• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

In Praise of Chicken Feed

Economist and Obama-critic, Paul Krugman, has come out with an article in praise of the president’s performance.

Although himself a frequent critic of Obama, Krugman argues that the president did the best he could with what he had and that this best turned out better than not.

Krugman argues that Obama’s signature failure, healthcare, was in fact a singular success because nothing more was realistically possible and because, for all its imperfections, more Americans are covered at better rates than before, even if Big Pharma and Big Sure are making out like bandits.

In paradigm, the same argument is made with respect to the economy, the environment, civil liberties ,  and America’s Wars Abroad.  The Republicans obstruct everything and Obama does what he can be executive order, proxy or circumvention.

Krugman’s argument betrays its own fallacy. It is a Quisling’s defeatist and temporizing argument.  What next?  Praise for Jewish Ghetto Councils?   The premise (that nothing better could be achieved) concedes the war.
Krugman then turns his guns on “liberals” and excoriates them for expecting pie in the sky.

"There’s a different story on the left, where you now find a significant number of critics decrying Obama as, to quote Cornel West, someone who ''posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit.'' They're outraged that Wall Street hasn't been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ''neoliberal'' economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have con- strained even his much more modest efforts. It's hard to take such claims seriously."

Gag, gag and gag.

Our first gag is over “now” although the timing may not be Krugman’s fault.  We blew the whistle on Obama’s counterfeit back in July 2009 (Fauxbama), and that was after a self-imposed silence of six months.   If it took near two terms for the “left” to realize the cheat, they are dumber than rocks.

Our second gag is over “left.”  Americans, including Krugman, are hopelessly confused at a root political level.  They actually think that “liberal” is “left” and, when this crashes into the contradiction of “neo-liberal,” they compound their confusion by resorting to other labels like, “progressive” — which is kind of ironic when one takes into account that the only folks making progress these days are the Koch Bros. Inc.

To resort to a modern, techie metaphor, the confusion is like a corruption at the master boot record of a disc.  Americans are continually booting up into the wrong OS on a misnamed volume and when they try to run their mis-matched apps they are baffled by the crash.

Liberals are not left.  They accept the fundamentals of the capitalist system and merely hanker after ameliorative reforms -- usually cosmetic socio-cultural ones at that.

At least half, if not three-quarters, of the liberal agenda consists in self-indulgent “personal choice” issues coupled with some sort of guilt that comes from living on the Upper West Side.

The other quarter of their concerns may be perhaps deal with real issues of political-economy like income distribution and commerce-regulation and with real environmental issues such as carbon emissions and habitat destruction but they do so on the level of symptoms which they assume can be treated and controlled in isolation.  They have no grasp of material dialectics (yes, I said it!). Their weltanschauung is mere prettiness.

I wish I could say that “progressives” were simply fascists with flowers in their hairs.  But the sorry truth is that they do not even go that far — assuming one understands what Fascism and Gothism really were and why they were able to pose as a resolution of capitalist contradictions without going the last nine socialist yards.

Let me be blunt,

"The superfluities of the rich are the necessities of the poor. When you possess superfluities, you possess what belongs to others." (St. Augustine)
What is a superfluity?  An iPod? A hybrid Prius? A mortgage?  Is sustainably and humanely raised pork, at four times the cost and ten dollars a pound, a necessity or a superfluity? 

Most of the liberals I know are comparatively well off, by which I mean simply that they have those sorts of things I have just enumerated.  For all their good intentions and aspirations for a better world they are blind to the fact that they are just as much beneficiaries of a cruel and predatory system as the Koch Brothers.  They only benefit a little less.  But, no less, what they possess belongs to others.

Do they think that chip-making factories are better than the textile mills of yore or that one bends over less to pick an organic lettuce than a sprayed one?  If the system is based on a hierarchy of exploitations, then the less you have the more you are exploited and the more you have the more you possess off the sweat of others.

Certain tasks must be accomplished regardless of system and most of them are mindless, boring and tiring.  The difference lies solely in the recompense.  Is one man’s life more worthy of leisure or less worthy of consideration than another’s?  In displacing their guilt onto racial, sexual, and other topical issues liberals avoid confronting their more fundamental guilt on political economic ones.

There is no left in the United States, and increasingly so in the rest of the world.  There is simply a faction of people who would like things to be a little better for others without having to give up too much themselves.

Our third gag concerns “barriers.”  Krugman is right to postulate that barriers to change exist.  Only a moron would think otherwise.  But the quisling spirit of his piece lies in the tacit assumption than these barriers are immutable. 

Krugman may have a point when he argues that eloquence alone will not overcome the stasis quo of the American socio-economic-political construct.  But he underestimates the moving force of words — what the Ancients called “eloquence” and what in  American political parlance is called “momentum.”

There was a huge groundswell of disgust leading to support of Obama and he directly and consciously capitalized on it.  Once in office, however, he fell silent and let his momentum spin without traction. He did not even try to take advantage of his first one hundred days.  He did not even try to bring political pressure to bear.  He fell from talking about change to talking about awaiting Congress to put something on his desk to sign.  That was not “failure.” It was “betrayal.”

Krugman attempts to blunt the point of betrayal by banging it against the stonewall of a troglodyte Congress. We are far from convinced that the political barrier was as surmountable as Krugman makes it out to be.  The Democrats were one vote short of cloture.  I am certain an LBJ could have made a worm like Lieberman  squirm in the right direction.

The fact is that Obama had better numbers (59/41) than Bush II’s 50/50 Senate split in his first term and his 44 to 55 split in the second.  In fact, Obama had better numbers than LBJ’s 68 minus 22 Dixiecrats.  Somehow, despite a mere effective 46 Democrats, Johnson still managed to pass the Civil Rights Act which was at least as divisive as health care.

Well, the feeble excuse arises, Obama was a newbie. Then he should have stayed in kindergarten and the Democrats had no business running him forward.

It is charitable to call Obama “useless.” In fact he was a put up job; a species of political black face put forward to sucker liberals and to quell swelling political disgust with teleprompted promises.  That is the ugly truth.

Chickens Enjoying their Freedumb to Roam

But Krugman’s “fatalistic realism” makes a more fundamental mistake.  Ever stupid, Americans think they are being sophisticated and pragmatic when they dismiss something as mere rhetoric.  And so, Krugman intones that mere eloquence would not have overcome barriers.

Krugman is wrong. It is true that words will not hold back the sea.  But they will move men.  The Ancients understood this, which is why ambitious men put a premium on studying rhetoric. 

Eloquence can and does overcome political barriers  --  but only when it is coordinated, persistent and used strategically.  This is the ergon of politics and those who fail to do it will suffer defeat and irrelevance. 

The Republicans understand this, which is why and how they built the “Reagan Revolution” on ten years worth of non-stop rhetoric.  They defined the debate and they did so by and endless repetition of words which defined the past and delineated the future. 

Like any good rhetorician they understood their audience just as a good trial lawyer understands his jury.  Republicans knew and still know which buttons to push to make the Murkan Knee jerk reflexively.  The trite and treacle need not be repeated.  We all ought to know it by now.  (Fourth gag)

What I have called “rhetoric” more modern types like to call propaganda or political education or some such.  But by whatever name, it is the real stuff of politics in any system.

The barrier to progress is actually the empty moat of the Democrat Party.  Democrats do not have a “message” or a “context.”  They are literally pointless and being so have nothing to drive home.  Like Ghetto Jewish Councils, they are more concerned with their own political survival.  Whores have more conviction that the Democrats.  Some whores refuse to swallow.  No Democrat will.

Rumour has it that Bernie Sanders is pondering a run.  Ditto Elizabeth Warren.  We have far more confidence in the honesty of their palaver than we ever did about Obama’s.  But the fact they are pondering a run indicates to us that they are fundamentally clueless and useless.

What good would a Sanders or Warren victory do?  By itself nothing.  We will be back to hearing Krugman make the same Quisling arguments for them. 

For their victory to be effective they must also carry the House and the Senate.  But that is just as effectively impossible because the system is constitutionally structured to prevent change.  How can people who have studied politics not understand this? 

The Senate cannot be changed at all except through three elections over an eighteen year period, which  consistently produce a uniform ideological result.  Staggering three sets of six term elections all but a priori precludes any possible change.

Abolition of the Senate or, at least revision of its method of election, is a sine qua non of any real political change.  Otherwise one might as well bank on changing the Pentagon or the Federal Reserve.

And, in fact, changing the Pentagon and the Federal Reserve is at least as important as changing the Senate.

We are where we are because the established organs of social, political and economic life have basically bought into the Republican mantra.  When Obama says he firmly believes in American Exceptionalism, he all but pledges allegiance to Saint Reagan.

What is required is a radical revision of America’s way of thinking and this requires years of work in the political vineyards.

The Republicans got where they are by years of work on college campuses, church rectories, editorial rooms, factory floors, bar-rooms, movie studios — always in bold ways and subtle pushing their message.

Zionist Israeli Hasbarah works in the same way. If AIPAC defines the context and the message with respect to the Middle East it is only because they have worked at it legislatively, institutionally, editorially, ecumenically, educationally and infotainingly since the early 1970s.  They instruct Jews on how to argue Israel’s case and urge them to let no adverse comment slip by, even if it only amounts to answering and “correcting” some “hostile” comment on the Daily Iowan blog page.

And the Democrats?  Falling over one another for thirty years trying to distance themselves from the word liberal or from being seen as weak on defense or hostile to business.

The “left” (the vestigial real one) is hardly any better.  Their hasbarah ends up being endless monologues over Marxist Doctrine, usually clarifying dialectical profundities from the 1930s.

What America — and indeed the world — truly needs is a new socio-economic, environmental and political phalanx one that will cut to the chase with clarity, precision and ruthlessness.

Krugman’s apologia for Obama avoids cracking hard nuts and urges us to be content with chicken feed.