accuse a whole group of people of lying and spreading propaganda.

11. The language our people use should boldly convey real information accurately, precisely, and above all, truthfully.

With all the emphasis that the author of these Rules puts on truth, you’d think that they’d make more of an effort to make sure their statements are true. I rarely (if ever) hear any constructive ideas coming out of the Tea Party. They just say that our budget is out of whack and we need to get it under control. I agree with this, but the question is “How?” Their only answer seems to be to take a hatchet to social programs and foreign aid. This approach will not get us to a balanced budget, it’ll just cause a lot of misery while still requiring a serious look at cutting military spending and increasing taxes on the rich.

12. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
This is Alinsky Rule #5, word for word, but we Republicans have a special advantage in applying it to radical leftists because ridicule or satire, to be really effective, must be rooted in truth. That’s why leftist ridicule flops; it’s usually based on lies.

Indeed, ridicule is man’s most potent weapon, however I’m not sure why they think leftist ridicule flops as the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are top rated comedy shows. These shows are all about ridicule of the right (though they do ridicule politicians of all stripes). There aren’t too many good comedians from the right, but hey, you can’t win ’em all, right?

13. Attempting to reason with intractable, hardcore radical leftists will always end in futility.
Such people are incorrigibly anti-rational, so it is impossible to establish an authentic interlocutory interface with them. The only realistic way to engage them is to crush them politically, using any and all truthful and lawful tactics.

Therefore we shouldn’t bother to get into debate, it will only be frustrating. Let’s just go home and polish our guns instead. As the last Rule, it seems that this is trying to say, we’re right, they’re wrong, so there! This is also saying that it is impossible that we may have a valid argument. Whenever I see my hardcore reactionary rightist cousin, we have some good, productive and interesting conversations. Perhaps those in leadership positions on the right don’t want their flock talking to the other side for fear that our ideas may prove to be more powerful than theirs. Perhaps we may even sway some of the faithful to look at things in a different way. Maybe some might defect. If we don’t work to heal our political discourse, we will only become more polarized, leading to further rancor; the possibilities that flow from that are frankly frightening.

Rule 13 has the only use of the word “lawful” in this set of Rules and I’m glad it’s there. The beliefs outlined in these Rules are what leads people who are mentally unstable to commit acts of political violence. This seems to be a shot across the bow, an attempt to raise the bodies of anyone who is willing to buy into this madness. I maintain a steadfast hope that this kind of thinking could soon be eradicated and we can return to a more civil and reasonable discussion of policy and the effects thereof.

Cross Posted on Daily Kos.

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