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Bill Black: The NY Times Calls Peterson Front Group Third Way “Center-Left” and Turns a Study on its Head

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By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Cross posed from New Economic Perspectives

Some lies will not die. As I have demonstrated repeatedly, Third Way is Wall Street on the Potomac. It is funded secretly by Wall Street (it refuses to reveal its donors), it is openly run by Wall Street, and it lobbies endlessly for Wall Street. Third Way, like every Pete Peterson front group, is dedicated to shredding the safety net as its highest priority and throwing the Nation back into a gratuitous recession through self-destructive austerity.

Third Way, like other Pete Peterson front groups, supports privatizing Social Security. That is Wall Street’s greatest dream, for it would increase their revenues by hundreds of billions of dollars. Eric Laursen documented Wall Street’s effort to in his recent book: “The People’s Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan.” Laursen describes the Third Way’s leader as a Pete Peterson protégé. Peterson is a conservative Republican billionaire made wealthy on Wall Street who has dedicated a billion dollars of his wealth to his assault on the safety net.

I showed in these pieces how journalists and Republicans used Third Way’s “false flag” status as a self-described “center-left” organization to add faux credibility to their arguments. The Republicans, for example, used comments by one of Third Way’s founders deriding Elizabeth Warren as the centerpiece of ads trying to defeat Elizabeth Warren in her run for the U.S. Senate. Similarly, the Washington Post’s ultra-deficit hawk, Robert J. Samuelson, used Third Way’s support of austerity as faux evidence that even liberals who studied the question realized the need to inflict austerity on the Nation.

One of my prior articles provides the finance background of every member of Third Way’s governing board – exposing the total dominance by Wall Street and finance. My goal was to make it impossible for a journalist who did even the most perfunctory research on Third Way to describe it as a “center-left” organization (or any analogous term).

I had not counted on the New York Times failing to clear such a tiny research hurdle. Sadly, on March 20, 2013 the New York Times gave prominent coverage to a study sponsored by Third Way, which the reporter called “a center-left policy research organization” in an article entitled “As Men Lose Economic Ground, Clues in the Family.

Once again, Wall Street’s cynical effort to mislead by labeling its far-right economic policies and its lobbying group as “a center-left policy research organization” has triumphed. It triumphed because the curve of Wall Street’s cynicism intersected with the curve of lazy journalism at their respective maxima. The reporter emphasized Third Way’s faux “center-left” politics and its faux “research” function to make his story and the report seem more credible to the reader. The “central-left” aspect was supposed to lend credibility because the study was portrayed as supporting some extremely conservative memes. If even lefties admit that conservatives are right about the family and marriage, then surely the study is correct. It also suggests that Third Way must be a remarkable research organization because it is a “center-left” group that sponsors research that discredits “center-left” family policies.

None of this faux legitimacy is warranted. Third Way is a lobbyist for Wall Street. It conducts minimal research. Its publications overwhelmingly read like crude propaganda attacking the safety net, trying to create a “moral panic” about the deficit, and praising big finance. Third Way religiously avoids discussing the massive growth of inequality (driven largely by finance). (I used their web site’s search feature to find references to “inequality” without results.) Third Way’s introduction to the report explains that it is part of a series of pieces designed not to be objective research. Instead, Third Way admits that it is sponsoring pieces it intends to “confront” the Democratic Party in a “provocative” manner – pieces premised on the view that government fails because it embraces the Democratic Party’s obsolescent dogmas.

With no sense of irony, Wall Street (via its Third Way lobbyists), purports to instruct the Democratic Party on how to become the Party of the middle class. Third Way implies that the Democratic Party is the enemy of the middle class and that Wall Street is its great supporter. Third Way represents the maximization of Wall Street cynicism and duplicity. I will also show that the “provocative” study Third Way sought to “challenge” Democratic Party policies does not address the middle class or support Third Way’s disdain for Democratic Party policies. Indeed, a close examination shows that Third Way has it exactly wrong. The Democratic Party’s policies are far more supportive of middle-class families, are perceived by middle-class families as superior to that of the Republican Party, and the policies Wall Street seeks to inflict on the Nation through its Third Way lobbyists are profoundly hostile to the interests of middle-class, working-class, and poor families.

David H. Autor, the scholar that Third Way sponsored to conduct this study is very far from “center-left.” He self-describes his principal affiliations as “MIT-NBER.” NBER is an exceptionally conservative economics group. Yes, it has several famous “center-left” economists associated with it, but the NBER’s philanthropic funding has come heavily from ultra-far-right organizations.

“Between 1985 and 2001, the [NBER] received $9,963,301 in 73 grants from only four foundations:

John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Scaife Foundations (Sarah Mellon Scaife)
Smith Richardson Foundation

Each of these foundations is among the most extreme right-wing donor groups in existence.

Autor’s prior work is very far from “center-left.” His best-known causes include warning that Social Security disability payments need to be cut sharply. “The Unsustainable Rise of the Disability Rolls in the United States: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options.”

Autor’s articles pushing for cuts to Social Security disability payments were music to the ears of Wall Street lobbyists such as Third Way. Autor’s efforts to cut disability payments were all the more revealing when viewed in conjunction with his research findings about the impact of globalization on U.S. workers. “Trade Adjustment: Worker Level Evidence.”

Autor’s study on trade found that cuts in disability payments would have a particularly harsh effect on those most in need because disability was often the only source of income available to the U.S. workers harmed the worst by imports.

Autor wrote to criticize policies strongly supported by the center-left that protect workers from unjust terminations in an article entitled: “The Cost of Wrongful-Discharge Laws.”

The paper was prepared for the Yale Law School’s “John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy.” The Olin foundation grants that created this and many similar centers were created for the express purpose of making theoclassical economics and law and economics dominant. The foundation successfully sought out scholars to run these centers who despised U.S. governments and thought that regulation was a plague. Autor’s paper argued that employers reacted to certain forms of prohibitions on unjust terminations by cutting back hiring.

Autor is also known for his work arguing that the federal minimum wage has little effect in reducing inequality. Again, his position is the opposite of center-left scholars.

To sum it up, a far right group of Wall Street lobbyists hired a scholar well-known for his very conservative views on labor and the safety net and he produced a paper with very conservative views on the family. This happens on a daily notice and would normally be met with appropriate caution by people who did not have very conservative views. The scam that distinguishes this study is that it was deliberately rolled out by Third Way as a “center-left” study that should be interpreted as exceptionally credible because it supported conservative views on the family.

The NYT fell for the scam hook, line, and sinker because its reporter did not bother to do even the most basic research on Third Way’s real nature. The reporter had plenty of clues – Third Way provided an introduction to Autor’s work that states that Third Way is commissioning papers for the express purpose of “challeng[ing]” Democratic Party policies in a “provocative” manner.

I want to be clear as to my comments about Autor’s policy views. I do not argue that his views or research should be disregarded because he is opposed to so many “center-left” policies. The point I am making is that Wall Street designed Third Way, and Third Way designed how it packaged and promoted the Autor piece, to mislead journalist, readers, and policy makers into believing that the study was entitled to a presumption of unusually great credibility because it was a “center-left” sponsored study that purportedly reported results hostile to “center left” policies. The reader will see that the thrust of this article is demonstrating that Autor’s findings refute the spin that Third Way put on his work and the New York Times accepted as revealed truth.

Autor’s Work is a (Misfired) Salvo in Third Way’s Rolling Barrage on Behalf of Wall Street

Third Way says that it is commissioning a series of papers whose concern will be the “middle-class” – not the working class or the poor. Third Way makes clear in its introduction to Autor’s paper that it starts with the presumption that the public sector is a failure because it is imprisoned by obsolete dogmas of the Democratic Party – just what one would expect to read from a “center-left” perspective. Either the reporter never read the Third Way materials or he has an idiosyncratic definition of “center-left.” To judge by Third Way’s introduction to the Autor paper the definition of the “center-left” policy papers that Third Way is commissioning is that they will represent the policies of the portion of the political spectrum filled by Governor Mitt Romney.

Autor’s Findings do not Support Third Way’s Theses or Conservative Family Policies

Third Way’s introduction claims that there has been a “dramatic decline in the gender gap.” The reality is more complex and troubling – and it is one of the primary subjects that my spouse, June Carbone and her co-author Naomi Cahn study. It is a prominent subject in their next book – Family Classes: What is Really Happening to the American Family. The gender income gap has risen sharply among wealthy Americans, driven larger by finance.

Alexander Eichler, Gender Wage Gap Is Higher on Wall Street than Anywhere Else, Huffington Post, Mar. 19, 2012,

The six jobs with the largest gender gap in pay and at least 10,000 men and 10,000 women were in the Wall Street-heavy financial sector: insurance agents, managers, clerks, securities sales agents, personal advisers and other specialists.

Frank Bass, Shining Shoes Best Way Wall Street Women Outearn Men, Bloomberg (Mar. 16, 2012, 1:01 PM).

(Understandably, because Third Way is really Wall Street on the Potomac, it has no interest in telling this part of the story.) It is finance that is the largest single driver in increasing overall inequality arising from greater returns to the wealthy. It is also finance, through globalization, that aids and abets the portion of the rise in inequality driven by reduced wages and employment for working and middle-class Americans. I noted earlier that Autor’s earlier study found that international trade caused serious losses to many U.S. workers.

Third Way’s introduction to the study, and the Autor study, ignore finance and the resultant surge in gender inequality in that field. Here is the conservative meme that the NYT article emphasized.

“Men who are less successful are less attractive as partners, so women are choosing to raise children by themselves, producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners.

‘A vicious cycle may ensue,’ wrote Professor Autor and his co-author, Melanie Wasserman, a graduate student, ‘with the poor economic prospects of less educated males creating differentially large disadvantages for their sons, thus potentially reinforcing the development of the gender gap in the next generation.’”

This description is wrong in important ways and it is misleading in its generality because the intersection of race and class drive many of the key relationships. Women with college degrees who have children overwhelmingly get married. Their rate of births outside of wedlock has fallen for decades and is lower today than it was over 40 years ago.

Autor agrees with Cahn and Carbone that what is going on among the groups he considers successful – college graduates – is greatly increased “assortative mating.” The figure he uses is that roughly 70% of college-educated males marry college-educated females. The comparable percentage for female college graduates is high, but materially lower. So, it is not accurate that women choose to raise children without male partners when the males available to them are “less successful.” Successful women often marry “less successful” males. Successful men are less willing to marry “less successful” women.

The men that women refuse to marry when they have children are not “less successful” – the mothers believe they are not fit partners to marry or to raise children because they would be (net) burdens or even pose threats to them and their children. Understanding that somewhat subtle distinction between “less successful” and unfit is essential to understanding family formation. Third Way seems to believe that Autor’s argument is that if we could induce poor black mothers to marry the birth father their male children would have far superior outcomes. But the superior outcomes come from studying what happens when mothers marry or partner with males they consider fit for marriage and child rearing. To state what should be obvious, but is typically ignored, such studies cannot be used to predict similar superior outcomes were for children mothers to marry or partner with unfit males. Autor concedes that many adult males are not “marriageable quality.” Many women who have children out of wedlock are teenagers impregnated by teenagers. Marrying the father would often ensure recurrent family financial crises. Autor concedes that the viciously high incarceration of young black males, largely on drug offenses, is one of the principal factors reducing the pool of marriageable males for black women.

The NYT article concludes by pitching Third Way’s views.

“Conservatives have long argued that society should encourage stable parental relationships. Liberals have tended to argue that the government should focus instead on improving economic opportunities. Jonathan Cowan, the president of Third Way, said the paper underscored that addressing social problems was a means to improve economic opportunities.

‘If Democrats have as their goal being the party of the middle class, they have to come to the realization that they’re not going to be able to get there solely through their standard explanations,’ said Mr. Cowan, a veteran of the Clinton administration. ‘We need to ask, ‘How can we get these fathers back involved in their children’s lives?’”

Third Way, as is its norms, claims that Democrats do not understand why “middle class” families are in trouble. The NYT author implies that the study proves that conservatives get it right about the family and that the central problem is among middle class families. But Third Way and the NYT author have it exactly wrong, and Autor’s study refutes their assertions. These family characteristics and public policy issues were the subject of Cahn and Carbone’s first book: Red Families v. Blue Families.

Autor agrees with Cahn and Carbone that the changes he is concerned about are heavily driven by class and that the patterns he decries are overwhelmingly driven by the intersection of low social class and race. He quotes a lengthy passage emphasizing this point from Andre Cherlin and then concludes that the problem is the intersection of low social class and race (pp. 37-38). Autor’s data show the opposite of how Third Way and the NYT misconstrued his findings. Third Way ascribes the problem to (1) the middle-class and (2) outmoded Democratic Party policies focused on addressing the needs of families presented by the intersection of race and low social class. Autor shows that the Democratic Party’s analysis of the nature of the problem is correct – and Third Way is wrong.

Autor’s data show that the states and the people that most closely follow policies embraced by the Democratic Party have highly effective results for the middle-class, that the middle-class strongly supports these policies, and that the middle-class families express general satisfaction with their marriages and families. Elites are even more consistently likely to follow the Democratic Party’s family policies than are the middle-class. The elites report increasingly successful and rewarding marriages and rapidly declining divorce rates. (Indeed, the overall drop in divorce rates is almost wholly attributable to the drop among college graduates.) Even Republican Party elites tend to follow the Democratic Party’s marriage-friendly policies. They teach their children to defer marriage and children until they have the financial ability and maturity to care for them. They teach their children to value education and seek advanced degrees wherever appropriate.

Carbone and Cahn summarized the experience of college educated women in an article entitled “The End Of Men Or The Rebirth Of Class?”

“This group has held the line on non-marital births, seen its divorce rates fall, and seen the likelihood that a fourteen-year-old will be living with both biological parents increase. Moreover, the group as a whole reports high rates of marital happiness and satisfaction.”

What is not working nearly as well is lower-class families, particularly lower-class, black families. The rates of birth out of wedlock are exceptionally high, marriage rates are exceptionally low, and divorce rates are high. Black teenagers are the group most likely to be allowed access solely to “abstinence only” (non) sex education and they often use contraceptives ineffectively.

Autor’s Work Demonstrates that Democrats are the Party of Middle-Class Families

Cahn and Carbone’s first book documented the often stark differences between family formation in red and blue states. It turned out that with the exception of Utah, blue states typically outperformed red states in having lower divorce rates.

The Democratic Party’s economic policies are one of the most important contributors, under Autor’s logic, to the success of middle-class families. They have (generally) supported stimulus in response to the Great Recession. Republicans have sought to inflict austerity instead – the policy that threw the Eurozone back into a gratuitous recession and cost millions of workers their jobs. I show specific examples below of Autor arguing that the key to strengthening the family is to support greater economic training. The Democratic Party was the primary supporter of job training programs and revenue sharing programs to avoid the draconian employment cuts by state and local governments (which disproportionately harm middle-class blacks and Latinos).

The Democratic Party has been far more supportive of providing young sexually active women with free contraceptives and education on how and why to use contraceptives effectively. This has helped substantially reduce unwed teenage births.

Democrats have frequently acted very badly by failing to make it a priority to end the crack v. powder cocaine sentencing disparities and the barbaric mandatory minimum sentences for drugs, but Republicans have been far worse. One of the best pro-family policies America could adopt would be to end anti-drug prohibition. Democrats are more likely to support that policy than are Republicans.

Democrats are more likely to support family and paternity leave policies for mothers and fathers. Autor’s article concludes that many parents feel overwhelmed.

Autor’s Work Demonstrates that Third Way’s Policies Harm the Middle Class

Autor makes the obvious, but vitally important, points that the U.S. has the most shameful record for children living in poverty of any highly developed nation and that this is harmful to the family in general and poor children in particular (pp. 38-40). Third Way is a leading proponent of the austerity policies that have denied the funding to remove tens of millions of children from poverty.

We can now evaluate the validity of the points that Third Way was quoted making in the NYT article (without any critical analysis by the reporter).

“Conservatives have long argued that society should encourage stable parental relationships. Liberals have tended to argue that the government should focus instead on improving economic opportunities. Jonathan Cowan, the president of Third Way, said the paper underscored that addressing social problems was a means to improve economic opportunities.

‘If Democrats have as their goal being the party of the middle class, they have to come to the realization that they’re not going to be able to get there solely through their standard explanations,’ said Mr. Cowan, a veteran of the Clinton administration. ‘We need to ask, ‘How can we get these fathers back involved in their children’s lives?’”

Autor’s research demonstrates that the best way to “encourage stable parental relationships” is to “focus … on improving economic opportunities.” Indeed, Autor cites the example of how job and skill training through a school “Career Academies” program led to increased education, increased employment, and “more stable parental relationships” (p. 31). Cowan, the Pete Peterson protégé, simply implies falsely that Autor’s specific suggestion for “addressing social problems” did not “focus … on improving economic opportunities.” Career Academies are precisely the kinds of programs Democratic Party policies have long supported. They are also the kind of programs that would be cut or eliminated if Third Way succeeded in inflicting austerity on the Nation.

Autor’s study identifies another successful program for strengthening families – the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – a program strongly supported by the Democratic Party and savagely attacked by many Republicans. Citizens to Enact Simpson-Bowles, for example, propose to eliminate entirely the EITC – pushing millions of Americans into poverty and, based on the studies Autor finds reliable, greatly harming families and, in particular, their male children (p. 43).

Note that Cowan then plants a red-herring – talking about the middle class. The white middle-class overwhelmingly has fathers “involved in their children’s lives” – and Democratic Party policies strongly encourage that and have helped bring down substantially divorce rates. It turns out that Autor’s study confirmed that the Democrat’s “standard explanations” – the intersection of race and low social class, was correct, that the Democratic Party’s pro-family policies are correct, and that Third Way’s policies are disastrous for the groups in which it is the norm that fathers are only episodically and inconsistently “involved in their children’s lives.”

Autor’s conclusion is that changes in the labor markets that have driven the changes in the family (p. 50). Again, Autor reinforces the appropriateness of the Democratic Party’s “focus” that Third Way tries to dismiss as hopelessly antiquated – “improving economic opportunity.”

Third Way’s slogan is “fresh thinking,” but it was unable to formulate a single specific fresh policy purportedly based on Autor’s findings. The two interventions that Autor concludes were successful in aiding the family exemplify the Democratic Party’s theory of how to strengthen the economy, reduce inequality, and strengthen families. But you would think the opposite if you relied on the NYT article or Third Way’s introduction to his article.

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37 comments

  1. ScottS

    I enjoyed this piece quite a lot.

    However:

    ‘If Democrats have as their goal being the party of the middle class, they have to come to the realization that they’re not going to be able to get there solely through their standard explanations,’ said Mr. Cowan, a veteran of the Clinton administration.

    If the Democratic party were now the defenders of the middle class as they were during the New Deal, then it would be simply laughable for the Third Way to tell them how to be Democrats. But they aren’t bringing home the bacon. They are to the right of Reagan. That’s why I feel we’re in for a huge shift with either a new party, or the skeleton of the Republican party becoming a new Progressive party.

  2. Paul Tioxon

    Yes Bill, there is a conspiracy to destroy Social Security, it is called the Republican Party. From before it was a gleam in the New Deal’s eye, to the Paul Ryan knife in the back, the knife in the chest and the knife in the multiple stab wounds to the safety net he calls the Republican Budget to stop unsustainable spending, even a blind man galloping by on horse can see the knives have been out for decades. To confirm your warning against the NYT elite media outlet for political bullshit an 8th grader should see through:

    How the Media Has Shaped the Social Security Debate

    The press plays a dubious role

    By Trudy Lieberman @ The Columbia Journalism Review

    http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/how_the_media_has_shaped_the_s.php?page=1

    The one-sided reporting on this issue has influenced the way millions of Americans, especially younger ones, now think about Social Security. A twenty-nine-year old web manager for a New York City agency recently told me she was opting out of the program, which the city pension system allows her to do. “I don’t think Social Security is a wise investment given the (availability) of a deferred compensation plan,” she said. “It’s a known fact,” the woman explained, “if it stays the way it is right now, it would run out of funds in 2035.” How did she know that? She listed the media outlets that helped shape her opinion. The elites were there like The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, and Bloomberg News, but so were relative newcomers like Investopedia and other media products. The message from the elite media is trickling down.

    “The elite press repeatedly quotes the commentary of the devoted opponents of social insurance retirement programs,” says Yale professor emeritus Theodore Marmor. “But they appear unaware of how they are supporting a strategic attack on social insurance that has been going on for years.”

    1. from Mexico

      Paul Tioxon says:

      Yes Bill, there is a conspiracy to destroy Social Security, it is called the Republican Party.

      I very much disagree. The conspiracy to destroy Social Security, as well as to obliterate any remaining political influence working people might still have, miniscule as that might be, is very much a bipartisan affair.

      Sure, it’s invariably the Republicans who come in to finish the kill. But it’s always the Democrats who open the door to let the the assasins in.

      1. skippy

        If its a drag on the wealth effect… its bad for the Utopian anti social self – cough – rational homo econ actor – cough – psychopath – sociopath.

        Skippy… soft inheritance baby[!] (breed them strong) or could it be environmental conditioning[?]… naw…

      1. Paul Tioxon

        For Mexico, thunder and lighting, and all of the other people who are so sophisticated to see the dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans as a clever ploy, why doesn’t Harry Reid just listen to his corporate overlords and pass the already in place death of Social Security, among just about everything else for government social program spending, PAUL RYAN Budget, perhaps you have heard of that! It is not a front and the evil, devil, Adolph Obama, can sign it into law, it’s right out in the open. Why wait for the Kabuki theater when they have the 4th Reich of fascism and freedom killing tyranny all ready to go?

        Please, tell me what the hold up is? D’s and R’s, they are completely indistinguishable and an undifferentiated mass of corruption and corporate lobbying, Obama, the Trojan horse of total drone death dealing to democracy is salivating at the thought of signing the already passed Paul Ryan budget, so much better than the not so swiftly acting SB Commission, with all of it’s PR power. When the death warrant is just laying there, ready for 45 Senate republicans to join hands with just 15 Senate Democrats, but of course, just about all of the Democrats will vote for it, with one lone hold out for a filibuster, that will be squashed just to kill Social Security, to just to have a Kabuki Moment, why is this budget not passed? Perhaps the Grand Bargain is so vast, so grand, that the complete liquidation of the USA for 100 $Trillion, in a sale held by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley is the ultimate 23rd dimensional chess gambit? None need dare call it conspiracy when it’s just garden variety, organized political opposition, openly displayed and notorious, for all to see. Unless you are not a blind man, galloping by, on a swift horse, but too clever to fooled by the establishment and too clever to be even understood by the likes of me.

          1. Paul Tioxon

            To the lightning will get you if the the thunder don’t:

            Yes,
            You are correct. Obama did what you said he did. Those are the facts. It is a fact, that the democrats, especially Obama, have compromised on Social Security. But, one or two facts that you can blurt out do not make an argument or a refutation to my argument. Try not to just imitate Yves & Co. by invoking a straw man. It is a fact that if the D’s are Cat Food fanatics, then all they have to do is vote on the already passed Ryan budget. Is that or is that not a political fact with the force of law? Is the Fix the Debt and SB Commission simply bodies with no force of law? Is this or is this not the facts. I hope I can communicate with you following your line of reasoning? How am I doing?

          2. Doug Terpstra

            Paul: “…if the D’s are Cat Food fanatics, then all they have to do is vote on the already passed Ryan budget. Is that or is that not a political fact with the force of law?”

            Riiight! For someone who raked Mexico over the coals for lack of graduated discernment, you show remarkable naiveté about the actual mechanics of politics, as if it’s all WYSIWYG, what you see is what you get—no hidden agendas, token vote trading, or electoral gaming. From Obama, the hopium peddler and self-proclaimed champion of transparency, we get the quintessential smoke-filled room, the war on whistleblowers, and arbitrary assassinations. Having backed the more effective evil, you can’t bear to see the wolf hide under the carefully-tailored fleece.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          As Rick Perry would say, “It takes guts to kill an innocent man” (and Rick Perry is in absolute awe, A-W-E, of Obama when it comes to killing innocent people with no judicial oversight – particularly children bystanders) and one thing Vichy Democrats (a redundant term if ever there was one) are sorely lacking in is guts. But they will find a way to strip Social Security and Medicare, just as they found a way to extend the Bush tax cuts in 2010 even though they controlled both houses at the time. Just as they found a way to eliminate the Public Option in Obama’s forced monopoly based health insurance fiasco all at the same time as eliminating any and all payment by the Federal government for abortion and birth control services, called the Stupak amendment.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            Note: I do not agree with Perry. Killing is an act cowardice. Killing from 6 thousand miles away is even more cowardly. Killing a potentially innocent person, no judicial oversight, from 6 thousand miles away is more cowardly still, and keeping the process including any justification or oversight entirely secret is the very height of cowardice. And all this cowardice is spearheaded by a D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T which should give a damn good indication as to why Democrats are having a hard time coming out and telling their constituents to the face that the biggest Democratic wet dream of all is to have the old and weak bend over for Uncle Sam. Because they are cowards.

        2. from Mexico

          You talk of cultural change as if it were an event. It is not. It is a process.

          Think of the Democrats and Republicans as playing the old good-cop bad-cop routine. They’re both playing for the same team. They’re both on the same payroll. Both their roles are choreographed by the same playwrigt. What we call socialism, Keynesianism, and the Democratic Party these days were all composed by slipping a different meaning into the same name. The end result is something like Big Time Wrestling: It provides great entertainment, but don’t mistake it for a true contest.

          I’m quite the fan of Fernand Braudel, at least insofar as he offers an atidote to some of the most pernicous aspects of neoliberal ideology. The neoliberals — and you can locate both the Republicans and the Rubenite wing of the Democratic party solidly in this category — hew to a very different theory of history than that of Braudel. They believe that human nature, both biological and cultural, is extermely maleable. Ruptures and discontinuities, they hold, create history. All that is required to change man is to change his institutions. Man is a plaything which the engineers of consent can mold to thier liking. And if that doesn’t work, there’s also the stick and the carrot. And if that fails, there’s just the stick.

          Braudel preferred to stress inertia and the longue durée, arguing that the continuities in the deepest structures of society were central to history. Upheavals in institutions or the superstructure of social life were of little significance, for history, he argued, lies beyond the reach of conscious actors, especially the will of revolutionaries (i.e., neoliberals and Marxists). He rejected the Marxist and neoliberal idea that history should be used as a tool to foment and foster revolutions, stressing the equal importance of infrastructure and superstructure, both of which reflected enduring social, economic, and cultural realities. Braudel’s structures, both mental and environmental, determine the long-term course of events by constraining actions on, and by, humans over a duration long enough that they are beyond the consciousness of the actors involved.

          1. Paul Tioxon

            I am not talking about cultural change, you are. I am talking about what is going on in DC, right now, in re Bill Black’s discussion about Social Security, and the simple minded journalism that does seem to know what it is talking about. This is a current political conflict. I don’t know what the secular cycle of change will bring in 25 or 50 years, but I do know what side I am on in any particular political struggle going on this week and in the coming months. That is what I am talking about. On the largest scale, the unit of analysis of civilization, the social order is dominated by capitalism. So, yes, cultural change is a process. But so is the political conflict over any particular issue, including the one Mr Black began this with. The book he references and I reference, speaks to the long running opposition to Social Security going back to its initial legislation and continuing through to this day, over 75 years later.

            I find people like you, who like to lump everything together politically quite useless in coming up with useful, practical political gains, because of your misdirected idealism and over active intellect. Bit by bit, some incremental change occurs over time. Things have gotten materially better, not all at once, not even with Social Security, which also evolved over time, to include things like disability, widows and orphans and Medicaid and Medicare. It did not all happen at once. Which would be nice. I would like to hope, before I die, that it is improved from where it stands today, and not merely be defended against annihilation by the Paul Ryan budget. Neo-liberals do want to cut back the overall safety net and the taxes they pay to support these programs but they also do not want the social order to completely collapse into chaos and class war, which is why they instituted these programs in the first place.

            FDR, no friend of socialism, was trying to maintain the social order, which included a dominant role for capitalism, by keeping it from collapsing upon itself. More conservative capitalists with extreme misanthropic politics could care less. I and others can differentiate between the conservatives who do not see the consequences of pulling the entire social order down by insisting on sharing nothing of the prosperity that is produced by the entire populace and moderate capitalist who see labor relations as a way to contain conflict and manage the social order on their terms, if not by some imagined iron law of economics. I try to make common cause when appropriate with those who can see their way to maintaining the social order even when it breaks from a strict ideological set of policies, and materially improve my life and those of the vast majority of people who are not powerful and wealthy. If there is a way to shut up the militant right wing and consolidate most of the gains of Social Security for now, there will be a time, hopefully before I die, that I see another round of improvements of these programs, expanded, well funded and organized to withstand the certain eventual attacks to come from generations of right wing fanatics, now running around in diapers.

            To conclude, I find the good cop bad cop a useful trope for talking to teenagers, but really, can you find a better way to write, that is really tiresome. It is like listening to republicans snapping a crisp dollar bill in front of a camera and proceeding onto the sitting-around-the-kitchen-table analogy of family budgets being like nation budgets. You know, the we can’t spend more than we take in ticking time school of debt is going to kill us all speech.

            Or like, it is all the will of god speech which of course, explains everything by attributing all of causality to god and his mysterious will, so we never really know why anything is happening and we all stay mystified. I am not mystified. I can tell the differences between who is helping me, who is attacking me and when things shift around, and my premises of politics must shift accordingly. Can you do the same thing, or is the world an undifferentiated mass to you, and you can’t reasonably distinguish individuals and groups in political conflict?
            For the most part, the democrats locally for me and nationally as well have produced most of the good programs that are now under attack, even by many democrats within the party in the White House, in Congress and in the Senate as well as within the toothless and meaningless all star blue ribbon commissions floating around. I can not find any republicans at this point in time who sound like anything short of crazy or craven social climbers. Arlen Specter is dead, and with him, some of the last people in his party that I recognize as even being part of the America that constructed and defended landmark New Deal legislation, even though he was an R, and the magic bullet guy, he still worked on my behalf on many occasions. Even Richard Nixon strengthened Social Security, and in my book, no one could possibly exceed his worthlessness as a president.

            From William Domhoff:

            “Little attention was given to Social Security during the tumultuous Kennedy and Johnson administrations, but the program was significantly improved during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. The president was supportive of Social Security in the context of a general concern on the part of moderate Republicans to improve social insurance and welfare benefits as a way to reduce inner-city tensions and gain more support for their party among the elderly. Benefits were increased by 15% in 1969, 10% in 1971, and 20% in 1972, albeit in the face of growing inflation. In 1972 Congress legislated automatic cost-of-living increases that would begin in 1975. In connection with the significant increase in benefits between 1969 and 1972, the automatic cost-of-living adjustments ensured that most elderly Americans could live the remainder of their lives above the poverty line, a dramatic change from just a few years earlier. In addition, Congress put benefits for low-income, blind, disabled, and elderly people into a new program, Supplement Security Income, which was funded out of general revenues and administered by the Social Security Administration (Altman 2005, p. 211; Bernstein and Brodshaug 1988, p. 34).

            Although liberals in Congress enthusiastically supported all of these changes and additions to Social Security, they were in air measure due to the initiative of Nixon and Congressional Republicans. Their sudden solicitude for Social Security beneficiaries provides a genuine example of how the competition for voters in the electoral arena can allow average citizens to have an impact on government.”

            http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/social_security.html

          2. from Mexico

            Paul Tioxon says:

            Things have gotten materially better, not all at once, not even with Social Security, which also evolved over time, to include things like disability, widows and orphans and Medicaid and Medicare… Neo-liberals…do not want the social order to completely collapse into chaos and class war, which is why they instituted these programs in the first place.

            So Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Richard Nixon were neo-liberals?

            I don’t know quite how to respond to that. If that’s what you believe, then there is such a fundamental gap between what you believe and what I believe that I don’t see where there’s sufficient common ground between us to even continue this conversation.

          1. Doug Terpstra

            I suspect those who voted for the more effective evil crave something to soothe their consciences. Clinging to the outdated Kabuki script of Democrats as the kinder-gentler half of the protection racket is their last illusionary straw.

  3. patricia

    The reporter of that NYT article, and all the people quoted favorably in it, are irredeemably stupid. It would be impossible for them to learn logic. They are simply incapable.

  4. RueTheDay

    Speaking of Pete Peterson front groups, as I’m reading this blog post, there is a HUGE Fix The Debt ad displayed on the right hand side of the blog.

  5. Stick

    A bit off topic but related to this post… I’ve been trying to determine if NBER papers are peer-reviewed. I come across NBER papers in my research, but they’ve always come across as rather hackish. Anybody around these parts know if they are peer-reviewed or is it little more than advocacy ‘research’?

    Thanks.

  6. Chris Engel

    Center-left?

    Ugh. I just hope as the “paper of record” there aren’t people 100 years from now reading back on Third Way and mistakenly think it represents the center-left.

    Such a shame. Seems impossible to fix the system with such successful brainwashing occurring.

  7. Eureka Springs

    Center left, the term is a warning…. just like when a stranger says how about that weather? You know the conversation will be meaningless. At least when someone asks half-heartedly about the weather they may not be trying to figure out a way to rob you of both common sense and money. WHen someone steers the conversation towards “center left” you should either run or start swinging a large stick!

    Mr Black is negotiating with the kleptocracy here. Democrats, one of the bribed and beholden parties wants the Third Way as much as they wanted the DLC a few short years ago. It’s who they are and what they do.

    1. different clue

      One could ask “center-left of what?” and see what the answer is, or what answer can be forced.

  8. Gil Gamesh

    But there is not even a Second Way around here. There is the dominant culture — materialist, state capitalist, militarist, racist — and our legacy political parties support it in toto. Well, at least Peterson knows he and his “philosophy” of depredation are repulsive. The Clintons, Rubins, Obamas of our world think they are attractive.

  9. ambrit

    Friends;
    A little bit off centre of topic, but, where are todays’ Malcom X or Martin Luther King? The studies cited above show disproportionately bad impacts of the socio-economic dislocations going on among people ‘of colour.’ Living in the American Deep South has educated me about the very high influence among the African American population of religion, generally Protestant sects. Both King and Shabazz emerged out of religious groups. (My personal experience has been that the Black Muslims are generally strongly al-Islam.) Surely there has to be a progressive religious leader from the churches or mosques upon the American stage today? Where is he or she? As leaders over the ages have known to their benefit, the pulpit is one of the foundations of good propaganda and agitation.
    It’s that old, old question: “Do the times choose the leader, or the leader choose the time?”

    1. Banger

      Since you brought up MLK and Malcom X I will tell you where they are: dead! As any major leader would be the minute he/she became dangerous to the system. Power change can only be achieved through a decentralized community activity.

      1. different clue

        Tens of thousands of micro-leaders, too many micro-leaders to kill them all.

        Also a highly informed and further-information-seeking community of several million people able to conduct years of passive-obstructive leaderless resistance without any microleaders at all.

  10. briansays

    the big goal now is to enable pelosi to regain the house–she only needs 17 seats–they will be in 1000 percent campaign mode chasing $$$ thru 2014 and will do and say anything under the table hoping the broader middle class public does not find out

  11. steelhead23

    Bill, WE have a problem. A problem that is seldom discussed, in part because WE all support academic freedom. However, like politics, academia responds to money. There will always be plenty of money to support elitist propaganda, whether the venue be this nation’s mainstream media, or what we euphemistically call the Ivory Tower (oh, but that it were). I suspect the somewhere in academia, this destructive influence of money on erudition is being examined, perhaps at UMKC or other hotbeds of liberalism. Thank you for detailing this single instance and the Grey Lady’s failure in responsible journalism, but it is but the tip of a very large iceberg. I would encourage you to use your influence to encourage a strong, academic inquiry into the roll of money in intellectual discourse. I see it as a cancer, eroding the integrity of academia, not to mention journalism. Thank you for posting this piece.

    1. Banger

      Money has deeply infected academia and it can only get worse. What is needed today is an independent academy that offers a lower cost education for the minority of people of all ages that are interested in intellectual inquiry and even wisdom. But we can’t blame the academy they are just reflecting our own cultural values–that money is, for us, the final arbiter of morality.

  12. E.L. Beck

    Glad to see this story tripe taken to task, but there is another aspect of the austerity arc that many seem to fail to recognize: Reducing funding to regulatory agencies essentially guts their already weak regulatory actions. Without funding, investigator headcount is reduced, and the remaining investigators are so overworked they become gelatine.

    This de-funding of regulatory agencies is so much easier than trying to roll back regulatory control via the legislative process.

    As for privatizing Social Security:

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/11/20/financial-suicide-privatizing-social-security/

  13. ltr

    I did not understand the New York Times article till now and I am especially grateful for this post.

  14. Banger

    Surely you jest! The NYT reporter knows very well what the editors want and the line that one is required to take to keep to advance the old career. The NYT is not even vaguely on the left and I don’t think ever was except for a few years here and there.

    Otherwise great piece particularly then part about marriageable men. The conservative argument may have had a little validity decades ago but today the system creates and enforces poverty and an increasingly rigid class-system.

  15. McMike

    I guess that makes sense. They have been shifting the goal posts to the right for decades.

    What used to be far right is now “centrist.”

    What used to be center-right is now “socialist.”

    It was only a matter of time before what used to be right wing is called liberal.

    1. rob

      Yes,
      It is noticable that there are these “cycles”, where it seems that at some meeting(say the recent cpac forums), then the “go” button gets pushed… and then out of the woodwork comes all these seemingly unrelated venues,which put out this drivel.Be it “thirdway”,”fix the debt”,npr, …NYT,and the rest.The ‘liberal”taggers get to smear their crap all over the airwaves…. then the “conservatives” come and lick it up and spew their crap in response.Both sides being useful in taking any real aspect of a dynamic, and nicely putting it into the territory where no real discussion happens… but people “feel”,they “think”…blah blah blah…
      I suppose if this was not the case, it wouldn’t be fit to be called “propaganda”
      As far as the jaffe walt story;Leave it up to the “marketplace” schmucks to shill for wall st.Always with the smug pretense they are “serious”.I can’t stand them.They are vile….in their own overly affected way.

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