Thursday, August 26, 2010

Getting out in front of the issues

It's long mystified me why the remnant "left" in this country is constitutionally unable to get in front of issues small and large and lead into that new day dawning that used to be so important.

Instead, the "left" constantly reacts to rightist garbage, desperately trying to hang on to the shreds and tatters of a status quo the rightists are only too happy to yank out of their hands.

This has been going on for years and years, decades now, and it is really bewildering.

It's not for lack of ideas. Why just the other day, the New America Foundation came out with a neat little proposal to double Social Security payments to help get the economy "moving" again. Well, there's an idea. Gee. The only problem with it is that the deficit scolds have long since been banging the gong about cutting Social Security to the point where doing so is all but inevitable.

The idea of increasing Social Security payments should have been broached the instant the economy turned sour. I think I did at the time suggest that low-end Social Security payments be doubled or tripled for just that economic purpose. Not only that, but I thought the eligibility age should be reduced to 55 so as to free up jobs for younger workers. I also suggested that because households were drowning in debt, instead of paying off the banks' gambling debts (the Fed just held out the promise of another round of payouts to the banks), payments -- large payments ($80,000 was a figure I remember mentioning) -- should be made directly to households to clear debt or for the purchase of particularly important goods and services (like green-fitting homes and such) in order to goose the economy.

Robert Reich has been advocating a "payroll tax holiday" for quite a while, and the other day he added a nuance: cancel payroll taxes on the first $20,000 of income, and pay for it with an additional payroll tax on those making more than $250,000. This is good.

But we are years into this Endless Recession, and the policies out of Washington have been like Hoover's policies dealing with the Depression. They really haven't helped any but the banks and the upper one percent. They've been devastating for the middle and working class, by design.

Why the so-called "left" isn't out in front of economic issues is bewildering. In fact, Democratic Party economic policy is as Hooverite as that of the White House, and commentators on the so-called "left" are at best ambivalent about what to do -- typified by Paul Krugman's fretting about this and that.

Why aren't self-styled progressives out in front of the war issues? Not just saying "no" but saying what would be the better policy.

We could go on and on.

In the United States what passes for the "left" is reactionary, depending on the rightists for issues to respond to. The "left" is desperately clinging to shreds of the status quo for dear life, rather than coming up with a vibrant new vision for the future.

As I pointed out earlier regarding the mosque issue, the appropriate position on it is "No," not because it is Muslim, but because it is religious -- and we don't need more religion, there or anywhere else. Religion and religious fervor is part of the problem. But putting it that way is getting in front of the issue, and that would be... rude.

Let's be clear: our government is rightist through and through. One party is insane, the other is its enabler. Neither has any interest in serving the People. The People are passive in the face of these facts in part because they see no sign at all that anyone able to lead is interested in leading toward correct solutions. Many apparently thought Obama would be the one and have been sorely disappointed. But surely they know that putting the bloodthirsty plunderers back in charge for another round of looting and disaster is not a good idea.

But that's the political alternative to the disappointment so many feel. Madmen or their enablers.

If we on the "left" could actually get out in front of issues, present a coherent framework for positive change and follow through, what a wonderful world this would be. But no.

Can't do that.



  1. Che,

    You've hit here on a set of issues that have made me think and write a lot today.

    Some of that appeared at Greenwald's place today on his piece on Beck's exploitation of people's fears and his fanning racist and ethnic divisions.

    My basic point was that Obama has always been a corporate Democrat and this is why working people will bolt to Beck or anyone else that seems to be on their side rather than the corporation's.

    Why does the left not get out on issues?

    I'm not sure that they aren't. I guess you mean something like, why isn't the news cycle focused on some left issues for a change?

    Again, I think this can be explained by who controls the content of the news cycle. They are all about corporate and very little about exposing corporate corruption, for example, or politicians who do corporate bidding.

    'Single payer' is a lefty issue, and has been out front, not just a response to a right-wing news cycle fracas. The 'single payer' people put together a solid proposal as a result of a close study of American health care realities and its problems for working people. It's proponents were out front.

    However, that position was not discussed in Congress when it came time to make legislation "reforming" health care this last year. It wasn't considered because it was clear to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries that single payer would cut their profits drastically in the service of the American people. Hence, the effort to squelch any far-reaching understanding of what 'single payer' proponents were talking about.

    Cutting back on the wars and the military weapons systems in this country has been another issue whe54re the left has been out front. But now, too many Democrats as well as Republicans are funded , or owned, by the inustries involved. It isn't in their interest for us to give up our world policeman badges.

    Being for butter rather than guns has been a lefty issue, one they've been out front with, for a long time. The lefties are always going on and on about how education and human services are suffering while weapons makers and the army are swimming in cash.

    There have been issues where the left has been out front and where the right has had to play catch up.

    You complain that the left isn't more out front, and that they aren't more successful against their right-wing opposition. I think this can be explained by how much money is available to the right that isn't available to the left.

    Another reason the left doesn't seem to be holding its own is that it has been a creation of Marxist analysis of the economy. That is, reality is a matter of owners and workers where the owners have too much of evberything and the workers have been getting scraps. It's a good analysis of what's going on, but, the right has developed a number of responses, like libertarianism, which the left has not figured out how to counter.

    You seem frustrated that workers who are now suffering the consequences of corporate control of the political culture are likely going to bolt for the right wingers this year, and not stand with their left defenders. It seems like they are voting against their own interests.

    The problem is that Obama and too many of the Democrats are corporate stooges, as you have pointed out, and people will want to find someone who won't betray them. Beck, et al, seem to be on the worker's side, which makes them forget about the racism and ethnic divisiveness, for awhile.

    They may be madmen, but madmen who seem to be their madmen.

  2. Steven,

    Sorry to be so tardy in replying to your thoughtful comment. For some reason I missed the fact that you'd posted.

    Of course Obama has always been a Corporatist, and since he started on his quest for the Presidency, he's been an Imperialist-Warmonger, too. This was really obvious to me during the campaign, so I'm not particularly disappointed in the way he's governed -- though I don't like it.

    That anyone would feel "bamboozled" by him just seems odd to me. He was pretty straightforward about who he was and how he would behave as President from the get-go. And he's stuck with it, more's the pity.

    He's obviously no leftist, not even remotely. I characterize him as a modern-day version of Herbert Hoover. And in that regard, we need to remember that Hoover was an Old Line Republican Progressive who had already had a remarkable career when he ascended to the White House. But Progressivism is not "leftism." In fact, it is at loggerheads with the Left. This is something that is barely understood today at all. Progressivism -- at least in Hoover's day -- was culturally very conservative, and was fiscally corporatist. Internationally, it was imperialist.

    Its modern-day revivalists don't seem to know or understand the history of the Progressive movement and what it became in the United States. It's often mischaracterized as socialism/leftism, and it is nothing of the kind. The modern revival of Progressivism is more Libertarian than the earlier incarnation, and it seems to have somewhat more of a social conscience, but it is still not Leftist.

    What remains of a real left in this country does have a very strong issues-based policy prescription -- way out in front of anything you might find in the so-called lefty blogosphere. Of course it gets no media coverage at all, not even in the blogosphere, where its very existence is hardly recognized. I link to the Trotskyite World Socialist Website in part to make it clear that there really is a genuine leftist point of view (well, more than one!) and a whole raft of policies from the left on behalf of the People.

    But you'd never know there was such an alternative point of view if you were only exposed to the prominent media in this country -- and its critics.

    "Single Payer" is an interesting failure. Media almost never uses that term, so the public doesn't know what it is. Captive government doesn't allow even the discussion of it or what it represents. Its advocates, who are legion, cannot get inside the gates of the palace, cannot get a hearing before the King. And the so-called left -- in the blogosphere at any rate -- does not help at all.

    It's very frustrating. More frustrating is that so much of the public face of the "left" in this country cannot define itself and can't do much of anything but react to the ravings of the rightists -- with OUTRAGE!!!™.

    But it doesn't get you anywhere.



  3. Che,

    Talk more about distinctions between Progressivism and Leftism.

    I had thought that there was no difference, and I have to admit, did not care if there were any historical differences.

    I am impressed, instead, by the idea that the anti-corporatists, be they rithtists, or leftists, have more in common than they do with the Corporatists, even if they are in the same Party.