What Could Have Been

I was going through this post I did at Daily Kos to refresh my memory on condoms. But as I read it, I was struck by how current it still seems, and relevant to everything we’ve been discussing here lately.

Sorry, But the Democrats Have Failed Again

I’m literally sick to my stomach. I have been for a few days now. I know this will be unpopular among some here. But I don’t care. I see very few facing the reality of what has happened with the stimulus package, and the historical opportunity our Democratic leaders have just thrown down the drain.

Our country is at a crossroads. The kind Roosevelt faced when he entered office in 1932. It is a time for vision, boldness, and courageous leadership. What should have happened was the Democrats put together a big, unifying vision for the future – a Rebuilding America Act.

Like Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon, this act should have inspired Americans to look forward again and see a better future through the clouds of our current crisis. It should have been both far reaching and immediate. ‘We will rebuild America and we will start now.’

It should have been almost entirely dedicated to converting and rebuilding our nations infrastructure. 800 thousand million dollars is a lot of money. We could have launched a massive plan to build high speed rail across the country. Build solar and wind farms. Build thousands of new, smaller schools to keep kids in their communities and allow parents to get involved in their children’s education.

A grand vision to mobilize millions of Americans to not just get out of our rut, but to actually create something better than we’ve known before. That’s what we could do with almost a trillion dollars.

Instead, we got a spending bill. I’ve actually read the Senate version version of the bill. I agree with much of what’s in it as a spending bill. By all means, grow the government. It’s a big country and we need a big government. Sorry Bill [Clinton]. Sorry Ronnie. And yes, growing the government will create some jobs.

But as a stimulus bill, it is a joke. Both economically, and politically. Let’s talk about the politics for a second. Obama and the Democratic leadership should have known that they would have to have the support of the public to pass an 800 billion dollar plan. Surely they didn’t think that they could pull another stunt like the TARP, slipping it through before the public even had a chance to figure out what had happened.

This stimulus package was always going to be different. It’s one thing to bail out powerful bankers. Quite another to bail out the people. Surely we’ve learned that by now. Opposition to any big spending bill that goes to voters was always guaranteed. An idiot could have told you that.

A massive spending bill like this could create generations of dedicated Democrats. Mudcat Saunders likes to talk about how in the old days, people had two pictures on their wall, Jesus, and FDR. My grandparents on had one picture on their wall. It wasn’t Jesus.

This is why it was imperative for the Democrats to have a powerful, uniting vision. Something that would give the American people a beacon of light in this dark era. A big bold rebuild America plan.

Instead, Nancy Pelosi and liberals in the House decided to make this a catchall for pet Democratic programs they’ve been wanting for years. I know, I know. It’s “less than 1%”, as Obama said today.

But this completely fails understand the political calculation here. One minute Obama’s hopping TV interviews expressing the urgency of this bill. And the next, Republicans are talking about a provision for condoms.

‘What is so urgent about condoms’, I’m sure many less informed Americans are wondering. And they would have a point. How is that going to create jobs and stimulate the economy. For someone who has just lost their job, they may think that the Democrats are insane.

On the economic side, almost all discussion of the inflationary aspects of borrowing this money and spending it on things that don’t create real wealth when you’re done. By using the money to invest in infrastructure, you create real value assets like bridges, rail lines, dams etc. As much as we on the left love our government programs, they are far less counter-inflationary.

Again, however, I support the increases in government programs. They would have been great in Obama’s 2010 budget. And with the political capital he would have gained by moving the country towards a bold and exciting new vision, he could have gotten many of them passed.

But there’s another missed opportunity here that may be an even greater loss. And it concerns the philosophical. To my sheer amazement, I have seen little or no repudiation to the failed economic and political philosophy that allowed this calamity to occur in the first place. Alan Greenspan himself conceded that “there is a flaw in the model.”

But you won’t hear anything resembling that from Obama’s economic team. To the contrary, they appear to be doing everything possible to preserve the corrupt, greedy system of Wild West capitalism that has led us here.

In fact, that appears to be the reason why Democrats have failed to provide a bold vision – they don’t want to engage the argument, first laid out by Reagan, that government can do nothing right and the free market’s invisible hand will lead us to prosperity.

They don’t want to defend a government of the people that the Founders fought, died, and killed for. They don’t want to concede to the American public that the reign of laissez faire, conservative, market as god economics is a failure.

This is perhaps the greatest failure. This act was an opportunity to make a correction. To say to all the Greenspans out there, we tried your way now twice, and both times, it resulted in economic disaster.

No, there will be no change today.

The neoliberal Marie Antoinette’s love the current order of things. They get their cake and eat it too. And the Democrats are unwilling to take them on. This bonus pay order is nothing but a cheap stunt. Make everyone feel that some accountability just happened while preserving the very system that allows the parasite class to feed off the public trough. I love Clair McCaskill, but please, CEO bonuses are the least of our problems. Our entire financial and monetary system is an elaborate ponzi scheme. And bonuses is all you can muster the nerve to attack?

The monied classes know full well how a major crisis can affect things. Naomi Klein’s shock therapy can go both ways. The New Deal proved that. But this is not the 1930s. And the monied elites control the most powerful mass persuasion tool in the history of humans – television.

And incredibly, the Democrats have allowed the Republicans and the corporate media to put them on trial. According to Think Progress, Republicans have dominated the airwaves by a ratio of 2-1. You can blame the corporate media, and I do. But, as usual, Democrats have just bent over and taken it.

Yes, I feel sick. If there was one area for the Democrats to stand up and show some spine, to finally take on the failed ideology of the Right, and to set our country on a new, different path towards economic justice and accountability, this stimulus bill was it. They failed. They will always fail. They’re working for the other team.

I’m sorry. I know we all had great hopes. But it’s up to us.

19 comments

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    • Edger on November 18, 2009 at 21:31

    that this would be unpopular here, Tocque. Most people here know that the whole system is teetering and may collapse completely, and most people here have been facing that reality squarely for a long time.

    As Chris Hedges put it awhile back:

       The corporate managers and government officials trying to fix the economic meltdown are pouring money and resources into the financial sector because they are trained only to manage and sustain the established system, not change it.

       [snip]

       “Bankrupt corporate capitalism is on its way to bankrupting the socialism that is trying to save it,” he added. “That is the end stage. If they no longer have socialism to save them, then we are into feudalism. We are into private police, gated communities, and serfs with a 21st-century nomenclature.”

       The United States will not be able to raise another $3- or $4-trillion, especially with our commitments now totalling more than $12-trillion, to fix the mess.

       It was not long ago that such profligate government spending was unthinkable. There was an $800-billion limit placed on the Federal Reserve. The economic stimulus and the bailouts will not bring back our casino capitalism. And as the meltdown shows no signs of abating, and the bailouts show no sign of working, the recklessness and desperation of our capitalist overlords have increased.

       The cost to the working and middle class is becoming unsustainable. The Fed reported that households lost $5.1-trillion, or 9 per cent, of their wealth in the last three months of 2008, the most ever in a single quarter in the 57-year history of record-keeping by the central bank. For the full year, household wealth dropped $11.1-trillion, or about 18 per cent.

       These figures did not record the decline of investments in the stock market, which has probably erased trillions more in the country’s collective net worth.

       The bullet to our head, inevitable if we do not radically alter course, will be sudden. We have been borrowing at the rate of more than $2-billion a day over the last 10 years, and at some point it has to stop. The moment China, the oil-rich states, and other international investors stop buying U.S. Treasury Bonds, the dollar will become junk.

       Inflation will rocket upward. We will become Weimar Germany. A furious and sustained backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually and psychologically for collapse, will sweep aside the Democrats and most of the Republicans.

       A cabal of proto-fascist misfits, from Christian demagogues to simpletons like Sarah Palin to loudmouth talk-show hosts, whom we na├»vely dismiss as buffoons, will find a following with promises of revenge and moral renewal. The elites, the ones with their Harvard Business School degrees and expensive vocabularies, will retreat into their sheltered enclaves of privilege and comfort. We will be left bereft, abandoned outside the gates, and at the mercy of the security state.

    No bailout can stop the sinking, July 31, 2009, excerpted from Empire of Illusion

    I wish I had an answer, or even a suggestion of a solution… it may be that only a collapse will make enough give up hope of saving a collapsing system and start rebuilding something new that works.

  1. The Democratic Party has been a neoliberal political party since 1973, and lost its last meaningful remnant of populist Keynesianism in 1988, when its nominee was Michael Dukakis.

    Rational, ordinary human beings hang on to the Democratic Party because it’s the “only game in town”; they all need to be developing a new game, and quickly.

    Remember, consistent government efforts to prop up the profit rates of capital have only compounded the surplus of capital existing in the system; and as the surplus grows larger and larger with respect to the real opportunities for profit (which themselves shrink as the global growth rate declines from decade to decade), the political power of capital grows.  At some point they will attempt to impose a totalitarian dictatorship so that their profit rate will survive the unprofitability of life in general.  

    Failed ideology means nothing at this point.  What counts is the money that’s paying for ideological policy, ideological propaganda, ideological dirty deeds.

  2. Photobucket

    Photobucket
    Okay Rahm I agree, let’s give the Insurance & Drug Companies
    everything they want. It’s still reform…if we call it reform
    .”

  3. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing———

    And it may be too late in invoking Jim Morrison, a fellow 60’s alumnus: The time to hesistate is through———–

    The historical opportunity continues to slip away as I type.   What in the world are they doing? It seems like they all have paralysis of analysis. Not only do I not see a unifying theme, I don’t even see a shred of a plan. It’s like they’re winging it as they go. This is beyond party philosopy (any party), it’s just plain stupefying. Who the hell are these guys?

    And I agree Toque, an historical opportunity to make a deep connection with the mass of the people is squandered.

    • TMC on November 19, 2009 at 06:34

    but not by anything you’ve written because as sick as it makes you, it makes most of us here just as sick. The stimulus bill missed the boat. There should have been no pork no matter how worthy the need unless it created jobs. Unless the Obama administration starts closing tax loop holes that make it more attractive to send jobs overseas and concentrates on small business, all the stimulus bills in the world will not reverse the downward spiral of the US economy. I’m not even sure what any oof us can do about it.

    • TMC on November 19, 2009 at 06:34

    but not by anything you’ve written because as sick as it makes you, it makes most of us here just as sick. The stimulus bill missed the boat. There should have been no pork no matter how worthy the need unless it created jobs. Unless the Obama administration starts closing tax loop holes that make it more attractive to send jobs overseas and concentrates on small business, all the stimulus bills in the world will not reverse the downward spiral of the US economy. I’m not even sure what any oof us can do about it.

  4. had the Great Depression had occurred with the current players and system in place in this country, including Democrats (yes, Obama, too) trying desperately to please their enemies, both political and corporate?  And Faux Noose had been around back then to provide their inimitable “fair and unbalanced” news of the day?

    Quite likely, had FDR’s enemies been able to prevail (and, despite what many may believe, there was a certain segment of society that furiously opposed all that he stood for), we might have reverted to Third World status prior to the mid-point of the mid-20th century.

    For those who were around in the 1970s, the words to the following well-known sit-com theme song highlight the anti-FDR sentiment that persisted for decades to follow:


    • Inky99 on November 19, 2009 at 17:25

    We’re sending billions to other countries and on our military presence in other countries to “rebuild” them, while here at home …..

    • banger on November 19, 2009 at 21:32

    But there’s another missed opportunity here that may be an even greater loss. And it concerns the philosophical. To my sheer amazement, I have seen little or no repudiation to the failed economic and political philosophy that allowed this calamity to occur in the first place.

    This is the crux of all the issues we get heated about around here. I was struck in the 70’s that there was no repudiation of the policies that brought us Vietnam. After we left Vietnam there was hardly a murmur either in political circles or in the MSM on the issue. They clearly wanted to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. Only years later they started talking about the “Vietnam Syndrome” that kept us from military adventures. It was talked about as if the press and pols could hardly wait until we could get rid of it so we could unleash our vast military to bomb the shit our of someone. Well, they ran stuff like Grenada just to test the waters and found them comfortable and the rest is history.

    The narrative is supreme. It is more powerful that the oligarchy — there is usually some variation of cliques and personalities within the oligarchy but never any variation in the central narrative of American Exceptionalism. Mistakes were made, they say — as if they mistakes just sneak out from behind a bush somewhere and thrust themselves into history. Basic policy is never a mistake. If we massacre people it is a sad incident of collateral damage never deliberate terrorism. In fact the U.S., like Israel, use terror as its cheap means of warfare. Bombing civilians is official military policy and it is done to scare the shit out of everybody. I’ve seen this in documents. Torture is deliberate policy and has been throughout our history. We pretended, after we signed the Geneva accords that we were “civilized”. Just talk to some guys who were in Vietnam and you’ll hear something quite different. When you are shot at for a few months you think nothing of chopping someone’s fingers off.

    Until we can change the narrative and start injecting facts we progressives will not be heard at all. The current narrative is the most devoid of facts of any narrative I’ve ever seen promoted in this country. It is utter idiocy. Nothing talked about in the MSM is true even if it may have some basis in fact. It is always spun in such a way that it is no longer true — even the weather gets spun in order to increase viewership or whatever.

    Our task has to be to encourage dialectic and encourage the acceptance of facts that we could, if we were interested in, actually agree to. For example, the basic facts of HCR are virtually unknown and unremarked upon — yet slip over to the OECD site and see the latest figures — there you have a basis for discussion. If you don’t use figures that like that you are just fantasizing and that’s all the MSM does with the occasional glimpsoid of facts coming in occasionally but never followed up.

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