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Jan 13 2017

Fake Populism

Rule #1 about Populism- It is Popular.

Rule #2 about Populism- There is no Rule #2.

It is an incontrovertible fact that nearly 3 Million more U.S. citizens voted for Hillary Clinton than The Donald which makes her more popular, right? It is equally true that Trump won the smallest Electoral College margin in recent history.

So it’s not exactly fair to blame his victory on Populism at the same time you take credit for her majority vote count. You can choose (and many Democrats do) to blame the Electoral College system itself but it is functioning exactly as the Founders designed it to do, elevating the effectiveness of a minority (in their case slave holding) so they can contest and win larger influence in government than their raw numbers would justify.

It’s called the tyranny of the minority and pervades every corner of the Constitution. We will be forced to rely on it to stand any chance at all of thwarting his heinous plans.

I am not sanguine about attempts to change it. Given the current correlation of forces traditional Amendments are unlikely to succeed. More probable (1 State Legislature away) is a general Constitutional Convention like the one in 1787 that could scrap every personal liberty we hold dear (except guns, we love our guns). We dumped the Articles of Confederation didn’t we?

Before you consider this mere paranoid delusion think about the delegates. Would they be representative of the 99% or the Failed Neo Liberal Elite? Quisling Democrats and the racist and misogynous Republicans they consistently sell their souls to at the behest of their Corporate Masters already run D.C. What makes you feel the results would be any different?

It is worse than useless to complain about Republicans. Most of them actually believe in their fascist and genocidal policies, the only thing to be done is reduce them to powerlessness and remove them from politics, something Institutional Democrats are unwilling to do because they rely on ‘Lesser of 2 Evilism’ to retain their jobs and yet still service their Billionaire Business Buddies.

The magnitude of the task makes me despair but I continue to advocate in favor of influencing those Democrats who are not fully given to the dark side basket of deplorables and irredeemables.

Democrats can’t win until they recognize how bad Obama’s financial policies were
By Matt Stoller, Washington Post
January 12 at 8:25 AM

During his final news conference of 2016, in mid-December, President Obama criticized Democratic efforts during the election. “Where Democrats are characterized as coastal, liberal, latte-sipping, you know, politically correct, out-of-touch folks,” Obama said, “we have to be in those communities.” In fact, he went on, being in those communities — “going to fish-fries and sitting in VFW halls and talking to farmers” — is how, by his account, he became president. It’s true that Obama is skilled at projecting a populist image; he beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa in 2008, for instance, partly by attacking agriculture monopolies .

But Obama can’t place the blame for Clinton’s poor performance purely on her campaign. On the contrary, the past eight years of policymaking have damaged Democrats at all levels. Recovering Democratic strength will require the party’s leaders to come to terms with what it has become — and the role Obama played in bringing it to this point.

Two key elements characterized the kind of domestic political economy the administration pursued: The first was the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent bank bailouts. The resulting policy framework of Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department was, in effect, a wholesale attack on the American home (the main store of middle-class wealth) in favor of concentrated financial power. The second was the administration’s pro-monopoly policies, which crushed the rural areas that in 2016 lost voter turnout and swung to Donald Trump.

In January 2009, Obama had overwhelming Democratic majorities in Congress, $350 billion of no-strings-attached bailout money and enormous legal latitude. What did he do to reshape a country on its back?

First, he saved the financial system. A financial system in collapse has to allocate losses. In this case, big banks and homeowners both experienced losses, and it was up to the Obama administration to decide who should bear those burdens. Typically, such losses would be shared between debtors and creditors, through a deal like the Home Owners Loan Corporation in the 1930s or bankruptcy reform. But the Obama administration took a different approach. Rather than forcing some burden-sharing between banks and homeowners through bankruptcy reform or debt relief, Obama prioritized creditor rights, placing most of the burden on borrowers. This kept big banks functional and ensured that financiers would maintain their positions in the recovery. At a 2010 hearing, Damon Silvers, vice chairman of the independent Congressional Oversight Panel, which was created to monitor the bailouts, told Obama’s Treasury Department: “We can either have a rational resolution to the foreclosure crisis, or we can preserve the capital structure of the banks. We can’t do both.”

Second, Obama’s administration let big-bank executives off the hook for their roles in the crisis. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) referred criminal cases to the Justice Department and was ignored. Whistleblowers from the government and from large banks noted a lack of appetite among prosecutors. In 2012, then-Attorney General Eric Holder ordered prosecutors not to go after mega-bank HSBC for money laundering. Using prosecutorial discretion to not take bank executives to task, while legal, was neither moral nor politically wise; in a 2013 poll, more than half of Americans still said they wanted the bankers behind the crisis punished. But the Obama administration failed to act, and this pattern seems to be continuing. No one, for instance, from Wells Fargo has been indicted for mass fraud in opening fake accounts.

Third, Obama enabled and encouraged roughly 9 million foreclosures. This was Geithner’s explicit policy at Treasury. The Obama administration put together a foreclosure program that it marketed as a way to help homeowners, but when Elizabeth Warren, then chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel, grilled Geithner on why the program wasn’t stopping foreclosures, he said that really wasn’t the point. The program, in his view, was working. “We estimate that they can handle 10 million foreclosures, over time,” Geithner said — referring to the banks. “This program will help foam the runway for them.” For Geithner, the most productive economic policy was to get banks back to business as usual.

Nor did Obama do much about monopolies. While his administration engaged in a few mild challenges toward the end of his term, 2015 saw a record wave of mergers and acquisitions, and 2016 was another busy year. In nearly every sector of the economy, from pharmaceuticals to telecom to Internet platforms to airlines, power has concentrated. And this administration, like George W. Bush’s before it, did not prosecute a single significant monopoly under Section 2 of the Sherman Act. Instead, in the past few years, the Federal Trade Commission has gone after such villains as music teachers and ice skating instructors for ostensible anti-competitive behavior. This is very much a parallel of the financial crisis, as elites operate without legal constraints while the rest of us toil under an excess of bureaucracy.

With these policies in place, it’s no surprise that Thomas Piketty and others have detected skyrocketing inequality, that most jobs created in the past eight years have been temporary or part time, or that lifespans in white America are dropping . When Democratic leaders don’t protect the people, the people get poorer, they get angry, and more of them die.

Democrats have long believed that theirs is the party of the people. Therefore, when Trump co-opts populist language, such as saying he represents the “forgotten” man, it seems absurd — and it is. After all, that’s what Democrats do, right? Thus, many Democrats have assumed that Trump’s appeal can only be explained by personal bigotry — and it’s also true that Trump trafficks in racist and nativist rhetoric. But the reality is that the Democratic Party has been slipping away from the working class for some time, and Obama’s presidency hastened rather than reversed that departure. Republicans, hardly worker-friendly themselves, simply capitalized on it.

There’s history here: In the 1970s, a wave of young liberals, Bill Clinton among them, destroyed the populist Democratic Party they had inherited from the New Dealers of the 1930s. The contours of this ideological fight were complex, but the gist was: Before the ’70s, Democrats were suspicious of big business. They used anti-monopoly policies to fight oligarchy and financial manipulation. Creating competition in open markets, breaking up concentrations of private power, and protecting labor and farmer rights were understood as the essence of ensuring that our commercial society was democratic and protected from big money.

Bill Clinton’s generation, however, believed that concentration of financial power could be virtuous, as long as that power was in the hands of experts.

Many Democrats ascribe problems with Obama’s policies to Republican opposition. The president himself does not. “Our policies are so awesome,” he once told staffers. “Why can’t you guys do a better job selling them?” The problem, in other words, is ideological.

Many Democrats think that Trump supporters voted against their own economic interests. But voters don’t want concentrated financial power that deigns to redistribute some cash, along with weak consumer protection laws. They want jobs. They want to be free to govern themselves. Trump is not exactly pitching self-government. But he is offering a wall of sorts to protect voters against neo-liberals who consolidate financial power, ship jobs abroad and replace paychecks with food stamps. Democrats should have something better to offer working people. If they did, they could have won in November. In the wreckage of this last administration, they didn’t.

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