Libby’s Political ‘Stew‘ -- Post-Wisconsin Epiphany
Serious food for serious thought:
The sad reality is that a dumbed-down American public has lost the capacity to think critically. A well-financed propaganda campaign on television could probably persuade the American citizenry to elect Adolph Hitler over F.D.R., and given the fact that Republicans and mainstream Democrats have the ability to outspend the poor at the ratio of 20 to 1, the election results are a foregone conclusion. Although the majority of people in Wisconsin voted for Scott Walker, they voted more so against the union pension benefits, and salaries of unionized public employees. It was not a matter of disrespecting the police, firemen and teachers, who constituted the majority of public workers impacted by Walker’s actions; rather the voters felt that the cops, firemen, and teachers did not need the generous retirement packages they were receiving at a time when the rest of the workers in the state were struggling to get by. Obama and the Democratic Party itself opted out of the entire debate.
That’s the America of today, and it’s a glimpse of the very near-term future. The formula is pretty simple, really. Wealthy elites who have spent the better part of a century chafing under the unbearable burdens of the New Deal and Great Society (where they are rendered mere billionaires instead of zillionaires) have finally found a way to steal back ‘their’ money. Buy whole political parties, buy the media, buy – therefore – the entire mindset of the country, buy the Supreme Court, dumb down education, especially the study of history, make college prohibitively expensive, repress dissent, create distracting enemies abroad (towelheads) and at home (fags), replace jobs with machines and cheap overseas workers, squeeze the economy so that money is scarce, and divide and conquer the 99 percent, so that those who miraculously still maintain a vestige of decent wages and benefits from an ancient civilization called 20th century America will be resented and torn-down by those already drowning.
It will get far worse before it gets better, if it does. The Wisconsin election was widely and correctly seen as a dry run for November, but in fact November is already as over as is May or April. The hapless Obama people may not have gotten the word, but they are as dead as the unions in Wisconsin that they didn’t bother to support. And Obama will go down in near-term, right-wing renderings of history as another Jimmy Carter. Meanwhile, stupid liberals, who slavishly admired a decidedly right-wing, militarist, ultra-statist, corporate-serving Democratic president, will sit holding their heads in surprise at the damage wrought to the president himself, to his party, and to their cherished liberal principles. Um, sorry, but have y’all been snoozing through Afghanistan and Pakistan? Did you miss the whole presidential-ordered assassinations program? Have you not heard what has happened to whistleblowers? Did you forget the tax cuts and the offer to dismantle Medicare? Have you been watching Fox and not heard about the growth of military spending? Did you not know that the health care bill was co-authored by, and for the benefit of, insurance and pharmaceutical companies? Have you not heard that our ultra-progressive president has done nothing whatsoever about the planetary über-crisis of global warming, other than to open vast new oil drilling fields? Did you not see in action the joy and wonder of Obamaism in 2010, the most devastating election for a political party in half a century, and coming only two years after the total meltdown of the GOP under Bush? Sorry, but this is the SOB you adored and went to the mat for?
This country’s future looks grim in so many ways. You can just feel the doors and windows shutting, one by one. Are we really so far off, given the displays we’ve already seen, from being a corporate-owned polity, in which oceans of Citizens United sponsored propaganda limits the cognitive landscape of an entire country, sham elections and a steady stream of brain-numbing high-def television gruel satisfies most of the (obese) public enough to keep them stuck on their sofas, while a massive police state armed with domestic drone aircraft and angry cops deal swiftly with the few remaining malcontents stupid enough to demand a return to the better country we once knew? You know, more or less a carbon copy of Putin’s Russia, here in North America.
So let’s get it straight. The Wisconsin battle was hugely important — an existential struggle for the US labor movement and working people in general, and a critical litmus test of the real nature of both President Obama and of the Democratic Party. And both the president and the party failed that test. Completely and deliberately.
Obama not only didn’t put in a single visit to Wisconsin during this long recall campaign; he went out of his way to steer well clear of the state, not even dropping in during a visit to Minneapolis a week before the vote, when he was 15 miles from Wisconsin, less than 100 miles from Eau Claire, and less than 300 miles from the capital of Madison, the epicenter of the recall battle.
The Obama campaign and the DNC decided long ago that they did not want to get involved in the Walker recall. Partly, they didn’t want to risk being in support of a losing effort. More importantly, they did not want to be identified with union activists. The truth is that the big money supporting both the DNC and the president’s campaign is corporate money, and those people simply don’t like unions. Also, the Obama “brain trust,” if you can really call these people smart after three and a half years of disastrous White House policies favoring the rich and the powerful, has decided that the way to a second term is by ignoring the poor, ignoring minorities, ignoring labor unions, ignoring working people, and instead focusing on “independent” and “undecided” voters.
That strategy, which was also used with some success by President Clinton, though in much different economic times, involves proposing a lot of targeted narrow legislative measures — for example a law to require equal pay for equal work — that have no chance of passage, and taking stands on narrow “wedge issues” — for example coming out in support of gay marriage, while still insisting it is an “issue for the states to decide.” These are not things that will energize anyone, least of all people who are “independent” or “undecided.”
When it comes the Democrats and this president, it has now been demonstrated unambiguously that labor and working people are completely expendable. The assumption in the Obama campaign, and at the DNC, has always been that progressives will vote for them in the end no matter how they are ignored and humiliated and undermined, because the alternative — the Republicans — are so much worse.
Wisconsinites — like the rest of the nation — are left in the coming Presidential election with picking the lesser of two fascists. Freedom from fascist and corporatist rule — and the scapegoating, sexism, nationalism, militarism, propaganda lies; and gutting of unions, education, environmental protection and civil liberties this implies — is a precondition to living justly, fairly and well; and to sustaining global ecology and social well-being long-term.
The American dream of hyper-consumption for some is over because it couldn’t be sustained ecologically or socially. America can’t expect to reap the ill-gotten benefits — all too often seized at the point of a gun — of 4% of Earth’s people consuming 25% of key global resources any longer. The 2.5 billion people globally living on $2 a day understandably want their fair share too. The natural and painful consequences of downsizing America’s extreme lifestyles and unwinding horrific disparities is sadly leading to demagoguery, a decline in truth telling, and yes, the rise of fascism in the American heartland.
America has lost its way. Our ecosystems and economic system are collapsing, fascism rising, and conflict growing — do we want societal and ecological collapse to come as we are at each other’s throats? Things are heading that way. We are becoming the terrorists we abhor. And all the reasons are evident in microcosm in Wisconsin. Decent, thoughtful folks in Wisconsin tried valiantly but ultimately failed for now to combat the John Birch, KKK, Tea Party inspired rise of hateful and destructive fascism. But the battle to retake our great state and country from the fascists has just begun.
"377 members of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans have given almost half a billion dollars to candidates of both parties, most of it in the last decade. The median contribution was $355,100 each."
Uh-huh. The sound you hear is the world's smallest violin, say, a teeny-tiny Stradivarius insured for millions. "Is there a group of people you can think of who have thinner skin than America's multimillionaires and billionaires?' Paul Waldman asks. "Wall Street titans have been whining for a couple of years now about the horror of people in politics criticizing ineffective banking regulations and the favorable tax treatment so many wealthy people receive... America's barons feel assaulted, victimized, wounded in ways that not even a bracing ride to your Hamptons estate in your new Porsche 911 can salve. And now that the presidential campaign is in full swing, their tender feelings are being hurt left and right."
An extraordinary event occurred on Wednesday in the august chamber where the US Senate Banking Committee meets. In a magnificent ceremony lasting two-and-a-quarter hours, JPMorgan Chase Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon sat on a throne constructed with “all the pomp of Oriental greatness,” while the various senators passed one by one, bending their knees, placing their hands within his, taking an oath of fealty, and rendering to him “the homage which had been previously agreed on.”
Dimon and other bank executives have played a significant part in the massive decline in US household income over the past four years. How many foreclosures, bankruptcies, layoffs, family breakups and suicides are the CEO of JPMorgan Chase and his fellow bank executives responsible for? How much homelessness, poverty and accumulated social misery? By rights, Dimon should be contemplating how much jail time he will face. Instead, he walks around a free man, living a life of opulence, having received $26 million in compensation in 2011 alone.
The assembled senators treated Dimon with reverence and awe. For the most part they provided him with a platform to denounce bank regulations, defend the “great American business machine,” and argue that the US had to “get its fiscal act in order,” i.e., that social programs had to be gutted to safeguard the wealth of the financial aristocracy. Dimon’s arrogance and his barely concealed contempt for the hearing were never dented. No mystery there, since almost all of the senators on the committee are, for all intents and purposes, on his payroll.
... Only six of the 22 members of the committee have not received money from JPMorgan Chase or its employees in recent election cycles, and two of those are retiring and no longer collecting campaign funds.