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“The Perfect Target For Republicans”: Clinton Should Have Exposed Sanders When She Had A Chance

Here’s my basic problem with Bernie Sanders. To put it bluntly, once a Trotskyite, always a fool. Personal experience of Sixties-style left wing posturing left me allergic to the word “revolution,” and the humorless autodidacts who bandy it about. The Bernie Sanders type, I mean: morally superior, never mistaken, and never in doubt.

I’ll never forget the time in 1970 that several “radical” colleagues my wife had invited for dinner denounced our record collection as racist. Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Flatt and Scruggs. Never mind that we also owned B.B. King, Lightning Hopkins, Beethoven and British rock albums. A taste for country music made us, pardon the expression, politically incorrect.

Also professionally doomed. I needed to resign before they fired me. I had no interest in either of the academic community’s ruling passions: Marxist sentimentalism and real estate.

How Bernie missed becoming an English professor at some picturesque New England college, I cannot understand.

Anyway, here’s where I’m going with this. To me, the Clinton campaign’s high-minded refusal to expose Senator Sanders has been a big mistake, needlessly allowing this unelectable crank to pose as a serious candidate far too long—and enabling Bernie and his impassioned supporters to translate the old GOP anti-Hillary playbook into left-wing jargon.

In consequence, Clinton has found herself in a one-sided fight against her own degraded image. Some of it is  her own damn fault. Accepting preposterous fees to speak to Wall Street bankers and then keeping the speeches secret is no way to run for president.

But realistically, Sanders lost any chance of prevailing after he lost New York and Pennsylvania badly. Word has yet to reach him. Meanwhile, it has become common to see Clinton described as “evil,” a “war-monger” and worse on social media, while the Sanders campaign whines that it was cheated. The damage to progressive chances in November from this kind of poisonous rhetoric is hard to overstate.

In The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky puts it this way: “The guy who’s going to end up with about 300 fewer pledged delegates and more than 3 million fewer votes doesn’t get to say ‘you beat me, but you must adopt my position.’ It’s preposterous and arrogant, which of course means he will do it.”

Has leading the Children’s Crusade gone to Sanders’ head? No doubt. However, my larger point is that he’s always been this guy, and Democrats have been needlessly polite about it.

Is it impolite to point out, like Slate’s Michelle Goldberg, that in “1980, Sanders served as an elector for the Socialist Workers Party, which was founded on the principles of Leon Trotsky. According to the New York Times, that party called for abolishing the military budget. It also called for ‘solidarity’ with the revolutionary regimes in Iran, Nicaragua, Grenada, and Cuba; this was in the middle of the Iranian hostage crisis.”

No, that’s not objectionable because it’s undeniably true. No doubt Sanders has an explanation for such heterodox, albeit politically poisonous views. Fine — so why hasn’t he been forced make it?

In 1976, Bernie urged the University of Vermont student paper to “contrast what the young people in China and Cuba are doing for themselves and for their country as compared to the young people in America…It’s quite obvious why kids are going to turn to drugs to get the hell out of a disgusting system or sit in front of a TV set for 60 hours a week.”He wrote stern letters to the FCC protesting shows like “Gunsmoke” and “I Love Lucy.”

Ancient history? Perhaps. But also 30 years after George Orwell’s epochal novel Animal Farm, and around the same as Chairman Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” was winding down after giving millions of Chinese youngsters a swell chance to serve their country in slave labor camps.

As I say, show me an American Trotskyite, and I’ll show you a damned fool.

But again, shouldn’t Bernie have had to explain it?

Let’s pass over Sanders’ newspaper columns fantasizing about rape and suggesting that cervical cancer is caused by sexual frustration.

“Basically,” writes Will Saletan “if you were designing the perfect target for Republicans—a candidate who proudly links socialist economics to hippie culture, libertinism, left-wing foreign policy, new-age nonsense, and contempt for bourgeois values—you’d create Bernie Sanders.”

With so distinguished a record of crackpot opinions, maybe it shouldn’t surprise that Bernie has also misjudged the Democratic electorate. Salon’s Amanda Marcotte is correct: Sanders didn’t lose because establishment Democrats cheated. He lost because his Thomas Frank-influenced theory that strong majorities of white working class voters would respond enthusiastically to left-wing economic populism turns out to be wrong. The “revolutionary” turnout Bernie kept predicting never materialized.

He swept the white-bread college campuses and the cow states. End of story. The urban proletariat? Not so much. Who can be shocked? Campus radicals have been trashing “establishment” Democrats and fantasizing about a working class insurrection all Bernie’s life.

The revolution remains imaginary.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 1, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Crazy Climate Economics”: These Days, Republicans Come Out In Force To Oppose Even The Most Obviously Needed Regulations

Everywhere you look these days, you see Marxism on the rise. Well, O.K., maybe you don’t — but conservatives do. If you so much as mention income inequality, you’ll be denounced as the second coming of Joseph Stalin; Rick Santorum has declared that any use of the word “class” is “Marxism talk.” In the right’s eyes, sinister motives lurk everywhere — for example, George Will says the only reason progressives favor trains is their goal of “diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”

So it goes without saying that Obamacare, based on ideas originally developed at the Heritage Foundation, is a Marxist scheme — why, requiring that people purchase insurance is practically the same as sending them to gulags.

And just wait until the Environmental Protection Agency announces rules intended to slow the pace of climate change.

Until now, the right’s climate craziness has mainly been focused on attacking the science. And it has been quite a spectacle: At this point almost all card-carrying conservatives endorse the view that climate change is a gigantic hoax, that thousands of research papers showing a warming planet — 97 percent of the literature — are the product of a vast international conspiracy. But as the Obama administration moves toward actually doing something based on that science, crazy climate economics will come into its own.

You can already get a taste of what’s coming in the dissenting opinions from a recent Supreme Court ruling on power-plant pollution. A majority of the justices agreed that the E.P.A. has the right to regulate smog from coal-fired power plants, which drifts across state lines. But Justice Scalia didn’t just dissent; he suggested that the E.P.A.’s proposed rule — which would tie the size of required smog reductions to cost — reflected the Marxist concept of “from each according to his ability.” Taking cost into consideration is Marxist? Who knew?

And you can just imagine what will happen when the E.P.A., buoyed by the smog ruling, moves on to regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

What do I mean by crazy climate economics?

First, we’ll see any effort to limit pollution denounced as a tyrannical act. Pollution wasn’t always a deeply partisan issue: Economists in the George W. Bush administration wrote paeans to “market based” pollution controls, and in 2008 John McCain made proposals for cap-and-trade limits on greenhouse gases part of his presidential campaign. But when House Democrats actually passed a cap-and-trade bill in 2009, it was attacked as, you guessed it, Marxist. And these days Republicans come out in force to oppose even the most obviously needed regulations, like the plan to reduce the pollution that’s killing Chesapeake Bay.

Second, we’ll see claims that any effort to limit emissions will have what Senator Marco Rubio is already calling “a devastating impact on our economy.”

Why is this crazy? Normally, conservatives extol the magic of markets and the adaptability of the private sector, which is supposedly able to transcend with ease any constraints posed by, say, limited supplies of natural resources. But as soon as anyone proposes adding a few limits to reflect environmental issues — such as a cap on carbon emissions — those all-capable corporations supposedly lose any ability to cope with change.

Now, the rules the E.P.A. is likely to impose won’t give the private sector as much flexibility as it would have had in dealing with an economywide carbon cap or emissions tax. But Republicans have only themselves to blame: Their scorched-earth opposition to any kind of climate policy has left executive action by the White House as the only route forward.

Furthermore, it turns out that focusing climate policy on coal-fired power plants isn’t bad as a first step. Such plants aren’t the only source of greenhouse gas emissions, but they’re a large part of the problem — and the best estimates we have of the path forward suggest that reducing power-plant emissions will be a large part of any solution.

What about the argument that unilateral U.S. action won’t work, because China is the real problem? It’s true that we’re no longer No. 1 in greenhouse gases — but we’re still a strong No. 2. Furthermore, U.S. action on climate is a necessary first step toward a broader international agreement, which will surely include sanctions on countries that don’t participate.

So the coming firestorm over new power-plant regulations won’t be a genuine debate — just as there isn’t a genuine debate about climate science. Instead, the airwaves will be filled with conspiracy theories and wild claims about costs, all of which should be ignored. Climate policy may finally be getting somewhere; let’s not let crazy climate economics get in the way.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 11, 2014

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Conservatives | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Piketty Panic”: Out Of Ideas, Conservatives Are Terrified

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty, is a bona fide phenomenon. Other books on economics have been best sellers, but Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t. And conservatives are terrified. Thus James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute warns in National Review that Mr. Piketty’s work must be refuted, because otherwise it “will spread among the clerisy and reshape the political economic landscape on which all future policy battles will be waged.”

Well, good luck with that. The really striking thing about the debate so far is that the right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty’s thesis. Instead, the response has been all about name-calling — in particular, claims that Mr. Piketty is a Marxist, and so is anyone who considers inequality of income and wealth an important issue.

I’ll come back to the name-calling in a moment. First, let’s talk about why “Capital” is having such an impact.

Mr. Piketty is hardly the first economist to point out that we are experiencing a sharp rise in inequality, or even to emphasize the contrast between slow income growth for most of the population and soaring incomes at the top. It’s true that Mr. Piketty and his colleagues have added a great deal of historical depth to our knowledge, demonstrating that we really are living in a new Gilded Age. But we’ve known that for a while.

No, what’s really new about “Capital” is the way it demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, the insistence that we’re living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved.

For the past couple of decades, the conservative response to attempts to make soaring incomes at the top into a political issue has involved two lines of defense: first, denial that the rich are actually doing as well and the rest as badly as they are, but when denial fails, claims that those soaring incomes at the top are a justified reward for services rendered. Don’t call them the 1 percent, or the wealthy; call them “job creators.”

But how do you make that defense if the rich derive much of their income not from the work they do but from the assets they own? And what if great wealth comes increasingly not from enterprise but from inheritance?

What Mr. Piketty shows is that these are not idle questions. Western societies before World War I were indeed dominated by an oligarchy of inherited wealth — and his book makes a compelling case that we’re well on our way back toward that state.

So what’s a conservative, fearing that this diagnosis might be used to justify higher taxes on the wealthy, to do? He could try to refute Mr. Piketty in a substantive way, but, so far, I’ve seen no sign of that happening. Instead, as I said, it has been all about name-calling.

I guess this shouldn’t be surprising. I’ve been involved in debates over inequality for more than two decades, and have yet to see conservative “experts” manage to dispute the numbers without tripping over their own intellectual shoelaces. Why, it’s almost as if the facts are fundamentally not on their side. At the same time, red-baiting anyone who questions any aspect of free-market dogma has been standard right-wing operating procedure ever since the likes of William F. Buckley tried to block the teaching of Keynesian economics, not by showing that it was wrong, but by denouncing it as “collectivist.”

Still, it has been amazing to watch conservatives, one after another, denounce Mr. Piketty as a Marxist. Even Mr. Pethokoukis, who is more sophisticated than the rest, calls “Capital” a work of “soft Marxism,” which only makes sense if the mere mention of unequal wealth makes you a Marxist. (And maybe that’s how they see it: recently former Senator Rick Santorum denounced the term “middle class” as “Marxism talk,” because, you see, we don’t have classes in America.)

And The Wall Street Journal’s review, predictably, goes the whole distance, somehow segueing from Mr. Piketty’s call for progressive taxation as a way to limit the concentration of wealth — a remedy as American as apple pie, once advocated not just by leading economists but by mainstream politicians, up to and including Teddy Roosevelt — to the evils of Stalinism. Is that really the best The Journal can do? The answer, apparently, is yes.

Now, the fact that apologists for America’s oligarchs are evidently at a loss for coherent arguments doesn’t mean that they are on the run politically. Money still talks — indeed, thanks in part to the Roberts court, it talks louder than ever. Still, ideas matter too, shaping both how we talk about society and, eventually, what we do. And the Piketty panic shows that the right has run out of ideas.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 24, 2014

April 26, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Income Gap | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Cross And The Coin”: Why Conservatives Just Don’t Get Pope Francis’ Anti-Poverty Crusade

On Sunday, Pope Francis matter-of-factly announced that he was not actually a Marxist, telling Italy’s La Stampa, “The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.” It was an incredible thing for a pope to proclaim about himself, especially since it was directed at one particularly loud group of critics: U.S. conservatives.

Since outlining his vision for the Catholic church in late November, Pope Francis has endured an amount of criticism from the American right wing commensurate only with the praise piled on by the remainder of global Christianity. For most, Francis’ moving exhortation to spread the gospel and engage personally with Jesus was a welcome and invigorating encouragement. But for many right wing pundits in America, Francis’ call to relieve global poverty through state intervention in markets was unconscionably troubling.

Francis’ message likely raises American conservative hackles because the American right wing has invented such a convincing façade of affinity between fiscal conservatism and Christianity over the last few decades. Though free markets, profit motives, and unrestrained accumulation of wealth have no immediate relationship with Christianity, the cross and the coin are nonetheless powerful, paired symbols of the American right wing. Catholic conservatives thus must carve a way around Francis’ difficult insistence that governments be harnessed toward the relief of poverty, not the creation of it.

A popular conservative criticism has thus been to accuse the Pope of having an unhealthy, non-theological affinity for the political left. Rush Limbaugh labeled Francis a “Marxist” for that reason, while Fox News’ Adam Shaw wrote him off as akin to President Barack Obama, derisively noting that “anti-Catholics in the left-wing media are in love with him.” Ross Douthat at The New York Times put the same argument more delicately, writing that Francis’ “plain language tilts leftward in ways that no serious reader can deny.”

It is no surprise that aligning Francis with the whole of the political left brings with it the arguments right wing critics usually lob against liberals: That the left is corrupt on the moral issues, such as abortion and gay marriage; that the left is incorrect as to how poverty comes to exist; and that the left means to replace Christian charity with soulless, dependency-producing state aid programs. Between Limbaugh, Shaw, and Douthat, Francis has been accused of each of these errors, all in an effort to drain the religious content from Francis’ message in order to dismiss him as just another leftist.

But the reality is that this method of criticism does little more than demonstrate the ordering of right wing priorities: Though they accuse Francis’ message of rising from an unduly political place, their arguments rely on a uniquely American political frame rather than a Christian one. Limbaugh, Shaw, and Douthat may claim to object to Francis as Christians, but they argue against him first and foremost as conservatives invested in the free market.

Douthat, for example, argues that global capitalism has been responsible for an overall reduction in poverty. But Francis’ exhortation never called for an elimination of capitalism, only that states, as creations of humankind, be structured so as to alleviate the poverty that arises after capitalism has done its work. For Francis, all institutions created by humanity — and yes, distributions of wealth are created, not spontaneous — must be intentionally shaped to further just goals. Since Francis’ notion of justice is informed purely by the teaching of Christ, just goals include establishing an equitable distribution of wealth that alleviates poverty and contributes to peace.

That Francis’ right wing Christian critics are informed by a uniquely American belief in the moral neutrality of markets and distributions is especially clear when they’re compared with their European Christian counterparts, whose intellectual traditions differ broadly from what Thomas Nagel has called America’s “everyday libertarian” approach to politics. When Pope Francis was still Cardinal Jose Bergoglio, the British party known as the Christian People’s Alliance stated the following in their 2010 platform:

The Christian Peoples Alliance believes that Britain will return to economic prosperity when government chooses instead to put human relationships in right order. This requires power, income, and wealth to be redistributed and for greater equality to be achieved. These are deeply spiritual convictions and reflect a Biblical pattern of priorities… [Christian People’s Alliance]

It would be disingenuous to label the British Christian People’s Alliance a left wing party: They’re opposed to abortion and support the teaching Christian values in public schools. But because they are firstly a Christian organization, their sentiments regarding the distribution of wealth track perfectly with those expressed by Francis, as is the case with numerous European Christian parties. This is because for the Pope as well as Christian groups organized outside of the American tradition, the primacy of Christian ethical thought is applied to all aspects of human existence, markets and the distribution of wealth included.

But the sanctity of markets is a foregone conclusion for his right wing critics. Their politics precede their religion, and their criticisms belie their accusation that Francis is the one who displays an overly strong affinity for politics. So far, no serious theological arguments have been raised by the right wing contra Francis, and I doubt any will be raised: For the Pope’s conservative critics in the U.S., the first concern is not religious.

 

By: Elizabeth Stoker, The Week, December 17, 2013

December 18, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Pope Francis, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pope Vs. Rush”: Pope Francis Threw A Rock Into A Bunch Of Dogs And The One It Hit Is Now Hollering

I like capitalism.

Specifically, I like the idea that if I write a better book, have a better idea, build a better mousetrap, I will be rewarded accordingly. A system where everyone gets the same reward regardless of quality or quantity of work is inconsistent with excellence and innovation, as the mediocrity and inefficiency that beset the Soviet Union readily proves.

The woman who is successful under capitalism gets to eat steak and lobster whenever she wants. That’s never bothered me. What does bother me is the notion that the unsuccessful man who lacks that woman’s talent, resources, opportunities or luck should not get to eat at all. There is something obscene in the notion that a person can work full-time for a multinational corporation and not earn enough to keep a roof over his head or food on his table. The so-called safety net by which we supposedly protect the poor ought to be a solid floor, a level of basic sustenance through which we, as moral people, allow no one to fall — particularly if their penury is through no fault of their own.

Maybe you regard that opinion as radical and extremist. Maybe it is. But if so, I am in excellent company.

Martin Luther King, for instance, mused that “there must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, that it’s wrong for some to live lives of ease while others struggle. “The goal is equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’” In Acts 4:32, Luke writes approvingly of the early church that: “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Which brings us to the Pope — and Rush Limbaugh. As you may have heard, the former has issued his first Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, in which, among other things, he attacks the free market and what he calls an “economics of exclusion.” This had the latter up in arms last week on his radio show.

Pope Francis writes that poverty must be “radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality…”

“This is astounding … and it’s sad,” says Limbaugh. “It’s actually unbelievable.”

“How can it be that it is not a news item,” writes the Pope, “when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

“This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope,” fumes Limbaugh.

Trickle-down economics, writes the pontiff, “expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power…”

Maybe, says Limbaugh, his words were deliberately mistranslated by “the left.” No, seriously, he said that.

But then, some of us are fine with faith so long as it speaks in platitudinous generalities or offers a weapon to clobber gay people with, but scream bloody murder when it imposes specific demands on our personal conscience — or wallet.

It is perfect that all this unfolds in the season of thanksgiving, faith and joy, as people punch, stun-gun and shoot one another over HDTVs and iPads and protesters demand what ought to be the bare minimum of any full-time job: wages sufficient to live on.

This is thanksgiving, faith and joy? No. It is fresh, albeit redundant evidence of our greed — and of how wholeheartedly we have bought into the lie that fulfillment is found in the things we own.

Some of us disagree. Some us feel that until the hungry one is fed and the naked one clothed, the best of us is unfulfilled, no matter how many HDTVs and iPads he owns. This is the radical, extremist ideal embraced by the human rights icon, the Gospel writers, the Bishop of Rome — and me.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, J., Featured Post, The National Memo, November 4, 2013

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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