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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Chicken Feed & Moralizing Hypocrisy


No sooner was Hillary’s loss a done failure in New Hampshire, than the New York Times fired a broadside at Bernie.

In a front page Op-Ed, Marc Schmitt of the “New America” foundation declared that the era of expansive liberalism was over; the future belonged to invisible incrementalism. 
“The essence of Mr. Sanders’s version of liberalism is government programs. Expansive initiatives that provide benefits to a broad cross-class constituency,...

“That’s in sharp contrast to the policy approach of the Obama administration since about 2011, and also to Hillary Clinton and most of Mr. Sanders’s congressional colleagues...

“[T]he future of social and economic policy will involve, for better or worse, these complex, incremental and often invisible changes, instead of big programs.”

If one substitutes the word “chicken-feed” for “incrementalism” you know all you need to know about Hillary’s “progressivity” and the Times’ left-over centrism. 

Schmitt’s piece cannot be considered a “guest column” printed — on the front page — as “diversity of view.”  The New America foundation is headed by Anne-Marie Slaughter a political intimate of Hillary Clinton whom the Times has endorsed for president.  Schmitt’s piece is a Times broadside in alter voce and represents what the Times thinks is bad about Sanders and good about Clinton.

Feel the Invisibility

One might wonder exactly what “often invisible” changes might be.  Does the author of this assertive piece mean  “You’re feeling better, you just don’t feel it.” ?

Actually, yes. He goes on to say, “Citizens don’t see or feel these initiatives and may not know that they are benefiting from a government initiative at all.”

Not only do they not feel the benefits, the benefits might actually not exist! 

As an example of invisible incrementality, Schmitt cites an obscure regulatory tweak which will “set millions of Americans up with low risk, low-cost retirement savings accounts.”  Five paragraphs later, Schmitt acknowledges that the tweak will “not be enough to meet the shortfall in Americans’ retirement savings or reduce inequality of wealth.”

Rejoice!  Not only will you not feel the invisible benefit, you won’t be benefitted at all!  You will be incrementally less screwed.
Think tanks are the modern version of feudal vassals or roman clientela.   All three are made up of interlocking (and often inter-marrying) networks  of  patronage existing through  complex social bonds in service of agreed upon socio-economic-military interests as symbolized in some grand personage.   Roman clients were expected to attend, applaud and make  hubbub about and for their patrons, including  a display of Fumbling the Scrolls (Oh how many scrolls!) in the great man’s wake.   

In the present case, the New York Times is simply orchestrating the parade.  What it and Hillary’s coterie have decided is that, for better or worse, the incremental benefits will be so eensy teensy weensy, you won’t even notice them!  Hurrah for “common sense” programs.  Phooey on big, broad, gauche liberalism!

But the Times did not only have Bernie in its sights.  It was taking aim just as much at Theodore Roosevelt who, back in 1910, pronounced,
“Where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the national government...

“The New Nationalism puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage. It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local legislatures attempting to treat national issues as local issues. It is still more impatient of the impotence which springs from overdivision of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring national activities to a deadlock."

Contrast,  the New York/New America Times Op-Ed,
"[Hillary’s] agendas are most interesting and novel for the absence of big, universal programs that require legislative action. Instead, they test the limits of what government can do by rearranging the pieces of existing programs, using regulations, incentives to states, tax credits and “nudges” informed by behavioral economics in place of direct spending."

Most interesting?”  Certainly not “novel.”  What the Times is advocating — and what it makes abundantly clear that Hillary is trumpeting — is a return to what did not work under Wilson or Hoover. 

Nudges  informed by behavioral economics”?  What the hell is that?  It’s Hooverian “volunteerism” dressed up in millenial-speak; for the difference between Hoover and Roosevelt was not that Hoover did nothing, but that he refrained from “broad-based” mandatory national programs to address a national crisis.   

Hillary’s ghosted Op-Ed is also hard nudge advocacy for Justice Rhenquist’s “New Federalism” — the core of which was his engineered devolution of power to the "laboratory of the states"  (quoth) as testers and tinkerers’ of social fixes. 
A fuller-bore reaction could hardly be imagined. Rehnquist’s New Federalism might better have been called the New Feudalism, because the States were holdovers from the pre-monarchical era.  No — I am not making this up.  The Andrus Plan of 1688 had sought to consolidate the colonies into a single Dominion in common; but the Colonies (that is the Chief Families in them) revolted at the prospect of loosing their manorial privileges, including some rather peculiar ones.

It is hardly unfettered imagination to imagine Rehnquist slurring and salivating at how the States were best suited to “test” and incrementally  “experiment” with social issues such as Negro slavery.

After writing a clerk’s memo against desegregation in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) — (“I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by "liberal" colleagues, but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.") —  Rehnquist went back to Arizona were he became national campaign manager for Barry Goldwater...   Hillary Clinton’s own youthful hero.
To ramble on in this vein may seem like a digression, but it is actually not.  It helps to put things in historical context because the Times hopes you wont.  

It supported Clinton (II) because he “refashioned the Democratic Party’s approach to government”  He “stood up to the spendthrifts in his own party”  He “bucked the democratic leadership to secure the free trade agreement”   In the same breath, without a blush, it lauded Clinton’s “promise” to ease “unfair attacks on the poor and legal immigrants.”

It supported Mondale noting that, “He has laudably continued the deregulation begun by Jimmy Carter.” 

It endorsed McGovern, Humphrey, Johnson and Kennedy because Goldwater was a loose cowboy and because the Times bore a deep (and mutual) animosity against Nixon on account of the latter’s anti-semitism and hopelessly pathetic, back water petite bourgeois background.

But this apparent liberalism was only “situational” like the occasional lapse at a truck stop. More true to form it  endorsed Eisenhower twice, Thomas Dewey twice and Wendell Wilkie over FDR.

In 1936   the editorial board pronounced, “The New York Times, a conservative newspaper in its own sphere, believes that the public interest will best be served” by the reelection of Roosevelt because the president will “make his second Adminstration more conservative than the first”  and his reelection will provide insurance against radicalism of the sort which the United States [i.e. its ruling class] has most to fear.”

1933 endorsed FDR because “his speeches have not [sic] indicated clear and strong and burning convictions.... Imagine what would have been done by such a man as William J. Bryan...!” 

In 1912 it endorsed Wilson first, Taft second... any one but Roosevelt third.  “It would be an ill omen and ... want of sense if so large a part of the people should yield to the appeals of Mr. Roosevelt.
This sketch of the Times’ editorial trajectory indicates what a fundamentally conservative paper the Times actually is.   It may espouse socially symbolic “liberal” causes on behalf of “cognized groups” but it reacts with horror and disparagement at any “broad based” programs aimed at ending the economic alienation of the working class.

Let us be clear.  The fundamental injustice of the U.S. political economy is that it alienates the worker from the fruits of his own productivity.  He produces economic value (“profit”) but it accrues to others rather than himself. To make matters worse he is economically oppressed by a variety of taxes, fees and other transfers of wealth labelled as “cost of living.”  His work itself is alienated from his own free will.  It is not an expression of anything he wants or of any collaboration among self-owning men; rather he is simply a unit of labour (a “human resource”) in someone else’s scheme. The American worker is “free” to travel where he wants, to tune in the channel where he wants, to sing the hymns and buy the junk he wants; but he is in all fundamental respects a slave and a serf.  
Neither Bernie Sanders nor LBJ nor either of the two Roosevelts proposed to fundamentally alter this system. They wanted some broad and pervasive adjustments that would render it less unjust; return some greater quantum of value to the worker who produced it; spread the costs and ease the burden of overall living expenses; provide the worker with economic security and social leisure if not actually determinative political power.

It is this adjustment which the Times disparages today and has always disparaged as “radicalism.”   What it toots as “incrementalism” is simply code for the least redistribution of anything the ruling class can get away with.
The genocidal vileness of the Times’ invisible incrementalism is best illustrated in relation to climate change.  Exactly what degree of imperceptible incremental reductions in global warming does the Times have in mind?  Something small enough not to be noticed at all?

What kind of insanity is this?

Oh but surely when the Times decries “broad brush liberal” approaches it doesn’t have global warming in mind.  Oh but surely it does, because “broad brush” reductions in global warming are absolutely not possible without predicate broad-brush reforms to the industrial-financial system which produces global warming.

One of the key ingredients of Clintonian Triangulation, is what might be called “issue alienation” — disconnecting the necessary relationships between various aspects of an underlying problem. 
In fact “issue alienation” is the key feature of so-called U.S. “liberalism.”  It is what enables a creeps like the Clintons to pretend to be all in favor of Black empowerment or women’s rights or Our Precious Children even while they work to end welfare, curtail unions and undercut the laws and programs which would give people — including Blacks, women and children — real security and real opportunity. 
In tandem,  issue-alienation allows the Clintons — and their toney clarions in the Times (or is it the reverse?) — to erect a moralistic Potemkin Village of cognized group chicken feed (“entitlements”) and pleasant but largely symbolic measures which hide the political disenfranchisement and economic impoverishment they actually -- and broadly -- promote.

As if matters could not be more nauseating than they are, one need only recall that there was nothing “incremental” about NAFTA or the TPP or the 2009 bank bailout.  When it comes to safeguarding the core interests of American Capital, Blue Dog Democrats and the Times get as non-incremental and broad based as necessary.

To niggardly stinginess one can add grotesque hypocrisy. That is what the Times and Hillary stand for.