Daily Archive: 02/27/2014

Feb 27 2014

The Demise of Liberal in America

The Surrender of America’s Liberals

In a Web-exclusive interview, political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. talks with Bill Moyers about his new article in the March issue of Harper’s Magazine – a challenge to America’s progressives provocatively titled, “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals.”

In the piece, Reed writes that Democrats and liberals have become too fixated on election results rather than aiming for long term goals that address the issues of economic inequality, and that the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama too often acquiesced to the demands of Wall Street and the right.

As a result, Reed tells Moyers, the left is no longer a significant force in American politics. “If we understand the left to be anchored to our convictions that society can be made better than it actually is, and a commitment to combating economic inequality as a primary one, the left is just gone.”

Liberals Face a Hard Day’s Knight?

By Michael Winship, Moyers and Company

Battered Knight photo Harpers-1403-302x410_zpsef237499.png That’s a pretty pathetic knight up there on the cover of the March issue of Harper’s Magazine. Battered and defeated, his shield in pieces, he’s slumped and saddled backwards on a Democratic donkey that has a distinctly woeful – or bored, maybe – countenance. It’s the magazine’s sardonic way of illustrating a powerful throwing down of the gauntlet by political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr. He has challenged the nation’s progressives with an article in the magazine provocatively titled “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals.”

His thesis flies in the face of a current spate of articles and op-ed columns touting a resurgence of progressive politics within the Democratic Party – often pointing to last year’s elections of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City as evidence – although at the same time many of the pieces note that the wave is smashing up against a wall of resistance from the corporate wing of the party. [..]

Reed says that the presidencies of Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama too often acquiesced to the demands of Wall Street and the right. Of Clinton’s White House years, he clams, “It is difficult to imagine that a Republican administration could have been much more successful in advancing Reaganism’s agenda.” And President Obama “has always been no more than an unexceptional neo-liberal Democrat with an exceptional knack for self-presentation persuasive to those who want to believe, and with solid connections and considerable good will from the corporate and financial sectors… his appeal has always been about the persona he projects – the extent to which he encourages people to feel good about their politics, the political future, and themselves through feeling good about him – than about any concrete vision or political program he has advanced. And that persona has always been bound up in and continues to play off complex and contradictory representations of race in American politics.”

“The left has no particular place it wants to go,” Reed asserts. “And, to rehash an old quip, if you have no destination, any direction can seem as good as any other… the left operates with no learning curve and is therefore always vulnerable to the new enthusiasm. It long ago lost the ability to move forward under its own steam…”

Up dated with a link to Prof. Reid’s article in Harper’s Magazince

The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals

For nearly all the twentieth century there was a dynamic left in the United States grounded in the belief that unrestrained capitalism generated unacceptable social costs. That left crested in influence between 1935 and 1945, when it anchored a coalition centered in the labor movement, most significantly within the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). It was a prominent voice in the Democratic Party of the era, and at the federal level its high point may have come in 1944, when FDR propounded what he called “a second Bill of Rights.” Among these rights, Roosevelt proclaimed, were the right to a “useful and remunerative job,” “adequate medical care,” and “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.”

The labor-left alliance remained a meaningful presence in American politics through the 1960s. What have become known as the social movements of the Sixties – civil rights activism, protests against the Vietnam War, and a renewed women’s movement – were vitally linked to that egalitarian left. Those movements drew institutional resources, including organizing talents and committed activists, from that older left and built on both the legislative and the ideological victories it had won. But during the 1980s and early 1990s, fears of a relentless Republican juggernaut pressured those left of center to take a defensive stance, focusing on the immediate goal of electing Democrats to stem or slow the rightward tide. At the same time, business interests, in concert with the Republican right and supported by an emerging wing of neoliberal Democrats, set out to roll back as many as possible of the social protections and regulations the left had won. As this defensiveness overtook leftist interest groups, institutions, and opinion leaders, it increasingly came to define left-wing journalistic commentary and criticism. New editorial voices – for example, The American Prospect – emerged to articulate the views of an intellectual left that defined itself as liberal rather than radical. To be sure, this shift was not absolute. Such publications as New Labor Forum, New Politics, Science & Society, Monthly Review, and others maintained an oppositional stance, and the Great Recession has encouraged new outlets such as Jacobin and Endnotes. But the American left moved increasingly toward the middle.

Today, the labor movement has been largely subdued, and social activists have made their peace with neoliberalism and adjusted their horizons accordingly. Within the women’s movement, goals have shifted from practical objectives such as comparable worth and universal child care in the 1980s to celebrating appointments of individual women to public office and challenging the corporate glass ceiling. Dominant figures in the antiwar movement have long since accepted the framework of American military interventionism. The movement for racial justice has shifted its focus from inequality to “disparity,” while neatly evading any critique of the structures that produce inequality.

Feb 27 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dean Baker: Time to tax Wall Street

Horror stories of obnoxious investment bankers should make the public scream, ‘Enough!’

Many people already had low opinions of the Wall Street elite. I’m referring to the investment-banker types who get incredibly rich through financial manipulations, government bailouts and implicit government guarantees provided for too-big-to-fail banks. But a recent New York magazine piece showed that even the most jaded were being too generous in their assessment of this gang.

Kevin Roose, who was working as a New York Times reporter at the time, managed to infiltrate a black-tie party at the St. Regis Hotel sponsored by a secret Wall Street fraternity. The so-called Kappa Beta Phi (the reverse of Phi Beta Kappa, the academic honor society) was not made up of a bunch of college kids or recent grads. It featured many of the leading figures on Wall Street – multimillionaires and billionaires, all of whom were well past the age at which we expect people to start being responsible for their actions. [..]

The anger prompted by Roose’s account makes this a great time to bring back the idea of taxing their speculation. While Dodd-Frank reforms will curb some of the worst abuses, the Wall Streeters are still making huge fortunes shuffling money rather than doing anything productive. A modest tax can raise a huge amount of money for productive ends, such as infrastructure and education, while making shuffling money a bit less profitable.

David Cay Johnston: The shocking numbers behind corporate welfare

Boeing and its stockholders fly high on tax dollars

State and local governments have awarded at least $110 billion in taxpayer subsidies to business, with 3 of every 4 dollars going to fewer than 1,000 big corporations, the most thorough analysis to date of corporate welfare revealed today.

Boeing ranks first, with 137 subsidies totaling $13.2 billion, followed by Alcoa at $5.6 billion, Intel at $3.9 billion, General Motors at $3.5 billion and Ford Motor at $2.5 billion, the new report by the nonprofit research organization Good Jobs First shows.

Dow Chemical had the most subsidies, 410 totaling $1.4 billion, followed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway holding company, with 310 valued at $1.1 billion.

The figures were compiled from disclosures made by state and local government agencies that subsidize companies in all sorts of ways, including cash giveaways, building and land transfers, tax abatements and steep discounts on electric and water bills.

In fact, the numbers significantly understate the true value of taxpayer subsidies to businesses, for reasons explained below.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The President Says the ‘Era of Austerity’ Is Over — Is It?

The nation has been treated to a sneak preview of President Obama’s 2015 budget, scheduled to be released next Tuesday. As we asked in Part 1 of this two-part budget update, that’s an occasion for reflecting on the nature of a White House budget. Is it a negotiating document? A vision statement? A “political treatise”? [..]

We’ve been given no indication that the president or his advisers understand what a grave mistake it was to embrace the deficit-cutting rhetoric of the right, to appoint austerians to lead a Presidential Deficit Commission, or of extending the austerity framework even to programs like Social Security (which does not contribute to the federal deficit).

Instead we’re being told that the president’s plan spending increases (more about those in a moment) are “fully paid for,” a phrase which suggests that austerity’s ghost still lingers.

Eugene Robinson: GOP Crocodile Tears Over Jobs

At the risk of repeating myself, the federal minimum wage is far too low and needs to be raised. Republicans who claim to be worried about lost jobs can dry their crocodile tears, because a few simple measures would get all those jobs back-and lots more.

It has been amusing to watch GOP grandees try to paint themselves as champions of the working stiff. This new appreciation for the struggles of low-wage earners was prompted by a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which estimates that raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, as President Obama proposes, would result in the loss of 500,000 jobs. [..]

Maybe we should all take a deep breath and look at the big picture. The purpose of raising the minimum wage is to give those at the bottom of the pay scale something that more closely approximates a living wage. It strikes me as obscene for conservatives to prattle on about the “dignity of work” when workers can toil long and hard in full-time jobs and yet their families can still be poor and in need of government assistance.

Sarah Anderson: Without any Grassroots, This Austerity Group Withered

The American people know a fake when they see it.

The austerity mania that plagued our political system for four years is finally subsiding. The latest sign is President Barack Obama’s decision to nix the Social Security cuts he had previously included in his budget proposal.

This was a body blow to the most powerful pro-austerity force in Washington – the Fix the Debt campaign. Starting in 2012, this fake grassroots – or “astroturf” – organization had deployed more than 100 CEOs to try to persuade the nation that our economic survival depended on expanding tax breaks for big corporations and slashing earned benefit programs.

Fix the Debt once boasted a budget of $40 million. Today, it’s shedding staff and going into hibernation, having failed to win any of their top priorities.

Sam Pizzigati: The Mess on Our ‘Information Superhighway’

Why should moving data around be any different from moving people? No private party ought to be getting rich off a basic public trust.

Back in the early 1990s, the infancy of the Internet Age, our hippest policy wonks orated endlessly about the emerging “information superhighway.”

But that mouthful of a moniker would soon fall out of fashion. Anyone today who talks “information superhighway” comes across as hopelessly uncool. The irony here? If we still talked about the Internet as a “superhighway,” maybe we wouldn’t find ourselves in the online mess that [now envelops v] us.

Americans currently pay much more for Internet than just about everybody else in the developed world. Other countries have established [fast, cheap Internet access v] as a given of modern life. In the United States, we surf the Net at Model-T speeds – and tens of millions of Americans still have no broadband access at all.

This pitiful situation may soon get worse. Two corporate giants that share significant responsibility for our current digital state of affairs, Comcast and Time Warner, are now seeking regulatory approval for a $45 billion merger that would leave Comcast controlling the bulk of the nation’s broadband access.

Feb 27 2014

On This Day In History February 27

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 27 is the 58th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 307 days remaining until the end of the year (308 in leap years).

On this day in 1827, New Orleanians take to the streets for Mardi Gras with groups of masked and costumed students dance through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, marking the beginning of the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations.

The celebration of Carnival–or the weeks between Twelfth Night on January 6 and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian period of Lent–spread from Rome across Europe and later to the Americas. Nowhere in the United States is Carnival celebrated as grandly as in New Orleans, famous for its over-the-top parades and parties for Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday), the last day of the Carnival season.

History

The celebration of Mardi Gras was brought to Louisiana by early French settlers. The first record of the holiday being celebrated in Louisiana was at the mouth of the Mississippi River in what is now lower Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, on March 3, 1699. Iberville, Bienville, and their men celebrated it as part of an observance of Catholic practice.

The starting date of festivities in New Orleans is unknown. An account from 1743 notes that the custom of Carnival balls was already established. Processions and wearing of masks in the streets on Mardi Gras took place. They were sometimes prohibited by law, and were quickly renewed whenever such restrictions were lifted or enforcement waned. In 1833 Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville, a rich plantation owner of French descent, raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration.

James R. Creecy in his book Scenes in the South, and Other Miscellaneous Pieces describes New Orleans Mardi Gras in 1835:

   Shrove Tuesday is a day to be remembered by strangers in New Orleans, for that is the day for fun, frolic, and comic masquerading. All of the mischief of the city is alive and wide awake in active operation. Men and boys, women and girls, bond and free, white and black, yellow and brown, exert themselves to invent and appear in grotesque, quizzical, diabolic, horrible, strange masks, and disguises. Human bodies are seen with heads of beasts and birds, beasts and birds with human heads; demi-beasts, demi-fishes, snakes’ heads and bodies with arms of apes; man-bats from the moon; mermaids; satyrs, beggars, monks, and robbers parade and march on foot, on horseback, in wagons, carts, coaches, cars, etc., in rich confusion, up and down the streets, wildly shouting, singing, laughing, drumming, fiddling, fifeing, and all throwing flour broadcast as they wend their reckless way.

On Mardi Gras of 1857, the Mystick Krewe of Comus held its first parade. Comus is the oldest continuously active Mardi Gras organization. It started a number of continuing traditions. It is considered the first Carnival krewe in the modern sense. According to one historian, “Comus was aggressively English in its celebration of what New Orleans had always considered a French festival. It is hard to think of a clearer assertion than this parade that the lead in the holiday had passed from French-speakers to Anglo-Americans. . . .To a certain extent, Americans ‘Americanized’ New Orleans and its Creoles. To a certain extent, New Orleans ‘creolized’ the Americans. Thus the wonder of Anglo-Americans boasting of how their business prowess helped them construct a more elaborate version of the old Creole Carnival. The lead in organized Carnival passed from Creole to American just as political and economic power did over the course of the nineteenth century. The spectacle of Creole-American Carnival, with Americans using Carnival forms to compete with Creoles in the ballrooms and on the streets, represents the creation of a New Orleans culture neither entirely Creole nor entirely American.”

In 1875 Louisiana declared Mardi Gras a legal state holiday. War, economic, political, and weather conditions sometimes led to cancellation of some or all major parades, especially during the American Civil War, World War I and World War II, but the city has always celebrated Carnival.