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Member since: 2001
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Some Truths About American Politics

Almost NOTHING happens in American politics. (at the national level)

Almost NO entrenched programs get cut.

Almost NO new programs get added.

Except in those rare occasions when LOTS of competing interests are contingently and temporarily aligned.

Or the OPPOSITION is routed -- which is very hard to do given our representational and electoral system.
The default state of a American politics is inaction or reaction, because by design, America's political system mostly rewards rather than punishes stasis and reaction.

Ours is one of the few democratic ... well pseudo-democratic -- systems in the world in which it is false that failure is an orphan and victory has a thousand fathers. In our system, stasis and defeat can have a thousand very happy fathers.
Consequently, mostly our political problems FESTER and GROW, rather than get solved. Far too often, they are not even addressed until a widely unbearable tipping point is reached.

There are exceptions, but they help prove the rule. Reagan, for all his determination to undo the welfare state, could not pull it off. In the attempt to starve it, though, he did manage to give us mounting deficits as far as they eye could see, which severely constrained what could be done. It took Bill Clinton and unified government to begin to undo the damage that Reagan had done but only many years later. Clinton desperately wanted to restore confidence in the possibility of government activism and thought that starting with healthcare and promising to reform rather than eliminate the welfare state would be easy and would help achieve the return of activist government .. we know how that went .. botched healthcare and a more sane tax policy cost him and the Democrats the Congress, led eventually to his impeachment .... and led to actually the dismantling of much of the welfare state at the hands of him and the Republicans in Congress.

15 years later, after more stasis and retreat and a completely misbegotten war, Obama, who was no firebrand lefty, basically tried to move forward by coopting a Republican idea for healthcare and giving it a slightly more progressive tilt ... partly by giving into the need for an individual mandate, which, by the way, Hilary had championed in the primaries and he had dissed over and over again in the exact terms in which the Republicans would diss it once he was in office. And then the blue dogs DEMOCRATS, of all people, eviscerated even that by leaving out the public option ... and then they got defeated ANYWAY ... and were replaced by Refusenik Republicans for their troubles.

You should marvel at how hard a lift the ACA was. A Huge major lift and for not even a half measure. And it was the first bit of new semi-progressive legislation in like 50 years of trying ... that's how slowly and incrementally and haltingly the American system normally moves.
And remember, how hard it is to translate the will of the majority even into power, let alone policy and action. The American president can theoretically be elected with as little as 23% of the popular vote. And half the Senate is actually elected by 16% of the population. By 2030, 70% of the senate will be elected by 18% of the population, thanks to ongoing population shifts.

Given all that, politics in this county is not even close to wish-fulfillment. At its best, It's a really hard slog through a thicket of opponents that cannot be wished or charmed or argued or bludgeoned away.

Thatís why I keep saying that Sanders people are just blind dreamers. They think that can take a country in which the middle class MOSTLY has insurance through work with which they are satisfied.. the cost of which is hidden from them ...in which the insurance industry is not just a major political player, but a major employer and a major generator of wealth and just wish it away in the click of Bernie's magic finger, instead of building incrementally on the ACA which, for all its imperfections, is a start, and a very hard won start, decades and decades in the making. Much easier to introduce a public option, even state by state, into the ACA, to bring back the individual mandate which the Republicans gutted, to complete medicaid expansion, and to lower the age of medicare buy in... which in combination would get the US close to universal coverage and involves only comparative small to medium political fights rather than a one huge armageddon of a political fight.

But thatís not the broader point. The broader point is that in the US, given our insanely broken politics, our bitterly divided parties, our mesmerizing, mind-numbing rather than informative public discourse ó and thatís just the beginningó huge political fights are won mostly at times of complete and utter collapse ... like a great depression, a looming world war, a looming civil war, riots in the streets in every major city....

And even then, the hard won victories are too often Pyrrhic or temporary. The defeated "enemy" powers are not finally and totally defeated, they are not driven from the body politic. Take the victory of the North in the Civil War as exhibit 1 for this claim. Sure, the war ended slavery and preserved the Union. That was good. But the defeated South got the last word in that struggle. And dominated the "long peace" on its terms (Jim Crow, Share Cropping, the de facto end of black suffrage) for nearly a 100 years. (America's own version of the slave empire strikes back).

Anyway, thatís why I believe in my heart of hearts that we need a New American Republic, a new constitution, and a new politic and why I am toying with the idea of writing a book about these things. Not that my writing a book will change things. But perhaps it will be therapeutic to have worked through it. And perhaps it will lighten my ever darker political mood.

The Most Consequential Midterm Election EVER! The Republic itself is at stake!

And the only hope for "saving" the shambles of our collapsing Republic is to decisively demonstrate to the Republican party that there is no path to "victory" that involves cooperating with Trump in the destruction of our fragile and imperfect institutions and the trampling of our precarious norms. Democrats MUST win and win decisively the midterm elections. If they do not, if the Republicans retain their hold on unified power, especially in the face of all that has happened, you can kiss even the shambles of the Republic good-bye. There has perhaps never been a higher stake midterm election cycle than this one. Anyone who sits this midterm out is part of the problem not part of the solution or at best mere bystanders rather than active participants in the unfolding of American history. We cannot afford bystanderism now. We cannot afford yet another midterm election that is mostly greeted with a yawn, as our midterms typically are, by the masses of Americans.

Sanders Campaign has devolved from somewhat inspiring to downright embarrassing

The Sanders campaign is turning out to be keystone cop operation.

At first, he was running what at least aspired to be an inspirational campaign. Though it always left me a little cold, personally, from the beginning. I gave him credit for having his heart in the right place.

But now he is in desperation mode. And it's a very sorry sight.

Just think about the silly Vatican escapade. It seems as though the real story is that he somehow through a series of connections wrangled his way into tiny academic conference in the Vatican. He was added an afterthought, without even a speaking slot.

All the while, he was, either through a misunderstanding (more likely) or mendaciousness (possible but not likely) selling this wrangled invitation as coming from the Pope and offering Sanders a personal meeting with the Pontiff himself.

When that was exposed as an untruth -- I won't say lie, since he may have been led by his aides or intermediaries to believe it -- he and his aides were still acting as if he would be some sort of headliner at said little conference and that it was some sort of great honor to be invited. Turns out not to be the whole story. Otherwise, he wouldn't have had to be shoe-horned in between already and probably long-ago planned sessions. He is clearly an afterthought. There only because of the wrangling of him and/or his intermediaries.

That's admittedly a pretty small thing, in the great scheme of things. But it is a symptom of a bigger rot that seems to spreading throughout his increasingly desperate campaign.

Think of the way he has earned Pinnochio and after Pinnochio over the past month. Think of his baldly sexist attack on Hillary Clinton's qualifications. In all seriousness, if you think that wasn't a bit of implicit sexism, do you think he would have deigned to call a man with a record similar to Hillary's unqualified? There is such a person, you know. That would be John Kerry. He too served as a Senator and Secretary of State (and had a very similar voting record). Would Sanders have thought for an instant to apply the term unqualified to him?

And then there is the flip flop on the super delegate thing. First he declares that super delegates should follow the "will of the people" when he vainly hoped hat the will of the people would be with him. But when that vain hope is dashed he says that the super delegates will follow him and ignore the will of the people

But just to cover his rear, since he knows he isn't going to get more votes or more delegates, he has to diss the voters -- especially black voters in the South.

His whole attack on the 90's and the crime bill for which he voted is just him trying to talk down to black people, again, especially those who support Clinton, as if he knows better than they where their true interests then lay and still lie.

Forget the pie-in-the sky, impracticality of many of his ideas -- which was my original reason for not backing him and preferring Hillary. Whatever the merits of those ideas, his campaign has turned into a sad, ugly, desperate spectacle. I really hope it ends soon.

Bernie Sanders: Too Good For the Real World!

Are you tired of pragmatic, realistic politicians?

Tired of politicians who get up everyday and fight tirelessly for real change in the real world?

Tired of politicians who are willing to take what they can get when they can get it, even while never losing sight of the ultimate goal?

Tired of fighting for hard won incremental change?

Are you the type who wants it all, and wants it now, real world constraints be damned?

Then vote for Bernie!

He's too good for the real world!

Free Trade and Clinton vs. Sanders

I'm a big supporter of Clinton's and think she will be an infinitely better president than anything the Republicans have to offer and orders of magnitude better than Sanders would be. The one area where she has somewhat disappointed me is on the topic of Free Trade. I think that in her heart of hearts she is a free-trader. How could someone who served as Secretary of State not be? How could she not know that for the world as a whole Free Trade is a good thing not a bad thing. It is an essential ingredient in the attempt to alleviate global poverty and essential ingredient in addressing global migration problem. People have to be able to work productively in their nations of origins, to trade productive work for higher living standards that keeps them rooted in their communities.

I am sure she believes such things. But because free trade doesn't sell in certain democratic constituencies or perhaps even with the public at large, she is playing it very, very cagey.

But I wish she would at least not let go unchallenged Sanders simplistic narrative that free trade only benefits the billionaire and millionaire class and is mainly responsible for the decline of manufacturing in places like Michigan and Ohio. it is just not true.

First up in the decline of Detroit was the rise of Toyota and other Japanese automakers in the 70's and 80's -- long before NAFTA. They were producing more fuel efficient cars than Detroit -- during a time when an oil crises was making Americans hungry for such cars. Those Japanese car makers kept gaining market share, despite the fact that those auto were subject to voluntary import restrictions. And Japanese trucks were then and are still subject to a 25% import duty, but the way. This was all way before NAFTA.

Moreover, when the factories did start moving out of Detroit -- again long before NAFTA -- they started out moving to the South, not to foreign shores. In the South not only were unions were weaker, but States were throwing tax incentives around like candy. Lots of Northerners moved South in those days chasing the fleeing manufacturing economy.

Eventually the move South were followed by moves out of the country. But Sanders gets things wrong about the current incentives to build factories in Mexico.. Mexican auto factories actually pay pretty well -- not by old UAW standards -- but not close to 25 cents an hour as he says. More like $8 to $10 dollars an hour.

In addition, Mexico is a heavily export depended economy. It has free trade agreements with many more countries than the US does. o if I am a manufacturer and I want to trade with the world, building my factory in Mexico makes it much easier to do that. Making the US less trade friendly would therefore only make matters worse.

Sanders also doesn't address the effects of automation on manufacturing jobs. A long time ago, when i was a young man, I actually worked as a spot welder in an auto assembly plant. It was back breaking work, but it paid very well. But that kind of job no longer exists in any auto assembly job in the world. Spot welding is done by spot welding robots on completely automated spot welding bays. Lots of manufacturing jobs have disappeared because of technology and they are NEVER coming back.

The point is that the decline of manufacturing in the US has many cause. Free trade may have played some role, but it is an infinitely more complex subject than Sanders in particular makes it out to be. And on the upside free trade has played a significant role in reducing world poverty and contributing to the gradual but steady rise of a global middle class. And that is a good thing for everybody.

Yes free trade contributes, as one factor among others, to economic dislocations here in the US. And those dislocations need to be addressed by serious progressive policies.

What I don't get is why Clinton -- who usually happily acknowledges and openly embraces such complexities in other spheres -- has been so silent on this subject. I have no doubt that she has a much more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of all this than Sanders -- for whom nuance is a dirty word, it seems.

I guess our politics is not made for dealing in nuance and complexities. It's made for simplifying grand narratives, painted mostly in black and white and maybe a few shades of gray here and there. That's what mobilizes people, I guess. Depressing thought though.

The Point about TARP, the Auto Bailout and Sanders

I actually find it really amazing that people insist that Sanders voted for "the" auto bailout. The auto bailout that actually happened, happened because part of the TARP funds were earmarked for the Auto industry. Sanders definitely voted against that Auto bailout -- the one that actually happened. So did a few other Dems.

But in a cover their rear, symbolic vote -- of the sort that Senators often make -- there was a stand alone auto bailout that didn't become law. He voted for that.

But in no sense was that "the" auto bailout -- you know the one that actually bailed out the automobile industry. It was merely "an" auto bailout that might have happened but didn't.

What this shows is not so much that Sanders was against the automobile industry. And that wasn't Clinton's point. What it does show is that he was so opposed to the TARP legislation -- which stopped us from going into a depression -- that even the prospect of saving the auto industry at the same time wasn't enough to win his vote for it.

You can debate what that shows about his priorities. The point I take away from it is that he is an ideological purist who doesn't let the messy real world get in his way. If staving off a depression and saving the automobile industry means you have to get your hands dirty and save the evil banks whose misjudgments and malfeasance caused potential depression, count Sanders out. He'd rather have the collapse of the entire economy, including the auto industry, than sully his clean hands.

That's the point Clinton was making. And I entirely agree with her that I don't want to put that kind of guy in office.

When it's Grievance Politics vs Success Politics, won't "success" always win?

Sanders preaches a politic of grievance. We, the 99%, have a grievance against the 1%. And we are going to seize the reins of power and take back from them what they have taken from us. And we are going to make them like it.

Clinton preaches a sort of center-left politics of success. We are going to tear down all the barriers that stand in your way (that's the left part) so that you can live up to your dreams, make the most of your talents -- i.e succeed. (that's the center part).

Now you can do either grievance based politics or success based politics from either the left or the right. Grievances are not confined to one side or the other. And everybody loves to succeed. Success, as such, has no real enemies -- though success won unfairly, at the expense of others is another matter.

Trump, for example, preaches both a politics of grievance and a politics of success. He's going to make the country great again, by kicking out and kicking the asses of our enemies, domestic and foreign. They have ripped our country off, beaten it down. blah, blah, blah. Though Trump illustrates that a politics of grievance and a politics of success are not mutually exclusive, his own particular grievances are based on hatred and prejudice and ignorance, and his formula for success is a sham.

Hillary too illustrates that you can combine grievance with success -- and in a much more appealing package than Trump does. Talking about "breaking down all the barriers," as Clinton now likes to do, gives you a place to hang a list of grievances, while also articulating a formula for success. Some of the barriers have been unfairly placed in our way by other people and on the behalf of some at the expense of others. She can talk of "ending systemic racism, mass incarceration, etc..." -- unfair barriers all -- not merely out of a sense of grievance - but as instrumental to greater human flourishing and success. Breaking down the barriers enables those unfairly held back by them to flourish and succeed. And we are not just going to bring greater fairness, "We are going to build ladders of opportunity."

I don't really want to overstate the differences between a politics of grievance and a politics of success too much. A politics of grievance and a politics of success might actually opt for the same or at least overlapping concrete policy prescriptions. But they would probably frame them differently.

Grievance based politics frames the policies that it seeks to justify in terms of demands for fairness and equality, more or less as ends in themselves. But again, that's not because grievance based politics is intrinsically anti-success. Grievance based politics just tends not to take success as it's immediate goal. Grievance based politics wants first to restore or institute anew fairness and then ensure that it is maintained. But a grievance based politics can embrace success too, as long as the success of some isn't achieved at the unfair expense of others.

Similarly, success based politics isn't necessarily opposed to fairness.

Of course, you CAN have a success-based politics that dismisses fairness as an important goal. That's what success based politics tends to do when its played from the right, rather than from the left. Right wing, success based politicians tend to dismiss calls for fairness as something only losers care about. My point is just that that's not a feature of success based politics as such.

When I say that Sanders practices a politics of grievance and Clinton a politics of success, I don't mean to say that Sanders is unconcerned with success and Clinton unconcerned with fairness.

Staying on the progressive side, and not concerning myself with the right wing versions, I do think, that a politics of grievance will lose out to a politics of success almost every time. A politics of success can co-opt and reframe in a more uplifting, less divisive way the legitimate points made by the politics of grievance. A politics of success has the potential to appeal simultaneously to the struggling, the striving, and the successful, as Clinton likes to call them, without dividing them from each other.

We will remove the (unfair) barriers that stand in the way of the struggling so that they too can strive and achieve success. We don't hate the successful, we don't begrudge or envy their success. We demand only that they pursue success within a system that is fair and gives opportunity to all. Indeed, we celebrate and enlist the successful, at least to the extent that they play by the rules, and join us in building ladders of opportunities for the struggling, so that they too can strive and succeed. This is something that we all can do together. This is not a zero sum game. It is a win-win-win game.

The politics of grievance has a much harder time wrapping us all up together in a common mission. In the hands of the inept or outright demagogues it can devolve into something extremely divisive -- calls to narrow, identity based, classed based, grievances, pure us vs them stuff.

Don't get me wrong. It needn't do that. If a politician is broad-minded enough and skilled enough at threading the needle, without sounding wishy-washy or devoid of conviction, he or she might be able to weave back and forth between a narrative of success and a narrative of grievance.

Bill Clinton was sort of a master at that sort of thing. He talked about a new covenant, rewarding those who "work hard and play by the rules," but were getting screwed. He wasn't excessively focused on fairness as such, as an end in itself, but more on calling all to a common national mission -- that's what the new covenant and the third way, was all about, at least in theory. What it became in practice, well, that's another matter.

Hillary is trying to learn to do more of that. That's what the combination of "breaking down barriers" and her talk of the "struggling, striving, and successful" are aimed at enabling her to do -- address grievances, without denigrating success. Indeed, it enables her to celebrate fairly won success.

Bernie needs to find a way to get more success based talk into his narrative. The dominant themes are fairness and grievance. He does have his optimistic tropes. But not enough of them. The grievances stand out above all.

To my mind fronting grievances, at least in national elections, is mostly a formula for failure. Not saying a politics of grievance never wins. It wins often on a smaller scale. But when you're talking to all the people and trying to build broad-based coalitions, grievance only goes so far.

Now some of the Sanders folks on this board are ready to trash the entire democratic party

See, I was right when I said a couple of weeks ago that Sanders is attempting a hostile takeover of the party.

His true colors are shining through and so are the colors of many of his supporters

Check out this locked thread for some of their confessions:

Sanders supporters fess up -- not democrats at all

He's been hating on the democrats for years, as just one of the two parties of the ruling class

(see: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/02/sanderss-party-problem/460293/)

I know, I know he's caucused with them in the House and the Senate for decades now, but he's obviously been holding his nose all that time.

I said it then, and I'll say it again. Sanders is trying to remake the party in its own image. The only reason he isn't running as the socialist he really is because there is no infrastructure to support it. The e Democratic Party has a lot of intact national political infrastructure. If you could seize that infrastructure, and turn it into a militantly leftist party, you'd have your socialist party. Presto! Chango!

It's a long shot, to be sure, but that's clearly what Sanders is up to. He's trying take the Democratic Party and remake it in his own socialist image. Pretty daring move. He's gotten farther than you might have thought he would at first. But it's pretty clear that the powers that be within the democratic party don't want to see the party become an outright socialist party. Otherwise, they would have become that long ago. I said then and I'll say it again, I bet they believe such a party is not likely to be a majority party anytime soon.

That's why the Super delegates are flocking to Hillary and fleeing Bernie. That's why they won't be cowed by the press or Sanders supporters into abandoning her, even if by some Sanders like miracle he manages to get more pledged delegates.

Stand your ground Democrats, you have nothing to lose but your Party.

Why Can't America Be like Europe?

Europe has lots of good things that America doesn't. Why not?

Americans aren't taxed like Europeans

Europeans are taxed MUCH more heavily than Americans, at every single turn. And it's not just the rich who are taxed heavily. , the middle class is heavily taxed and the taxes aren't all progressive. To be sure, Europe has progressive income taxes and taxes the rich more than the middle class, but it taxes the middle class a lot more than America does. And then there are value added taxes -- which hits practically everything and everybody and raise a LOT of the dough that supports the Welfare State.

Consider this from an article about where US tax rates stack up relative to nations around the world.

Unlike most advanced economies, the U.S. don't supplement personal income taxes with a national sales tax, or value-added tax (VAT). Consumption taxes accounted for about a fifth of total U.S. revenue in 2008 (mostly at the state and local level) compared to an OECD average of 32 percent. In other words, the U.S. relies uniquely on personal tax rates to raise revenue -- and we have relatively low personal tax rates.

How Low Are U.S. Taxes Compared to Other Countries?

Here is a striking statistic from that article. In Denmark, which Sanders often takes as his model country, taxes represent 50% of the total GDP. In America, taxes represent 27.3%. So it seems right that in order for America to support a European style social welfare state, taxes would have to be raised an enormous amount.

Are American's willing to do that? Are we collectively wiling to pay such high taxes in order to have the things that Europeans have and Americans don't?

Ethnic, Racial Divisions constrain what is possible in America

Do you remember the days when places like Cleveland or Detroit were vibrant cities? When I was a kid, back in ancient times, Cleveland had a population of nearly 1,00,000. It's now practically a ghost town in comparison. And don't get me started on Detroit. Lots of things contributed to the decline of many what were once great American cities. The first nails in the coffin of our cities may have been the riots of the 60's and the subsequent white flight from the cities. As the white middle class fled the cities, taking the tax base with them, the infrastructure of many of our cities began to decay and decay. And hardly anybody, except the declining inhabitants care. The cities where places for the black other. And whites in general were not really willing to pay taxes to alleviate the plight of the black other. Indeed, whites in general, and their fear of the black other, and their desire to contain the black other, is what led to a politics that insisted that politicians demonstrate how "tough on crime" they were in order to get elected.

Europeans are proving themselves just as capable of xenophobia and racism as Americans have long proven themselves to be. But fortunately for them, they started building their massive welfare states, long before the dark-skinned other was knocking so incessantly at their doors, clamoring to get in. For too many Americans the transfer of wealth through taxation to support a welfare state is transferring wealth from the deserving "us" to the undeserving "them." And that, I think, explains a lot of American resistance to the welfare state. Not all of it, by any means, but a lot of it.

And by the way, that's one thing Clinton's "third way" was intended to be about. That's why he set out to end "Welfare as you know it." He wanted to de-racialize the American welfare state. That's why he started with national health insurance - it was a Universal benefit, not aimed at this or that class or this or that ethnic group. Unfortunately for him and us, Democratic Hegemony lasted only for his first two years. And his failure to get healthcare during that two years, set the cause back.

America's presidential democracy is made for stasis

By design, it is really, really hard to make change in America. Take all the money out of politics and it would still be hard to make change. Think of the power of the Senate alone. The 25 smallest states elect 50 senators -- half of the Senate -- but have in total about 1/6 of the population. California has more people than the smallest 21 states combined -- but gets only 2 Senators. So our system is skewed toward the interest of small, mostly rural states. And it's not just the Senate, the House, though more representative of the people, is still an anti-democratic mess. That's mainly because of Gerrymandered districts, in which politicians get to pick their own voters, making the House almost impossible to change, except in census years. And then add in the Supreme Court, which we have seen recently, acts as a sort of Super legislature, but one with no democratic mandate.

The big thing is that each of these political bodies -- including the president -- has an independent source of legitimacy and a veto over legislation. since their legitimacy is independent they need pay no downside cost in exercising their veto power.

Nothing like this built in tendency toward stasis exist in any European parliamentary democracy.

I feel quite certain that if the Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom (not) had it to do all over again, they would not design the same system of a government. It's no accident, in my humble opinion, that very, very few nations have adopted presidential democracy. parliamentary democracy is a much more optimal form of democracy, at least if you want a government that can be held accountable to the people.

Governmental power is widely dispersed in America.

The federal government lacks the power to just declare, for example, that states and localities shall spend equally on all schools, or that tuition shall be free at all public colleges, or that the states prisons shall disgorges the legions upon legions of captives. Our federal government is actually a pretty weak-kneed thing and has far less control over national life than European governments do. Makes it hard to affect big social change just by changing the Feds -- which is hard to do anyway.

Americans don't vote

We think we're doing great in a presidential election if 60% of Americans vote. In off years, hardly anybody shows up. Sure there are lots of barriers to voting in this country -- way, way to many. Election day should be a holiday. Registration should be super easy. Voter Id laws should be ruled unconstitutional. All those things would help. But Americans are, at bottom, a politically disengaged people -- except when something makes them really, really mad. It could be connected not just to the artificial barriers to voting, but to the fact that it's nearly impossible to make things happen in our stupid system that is designed for stasis.

U.S. voter turnout trails most developed countries

Too much Money in Politics in America.
This certainly belongs on the list. Not sure it's THE major determinant. But it is certainly there. I'm for public financing of all campaigns, myself.

Sanders: A Man with A Hammer, Who Sees Nails Everywhere

On another thread, someone wondered if Sanders is "tone-deaf" on matters of race. I think he's not exactly tone-deaf. He's just a man with a hammer who sees nails everywhere.

In particular, he's an economic determinist, who thinks in quasi-marxist fashion, that class antagonism is more fundamental than any other form of antagonism, more fundamental than racial antagonism in particular. That doesn't necessarily mean that he thinks racism isn't real, but he thinks that if you bring about true economic justice, racial justice will somehow follow in its wake -- but probably not the other way around. Indeed, he probably thinks that it would be impossible to achieve racial justice without first achieving economic justice.

I mean that's why he rails and rails against the Billionaire class. He thinks they and their greed are the source of almost all social/political/economic ills. So I wouldn't say he's "tone" death, as much as he is monomaniacal in his singular focus on the billionaire class as public enemy number one.

It's worth thinking how plausible it is that the billionaire class really deserves to be labelled public enemy number one. Personally, I've got no brief for the billionaire class. I do have to admit that I wouldn't complain if somebody dropped a few billions on me and made me one of them. But I'm just not sure that they are the only villains worth fighting or how many of our many woes they are directly to blame for.

First off, if we going to talk the billionaire class, we gotta realize that we're not just talking an American class, but a sort of global international cooperative. Rein in just the American segment of the class and you still got global international capital to contend with. And it's not at all clear how many problems you can really solve just by addressing the American segment of the global class. (That's why some Marxists -- like Trotsky -- thought that the revolution of the proletariat had to be a world wide revolution.)

So here's a question for Bernie, can you really de-rig the American economy, without de-rigging the Global economy?

Now I wouldn't want to deny that there surely some truth to the idea that the billionaire class would very much like to make the US government into its wholly owned subsidiary. But I don't think they've quite succeeded entirely. Miscreants of many types have a piece of the thing -- evangelicals, nativists, racists, old people, the rural folk -- Certainly not all of them are card carrying members of the billionaire class. One of the reasons politics is such a mess in this country is that it's a big complicated sprawling thing with many centers of power, many veto points, with a constitution that is designed to prioritize stasis and conflict over change. Makes it damned hard to get anything done.

That's why it's sort of silly to think that it's the billionaire class that is wholly responsible for the fact that we don't have single payer health insurance. I grant that a lot of resistance comes form the drug companies and the insurance companies. And these folks are charter members of the billionaire class. But I think you can go a lot further down the economic ladder than the billionaire rung and find a lot of people who are resistant. Most doctors aren't card carrying members of the class. But a lot of them -- especially the specialists -- are highly opposed to "socialized medicine." People who work for big companies with generous benefits always fear they are going to be net losers in any new scheme that at all lifts those below. That's a pretty American thing. And you don't have to be a billionaire to be subject to that particular affliction -- call it "I got mine-ism." American as apple pie.

And, by the way, it was president Jimmy Carter -- no servant of the billionaire class, who actually torpedoed Kennedy's national healthcare bill back in the late 70's, prompting Kennedy to challenge him for the Democratic nomination.

It's less clear to me whether it's the evil billionaire class that is supposed to be responsible for mass incarceration in Bernie's mind. Personally, I tend to blame white people at large and their fear of the black other for that one. I don't think it was the billionaires who insisted for decade after decade that politicians be "tough on crime." It wasn't the billionaire class that got that insane and costly three strikes and your out law passed in California. It was a lot of angry and afraid white people -- a lot of them working and middle class.

Now as a quasi-Maxist economic determinist, comrade Bernie probably thinks their racism is due to "false consciousness." What angry white racists need is a little class consciousness to make them immune from being played against their black brethren in chains by the billionaire class.

Same thing with illegal immigration, I guess. Have to find a way to lay xenophobia at the feet of the billionaire class. That's a little tricky, since you might naively think that the billionaires would be for open borders -- cause, you know, more cheap exploitable labor, and all.

Obviously some of the desolation of America -- the desolation of its heavy industries, the emptying out of rural American -- is due to the GLOBAL billionaire class, at least in part -- cause you know global capitalism, agribusiness, and all that capital moving around the globe at the speed of light. That kind of stuff takes livelihoods with it in the blink of an eye, enriching those over here, while impoverishing those over there, with a brutal and indifferent efficiency.

Dealing with that is tough stuff. One of the biggest challenges of the 21st Century. Not sure how to stop it. Way more difficult than saying "Main street bailed out wall street, time for wall street to bail out main street." a la Sanders. Way more difficult even than "breaking down all the barriers" al la Clinton too. But at least she recognizes that there are many distinct and interacting barriers and soaking the billionaires while necessary isn't sufficient to break all the barriers down.

Bottom line, even given the partly destructive force of global international capitalism, and the havoc it has wreaked on the American landscape -- I doubt it's just the billionaire class that's responsible for all of our decay. I mean just think about it, even billionaires have to live and work and do business somewhere. They have to draw workers from somewhere. They have to ship resources here and there. So you would think they would want a highly efficient infrastructure, a highly educated workers and all that jazz. That argues for a lot of public investment in things that we haven't been investing much in for a very long time. Who exactly is to blame for that lack of investment? If it's really and truly the billionaire class that is blocking that investment, then, well they are just stupid and working contrary to their enlightened self-interest, aren't they?

Long winded way of saying that comrade Sanders isn't tone deaf -- not exactly -- it's more like he's got tunnel vision. He's a man with a hammer, who sees nails everywhere.
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